NHL Rumor Mill – April 14, 2020
Several Eastern Conference clubs could face some serious off-season questions. Check them out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon raises some burning off-season questions for each of the NHL’s Eastern Conference clubs. Some were speculation involving off-season plans for several teams:
Dixon suggested the Buffalo Sabres should boost their goaltending depth via the unrestricted free agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the Sabres are looking for an experienced backup for promising Linus Ullmark, options could include Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss.
Dixon wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes will go big-game hunting. He’d love to see them sign a UFA goaltender like Robin Lehner or Jacob Markstrom. If someone like Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau were to hit the trade block, acquiring him would be the type of move the Hurricanes could pull off.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $72 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, including goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, the Hurricanes lack sufficient room and dollars to add Lehner or Markstrom. Of course, they could attempt to move Mrazek or Reimer to create room for a UFA goalie signing. Gaudreau isn’t going anywhere this off-season, but yes, if he were available, the Hurricanes have the depth in young roster talent, prospects, and draft picks to pull off such a move. Whether they’d do it, however, is another matter.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the base for a good-to-great team if they got an injection of pure talent such as Gaudreau or Taylor Hall. Dixon acknowledged they have some in-house business to sort out, such as re-signing Pierre-Luc Dubois and what to do with winger Josh Anderson, who has arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made bold moves before, so we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he’ll do it again. Adding Hall, however, will be too expensive for a club carrying over $68 million tied up in 17 players next season. As I mentioned earlier, Gaudreau’s not going anywhere, but the cost of adding someone like him could be too burdensome to pull off this year.
If the Detroit Red Wings don’t believe winger Anthony Mantha is worth a long-term deal, Dixon suggested shopping him while he has trade value for another piece or two that helps their long-term rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mantha has 30-goal ability but his injury history is a red flag. They possess plenty of salary-cap space to re-sign him, so it’ll be interesting to how GM Steve Yzerman handles this.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll depend on Panthers owner Vinnie Viola. It’s been suggested his unhappiness with the club’s performance could lead to a cost-cutting shakeup. A bold move would be moving Barkov or Huberdeau, but the latter has a full no-movement clause while the former’s kicks in after this season. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad lacks no-trade protection until 2021-22, but a more likely trade candidate could be Mike Matheson, who surfaced in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Dixon wondered if the Montreal Canadiens might swap a forward, such as pending RFA Max Domi, for a defenseman if the right fit can be found.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect GM Marc Bergevin will explore every option. With depth in draft picks and prospects plus plenty of salary-cap space, Bergevin might not have to part with a roster forward to bring in a blueliner. He could instead target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary.
Once the New Jersey Devils sort out who their general manager will be, Dixon proposed shopping winger Kyle Palmieri could fetch a good return. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision could tkae place before next season’s trade deadline, whenever that might be.
If Henrik Lundqvist wants to continue playing, Dixon suggested the New York Rangers buy out the final season of his contract and let him test the UFA water.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Blueshirts go that route. With Lundqvist losing playing time to young goalies Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, it may be time to part ways with King Henrik.
With the Ottawa Senators carrying seven second-round picks in the next two drafts, Dixon wondered if they might shop some of them for an under-25 player or two in need of a change of scenery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a good suggestion, one Senators GM Pierre Dorion could explore when the off-season finally arrives.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it can’t be ruled out, but it will be a tight squeeze within the Penguins’ limited cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That forward could be Alex Killorn, whose full no-trade clause becomes a 16-team no-trade list following this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to look outside the organization to boost their blueline. A lack of cap space and depth in the UFA market could force them into the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And if they do go that route, a second-tier forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot could become a trade candidate.
Dixon mused over the possibility of Braden Holtby returning to the Washington Capitals for another year or two at a salary similar to his current $6.1 million AAV.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has indicated his intent to get the best deal he can as he enters the UFA market for the first time. Assuming he can’t find one this year if the salary cap remains flat, perhaps he and the Capitals might circle back and discuss a short-term deal. Even then, bringing back Holtby would push their cap payroll to over $77 million invested in 17 players, leaving little room under a flat cap to fill the rest of the roster.