NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2019
Updates on Erik Karlsson and Taylor Hall plus the latest on the Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD KARLSSON RETURN TO THE SENATORS?
OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan suggests the Senators should consider trying to bring back former captain Erik Karlsson. They traded the 29-year-old defenseman to the San Jose Sharks last summer after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension.
Brennan cites a “well-connected source” claiming Karlsson hopes to receive competitive offers from the Senators and Montreal Canadiens when the free-agent market opens on July 1. His wife is from the Ottawa area and said to be homesick. Toronto and Buffalo are also close to Ottawa but Brennan said they’re not on Karlsson’s list.
Brennan also noted there are conflicting reports over Karlsson’s intentions. Some believe he hasn’t ruled out returning to the Sharks while others feel that decision has already been made. The New York Rangers are rumored to be among those interested in Karlsson if he hits the open market. They’re only a short plane trip from Ottawa.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche have also been linked to Karlsson but they’re a long distance from the Ottawa region. The Lightning also has limited salary-cap space.
The Canadiens have over $11 million in salary-cap space but also have two left-shot defensemen in Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Some believe the Habs aren’t interested in bringing in a defenseman with a propensity to take risks to create offense.
Karlsson’s asking price and recent injury history is also a concern. The Senators reportedly offered him $80 million on an eight-year deal last summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several pundits are exploring the pros and cons of a possible Karlsson return to the Senators. Some think the Sens offer last summer was much higher, between $85-$90 million. I doubt they’ll go that high now if Karlsson wants to return to Ottawa.
Several Canadiens fans weighed in on social media against signing Karlsson. If he’s interested in coming to Montreal, I believe the Habs would at least explore that option. Even with their cap space, however, I doubt they’ll pony up over $11 million annually to sign him. Unless they can get him for a more affordable deal on a shorter term, they’ll probably pass.
UPDATE ON TAYLOR HALL
SPORTSNET: The agent for Taylor Hall and New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero dismissed a recent report in The Fourth Period claiming the left winger wasn’t interested in re-signing with the Devils right now.
Darren Ferris, Hall’s agent, said he communicates regularly with Shero. “I’m not going to speak to it because it’s all fictitious and I’m just not going to respond to any of those questions out of respect to the conversations and discussions that are going on.”
Shero also offered a blunt response to the story. “No idea where they got that from aside from a ‘source,’” Shero told NHL.com in a text message. “Nothing on our end has changed and I have never heard differently from Taylor or Darren Ferris.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted yesterday, Hall could take a “wait-and-see” approach to determine if the Devils are adequately improving the roster going forward. That doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign. However, he could see how next season unfolds before deciding if he’ll agree to a long-term extension.
LATEST CANUCKS SPECULATION
VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma suggests the Canucks might have to package some players to land a top-six forward via the trade market. The Minnesota Wild reportedly offered up winger Jason Zucker but their asking price (budding star Brock Boeser) was rejected. GM Jim Benning said he intends to add support for his promising young players like Boeser.
Outside of Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes, the Canucks lack sufficient assets to make a one-for-one trade for significant help. Kuzma suggests a package deal of winger Jake Virtanen and defenseman Ben Hutton might draw some interest.
Kuzma’s colleague Patrick Johnston cited a report by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicating the Canucks had interest in Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline. The Boston Bruins subsequently acquired Johansson from the Washington Capitals. Given Johansson’s solid postseason performance, Johnston wonders if Benning will take a run at him again via free agency.
Johnston also noted Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman report claiming the Canucks are at an impasse with pending UFA defenseman Alex Edler. A no-movement clause could be the sticking point in negotiations. He also noted a report claiming the Canucks contacted the Toronto Maple Leafs regarding blueliner Nikita Zaitsev. Johnston doesn’t believe Zaitsev would improve Vancouver’s blueline.
SPORTSNET’s Rick Dhaliwal took to Twitter citing sources from the recent NHL Draft combine claiming the Canucks will pursue Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers or Toronto’s Jake Gardiner via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks aren’t moving Boeser, Pettersson, Horvat or Hughes. As Kuzma points out, they’re the core Benning intends to build around. They also own the 10th overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft in Vancouver but Benning seems keen to retain it.
Maybe Benning can find a decent return for that suggested package of Virtanen and Hutton. I think he’ll have better luck targeting clubs looking to shed salary via trades this summer. Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $52.4 million invested in 20 players for 2019-20. Even by re-signing Edler and Boeser, they’ll have plenty of room to take on a significant player or two if ownership is willing to do so.
After being burned by the disastrous Loui Eriksson contract in 2016, Benning could be reluctant to spend big in the UFA market. Targeting cap-strapped teams could land them a good, reasonably priced players. I agree with Johnston that the Canucks should pass on Zaitsev, but how about seeing if a forward like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson is available?