NHL Rumor Mill – April 9, 2020
Off-season questions for several Atlantic Division clubs in the NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently posed one off-season question for each NHL Atlantic Division club. Among them:
What will the Boston Bruins do with Torey Krug? The 28-year-old defenseman is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s averaged 53 points per 82 games in his career. Krug is earning $5.25 million annually on his current contract but could receive upward of $7 million per on his next deal. The Bruins have over $22 million in salary-cap space but have other free agents (including winger Jake DeBrusk) to re-sign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug hinted earlier this season he wants to stay in Boston and was open to a hometown discount. I assume that could mean around $6.5 million annually. That would push the Bruins’ to nearly $68 million invested in 18 players, leaving around $13 million to re-sign (or replace) DeBrusk, Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, and Anders Bjork.
General manager Don Sweeney could use DeBrusk’s lack of arbitration rights to sign him to an affordable short-term deal, which could free up sufficient space to re-sign most of the others. Still, it could be a tight fit if the cap remains at $81.5 million.
Wegman wondered which defenseman the Buffalo Sabres could move, and how they’ll acquire a second-line center. This year’s UFA market won’t address the latter. The Sabres have plenty of depth in right-side defensemen, including Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour. Ristolainen seems the most likely to be shopped, but he won’t fetch that second-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wegman feels GM Jason Botterill will have to get creative. With over $47 million invested in 10 players, Botterill must also re-sign restricted free agents Montour, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Linus Ullmark, and Dominik Kahun.
He should have sufficient cap space to add a second-line center via trade. It might not cost him a defenseman if he targets a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary.
Citing a March edition of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, Wegman speculated over the possibility of the Florida Panthers breaking up their core. The club continues to struggle to reach the playoffs.
Wegman considers trading Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Aaron Ekblad as seemingly unthinkable, while blueliner Keith Yandle has a no-movement clause. Letting Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov depart via free agency might be as dramatic as it gets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Defenseman Mike Matheson could be shopped. He surfaced in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Panthers could revisit testing his value in the trade market during the off-season.
If owner Vinnie Viola wants to cut costs, Ekblad and Barkov lack no-trade protection. Unless those players want out of Florida, I don’t see them being moved.
Wegman pondered the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens attempting to sign another club’s top restricted free agent to an offer sheet. They have the cap space to sign someone like the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal or the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens made a half-hearted attempt to sign away Sebastian Aho from the Carolina Hurricanes last summer. Unless GM Marc Bergevin is willing to make a truly mind-blowing offer, I doubt he’ll pry Barzal or Sergachev from their respective clubs. That’s assuming either guy is willing to sign an offer sheet in the first place.
How will the Tampa Bay Lightning get cap compliant? They have over $76 million invested in 15 players with five pending RFAs including Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli.
Wegman considers it unlikely Ondrej Palat or Tyler Johnson will waive their no-trade clauses. Winger Alex Killorn could become a cap casualty, as his full no-trade becomes a 16-team no-trade list following this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Killorn seems the likely trade option. It’ll be interesting to see how Lightning GM Julien BriseBois handles this situation.
Wegman wondered how the Toronto Maple Leafs will address their defense with their limited cap space. RFAs Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev need to be re-signed, while UFA blueliners Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci must be replaced. He speculates they could shop a winger like Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen as part of a package for a top-four defenseman, but it won’t be easy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has no intention of shopping one of his top-four forwards (Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander), peddling Johnsson or Kapanen could be his only option to address his blueline situation.