NHL Rumor Mill – May 18, 2020
Check out the recent Blues speculation plus the latest on Max Domi in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE BLUES
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas was asked about the possibility of team captain Alex Pietrangelo accepting a one-year bridge deal with the Blues in hopes of securing a better deal next season if NHL revenues improve.
Thomas didn’t dismiss the possibility but pointed out it could take longer for league revenue to improve in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He also indicated other clubs possess sufficient salary-cap space under a flat cap to take a run at signing Pietrangelo in the off-season.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford was asked about the possibility of compliance buyouts of Alexander Steen or Tyler Bozak to free up salary-cap space to re-sign Pietrangelo. He doubts that’s an option, citing there’s a belief the league has no plans to implement compliance buyouts in the off-season. The Blues would have to go the normal buyout route, which won’t free up sufficient cap room for Pietrangelo’s new deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo’s status is going to dominate the rumor mill as we get closer to whenever this season officially comes to an end. The Blues have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players, with Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn as their notable free agents.
Pietrangelo will be an expensive re-signing. Assuming he accepts a “hometown discount” of between $7.5 million to $8 million on a one-year deal, general manager Doug Armstrong must shed salary to accommodate his new contract. If contract buyouts aren’t on the table, they’ll have to shed two or three players to find sufficient room for Pietrangelo and Dunn. That won’t be easy and could weaken their depth elsewhere in the lineup.
Last fall’s acquisition of Justin Faulk and the recent re-signing of Marco Scandella suggests Armstrong is preparing for Pietrangelo’s departure. Nevertheless, I’m not ruling out the possibility the Blues GM will find a way to keep his captain in the fold.
Rutherford was also asked if Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could become expendable given the left-side defensemen (such as Scott Perunovich) coming up in their system. He was also asked if Dunn could become targeted for an offer sheet.
Rutherford doesn’t consider Dunn expendable, citing his skating ability, top-four potential, youth (23), defensive skills, and affordability. He doesn’t reject the possibility of an offer sheet. However, he pointed out a flat cap for next season means teams will have less money to spend, making an offer sheet less likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Pietrangelo walks, re-signing Dunn is a no-brainer. Armstrong will still have to cut some salary elsewhere, but nowhere near as much as he would for Pietrangelo. If the captain is re-signed, finding sufficient room for Dunn’s new contract could be challenging.
UPDATE ON DOMI
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels recently acknowledged recent rumors suggesting Max Domi could be a trade candidate. Nevertheless, he feels there are plenty of reasons why the Montreal Canadiens will retain the 25-year-old forward.
The trade rumblings about Domi arose from his restricted free agent status (with arbitration rights) and the decline in his production this season. Engels said he never heard from anyone that the Canadiens were considering trading him.
Engels cited Domi’s love of playing in Montreal, his speed and offensive skills, and what he could do in the playoffs. With the NHL considering a return to play with a 24-team format, the Canadiens could get a chance to evaluate Domi under playoff conditions this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even without the possibility of the Canadiens being in a 24-team playoff format this summer, I still feel the Canadiens will re-sign Domi. While his stats are down this season, he’s not the only Hab to struggle a bit this season.
Much of that trade chatter seemed to come from some in the Montreal media dreaming of Domi being used as a trade chip to acquire a top-pairing, left-side defenseman. If the league returns with that enlarged postseason format and Domi performs well, I expect he and the Canadiens will work out a new contract later this summer.