NHL Rumor Mill – April 6, 2020
Some Central Division speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently posed one offseason question for each NHL Central Division team.
He wondered how far the Chicago Blackhawks can go with their current roster. Given his limited salary-cap space, general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t have many options to bolster the roster. He also doesn’t have a goalie under contract for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having recently received a vote of confidence from team owner Rocky Wirtz, I expect Bowman will continue retooling his roster by adding younger, affordable players. As for the goaltending, I suspect he’ll re-sign Corey Crawford to a cost-effective, short-term deal. He could also shop winger Brandon Saad if the return fetches a young, NHL-ready player.
Noting the Colorado Avalanche’s plentiful salary-cap space, O’Leary wondered if GM Joe Sakic might pursue Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall via free agency. He acknowledged it’s probably a “pie-in-the-sky fantasy,” but felt it was feasible enough.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall was linked to the Avs in this season’s trade-rumor mill. Nevertheless, I don’t think they need to blow a lot of money on a big-ticket UFA winger when Gabriel Landeskog does a fine job filling the first-line left-wing role. It wouldn’t make sense to overpay for Hall to play a second-line role. Yes, they could move Landeskog down to the second line, but it’s not a good idea to break up his chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon and Miko Rantanen.
O’Leary wondered if Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill will get creative to find a goal scorer. Veterans Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov have had down performances this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill could address that issue by peddling a defenseman like Esa Lindell, John Klingberg, or Miro Heiskanen. However, I doubt he’ll make such a bold move. He could be forced to find more affordable options through free agency or within his system.
With the Minnesota Wild having replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach with Dean Evason on an interim basis, O’Leary wondered if they’ll splurge on a new bench boss. Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette are all available, but GM Bill Guerin said he won’t interview candidates during the league’s hiatus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin didn’t rule out sticking with Evason as the full-time replacement. Nevertheless, we can’t rule the possibility he’ll speak with some of those more experienced coaches.
Could this season be Pekka Rinne’s last in goal for the Nashville Predators? He’s been outplayed by Juuse Saros this season. He also has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That depends on Rinne and GM David Poile. I suspect Rinne will be back. He’s carrying a plus-35 contract, meaning a buyout wouldn’t provide any cap relief. He also has a no-movement clause preventing his demotion to the minors and a 10-team trade list.
Rinne could be a compliance buyout candidate if the league and the PA implement that option for this offseason, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Poile kept him around for one more year.
O’Leary wonders if St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo will hit the open market. He’s the heart-and-soul of the club, but he’s also in a position to command between $8 million and $10 million annually. With limited salary-cap space, GM Doug Armstrong might have to shed salary to re-sign Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Veteran forward Alexander Steen ($5.75 million annual average value) has come up in the rumor mill as a trade candidate, but he’s 36 and also carries a full no-trade clause through Feb. 1, 2021. They could have better luck shopping goaltender Jake Allen, who’s signed through next season with an AAV of $4.35 million.
Will the Dustin Byfuglien saga be resolved?
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, a resolution could come soon. “Now the Players Association, the league, the player and the Winnipeg Jets are all aligned on the termination agreement but it hasn’t been executed yet and because of that the Winnipeg Jets aren’t in a position to announce but the detail work between the league and the Winnipeg Jets is expected to be ironed out in the near future.”