NHL Rumor Mill – March 17, 2019

by | Mar 17, 2019 | Rumors | 15 comments

Latest on the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: During an appearance on Friday on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. NHL insider Elliotte Friedman said he believes Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill isn’t afraid to make changes. He pointed to Botterill shipping Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues last June. Friedman also wondered if there’s any guarantee of the Sabres re-signing left wing Jeff Skinner, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s heard term is the issue. “They haven’t gotten a Skinner extension done yet. The closer you get, the more you wonder, ‘Is it going to happen.”, said Friedman.

Re-signing Jeff Skinner is among several major decisions facing the Buffalo Sabres this summer (Photo via NHL Images).

Bob McKenzie, meanwhile, believes the Sabres still intend to re-sign Skinner. Appearing on Montreal’s TSN 690 on Friday, McKenzie said negotiations are on, suggesting Skinner would like to stay in Buffalo because it’s close to his Toronto home and he enjoys playing alongside Jack Eichel. He guesses Skinner could seek a long-term deal over $9 million annually while the Sabres might prefer something in the $8 million range. McKenzie felt there will be pressure upon the Sabres to get a deal done because Skinner’s been a big part of their team this season. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton recently noted the Sabres’ offense, so potent earlier in the season, has dried up in recent weeks. Their second-half struggles could lead some observers to suggest replacing Phil Housley as head coach with a more experienced NHL bench boss like Alain Vigneault or Joel Quenneville, but Clinton points out Housley has done some good things with the club this season. 

Clinton instead suggests perhaps a roster makeover, not a full rebuild, could be in order. Decisions will have to be made regarding Jeff Skinner and fellow UFA forward Jason Pominville. There’s little chance the Sabres can shed the contract of oft-injured winger Kyle Okposo, but Clinton proposes ridding themselves of pending RFAs like Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson, trying to move Vladimir Sobotka or find a taker for Conor Sheary, then use the savings to pursue another high-end free agent or two. 

Clinton also noted the trade rumors swirling around defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, suggesting perhaps now might be the time to move him. He also noted Zach Bogosian has had his run in Buffalo. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If you’re a Sabres fan, you can look at this season as a glass half full or half empty. Their impressive play in the first half of the season could suggest they’re only a couple of tweaks away from a breakout season, while their second-half struggles seem to indicate more work is needed.

If there’s an opportunity to bring in a proven NHL coach with an impressive resume, I think they should do it. No offense to Housley, but if someone like Vigneault or Quenneville is willing to come to Buffalo, the Sabres must explore that opportunity.

Botterill gave up very little to get Skinner, but letting him walk via free agency after just one impressive season alongside Eichel would be a big mistake. It sends the wrong message to the players (especially Eichel), and to the fans, that they’re not serious about building and maintaining a winner.

Yes, it will likely cost over $9 million annually on a long-term deal to keep Skinner. Yes, there’s the risk he might not reach these offensive heights again. Yes, they might find a quality free agent or two willing to play for them. But this is a player who waived his no-movement clause to come to Buffalo. He wants to be there and he loves playing alongside Eichel. It would be foolish to let Skinner go because of quibbling over the contract term. Pay the man and get it done. If they don’t, then what was the point of acquiring him last summer?

I can see Botterill moving one a couple of those depth players mentioned by Clinton, though he might not be keen to give up on Sheary after just one season. I agree that Girgensons and Bogosian have done all they can do in Buffalo and it’s probably time for a change. Moving Bogosian, however, won’t be easy. While he’s got just one year left on his contract, Cap Friendly indicates it’s an annual average value of over $5.142 million with an actual salary of $6 million.

Ristolainen could fetch a good return for the Sabres, but unless he’s unhappy in Buffalo and wants a trade, I think it would be worthwhile to hang onto him for at least another season. He’s only 24 and signed through 2021-22 with an affordable salary-cap hit of $5.4 million and can still be a valuable part of their plans. 


NICHOLS  ON HOCKEY: During a recent appearance on Ottawa’s TSN 1200, NHL insider Darren Dreger was asked what he thought might be in store for the Philadelphia Flyers this summer. He believes GM Chuck Fletcher will be aggressive, suggesting perhaps he might target a restricted free agent such as Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point or Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson with an offer sheet.

Dreger also doesn’t rule out the possibility of Fletcher getting into the bidding for a top UFA like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, or maybe pulling off a double-signing of someone like Panarin and Erik Karlsson.  “When it comes to Fletcher and the possibilities in Philadelphia, I think that anything is possible. And that’s not an exaggeration. I just know how he works, and I know how hard he works,” said Dreger. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers are starting to pop up frequently in the rumor mill of late. After several seasons of building with youth and (for the most part) avoiding expensive plunges into the UFA market, their midseason management change has sparked growing anticipation they’ll return to the free-spending ways this summer.

