NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2020
Should the Oilers re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Which notable players should the Sabres retain? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.
SHOULD THE OILERS RE-SIGN NUGENT-HOPKINS ASAP?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell called upon the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once this season is over. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Mitchell cited Nugent-Hopkins’ improved offensive game skating on the wing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. A big offensive performance next season could make re-signing him more difficult. He suggested inking Nugent-Hopkins to a six-year, $45-million extension, which would equate to an annual average value of $7.5 million.
Mitchell believes the idea of moving Nugent-Hopkins at next season’s trade deadline is noxious to Oilers’ fans. He feels the Oilers will never get full value back by moving him as a playoff rental. He thinks there’s no one in the Oilers’ system to adequately replace the versatile forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the previous two seasons. His solid play this season and the Oilers’ improvement in the standings silenced that chatter for the most part. However, he could resurface in next season’s rumor mill he’s still unsigned as the trade deadline approaches.
As Mitchell observes, the salary cap will determine what the Oilers can afford to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48 million invested in nine players for 2021-22.
Some of that cap room will be taken up this year by re-signing or replacing such notables as Mike Smith, Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Riley Sheahan. Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell will be among those due for new contracts in 2021.
Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2021-22, there should be enough to accommodate a $7.5 million AAV for Nugent-Hopkins. His performance next season will also be a determining factor.
LATEST ON THE SABRES
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski and Mike Harrington weighed in on which notable players the Sabres should retain.
They were split on Rasmus Ristolainen, as Lysowski pointed to the regression in the blueliner’s play. Moving him could fetch some scoring help and free up cap room to sign a free-agent rearguard like Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen often comes up as a Sabres’ trade candidate. However, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger indicated last week they still consider the 25-year-old defenseman among their core players. If so, that suggests Ristolainen won’t be shopped.
Both believe Brandon Montour should be traded. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent and they feel there’s no room for his style of play in Krueger’s system. He could bring the Sabres a second- or third-line forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have depth on the blueline but need more on their forward lines. If Ristolainen isn’t shopped, Montour could become the likely candidate. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility and has arbitration rights this year. Ristolainen, on the other hand, is under contract through 2021-22.
They also split on Jimmy Vesey, with Harrington believing he’s not the scoring winger he was projected to become.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Harrington on this one. A highly-touted college player, Vesey’s struggled in the NHL.
Both believe the Sabres should re-sign UFA winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year deal, part ways with UFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Michael Frolik, and Vladimir Sobotka, and attempt to trade goalie Carter Hutton.