NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2019

by | Jul 8, 2019 | Rumors | 47 comments

An updated list of the best remaining UFAs, the latest Sabres speculation and possible destinations for Nikita Gusev in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


THE SCORE: Center Joe Thornton, defenseman Jake Gardiner, right wing Justin Williams, and left wing Ryan Dzingel are the notable names remaining in the NHL’s unrestricted free agent market. Others include wingers Patrick Maroon and Micheal Ferland. 

Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner is still awaiting a new contract (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The pickings are slim and will deplete throughout the summer. Thornton is expected to play one more season with the Sharks. Gardiner was reportedly hoping to return with the Toronto Maple Leafs but that no longer seems possible. Williams will either return with the Carolina Hurricanes or retire.

Dzingel enjoyed a career-best 56-point performance last season but his declining play down the stretch and the postseason is a concern. He also reportedly sought $5 million annually on a five-year contract from the Ottawa Senators before he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Maroon is believed seeking a better deal than the one-year, $1.75-millon contract he inked last summer with the St. Louis Blues. Several teams are said to be interested in Ferland but there’s no indication he’s close to a new deal.


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Following the Sabres’ signing Marcus Johansson on Saturday, Lance Lysowski suggested they could trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolanen for scoring help. With over $6.6 million in salary-cap space, he points out general manager Jason Botterill has the cap flexibility to shore up the offense. 

Lysowski also listed Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris, Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov, and Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers among several suggested trade targets. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lysowski didn’t say the Sabres are pursuing those players he listed or that they’ll use Ristolanen to get one of them. Of those mentioned, Botterill won’t waste a solid trade chip like that on Turris or Anisimov. It could take Ristolanen to land Ehlers. 

The rumblings over Ristolainen’s future could persist throughout the summer but Botterill isn’t under pressure to trade the 24-year-old defenseman. If there’s no suitable deal available he’ll retain Ristolainen and see how the coming season plays out. 


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis recently listed the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets among five possible trade destinations for Vegas Golden Knights winger Nikita Gusev. The Ottawa Senators and  Edmonton Oilers round out his list. 

The Golden Knights and Gusev are said to be $2 million per season apart on a new contract. Lacking salary-cap space, the Golden Knights are reportedly listening to offers for Gusev, whose skills have been compared to those of Artemi Panarin. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things have gone quiet on the Gusev front since last week’s report claiming Vegas was shopping him. The Golden Knights could be taking their time evaluating offers before pulling the trigger. Gusev could end up going to one of Ellis’ proposed destinations or perhaps another club could jump into the bidding. 


  1. I think ultimately Gusev had so much more control as well because he is gonna have to agree to come play for the team… which would probably cross a team like Ottawa off the list. The Jackets are probably lower on assets after last year trade deadline. I think Montreal, Edmonton, and Islanders could be good fits.

  2. Just reading comments on different CBJ blogs, I’d say opinion is split on trying to acquire Gusev. With an overload of goalie and defenseman prospects, I think the Jackets could make an attractive offer, I simply don’t know if they will.

  3. The problem with trading Gusev is that he’s very talented but he’s 26 years old and unproven in the NHL. There’s equal chance he becomes another Artemi Panarin or another Vadim Shipachyov. Teams won’t want to give up a prime asset for him because he’s unproven; Vegas won’t give him up without a prime asset because of his potential. My guess is he signs with Vegas and the Knights end up dumping off another player to get under the cap.

    • Howard I agree Gusev to valuable to give away 4 million is dump change Vegas can always find a way. Montreal as a trade partner makes sense Mark B. and George M. have a good relationship from prior deals. Montreal gives Vegas back Nick S. and a 2020 first round draft choice for Gusev. I wouldn’t take anything less.

      • Is Gusev really that good?
        Seems a bit risky to pay $4M to a guy who hasn’t played a game in the NHL.
        I am sure Vegas has scouted him, but until you see him in the NHL against NHL players, you don’t know for sure.
        A on year prove it deal for $2M seems appropriate as I think that was what he was making in the KHL, but could be wrong about that.

      • I’dkeep Nick S and the 1st rounder and Vegas can keep Gusev.
        I prefer my unknowns to your unknowns

      • Two 1sts for a guy who has never played in the NHL? I might trade Lehkonen or a 2nd for Gusev but that’s it.

