NHL Rumor Mill – May 31, 2019
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.
UPDATES ON SKINNER AND RISTOLAINEN
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.
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.
ZAITSEV REQUESTS TRADE FROM THE LEAFS
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.