NHL Rumor Mill – July 4, 2019
Another listing of the top remaining UFAs, plus the latest on the Canadiens, Flames, Sharks, and Golden Knights in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TOP REMAINING UFAs
TSN: Marcus Johansson, Jake Gardiner, Ben Hutton, Micheal Ferland, and Ryan Dzingel are among the notable players remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As usual, with all the top names off the board, the UFA signings have slowed considerably. Many of the remaining noteworthy talents could end up with contracts worth much less than they hoped for when the market opened on July 1.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
TSN: With the Carolina Hurricanes matching the Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet for Sebastian Aho, there’s speculation over what the Habs will do next.
The Athletic’s Sean Gordon proposes signing defenseman Jake Gardiner to boost their blueline. He also believes they should pursue Vegas Golden Knights winger Nikita Gusev or Minnesota Wild right wing Jason Zucker. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren wonders if they’ll try to sign Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point to an offer sheet.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis also considered the Canadiens’ options going forward. Jake Gardiner and Ben Hutton are the best defensemen remaining in the UFA market. His suggested trade options include Gusev, New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider or Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Canadiens initially considered tendering an offer sheet to Point before turning to Aho. The Athletic’s Joe Smith doubts the Habs will revisit Point. He’s made it clear he wants to stay with the Lightning, who have sufficient cap room to match.
The Canadiens’ priority should be landing a top-four, left-side defenseman. The pickings are slim in the UFA market. Gardiner could be expensive and his recent back injury is a concern. Hutton had an up-and-down tenure with the Canucks. Ben Chiarot could be a decent, affordable addition. He netted a career-best 20 points with the Winnipeg Jets and was among their leaders in hits and blocked shots.
Last month, there were rumors the Canadiens had interest in Gostisbehere and the New York Islanders’ Nick Leddy. I’m not convinced the Flyers will part with “Ghost Bear” but the Isles could listen on Leddy.
**UPDATE** The Canadiens sign Chiarot to a three-year, $10.5-million contract.
COULD THE FLAMES, SHARKS, AND GOLDEN KNIGHTS MAKE COST-CUTTING TRADES?
THE ATHLETIC: Darren Haynes reports the Calgary Flames have a busy summer ahead. They have six restricted free agents to re-sign, including Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, and David Rittich. Haynes estimates the cost could push the Flames’ salary-cap payroll to $87 million. He suggests a trade of either T.J. Brodie, Michael Frolik or Travis Hamonic could help to address the issue. So could buying out Michael Stone’s contract.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Chelena Goldman notes the San Jose Sharks also face a salary-cap crunch. They have just over $6.3 million remaining to sign Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc, and Dylan Gambrell. Cap casualties could include forward Melker Karlsson, goaltender Aaron Dell, or defenseman Brenden Dillon. Of the three, Karlsson could be the most likely to go.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Vegas Golden Knights risk giving up a gem of a player in KHL forward Nikita Gusev. It was reported earlier this week the two sides are far apart in contract talks. Golden Knights president George McPhee acknowledged the possibility of trading Gusev, who’s drawn comparisons to Artemi Panarin. Rather than move Gusev, O’Brien suggests freeing up cap room to sign him. He recommends moving Cody Eakins, Ryan Reaves or Nick Holden.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All the players mentioned above have surfaced in trade speculation since this spring. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brodie or Frolik are playing elsewhere when spring training opens in September. I agree with Goldman that Karlsson seems the most likely trade candidate for the Sharks. Dell’s value is at rock bottom and the Sharks already moved a defenseman (Justin Braun). I also concur with O’Brien that the Golden Knights could regret trading Gusev. Better to move Eakins, Reaves, or Holden if it’ll free up room to keep him.