NHL Rumor Mill – December 12, 2019
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declined to project next season’s salary cap, but Elliotte Friedman reports some clubs have the impression it could reach between $84-$85 million. Based on concerns over a lockout, he points out many players structured their contracts with low cash payouts for 2020-21. That means a lower escrow clawback, which could prompt the NHLPA to use their annual escalator clause to raise the cap ceiling by up to five percent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After several years of seeing annual cap projections coming in lower than anticipated, I think the clubs will make a conservative estimate for their cap payrolls next season. If it comes in higher than expected, they’ll have more flexibility to add or retain talent.
Friedman believes the New York Islanders could use a scorer. “But I’m not expecting Lou Lamoriello to tell me how he feels about Taylor Hall.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles are on my list of realistic bidders for the New Jersey Devils winger. Lamoriello never tips his hand and rival GMs know not to leak trade discussions at the risk of him shutting down negotiations. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s looked into the Devils’ asking price.
Speaking of Hall, TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reports the Montreal Canadiens aren’t interested in acquiring Hall. He claims the fact the Devils don’t want to give Hall a six- to eight-year deal raises a red flag. Acquiring Hall this season would be a waste of assets for the Habs. He’d improve their scoring, but not their defensive depth, and that’s their biggest concern right now.
Friedman believes the Los Angeles Kings could attempt to work out some sort of contract termination for Ilya Kovalchuk once his final bonus is paid on Dec. 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings reportedly looked into trading the 36-year-old winger without success. Maybe they’ll have better luck after Sunday but I doubt it. He’s been a healthy scratch for a month now.
St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t sharing details on his contract talks with Alex Pietrangelo. He said they prefer keeping negotiations in-house. “I know it’s a long time until June 30, 2020.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo could depart next summer via free agency, but the Blues won’t trade him before the Feb. 24 deadline. They’re attempting to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and Pietrangelo will play a key role in that quest.
Friedman has his doubts the Toronto Maple Leafs will upgrade their backup goaltending. He claims they’re not enamored with what’s available in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry and the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev have come up in media speculation, but I don’t believe either guy is available. Looks like the Leafs are stuck with what they’ve got for the time being.
Jarry’s played very well backing up starter Matt Murray. Given the latter’s injury history, they probably won’t part with Jarry or Casey DeSmith this season. Despite all the fuss over Georgiev becoming waiver-eligible soon, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton doesn’t sound like he’s keen to part with him.
Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman said a rival GM claimed they learned they could easily trade winger Kasperi Kapanen during their previous losing skid. However, they don’t want to move him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is proving adept at juggling his limited salary-cap space. At some point, however, he could face making a cost-cutting deal to address a roster need, such as their backup goaltending. That could force him into making a difficult decision about Kapanen or another salaried roster player.
Friedman reports the Pittsburgh Penguins were testing the market on winger Alex Galchenyuk. He believes the Buffalo Sabres looking into it. “There were rumblings about Ottawa, but a few sources pooh-poohed that,” said Friedman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have had recent success with reclamation projects, such as Anthony Duclair. While it’s tempting to suggest Galchenyuk’s inconsistency scared them off, perhaps they’re simply unwilling to acquire a player slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Friedman believes the Carolina Hurricanes had interest in Dallas Stars free-agent defenseman Julius Honka before Dec. 1. He wonders what the summer might bring for Honka, who needs a fresh start.