        Gardiner is widely regarded as having soiled the bed in the two most important games he ever played for the Leafs. I get he might help you get into the playoffs but what is that worth when he stops there?

      • That just underlines my point. It will be very difficult if not impossible for Vegas to get good value. There is no way that any team gives up a 1st and a top prospect. Under your proposal, Montreal gets a talented but unproven player for another talented but unproven player who is 6 years younger and much farther away from UFA status. And they give up a 1st. Even Bergevin is not crazy enough to do that. In the end, signing with Vegas is the only reasonable option for both Gusev and the Knights.

  4. I think Dzingel will need to sign high $3’s on a shorter term to get a job.

    Sabres have enough up front . Moving Ristolainen is a mistake at least for next season. Mittlestadt will have a bigger year and needs to get the ice time.

    • Dzingel, along with Ferland, Maroon and Gardiner could be the tip of the coming iceberg when it comes to otherwise decent UFAs finding it difficult to locate a new contract due to the growing number of teams who have placed themselves in cap hell. Gardiner is no doubt seeking the biggest payday ($7 mil per?) but he has the added problem of a wonky back, making even those teams with cap space and a need for D extremely wary.

      Dzingel, Ferland and Maroon all are coming off similar paydays ($1.8 for Dzingel, and $1.750 for the other two) and each has shown he knows where the net is with 20+ goal seasons under their belts, all in their mid- to late-20s and, with Ferland and Maroon at least, big with some bite to their game.

      I have no idea what they and their agents have been seeking, but it sure seems like all three will have to lower their sites a bit. I’m sure all 3 will be signed, but right now teams with the space can only benefit from playing the waiting game and making them squirm a little.

      • This isn’t very surprising.
        I can see a scenario of extreme polarization in the hockey salaries.

  5. Partially surprised, with the amount of RFA’s & some UFA’s still unsigned, that the news/chatter in the Hockey circle has slowed to a trickle, if at all.

    • Lyle gets to sleep in for a while.

  6. Dzingle playoff has plummet his value, not as bad as Backes who now is a negative value. But doesn’t appear to be getting the money he wants.

    Gardiner is a surprise obvious so far teams don’t want to give him his asking price. Maybe sign a 1yr deal with Toronto for a bonus laden contract, making him an affordable signing and deal with the bonus money next year.

    I don’t believe there is a legitimate offer sheet coming to any player. The reality is some of the rfa’s will have to take a bridge deal because there isn’t any cap room.

    Last season Auston Matthews signing is the reference point for all the high end rfa’s coming out of their elc’s this same contract is most likely the sticking point for Marner and other Rfa’s. Could the answer be the Timo Meier contract 4yrs @6m per still a year away from ufa status but the catch being year 4 of his contract is $10m meaning he has to be qualified at 110% because of his arbitration rights. Yes he is still betting on himself. Some teams don’t have the cap space to give these rfa’s the money they are demanding. Going to be interesting to see how this all unfolds. We could have a number of quality players not shown up for camp if things don’t change.

    • Not sure about RFAs holding out through training camp. I can’t think of any who have the perceived value that Nylander was perceived to have by Dubas.

      As such gms will be mindful of how little Nylander contributed for the rest of the season and playoffs and may conclude that a player who refuses to report can twist in the wind.

      Don’t underestimate the value to players of knowing when and where they will start a season. They may not wish to risk the disruption a trade brings to their families, and they will think hard about jeopardizing the team’s view of where – if – they fit.

      • Would be interesting to see if a GM is ready to let an RFA sit out the entire year. Something like that would bring order back to these negotiations.

    • No thanks for Gardner. Bringing back a Boston collapsing bad backed Gardner just means Babs will play him over 20 minutes again even though he had a healthy and playing decently Calle Rosen to insert into the line-up. I sincerely wish Garner well with his next team, but its time to move on. It’s not happening here Jake.

  7. Good point Caper on the bridge deals. There are no offer sheets because other teams don’t have the cap room to make them either. Montreal’s attempt at Aho may also curtail the interest. Bridge deals may be all rfa’s are able to get this year. But even a bridge deal for Marner will be significant!

    • https://www.capfriendly.com/offer-sheets

      A list of teams with picks for RFA’ OS’s. Possibly a few teams could target a player giving up a 1st/2nd/3rd. Again Connor would be my choice 5/8.4m.

