NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

by | Jul 6, 2020 | Rumors | 32 comments

Check out the latest speculation on the Oilers and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently reported the Oilers will be squeezed by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21. With over $71 million already invested in next season’s payroll, general manager Ken Holland will have around $10.5 million available.

The Oilers restricted free agents include Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, and Matt Benning. Their unrestricted free agents include Mike Smith, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis.

Staples feels $10.5 million should be enough to retain those free agents or bring in potential replacements. However, it rules out the possibility of pursuing a big-ticket free agent. He knows some Oilers followers would love to see the club bring back winger Taylor Hall, but that doesn’t seem possible, especially with younger players like Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard in need of contracts down the road.

Could the Edmonton Oilers consider an off-season buyout of James Neal’s contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

It could also be difficult to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson if the cap stays flat for 2021-22. Both are due to become UFAs next summer.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also examined the difficulties facing the Oilers under a flat cap.

He speculates useful UFAs like Smith and center Riley Sheahan could find cost-conscious offers unacceptable. The Oilers could also trade or walk away from RFAs like Athanasiou or Benning, who have arbitration rights.

For those without arbitration rights like Bear, Mitchell speculates they could get an affordable one-year bridge deal. They could also consider trading Kris Russell or Alex Chiasson or buying out winger James Neal’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fates of some of those free agents could depend upon their play in the upcoming playoff tournament. The same goes for Russell, Chiasson, or Neal. I agree that those players lacking arbitration will probably have to accept bridge deals for a year or two.

As Staples observed, Russell could be enticing to a cost-conscious club looking to reach the cap floor. He carries a $4 million cap hit but will earn just $1.5 million in actual salary after being paid his $1 million signing bonus for 2020-21. That’s assuming one of those clubs will be on his 15-team trade list for next season.

Cap Friendly indicates buying out Neal would free up over $3.8 million, leaving just over $1.9 million against the Oilers cap. However, it would also be that much dead cap space annually for the next six seasons.

Holland could be reluctant to move Chiasson. He carries an affordable $2.15 million cap hit for next season.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl recently examined several potential free-agent forwards who could help the Sabres improve their road record. He suggested Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikail Granlund, Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov, or Florida’s Erik Haula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli, a skilled two-way player with Stanley Cup experience, would be the best bet. Granlund struggled following his trade from Minnesota last season but improved when John Hynes took over as Predators coach at midseason.

Both could provide a welcome boost to the Sabres’ secondary scoring. Signing them, however, could be difficult given the Sabres’ recent reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.


  1. There are a few up against the cap free agent teams out there. There are a few teams (Ott, NJ, Ducks) who have cap space and are rebuilding. Should be a great game of poker…..

    • Ducks don’t have the cap space, Even with Kesler on LTIR Ducks only have about $12 million to spend. Ottawa has about $42 million in salary cap and Detroit has about $41.3 million in salary cap including Zetterbergs $6.1 mill on LTIR.

  2. Buffalo needs to let Thompson and Mittelstadt spend season in NHL. Let Cozens start in AHL. Sign their rfa’s. Try to sign one of Toffoli or Hoffman. Namestikov should be a cheap add. If Askarov is available at 8, take him. That’s goalie of future.

    • Cozens either plays in the NHL or goes back to Juniors where he has nothing to prove. The CHL agreement really hamstrings clubs with prospects that should go to the AHL but are not yet 20.

      • Yea well that agreement is in place to protect the Junior teams that develop these future stars for the NHL. The CHL is by far the best league for developing players.

        The NHL recognizes that these junior teams have such a quick player turnover rate, that this rule helps them keep players around longer instead of playing limited minutes in the AHL.

        Just because the average fan doesn’t like or understands the importance of it, doesn’t mean it should be changed.

      • The fact the nhl is propping up the chl at the expense of the you g players and to lesser extent the ahl is a shame. If the chl can’t survive without it it should contract.

      • Always amazed me how they can arbitrarily tell an 18- or 19- year old North American – someone old enough to serve in and die in an armed force – that he can’t start earning a nice salary by playing in the AHL if that is his choice, while a European can!

        I have often wondered how that would stand up to a court challenge.

  3. Re Staples thinking $10.5 M can cover Bear AND AA AND Benning AND Smith AND Green AND Ennis; or their replacements…. to me $10.5 M won’t get those 6 so it will be at least 2 or 3 replacements … and league min is increasing to $750 K !!!!

