NHL Rumor Mill – December 24, 2018
Latest on Jeff Skinner, the Flyers goaltending, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CAN THE SABRES AFFORD SKINNER?
WGR 550: Brayton Wilson recently cited TSN’s Darren Dreger’s report of mutual interest between the Buffalo Sabres and winger Jeff Skinner to get a contract extension done. Acquired by the Sabres from the Carolina Hurricanes in August, the 27-year-old Skinner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Dreger speculated contract talks could heat up by mid-January and certainly before the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline. Skinner has a full no-trade clause in his current contract and is interested in staying in Buffalo.
Wilson’s colleague Joe DiBiase observed the Sabres have sufficient salary-cap space to re-sign Skinner, who is rumored seeking an eight-year contract worth between $9-$9.5 million annually. His current salary-cap hit is $5.725 million. With the recently-terminated contract of Patrik Berglund coming off the books, the Sabres have roughly $30 million in cap space for 2019-20. DiBiase believes re-signing Skinner won’t prevent the Sabres from making other moves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Sabres have just over $52 million invested in 14 players. Assuming an $83-million cap for 2019-20, they’ll have plenty of cap space to re-sign Skinner. Their other noteworthy free agents (Linus Ullmark, Jason Pominville, Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe) should be affordable re-signings.
Skinner’s developed tremendous chemistry with center Jack Eichel on the top line. His presence has significantly improved the Sabres this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if they open the vault to keep him in the fold on a lucrative long-term deal, perhaps before the trade deadline.
FLYERS GOALIE OPTIONS
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston weighed in on the goaltender options facing the Philadelphia Flyers. He noted colleague Nick Kypreos reported Saturday that Los Angeles Kings starter Jonathan Quick is a Flyers’ trade target. He believes they want to bring in an experienced mentor for promising Carter Hart. Despite Quick’s injury history and $5.8 million annual salary-cap hit through 2022-23, Johnston believes he “still moves the needle”. His actual salary declines “from $3.5-million to $3-million to $2.5-million in the final three seasons.”
Johnston also noted the limited options currently in the goalie market. Carolina’s Scott Darling is playing in the AHL, New Jersey’s Cory Schneider appears hampered by offseason hip surgery while Keith Kinkaid is an unrestricted free agent, and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is also a UFA but appears keen to remain a Red Wing. Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky could test the UFA market in July but he’s also had his fair share of ups and downs this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The options aren’t that good for the Flyers. Yes, Quick’s actual salary declines in the final years of his contract and when healthy he plays well. Unfortunately, that injury history (mainly of the lower-body variety) and his age (he turns 33 in January) makes Quick a gamble.
Waiting for Bobrovsky if he hits the open market next summer could be their best bet but there’s no certainty he’ll want to return to Philadelphia. He’ll also be very expensive, costing over $10 million per season on a long-term deal.
MANNING WOULD WELCOME A TRADE
THE ATHLETIC: Mark Lazerus reports Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brandon Manning isn’t seeking a trade but he’s open to one. A recent healthy scratch, he said he wouldn’t be upset over a trade after noting a recent report suggesting he and Jan Ruutu were available. Lazerus notes a source claims the Blackhawks have received little interest, suggesting the Hawks might have to absorb up to half of Manning’s salary to move him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Manning is signed through 2019-20 with an annual cap hit of $2.25 million and lacks no-trade protection. If his playing time continues to decline, the Blackhawks could try peddling him closer to the trade deadline in hopes a contender seeking experienced blueline depth becomes willing to take him off their hands.