Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 12, 2019
A look at some of the top unrestricted free agents plus some recent Blackhawks speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
THIS SUMMER’S TOP UFAS
TSN: Frank Seravalli believes Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin supplanted San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson as this summer’s top unrestricted free agent. Coming off a career-high 87-point campaign, rumors tied Panarin to the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.
Health is the deciding factor, as Karlsson was hampered by groin injuries this season. Interest clubs could be reluctant to offer him an expensive long-term deal. Seravalli wonders if Karlsson will settle for a higher annual average value on a short-term deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthier season would make Karlsson the clear-cut No. 1. Still, we should never dismiss the potential for a bidding war driving up his value.
Karlsson’s a two-time Norris Trophy winner and the former captain of the Ottawa Senators. he is also the playoff assist leader (13, as of May 11) and sits just four points behind teammate Logan Couture for the postseason scoring lead. If Karlsson maintains this level of performance and helps the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, he could vault back into the top spot.
That’s not to say Panarin doesn’t deserve to be ranked as the top UFA in this summer’s market. He’s healthier than Karlsson, put up big numbers throughout his short NHL career, and is nearly a point-per-game player (26 points in 27 games) in the postseason. Panarin is the best forward potentially available this summer. He will get a lucrative seven-year deal in this year’s market.
Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and center Matt Duchene, Buffalo Sabres left winger Jeff Skinner, New York Islanders forwards Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, Winnipeg Jets blueliner Tyler Myers, and Dallas Stars winger Mats Zuccarello round out the top 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s assumed the Panthers will make a big push to sign Bobrovsky, who put his Columbus condo up for sale last week. The Jackets could re-sign Duchene but the Islanders, Nashville Predators, and Montreal Canadiens could all come calling if he hits the market. I believe Skinner, Lee, Pavelski, and Zuccarello could all be re-signed by their respective clubs.
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, Sharks winger Gustav Nyquist, Islanders winger Jordan Eberle, Hurricanes winger Michael Ferland, and Toronto blueliner Jake Gardiner fill slots 11 through 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Canucks re-signing Edler, though the term could be the sticking point for the 33-year-old rearguard. Should the Sharks re-sign Pavelski, they won’t have room to retain Nyquist and sign RFA forwards Timo Meier and Kevin Lebanc. Eberle is expected to hit the market.
Ferland reportedly sought a deal comparable to the six-year, $31-million contract of Washington’s Tom Wilson. He won’t get that from Carolina or anyone else. The Leafs can’t afford to re-sign Gardiner. He’s expected to command around $6-million annually as a free agent.
Columbus’ Ryan Dzingel, Winnipeg’s Kevin Hayes, Washington’s Brett Connolly, Boston’s Marcus Johansson, and Tampa Bay’s Braydon Coburn fill spots 16 through 20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dzingel had a career-best 56 points split between Ottawa and Columbus. He reportedly sought $5 million annually from the Senators. His poor postseason play, however, could hurt his UFA value. Same goes for Hayes, who saw fourth-line duty during the playoffs.
I think the Capitals will re-sign Connolly. The Bruins must re-sign RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo so there’s no room for Johansson. If Coburn accepts a pay cut and a short-term contract I can see the 34-year-old staying with the Lightning.
Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds, Winnipeg’s Brandon Tanev, San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi, Colorado’s Colin Wilson, and Toronto’s Ron Hainsey fill spots 21 through 25.
Curiously, Islanders goaltender (and Vezina Trophy finalist) Robin Lehner isn’t on Seravalli’s list. Not sure if the oversight was accidental or deliberate. I feel Lehner belongs among the top-10.
RECENT BLACKHAWKS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus recently speculated over which players the Chicago Blackhawks could pursue via free agency. For the first time in years, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has a significant amount of salary-cap space, perhaps between $15-$17 million. They doubt Bowman will go after a big-ticket UFA but he could target an affordable player. Options could include Blue Jackets winger Ryan Dzingel and blueliners such as Vancouver’s Alex Edler, Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman or Montreal’s Jordie Benn.
Powers doubts Bowman can land San Jose’s Erik Karlsson but feels the Blackhawks GM should at least make a call if the defenseman is available. Lazerus noted Buffalo winger Jeff Skinner is a long-time Bowman favorite. He also mentioned Toronto’s Jake Gardiner as a blueline option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Powers and Lazerus were merely musing over what moves Bowman might make. We don’t know for certain what moves he has in store.
They point out he must be careful not to tie up too much long-term cap space. Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are due for new contracts next summer. Nevertheless, I believe he’ll look to the UFA market in hopes of landing a skilled top-four defenseman.