NHL Rumor Mill – December 17, 2019
The fallout from the Devils trading Taylor Hall to Arizona, possible destinations for Ilya Kovalchuk, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
FALLOUT FROM THE HALL TRADE
NJ.COM: After the New Jersey Devils traded Taylor Hall yesterday to the Arizona Coyotes, Chris Ryan examines where they go from here. He believes the move isn’t a sign the Devils are entering another full-fledged rebuild, but a sign general manager Ray Shero’s plan needs an adjustment.
Ryan feels they’re in a better position now compared to when they acquired Hall three years ago. Two first-round picks, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes serve as their foundation, supported by “talented young players in Jesper Bratt, Jesper Boqvist, Pavel Zacha, Mackenzie Blackwood and more.”
THE ATHLETIC: Prior to the Hall trade, Corey Masisak suggested pending unrestricted free agents Sami Vatanen and Wayne Simmonds were also likely trade candidates.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty believes the Bruins were wise not to go all-in on Taylor Hall. He feels they’re better served pursuing more affordable rental assets like Ilya Kovalchuk, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson and others who could become available by the trade deadline.
Nick Goss, meanwhile, speculates the Devils might not be done selling. He suggests Vatanen and Kyle Palmieri as possible trade options. LIke Hall, they’re due to become UFAs next July.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports Oilers GM Ken Holland acknowledged speaking with Shero several times. However, he was unwilling to part with a first-round pick for Hall.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks reports the Stars had the cap space to acquire Hall but lacks sufficient capital to acquire him. They’d already traded away their second- and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft and were unwilling to part with their first-rounder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers might be reluctant to say the Devils are still rebuilding, but that return they received from the Coyotes looks like something a rebuilding club would do. Those assets provide no immediate help. It will take several years to determine if the return was worthwhile.
Entering this season, the Devils were projected to be a playoff contender. With those hopes now dashed, and with other moves likely before the trade deadline, they’re now rebuilding around younger talent. They must bolster their goaltending, improve their scoring punch, and bolster their blueline.
I expect Vatanen and Simmonds could be shopped before the Feb. 24 deadline. Palmieri, 28, has one season remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $4.65 million. He’s also got an eight-team no-trade list. Given Palmieri’s age and his UFA eligibility in 2021, Shero could be willing to listen to offers, but he’s under no pressure to move the winger before this season’s trade deadline.
I also wonder if Shero will consider moving P.K. Subban. The 30-year-old defenseman has struggled this season. While he lacks no-trade protection, his $9-million AAV through 2021-22 is a significant sticking point.
WHERE WILL KOVALCHUK GO?
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun wonders if an NHL team will pursue Ilya Kovalchuk once he’s officially an unrestricted free agent. The Kings yesterday placed him on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract. The Kings attempted to trade Kovalchuk but couldn’t find any takers for his contract, which carried an annual salary-cap hit of $6.25 million through 2020-21.
LeBrun noted the Boston Bruins pursued him in 2018 before the Kings signed him. He wonders if they’ll revisit their interest if they can get him for next to nothing for the remainder of the season. He also points out the connection between Kovalchuk and Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell from their time with the Atlanta Thrashers.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton suggests the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders as possible destinations for Kovalchuk. He feels the Blue Jackets could use him as a power-play specialist. Adding Kovalchuk might help fine-tune the Stars’ offense. The Panthers only have around $900K in salary-cap space and might have to shuffle some salary to the minors to free up cap space. Kovalchuk also has a connection with Isles GM Lou Lamoriello from their days with the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk isn’t an elite player anymore. Now that he’s about to become a UFA, however, an NHL club could take a chance on him with a one-year deal worth under $1 million. He’ll have to accept a secondary role, but he could become a decent addition to a club’s power-play unit.
MAURICE HOPES TO STAY IN WINNIPEG
SPORTSNET: Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice has heard his name connected to the NHL’s expansion franchise in Seattle. His contract with the Jets expires at the end of this season, but he’s hoping to stay in Winnipeg.
“I’m here as long as Mark [Chipman] and Kevin [Cheveldayoff] want me to be here,” Maurice told reporters Monday when asked about the Seattle rumors. “This is home for me. I love this place. I’m not looking to go anywhere.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maurice’s future in Winnipeg will depend upon the club’s performance this season. He’s adjusted well to the off-season departures of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot, plus the ongoing absence of Dustin Byfuglien. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s stellar play has helped ease the pain, but Maurice should be commended for how he’s handled the defense corps thus far.