NHL Rumor Mill – March 5, 2020
Latest on the Canadiens and Panthers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT COULD BE IN STORE FOR THE CANADIENS THIS SUMMER?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he wasn’t even close to moving winger Tomas Tatar or defenseman Jeff Petry at last week’s NHL trade deadline. He admitted receiving calls about both players, but never intiated any trade talk.
Bergevin declined to say if he would attempt to extend Tatar or Petry, who are eligible for unrestricted free agent status next July. He also doesn’t anticipate any difficulty re-signing winger Max Domi, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. He also shot down a rumor that goaltender Carey Price was unhappy and might want out of Montreal. The Canadiens GM will look into the UFA market this summer, though he acknowledged the difficulty of attracting free agents to the hockey hotbed.
TVA SPORTS: In a recent interview, Bergevin indicated he has no interest in trading a promising youngster like Jesperi Kotkaniemi for a veteran player who would only be with the team for two or three years. He also doesn’t rule out going the offer sheet route again. He made a failed attempt last summer to sign Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer is a crucial one for Bergevin. He must bolster his backup goaltending, the left side of his blueline, and find an impact scorer. He’s got 14 picks in the 2020 NHL draft, 10 of those between rounds two and five. I expect he’ll draw upon some of those picks for trade bait, but I doubt he dangles his first-round pick.
Should the salary cap rise to between $84 million to $88 million as projected, Bergevin will have between $20-$24 million to re-sign Domi and fellow RFA Victor Mete and bring in help via trade or free agency. That’s also sufficient room to make an offer sheet, perhaps one that won’t be so easily matched as the one he signed Sebastian Aho to last summer.
COULD BIG OFF-SEASON CHANGES BE COMING FOR THE PANTHERS?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman wonders what the consequences will be for the Florida Panthers if they miss the playoffs again. Owner Vinny Viola spent more than $100 million to improve the club, including signing Sergei Bobrovsky and Anton Stralman and hiring Joel Quenneville as head coach. Rival general managers suspect the Panthers could break up their core if they fail to reach the postseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those changes to the core could include captain Aleksander Barkov, winger Jonathan Huberdeau, or defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Of the three, Barkov and Ekblad lack no-trade protection, while Huberdeau has a full no-movement clause.
I realize this sounds extreme, but things simply aren’t working out with the current core. If they decide to shake things up, one of those three could hit the trade block. Mike Matheson also surfaced in trade speculation this season. Like Barkov and Ekblad, he lacks a no-trade clause in his contract.