NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2019
Should the Winnipeg Jets trade Jacob Trouba? Will the Tampa Bay Lightning pursue defensemen via trade or free agency this summer? What changes could be coming to the Vegas Golden Knights? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TROUBA TRADE TIME IN WINNIPEG?
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre feels it’s time for the Winnipeg Jets to trade Jacob Trouba. He believes it’s clear the 25-year-old defenseman doesn’t want to be in Winnipeg long-term but the Jets can’t afford to let him depart next summer via free agency for nothing. McIntyre suggested the Jets find a trade partner for Trouba (Florida? Philadelphia? Detroit?) and make the best deal they can. If Trouba is traded, that could open the door to retaining pending UFA blueliner Tyler Myers.
McIntyre also proposed the Jets find a way to re-sign UFA Ben Chiarot, trade third-string goalie Eric Comrie, trade or buy out defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and shake up the forward group by trading a veteran like Bryan Little or Mathieu Perreault.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s anticipated the Jets will trade Trouba this summer. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility. Given his contentious contract history with Jets management, it’s doubtful general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff wants to go through another bruising round of negotiations with Trouba’s camp this summer. He should fetch a quality return that helps the Jets now and in the long-term.
As per Cap Friendly, the 31-year-old Little has a full no-movement clause and I daresay the five years remaining on his contract (at over $5.2 million annually) dampen his trade value. Perreault carries a shorter deal with a cheaper cap hit ($4.125 million through 2020-21) and a five-team no-trade list. He’d be a more likely trade candidate but his recent injury history could make him difficult to move. Kulikov has a six-team no-trade list with an annual cap hit of $4.33 million through 2020-21. Trading him could require adding a sweetener like a decent draft pick or a quality prospect.
WILL THE LIGHTNING GO SHOPPING FOR BLUELINERS?
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith recently noted the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense corps could have a different look next season. Veterans Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Anton Stralman are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Of the three, Coburn played the best this season and could return on a shorter, cost-effective contract. Stralman might also be willing to accept a short-term, cap-friendly contract.
Smith also suggested the Lightning could attempt to go the trade route this summer. Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba and Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen are the notable defensemen potentially available. They could also revisit their interest in San Jose’s Erik Karlsson if he hits the open market on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith acknowledges the Lightning will have to shed salary to pursue those players, especially with center Brayden Point due for a big raise coming off a 92-point performance this season. With over $73 million invested in 16 players, Point’s new contract will likely eat up most of their cap space, leaving little room to re-sign Coburn and/or Stralman and also re-sign or replace their other free agents. It’s assumed winger Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million for next season) will be traded or bought out, while J.T. Miller ($5.25 million annually through 2022-23) lacks no-trade protection and could also be shopped this summer.
I doubt they can free up sufficient cap room to land Karlsson. If they swing a trade for Trouba or Ristolainen it will likely involve shipping a salaried player out as part of the deal, but they’ll still have to shed another contract to create room for their other free-agent signings.
LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
LAS VEGAS SUN: Justin Emerson believes re-signing center William Karlsson is the Vegas Golden Knights’ top priority. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights coming off a one-year, $5.25-million contract. He had a career-best 78-point performance last season but his production dropped to 56 points this season.
Given the Golden Knights’ limited salary-cap space, someone must be traded to free up room for Karlsson’s new contract. They currently have over $82 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20. They’ll recoup $5.25 million by placing permanently sidelined winger David Clarkson on long-term injury reserve or they could attempt to trade that dead cap space to a budget-conscious team in need of reaching the cap minimum next season.
Emerson notes that “Cody Eakin ($3.85 million), Ryan Reaves ($2.775 million), Nick Holden ($2.2 million) and Jon Merrill ($1.375 million) all have sizable cap hits and are entering the last year of their contracts. Colin Miller ($3.875 million) and Brayden McNabb ($2.5 million) could be possibilities as well, but each has three years remaining on their respective deals.” He also suggested trading one of the defensemen on that list could help free up a logjam on the blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect two or three players on Emerson’s list will be on the move this summer. All lack no-trade protection and they also carry reasonable salary-cap hits that could prove attractive in the trade market. I think they’ll retain McNabb and Miller. Eakin, Reaves, Holden or Merrill seem the likely trade candidates.