NHL Rumor Mill – May 31, 2019

by | May 31, 2019 | Rumors | 79 comments

The Sabres are getting close to a deal with Jeff Skinner, while Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev requests a trade. Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski cites a report by TSN’s Bob McKenzie regarding ongoing contract negotiations between the Sabres and Jeff Skinner. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. On Wednesday, McKenzie told NBC Sports Network there’s optimism the Sabres can get Skinner re-signed before then.

The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly making progress in contract talks with Jeff Skinner (Photo via NHL Images).

McKenzie believes the “sweet spot” is an eight-year contract worth between $8.5 – $9.5 million per season. “(Skinner) wants to try to get a deal in the $9 million range. The Sabres would like the deal to try and be in the $8 million range. We’ll see if they can come up with a number that works for both of them.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if the two sides settle on something close to $9 million. Some will question the Sabres paying Skinner that much. Despite tallying a career-high 40 goals this season, he managed just four goals in his final 25 games. That could be attributed to the Sabres’ overall collapse in the second half of the season.

Regardless, the Sabres don’t have much choice. Skinner developed tremendous chemistry with team captain Jack Eichel. Losing him to free agency only a year after acquiring him from the Carolina Hurricanes would send the wrong message to Eichel and long-suffering Sabres fans. 

WGR 550: recently cited TSN’s Scott Cullen suggesting if the Sabres intend to trade Rasmus Ristolainen it’s now time to do it. “There’s enough of a track record. I have the Sabres trading him to Winnipeg. Their surroundings would allow Ristolainen to get better results.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen’s frequently surfaced in the rumor mill this spring. Of late, however, the chatter has died down. Zach Bogosian’s recent hip surgery and Brandon Montour’s knee sprain at the recent World Championship could give Sabres management second thoughts about moving him. Of course, if they get a terrific offer they could pursue it.

Unless the Sabres offer up Ristolainen straight up for Jacob Trouba, I’m not sure if he’s a fit with the Jets. Winnipeg has to invest a lot of cap space this summer in re-signing wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. They must also find a good second-line center. 


TSN: Kristen Shilton reports Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade “for personal reasons”. He has five seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.5 million. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said it would be up to Zaitsev and his agent to reveal his motivation. His agent, Dan Milstein, declined to comment. 

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston cites insider Elliotte Friedman reporting the Leafs are working with Zaitsev “to find him a fresh start”. The blueliner made a solid NHL debut in 2016-17 with 36 points in 82 games but his stock has fallen since then. 

TORONTO SUN: Given the Leafs limited cap space and need to re-sign Mitch Marner, Lance Hornby speculates the return for Zaitsev could be draft picks or prospects. However, few rival GMs could be willing to accommodate the Leafs. Hornby suggested the rebuilding Ottawa Senators as one of the Leafs’ limited options. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before Zaitsev’s request, he had popped up in this spring’s trade-rumor mill. His contract, however, could be difficult to move.

I’m not saying the Leafs can’t do it. However, that $4.5-million annual salary-cap hit for five more seasons won’t be enticing for most clubs. Adding a degree of urgency is Zaitsev’s modified no-trade clause, which kicks in on July 1. It’ll be a 10-team no-trade list. 


  1. Hornby can forget about Ottawa not only taking on Zaitsev, but giving up anything to do Dubas a favour. They’ll find other – and better – ways of reaching the cap floor.

    • Depends on what the Leafs offer George. It’ll have to be highly enticing for the sens or really anyone else. Safe to assume Zaitsev has negative trade value currently with that contract and pending NTC

      • @Taz it’s a modified 10 team ntc. And Toronto won’t have to give up anything to trade him. If he goes back to Russia then they’ll have the contract voided

      • I base this opinion not on the belief that Zaitsev is a bad D-man, but with a team like Ottawa it isn’t what he would do to improve the D because his addition won’t be raising them higher in the standings any time soon over the length of his 5 years still left on that $4.5 mil. So, since much of their depth in the system is invested in D, what would be the point? Sometime between now and halfway through his 5 years, guys like Chabot and Jaros and Wolanin will be up for raises and if they keep Ceci he’s going to be eating somewhere north of $5 mil himself.

        Reaching the cap floor for next season isn’t going to be a problem since there will be options – either veteran UFAs or trades for players with much less term than 5 years – to enable that aspect.

    • Lost something gerge

      • LOL. Yeah I know crisms – as I said to Lyle in an e-mail wondering why it didn’t register – as you get older certain things begin to malfunction … so far it’s only the eyes 🙂

      • I’m glad he has your email. Over the years we occasionally ask him to do an email welfare check on you.

