NHL Rumor Mill – March 16, 2020
Check out the recent speculation about Jacob Markstrom and Justin Schultz, plus a look at what the Coyotes must address in the off-season in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CAN THE CANUCKS AFFORD TO RE-SIGN MARKSTROM?
VANCOUVER SUN: Ed Willes recently reported on how Jacob Markstrom‘s absence from the Canucks’ crease exposed the club’s porous defense. The Canucks struggled after Markstrom was sidelined by a knee injury, threatening their playoff hopes. Backup Thatcher Demko was decent, but his play wasn’t at Markstrom’s level.
The 30-year-old starter is an unrestricted free agent. Willes reports of “a discrepancy in the goalie’s perceived value” in contract talks with management.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $63 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21. Chris Tanev is their other noteworthy UFA, while Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher, Tyler Motte, Adam Gaudette, and Zack McEwen are restricted free agents.
Assuming the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season, it won’t leave much room to re-sign everyone, especially since Markstrom could seek something around $7 million annually. They could attempt to shed salary by trying to move Loui Eriksson and his $6 million AAV, but that could prove easier said than done, especially if the salary cap doesn’t reach the projected $84 million to $88 million.
The Canucks could tap into this summer’s UFA market for a replacement. Washington’s Braden Holtby and Vegas’ Robin Lehner are the notable starters, but both could prove more expensive to sign than Markstrom.
SCHULTZ DONE IN PITTSBURGH?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel recently reported the decline in Justin Schultz‘s performance this season could leave him facing an uncertain future in Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old defenseman is a UFA this summer, but the Penguins have limited salary-cap space to keep him. Given the drop in his play and the emergence of rookie rearguard John Marino, they might not want to re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schultz resurrected his career with the Penguins and was among their top-four defensemen until suffering a serious ankle injury last season. He could still be feeling the effects of that injury as he tries to regain his form. Schultz’s all-around blueline skills should make him a valuable free-agent commodity, but he’ll likely have to settle for less money on a short-term contract.
COYOTES COULD HAVE A BUSY OFF-SEASON
THE ATHLETIC: Citing the Arizona Coyotes offensive struggles, Craig Morgan recently speculated they could face a busy off-season to address that issue. He feels they need a first-line center unless they want to wait for promising Barrett Hayden to develop. They still need a legitimate goal scorer and more production from their blueline. Their defense corps also lacks a physical presence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their limited salary-cap space will hamper their efforts. They’ve got over $79.9 million tied up in 16 players. They can get cap relief if necessary by placing permanently sidelined winger Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) on long-term injury reserve. Their UFAs include Taylor Hall and Carl Soderberg. If the cap remains at $81.5 million, they’ll have to shed salary to re-sign or replace those two, but it won’t leave enough to bring in outside help.