NHL Rumor Mill – August 28, 2020
The latest on the Canadiens, Oilers, and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine Godin examined how the Montreal Canadiens could use their cap space and their stockpile of draft picks and prospects to acquire players who otherwise wouldn’t be available at bargain prices.
They believe the Canadiens don’t have to trade winger Max Domi, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Despite his tepid playoffs, they feel he still has value to the Canadiens as a skilled offensive player. However, that could also make Domi valuable to other clubs. The Canadiens could swap him for another RFA like Detroit’s Anthony Mantha or Columbus’ Josh Anderson, package him with a first-round pick in hopes of landing an impact player or swing a hockey trade by shopping him to a club like the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Jonas Brodin.
Basu and Godin wonder whether the Habs would shop the first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s draft for immediate help. The Habs could also use the flattened salary cap to their advantage by re-signing players like Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to value deals. They could go the free-agent route to fill minor holes in the lineup, such as their backup goaltending.
They also suggested looking at trade targets on cap-strapped teams, pointing to Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn, Dallas’ Stephen Johns, and Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara. Killorn would bolster their forward lines (provided he waives his no-trade clause), while Johns or Nutivaara are right-side defensemen.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey reports Danault could face an uncertain future in Montreal with the rise of promising young centers like Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki. The two-way center was employed in a defensive role during the playoffs but indicated he wouldn’t want to limit himself to that specific part. With what he’s contributed in Montreal, Danault doesn’t expect his role will change, pointing out his offensive and defensive contributions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is expected to be busy in the off-season. He has a lot of assets to draw upon. Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for next season, giving him plenty of room to take on a salaried player or two. He’s also got 14 picks in this year’s draft, including three in the second and fourth rounds and two in the third and fifth rounds He also holds eight picks through rounds three, four, and five of the 2021 draft.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Domi in the offseason. He’s considered the Habs’ most likely trade chip, but that will depend upon how contract discussions go and his value in the trade market.
Danault’s remarks about playing solely a defensive role prompted some fans and pundits to speculate he could be on his way out of Montreal, but I don’t think that’s the case. Reading his full remarks, he indicated he believes his role won’t change. I agree with him. He remains the Habs’ best two-way forward. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played well in the postseason, but they still have limited NHL experience. I think Bergevin will stick with Danault centering one of his top-two lines for next season and see how things unfold.
As Basu and Godin point out, Bergevin must be careful not to overspend. He has a lot of cap space to work with for next season, but Danault, Gallagher, Petry, Armia, and Tartar become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The Habs GM can’t take on so much salary this year that it adversely affects efforts to retain most of those pending UFAs next summer.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan recently examined the unrestricted free agent goaltending options for the Detroit Red Wings. Among them are Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan also listed Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott and Edmonton’s Mike Smith, but I don’t believe either guy can help the Wings between the pipes. They need an experienced starter.
With over $47 million invested in 11 players for 2020-21, the Wings have plenty of salary-cap space to go shopping for goalie help in the UFA market. Nevertheless, GM Steve Yzerman will have to sell them on the merits of joining his rebuilding club. Markstrom and Crawford will likely stay with their current clubs. Lehner, too, if Vegas decides to part ways with Marc-Andre Fleury.
THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required) Max Bultman recently examined possible ways the Wings could address their second-line center position. He suggested Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot or Colorado’s Tyson Jost as trade options. Nashville’s Kyle Turris could be a free-agent option if the Predators buy out his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bultman’s article appears before the Leafs traded winger Kasperi Kapanen. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas hinted more changes could come but that doesn’t mean Kerfoot could follow Kapanen out the door.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited NHL insider Brian Lawton speculating the Oilers could trade two of their top-four defensemen. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, and Ethan Bear currently hold those spots.
Staples doesn’t see Bear going anywhere and thinks Nurse’s leadership, skating, physical play, and even-strength scoring should keep him in Edmonton. He took note of the recent speculation suggesting Larsson could be shopped, and also felt Klefbom could be moved if the right offer (No. 1 goal, top-line forward) came along.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently listed Florida winger Mike Hoffman, Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner, and Boston defenseman Torey Krug among his suggested free-agent targets for the Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers have over $70.4 million committed to 16 players next season. Unless they shed considerable salary, they can’t afford guys like Hoffman, Lehner, or Krug. If GM Ken Holland were to trade Larsson and/or Klefbom in cost-cutting moves, that would free up sufficient cap space for a proven starting goalie or a top-line forward.