NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2018
Updates on Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin, Tyler Toffoli, and Jimmy Howard in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST KINGS SPECULATION
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell recently suggested trading Jeff Carter would be a good place to start for the Los Angeles Kings to commence their rebuild. He’s got three years remaining on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.3 million but will be paid $7 million in combined actual salary. Campbell suggests Carter could be a good fit with a budget team like the Arizona Coyotes. He’s also been linked to playoff contenders like the Boston Bruins.
Campbell acknowledged the Kings will have to work with Carter, who lacks no-trade protection but doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles. However, his agent Rick Curran said he’s had discussions with general manager Rob Blake about the possibility of a trade. Campbell doubts the Kings would get much of a return other than freeing up salary-cap space. While the Kings aren’t necessarily shopping Carter, they could move him if they find the right fit and if Carter is comfortable with the move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The concern for the Kings is Carter decides to retire rather than be traded, resulting in them getting hit with a $2.75-million annual salary-cap recapture penalty over the remaining term of his contract. While it would give them some cap relief it would also leave them with $2.75 million of dead cap space being paid out to a player no longer on their roster. That’s money that could be better invested in an active player, preferably a young, affordable one with upside.
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Cooper considers Jake Muzzin the Kings’ best defenseman this season but speculates he might not fit into the club’s long-term plans. His performance and affordable $4-million cap hit through 2019-20 enhances his trade value. He also lacks a no-trade clause. Citing Muzzin’s age (29), his requirement for a raise on his next contract, and the need for top-four defensemen in the trade market, Cooper thinks he could become one of Blake’s few bargaining chips that could fetch a good return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Carter, Muzzin hopes to remain with the Kings. Still, if Blake decides to rebuild he can shop Muzzin to the highest bidder without fear that he’ll bail on the deal by retiring. It’s best for the Kings to move him this season while his trade value is at its highest.
Cooper and Lisa Dillman also examined the pros and cons of trading Tyler Toffoli. The pros are he’s under-30 (26) carrying a moveable contract ($4.6-million cap hit through 2019-20) with a 30-goal season on his resume who might benefit from a change of scenery. The cons are moving one of their few good young players who could be a useful part of a rebuild. His production is down this season, which could affect his trade value.
They suggest the Edmonton Oilers as a possible trade destination for Toffoli, reuniting him with former Kings teammate Milan Lucic. It’s possible the Oilers could cut their losses with young winger Jesse Puljujarvi, who could also perhaps benefit playing elsewhere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is another of the Kings’ few marketable trade assets. While his struggles this season could hurt his value, Blake could find a club desperate for talent up front willing to overpay heading toward this season’s trade deadline. The question is, how far is Blake willing to go with a rebuild? We’ll probably get a clearer sense of that by the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline.
HOWARD COULD BE A VALUABLE TRADE CANDIDATE
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Burnside recently suggested the resurgence of goaltender Jimmy Howard could make him a valuable trade option for the Detroit Red Wings. He pointed out Howard’s stats (2.69 goals-against average and .922 save percentage as of Dec. 19) were astounding considering the deficiencies of the rebuilding Red Wings roster. With a lot of teams seeking goaltending help, Burnside wonders if GM Ken Holland will extend Howard’s contract or shop him for the best return at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumor has it Holland would seek a first-round pick for Howard. As previously noted, some readers scoffed at that notion but it’s worth remembering Holland got a first-round pick in 2018, a second rounder in 2019 and a third in 2021 from the Vegas Golden Knights at last year’s trade deadline for Tomas Tatar.