NHL Rumor Mill – March 1, 2019
Latest on the Senators, Oilers, and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
UPDATES ON DUCHENE AND CECI
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports colleague Marc Savard feels the Ottawa Senators “have a legitimate chance” of bringing back center Matt Duchene via free agency. Friedman also noted the Montreal Canadiens expressed interest in Duchene before the trade deadline but balked at the asking price. He wondered if the Habs will revisit their interest this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duchene reportedly enjoyed living and playing in the Ottawa area so I suppose we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of his return via free agency. However, he’s going to be the best forward available in the UFA market and will be seeking top dollar on a long-term contract. I don’t think the Senators are willing to spend that much.
The Canadiens will have plenty of cap space but they’ve got one promising center on their roster in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and a couple more (Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling) in their pipeline. I think the Habs priority is landing a top-pairing left-side defenseman.
Friedman also wonders if the Senators, who’ll need to spend this summer to reach next season’s salary-cap minimum, will re-sign defenseman Cody Ceci. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and a year away from eligibility for unrestricted free agent status. Friedman doubts the Senators will invest in Ceci long-term but they’ll also want to avoid another trade-deadline drama. He also speculates the Senators could use their cap space to target clubs looking to shed salary.
OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan also ponders Ceci’s future with the Senators. He notes they’ll have to match the blueliner’s salary to qualify his rights. While they may not want to do that, they might have to in order to get to the salary-cap floor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think this is Ceci’s last season in Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will probably try to trade him before July 1 to avoid another arbitration hearing this summer. They can come up with other ways of reaching the cap floor for 2019-20.
UPDATE ON THE OILERS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman said he believes the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t want to trade winger Connor Brown for a playoff rental and discussed a possible Brown-for-Matt Benning deal with the Edmonton Oilers. He heard multiple denials regarding a rumor claiming the Oilers discussed trading defenseman Adam Larsson to Toronto. He also wonders if the Oilers might try to package winger Jesse Puljujarvi this summer with a contract they want to move.
Friedman also said he heard the Nashville Predators looked at Oilers winger Zack Kassian before acquiring Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils in early-February. The Pittsburgh Penguins may have also had some interest in Kassian.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last weekend, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the Oilers were trying to package Puljujarvi with fading left wing Milan Lucic. With Puljujarvi undergoing season-ending hip surgery, the Oilers probably won’t find many takers for him this summer. I can’t see anyone wanting a Puljujarvi-Lucic package. There may have been some interest in Kassian, who has a year remaining on his contract, but the Oilers apparently weren’t shopping him.
KINGS SET HIGH PRICE FOR TOFFOLI
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Los Angeles Kings set a high asking price for winger Tyler Toffoli at the trade deadline. It’s believed they sought a first-round pick and a good prospect “at least”.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Other than shipping defenseman Oscar Fantenberg to Calgary, Curtis Zupke reports Kings GM Rob Blake said he wasn’t close to making any other deals on deadline day. Zupke feels the Kings could make their major moves this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is signed through 2019-20 and becomes eligible for UFA status next July. Friedman said the Kings hope he’ll regain his 30-goal form. If he does I expect they’ll re-sign him before next July. He’s 26 and could still play a key role in their rebuilding process. Of course, that could change if someone’s willing to meet Blake’s asking price.