NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020

by | Jul 15, 2020 | Rumors | 30 comments

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we examine the latest on the Flames and Oilers, plus how the elimination of the UFA interview period could be a win for the players.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently examined the effect of a flat salary cap ($81.5 million) on the Calgary Flames for next season. With nine forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender under contract, they have less than $17 million to work with.

Of their restricted free agents, Cruickshank assumed the Flames will retain Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. He suggested shopping Mark Jankowski’s rights or letting him become an unrestricted free agent by not qualifying his rights.

Cruickshank doesn’t expect the Flames can afford to keep both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic. Both are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. He suggested re-signing Brodie and letting Hamonic walk or shopping his rights for a pick at the 2020 NHL Draft. Trade deadline acquisitions Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort are unlikely to be re-signed.  Cruickshank expects UFA goalie Cam Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere, leaving the Flames in need of an affordable backup (like Anton Forsberg) for David Rittich.

Trade rumors have dogged Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (Photo via NHL Images).

That won’t leave much room to pursue a free-agent star such as winger Taylor Hall unless they make a couple of significant cost-cutting moves.

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis also speculated the Flames will retain Brodie during a recent mailbag segment. He was also asked if the Flames might replace Talbot and winger Johnny Gaudreau with Robin Lehner and Hall. Francis felt there’s a remote possibility to sign Lehner but it made no sense to dump Gaudreau to sign the more expensive Hall.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis also noted the trade speculation dogging Gaudreau over the past year-and-a-half, expecting such a move will eventually happen. The 26-year-old has fallen out of favor with Flames fans since a disappointing performance in last year’s playoffs followed by sub-par production during this season.

Another dissatisfying postseason effort on Gaudreau’s part will ramp up the trade speculation during the off-season. He lacks no-trade protection for next season, but his $6.75-million annual average value could be difficult to move under a flat cap.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined the Edmonton Oilers’ cap situation. For next season, they could use their leverage to re-sign Ethan Bear (no arbitration rights) to a cheap one-year contract. Trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou (restricted free agent) could return at his current salary ($3 million) while veteran goalie Mike Smith (UFA) should return.

Willis speculates winger James Neal and defenseman Kris Russell could be bought out, though the latter could be shopped with 50 percent salary retention (in real dollars worth only $750K to his new team).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect most of Willis’ scenario for next season will play out as expected. Smith is in the twilight of his career and could accept another one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the recent elimination of the five-to-seven day window for clubs to interview pending UFAs in the CBA extension is a win for the players. With little time for general managers to prepare, it could spark a return to the opening-day bidding wars of the past.

Larkin suggests it will be the end of media leaks leading up to the noon ET start of free agency. It could also mean fewer signings on opening day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While this isn’t a rumor, this will affect the UFA market going forward.  The absence of the interview period means there will be more intrigue leading up to the start of the free-agency period. It will also mean we could see some notable UFAs taking several days to sign.

The flat cap could also affect the market value for the top UFA. Larkin speculates that could change in a year or two as hockey-related revenue improves, thus raising the salary cap.


  1. On Gaudreau: I am always stunned by the Flames fan hate, or at least the perception of it. He (the whole top line; hell, the whole team) had a terrible playoffs against Colorado last year. To center the blame on him seems ludicrous as he had no support; yes you need your top guys to get it done, but it is still a team game. 3 guys had a good series against Colorado: Mike Smith, Tkachuk, and Bennett.

    Even at JG’s production level this year, his contract is a bargain and I think the Flames lose any trade involving shipping him out unless he flat out informs them he isn’t resigning. If he ghosts in the playoffs again this year, then maybe I’ll change my tune. I think CGY needs to put a Tkachuk, Bennett or even Looch on the top line to give JG some space and protection. Monahan is a good finisher, but if JG doesn’t create the play, the puck doesn’t go in, and he needs space to do that.

    Quick note on the removal of the interview period: while it will be less fun on July 1; should mean that we get a solid week of rumours about bidders and signings.

    • SCJ, you clearly get to see a lot more of Gaudreau than most of us … just wondering, from your perspective could his decrease in production in playoff hockey be in any way attributed to his diminutive size in the face of tighter-checking hockey and referees pocketing their whistles?

      From the playoff games I saw involving Calgary in the 2018-19 season he always seemed to be picking himself up off the ice.

      • George, I think that would be fair to say. The issue with Calgary’s top line is that it lives and dies with JG creating opportunities. Monahan picks up the goals, but he doesn’t tend to create the space. With the tighter checking play in the playoffs, JG isn’t given an inch and is hit a lot harder.

        Part of that is on him. Top guys need to adjust for that and know it’s coming and make the play.

        The other part is what I mentioned about getting an agitator up on that line that will take a little focus off of Johnny so he has that split second more to make something happen.

    • Re: removal of the interview period. I agree, SCJ. It’ll certainly provide a boost to my traffic and ad revenue, as it usually plummeted immediately following July 1 when all the notable players were signed.

