Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 26, 2019
Updates on Phil Kessel, Brett Pesce, Erik Karlsson, Anders Lee and more in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
LATEST “31 THOUGHTS” TRADE SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman suggests it won’t be easy for the Pittsburgh Penguins to trade Phil Kessel. He believes the 32-year-old winger vetoed a trade to the Minnesota Wild last week and both teams are unhappy. Kessel knows he’s going to be moved this summer but it will be on his terms. Friedman guesses the Arizona Coyotes would be among the winger’s trade preferences. It won’t be an easy fit because the Penguins want some scoring in return. The Coyotes were 28th in that category this season.
Friedman also thinks Wild winger Jason Zucker can’t be pleased. He was nearly sent to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline and a deal that would’ve sent him to Pittsburgh for Kessel fell through.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel has an eight-team trade list. The Athletic’s Rob Rossi believes Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford might not be pleased with any offers from those clubs. He also suggests perhaps those clubs aren’t interested in Kessel at Rutherford’s asking price.
Rutherford needs to free up salary-cap room and bring in younger, cheaper scorers, which is why Kessel’s on the block. The winger might be receptive to a move but his modified no-trade will complicate thing.
If the Penguins can’t find a deal from one of the clubs on his list, Rutherford could be forced to take a lesser offer. He could use the savings and the return to address his scoring in a separate deal with another club.
Following the Eastern Conference Final, sources told Friedman some in-season frustration from defenseman Brett Pesce could force the Carolina Hurricanes to trade him. GM Don Waddell said the issue was resolved. Pesce was unhappy with his playing time earlier in the season but it climbed significantly since New Year’s Day. If the Hurricanes shop a blueliner, Friedman thinks Haydn Fleury could be a candidate as he’s no longer waiver-exempt.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pesce’s name surfaced in the rumor mill a few times this season. I believe the Hurricanes will retain him. The 24-year-old is a good young rearguard coming off a career-best 29-point season.
It’s believed San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson wants to see if the Tampa Bay Lightning try to sign him this summer. Karlsson is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Last summer, then-Lightning GM Steve Yzerman attempted to acquire him. ” Is there any reason Julien BriseBois would think differently?”, asks Friedman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Limited salary-cap space was among the reasons the Bolts failed to land Karlsson last summer. It will be the biggest factor preventing them from signing him this summer. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $74.4 million invested in 17 players. Center Brayden Point is coming off his entry-level contract and a 92-point season. He’s going to get a significant raise.
Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois could re-sign him to an affordable bridge deal with the promise of a bigger, better deal down the road. He could also find a taker for aging winger Ryan Callahan and his $5.8 million annual average value. Even then, that’s not going to leave much room to sign Karlsson to the lucrative deal he’s bound to pursue via free agency. Another player, perhaps one lacking no-trade protection like J.T. Miller, will have to be moved to make room.
I’m not suggesting the Lightning won’t try to sign Karlsson. It just won’t be easy to do.
Friedman believes the Ottawa Senators will consider bringing back Jason Spezza.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza spent all but five of his 16 NHL seasons with the Senators. The 35-year-old center’s best years are well behind him. Still, he could provide leadership and experienced depth at center for the rebuilding Sens. He could have other plans, like trying to sign with a potential contender.
Friedman also reports the Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago Blackhawks could be among the clubs interested in Kevin Hayes. The 27-year-old Winnipeg Jets center is slated to become a UFA on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hayes had some good seasons with the New York Rangers but struggled after being shipped to the Jets at the trade deadline. Finding the right team could be better for him than finding the most expensive contract.
The Vegas Golden Knights will try to move the contract of permanently sidelined winger David Clarkson. The deal has one year remaining at an annual average value of $5.25 million. However, the actual salary is $3.25 million. Friedman also anticipates they’ll make a move on defense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights already have over $83 million invested in 19 players for 2019-20. They must also free up cap room to re-sign William Karlsson. They’re reportedly looking at trading defenseman Colin Miller. He carries a $3.875-million AAV through 2021-22. Center Cody Eakin ($3.85 million AAV) is another rumored trade option.
UPDATE ON THE ISLANDERS
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports contract term could be a sticking point in Anders Lee’s contract negotiations with the New York Islanders. Lee could seek a seven-year deal but Cyrgalis said GM Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want to be more than four. He also feels the two sides could compromise at $7 million per season. If a deal can’t be reached, Cyrgalis suggests the Minnesota Wild could pursue Lee, a Minnesota native.
Cyrgalis suggests Robin Lehner’s comfort level with the Islanders, and the opportunity they gave him to resurrect his career, could factor into his contract negotiations. ” Anything less than five years around $5 million per probably makes sense for both parties.” Cyrgalis also feels Lamoriello could let winger Jordan Eberle test the free-agent market and see what happens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see Lamoriello offering between $7 million to $7.5 million on a four-year deal for Lee. Time will tell if the latter will accept it. Lehner’s Vezina-worthy campaign will affect his contract talks with the Isles. Still, I expect the two sides will worth something out.
BUYOUT FOR NICHUSHKIN?
SPORTSDAY: In a recent live chat with Dallas Stars fans, Matthew DeFranks wondered if the club might buy out winger Valeri Nichushkin. He’s got one season remaining on his contract worth $2.95 million. That would make him their sixth-highest paid forward next season. Nichushkin failed to score any goals this season (10 assists) and skated in just one playoff game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This season marked the once-promising Nichuskin’s return from a two-year stint in the KHL. The 24-year-old hasn’t been the same since undergoing hip surgery in 2014. A buyout would count as only $700K against next season’s cap payroll and $450K for 2020-21. Seems a likely course of action for the Stars.