NHL Rumor Mill – April 4, 2019

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Rumors | 39 comments

The latest Phil Kessel and Erik Karlsson speculation plus an update on the Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In his latest mailbag segment, Matt Vensel was asked which Penguins forwards – Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist or Nick Bjugstad – might be moved in the offseason. He doesn’t see them parting ways with Hornqvist or Bjugstad but doesn’t rule out the possibility of a Kessel trade.

Despite averaging nearly a point-per-game this season, the 31-year-old winger recently scored his first even-strength goal since Jan. 30. Vensel points out he’s not scoring goals in bunches, he’s not a favorite of head coach Mike Sullivan, and it’s getting harder to stomach his on-ice quirks.

Kessel has three years remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $8 million. If the winger could be moved for a package of cheaper/younger veterans, draft picks and prospects, Vensel feels that might be appealing for the Penguins. 

Could the Penguins part ways with Phil Kessel this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Since Kessel joined the Penguins in 2015 not a year goes by without someone in the Pittsburgh media suggesting he could be traded. In Vensel’s defense, however, this year could be different. As long as the Penguins were Cup contenders, the Kessel trade chatter could be ignored. Not this year, with the Pens still battling to clinch a postseason berth.

Moving Kessel could be complicated. His cap hit, by the way, is actually $6.8 million annually for the Penguins, as $1.2 million is retained by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cap Friendly indicates he still has an eight-team no-trade list. Despite his strong numbers, his reputation as a quirky player could turn off some general managers. Still, one can’t dismiss the possibility that a contender seeking an experienced scoring winger could consider Kessel a good option to fill that role.


OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson could be a good fit with the New York Rangers. Karlsson is expected to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and Brennan notes the Rangers will have the salary-cap space to sign the former Senators captain.

Karlsson was linked to the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer but they lack the cap room to sign him this year. His friend and former Senators teammate Mika Zibanejad also plays for the Rangers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With nearly $62 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20 and all their core players under contract, the Rangers will have around $20 million in potential cap space to work with. Even after re-signing young RFAs such as Pavel Buchnevich and Neal Pionk, they’ll have room to make a major acquisition via trade or free agent this summer. Brennan isn’t the only person who thinks Karlsson could be a good fit with the Rangers. Time will tell if he feels the same way. 


ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters recently suggested the Philadelphia Flyers use their salary cap space to bring in a veteran defenseman and a middle-six center, as well as a scorer. They suggest Toronto’s Jake Gardiner and Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman as possible free-agent rearguard targets while centers like Columbus’ Matt Duchene and Winnipeg’s Kevin Hayes could be options as well. 

COURIER-POST ONLINE: In his latest mailbag segment, Dave Isaac agreed they need a top center and a top defenseman. Regarding free agent targets, he’d covet Hayes and/or New York Islanders center Brock Nelson. Duchene would be an expensive signing and Isaac isn’t sure he’s a fit with the Flyers. He also noted rumors linked the Flyers to Columbus winger Artemi Panarin. Isaac also wouldn’t be surprised if they package their first-round pick with a player or two to land a top defenseman. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have over $48 million invested in 14 players. Assuming the salary cap reaches the projected $83 million for next season, they’ll have around $35 million to re-sign key free agents like Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim and still have plenty of room to bring in a couple of impact players through trades or free agency.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has indicated his willingness to spend to bolster his roster and I have no doubt he’ll make one or two major moves. I can see him looking for a forward via free agency but I expect he could go the trade route for that defenseman. Perhaps he’ll target Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA status. 


  1. Kessel is an enigma. A ton of talent and skill but basically, doesn’t really care too much about what others think. He’s got 2 Stanley Cup rings, loves hot dogs , and doesn’t really care about anyone or anything else.

    Coach Sullivan can squawk all he wants but Kessel is the the guy who finds a way to score the goals you need at the right time when its needed so..ya know….

    • He caught much the same kind of flak in Toronto – wasn’t in Boston long enough for anyone to form an opinion.

