NHL Rumor Mill – December 29, 2018
Reaction to Stars CEO’s harsh criticism of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, an update on Artemi Panarin, and the latest Rangers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Tom Cowlishaw reports Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites’ calculated, expletive-laden attack on Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on Friday “feels a lot like the end.” In his years of covering Dallas sports, he said he’s never heard anything like it, suggesting it could also be a shot at the local media for not giving the Stars as much attention and coverage as the other local sports teams.
Cowlishaw is curious over how Benn and Seguin will react to Lites’ scathing public critique of their efforts. He also wondered if they were “even remotely tradable while having subpar seasons after being decimated by their own management?” Cowlishaw went on to note both will make nearly $10 million per season starting in 2019-20 when Seguin’s new contract kicks in.
NBC SPORTS: Rather than aiming his ire at the Stars’ two best players, Adam Gretz believes Lites should instead focus on the poor job management has done surrounding the pair with quality players. While Benn and Seguin are well-paid and their production has slipped a bit this season, they’re still producing more than most of the league and more than anybody else on the Stars.
Gretz points out the supporting cast is highlighted by a young John Klingberg on defense and aging center Jason Spezza. He noted Alexander Radulov’s strong numbers but he’s put most of those up skating on the Benn-Seguin line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While everyone is awaiting the reactions of Benn and Seguin, it won’t be surprising if some pundits begin musing over the possibility of one or both asking to be traded or if the Stars are willing to field offers for either guy. Right now, I don’t believe either scenario is imminent.
Lites’ remarks (which apparently had the blessing of owner Tom Gaglardi) seem to be meant simply to light a fire under his two best players. And perhaps Benn and Seguin will take it as such.
However, if the Stars miss the playoffs or exit from the opening round, ownership could engage in a serious re-evaluation of management and the roster. That might also include the futures of Benn and Seguin, who could also decide to assess their place with the organization.
TSN: Agent Dan Milstein, who represents Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin, said the pair will meet during the All-Star break next month to discuss Panarin’s future. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
“We’re going to talk about, obviously, the team itself, the prospects of the future,” Milstein said. “He’s extremely competitive, he wants to help the team to win. We’re going to be looking at rosters, looking at teams, looking at the possibilities and the future role that he may have on the team and he’ll basically make a decision.” He added Panarin likes it in Columbus and the franchise has treated his client well.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will be interested in hearing from the Panarin camp by late-January. Some observers have suggested Panarin could be traded by the Feb. 25, 2019 deadline if he’s unwilling to commit to a new contract by then. I maintain they won’t move him as long as they remain in playoff contention and will continue trying to sign him in the offseason.
LATEST RANGERS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of Panarin, Rick Carpiniello believes the New York Rangers could be quite interested in the Jackets winger if he tests the open market on July 1. He suspects they’ll be “all-in, with plenty of cap space and a willingness to go long-term to get it done. Such a signing would/should speed up the rebuild, especially if some of the top prospects arrive in 2019-20, and if more are collected via trades and/or free agency.”
Carpiniello also doubts the Rangers will pay what could be a six-year deal worth $6.25-million annually to re-sign pending UFA center Kevin Hayes. He expects Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and possibly others could be moved by the trade deadline, giving the Rangers all the cap space they need to pursue Panarin in July. He also wondered if the Jackets would be interested in Hayes as a rental player.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites NHL insider Pierre LeBrun’s appearance on Toronto’s TSN 1050 on Friday discussing possible moves by the Rangers. While long-term starting goalie and franchise player Henrik Lundqvist might be feeling some frustration this season, LeBrun doubts he’ll be going anywhere, speculating management will give him assurances of being an “intriguing team” during the offseason because of their cap space and the possibility of signing someone like Artemi Panarin via free agency. He also suggested Erik Karlsson as an option if he doesn’t re-sign with the San Jose Sharks, citing Karlsson’s friendship with Lundqvist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $59.5 million invested in 13 players for 2019-20. Assuming an $83-million salary cap for next season, they’ll have around $23 million to work with. If they part ways with Hayes and Zuccarello, they won’t have any potentially expensive core players to re-sign. If management ships out more salary, they could have sufficient room to pursue Panarin and perhaps another UFA such as Karlsson.
What Rangers GM Jeff Gorton must do, however, is avoid the mistakes of his predecessors from 15 to 20 years ago. They used free agency as their primary means of roster building and spent seven straight seasons (1997-98 to 2003-04) sitting outside the playoff picture. And that was back when there was no salary cap and the Rangers were among the league’s biggest spenders. It’s not just enough to sign the best available talent. They must also ensure that talent will be a suitable fit.
As for Hayes, he’s reportedly leaving the decision over a new contract or trade up to the Rangers. He wants to stay but he could end up on the trade block as a playoff rental near the trade deadline if a new deal cannot be reached. Hayes claims he’s not worried about it and won’t let the uncertainty affect his play.