NHL Rumor Mill – April 27, 2019

by | Apr 27, 2019 | Rumors | 21 comments

Will James Neal return with the Flames next season? Could the Capitals shop Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky this summer? Should the Canucks pursue Jason Zucker or try to trade Brandon Sutter this summer?  Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.


CALGARY SUN: Despite the calls from Flames followers for the club to rid themselves of veteran winger James Neal, Wes Gilbertson recently reported there’s “little doubt” he’ll return with the club next season. He doesn’t believe Flames ownership will approve a contract buyout stretching through 2026-17 burning up nearly $2 million in annual salary-cap space. He also doesn’t see a market for a winger carrying an AAV of $5.75-million through 2022-23. Neal, meanwhile, wants to be a top-six forward and intends to train this summer toward returning to his 20-goal-per-season form. 

Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to trade or buy out James Neal’s contract this summer (Photo via NHL Images)

During a roundtable with Sun writers Danny Austin and Kristen Anderson on the Flames season and offseason plans, Gilbertson agreed with Anderson that GM Brad Treliving is unlikely to make sweeping roster changes. He believes Treliving must find a second-line right winger, suggesting perhaps revisiting the trade for Jason Zucker with the Minnesota Wild that fell through at the trade deadline. He also agreed with Austin that defenseman T.J. Brodie could be traded this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have over $69 million invested in 20 players, with RFAs Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to re-sign and goaltenders Mike Smith and David Rittich to re-sign or replace. Tkachuk’s next contract alone could absorb around $9 million of their salary-cap space. If they’re looking to shed salary, Brodie rather than Neal is a more likely trade candidate.

Neal lacks no-trade protection but the sharp decline in his production this season combined with the remaining years and the cap hit of his contract makes him a tough sell. He’ll likely return with the Flames next season. 

If Treliving intends to acquire Zucker ($5.5 million AAV) or another right winger, that move will have to be as close to a dollar-for-dollar swap as possible or doing a separate deal to shed the cap space necessary to take on that incoming winger’s contract. Those moves could involve Brodie or Michael Frolik, who was reportedly offered up to the Wild (along with a draft pick) for Zucker. 


THE WASHINGTON POST: In the wake of the Washington Capitals first-round playoff elimination, Isabelle Khurshudyan recently examined potential offseason moves in store for the roster. She points out the bonuses owed to Brooks Orpik, Jakub Vrana, and Jonas Siegenthaler ($1.15 million total) will count against next season’s salary-cap payroll. 

Khurshudyan speculates the addition of defenseman Nick Jensen in February could make veteran blueliner Matt Niskanen a salary-cap casualty. Trading Niskanen, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $5.75-million annual salary-cap hit, would create flexibility this summer and next. 

The Capitals must also decide what to do with winger Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who was also the subject of frequent trade speculation. Fellow RFAs Dmitrij Jaskin and Chandler Stephenson also face uncertain futures. Of their unrestricted free agents, Orpik and Devante Smith-Pelly are least likely to return. The Capitals probably want to re-sign forwards Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin but probably can’t afford to keep both. With 22 goals and 46 points, Connolly has more upside. 

Khurshudyan considers re-signing Vrana the priority, using Vegas Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch ($4.75-million annual average value) as a “conservative comparable,” speculating his representatives could push for a bridge deal as a hedge that his production will continue to climb, ensuring a bigger future payday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $72.6 million already invested in 17 players for 2019-20. Deduct that $1.15 million bonus overage from the projected $83 million salary cap for next season and they’ll have around $9 million to work with. Even if Vrana’s camp wants a bridge deal, he’s going to get a significant raise coming off his entry-level contract, perhaps around $4 million. Connolly made $1.5 million annually on his current contract and will likely seek around $4 million. That won’t leave much to fill in the rest of the lineup.

Somebody must be moved in a cost-cutting deal. Niskanen had a modified no-trade clause listing 10 teams he cannot be traded to, leaving a 20-team marketplace. Given his experience, puck-moving skills, ability to log big minutes and the market for right-shooting defensemen, the Capitals should be able to find a suitable destination for him and probably won’t have to absorb any of his salary-cap hit. However, they can’t afford to take any salary back so they’ll likely look at draft picks and prospects in return. 

