NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2019
What changes are in store for the Detroit Red Wings under new GM Steve Yzerman? Which scorers could the Arizona Coyotes pursue this summer? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE WINGS UNDER YZERMAN?
MLIVE.COM: Prior to yesterday’s press conference announcing Steve Yzerman was taking over as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Ansar Khan looked at what could be on Yzerman’s “to-do” list in the coming months. Decisions will have to be reached regarding pending unrestricted free agent Niklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek, and Luke Witkowski. Yzerman’s predecessor Ken Holland indicated a willingness to re-sign the Kronwall if the 38-year-old blueliner is willing to return for one more season.
Khan wondered if forwards Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen become buyout candidates. “It would cost $9.1 million over eight years to buy out Abdelkader” while Nielsen “would cost $6.33 million over six years to buy out, with hefty cap hits of $3.8 million and $4.8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22, respectively.” Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has one year remaining on his deal and Khan doubts he’ll be bought out.
Yzerman’s name might be a selling point if the Wings new GM goes shopping for experienced talent via this summer’s UFA market. Holland recently estimated the Wings could have between $15-$20 million in cap space, but Khan believes they must also ensure they leave sufficient long-term room for Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi when those youngsters become restricted free agents next summer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: John Niyo believes Yzerman’s arrival buys the Wings some time to complete their roster rebuild. He noted Yzerman acknowledging there’s plenty of work to do and his call for Wings fans to be patient. He points to Yzerman’s tenure as Lightning GM when he wasn’t afraid of making bold moves (trading Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis), convinced current Bolts stars like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov to accept below-market contracts and invested heavily in player development.
Niyo also suggested there are buyouts to consider, such as Ericsson or Trevor Daley, while others (Abdelkader, Nielsen, Darren Helm) could be too difficult to get out from under. While Yzerman’s cachet could help the Wings land some big fish in the free-agent pool, he doesn’t sound as though he’ll be going that route just yet, pointing to his remarks downplaying a pursuit of UFA talent while putting an emphasis on drafting and developing talent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Yzerman does this summer. I agree with Niyo that it’s unlikely he’ll be a major player in the UFA market, but I can see him exploring the trade market to see what’s available that might help his club.
As per Cap Friendly, the Wings have just over $71 million invested in 18 players, but they’ll get nearly $10 million in cap relief to start the season by placing all-but-retired forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on long-term injury reserve at the start of the season. They could get another $5.375 million if Mike Green’s ongoing liver ailment prevents him from continuing his playing career.
The Wings also hold three second-round picks and two fifth-round selections in this year’s draft plus two seconds and two thirds in next year’s draft to draw upon for trade bait. Yzerman could also dip into his club’s growing pool of young players and prospects but I don’t see him drawing too much from that well.
Yzerman could use the combination of his cap space and depth in draft picks to target a club facing a salary-cap crunch in need of shedding salary. He won’t be looking at aging expensive veterans like Edmonton’s Milan Lucic or Chicago’s Brent Seabrook but it wouldn’t be surprising if he targeted the Toronto Maple Leafs for a young forward like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson or the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba.
Some Edmonton pundits think Ken Holland would be a good fit as the Oilers new general manager but he’s reportedly taken himself out of the running for that job and will stay on as the Wings’ senior vice-president.
SOME POTENTIAL GOALSCORING TARGETS FOR THE COYOTES
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Arizona Coyotes need scoring and Richard Morin believes Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner would be a great fit. However, budget constraints likely mean the Coyotes can afford him, which could force GM John Chayka to get creative and find more affordable options. Morin suggested New York Islanders forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle and Columbus’ Ryan Dzingel as possible free-agent targets. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Chayka returned to the offseason trade market, perhaps by targeting clubs looking to move salary.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan also looked at several scorers the Coyotes could target via trade or free agency. He notes Chayka pointed out his club needs scoring wingers and not centers, though Morgan believes they’d take on a first-line center if one became available. A right-shot, top-four defenseman would also help.
Chayka also indicated he would prefer adding players in the prime of their careers or just entering their prime. Expensive options such as Columbus’ Artemi Panarin or Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner would be out of their price range.
Morgan also listed Lee, Nelson, Eberle, and Dzingel as possible UFA options. Others could include Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds, Winnipeg’s Kevin Hayes, San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist or Washington’s Brett Connolly. Given the Coyotes’ budget constraints, Morgan rules out Chaya going the offer-sheet route.
Morgan also thinks Chayka could get creative in the trade market. He suggested perhaps the Coyotes GM could use his cap space to pry away one of the Leafs’ promising young forwards (Kapanen, Johnsson or William Nylander) by offering to take on the final year of winger Patrick Marleau’s contract ($6.25 million cap hit), though Marleau’s no-trade clause could complicate things.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chayka’s been busy in the trade market since becoming the Coyotes GM in 2016. Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Alex Goligoski were among his trade acquisitions. I expect he’ll go the trade route again to bring in a top-six winger, using his depth in promising youngsters and draft picks to target cap-strapped clubs.