NHL Rumor Mill – January 1, 2019
A look at teams with salary-cap space that could be busy this summer, plus the latest on the Oilers and Sabres, in the first NHL rumor mill of 2019.
COULD THE RANGERS, CANADIENS, SHARKS & GOLDEN KNIGHTS BE ACTIVE IN 2019 UFA MARKET?
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites NHL insider Pierre LeBrun’s appearance on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 yesterday discussing clubs with salary-cap space that could be busy in this summer’s free-agent market. He believes the New York Rangers could be on Columbus Blue Jackets’ winger Artemi Panarin’s list of preferred destinations. The Rangers could also be an option for defenseman Erik Karlsson if he doesn’t re-sign with the San Jose Sharks.
LeBrun also noted the Montreal Canadiens will have plenty of salary-cap room for 2019-20. While Montreal hasn’t been a preferred destination for top free agents in the past, their bounce-back performance this season and their cap dollars might make them more attractive.
The San Jose Sharks play in a market that many players prefer to play. If Karlsson doesn’t re-sign with them, they’ll have plenty of cap space to pursue a big-ticket player.
LeBrun also points out the Vegas Golden Knights still have plenty of cap room, suggesting they could pursue Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone if he decides to test the market in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers, Sharks, and Golden Knights will be among the preferred spots for free-agent players this summer. The Canadiens may have cap space but they’ll be a fall-back measure for those who fail to land in one of the other markets. Frankly, I don’t expect any of this summer’s top UFAs will land in Montreal.
OILERS STILL SEEK A TOP-FOUR DEFENSEMAN
TSN: In the wake of the Edmonton Oilers acquiring depth defensemen Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning on Sunday, Pierre LeBrun reports they’d love to get a top-four defenseman before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Unfortunately, that type of deal isn’t available to them at the present time, though maybe that might change when teams start falling out of playoff contention. LeBrun believes they’d like to land that top-four blueliner for futures, rather than giving up a top-six forward.
THE SCORE: Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli met with the Edmonton media yesterday to justify the acquisitions of Petrovic and Manning, claiming it was imperative to shore up his blueline. He also noted better rearguards currently aren’t available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarelli’s been raked over the coals by Oilers followers over those two moves, though he didn’t give up a lot to bring in two third-pairing defensemen. If he could’ve landed a top-four blueliner without giving up much in return, he would’ve done it by now. Rather than shrugging his shoulders and doing nothing, Chiarelli is at least trying to find solutions to keep his club in playoff contention while waiting for better deals to materialize. Whether they help the Oilers defense remains to be seen.
The problem with giving futures for that top-four defenseman is it could hurt their long-term development by bringing in a quick fix. Of course, it depends on which blueliner becomes available. If it’s a draft pick or two outside the first round, maybe that deal can be made for a playoff rental.
WILL THE SABRES TRY TO ADD SCORING?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently observed the Sabres are running on fumes offensively of late and wondered if GM Jason Botterill will attempt to address that need soon. He believes Botterill is trying to find help but rival GMs are reluctant to make significant deals right now. The Sabres could use an experienced second-line center. Options could include Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings, Brayden Schenn of the St. Louis Blues and Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild but they won’t come cheap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter could be unwilling to accept a trade to Buffalo and retire, leaving the Kings with an annual salary-cap recapture penalty for the next three seasons. The asking price for Schenn or Coyle could be a promising young Sabre such as Casey Mittelstadt.