NHL Rumor Mill – June 19, 2019
Latest on Nikolaj Ehlers, Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cody Ceci, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ZAITSEV, EHLERS RISE ON TSN TRADE BAIT LIST
TSN: With Jacob Trouba traded to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel in limbo, Frank Seravalli updated his trade-bait list. Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev tops the list. Despite the five years at $4.5 million remaining on Zaitsev’s contract, Seravalli claims there’s no shortage of teams expressing interest in the 27-year-old blueliner. “Cost certainty is a valuable commodity in the salary cap world,” he said. The Vancouver Canucks are among the clubs linked to Zaitsev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cost certainty is a valuable commodity only if you’re getting your money’s worth out of that player. Zaitsev’s decline over the past two seasons could turn his contract into a potential salary-cap headache.
Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers moves up to No. 5 on Seravalli’s list. It’s believed the Jets offered the 23-year-old to the Carolina Hurricanes for one of their right-shot defensemen. Ehlers is a three-time 20-goal scorer. However, he’s “coming off a down year and entering the second season of a seven-year, $42 million deal.”
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said his priority is adding a top-nine forward. Alexander wonders if it could be Ehlers. Alexander also reports Waddell wants to re-sign pending UFA goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek. However, that’s becoming problematic with the start of the UFA period (July 1) fast approaching.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ right-shot blueliners are Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. All but van Riemsdyk surfaced in this season’s trade-rumor mill. To land Ehlers, they’ll likely have to part with either Faulk, Hamilton, or Pesce. Cap Friendly indicates Faulk has a modified no-trade while Hamilton and Pesce lack no-trade protection. The Hurricanes, however, could be reluctant to break up their blueline.
LIGHTNING, CANUCKS INTERESTED IN RISTOLAINEN?
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois could be interested in Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s only 24 and has three years remaining on his contract with a $5.4-million annual salary-cap hit. “If I’m the Sabres, I don’t get into a serious discussion with Tampa unless Mikhail Sergachev is on the table,” said LeBrun
SN650 VANCOUVER’s Rick Dhaliwal took to Twitter reporting a source claims the Vancouver Canucks “seem to be talking with Buffalo about a defenseman. He’s not sure if it’s Ristolainen or Zach Bogosian.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen’s name frequently popped up in Sabres trade chatter earlier this spring. Should they decide to move him they could seek a top-six forward in return. I don’t believe the Bolts are willing to move Sergachev. Besides, they must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agent center Braydon Point.
If the Canucks are interested in a Sabres defenseman it’s got to be Ristolainen. The oft-injured Bogosian won’t help their blueline.
RANGERS NOT DONE DEALING?
LeBrun cited TSN colleague Darren Dreger saying the New York Rangers might not be done dealing after acquiring Jacob Trouba earlier this week. They could be willing to part with a forward like Chris Kreider, Vladislav Namestnikov, Pavel Buchnevich, and Jimmy Vesey. Kreider is a year away from UFA status. He’s also got a modified no-trade clause and his agent has submitted his 11-team no-trade list. LeBrun said the Sabres have been linked to Vesey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if Kreider is shopped by this weekend if a contract extension isn’t worked out with the Rangers by then. As for Vesey, he rejected the Sabres when he signed with the Rangers as a UFA in 2016. He’ll be a UFA next summer and might not be worth the risk for the Sabres.
MARLEAU WANTS TO RETURN TO THE SHARKS
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: cites Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos claiming Toronto Maple Leafs winger Patrick Marleau wants to return to the San Jose Sharks. However, a reunion won’t be so simple as the Sharks would be reluctant to take on his $6.25 million salary-cap hit next season. Kypreos suggests a third team might have to get involved, one that must reach the salary-cap minimum. They could then buy out Marleau’s contract and he could sign a lesser deal with the Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau probably doesn’t fit into the Sharks plans. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton are UFAs while restricted free agents Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are due for pay raises. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $66 million invested in 15 players. That’s not enough cap space to re-sign those guys and leave room for Marleau.
SENATORS SHOPPING CECI?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion has held contract extension talks with RFA defenseman Cody Ceci. However, Dorion is also seriously exploring Ceci’s value in the trade market leading up to this weekend’s NHL Draft. Garrioch notes the return the Pittsburgh Penguins received (Dominik Kahun, fifth-round pick) from Chicago in exchange for blueliner Olli Maatta. If Ceci could fetch something comparable he could be changing clubs this weekend.