NHL Rumor Mill – April 7, 2020
Some recent Metropolitan Division speculation in the NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently looked at a pressing offseason question for each NHL Metropolitan Division team. Among them:
Wegman wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes might attempt to sign Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner via free agency. The Hurricanes’ current goalie tandem of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek is under contract for one more season, but garnered mixed reviews in 2019-20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner would be an upgrade between the pipes for the Hurricanes, but signing him could be difficult. Wegman suggested Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell had salary-cap space at his disposal. With over $72 million invested in 15 players, he’ll have around $9 million to work with if the cap remains at $81.5 million next season.
Restricted free agents Warren Foegele and Haydn Fleury are affordable re-signings, but Waddell must re-sign or replace unrestricted free agents like Justin Williams, Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. He’ll also have to dump one of his current goalies to make room for Lehner.
Wegman also mused over Josh Anderson‘s future with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 25-year-old winger struggled before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Nevertheless, he frequently surfaced in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun has suggested Anderson could be moved in the offseason. Wegman believes the Jackets would be selling low. Anderson has arbitration rights and is a year away from UFA eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $68 million invested in 17 players and Pierre-Luc Dubois, Elvis Merzlikins, and Joonas Korpisalo also slated to become restricted free agents, the Jackets might be forced to move Anderson for salary-cap purposes. On the other hand, if they re-sign those three to affordable deals, perhaps they ink Anderson to a one-year deal and see how next season unfolds.
How the New York Rangers goaltending situation plays out is another intriguing question. Igor Shesterkin has taken over as their starter, while long-time Ranger Henrik Lundqvist has a year left on his contract. Alexandar Georgiev, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent. Wegman pondered the possibility of buying out Lundqvist or trading Georgiev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist could spare the Rangers the trouble and retire. If he doesn’t, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes he’ll be bought out. It would be a painful decision, but one that makes the most sense.
Wegman speculated over Shayne Gostisbehere‘s future with the Philadelphia Flyers. The 26-year-old defenseman has fallen out of favor and he could benefit from a fresh start. The Flyers would be selling low, but moving him would give the Flyers flexibility to re-sign Justin Braun, Robert Hagg, and Philippe Myers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in “Ghost Bear’s” performance and his $4.5-million annual average value through 2022-23 could make him a tough sell.
The Pittsburgh Penguins could face a tough choice with goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. Both are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. If they re-sign both, they risk losing one of them to the 2021 Seattle expansion draft. The Penguins are tight against the cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Pens have over $68 million committed to 15 players. Jarry has put up better numbers this season, but Murray has more experience and two Stanley Cup championships on his resume. GM Jim Rutherford faced a difficult decision before the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft between Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. He opted for Murray back then but could stick with Jarry this time around.
If the Washington Capitals are comfortable with Ilya Samsonov taking over as their full-time starting goalie from Braden Holtby, Wegman speculates they could sign an inexpensive backup. They could then use the saving to make a bit of a splash in the free-agent market on a one-year contract.