NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020
Could the Penguins trade Kris Letang? Are the Blackhawks trying to re-sign Corey Crawford? Could Wayne Simmonds join the Leafs? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE PENGUINS TRADE LETANG?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi reports Kris Letang would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin but feels the club could try to trade him. Neither ownership nor management feels the club would be better without Letang and the return of Todd Reirden as an assistant coach could benefit the 33-year-old defenseman.
Nevertheless, Rossi cites multiple team sources saying Letang expects to be traded. League sources claim Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was gauging the market value of the veteran blueliner but he’s not actively shopping him. Rutherford reportedly confided to associates that the right thing is for Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins-for-life.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t dismiss the possibility of Letang getting traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suiting up with the Penguins next season.
Letang’s contract won’t be easy to move. He has two years remaining on his contract worth $7.25 million per season. He also has an 18-team no-trade list and a no-movement clause preventing him from being demoted to the minors. The flattened salary cap for 2020-21 will also affect his trade value.
I don’t fault Rutherford for exploring the trade market to see what’s out there for Letang. He probably doesn’t think he’ll find a suitable deal but it doesn’t hurt to consider that option. Maybe a club on the blueliner’s list of preferred trade destinations makes an offer too good to pass up.
BLACKHAWKS MAKE OFFER TO CRAWFORD
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to have offered Corey Crawford a one-year contract worth around $3.5 million. The 35-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford’s completing a six-year, $36-million contract worth $6 million annually, but he knows he’s not getting that much for an annual average value again. The netminder is also aware of the Hawks’ cap constraints. Maybe he takes the hometown discount on a one-year deal, especially if that $3.5-million offer is the base salary for a bonus-laden deal.
SIMMONDS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOING THE LEAFS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Wayne Simmonds believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team where he could have an impact right away. The 32-year-old winger is a UFA on Oct. 9 and spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. He recently moved his family north of Toronto and spends a lot of time in the city.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds also indicated he’s open to everything as free agency approaches. “Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go,” he told LeBrun. He’s also aware of the cap constraints facing the Leafs and other teams for next season.
Injuries hampered Simmonds’ performance over the past two years, limiting his effectiveness as a power forward. Still, he could be an affordable signing for clubs seeking veteran grit and leadership. Maybe a cap-strapped club like the Leafs comes calling.
THE LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports re-signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom is the top priority for Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning. It’s believed the Markstrom camp seeks over $6-million annually while the Canucks are believed to have countered with $5.5 million per season.
Re-signing Markstrom could affect the rest of the roster. Johnston also points out the Canucks are unlikely to keep Markstrom and promising goalie Thatcher Demko in next year’s expansion draft.
Johnston also reports Jake Virtanen could be shopped in the trade market. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but with Benning hoping to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli, Virtanen would be demoted to third- or fourth-line duty. Benning indicated they’ve been patient with Virtanen but was expecting more production from the winger, especially in the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $64.4 million invested in 16 players next season, a deal worth over $6 million annually for Markstrom will bite deeply into the Canucks’ remaining cap space. So will a new contract for Toffoli.
Trading Virtanen would allow money that would’ve gone to him be put toward re-signing Toffoli or another player. However, Benning still must shed salary to absorb new contracts for Markstrom and Toffoli and leave sufficient room for other moves.
Benning’s reportedly attempted to move winger Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually through 2021-22) without success. Brandon Sutter ($4.35 million) could be another trade candidate. The Canucks GM might get some wiggle room if Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million AAV through 2022-23) starts the season on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to make cap room for Ferland’s return.