They could go the offer-sheet route, but that tactic is so rarely used that I’ll believe it when I see it. With over $46.8 million invested in 13 players and mostly youngsters such as Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim to re-sign, the Flyers will have plenty of cap room to retain their best free agents and make a major acquisition via trade or free agency this summer. 


  1. Risto to TOR for Nylander? Gives TOR that ride side partner for Reilly.

    Also insurance in case Skinner proves too costly, they’d have another guy to slot there. IF Skinner does, then helps balance out the top 6.

    • As I said yesterday, Nylander will have to show that he is not another in a fairly long line of players whose production fell off after signing a long-term big-bucks deal, before any GM forks over a top end D. So far he’s failing. Badly. Being regarded as a “soft” C on top of that isn’t going to make some GM take that risk.

      • Lets just remember that “soft” narrative is getting old and largely a big take on this site. The guy drives the line he’s on. Yes he’s not a hitter but that’s not his game and most people that complain about him would probably sing his praises if he was on their team. I’ve heard some praises on a lot lesser players by a lot of you here so to hear this narrative over and over by the same mouth pieces is really boring.

      • George, no he wouldn’t be the first young guy to fall off or not be able to deal with having that type of $$ being young and single . Just ask the Oilers. I know how I was at that age.
        But from a strictly production point of view his play is improving.
        I don’t watch a ton of Leaf games but they are hard to avoid in Canada so I have taken in a few of late, and he seems to be generating more offence in the games I have watched, compared to when he first came back and seems to be back in game shape and is finding his offensive timing.
        Is he soft? One of many I suppose these days. Different era, but I would definitely prefer the guys who play hard and with a little dislike for the opposition while the game is on.
        I know I sound like Cherry, but I do agree with him on this topic.
        Those days may be gone or at least on the way out.

      • I wouldn’t say these type of players are on their way out. Hockey has always had soft players (Craig Janney of Boston comes to mind) and players willing to go to the dirty area. I keep hearing the league is getting smaller. Yes and No, we see both smaller and bigger men on d, but the big men can skate as oppose to the older days. Players like the Tkachuk boys are always going to be in the NHL and every team will want one.
        Nylander is soft and early in his career, that can still change. His point total is way down and I don’t buy the game shape crap, he played enough games now to be caught up to everyone.
        Dubas (Reported) that he wouldn’t trade Nylander and now wouldn’t be the time because he would be selling low, I agree with George that he may have to show more to get his value back in a trade.
        A player who wasn’t shy but was always knocked off the puck with ease in his first few seasons was Mark Scheifele of the Jets but that’s not the case anymore.
        In summary for me Nylander doesn’t need to be a physical player most skill are not, but he can’t be afraid of getting hit to the point his game disappear.

      • Fair enough Caper, yes there will always be the more physical and go to the tough area guys, because they are valuable. It just seems that the more skilled guys do it less, but maybe I am just confirming my opinion.
        I guess what I am trying to say is I would rather have Tkachuk than Nyladner, and from a strictly speed and skill perspective, Nylander seems to have more.

      • @ Ray Bark, I don’t think we disagree I would prefer the physical player with skill. Case in point Boston passed over Kyle Connor who is likely to have back to back 30 goals seasons. However if the decision was between Debrusk and Connor, i’m taking Debrusk because he has elements of his game that Connor doesn’t. I would prefer both and as you know it could’ve been but isn’t.

      • Actually, I think we agree Caper.

    • Nylander and his Brother both are players I don’t want on Buffalo I don’t like players like them. Nylander did zero in playoffs last year for Leafs, he was scared to get involved. I don’t like greedy players who don’t show up to playoff and carry a purse on the ice.

  2. Exciting times for flyers fans. Cap space + prospect pool=success.
    I am not a fan of karlson. I believe he is on the downside. I would prefer a trade to acquire a better 2 way RHD-Trouba or Parenko. With ghost being expendable.
    An offer sheet candidate that would be loved in Philadelphia is Mathew Tkachuk.

    • @Scott

      I’m not really a Flyers fan but I am a big fan of Ghost. I really don’t get why all of the sudden his name is popping in trade rumours???

      He’s young; affordable contract/AAV; can produce; etc…

      If you’re a Flyers fan maybe you can shed some lights on this? And if it is true that he is being shopped around, as a MTL fan I’d take him anyday and pair him with Weber…

      • Ghost is weak defensively. But your right, he’s on an affordable contract and has unbelievable offensive skills.
        That’s why he’s being shopped. He can bring back value.

  3. good luck trying to trade Bogosian. if he finishes the season healthy, the team should consider buying him out

    • mikeP, I can agree with you on this point, but I wonder if someone might be willing to take a flyer on him for a minimal return.

    • He only has next year on contract, it’s not a problem at all, Sabres could dump him in minors but he’s been fine. Okposo is the guy you pay someone to take.