NHL Rumor Mill – July 3, 2019
The best remaining UFAs, the latest on the Canadiens and Penguins, plus updates on Chris Kreider and Rasmus Ristolainen in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TOP REMAINING NHL UFAS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Defenseman Jake Gardiner and winger Michael Ferland top Matt Larkin’s list of the top available NHL unrestricted free agents. Forward Marcus Johansson, center Joe Thornton, and right winger Justin Williams round out the top five.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As usual, the pickings get slim following the opening day of the free-agent market. I expect Thornton will return with the San Jose Sharks for one last hurrah. Williams could retire or return for one more season with the Hurricanes.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE CANADIENS
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels considers the Montreal Canadiens options after the Carolina Hurricanes announced they’ll match the offer sheet for Sebastian Aho. He doubts Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will go the offer sheet route again.
Engels wondered if Bergevin might consider trading for Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris. He suggested seeing if the Predators will add another asset in the deal or convince them to pick up part of Turris’ $6 million annual salary-cap hit. Engels also proposed pursuing a free-agent defenseman like Jake Gardiner.
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gordon believes Bergevin must address the Canadiens’ need for a top-four, left-side defenseman. Free-agent options could include Gardiner, Ben Chiarot, and Ben Hutton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $11 million in cap room and 12 picks in next year’s draft, the Canadiens have assets to use in the trade market. Bergevin could target clubs looking to shed salary-cap space. As per Cap Friendly, those could include the Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Calgary Flames. Unless the Predators are willing to pick up a significant chunk of Turris’ cap hit, I don’t think he’s worth pursuing.
WILL THE RANGERS RE-SIGN KREIDER?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers need the grit winger Chris Kreider brings to the lineup. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility.
The Rangers cap space for 2020-21 will be reduced after they re-sign Jacob Trouba, Tony DeAngelo, Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Lemieux. If they decide to re-sign Kreider, they’ll have to free up some cap room. Brooks suggests Buchnevich or Vladislav Namestnikov could become trade options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s going to depend on Kreider. Brooks doubts they’ll want to go through a season of uncertainty over the winger’s contract status. If Kreider’s unwilling to sign a contract extension this summer, the Rangers could trade him before training camp opens in September.
LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel believes the Penguins will make another cost-cutting trade. After signing Brandon Tanev on Monday, they have around $1.6 million in salary-cap space. They also have restricted free agents Marcus Pettersson, Zach Aston-Reese, and Teddy Blueger to re-sign. Vensel speculates Nick Bjugstad or Bryan Rust could become trade candidates.
RISTOLAINEN TRADE RUMORS PERSIST
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl notes the Buffalo Sabres could use a center to take the pressure off Casey Mittlestadt or a proven right wing. He suggests defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen would be a good trade chip to address either need. The Winnipeg Jets, Anaheim Ducks, and Tampa Bay Lightning could use a right-side defenseman.