  2. 9 million is a crazy amount for Skinner. Signing him might tell the fan base we will pay for individual effort above team success

    • The fans are probably more concerned about paying Okposo 6 mil for 29 points.

    • agreed Habsfan , 9X5 perhaps but not for 8 years.

      • Wonder what Eichel could bring to Buffalo in a trade??

      • Ottawa might take Zaitsev to help the leafs. Toronto took 3 bad contracts from them to help them out .Cowan , Michalek and Greening. Gave them a good defenseman as well.

    • Marner for Eichel? Skinner not worth anywhere near 9

  3. I don’t see Zaitsev’s modified no trade clause becoming an issue if he’s the one who requested a trade and is looking for a fresh start so that renders that date moot. Especially with his agent stating that he won’t be back next season.

    • Wouldn’t the team trading for him have to protect him in the expansion draft. That may impact the return Toronto gets.

      • Maybe they can work out a deal where team trading for him does so only if he agrees to drop ntc. It’s been done where new team doesn’t have to honor it. Just going by the beating the guy takes here, a fresh start somewhere else might be best. With rising salaries, cap hit might not be considered so bad in a couple years.

      • I don’t think they would since it’s not a full no move but I could be wrong. That is a different issue than this apparent “sense of urgency” that the Leafs have to trade him by July 1. If he wants out that badly than he’ll accept a trade anywhere.

        Touching on the expansion draft though it seems like we could easily cover the 7 forwards and 3 defensemen option and not lose anyone of great value unless we sign someone (with the money we don’t have) before the draft takes place.

      • It’s not a nmc they aren’t forced to protect him

    • While I agree, I’ve also always been a fan of the thinking that if the player requests a trade, it should bullify their no-trade list. If the GM CHOOSES to honor it, that’s all the better, but otherwise, it should be nullified

      • Totally agree Jaysin – I’ve believed that ever since the Dany Heatley fiasco several years back where he nullified a better deal at the time with Edmonton to force a trade to SJ – after demanding he be dealt.

  4. What happens to the Leaf’s cap if Zaitsev decides to leave the NHL and go back to Russia to play?

    • It still counts against the cap.

  5. Leafs GM is in over his head signs Matthews and Nylander for stupid money after signing another forward in Tavares when your defense can’t skate backwards. Now players want out probably because of Babcock they probably should have an adult not a child driving that boat.

    • Obe you’re right. GMs that spend big money on their star players are dumb. They should spend that big money on real good free agents and pay millions for 3rd and 4th line grinders that make the difference between winning teams and losers.

    • Strong take Obe.
      Can’t say I disagree.
      Pretty sure we beat this to death last off season and were told by the Leaf faithful, Kyle had everything under control.
      He’s really not in good shape and it’s getting worse.
      Lol. Making public promises to soft unproven wingers.
      All he’s doing is wrecking a good lottery win by potentially wasting AM’s and MM’s prime years.
      For shame Dubas, for shame.
      Leaf fans should expect more than a poor man’s Chia running the ship.

      • Its a tough situation for Dubas for sure. Can’t blame us fans for having hope that things will work out though.

        The Nylander contract was fair, though I, along with multiple other leafs fans were vocal about trading him prior to him signing that deal – unfortunately, once signed, Nylander was straight trash. Remains to be seen if he is traded or not.

        I won’t be convinced signing Tavares was a mistake even if we lose Marner. As I pointed out the other day, If Marner is traded then I’d take the return on Marner PLUS Tavares all day every day.

      • Leafs are doing well, they lost to a better team. I don’t see anybody else running the Bruins out of the rink.The defense needs work so does alot of teams. 3 years in the playoffs is an improvement. Lot of haters here , gonna be hard on them the next 5 years .
        0 for 27 or

      • More lovers or dreamers though vinnie that way overrate the leafs

    • I dknt see the issue. The leafs are solid up the middle. You only need tk look tk pittabirg and how croaby can make mediocre wingers great. If the leafs find themselves on cap trouble they can move out wingers for cheaper ones less skilled and make moves to shore up the back end.

      Leafs will be fine.

    • So, Obe, since you’re clearly an adult, what would you do? Don’t forget that that teenager Lou Lamoriello gave the three year contract to Patrick Marleau but I guess that doesn’t affect your extremely mature thinking.

