NHL Rumor Mill – May 20, 2019
Latest Erik Karlsson speculation, possible free-agent targets for the Avalanche, and seven clubs that could threaten an offer sheet in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST KARLSSON SPECULATION
SPORTSNET 960: Chris Johnston last week suggested San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson could be “this year’s John Tavares”. In other words, he could garner as much attention in this year’s free-agent market as Tavares did a year ago. Johnston doubts Karlsson will re-sign with the Sharks, though he might fall in love with the area and wish to stay.
Johnston suggests the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning as potential suitors. The latter, however, must shed considerable salary to fit him under their cap. Before this season, it was assumed Karlsson would get a deal comparable to Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. The blueliner’s recent injury history, however, could affect his value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson’s health prompted Frank Seravalli to rank him second among this season’s UFA class, behind Columbus’ Artemi Panarin.
Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $58.2 million invested in 15 players. Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi are their noteworthy unrestricted free agents. Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are their notable restricted free agents.
I anticipate the Sharks will re-sign Pavelski, Thornton, Meier, and Labanc. That won’t leave much for Karlsson, especially if he seeks top dollar this summer.
Karlsson’s spate of injuries dates back to 2017 when he had offseason heel surgery. This season, a nagging groin injury sidelined the 28-year-old defenseman for 29 games in the regular season. It’s also hindered his play in the Western Conference Final. If he hits the open market there will still be plenty of interest in him. However, the suitors could prefer a short-term deal for less than $11 million per season.
Maybe the Rangers kick the tires on Karlsson but their interest could be in younger, more affordable options like Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba. The Lightning had serious interest in Karlsson last summer. But with center Brayden Point in line for a big raise and over $74 million already tied up in 17 players, the Bolts lack the room for Karlsson now.
POSSIBLE AVALANCHE FREE-AGENT TARGETS
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen noted Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic intends to be aggressive in this year’s free-agent market. Boylen lists Dallas’s Mats Zuccarello, San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist, and the Islanders’ Anders Lee as possible UFA targets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs have over $45.9 million committed to 13 players for 2019-20. Several players, including Mikko Rantanen, Alex Kerfoot, and Nikita Zadorov, are restricted free agents due for raises this summer. After re-signing those RFAs, Sakic will still have plenty of cap space to invest in the UFA market.
Lee would be the best of the bunch but I expect he’ll re-sign with the Isles. Same for Zuccarello with the Stars. Nyquist, however, could be available.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently listed the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, and Buffalo Sabres as seven clubs that could offer-sheet a superstar this summer. He indicates they all have plenty of salary-cap space to make such a move.
Fox noted Isles GM Lou Lamoriello is ruthless. He wondered if new Wings GM Steve Yzerman might consider an offer sheet as a means to quickly put his stamp on the team. Given the Canadiens’ difficulty in attracting top UFA talent to Montreal, Fox believes the offer sheet must be considered.
Devils GM Ray Shero could make a splash this summer after failing to do so last year. Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is seen as a wild card. The Coyotes are in dire need of scoring punch. If the Sabres fail to re-sign Jeff Skinner they’ll need a new winger for center Jack Eichel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello is ruthless but he’s never gone the offer-sheet route before. Given his cap space, I expect he’ll stick to the trade and UFA markets to bolster his roster. Yzerman has a reputation for bold moves but he’s also never attempted to sign a player to an offer sheet. He could take this season to evaluate the Wings roster before deciding on a major deal.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin doesn’t rule out using an offer sheet. However, he’s on record that you only go that way if you’re sure you’ll get the player you want. There’s no certainty Bergevin will find that player this summer. I expect Shero, Coyotes GM John Chayka, and Sabres GM Jason Botterill will also stick to trades and UFA signings.
Dundon favors aggressive moves but I’m not convinced he’s going to push GM Don Waddell to pursue a player with an offer sheet. Waddell did a good job since last summer going the trade route, bringing in Dougie Hamilton, Nino Niederreiter, and Micheal Ferland. He could stick to trades and free agency this year.