Burakovsky’s days with the Capitals appear in doubt. GM Brian MacLellan resisted the temptation to move the 24-year-old winger this season in hopes he’d improve. While he did play better down the stretch, I don’t think he did enough to ensure a long-term future there. They could decide not to qualify Burakovsky’s rights in hopes of signing him at a lower salary but I think they’ll see what he might fetch in the trade market.

Orpik hasn’t made a decision about his future yet but there’s already speculation he might retire. Hagelin said he’d like to return but they might not have enough cap space to keep him. 


THE ATHLETIC: During a mailbag segment earlier this month, JD Burke was asked about possible trade targets for the Canucks. He suggested making a pitch for Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker. Pointing to the near-deal that would’ve sent Zucker to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline for Michael Frolik and a draft pick, he proposes the Canucks offer up Jake Virtanen. He also believes they should target the Edmonton Oilers, assuming they’ll once again screw up their GM search.

Asked which team the Canucks could trade center Brandon Sutter to this summer, he doubts there’s much of a market for the 30-year-old center, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $4.35-million AAV and also carries a no-trade clause. He speculates the Edmonton Oilers might be interested, depending on who becomes their next GM. He also wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets would be willing to swap Alexander Wennberg’s contract (signed through 2022-23, $4.9 million AAV) for Sutter’s, or if the New York Islanders might be interested.  

VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston recently listed Sutter, Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Loui Eriksson, and Ben Hutton as potential Canucks trade candidates. Goldobin’s a restricted free agent who said he wants to stay in Vancouver but Johnston wondered if he’ll get the chance. Eriksson carries a $6 million AAV and was employed on the fourth line this season. He also carries a 15-team no-trade list but could be appealing to budget clubs looking to become cap compliant. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pundits and fans can make suggestions over what moves the Canucks should attempt to make but GM Jim Benning probably has other ideas. If Zucker’s available, the Wild could attempt to drive up his value by getting teams into a bidding war for his services. If so, forget about prying him out of Minnesota with Virtanen.

There could be a market for Sutter or Eriksson among cost-conscious clubs looking to reach the cap minimum. However, those teams will also want a sweetener included in the deal, like a decent draft pick or a good prospect.

The Canucks might not have to worry about re-signing Goldobin. He’s reportedly considering signing with a KHL team this summer.



  1. What happened to Alexander Wennberg? He went from 60 to 40 to 20 points

    • different team make up vs two years ago when he recorded 60 points . Dubois, Duchene, Jenner, Foligno , and Nash are eating up the minutes down the middle now. At the time when he signed his 6 year deal it looked like a good signing, times have changed. I know there are a couple of Columbus fans who visit the site perhaps they can chime in.

  2. Was the drop in Neal’s production due to a declining skill set? Or just opportunity, and then, rhythm?

    If you want to know how much I want to see the Pens shed Hornqvist’s contract, I’d at least consider a second Neal for Hornqvist swap.

    I think the Oilers should at least consider him (if the Flames eat salary) as he’d be the best sniper McDavid has seen on his line. They should also look at grabbing Burakovsky cheap.


    Leafs should be interested in Niskanen. He’s not 100% what they need but given what they can afford, he’s probably the best they could get.

    If Jacques Martin wanted to take Hornqvist with him to either Buffalo or Ottawa for leadership and experience, etc. then it would make losing him far more palatable.

    As it stands now, losing him would hurt the Pens but he’d be the most milquetoast head coaching choice ever and likely not do much for the team that hired him.


    The NHL’s cap is the only in sports that rewards the middle class, probably too much. Almost $5 million for Jakob Vrana…? That’s nuts.

    Guys like Ovie, Sid, McDavid are seriously underpaid while guys like Vrana get 2, maybe 3 times what they are worth. No one buys a season ticket package to see Vrana. No one but his family buys walk up tickets to see Vrana.

    • “No one but his family buys walk up tickets to see Vrana.”

      You could say that about 90% of the league. The fact remains, even if that’s so, those teams with the “best of the rest” are always the most successful – never mind who’s at the top of their pay scale. Hello Edmonton, Toronto, Pittsburgh, TB.

      • Ya look at a team like Ottawa, no stars few prospects and… oh ya never mind.

      • Oh hey Ronnie! Still casting about for a clue? Here’s a tip – your elbow is located about midway between your shoulder blade and your wrist while your ass is that large protruding lump just below your waist.

