NHL Rumor Mill – April 13, 2019
Updates on the Islanders and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ISLANDERS FREE AGENTS DRAWING ATTENTION
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports Islanders pending unrestricted free agents Anders Lee, Robin Lehner, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson are showing general manager Lou Lamoriello what type of players they are with their performances down the stretch and in their playoff series against Pittsburgh. Lamoriello acknowledged everyone is talking about their free agents, adding they want to keep them and will try to do so.
Cyrgalis suggests Eberle could be playing his way off Long Island. The 28-year-old has performed very well since being reunited on center Mathew Barzal’s line, scoring five goals in his final seven regular-season contests and tallying a goal and an assist in each of the Isles two games thus far against the Penguins in their opening-round series. Should Eberle continue playing this well over the remainder of the postseason, Cyrgalis believes suitors will be lining up for his services.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello will face some difficult decisions regarding his “Big Four” UFAs. Cap Friendly indicates the Isles have over $47 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20, giving Lamoriello around $35 million to work with should the cap reach $83 million as projected for next season. Assuming management is willing to spend to the cap there’s plenty of room to re-sign all four. However, Lamoriello still has a reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator.
I believe Lee and Lehner are his priorities, followed by Eberle and Nelson. Much will depend upon what those players seek on their next contracts. Eberle is completing a six-year, $36-million deal and Lamoriello could be reluctant to pay him that much for that long to stay on Long Island.
COYOTES NEED SCORING BUT WILL THEY GET SOME?
ESPN.COM: In their season-ending assessment of the Arizona Coyotes, Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe boosting the scoring should be among their priorities. The limited market via free agency and the team’s economics could hamper efforts to address the issue. They suggest finding a solution via the trade market.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Danny Shapiro reports Coyotes GM John Chayka acknowledges his club’s offense must improve next season. “We didn’t score enough goals, so we have to go through and figure out how to get more out of our own group and how to add to the group and that’s the summer plan,” Chayka said.
While management will hope a healthier lineup next season will help, Chayka didn’t rule out pursuing a scoring in the offseason. Shapiro noted Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Jordan Eberle, and Jeff Skinner are among the notable potentially available via free agency.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan doesn’t believe Panarin is interested in signing long-term with the Coyotes. He wondered if they should or could look at Islanders UFAs like Anders Lee, Brock Nelson or Jordan Eberle, or Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner, or Panarin’s teammate Ryan Dzingel. He also wondered if Chayka would be best-served going the trade route as he has the past two years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes already have over $73 million invested in 16 players next season. If necessary, they can deduct $5.25 million from their cap payroll by placing all-but-retired Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve. Still, ownership could be unwilling to spend much more than they already have for 2019-20.
A healthier roster will certainly improve the Coyotes’ offense. However, Chayka should try to add another proven scorer. Duchene, Lee or Skinner would address that need but could be too expensive for the Coyotes. Dzingel, Nelson and perhaps Eberle might be more affordable but they could prefer signing with established playoff contenders.
If Chayka boosts his offense I expect he’ll make a trade. Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk, Jason Demers, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Alex Goligoski were all Chayka acquisitions. Ditto Jakob Chychrun, as Chayka acquired the pick to select Chychrun in a trade with Detroit during the 2016 Draft.
He’s got the depth in young players to draw upon as trade bait for a proven scorer. Perhaps he’ll entertain offers for his first-round pick (14th overall) in this year’s draft.