      • Geez nice mature response! Does the truth hurt that much? only leaf fans think obe is wrong! Everyone knew the leafs needed defense when they signed Tavares now they have 4 forwards making close to 40 million after the marner signing and terrible defense? So tell me what dubas has done good in his tenure as gm?

      • I said before the tail can’t wag the dog I would have offered Nylander a bridge if he wanted to not play than trade him for a good stay at home D man. No way on earth I sign Matthews or Marner for more than everyone in NHL but McDavid their not worth that much. If they want to play in Toronto they will sign if not trade for players who do. Any GM can just pay what the players want for the term they want. Other teams have signed stars for way less cash and in my humble opinion much better players than those two. Kucherov for one and don’t tell me it’s a tax thing. Leafs are in a cap nightmare and they don’t have three decent defence men.

      • You’re such a hater obe! Lol you’re also bang on but that’s why you’re a hater

      • Bigbadbruin Bruins need to sign Charlie and Carlo my number is 13 combined max and Carlie needs to be 8 years and Carlo atleast 6 what’s your opinion?

  6. There is no substitute for experience.

    Leafs had better hope that Reilly or Muzzin don’t go down. Watching some of the Marlies playoffs not sure if Liljegren is ready. Quick but that’s all noted.
    Maybe you can target a Myers in Wpg if you can move Zaitsev which better be at the draft. The longer the wait the less of a return. You might even have to retain some salary . A team needs 4 veterans back there to log most of the minutes.and you can get away with a couple of short tenures or very old tenures at 5-6-7

    Careful on Skinner hot and cold during the season and from season to season. He should want to stay in Buffalo and be reasonable with salary demand

  7. “However, few rival GMs could be willing to accommodate the Leafs.”

    People say things like this all the time, but does it ever really happen? People talk about how nobody wants to help a rival GM, but then bad contracts get traded, cap crunches get easily alleviated and nobody blinks an eye until the next time some GM need to unload a player for whatever reason.

    I’m not arguing that the Leafs will get market value for him, but that’s be expected any time a player requests a trade.

  8. I’ve said/asked this before….Toronto has $29.6 million in salary to Tavares, Mathews & Nylander….Marner’s gonna get at least $10 million so that’s just shy of $40 million tied up in 4 forwards…that’s about 47% of the $83 million of the projected salary cap next year. They also need a high end D guy….and they want to get rid of a halfway decent D-man?? And even if they did move him…..where is the depth gonna come from??? And don’t forget Andersen will be a UFA in 2 years. How in good god’s name are they gonna resign him? If they make the playoff’s next year look for another 1st round exit.

    • It’s not that they “want” to get rid of Zaitsev, he is wanting out due to “personal reasons” (tired of the fans and media) and wants to get traded or he’s bolting over to the KHL. As for Andersen, yeah that’s gonna be a bummer, but by then the Cap is likely gonna go up significantly again. Yes it’ll probably won’t be enough, as others too will have to be re-signed throughout those 2 years. But by then, hopefully Ian Scott can make a significant leap. By then, who knows who’ll be traded to structure the team’s salary cap situation to accommodate players better.

      • I don’t know that anyone can say for certain that the cap will continue to rise. Not with prognostications from leading economists that another recession is looming what with carbon taxes impacting all aspects of income, trade wars, sanctions, possible impeachment looming south of the border, the world’s second-largest economy feeling squeezed, and oil prices about to go through the roof (just look at pump prices in B.C. for a small sample of what lies ahead if pipelines are continually blocked).

        I sincerely hope I’m wrong … but I’ve seen the adverse effects on leisure spending before when recessions take root.

      • George O – I respect your hockey IQ but you are clearly consuming Post Media garbage without rational 2nd thought/sources. Building pipelines that EXPORT raw bitumin have absolutely ZERO impact on gas prices, it’s price gauging, refinement capacity, and taxes; and carbon taxes are shown to stimulate the economy and are revenue neutral for individuals via rebates.

        Zeitsev + mid/late pick for Tanev?
        If TML ever really gets into cap trouble, Nylander and Kadri are very tradable assets. Not ideal, but doable.

      • We’ll see Ace

      • I hope my gun isn’t poking into your hip ace.

      • @Chrisms – are you hitting on me? I like big guns.

        gas prices back down to $1.55/L in Vancouver. Did a pipeline get built in the past week causing a 20cents/L drop in gasoline?

        Didn’t think so.

      • apologies for the non-hockey talk, but BS comments need to be challenged.

    • You are right Ray, having that much tied up in 4 forwards is less than ideal.