        You’re welcome. Next time I’ll give you a hint about the difference between s*^t and Shinola

    • With the young rfa’s this year combined with the increase in scoring on account of the rule changes and goalie equipment there are going to be quite a few players in for a shock because teams are simply not going to have the money to pay them all.

    • Neal’s biggest problem imo is his horrible foot speed. He couldn’t skate back when he played with the pens and now he’s only worse. No thanks for Edmonton or Pittsburgh, you can’t score if you can’t keep up.

  3. ” No one but his family buys walk up tickets to see Vrana.”

    That can be said about 90% of the league! The fact is, those teams with “the best of the rest” are always the ones to have the most success. And with the competition you have to pay to get that element.

  4. Random advice for whoever gets the Oilers job…

    Offer Pulujarvi to LA for Tyler Toffoli.

    And a third round pick or something to the Caps for Burakovsky.

    A line of Burakovsky McDavid Toffoli has a nice mix of skills, speed and some size. And it can be acquired without a ton of assets or cap space and give them a chance to create depth through their lines.

  5. OTT has a huge opportunity here to use their cap space and LTIR contracts as a trade off to facilitate some trade opportunities.

    Does CGY think taking MacArthur back for Neal in order to have cap space benefit them? Gives OTT a roster player back that they will be able to ice. He also covers some of their cap floor.

    AZ apparently is looking for a scoring winger…so maybe Neal then gets sent their via OTT for something else?

    Does WSH offer Niskanen and Burakovsky to OTT for Ceci , Lindberg’s contract before he becomes a UFA & Gaborik’s LTIR? I doubt Gaborik will be healthy enough long term to skate a full season. Maybe WSH convinces him to “hang it up” but not retire officially. WSH gets cap space and can sign Lindberg for 4th line depth. OTT gets veteran leadership on the backend along with a depth player to balance out their team.

    I really think OTT should call around and pull out some cap moves like this for quality roster players.

    • That sounds plausible ihatecrosby.

      • Thanks George.

        I think it would be in their best interest to use their cap space extremely efficiently. Since Melnyk does not want to waste $cash$ and ok using cap space it would make sense, to me, for his $cash to be used on roster players who will play and trade away players who cannot.

        I think they should also consider trading Anderson to STL for ALLEN. Anderson can ride the pine and help mentor Bennington. ALLEN gets a fresh start to be a full time starter. ALLEN is also only 28 and can grow with this young OTT team. make Nilsson the back up and send Condon down.

  6. Want to talk about scoring. Look at the I think 1994 or might be 1993 year . There were 21-100 point players. Gretzky was in the league and was not one of them ! I think he had 99 points.

    I think the Flames bought Neal after his best before date. At least Frolik is walking and that saves $4m .
    The trade to Calgary should have had nothing to do with Neal’s season performance .How many times has he been traded or moved ? If I could I would move him again.
    Zucker would have been a nice add. Still might be at the draft.

  7. Neal picked up by Seattle with Calgary sending a good prospect their way to make it happen

  8. My OFF-Season B.Smith proposal

    To VAN: B. Smith & V. Letteiri
    To NYR: B. Hutton

    VAN gets a right hand depth player and a physical D man who can play 4th forward on wing. Van gets rid of a player they seem not really keen on.

    NYR get rid of a player they are not keen on with the sweetener of Lettieri. NYR get a bottom pairing man they can resign or let go.

    • This deal makes no sense for the canucks, they`re at 50 contracts already so a 2 for 1 is out of the question. If the canucks wanted to just get rid of Hutton then just don`t qualify him and let him walk as a UFA. Great deal for the Rangers crap for the canucks. Letteiri isn`t much of a sweetener in any deal

      • the trade proposal was sarcasm……

      • Well, in this case, your sarcasm is as bad as the trade

      • Brendan Smith to the ny rangers for 4.35 million for 2 more years.

        I think that makes the most sense for all other teams involved.

        But if we want to keep on talking about things that won’t ever happen for entertainment…. Let’s talk about breathing under water.

    • Ihatecrosby. Smith to Toronto for a 4th rd pick. Rangers retain 50% salary. Babcock gets a guy he had in Detroit, adds some grit. With Hainsey and Gardener probably leaving, Smith would be a cheap add at 2.2 mil for 2 years.