NHL Rumor Mill – April 30, 2019
Growing trade speculation about Evgeni Malkin, the latest on Jeff Skinner and an update on the Edmonton Oilers’ GM search in today’s NHL rumor mill.
MORE MALKIN TRADE TALK
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Mark Madden believes the Pittsburgh Penguins are willing to trade center Evgeni Malkin. He points out general manager Jim Rutherford declined to commit to keeping Malkin in Pittsburgh last week.
Madden said the Penguins were “very unhappy” with Malkin’s performance and attitude this season. While he averaged over a point-per-games (72 points in 68 contests) he had a team-worst plus-minus of minus-25, a team-high 84 turnovers, and a team-most 89 PIMs, plus his 23 goals were his fewest in a non-lockout year since 2010-11 when a knee injury limited him to 43 games and 15 goals.
The long-time Penguins center was also insubordinate to head coach Mike Sullivan on one documented occasion and shows little willingness to change his game. According to Madden, the Penguins believe a return gained from trading Malkin could be used for a mini-rebuild around team captain Sidney Crosby.
However, Malkin has a full no-movement clause and given no indication he wants to leave Pittsburgh. Madden also doubts the Penguins can get the type of return that would convince them to move the 33-year-old center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the second time Malkin’s name surfaced in the Pittsburgh media as a possible trade candidate. It’s believed Rutherford and his management team are willing to consider all options this offseason other than trading Crosby and goaltender Matt Murray.
Just because they’re willing to entertain the prospect of trading Malkin doesn’t mean they’re going to do it. As Madden points out, Malkin must agree to waive his no-movement clause. While Rutherford could attempt to pressure or sweet-talk the veteran center into accepting a trade, he could simply refuse and that will be the end of it. Threatening to bench him or reduce his minutes won’t work because his offensive skills remain invaluable to their roster. Besides, they’re not about to leave a healthy player with a $9.5-million annual salary-cap hit riding the pine or sitting in the press box.
Even if Malkin agreed to waive his clause the potential destinations could be limited to a handful of clubs, perhaps less than a half-dozen. If those clubs aren’t offering the type of return to keep the Penguins among the Stanley Cup contenders, trading him simply for the sake of doing so would be pointless.
LATEST SKINNER SPECULATION
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski believes the Sabres will have competition if Jeff Skinner decides to test the unrestricted free agent market on July 1. The Sabres could still be the favorite as they carry over $23 million in salary-cap space, putting them in a strong position to sign the 26-year-old left winger to a long-term deal worth between $7 million and $9 million annually. Skinner also developed instant chemistry with Sabres center Jack Eichel upon his arrival from Carolina last summer and he openly praised the club’s young core of talent. He’s also from nearby Markham, Ontario, where he trains in the offseason.
Lysowski, however, points out the Florida Panthers could target Skinner if they fail to signed Columbus left winger Artemi Panarin. The Blue Jackets also have over $28 million in cap room and could look at Skinner as a potential replacement for Panarin if he departs via free agency on July 1. The New York Islanders also carry considerable salary-cap room ($31 million) and could offer Skinner a quicker route to the playoffs.
The New York Rangers could also be an option if they lose out in the Panarin sweepstakes. The Philadelphia Flyers also have plenty of salary-cap room, while Lysowski considers the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins as dark-horse candidates for Skinner’s services.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Jason Botterill expressed full confidence in getting Skinner re-signed. If they’re willing to pay around $9 million annually, and I think they don’t have much choice but to do so, I can see him re-signing with the Sabres. Losing him to free agency without bringing in a suitable replacement sends the wrong message to Eichel, his teammates, and the Sabres’ long-suffering fans that ownership isn’t serious about building and maintaining a winner.
If Skinner goes to market he won’t lack for suitors. As Lysowski points out, teams that lose out in the bidding war for Panarin will turn to the Sabres winger as their Plan B. Those clubs could include the Panthers, Islanders, Rangers, Blue Jackets and Flyers.
LATEST ON THE OILERS GM SEARCH
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and Sportsnet’s John Shannon denying a report claiming former Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland would become the next GM of the Oilers. Rishaug noted Holland recently withdrew his name from the Oilers list of candidates and the club hasn’t sought permission from the Wings to speak with him.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes the Oilers would be making a grave mistake if they don’t have a new GM in place by the NHL Draft in late-June. He feels they need one in place before then to clear out some cap space in order to pursue a couple of mid-range free agents in July.
Spector advocates packaging defenseman Kris Russell with a draft pick or prospect or swapping him for someone’s $4 million per season winger. He considers buying out winger Milan Lucic out of the question but suggests trading him for “someone else’s problem of equal value”, consider the declining Lucic’s presence with the Oilers as an ongoing negative.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A recent report speculated the Oilers had narrowed the candidates to Mark Hunter, Kelly McCrimmon, and Sean Burke. Whoever becomes the next Oilers GM will have their hands full untangling the mess left behind by former GM Peter Chiarelli. Moving Russell will be easier than Lucic, who carries a $6-million annual cap hit through 2022-23 with a full no-movement clause.