NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2019
Latest on Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Ristolainen, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT WILL THE SABRES DO THIS SUMMER?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Asked about possible offseason moves by the Sabres in a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski believes their offseason will begin by re-signing left wing Jeff Skinner, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Only then will general manager Jason Botterill know how much he’ll have to spend this summer.
Lysowski doesn’t anticipate Botterill spending much beyond Skinner, suggesting he could trade some assets, particularly prospects, for immediate roster help. He also speculated they could draw upon their blueline depth by perhaps shopping someone like Rasmus Ristolainen, whose upside and contract (signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $5.4 million) would make him attractive in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Lysowski that the Sabres will likely re-sign Skinner, who’s enjoying terrific chemistry with center Jack Eichel. As per Cap Friendly, they have over $55.3 million invested in 17 players. A new contract for Skinner could push that to $$65 million, leaving enough cap space to re-sign or replace Jason Pominville, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Jake McCabe, and Linus Ullmark. Of course, if they don’t re-sign Skinner, I expect Botterill will seek a replacement via trade or free agency.
The Sabres’ acquisition of Brandon Montour before the trade deadline sparked speculation that Ristolainen might be on the move. There was some chatter linking him to the Tampa Bay Lightning but nothing came of it. Years of losing could be weighing on Ristolainen, but unless he asks to be moved, I don’t think the Sabres will go that route. Their blueline depth isn’t that good beyond Ristolainen, Montour and rookie sensation Rasmus Dahlin. Moving Ristolainen without suitably replacing him would only weaken them.
KREIDER DECLINE HURTING CHANCES OF A NEW RANGERS CONTRACT?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks noted the recent decline of Rangers winger Chris Kreider. He’s bounced around the lineup, including a stint on the fourth line. Kreider managed just two assists in his last seven games, a stretch in which the Rangers won just once. Brooks wonders if that might factor into whether they’ll re-sign the winger this summer to a long-term contract extension or trade him at the NHL Draft in June.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks noted Kreider isn’t the only notable Rangers forward struggling of late (hello there, Mika Zibanejad) but his status as a UFA in July 2020 raises questions about his long-term future in New York. His name could resurface in the trade-rumor mill following the playoffs. The longer he goes through the offseason without a new contract, the more frequently he’ll be mentioned as a possible trade candidate.
ZUCCARELLO CONTRACT TALKS ON HOLD
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks reports Stars GM Jim Nill said he won’t begin contract extension discussions with recently acquired winger Mats Zuccarello until the end of the season. He wants to see how the team and Zuccarello perform over the remainder of the season and in the playoffs. Zuccarello is currently sidelined with a broken arm but could return before the end of the month.