NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2019
Check out the latest on the Islanders, Predators, and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE ISLANDERS HAVE BEEN DEADLINE SELLERS?
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis acknowledged the difficulty Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello would’ve faced becoming a seller at the recent NHL trade deadline. Doing so would’ve been demoralizing to a roster jockeying for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
However, Cyrgalis believes Lamoriello was mistaken by not selling at the deadline, pointing out the Islanders lack sufficient top-end talent to be a legitimate Cup contender this season. He wonders what they might’ve received had they peddled pending UFAs such as goaltender Robin Lehner and forwards Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson.
Cyrgalis believes Lamoriello could be “first in line” to bid for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin via free agency and perhaps San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson. “The Islanders need what so many teams need, and that’s top-end talent.”
He also recently reported Lamoriello hasn’t engaged in substantial contract negotiations with Nelson, preferring to keep his options open. He speculated Nelson could seek a deal comparable to Anaheim’s Adam Henrique (five years, $29.125 million, $5.825 million AAV) while the Isles GM could consider a $5 million annual cap hit on a two- or three-year deal more palatable. Nelson said it’s a good thing both sides are taking things day-by-day.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Winning the Cup may be the ultimate goal for NHL teams, but making the playoffs is also very important to a club’s bottom line. It generates excitement among their fanbase, especially one that entered this season with low expectations, encouraging them to support the club down the stretch and into the postseason. It’s also a good way for Lamoriello to prove to the Islanders’ long-suffering fans that this team is finally heading in the right direction.
As for the offseason, Lamoriello’s expected pursuit of someone like Panarin or Karlsson will affect Nelson’s future with the Islanders. Signing either guy will cost a lot of money, and while the Isles have over $47.7 million invested in 16 players, they must ensure they have sufficient short-term space to re-sign someone like Lehner (or Nelson) and long-term room for the big raise Mathew Barzal will be seeking.
LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION
THE TENNESSEAN: During a recent mailbag segment, Paul Skrbina was asked if Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds will be returning with the Nashville Predators next season. Both are pending UFAs acquired before the trade deadline.
Skrbina expects Boyle to return as he’d be a more affordable re-signing than Simmonds. He believes their priority will be re-signing recently-acquired left winger Mikael Granlund, who has a year remaining on his contract and is eligible for UFA status next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund could seek a long-term deal worth around $7 million annually. Predators GM David Poile, however, might prefer something a little shorter and closer to $6.5 million per. Boyle, 35, is completing a two-year, $5.1-million deal and could be re-upped to a one-year deal worth the same cap hit ($2.55 million) or a little less. I expect Simmonds will be testing the UFA market.
BLACKHAWKS BLUELINE WOES COULD CONTINUE NEXT SEASON.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Jimmy Greenfield believes the Blackhawks could be hampered in their efforts this summer to bolster their defense. He said their blueliners are either too old and can’t be moved because of their expensive contracts and no-movement clauses (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook) or too young and inexperienced (Henri Jokiharju) to make an impact.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s going to take time to improve the Blackhawks defense. Keith and Seabrook surfaced in this season’s trade rumor mill but they both denied management approached them about waiving their no-movement clauses. Assuming either guy was willing to accept a trade, the Blackhawks could be forced to pick up part of their cap hit or take back a toxic contract. They’ll also likely have to include a sweetener such as a promising young player or a first-round pick.