NHL Rumor Mill – August 24, 2019

by | Aug 24, 2019 | Rumors | 22 comments

Constructing the best lineup with the remaining UFAs plus the latest Rasmus Ristolainen and Derek Stepan speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton recently listed the top remaining unrestricted free agents and attempted to compile the best “All-UFA” lineup. Joe Thornton, the best available center, is expected to return for another season with the San Jose Sharks. Clinton also considered Brian Boyle and Derick Brassard as a toss-up for second-best. Soon after this article appeared, Brassard signed with the New York Islanders.

Left-wing options are a toss-up between Patrick Marleau and Thomas Vanek. Justin Williams, the top right wing, is expected to return to the Carolina Hurricanes. Clinton considered it odd that right wing Patrick Maroon remains unsigned. He speculates Maroon is working toward returning to the St. Louis Blues or waiting to see where the best fit could be elsewhere.

Could the Arizona Coyotes or Buffalo Sabres attempt to sign Jake Gardiner? (Photo via NHL Images)

Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains the top blueliner. His future somehow seems tied to the Leafs efforts to re-sign winger Mitch Marner. Clinton considers Ben Hutton the second-best rearguard. As for goaltenders, he wonders if we’ve seen the last of Scott Darling. Chad Johnson would be the next best option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton’s returning to the Sharks. If Williams doesn’t retire, the Hurricanes are believed the only club he’ll skate with.

Gardiner’s situation got a little more intriguing this week when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the Arizona Coyotes are thought to be interested in the former Leaf. He also wondered if the Buffalo Sabres would come calling if they trade Rasmus Ristolainen. And speaking of Ristolainen…


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently reported there’s doesn’t appear to be a large trade market for Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. General manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Kruger aren’t completely against the idea of the 24-year-old blueliner returning to the lineup this season.

Harrington feels the Winnipeg Jets need help on their blueline and could be a good destination for Ristolainen. However, the Jets can’t do anything until they get restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor under contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres loading up on the right side of their blueline this summer seemingly sets the stage for trading Ristolainen. The Jets could certainly use someone like him but the Sabres could seek a top-six forward (preferably a right winger) in return.

The notion of swapping Ristolainen for Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers has been bandied out. However, Ehlers skates on the left side and has earned a reputation as a playoff underachiever.


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked if he sees the Arizona Coyotes signing center Derek Stepan after this season. Stepan is signed through 2020-21 and Morgan doesn’t expect the Coyotes will do anything about his contract after this season.

What happens to Stepan long-term depends upon the development of players like Barrett Hayton, Nick Schmaltz, and Christian Dvorak and whether he can regain his previous 50-plus point form. Morgan doubts the Coyotes shop the veteran center if they’re in the playoff chase this season. If not, they could consider it, but must also keep in mind the contracts of centers Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg expire next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alate-season leg injury could account for the decline in Stepan’s production in 2018-19. He was still the Coyotes best all-around forward.

Maybe the toll of his two-way style is starting to catch up with him but his numbers could rebound if he’s got some decent wingers. Another missed postseason, however, could force Coyotes management to consider moving Stepan while his value remains high and he still has some time left on his contract.


  1. To me Gardner as a coyote has more probability that him returning as a Leaf

    • Per Cap Friendly the Coyotes only have 178 thousand left in cap space. Gardiner to Arizona seems highly unlikely but as you said more likely than a return to Toronto.

      • Hi Ron

        Ya , sorry if I inferred that Arz was a likely landing spot…. more likely than TORONTO in that their Hossa space could be used; Leafs will use their Horton/Clarkson room on MM and then will have no other space

        …. now if Leafs moves WW for an up and coming DMan at much less Cap …. then they’d have some room towards Gardner….

        For instance (just an example ; likliehood very slim):

        WW straight up for Pulock …. frees up $4.9 M towards Gardner

        WW straight up for Sanheim ….. frees up $3.7M towards Gardner

        WW straight up for Severson frees up $2.8 M towards Gardner

      • Pengy,

        If Fletcher trades anything for Nylander I might have to go to Philly and slap him around. If he traded Sanheim for Nylander? Riot time on Broad St.

        There is nothing about Nylander that impresses. Soft, soft soft.

        No thanksl

        Maybe Nylander to Pittsburgh for your beloved fan favorite JJ and a 2nd rounder?

      • I agree with Ron… only really hard men are impressive

      • Chrisms,


  2. After the stint that Chad Johnson spent with the Blues to start last season, Clinton’s “next best option” in goal is not a very good one.

    I don’t see that Maroon can return to the Blues without other roster changes taking place.

    • You’re bang on there mark. Right now the Blues have $1,970,406 in cap space which likely won’t be enough to even re-sign RFA Barbashev, coming off an E LC of $741,667 after a 14g 12a 26 pts regular season and adding 3g 3a 6 pts in 25 playoff games.

