NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2019
What next for the Penguins and Lightning after getting swept from the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters speculate the Pittsburgh Penguins could shop a defenseman or two, suggesting this could be Olli Maatta’s last season in Pittsburgh. They could try to move aging agitator Patric Hornqvist but the 32-year-old has a $5.3-million annual average value through 2022-23 (with a full no-trade clause through 2021). They also suggest the trade rumors that swirled around winger Phil Kessel over the last two years could ramp up again. With the Penguins core aging, they recommend the club restock for the future.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey expects the Penguins could attempt a rebuild on the fly by moving some high-salaried players to free up salary cap space while attempting to get younger. He believes general manager Jim Rutherford will listen to offers for Kessel. It’s conceivable they could move on from Maatta and they’ll have to figure out what to do with Hornqvist.
Mackey reported Kessel expects there will be roster changes this summer but doesn’t know if he’ll be part of them. Rutherford entertained offers for the veteran winger last summer but felt no urgency to move him then. Trading Kessel would be strictly a business move, as he’s beloved by his teammates and Penguins fans.
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe also expects Kessel’s name to resurface in the rumor mill. He doesn’t know if the Penguins will trade him but believes he’s the most likely to go if they decide to trade a prominent forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel still has an eight-team trade list. He carries an $8 million annual cap hit through 2021-22, although the Toronto Maple Leafs are picking up $1.2 million of it. The 31-year-old’s goal-scoring declined over the second half of the season but he still finished with 82 points and had a good playoff series against the Islanders. If the Penguins shop Kessel this summer there will be a market for his services.
The same can’t be said for Hornqvist. His contract is difficult to move, especially with that full no-trade clause, plus he’s got a concussion history and his production was down this season. Maatta looks like he could use a fresh start somewhere else. He’s only 24 and have good puck-moving abilities and carries a reasonable salary-cap hit of $4.083 million through 2021-22.
THE ATHLETIC: In the wake of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stunning first-round exit from the 2019 playoffs, Joe Smith expects GM Julien BriseBois will closely examine his club this summer. Smith doesn’t anticipate a major shakeup but believes there will be a change in the blueline with Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Anton Stralman due to become unrestricted free agents.
Winger Ryan Callahan has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $5.8 million, making him a trade or buyout candidate. He expects restricted free agent Brayden Point will be re-signed to a big raise and rules out moving Tyler Johnson by pointing to his full no-trade clause. Still, they could look at moving a forward to bring in a younger one.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters don’t see BriseBois making any panic moves this summer. They point out core players such as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are all under 30 and signed through 2022, with Point soon to join them. They also expect there will be changes coming to the Lightning defense corps.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect the Bolts to trade away one of their core players. Head coach Jon Cooper recently signed a contract extension. He won’t be going anywhere but will be under pressure to address his club’s opening-round collapse and his apparent inability to counter the Blue Jackets aggressive forechecking.
The Lightning has over $73 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Point will command a big raise that could reach $7 million per season, though the Bolts have had success in convincing their core players to accept less than market value to stay in Tampa Bay. Even if they can convince him to accept, say, $5 million per season, they still won’t have sufficient cap room to suitably fill those blueline spots if Girardi, Coburn, and Stralman depart via free agency.
Moving Callahan via trade or buyout will free up some cap space. They could try to trade Yanni Gourde before his new contract (with a no-trade clause) kicks in on July 1. Having signed Gourde to that deal last November, however, they obviously want him to be part of their long-term future. They’ll be hard-pressed to sufficiently replace those departing blueliners, forcing them to find younger, cheaper options within their system, via trade or free agency.