      • The money that TSN and Sportsnet won’t make in future years will have to go somewhere … bonne chance

    • Gaudreau is a real interesting situation. Yes he had a bad year, but in my opinion is front-line material for any team. But the problem in trading for him is his love of the Flyers – is that his destination at contract end, and if so why give up valuable assets to get him. I agree that the only way Calgary trades him is if they know they can’t sign him, and then why would a team give up much knowing this. Although recent Hall transaction mitigates this thought process, I would not want to give up much for him.

    • You’d think that it’s stunning for Flames fan to hate Gaudreau. But as an Oilers fan, I saw the same with Eberle. We traded him away and our team got slower and lack the 60 points that he’d normally give to help us into the post season for the next 2 seasons. But most Oilers fans still love to get rid of him. I suspect that Flames fans are thinking the same. All I can say is, beware of what you wish for Flames fans.

  2. A lot will depend on how Valamaki looks for the Flames. They have surprised in the past but I don’t see a big signing or big name trade. They should keep TJ Brodie sign and trade Hamonic. Maybe to the Jets.
    There is a reason a gifted scorer like James Neal has played for so many teams. Not a locker room favourite is the impression I get. The Oilers will move him prior to his contract ending one way or the other.

    • Don’t see a lot of sign-and-trades anymore, but would be nice to see some assets come back. I agree that Brodie is the guy you re-sign if the price is right. Andersson deserves some top-4 time and I think he’ll help Hanifin to have a better season (the fancy stats for their minutes together were a big improvement over Hanifin / Hamonic).

      Sign Forbort as a discount Hamonic and then hopefully Valimaki is ready for some action next year.

      • SCJ it will be an interesting series between the flames and Jets, up front closely matched, defense goes to Flames and goaltending to the Jets.

        If one team can get help from their depth at third or fourth line could be the difference in a tight series.

      • I’ll take the Jets in that one.
        IMO the Jets top 6 is better than the Flames. Their top 6 is up there with just about anybody, maybe other than TB.

      • Ray I would say Winnipeg top 5 is up there but not top 6, as Cody Eakin is centering the top 6.

        Elhers is 21 playoff games has 0 goals and 7 helpers, he’ll have to prove people wrong that he disappears in the playoffs when the play gets physical.

        What will be interesting for me is how Winnipeg handles Matthew Tkachuk, this isn’t last years Jets, that no longer has that physical edge. Laine has shown a more physical side this season and he could be a difference maker if he deiced to continue down that path.

      • I think it will be one of the best and most closely matched series of the qualifying round. I agree that Peg has the fwd edge; but the ability of Calgary’s second line to shut down top performers (and Calgary getting last change per home ice advantage) will be essential.

        Hellebuyck is the game-changer. He’s my Vezina pick this year and if he kicks it up a notch it could be frightening. As a Flames fan, I’m hoping that it takes him a game or two and Calgary can get a series lead before he gets too hot.

        Also looking forward to Leafs – Columbus. The hard-work play of the Jackets could cause some issues and I read a good article about their “Power-kill” and how much trouble it gave teams like the Leafs.

      • Fair point on Eakin Caper, decent player but not a 2C so far in his career. Maybe having high quality wingers will push up his point totals. Demelo was a decent pick up too for cheap. Seem like good stick your nose in there and battle hard guys.
        Something not right about the Flames, just kinda meh? Other than a few guys they just don’t seem to have much intensity on that team.
        Which is what I think the knock on JG is. Not just about the points in the playoffs where you are fighting for every inch on every shift and guys that don’t are exposed.
        We will see soon enough I guess.

  3. On Gaudreau and his size. In his first 5 seasons, he averaged 78 games per. He played all 70 games in this shortened season.. meaning he’s missed 2 games last 3 seasons. To my knowledge, he has played every playoff game. Pretty durable for a little guy. 12 points in 20 games is not bad, considering playoffs for anyone is harder. And for his career, he only played 1 team that finished below them. I’d argue regular season stats more important for fact you’re helping win games needed just to get to playoffs.

    • That last part is really valid and never to be overlooked Slick62 – just getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment and every team that gets there has to have players producing at a better-than-average rate. Gaudreau does that in spades.

      As for his endurance, my thoughts on his size never called that into question. Just that getting bounced around like a ping-pong ball increases in frequency by quite a bit as the games take on more intensity down the stretch and, once the playoffs arrive, it’s no secret that what was a penalty during the season is often overlooked. To the utter frustration of players like Gaudreau who, as SCJ points out above, can’t seem to adjust his game accordingly.

      • George, I think we had same arguments last year about Hughes and draft. Lol. Other point of reg season vs playoffs. Once you get to playoffs, you don’t get to pile up points against weaker teams. As I mentioned, Gaudreaus playoff series where all against higher seeded teams, except 1. 12 points in 20 games is probably in line with most players when comparing playoffs and reg season. Not sure his size is as much a factor as much as the intensity and better competition of playoffs. Would I prefer someone with same skills in a bigger body? Heck yeah. Especially on defense.

  4. Calgary still has a shot at #1 pick. If they’re lucky enough to win the Lafrenierre sweeps, then shopping Gaudreau makes a lot of sense.
    Harmonic is ufa. Nobody is trading for him.