    • If that was true Joey the pens wouldn’t be fighting for the playoffs. Kessel has been great for the penguins. The trade was a steal. 6.8 for a solid vet top 6 winger is good value. So long as he plays like one. If pens could get a younger cheaper piece then great. But the other team would have to be a bit of a gambler. Before stone idda thunk Vegas would have been a good match. If cbus loses Panarin then maybe them?

      • Hi Chrisms

        I really think Panarin leaves… if so (and if Clb on Phil’s list; which I doubt)…. who comes back in the trade? Anderson

        Chi will be on Phil’s list… it would have to be a mult-player swap…. just for ships ‘n giggles:

        Phil; Bjugstaad; JJ ; *ZAR

        For Seabrook ; Strome ; Perlini

        * The unfortunate penalty that Pens have to pay Chi to take JJ in the deal

        Strome will outperform Bjugstad next year; and Perlini will be better (IMO) than Phil in ‘20/‘21

        Protecting Seabrook in ‘21 expansion draft, IMO , is better than protecting Phil then

        There are moves out there for GMJR… I’ve just focused on Chi as it will be on Phil’s list

      • Seabrook 6 more years at 7 million? Are you high? Seabrook sucks worse than Hack Johnson now, in 6 years he will be a disaster. Strome needs to show more consistency at the NHL level and Perlini will never be better than Kessel. I’ll pass on that one.

      • Ewww. Pengy. Ewwww. Johnson at least has played close to his contract recently… seabrook?!? I doubt chi town wants another aging star. Unfortunately the teams I could see needing wanting Phil are tough sells. Car buff nj NYi cbus.

    • I can see a trade with Dallas. They have a need for a top line winger and have made plenty of trades with Pittsburgh in the past. Spezza will be off the books as well.

      • For oleksiak love joy and comeau.

      • Don’t forget Goligoski for Neal and Niskanen. They’ve made biggish trades with Pit.

      • Goligoski still alive? Who knew!


  2. Agree on Trouba. Perfect fit for Philadelphia to partner with Provorov on the top pairing

  3. Islander fans will be happy to see Nelson go.

    I’m curious to see how Karlsson’s injury plagued season will affect the offers he gets. More and more it’s looking like the Sens dodge financial bullets with him and Turris.

    Karlsson could end up being the next Wade Redden…just what the Rangers need.

    • Ironically, wasn’t it Glen Sather who signed the then 32-year old Redden to a 6 year $39 mil deal?

  4. NYR needs to improve the D defensively and need a scoring center. Karlsson does neither of the two.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see Kessel head out West, or possibly land in Carolina.

  5. IMO

    Pens must keep Bjugstad and Pens must trade Kessel this summer.

    I’m not a Phil hater; I’m a pragmatist using straight logic. I’ve watched him play in well over 600 games.

    I’ve posted many times before that his (Phil’s) peak value was last July.

    He’s on the downside of his career and production will really fall off next year and even more in 20-21

    Pens canNOT in any way have him on the roster in June of ‘21 where he would be mandatorily protected from Seattle ; in lieu of protecting a younger and more talented player then

    He must move this summer and may need to be packaged with another (JJ please….LOL) to make it work

    The only team that for sure has always been on his list per TSN had been Chi (makes sense …. couple of hours from his home town).

    Not sure if there is a trade there?

    If Buffalo was on his list (unlikely)…. maybe Phil + for Reinhart?

    StL next closest to Chi (from hometown)…. not sure if they are on list…. Phil + ZAR for Tersenko ????

    There has to be a feasible trade out there; and last good chance for a trade is this July

    The worst case scenario for Pens is Phil stays on roster and takes up protection spot in expansion draft, of a young player who becomes a star with Seattle; and 34 year old Phil starts first game in Oct of ‘21 at 225 lbs and gets 35 points in the season…. unlikely yes…. but this could happen

    GMJR ….. start your engine!!!

