NHL Rumor Mill – September 20, 2019
Updates on Dustin Byfuglien, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to take a leave of absence from the Winnipeg Jets isn’t the action of someone who doesn’t intend to play this season. It’s believed the ankle injury that cost him 30 games last season never properly healed and continued to give him problems. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will give Byfuglien as much time as he needs.
Friedman notes there’s trade speculation linking the Jets to Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Justin Faulk and Buffalo Sabres rearguard Rasmus Ristolainen. However, if Byfuglien is returning at some point, the Jets must account for his $7.6-million salary-cap hit. That also doesn’t mean they can throw extra cash at restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman’s colleague Ryan Dixon is among those wondering if the Jets could pursue a top-four defenseman like Faulk. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun also pondered the possibility of the Jets looking at Faulk or Ristolainen.
The off-season departures of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot depleted the Jets’ defense corps and linked them to Ristolainen earlier this summer. Byfuglien’s absence only heightens that speculation.
Friedman also looked at Laine’s contract impasse with the Jets and how his name is being floated as a trade candidate for a defenseman in the aftermath of the Byfuglien news. However, he considers that a hard trade to win. As for how much Laine seeks on his new contract, Friedman speculates it won’t be under $6 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s asking price could be much more than $6 million per season. Dixon suggested moving Laine might be worth exploring if it fetches two significant pieces on the blue line. It would also allow them to re-sign Kyle Connor. If Cheveldayoff is exploring that possibility he’s keeping those plans close to the vest. So far, there are no reports suggesting he’s looking into that option.
Friedman believes former Minnesota Wild Paul Fenton wanted to pursue a trade for Mitch Marner during the winger’s contract negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, it never got far on a contract. Fenton has since been replaced by Bill Guerin while Marner re-signed a six-year deal with the Leafs.
Justin Faulk’s agent hesitated to say a potential trade to the Anaheim Ducks to be completely dead but Friedman thinks it looks that way. It’s believed the Faulk camp sought a new deal worth $6.75 million per season.
Buffalos Sabres blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen declined to say if he’s asked for a trade but other NHL clubs assume he has. A recent injury to Brandon Montour, however, could affect the Sabres’ decisions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun reports the Ducks checked into Ristolainen but the Sabres’ asking price was high. While he didn’t indicate what it was, rumors throughout the summer suggest they’d want a top-six winger.
The Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens, and Calgary Flames were believed among the clubs looking at Dallas Stars d-man Julius Honka, though the Flames’ interest doesn’t appear recent.
The Vancouver Canucks have four or five players available but Friedman doesn’t believe forward Jake Virtanen is among them.
UPDATES ON RANTANEN AND POINT
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the Colorado Avalanche made a long-term contract offer earlier this month to restricted free agent winger Mikko Rantanen. Since then, however, there hasn’t been much movement in negotiations. Rantanen’s agent Mike Liut recently suggested Toronto’s Mitch Marner as a comparable. However, LeBrun said the Avalanche won’t pay him the same as Marner, who’s earning an annual average value of $10.89 million.
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston reports Brayden Point’s agent, Gerry Johansson, said they don’t appear close to signing a new contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. While he indicated talks are ongoing, they’re still a ways apart. The Lightning has around $8.4 million in salary-cap space. Johansson said Point is open to short- and long-term offers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected Rantanen will become the Avalanche’s highest-paid player. The question is, how much will his annual cap hit exceed superstar Nathan MacKinnon’s $6.3 million? There was speculation it could come in between $9 – $10 million per season.
As for Point, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has over $67 million tied up in 13 players for 2020-21 with Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak becoming restricted free agents next summer. He’ll want to leave as much wiggle room as possible to accommodate those new deals next year.