NHL Rumor Mill – April 4, 2019
The latest Phil Kessel and Erik Karlsson speculation plus an update on the Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE PENGUINS MOVE KESSEL THIS SUMMER?
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.
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.
MORE “KARLSSON TO THE RANGERS” SPECULATION
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.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE FLYERS?
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.