NHL Rumor Mill – March 30, 2020

by | Mar 30, 2020 | Rumors | 21 comments

The latest speculation on James Neal and Kyle Clifford in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell suggested James Neal as the obvious contract buyout candidate for the Edmonton Oilers, either via a normal buyout or if the NHL and NHLPA agree to compliance buyouts if the salary cap is lower than projected. His age (32), production (19 goals, 31 points in 55 games), and contract length ($5.75 million annually through 2022-23) make him a no-brainer as a compliance buyout candidate.

Could the Edmonton Oilers buy out James Neal in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Mitchell also argued Neal would be worthwhile buying out under normal circumstances. It would cost just over $1.9 million annually against the Oilers’ cap over the next six seasons. Mitchell feels Neal’s contributions can be replaced for that price. The move would also give the Oilers some additional flexibility when other clubs face cap challenges and free agents find few options on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mitchell makes a compelling case for buying out Neal. Whether Oilers general manager Ken Holland shares that view remains to be seen.


SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston recently reported Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan indicated the club has a mutual interest with Kyle Clifford in working out a new contract for the 29-year-old winger. Clifford was acquired last month from the Los Angeles Kings. He’s proven to be a good fit for his new club. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Shanahan praised Clifford’s grit, toughness, and leadership.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With an annual average value of $1.6 million on his current contract, Clifford shouldn’t be an expensive signing for the Leafs. Finding sufficient salary-cap space, however, will be an issue.

The Leafs have nearly $77 million committed to 16 players for next season and will have to replace defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci when they depart via free agency later this year. If the cap remains at $81.5 million, the Leafs could be forced to make a cost-cutting trade or two to find sufficient room for Clifford and replacements for Barrie and Ceci.


  1. Need a serious break today so I thought id post …

    hope your decent Lyle …I wish all the boys here well also …


    Not sure what the Athletic is thinking BUT I am not buying out James Neal for his production ..HE IS IN AMAZING SHAPE …and brings way more to the table all around and plays on 2 lines & power play ..ridiculous to suggest ..Iam keeping Neal ..

    If the Oilers were smart …they would look to get rid of Koskinen money instead….and then trade for Georgieve …also look to move out or buy out Larson or Russel OR BOTH …to save more money less years on the penalty fee to pay..1 & 2 years only but double the money in savings!

    I am keeping Neal …


    This is stupid by the Leafs as per usual …yes Ive been a very big advocate of the Leafs needing size and grit …but having seen Clifford on the back end of his time in a Leaf uniform thus far …he was only needed for the remainder of this year …he is not worth ANY investment into next year if there is a next year …

    Leafs will need EVERY PENNY …this is a BIG TIME waste of money for a player who plays 6 minutes a game !

    YES they need size ..but they need a power forward in the top 6 as they HAVE NONE…they do not need Clifford on the 4th line…at his expense ..look for a player who is younger and faster that still plays like that who is looking to break into the league and plays with a determination to stay in the line up and can keep up on his feet ..STUPID!!

    This would be an emotional signing by DUBAS again…..and I dont like it !

    I would look to the Rangers to make a deal to improve on that spot by trading for Brendan Lemieux instead if there is a deal to be had…

    Take care guys…all the best


    • Wondered that as well Kal El – but didn’t dare say anything for obvious reasons.

      Anyway, from this vantage point it’s Colton Orr 2.0. Tough? Yeah. But complete waste of a roster spot and cap money on the 4th line – and really not capable of playing on lines 1 to 3 for any serious length of time.

      • So petty bud. As for what’s been said so far, re: Leafs, Clifford isn’t going to score massive point totals but can skate and play hard on the cheap. Having him on the Kings you can tell when he wasn’t in the line up – that can’t be said about bad players.

        Again, this Leafs team is young and has ways to go, both via growth and roster evolution. I don’t see having a Clifford type of player on anyone’s bottom lines problematic at all. Thinking that’s he’s anything more (top six) is wishful in the least.

      • @ GEORGE O

        Its funny George …

        the way things may have played out… Dubas may be able to keep his job ..as their will be no negative ending to his decisions this year ..LOL..but yes ..no need for Clifford ..ESPECIALLY knowing that Dubas will give him at least 2 years as well…with a wink and a nod!!
        Just like Burkie did with Wilson in his famous Christmas gift …that lasted 2 – 3 months


    • Kal El

      Agree on James Neal—he can play on my team any time. No way am I handing away 20+ goals a year AND he brings a lot more in veteran leadership/presence. If it doesn’t work out, let Seattle take a look in a year.