  6. I have noticed players going on waivers this time of year can teams pick them up

    • juju, I believe they can be claimed – but aren’t eligible for the playoffs

  7. Out of curiosity, after seeing how St. Louis turned things around since the start of 2019, I thought I’d compare the team-by-team results with the performance of each as of December 31, 2019 and in the games played since then. I use performance % based upon potential points for each stage, rather than straight points since the games played varied from a low of 37 (St. Louis) and a high of 42 (Vegas & Vancouver) as of Dec 31. The majority stayed roughly the same since Dec 31 with the biggest gainers being St. Louis, Carolina, Chicago, Boston and Arizona in that order, and the biggest losers NJ, Toronto, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Anaheim in that order

    31.12.18 Since Then Difference
    TB .800 .750 -.050
    Tor .692 .488 -.204
    Was .671 .607 -.064
    Wpg .667 .537 -.130
    Cal .650 .671 +.021
    Clb .628 .549 -.079
    Pitt .615 .476 -.139
    NYI .605 .646 +.041
    Nas .600 .600 same
    Buf .600 .425 -.175
    SJ .598 .615 +.017
    Veg .595 .566 -.029
    Bos .590 .720 +.130
    Mtl .586 .588 +.002
    Col .575 .525 -.050
    Dal .550 .586 +.036
    Ana .549 .413 -.136
    NYR .540 .436 -.104
    Fla .526 .524 -.002
    Min .513 .524 +011
    Van .500 .500 same
    Edm .500 .463 -.037
    Car .487 .691 +.204
    NJ .487 .353 -.234
    Ariz .462 .571 +.109
    Pha .461 .560 +.099
    StL .460 .709 +.249
    Det .451 .500 +.049
    Chi .439 .590 +.151
    L.A. .438 .425 -.013
    Ott .425 .375 -.050

    • This is great, thanks for sharing it.

    • Hi George

      Not questioning your numbers but is it possible that you have the Pens numbers flipped …. during HNC last weekend I believe they said Pens were top 5 in points from Jan onwards (meaning post 31/12)

      Regardless …. they just must win tonight!

      • Yea, you’re right Pengy – in Dec 31 they were 21 13 6 for a % of .615 and 7th place overall – at the moment they are 43 26 11 – which means they have gone 22 14 5 since then for .596 and 8th overall – a reduction of just .019 – so they are one of the ones with roughly the same performance.

      • Thanks George

        I should have thanked you earlier before posing my query back

        Sorry for my rudeness

        Fingers crossed on Pens win tonight…. Malkin and/or Letang will be in the line-up…. if Malkin is back, I’d but McCann back with Crosby/Guentzel (they worked well together) and I’d put Rust with Gino and Phil.

        3rd line of Bjugstaad , Simon, Horny is doing well together.

        Cheers and thanks again

      • They SHOULD win tonight based on the two team’s record over the past 10 games (Pitt 6 – 3 – 1 outscoring the opposition 31 – 25 – Det 4 – 5 – 1 while being outscored 24 – 30).

        They’ll need a full effort though since teams in Detroit’s position love playing spoilers

      • As for my error in Pitt’s record, I went back over my calculation scribblings – and I do mean scribblings – and see where I misread one key digit – LOL, it WOULD have to be Pittsburgh

  8. Great stuff George thanks for sharing will use it 2 upcoming play off pools

    • You’re welcome OldBlueDog – hope it helps in some small way. And, believe it or not, I’m pulling for the Leafs to upset Boston in Round 1. That’s not to say I think they CAN – just that it would be nice to see a couple or three Canadian based teams go deeper in order to keep up the interest (for me anyway)

  9. Can someone give some examples of Kessel’s quirky personality? What does he do that’s so toxic?

    I Googled it but the only substantial examples I could find are from Cherry complaining about him having too much fun during practice. Then he went into his typical Xenophobic/ old man yelling at cloud crap… Looking for something more substantive than that.

    • Hi Chris

      The players like him…. he has a quirky sense of humour and his interviews lack engagement often… ,
      But from all I’ve read… he is well liked in the dressing room

      His talent is unquestionable… great shot; and if he gets the puck in stride he can fly; and put the puck in the net. He can make excellent passes through traffic.

