NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2019
Check out the latest Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
UPDATE ON THE SABRES
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In his latest mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked if Buffalo Sabres winger (and pending free agent) Jeff Skinner will return next season. He believes Skinner will re-sign, pointing out his comments about how much he likes his teammates and the roster’s potential. Lysowski also notes Buffalo’s proximity to Skinner’s home in the Greater Toronto Area.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner will be an expensive re-signing but I don’t believe the Sabres will risk losing him for nothing to free agency only a year after stealing him away from the Carolina Hurricanes. He has terrific offensive chemistry with Jack Eichel and they don’t want to lose that.
Recent speculation suggests the Skinner camp will seek a long-term deal worth over $9 million per season while the Sabres might prefer something in the $8-million range. I believe they’ll get a deal hammered out for around $9 million per.
Lysowski also expects the Sabres’ goalie tandem of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark will return next season, suggesting the club might bring in a new goaltending coach. Winger Jason Pominville would love to return but Lysowski doubts that happens, pointing out the Sabres need bigger forwards who can score.
Regarding their restricted free agents, Lysowski doubts Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson will be back. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, and Matt Hunwick are under contract next season, he speculates one of them might get traded this summer, though he’s not convinced they’ll move Ristolainen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pominville’s second tour with the Sabres as a player is drawing to a close. He’s 36-year-old and this could be his last NHL campaign. Girgensons and Larsson could be traded or their rights might not be qualified, allowing them to become UFAs on July 1. Unless Ristolainen wants out, I don’t think they intend to trade him.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): If the Sabres re-sign Skinner at $8 million per season and depending on which RFAs they re-sign, Ryan Stimson noted they’ll have nearly $45 million in salary-cap space for 2020-21. However, they’ll need to keep sufficient cap space for Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour, who’ll become restricted free agents with arbitration rights next summer, as well as for Rasmus Dahlin when he comes off his entry-level deal in 2021. He speculates they won’t throw a lot of money around this summer, though they might pursue someone like Matt Duchene or Jordan Eberle via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Skinner will cost around $9 million per season, but that’ll still leave the Sabres with a lot of cap space for 2020-21, depending upon who else they sign this summer. They currently have over $55.7 million invested in 17 players. Assuming it costs a combined $12 million to re-sign Skinner and RFAs Linus Ullmark, Evan Rodrigues, and Jake McCabe, they’ll have over $67 million tied up in 21 players, leaving enough to try to bring in a decent UFA addition or two, depending on whether ownership is willing to spend to the cap.
LATEST ON CHRIS KREIDER
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Rangers winger Chris Kreider suffered a hamstring injury on Feb. 24, which accounts for his recent offensive struggles. He also points out Kreider, who’s eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent, is either a couple of months away from a lucrative contract extension or a trade.
Brooks speculates a conservative estimate for Kreider’s next contract could be six years at $6.5 million per season. If traded, Brooks believes the return would be for a package of draft picks and prospects or young NHL-ready players. He doesn’t see Kreider returning to the Rangers this fall without a new contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. The Rangers can’t let Kreider’s situation drag on into next season and become an unwelcome distraction. If management feels the winger doesn’t fit into their plans, they should shop him by the NHL Draft weekend in late-June.