NHL Rumor Mill – May 9, 2019
Check out the latest on the Blue Jackets, Stars, and Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline notes the possibility of Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson heading to New York to take over the same role with the Rangers. He wonders how that might affect the club’s management. He expects goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and left winger Artemi Panarin will depart via free agency on July 1.
While the Jackets will attempt to re-sign center Matt Duchene, Portzline said there’s talk he could have his eye on the Nashville Predators or perhaps a return to the Ottawa Senators. They could also re-sign winger Ryan Dzingel but Portzline cautioned against overpaying. He doesn’t expect center Alexander Wennberg will be moved but suggested Brandon Dubinsky could be a buyout candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $51 million invested in 15 players. If ownership is willing to spend to next season’s projected $83 million salary cap, they’ll have over $31 million in cap room.
That’s more than enough to re-sign everyone but it appears Panarin and Bobrovsky will hit the open market on July 1. They’ll have to be replaced and the Jackets could go the free agent route to do so. Goaltender Robin Lehner would be a prime target if he doesn’t re-sign with the New York Islanders. If Buffalo Sabres left wing hits the open market the Jackets could be among the suitors.
It’s imperative they re-sign Duchene, who hasn’t ruled out returning with the Jackets. Otherwise, they risk having nothing to show for mortgaging their future to acquire him. Dzingel didn’t pan out as hoped and they could pass if his asking price is too expensive.
Given their cap space, there’s no urgency to buy out Dubinsky. He carries a $5.85-million annual cap hit through 2020-21. A buyout would lead to a $1.95-million annual cap hit over the next four years. His full no-trade reverts to a modified no-trade on July 1 with a 10-team no-trade list. The no-movement remains in place to prevent demotion to the minors.
Wenneberg might benefit from a change of scenery. However, the decline in his production over the past two seasons hurts his trade value. The Jackets would probably have to pick up part of his $4.9-million annual average value (through 2022-23) to move him. A buyout would free up considerable cap space but would stretch through 2026-27.
SPORTSDAY: Kevin Sherrington expects Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery will be back after a solid rookie season as bench boss. General manager Jim Nill’s status, however, could be tenuous. Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, Roope Hintz, and Jason Dickinson were drafted by Nill, who also acquired goalie Ben Bishop and winger Mats Zuccarello.
However, the Stars had the third-worst goals per game (2.55). Captain Jamie Benn appears to be wearing down. Nill must re-sign Zuccarello and doesn’t have much cap space to do much else.
Josh Lile doubts the Stars will re-sign restricted free agent forwards Brett Ritchie and Mattias Janmark. He advocates bringing in more speed and skill to their forward lines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think Nill’s in any danger of losing his job this summer. However, his offseason moves will determine if he has a future in Dallas beyond next season. They’ve got a superb goaltending tandem in Bishop and Anton Khudobin (another Nill signing), a defense corps anchored by Lindell, Heiskanen, and John Klingberg, and some promising youth up front.
Nevertheless, they must bolster their secondary scoring to take the burden off the Benn line. Zuccarello was a fine addition. I can see him agreeing to a three- or four-year deal with a no-movement clause (for expansion draft protection) for around the same annual cap hit as his current $4.5 million.
With over $60.7 million committed to 15 players, they can afford to re-sign Zuccarello and restricted free agents Lindell and Dickinson. There should also be room to add another scorer via trade or free agency.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks considers John Davidson a lock to join the Rangers as their new president. He also expects the Blueshirts will attempt to sign Panarin, but they’ll face competition from the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, and Chicago Blackhawks.
In other Rangers speculation, winger Chris Kreider has a year remaining on his contract. If the Rangers decide to trade him, Brooks believes the acquiring team must re-sign him to an extension to maximize the return for the Blueshirts. He won’t have as much value to teams like the Edmonton Oilers or Winnipeg Jets if he’s looked upon as a one-year rental player.
Rangers defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith could be buyout candidates. Brooks also doesn’t rule out Vladislav Namestnikov or Jimmy Vesey becoming cost-cutting trade options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $63.8 million tied up in 19 players, the Rangers have room to make a significant addition via free agency this summer. Buyouts of Shattenkirk and Smith will prove costly in 2020-21 so they’ll have to be prepared for the cap hit in that season.
As for Kreider, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rangers play this. If they can’t reach a suitable agreement by mid-June they could attempt to move him during the 2019 NHL Draft weekend (June 21 and 22).