      What the problems voiced could be dismay and/or discontent with:

      (1)that he has blasts of speed and energy but they are very short lived and he gets winded very easily (more and more each year) ;

      (2) His production is waning at an accelerated rate

      (3) he does play moody…. steps it up when playing with Crosby and/or Malkin; but is overtly lacking zip and motivation when placed elsewhere

      (4) never hits and tends only to go into the corners if he is clearly going to get there first ; and circles away from collisions many many times a game. This strategy has clearly worked for him…. he never gets injured due to rarely contacting other players( Hence the very long Ironman streak)

      IMO he was excellent value at acquisition and a key contributor for two cups. He topped his production last year.

      He is however on the downside of his career and I truly believe that it would be in Pens best interest to move him this summer.

      …. now watch him, after my post above; put up a ‘trick tonigh and on Sat…. that’d show me…LOL

      • Pengy…. I agree ride Kessel through the playoffs and then move him over the summer…

        He still has value and some team that needs a proven scorer will want him.. I don’t know his 8 team trade list but my two thoughts.

        Anaheim is in desperate need of goals and a proven goal scorer! We have made several deals with Anaheim.

        To Anaheim:
        Phil Kessel
        Olli Matta
        Tristan jarry
        #2 draft pick

        To Pittsburgh:
        Cam Fowler
        Nick Ritchie

        You add Fowler to Letang, Dumolin an Schultz our top 4 is set and one of the best puck moving d corps in the NHL… Ritchie is young, has size ,and a bit of a scoring touch 12 goals….we have Ritchie and Grudbrason not too many people will take shots

        Fpwler and Kessel’s contracts basically cancel each other and we get younger and tougher add Matta we clear more payroll and the pick sweetens the deal.

        Then move J.J and we clear more salary to sign a Dzingel or someone like that…

        The other would be Kessel to Dallas for Radulov basically both the same age and salaries are almost identical..
        Radulov big, full of energy and can score would look good with Malkin

    • The only place Kessel has a toxic personality is in the devious minds of the people writing these stupid articles. He’s not scoring as many goals but he’s still playing at a point per game level and he actually trusts his teammates talent in Pittsburgh unlike he did in Toronto. He’s not going anywhere this summer or next season. The Penguins will have a little turnover in their roster to get Guentzels new contract in but it won’t be Kessel that is the odd man out. WBS is going to get an injection of some actual decent talent next year and we will see who has the best summer and then go from there.

    • Kessel is misrepresented. There is no doubt he has caused problems in the locker room. More accurately with the coaching staff. But unlike most other sports he tries to keep it in the room and it’s others that leak the issues.

    • Can’t vouch for the veracity of this one, Chris R, but the word was that Steve Spott, newly appointed assistant coach with the Leafs under Randy Carlyle, was discussing a new breakout pattern with Kessel that involved the offside winger breaking on a diagonal to overload the strong side. Kessel is reputed to have looked at Spott, laughed and said, “No effin way.” End of story.

      • Ya, he crossed the line with that one BCLeafan. If you disagree with the strategy address it after practice one on one with the coach.
        His push back on the some members of the media is OK when they cross the line looking for controversy to print. But they also need to repect the media as that is where we the fan get our info, and it drives revenue when we are engaged.
        he does seem like a good guy overall though. This is a classic Phil interview moment.


  10. Oh boy! What a hot dog day for Phil!

  11. Something to keep this thread going

    Who gets in the Wild Card spots in the East?

    I see the Habs having the easiest path even though their last 2 games are against Washington and Toronto since both those teams are set in their spots and will likely be resting some key players nursing bangs and bruises. Even the ones who play may, in effect, find themselves subconsciously cruising as no one wants to get hurt heading into Round 1.

    On the surface, it might appear both Columbus and Carolina have clear paths since their opposition are NYR and Ottawa – NJ and Pha respectively. However, none of these teams will be resting anyone who can otherwise play, and the players on each are not only playing for jobs but love playing spoilers.

    What do other think?

    • Carolina is playing with the added pressure to end the non playoff streak and New Jersey is a team that matches up well with Carolina. Its in Carolina and I think its a toss up. Zacha and Palmieri both seem to play well against Carolina.

    • Washington is not set in their spot if they lose to Montreal and the Islanders beat Florida tonight. The Capitals and Islanders would play Saturday for the division championship on Saturday!

      • I repeated “on Saturday”, damn faded script.