NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2019
Latest on Erik Karlsson, Matthew Tkachuk, and Tobias Rieder in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE RANGERS TARGET KARLSSON?
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondered if the New York Rangers might target San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson via free agency in July. Despite Karlsson’s injuries this season, he’s played well when healthy. He thinks the two-time Norris Trophy winner would love playing in New York.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Friedman is simply speculating here. There’s no indication Karlsson intends to test this summer’s UFA market or that the Rangers will pursue him if he does.
Since he joined the Sharks last September, reports out of San Jose have consistently indicated the Sharks willingness to re-sign Karlsson and his interest in staying there. Nevertheless, re-signing him will be expensive for the Sharks, who have over $57.5 million invested in 14 players with Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi also due to become UFAs while restricted free agent forward Timo Meier is due for a significant raise.
If the Sharks can’t re-sign Karlsson, maybe the Rangers will consider pursuing him. With over $61 million committed to 17 players and all their core players under contract for 2019-20, the Blueshirts can afford to sign Karlsson to a big contract. However, they’re also a rebuilding team. Management will have to sell Karlsson on what they’re doing and how quickly they believe they can become a Cup contender.
FLAMES’ TKACHUK IN LINE FOR BIG RAISE
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Appearing on Ottawa’s TSN 1200, Darren Dreger speculates Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk could become the Flames’ highest-paid player this summer. He’s a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract but Dreger notes his performance and impact upon a deep Flames roster entitles him to his share of the pie. He points out the rising salary cap since the Flames re-signed Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan means there’s more money in the system and to spend. Dreger suggests Tkachuk’s new salary could be between $8.5-million to $9-million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can already hear some of you saying Tkachuk doesn’t deserve to be paid more than Gaudreau and Monahan. And if the salary cap was the same as it was in 2016-17 when those two signed their current contracts ($73 million), he wouldn’t get more than those two.
But Dreger’s right, the rising cap changes the market value each year. In three short years, Tkachuk has emerged as a top-tier power forward, averaging just over a point-per-game this season. At 21, he’s yet to reach his full potential. And potential is what teams pay for when they sign their young players. Some of you might not agree with it, but that’s the reality.
OILERS CEO SCAPEGOATS RIEDER
THE SCORE: During a breakfast in Edmonton yesterday for Oilers season-ticket holder, team CEO Bob Nicholson singled out winger Tobias Rieder for the club’s woes this season. He said the team wouldn’t be re-signing Rieder, noting he hasn’t scored this season and missed “so many breakaways”, then said if Rieder had scored 10-12 goals, the Oilers would be in the playoffs. Nicholson later apologized to Rieder, saying his remarks were out of bounds and claiming the two laughed about it. Rieder’s agent Darren Ferris called Nicholson’s remarks about his client “unacceptable”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable why the Oilers will part ways with Rieder, who’s due to become a restricted free agent this summer. Perhaps his performance this season spells the end of his NHL career.
Still, he didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus like that. The Oilers woes run deeper than an underachieving depth forward. Nicholson understands this but if he doesn’t, he has no business being team CEO.