NHL Rumor Mill – April 22, 2019
More speculation over what might be in store this summer for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE LIGHTNING MOVE MILLER AND CALLAHAN?
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek recently speculated over what might be in store for the Tampa Bay Lightning under Julien BriseBois, who enters his first full offseason as general manager. While BriseBois doesn’t intend to blow up the roster, Duhatschek believes some changes are coming for the Lightning this summer.
With Braydon Coburn, Dan Girardi, and Anton Stralman due to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, the Lightning will need some defensemen. Cal Foote could crack the lineup but it remains to be seen if he’s NHL-ready.
Salary-cap constraints will be an issue, especially with restricted free agent center Brayden Point due for a hefty raise. The Lightning has only one bad contract (Ryan Callahan’s $5.8 million salary-cap hit) and it could cost them a middle-of-the-pack player like Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn or J.T. Miller, though Palat and Killorn have no-trade protection.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks also anticipates some offseason changes for the Lightning lineup. He expects BriseBois will attempt to move Miller’s contract ($5.25-million annual average through 2022-23) while Callahan, who has one year left on his contract, could be bought out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Lightning has over $73.1 million invested in 16 players. Should the cap reach the projected $83 million for 2019-20, BriseBois will have less than $10 million to work with. He’ll have no choice but to shed some salary to free up sufficient cap room for Point, affordable depth players Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne, and add a defenseman or two.
Miller, a versatile 26-year-old forward lacking no-trade protection, appears the most likely trade candidate. Despite his struggles in this year’s playoffs, Miller’s reached or exceeded the 40-point plateau in each of the last four seasons. His youth (26), two-way skills and his ability to play all three forward positions could make him enticing to clubs seeking a versatile forward.
Callahan has a 16-team trade list, giving BriseBois some options to find a new home for the aging winger. However, he’ll likely have to bundle the 34-year-old with a draft pick or prospect to entice teams into taking on his full cap hit. Failing that, a buyout will reduce his $5.8 million annual average value for next season to over $2.66 million and to $1.66 million in 2020-21.
RECENT PENGUINS SPECULATION
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Ron Cook believes Penguins GM Jim Rutherford must shed some salary this summer if the club is to avoid the same fate that befell the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings. Cap constraints led to both of those former multiple Stanley Cup winners missing the playoffs in recent years.
Cook doesn’t expect Rutherford to move franchise mainstays like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “I’m talking about Phil Kessel, (Kris) Letang, Patric Hornqvist, Jack Johnson, Nick Bjugstad, Bryan Rust and Olli Maatta,” he writes, guessing one or two of those players will be moved to free up salary-cap space. He doubts the Penguins will get much back in return.
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Jonathan Bombulie recently suggested Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta could become a trade candidate. Maatta said he’s trying not to think about that, adding he won’t require surgery to repair a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 20 games this season. “I guess all you can do is just go and have a good summer and what happens happens.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of that group, Kessel and Maatta seem the most likely to move.
There’s a growing feeling among Penguins observers that Kessel, the subject of trade rumors over the previous two offseasons, could be shipped out. The Penguins reportedly fielded trade offers for him last summer and could be more receptive this year. He’s coming off an 82-point campaign and will be enticing to teams in need of experienced scoring depth despite his eight-team trade list.
Maatta seems to have lost the confidence of Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. A 24-year-old mobile defenseman with an affordable $4.083-million salary-cap hit through 2021-22 and lacking no-trade protection, he should attract interest in the trade market. Rust had a difficult postseason but he’s only 26 and carries a cap-friendly $3.5-million AAV. Bjugstad was acquired in February and Rutherford will probably want to give him a full-season evaluation.
I have my doubts that Rutherford’s keen to move Letang. His cap hit ($7.25 million) and injury history will likely dampen his trade value anyway. Same goes for Hornqvist. The ongoing decline in Johnson’s performance will make him difficult to move despite his $3.25-million annual cap hit.