Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 23, 2020
The latest Flames speculation plus updates on Taylor Hall, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Alex Pietrangelo in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
CHANGES COMING FOR THE FLAMES?
SPORTSNET: Eric Francis believes Johnny Gaudreau has likely played his final game with the Calgary Flames, pointing to what he called the winger’s “annual disappearance” during the playoffs. He feels Gaudreau’s style of game doesn’t mesh with post-season hockey as teams collapse their defense and intensity ramps up.
Gaudreau has two years left on his contract. Francis feels it won’t be easy to move him now, citing his playoff performances and his $6.75 million annual average value under a flattened salary cap. He suggested center Sean Monahan would have to be included to sweeten the deal. However, he feels general manager Brad Treliving prefers to keep Monahan and finding another winger to play alongside him.
Waiting another year to move Gaudreau when his limited no-trade clause kicks in will only hamper efforts to deal him. Francis feels now is the time.
Francis also thinks Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund are less likely to move, while Sam Bennett’s rising stock should keep him in Calgary.
Luke Fox feels there’s a financial incentive for contenders to pursue Gaudreau. Once the winger collects his $3.5 million bonus check for 2020-21 from the Flames, an acquiring club could get him for two seasons to a total of $10 million in actual salary. That could be a good deal for teams seeking scoring depth under a flattened salary cap.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Brian Costello suggested Gaudreau could be a difference-maker for clubs trying to reach the playoffs. He listed the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and Columbus Blue Jackets as possible Eastern options. He also noted there’s speculation Gaudreau would prefer signing with an Eastern club when he becomes a UFA in 2022.
Costello said it’s no big secret the Flames would like to pursue Calgary native Taylor Hall via free agency at season’s end. He feels Gaudreau could fetch the Flames a decent return. He also wondered about Monahan’s fate, noting the chemistry between the two forwards isn’t working anymore. He thinks Gaudreau and Monahan will be former Flames by the end of this year.
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson noted some observes feel the Philadelphia Flyers would love to land Gaudreau, a native of Carneys Point, NJ. “Really? Last we checked, the Flyers have a pretty good thing going,” said Gilbertson.
TSN: Frank Seravalli acknowledged plenty of fingers are being pointed at Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. This postseason proved the Flames are Matthew Tkachuk’s team now, as they sagged without him after the winger was sidelined early in their first-round series against the Dallas Stars. Rather than blow up the roster, however, Seravalli suggests finding a better supporting cast for Tkachuk to take the heat off Gaudreau and Monahan.
Seravalli believes the Flames’ priority should be improving their goaltending. This could be the summer to make a splash. Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and Vegas’ Robin Lehner could become free agents, while Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray could also become available.
The fate of their blueline needs to be addressed. T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic are among those slated for UFA status. Seravalli also wondered about the fate of interim head coach Geoff Ward. If general manager Brad Treliving opts to start fresh, it would be his fifth coaching hire in seven years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It certainly seems likely that Gaudreau could be on the move during the off-season. Despite his postseason struggles, his regular-season production would be attractive to teams seeking scoring punch to reach the playoffs.
The Devils could be the best fit. They have the cap space and need an established winger alongside center Nico Hischier. The Sabres also have cap space but also have Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson at left wing and a greater need for a second-line center.
The Panthers have Jonathan Huberdeau as their first-line left-winger. They could reportedly cut costs in the offseason. The Blue Jackets could use Gaudreau but he and demanding head coach John Tortorella are as different as chalk and cheese.
Treliving could move Monahan but finding a suitable first-line center to replace him would be very difficult. If the Flames GM is interested in pursuing Hall, he’ll want Monahan there as his first-line center.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’S SATURDAY HEADLINES
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall will make finding a stable, winning situation his priority if he hits the open market at season’s end. He feels the 28-year-old Hall would prefer “a winning place to land” over one that could fill up his bank account the most. The winger’s only been in the playoff twice during his 10-year NHL career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t mean Hall won’t be looking for a good contract. He’ll still want to get paid market value or as close to it as possible. Nevertheless, playing for a contender could mean more to him right now.
Speaking of the Coyotes, Elliotte Friedman suggested the future of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be worth following in the off-season. The 29-year-old defenseman has seven years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause. However, Friedman suggests it’ll come down to what ownership and new management wants to do going forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Right now, we don’t know if the Coyotes intend to trade Ekman-Larsson. He has full control over his fate. If he doesn’t want to waive his NMC, that could be the end of it.
However, if ownership makes the case that they’d like to move on without him, it could be a powerful incentive to waive it. Clubs lacking a top-two, left-side defenseman would be interested, but he’d still determine where he’d go.
Friedman also reported plenty of time remains for the St. Louis Blues and team captain Alex Pietrangelo to hammer out a new contract. There are still seven weeks until the UFA market opens on Nov. 1. It’s believed Pietrangelo wants to stay in St. Louis. Last October, Friedman reported the Blues wanted to sign him to a long-term deal below $9 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could affect how much the Blues can afford to invest in Pietrangelo. Nevertheless, the two sides seem keen to get a deal done. I’ll be surprised if he hits the open market in November.