  5. Slick62, Hamonic is the kind of UFA I could see Dorion pursuing to add some veteran presence on the back-end (replacing Hainsey in that regard). Just 29 and big, Wonder how much more than his expiring $3,857,143 he’ll be seeking and for how long? He only turns 30 in August. Would $4.5 mil for 4 years do it?

    • George, hard to say. You mention all the time about economic times. For your Sens, that’s a smart, affordable deal. A lot of FA right D this year. Might get him cheaper. Good to add veteran Dmen on a young team.

    • Agree George, he is the type of guy OTT could use.
      Hamonic wanted a trade out of NY to be closer to home in Manitoba for family reasons a few years ago.
      I don’t know if that is still the case, and OTT isn’t that far if it is.
      But WPG could use a tough RD next year too.

  6. Hamonic will be signing with Jets as a UFA. Book it.

    • Before I book it Wendel, riddle me this: right now the jets have $65,922,855 invested in 13 for next season. That leaves them $15,577,145 to sign 10.

      They only have 4 RFAs to deal with currently making a collective $3,178,353 off the cap. None should achieve more than nominal increases so let’s say they are rounded off at $4 mil. That leaves them with 11,577,145 to sign 6.

      Among their 11 UFAs the ones they’ll likely be seeking to re-sign are Eakin, a home-town boy just recently obtained from Vegas coming off a $3,850,000 cap hit, Dimitri Kulakov, a mainstay on D coming off $5.5 mil, and Dylan DeMelo, also recently obtained from Ottawa, coming off a $900,000 cap hit. Then there’s back-up goalie Brossoit who made $1,225,000. Combined that’s
      $11,475,000 BEFORE any increases are factored in, which, in itself, would eliminate what space they’d have left. And even if they let Brossoit walk they still need to find a back-up.

      So, how do they fit in a Hamonic who will likely be seeking something north of $4 mi?

      • Valid point George, they would need to move/not sign someone.
        From a strictly add to an area of need and trade from an area of depth, I move either Little, Perrault or don’t sign Eakin. I don’t think they trade for Eakin if Little was able to play this season. Strange injury.
        Would be interesting to hear what Caper or another WPG native/fan thinks about which 2 are the best to keep.
        Since trades are going to be difficult for guys making $$ they may just not resign Eakin.

      • 65 mil includes Little’s 5.5mil hit, it is far from clear if he will ever play again.

        Also – Kulikov’s current hit is 4.3, not 5.5. If the Jets resign him it would likely be at closer to 2.5-3mil. He has been everything from injured to #7 d for most of the past 2 years and is about a #4 defenseman on the Jets (not a high bar by many standards).

        I don’t think Eakin will get a raise, Brossoit may get a nominal raise but the goalie market is a buyers market.

        The sum of this frees about 6.7 mil to add to your projected total to sign a player.

        DeMelo will get a substantial raise if he signs with the Jets.

        The sum total of the rest of the rest of the RFAs and UFAs will be about the same as current, Roslovic will get more or get favourable term leading to UFA or be traded.

        They have room for an upgrade even if Little returns.

      • That was my thinking Ray. It’s often tossed back in these pages when such questions are posed that “oh, (the GM concerned) will just move X and his $4/5 million cap hit …” without bothering to mention move him where?

        Just looking at the cap situation they face, not signing someone seems to be their best bet – but Eakin’s hit was $3,850,000 and with the other moves involving their RFAs and UFAs they wish to keep (Kulikov, DeMelo and Brossoit – or a suitable replacement – that alone won’t be sufficient to sign a Hamonic.

      • Thanks for pointing out the Kulikov cap error 2.0 – so much for scribbling down what I read at CapFriendly in my horrible hand-writing.

        But any way you look at it, there’s some juggling to be done and decisions to be made IF Hamonic is, indeed, a UFA target because he’s going to come in at around $4.5 mil simply because that’s what a team like Ottawa can afford to throw at him.

  7. Johnny Hockey does not get whacked and pushed around as often since Mr. Lucic came to town. I have seen Gaudreau live many times and his ability with his edges is special. Creates his own space In any direction. Granted his scoring finish a little off. To be honest his point decline was the lack of finish by Monahan who has had wrist issues

  8. If signing DeMelo and Eakin means that the Jets don’t have money to sign Hamonic then that is a trade-off the Jets are OK with.

    Little has value both if he plays and as an LTIR contract, Eakin has played only 8 games for the Jets and was just starting to get some chemistry… its a wait and see with him to know where he fits. Perreault has been reliable and versatile to make himself valuable – but not a the dollar amount he currently receives.

    I think they keep Little and Eakin (unless Eakin shows nothing in the playoffs and if he can agree on a contract). Perreault is the odd man out.

    • Maybe Perrault is the odd man out – but they then have to find a taker at $4,125,000 for a guy turning 33 in January and whose production has never risen above 45 pts. In the current circumstances good luck. I’m pretty sure of one thing – it won’t be Ottawa or Montreal.