  8. I can see Connor getting an Aho type of OS if any player gets one. Less bonus money but somewhat similar. Odds are no more OS’s are happening.

    He is worth a 1st 2nd & 3rd imo but what team might do it? NJD?

    • They would need reacquire their 2nd.

  9. the leafs are backing themselves into a corner for 2020/21.
    in their forwards, defense and non roster players for that year they have 6 UFA and 12 RFA. with the hefty contracts they have been willing to pay to date, all those unsigned players are going to push for their piece of the pie.it is going to be a testing year.

    • I think you need to go back to CF & rethink those numbers.

    • Been saying this for a while. Signing Marner to 9M – 11M basically puts the Leafs in a position where they lose Muzzin and Barrie, the latter is a goner anyway since he allegedly wants 8M on his next contract.
      Year after Freddy is up.

  10. I dont get that Dzingel has a 50+ point career year and cant get a contract but Skinner get 9 per for a career year of 60+

    • Lol this is hilarious. Skinner has the 11th most goals in the league in the last 4 years combined. Let me know when Dzingel gets there then your question at least has merit.

      • 63 points is what I’m looking at
        56 points should garner a contract is what I was getting at

    • There’s no doubt Dzingel has blazing speed and you don’t have back-to-back seasons of 23 and 26 goals unless you know where the net is (almost impossible to “teach” scoring). But before the trade from Ottawa to Columbus it was reported he and his agent were seeking an increase from $1.8 mil to somewhere in the vicinity of $5 mil per. Apparently his lack of defensive responsibility (and unwillingness to change?) caused Dorion to send him to Columbus along with a 7th round pick for Duclair and 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021.

      As things turned out, his obvious refusal to play a two-way game resulted in his being a healthy scratch by Tortorella in the playoffs and, combined with his continued asking price, it was enough that Kekäläinen decided not to make him an offer. At least not yet. Maybe if he comes down to a 1-year “show me” deal at $2.5 to $3 mil he might still wind up in Columbus. Although once Tortorella sours on a player it would be hard to get back into his good graces.

      All this is pure speculation on my part – but it’s as good a guess as any.

  11. Point, Rantanen, Tkachuk, Marner, McAvoy, Conner, Laine, all RFAs, all unsigned. Coincidence? Collusion? GMs or agents? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • They are all waiting for Marner to sign and set the high mark. Leaf fans want somebody else to sign to set the low mark.

    • @BC LeafFan: The bar will be set by Marner and he’s the holdup. The rest will have their values gauged by Marners contract

  12. All those players are asking too much for being an RFA in comparison to UFAs….there is a real difference here….

    Because McDavid (good deal) and Matthews (bad deal) erased for themselves the line between the 2 types of free agents doesn’t mean it is the new normal or that the league can sustain it..when people bring in the numbers ( salary & points)for Skinner, Hayes, & Panarin, it should be remembered that these were UFAs and are a free addition to the roster

    The others that have signed as RFAs this year Aho 8.5 the Sharks forward (name?)….around 6+ Nylander (6.7 million) may be where the market really is…..

    This does not seem to me to be collusion but a group of players & agents who listed to the shills ( Kypreous, Dreger etc) and hope that this these numbers are true and have nothing to lose by waiting….

    The answer is let them wait or trade them…..don’t give in…..

    • OBD
      I don’t disagree that Matthews contract is a bit rich but doubt he would have signed for less.
      You would have easily had a number of teams offer him that and maybe more on an offer sheet so Dubas made the only move he could.

    • I agree obd, but some RFA singnings look a lot better respectively very good after some years. For example Draisaitl’s $8.5mil deal. Imo this deal looks very good today but that wasn’t the case two years ago when he signed it.
      Meier from the Sharks @$6.0mil looks ok.
      And I said it before and will do it again, Matthews is overpaid!

    • Old Blue Dog – not related to your subject matter above, but when you asked the other day about Harpur I realized after that I failed to include another pertinent point to what I posted. With Boucher behind the bench, any rookie D-man was on a really short leash, and a glaring mistake more often than not resulted in sitting on the bench for the rest of that game, and in the press box for the next. For Harpur it got to the point where you could see the kid tightening up and over-anxious to get rid of the puck for fear of screwing up. A kid can’t build any confidence that way

      That tendency is one of the reasons Boucher lost his job.