      With CapFriendly showing a full 23-man complement now, the only candidate to start in the AHL seems to be one of D Vince Dunn ($722,500), D Derrick Pouliot ($700,000) or F MacKenzie MacEachern ($750,000) – along with RW/C Robert Thomas and his $894,166 cap hit who is still recovering from wrist-tendon surgery and, according to the NHL injury report, his status to open the season is uncertain. Any one of those would up that cap space to anywhere from $2,670,406 to $2,864,572. That might be enough to get Barbashev on board – but leaves them absolutely no wiggle room. especially when Thomas is ready to return.

      Unless there’s a major trade in the offing, I can’t see how they can fit Maroon back in. He just made $1,750,000 and potted 10g 18a 28 pts during the season and added 3g 4a 7 pts in 26 playoff games to add to his physical presence. But since this is likely his last contract (he turns 32 in April) he will probably want something north of $2.5 and at least 3 years.

  3. I admit I dont watch enough of Ristolainen but only that he has 40+ pts every year, racks up 250+ hits and is given 25+ mins/ night and is still only 24. Is he that bad?


    • I don’t get it either Tyler – he looks pretty damned good to me any time I get to see the Sabres. As for Ehlers being a playoff underachiever, I think the Sabres would be happy just to GET there – and then worry about that.

      • George you put it perfectly…get there and then worry about how many points he puts up in the playoffs. To much is put on left/right..Ehlers would fit nicely as 2nd line LW and Olofsson or Sheary can go to RW or just try him at RW.

  4. I find it mind boggling that perennial bottomfeeders like Buffalo, Edmonton, Arizona and Vancouver have no or next to no cap room to use on FAs.

    Safe to say these teams are where they are due to poor signings, unwise trades and overall mismanagement.

    Some teams like Tampa or Washington seem to be able to ice vrry competitive teams while those noted above wallow in the muck of irrelevancy.

  5. It’s going to be a long 3weeks until camp opens .
    I maintain Ristolainen is not moving anytime soon.. Bogosian will be hurt at some point (if he isn’t already) . Dahlin sophomore year and Scandella a year to UFA and definitely in decline. I like the Montour signing be he his coming off an injury playing at the Worlds . A lot of question marks even with the additions. Ristolainen’s contract for 3 more years is fair for what he delivers noted above. So again what is the rush.

  6. According to the NHL injury report SilverSeven, Bogosian, recovering from hip surgery, won’t be back until late October at the earliest

  7. I know leafs circumvented Cap by bringing on 2 (retired/injured) players to make room for Marner. Even with that, how can they afford 5-6 mil for Gardiner? And the guys that do have cap space, still haven’t signed RFA’s (Flyers/Jets) so doubt he’s going either place.

    • No need for no-check Gardiner in Philly, no need or desire.Total pass, with malice.

  8. NHL/NHLPA need to close the loophole and make trading a player on LTIR against the rules.

    • Ron, you’re a lot closer to the Philly scene than most of us in here – was hoping to get your take on that report by a scribe in Columbus that the Provorov camp was seeking $10 mil per! As I observed the other day when it came out, that seems like something right out of left field with no basis in fact, otherwise we’d surely have heard something similar from the Philly media or someone like Freedman.

      • George,

        Havent seen anything like that. If Provorov actually wants ten million he can sit or go back to Russia. I have him between 6.5 and 7.0 which is still high IMO.

        Provorov is good, but not that good. At least not yet.

  9. At this point if im the jets im just resigning conner and trying to do something like laine+poolman to the devils for hall+vatanen and just go full out for the cup

    Also been hearing so much of risto to detroit for mantha today, but it would have to be risto+, and im calling it now provorov will sign for 3yrs around 6mill

    • That certainly seems more realistic when it comes to Provorov Bmac. That would leave them more than enough to get Konecny re-signed as well, with a nice nest egg left over for a seasonal adjustment if an opportunity pops up along the way.

      That $10 mil thing had to be somebody’s idea of a summer-doldrum joke.

      On the other issue, while Hall may indeed be dealt at some point if Shero gets the impression he definitely wants a change of scenery and has no intention of re-signing in Jersey, I doubt very much it will be before the trade deadline – and maybe not even then if they are in contention. But no matter when, I don’t see him having any interest in a notoriously streaky scorer like Laine – especially at the price he’s reportedly seeking. And no way they relinquish Vatanen in that sort of deal.

    • I mentioned yesterday, with George responding

      to MIN: Ehlers
      to WPG: Spurgeon

      to give the Jets a little more room to get both Conner & Laine signed

      other option

      to BuFF: Ehlers
      to WPG: Risto

      again for the Kets to make their forward signings while
      shoring up the back end on the right side after Trouba and Meyers departed. Leaves Pionk as the 3rd pairing where he belongs for now.

      for MInny…gets younger with some of their older vets as UFA soon and well older and slower

      to Buff using cap space already in use to get depth upfront as well to aide in scoring beyond the Eichel line.