      Zaitsev has a cap hit of 4.5 but realistically someone on an ELC can have a similar impact, sure it will be a drop off initially but what if that prospect develops? He isn’t worth his contract to the Leafs so it makes sense to move him and free up the cap space (unfortunately, he won’t be worth that contract to many teams, if any)

      The Leafs move forward with Muzzin, Reilly, Dermott and hope Rosen makes the jump and that Marincin stops being terrible. With the cap you are gonna have holes in you team, the Leafs have a pretty glaring one.

      I don’t see the Leafs dishing out a 10M contract or anything to Freddy, they may look for a free agent or hope tat Ian Scott develops quickly.

    • Jeez such a positive outlook

    • Their team wasn’t good enough to get past the first round this season and they stand to lose depth due to cap issues next year. The window in toronto isnt as big as they think it is.

      • The Leafs lost to the Bruins in 7 in a series that could have gone either way. The result wasn’t there, but I think it is ridiculous that people say the team is so far away from contention.

      • The leafs aren’t contenders with that defense! I don’t know how leaf fans think they’re contenders with soft forwards and weak defense?

      • Exactly Chris. The B’s disposed of CLB in 6, CAR in 4. The Leafs took them to 7, so they are obviously not far off considering where they were just a few years ago.
        Next year will be a tough squeeze on the cap, they then get some relief.
        Yes they need D, but they have a surplus of high end talent up front.
        Pretty sure there is a solid market for some of these guys. If Dubas wants D he will find it, but obviously a good forward will be leaving. The math ain’t hard to figure out.
        And the Leafs will still be a good team, maybe better depending on the deal(s).
        The B’s window is closing, the Leafs has just opened.
        They may not go on a run next year, but they will soon enough.
        Chill dudes.

  9. I’m always amused when a player knows hes likely to b e traded because of his cap hit or play requests a trade in advance of the inevitable. Ya, well since he asked to be traded, see if Lou wants him now; seeing as how he signed him to begin with

    • Unfortunately for Lou, he signed Zaitsev based on his rookie year performance. Now that he see’s a better picture of him, I doubt Lou will go near trying to acquire Zaitsev.

    • Gonna have to go with no thanks if I’m the Isles. Zaitsev looked like a bottom pairing guy on a D core that was considered not very strong or deep by most. Combine that with the inflated cap at extended length and I don’t really see any positive value in this player.

      The Isles actually look pretty deep on D, talk they might trade Leddy since they have more prospects and bodies than space. They are going to lose someone they would prefer not to in the expansion draft.

    • Bibbadbruin – You say the Leafs aren’t contenders, but they had two chance to eliminate the Bruins in round one. The series could have gone either way. Improved defence would definitely help – but so will Nylander playing a whole season, Marner, Mathews, Johnson, Kapanen and Dermott having a year of experience. Dubas has some work to do, but he is starting from a pretty good place.

      • These playoffs are a mess it’s the year of terrible officiating in the playoffs, and yes the bruins played their worst series against the leafs it’s like they needed a warm up! I think the leaf# will be worse next year they will only lose guys not gain because dubas has the major cap problem! When you can’t afford to sign kapanen and johansson how do you trade them for defense and pay the new defense?

  10. Zach Bogosian will be out for 5 to 6 months. That will take him into September October. Could they be looking to add to their defence? Maybe Russell for Okoposo? The Oilers are in need of right hand shot forwards. Maybe with Buffalo retaining 1 million so the cap hit is equal between the 2 teams?

  11. Okposo has MNTC of 15 teams. I’m pretty sure the Oilers are on the “Do Not” list.

    • Yeah, looking at Russell he also has a M-NTC where he lists a 10 team trade list. Doubt that Buffalo would be on that list as well.

  12. NMC’s, NTC’s and long term contracts are the scourge for NHL GM’s. Then again they are the ones who hand them out so they have no one to blame but themselves. The only GMs feel I sorry for are the ones inheriting teams with players on bad contracts.

    • Wouldn’t feel to bad for them all things considered…

  13. Marner straight up for Eichel?

    • Without commenting on the salary or player quality here this is a really bad deal for both teams.
      What line is Eichel playing on?
      Who’s going to center Buffalo’s first line?