    If it’s to be Bear, Benning; AA…. to me that’s a min of *$7.5 M…. leaving an average of just under $1 M each avg to sign the other 3 or their replacements

    * to retain rights for Benning and AA …. have to offer current Sal……$4.9M … Bear has to get $2.5 M min IMHO

    Tons o’ teams will be hit hard on this flat cap

    Sens in driver seat for deals taking on short term high cap low cost contracts (Boychuck , Stepan etc) to gain prospects from Cap strapped teams

    As Kevin also pointed out NJ ($26 M to sign 10 including 5 RFAs) and to a lesser extent Ana (with Kessler LTIR… $12.7 M for 7 positions but only 2 RFAs … Milano/ Larsson ); also options for cap strapped teams

    Just an FYI for GMs….. my standing offer of ZAR, Laffy, Ruhweedel for a late rounder for any team willing to take JJ in the deal…just sayin’ … 4 players for a late rounder !! 👍🤓🙏🤞

    • Pengy, I don’t get the whole JJ thing. If he’s so bad, and Pens really need the cap space, why don’t they just buy him out? Not that a 3.2 mil cap hit is the worst, but they don’t currently carry any dead cap. Buying out JJ would be minimum dead cap hit.

      • It’s because jj isn’t nearly as big a liability as some on here would have you believe.

      • Hi Slick

        Reading this now (next day)

        Your question is exactly my question.

        Pens haven’t done buyouts in the past but if there ever was a time to set a precedent, it’s with JJ.

        He could have been bought out last July and his 19/20 Cap hit would have only been $270 K (not a typo)

        Rutherford is too stubborn to admit his mistakes


      • Hi Randino

        Unfortunately he is that bad

        In my life I have played; coached; watched all levels of hockey

        I’ve been doing that for over 5 decades

        For the past few years I’ve missed but maybe 10 total Penguins or Leafs games

        I watch at least an extra 100 NHL games a year that don’t include either Pens or Leafs

        I watch the Juniors; Olympics; world championships; world Juniors; AHL; Spengler; etc etc etc

        In summary ; I watched all levels of hockey; thousands of games… and I have never ever witnessed a player so entirely detrimental to a team’s success

        All by his lonesome ; his brutal mistakes cost Pens 11 game points in 18/19…. which would have had them finish 2nd in the League

        Every single one of his teammates (that played at least 10 games) had substantially higher stats when JJ was on the bench

        There was a point late in 18/19 when the cumulative Pens‘ XGF – XGA % was 19 points higher when JJ was on the bench vs when he was on… that was for 70 + games

        He doesn’t even come close to passing the eye test; and statistically he completely drags down the team

        He is that bad

        He has one thing he is good at…. blocking shots

        He consistently flubs cross ice passes at the opposing blue-line; is brutal on breakout passes; must average at least 3 times a game that he follows his D partner into D partners corner (while D partner already engaged with puck carrier and concurrently leaving his man completely uncovered in front of Murray or Jarry); he makes panicked moves all the time screwing up what was an extended onslaught in the opponents end. He is horrendous on the PK

        The list goes on and on

        The contract signing was very bad to start but is cataclysmic now and Rutherford won’t admit his mistakes

        In fact during a spell where JJ had individually cost two games and had been a strong (very string) contributor to a losing spell for the Pens; and media was dumping on him voraciously … Jim publicly defended him and actually praised his contributions !!!!!

        I stand by my convictions…. in the last 50 years no NHL player has individually been as detrimental to his teams success than JJ

        I’m sure he’s a good guy or we would have heard about it by now. I have no ill feelings towards him as a person … AT ALL. I empathize with him regarding his personal finance situation

        That said, I’m just horrified at the notion that Sully is afraid to publicly affront Jimbo by rightfully benching JJ


        That’s my pre 7 AM vent

  4. Edmonton is going to have to eat some cap on Neal, maybe trade RNH for a decent young prospect and trade Russell…or something. Then let Smith walk.

    To EDM: Poehling + Juulsen + Alzner ($5.55M)
    To MTL: RNH + Marody ($6.925M)

    Montreal has been looking to upgrade their forward position, RNH can do that. With Romanov and Fleury filling the youth need on the backend, Juulsen maybe expendable. Edmonton frees up another $1.38M to go towards Bear. Then make a trade with another Eastern team that is looking for veteran leadership.

    To NJD: Neal + Marody + Samorukov ($7.569M)
    To EDM: Kuokkanen + Mcleod ($1.674M)

    Now Edmonton saves $5.895M and can re-sign Athanasiou, Sheahan, Ennis, Russell and Benning/Green.

    • LeafsAdvocate: creative, but … NH is a center and MTL has to find out what they have in Suzuki and Kotkaniemi. Add Danault and the Habs have too many centers for NH to fit in.

      Juulsen? He has been injured so often no one can say what his ceiling is, so he will not fetch much. And the Habs are unlikely to let Poehling go less than one year into his career.

      Good for you for doing some thinking but not a proposal that works for either club, in my opinion.

      • Agreed.

        This is not a deal in Mtl’s interests.

