NHL Rumor Mill – March 21, 2020
The NHL schedule remains paused, but the off-season trade and free agent rumor mill grind on. Check out the recent speculation on the Devils, Sabres, and Golden Knights in the NHL rumor mill.
WHAT WILL THE DEVILS DO WITH SCHNEIDER?
NJ.COM: The fate of Cory Schneider was among Abbey Mastracco’s five questions facing the New Jersey Devils while the season is paused. Goaltending was the Devils’ Achilles heel over the past two seasons, in part because of the 34-year-old Schneider’s struggles between the pipes. They need a reliable backup for Mackenzie Blackwood. Buying out Schneider is an option, but promising Gilles Senn isn’t expected to be NHL-ready next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mastracco observed buying out Schneider isn’t ideal, but if there’s a management change, a new GM will want to make his own decisions about the future of the club. If Schneider doesn’t fit into their plans, a buyout of the remaining two years of his contract (worth $6 million annually) could be in the cards.
Some observers speculate the projected revenue losses brought about by this pandemic could prompt the league and the NHLPA to introduce amnesty contract buyouts for next season. If they do, I think it’s a safe bet the Devils will go that route to shed Schneider’s contract. They could use part of the savings to sign a reliable backup for Blackwood.
SABRES MUST ADDRESS THEIR BACKUP GOAL AND SECOND-LINE CENTER NEEDS
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked how the Buffalo Sabres will address their backup goaltending situation. Carter Hutton‘s struggles make it difficult to envision him on the roster next season. General manager Jason Botterill isn’t a fan of contract buyouts and it’s difficult to say what next season’s salary cap will look like. If they can find someone to take Hutton off their hands, Lysowski expects they’ll try to find a cheap backup option.
Lysowski was also asked about the Sabres’ options to fill their second-line center position. He doubts they’ll go the free-agent route, suggesting instead using an asset like defenseman Brandon Montour to acquire a center via the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hutton has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of $2.75 million. If the league and the NHLPA agree to allow amnesty contract buyouts for next season, Botterill could use that option to shed Hutton’s contract. For now, of course, that tactic is merely speculation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sabres GM shops a defenseman like Montour or Rasmus Ristolainen to bring in a second-line center.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jesse Granger was asked about the Vegas Golden Knights’ backup goalie situation if Robin Lehner isn’t re-signed. While there are plenty of options in this summer’s UFA market, Granger feels the Golden Knights could wait until next season’s trade deadline to address that need. The Seattle expansion draft will be held next summer, and he thinks a rival club could try to trade a goalie to Vegas rather than lose him for nothing to Seattle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That sounds good in theory, assuming aging starter Marc-Andre Fleury remains healthy and sharp throughout next season and they can find a good, short-term option as his backup until the trade deadline. However, the long grind of a regular season can take its toll, which could force them into the market for help. They would risk not dealing from a position of strength then.