      Be well

    • @Kal El I have to agree with you on Clifford unless he`s signing for minimum wage then he`s not worth the signing as a 4th liner. Dubas screwed everything up with the Tavares signing, he`s a luxury they couldn`t afford. People think that all Tavares cost the Leafs was money and that ain`t true. A 1st for Marleau for starters and Kadri plus they`re not finished yet

      • I think James Neal is a terrible person, whose best days as a hockey player are in the rearview mirror.
        I’d spend that money to get rid of him, 7 days a week.

        Kyle Clifford is the kind of guy who’d fight his own sister, if it ment winning a game.
        Him, I’d keep around to keep the wolves at bay.

        Krug is probably going to Detroit. That’s the hometown discount he was eluding to.

      • Well that put it bluntly SOP! Neal was a distraction in CGY but it was still a great move by Holland for the very reason of the buyout if it didn’t work out. If you check the buyout calculator on Capfriendly Neal is better in that regard than Lucic by a wide margin.
        Neal is slow. 12 of his 19 goals have been banging in McDavid’s and Draisaitl’s rebounds on the PP. Valuable but Chaison can do that too, and did the year before when he was on it. The Oil’s PP was #1 in the league and didn’t miss a beat when Yamamoto when in for Neal when he was hurt.
        Larson is still a good tough D who moves the puck. Keeper. Koskinen was just as good as Georgiev this season. On fire later in the year. Actually carried the Oil for stretches.
        Holland won the Neal Lucic trade hands down and it should be judged that way. I can see them waiting a year unless JP decides to come back to the NHL, but I can see him playing another year in Finland. Or they make room for Benson. Or they get a cap free buyout this year.

      • @ Bob …I have written a lot about the heavy decline in foot speed with Tavares this year ..he just could not keep up it seemed ..

        While I would be completely a hypocrite to say I did not want him as a UFA and at this point its 20 / 20 hinesite …you just have to make due now and hope he gets power play goals and can get some dirty rebounds the rest of his yeas ! LMAO !

        …kinda like a J V R but for $4 million more …LOL


      • @Kal El I think the problem is more the job he’s been given and the minutes he’s been asked to play. The times he’s played left wing with Matthews he’s had no problem keeping up. Yes players get slower with age and sometimes it’s not that a player is getting slower it’s more kids with speed that make you look slower

      • Ray, I’m with you on all of that.
        I quite like Larsson. He’s not easy to play against.
        Oilers D will be set in a couple of years.

  2. It depends on what Clifford signs for…..IMO it would have to be under 1 million or let him go…he cannot join the MLSE overpaid crew…

    I have never been a Dubas guy based on his lack of maturity in the sense of lack of life and hockey experience…I think he has the intelligence and the heart to do the job, but it is one hell of a job for on the job training…He was not ready for the job.

    • @ OBD

      lets do a political theme on Dubas …LOL

      Kyle Dubas…

      He has nice hair and cool glasses
      ” But hes just not ready ”

      …LOl ..aka past Trudeau ads..LOL

    • @Old Blue Dog what on the job training he had 3 years to learn from Lou. I wish everybody would quit making excuses for him. Never a question of not ready for the job he`s shown beyond a doubt he`s not capable of doing the job. Most GM`s don`t get anywhere near the training Dubas got. He`s made a mess despite the 3 years of quality training from Lou and he`s lucky he`s got Pridham there to do the math for him. Imagine what a mess it would be without him. 3 years from now the Leafs will have a picture of Dubas flushing a Stanley cup down the toilet and evrybody will be going What If

  3. Neal only brought on last season. Even thinking of buying him out would make Holland look like an ass. You don’t trade for someone only to move him out when he hasn’t even completed an entire season. Speaking of Holland, look at the mess he left for Stevie Y?

    • He was brought in to dump lucic. His length of time on the team is the least of the concerns as far as buy out

  4. Neal is a streaky scorer , since Jan 2 this past season 13 GP , 0 goals , 4 assists ….he was a point a game player during his time in Pitt and potted 31 goals one season in Nash ….but 5 teams in 7 years is a sign to me that something else is up. Have heard rumors of bad behavior but keeping that to myself

    • Now, here I thought, you’d be a clean shaved chap. Kudos on the impressive facial hair.

      You really deliver a strong message in that diddy.

      • LOL. I wish I could play a piano like that. Or even hold a tune like like that!

      • Cheers to that!