      • Xsellant observations & input 2 us Sir G-

      • Interesting George….

        League wide teams do not give young D men enough time to develop….I don’t know how the league would administer it but I have thought that maybe D men should get to RFA status a year later than forwards…..and maybe goalies 2 years later….

        This would give teams more time to develop D men and goalies…..forwards seem to need less…and having one time frame seems unfair to drafting teams

        Canadian fans already seem to be ready to eat young D men alive when they make a mistake….a coach should be fighting that not encouraging it by a having too short a leash which shows the player up

        Thanks for the follow up….

    • So, OBD, you’re suggesting there may be collusion on both sides, is that right?
      Could be a long, long summer.

    • @ OBD: U make good points. I believe that during the next CBA, there will be another lockout; and part of it will be due to owners wanting some kind limitations placed upon RFA’s apparently opting to skip bridge deals in many cases and going straight for the long term deal.

      Yes a team has to right to let you sit for the year if need be; but from I can see, the players/ agents, are using offer sheet potential as a bargaining tool to get around things. Having an asset sit for a year does nobody anybody any good, yet having an RFA withhold services and/or decline a typical 3 year bridge deal isn’t working for them either; so this will become a sticking point moving forward on the next CBA.

  13. PENGY…you nightmare might finally be over there are solid rumors and smoke that Anaheim is strongly interested in jack Johnson….

    not sure what might come back even if its a low round pick take it and run….

    • Not only Pengy’s nightmare 😀
      I would take a bag of pucks in return or a 7th round pick in 2060…. or Korbi Holzer…. he’s used to sit some games in the press box, is cheap and as good as Ruhwedel.

      • Juss76…agreed Johnson needs to go clear up 3.25 million off the cap….

    • BlackNGold

      Just reading this now

      Dropped the phone 4 times first

      Please don’t toy with my delicate emotions

      Is this rumour from a credible source?

      Juss 76…. let’s be sensible ….. 7th rounder in 2060!!!!

      I’d be closing in near the Century mark.

      .a fair deal to me is 7th rounder in 2048 …. LOL 😂

      George will be 110…. am I right George ?

      can we shake on it ?

      I was trying to come up with some doozie maniacal trade to rid JJ (like Bjugstaad + Rust + JJ to Minn for Staal and Spurgeon) …. but if the Ducks are willing to take JJ ….. Booooyahhh


      • Pengy….
        Murray & Rutherford are close and the two teams have done several deals together..daryl Sutter just join ed Anaheim’s coaching staff.both Murray & Sutter really like Johnson… not sure what comes back low pick im assuming…Rutherford determined to move cap space wants to take a run at gutsev. Vegas

      • BlackNGold

        That’s super excellent (for Pens not An) if that happens

        That could be an excellent add with Gusev

  14. Buffalo is under no pressure to trade Ristolainen currently. teams may be calling. Buffalo isnt shopping.

    This off season Buffalo still have 4 players to sign. 3 of the 4 filed for arbitration so Buffalo can get a second buy out windown after aribitration.

    To start the season 2 Dmen will be on LTIR likely not to come back until Decemeber

    In 2020 they have about $25M in current contracts coming off. After factoring in RFAs resigning they look to have around $15M to play with.

    WIth Dahlin due in 2021 when salary cap goes up, much of the next 2 years cap increases will go to his salary increase. any extra would come from Hutton ending and them promoting a young goalie to be back up or possibly compete to start.

    looking at the start of next season in 20/21
    buffalo looks like




    The problem with the players mentioned….

    the players on short contracts are not 2C..they are more like 3C.

    There are other ones like Turris or Little of WPG who have 4+ yrs left on contracts.

    ITs expected their high pick in this years draft, Cozens, would be part of the team in 21/22 season as 3C after 2 yrs in JRs and 1 year in AHL.

    the players out there who could fit the rol are RMH and Stepan.

  15. The next hard date for RFA is December 20th. To which if not signed the season is lost. A whole year of hockey development lost at a young age . Tkachuk 21 Laine 21 Marner 22
    There will be a lot of new 8 -9 million dollar players Next year.
    Lablanc deal has guts. I hope it works out for him with PP time and decent minutes His shots have eyes.