NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2019
Looking ahead for the Bruins and Blues plus updates on Phil Kessel, Jason Zucker and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE BRUINS AND BLUES?
ESPN.COM: Following Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, Greg Wyshynski, Emily Kaplan, and Chris Peters looked at some off-season keys for the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. They believe the Bruins still have a good mix of veterans and youth to contend for the Cup next season but they should also focus on getting younger.
Given Boston’s blueline depth, they suggest shopping defenseman Torey Krug for a second-line winger. The Bruins should also consider buying out the final two seasons ($6 million annual average value) of David Backes’ contract.
The Blues must sort out new contracts for restricted free agents like Jordan Binnington, Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, and Joel Edmundson. Oft-injured winger Robby Fabbri faces an uncertain future after falling out of favor by the end of the playoffs. Carl Gunnarsson and Patrick Maroon can become unrestricted free agents but both could return on affordable short-term deals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It won’t be easy for both clubs to repeat as Cup Finalists. The Bruins appear to have the better chance of returning to the Final next season. They’ve got a lot of good young talent on their roster and within their system.
Krug’s been mentioned in media trade chatter since last summer but nothing came of it. However, he’s a year away from UFA status and could prove an expensive re-signing.
The Bruins must also re-sign RFA blueliners Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. With over $68 million invested in 19 players, there’s room to get both under contract but it could be a tight squeeze. Moving Krug’s $5.25-million cap hit would clear some additional room depending on what they get back in return.
A Backes buyout will only free up over $333K in cap space for 2019-20. The real savings come in the following three years of the buyout term.
I don’t expect big changes in store for the Blues. GM Doug Armstrong will probably try to keep as much of the roster intact as possible. With over $64 million committed to 16 players and all their core players except for Binnington under contract, they can afford to keep the band together. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Fabbri, whose once-promising career has been hampered by numerous injuries.
UPDATES ON KESSEL AND ZUCKER
TRIBLIVE.COM: Despite Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford saying it looks like Phil Kessel won’t be traded, Kevin Gorman doesn’t believe it. He calls Rutherford’s comments “public posturing at its best.” Kessel recently used his no-trade clause to spike a proposed deal to the Minnesota Wild. Gorman believes Rutherford left Kessel with two choices: continue playing for the Penguins under coach Mike Sullivan or help management find a suitable trade partner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford could be bluffing. It wouldn’t be the first time an NHL GM says a player probably won’t be traded only to move him soon afterward.
His comments could be aimed at sending the Kessel camp a message. If he doesn’t want to play for Sullivan any longer, he’ll have to consider other trade destinations beyond his eight-team list. However, if Kessel holds firm, Rutherford will have to consider other cost-cutting moves.
THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Wild GM Paul Fenton, Michael Russo asked him about Jason Zucker’s trade status. He was nearly part of that proposed pitch for Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the February trade deadline.
Fenton admits he’s received calls about Zucker but also other players on his roster. He also denied he’s intent on moving the winger. Nevertheless, it’s believed he’s also discussed Zucker with the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, and Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fenton may be playing coy about his intentions to move Zucker. However, it appears he’s willing to entertain offers and isn’t shy about pitching him to other clubs. He won’t move Zucker just for the sake of doing so but I believe he’s looking for the right deal.
COULD PULJUJARVI BECOME A “SWEETENER” IN A LUCIC-FOR-ERIKSSON SWAP?
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recent comments on a rumored Milan Lucic-for-Loui Eriksson swap between Edmonton and Vancouver. Given the extra year on Lucic’s contract, he wondered if the Oilers would have to include Jesse Puljuarvi as part of the return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples points out Friedman isn’t saying this is a trade rumor but merely musing over what it might take to pull off that type of swap. I concur with Staples that adding Puljujarvi in that deal would be too much.
Darren Dreger on TSN 690, estimates that the cost of Nicky Leddy would be a pick or prospect because they need the cap space. He claims that is is HIS estimation and not the actual price he’s heard around the league. #Isles
— Scrimmage & Stats (@thehockeyexpert) June 11, 2019