    • Hi Leafs advocate

      I can’t see Holland moving RNH to save only $0.5 M (Poehling + Juulsen + Alzner are actually $6.4M ) and from what Habs fans keep posting here …. Alzner is a boat anchor. Deal to me heavily favours Habs

      Perhaps Holland could call Jimbo:

      Neal + Russell (18% retained) + Benson…. $9.05 M off Cap


      Bjug + Ruhweedel + JJ ….$8.05M into Cap

      Saves $1M Cap for Ed; gain a roster player in the deal

      For Pens … Russel for JJ @same Cap; Neal @ $1.65 M more than Bjug (and for 3 extra years) buffered/ accounted for by bigger numbers from Neil and added prospect Benson; plus bonus of ridding JJ

      My name is Pengy and I authorize this trade

      • I would rather have jj play 60 minutes a game than ever see Neal back in Pittsburgh. Dude was a dirty little stinker.

      • Hi Chrisms

        I know you’re joking but what did Neal do that made him a “dirty little stinker”?

        BTW…. I predict two things re Pens and these playoffs (if they do get underway and finish):

        1) If Sully completely benches JJ for the entirety (as all logic in any circumstance and in any language dictates) and Murray or Jarry at least play “fair to midland” Pens are in the SCF; and I believe they will win if it’s any opponent but Knights; if it’s Knights… could go either way

        2) If they give Poulin a chance to play in a game (he is going to be one of the 28); I believe he will shine!! 👍

        3) if Sully has a super brain fart and plays JJ 2nd pairing ; Pens won’t win round 1 and may not make it past Habs … and if they don’t … Pens are NOT getting Lafrennierre … as Karma does not work like that


      • He was a dirty player but I will not forget how embarrassed I was when he kneed the bruins in the face. Think it was marchand. The pens made me very proud the way they handled Cooke and seem to be avoiding the cheap head shots. So that was awful.

      • Thanks Chrisms

        I had forgot about that

        Would still take Neal EVERY day over JJ… see my early morning rant (response to Randino) above

        Fingers crossed on JJ benching

    • What would NJ’s interest in trading away two young prospects for that package and picking up the +6 million dollars. And you have Marody in both deals going out….

    • So why would Edmonton trade a proven 2 way 2C with a year left for 2 maybe NHL’ers and a boat anchor contract when they are a playoff team?
      Or if you prefer why would you trade the guy who was 5th in NHL scoring after going on Draisaitl’s wing?

      I will bet RNH resigns in EDM long term.

      Green gone, Smith a maybe, Benning traded.
      Bear long term if they get him on a deal, if not bridge.
      The guy I have no idea about is AA. Haven’t had much of a chance to see how he fits, but Holland knows him. No chemistry early, but really small sample size.
      If they can move Russell and keep Benning they will, just not sure they can.

      • For the Jersey proposal it was Neal, not RNH. If its RNH then it makes great sense for Jersey, just less for the Oil at that point. No reason for NJ to take on Neal and sending back 2 B prospects. Did I miss something.

      • Kevin, I posted in the wrong spot.
        Was trying to respond to Rattus and LJ.

      • Ray, your response should be addressed to LeafsAdvocate. He or she was the one that poised the scenario, not me.

  5. Ducks don’t have the cap space, Even with Kesler on LTIR Ducks only have about $12 million to spend. Ottawa has about $42 million in salary cap and Detroit has about $41.3 million in salary cap including Zetterbergs $6.1 mill on LTIR.

  6. I know pundits are desperate for copy but I wish they would do more than fantasize while typing. Everything I read coming out of Vancouver says the Canucks are determined to sign Toffoli (and Markstrom for that matter). They have the cap space so unless someone overpays for Toffoli he stays in Vancouver.

  7. Let’s not forget that in addition to any Neal buyout costs Edmonton still has a $750K cap hit for Lucic to play in Calgary for a few more years…

  8. I wonder how this all turns out?
    I love hockey, but I’m pretty busy in August through October.
    Can’t see myself tuning out, but there is definitely some conflict.

    • Bettman didn’t call you guys to see how busy you are? 🙂

      My wife is in advertising media, every single week she is having conversations with clients who are asking when broadcasts for NHL, NBA and MLB will be finalized and scheduling for advertisers made available, sports is always expensive for ads as it’s the last appointment viewing really left, viewership for everything is way up and advertisers are scrambling to make sure they get advertising inventory for all these leagues as soon as possible so of course the leagues are doing their best to make these things happen. Rates will be up and huge interest in booking ad spots so there is a lot driving this. League and owners want to recover some revenue, players want to lower escrow as much as possible which means they gotta play. Hockey and basketball are lower headcount so their bubbbles may work, with luck, not sure how MLB and especially NFL can pull it off but we’ll see. Personally I’ll watch hockey every night, it isn’t like there’s much else to do in Canada at least. I know people keep saying ice will suck in summer, but it isn’t like Vegas, Arizona, Florida and Texas are cold during a normal season so ice can be made in the heat, worst ice in the league is Barclay’s and they have a real winter so depends more on the arena than the climate outside.

  9. Human-6K BTU’s per hour x 20K

  10. Agreed RNH stays in Edmonton one way or the other.
    They will keep drafting defence and guessing will be again in October or whenever wherever that is