  14. Marner for Eichel?

  15. On Zaitsev. With Ozhiganov going back to Russia, Gardiner likely going for UFA $$, Hainsey possibly only invited back if he comes cheaper, the Leafs may have to decide to keep Holl and Marancin. Both of those last two really have not grabbed the opportunities when offered. So Zaitsev likely saw his coach asking him to plug holes and play a shutdown game again next year. Apparently he’s not happy that he’s been playing a harder game, with low scoring chances a lot of wear and tear on his body. He has decent offensive skills and the talk of Rosen and Sandin (maybe Liligren ) leapfrogging over Zaitsev on the depth chart is bound to be frustrating.

  16. LA wants to get younger

    to LA: Zaitsev
    to TML: Phaneuf

    Zaitsev is 7 yrs younger and cheaper by 750k

    Phaneuf can slot 3rd pairing D with a young Marlie or Hainsey if they resign him

    • throw in Nylander and Tiffoli and another pick heading to TML from LA

      Tiffoli can slot 3rd line with Marleau and Kadri. Then for cap space let him walk after next season to keep cap clear for Marner’s contract going forward

      LA gets a young Nylander for their future who can slot with Kopitar

      • I can see a conversation around not taking Phaneuf but rather Martinez but I cannot see Vilardi being giving up by the Kings as he is their next generation of talent.

    • How about this, lmao?

      To TOR: Martinez + Toffoli + Vilardi
      To LAK: Zaitsev + Marleau + Nylander

      They’d (Kings) get a younger Dman, they’d also would only have to put up with Marleau’s contract for one year, but would get Nylander straight up for Vilardi.

      The Leafs would free up cap space for Marner, Johnsson and Kapanen. Obviously not for all, but it would be the starting point. In Martinez, they’d get a little more better on D.

      • Actually saw rumors today of Marleau to Kings. McClellan in LA wants him

    • @ IHC: Phaneuf coming back to Toronto? Oh Wow ! If Dubas ever makes a trade like that, then he might as well trade Marner for the big bad wolf to stand in front of the net on a powerplay; assuming the Leafs will be aggressive enough to draw a powerplay. Dion cant hit the net from the point, known to break team mates arms with his slapshot ( Ask Lupul about that) and would otherwise get booed out of Toronto before his plane every landed.

      • He has 2 yrs left I believe while Zaitsev has 5. Which contract would you rather have? The point was to trade the 5 yr to free up long term room to ensure Marner’s cap fits more readily. Phaneuf as a 3rd pairing for 2 yrs is better than Zaitsev for 5.

  17. Good job by Bettman and co for Sundqvist suspenstion. At least we officialy know who will get a cup (back to new england winning style).

    • I sense some sarcasm K? do you not think he should have been suspended? If so see below:
      43.1 Checking from Behind:
      A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.
      Grezlyk had his back to Sundquist from just inside the blue line as he went back to retrieve the puck. He didn’t turn late. Sundquist decided to drill him in the back. Grezlyk tried to make a move left and was off balance, head dipped, head slammed into the glass from the blow and he got a concussion.
      Sundquist could have controlled him and tied him up, instead he smoked him in the back. Dangerous play, he gets suspended for a game.
      Seems right to me.

  18. I don’t agree with checking from behind. But I do blame the players and the game for how it has changed over the years . Never played in the NHL but did play hockey. I can remember being taught not to turn your back to anybody or go face first into the boards. Learned how to take hit into the boards , not to turn back. Now they put themselves into vulnerable positions constantly. Players should be protecting themselves.

    • Ya Vinnie, so was I, but as a D I was also taught to turn and go get it as fast as I can and retrieve before the forward. Ideally you get their first and with control make a play to beat the first guy so you get it going the other way with a controlled play and not just a chip up the boards which may cause a loss of possession. Which was what Grezlyk was trying to do.
      You expect a hit but not what happened to him. I don’t think Sundquist was trying hurt him intentionally, but he made a bad decision. Grezlyk went to the hospital, and Sundquist sits for a game.
      Seems about right to me.

      • No problem I agree with the suspension , just an observation on how the players are taking for granted they won’t get hit instead of preparing for it.

      • Agree they should. You could say they both made a bad decision.

  19. Vinnie that exact play happens fifty times a game if every time the D Man got his head run through the glass there would be nobody to play defence. Now all that play has done has put Blues Defense on high alert because payback is a bitch just like running over the goalie. Losing him for one game won’t matter a bit for The Blues but if Boston loses Griz for any length they are in trouble.

  20. As per both Sportsnet and TSN, there is something ongoing out there involving Marleau to the Kings but nobody yet knows any details. I just hope that no matter what,Dubas doesn’t shoot himself in the left foot in order to save the right foot