Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 22, 2019
Updates on Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Taylor Hall, and Lias Andersson in the pre-Christmas NHL rumor roundup.
HOLTBY CONTRACT TALKS ON HOLD
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Washington Capitals and the agent for Braden Holtby won’t talk contract during the season, putting their focus on winning the Stanley Cup. The 30-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Friedman points out the Capitals have gone this route before with John Carlson and T.J. Oshie before their UFA eligibility on July 1. Just because Holtby could become a UFA doesn’t necessarily mean he will.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Salary-cap space could be an issue. Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $61.9 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, with Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom as their prime UFAs. It could cost a combined $18 million to re-sign both, leaving little room for the rest of the roster.
UPDATE ON KOVALCHUK
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s a fair bit of interest in Ilya Kovalchuk following the mutual termination of his contract with the Los Angeles Kings. His agent is working the phones talking to interested clubs.
Kovalchuk will have to sign a much smaller deal than the one he had with the Kings. Though there’s nothing imminent, Johnston feels he’ll find a new NHL home soon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I share the view of the Boston’s Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont: “The truth about Kovalchuk: His last outstanding year was 2007-08, when he potted 52 goals with the Thrashers. Otherwise, not worth the price or the bother.”
COULD THE ISLANDERS PURSUE HALL THIS SUMMER?
BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont believes the New York Islanders could aggressively pursue Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall if he hits the open market next summer. The Isles have lots of salary-cap space, even though young center Mathew Barzal will be due for a big payday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders have over $64.5 million committed to 16 players for next season. Assuming Hall seeks over $10 million annually on the open market, it won’t leave enough for Barzal’s hefty raise, new contracts for arbitration-eligible RFA blueliners Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, and re-signing or replacing UFAs Matt Martin, Derick Brassard, and Tom Kuhnhackel. Unless GM Lou Lamoriello intends to shed salary, he could pass on Hall to consider more affordable free-agent options.
RANGERS’ ANDERSSON REQUESTS A TRADE
NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker reports the New York Rangers yesterday confirmed Lias Andersson has requested a trade and is no longer with the club. The Rangers’ first-round picks (seventh overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, the 21-year-old winger skated in just 66 games over parts of three seasons in New York.
General manager Jeff Gorton is expected to use the current NHL holiday roster freeze to shop Andersson, who spent much of this season on the fourth line.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston believes it’ll be challenging for the Rangers to move a young asset who hasn’t played up to lofty expectations. Nevertheless, they’re not going to just give him away.
Elliotte Friedman said Rangers had talked to the Edmonton Oilers about swapping Andersson for Jesse Puljujarvi before the Dec. 1 deadline to get the latter under contract for this season. He wonders if that might get revisited.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson said the Oilers weren’t interested in Andersson because they didn’t think he plays “with enough NHL pace”. The same, of course, can be said of Puljujarvi.
Gorton might have to package Andersson with a pick or prospect to make him enticing. Perhaps he becomes part of a bigger deal near the Feb. 24 trade deadline.