NHL Rumor Mill – October 24, 2020
Another look at the top remaining UFAs, including suggested destinations for Mike Hoffman, plus the latest on the Islanders and Jets in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TOP REMAINING UFAs
THE SCORE: listed a roundup of the best available players by position. The top wingers include Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, and Andreas Athanasiou. Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene top the listing of defensemen, while Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg are among the best remaining centers. Goaltenders include Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Miller.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some decent depth remains among the wingers and defensemen, but not so much among the centers. All the goaltenders are past their best-before dates.
SPORTSNET: listed the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes as potential destinations for Mike Hoffman. Those clubs are in need of scoring depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Hoffman the best player remaining in the market and activity in the free-agent market slowed to a crawl by the flattened salary cap, the latest guessing game among fans and pundits is figuring out where the 30-year-old winger could go. He reportedly seeks a one-year deal worth $6 million.
Hoffman’s agent recently said up to 13 teams have expressed an interest in his client, with five or six of those serious. The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings have also been suggested, plus there’s been the odd speculation about Hoffman rejoining the Florida Panthers or Ottawa Senators.
LATEST ON THE ISLANDERS AND JETS
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple listed Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd, Thomas Hickey and perhaps Leo Komarov as potential cost-cutting trade candidates for the New York Islanders. A sticking point is teams could be asking for the Isles 2021 first-round pick. Staple wondered if general manager Lou Lamoriello could be comfortable including that pick. He has an extra second-round pick in 2022, or he could use his second-round picks to trade for a first-round pick.
Trade partners would be clubs with plenty of salary-cap space such as the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, or New Jersey Devils. What complicates things is there are a half-dozen clubs over the cap that must shed salary, plus four others (including the Islanders) that are close to the ceiling.
Staple isn’t concerned about Isles center Mathew Barzal becoming an offer-sheet target as there aren’t many clubs with sufficient cap space to blow him away with a big offer. He considers it unlikely Barzal would sign with Detroit or New Jersey. Nashville would be squeezed for cap space in 2021-22 with two goalies to sign while joining the New York Rangers would “ignite a true war”. Staple also points out it’s difficult to see teams making big offer sheets when they’re furloughing or laying off employees.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello’s biggest concern is freeing up cap space to re-sign Barzal and Ryan Pulock. Barzal could sign an offer sheet but I have my doubts. Lamoriello has indicated he’d match any offer. With Cap Friendly indicating the Isles have $8.9 million in cap space plus they can exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, it’s unlikely Barzal will be signed away.
A rival club could do it just to complicate matters for the Isles by matching but that doesn’t seem likely, especially given the tight economic situation everyone is facing right now.
SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe speculates it’s still possible Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could package restricted free agents like Sami Niku and Jack Roslovic that brings in someone like the Florida Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar or one of the left-shot defensemen the Carolina Hurricanes have in abundance. They could also circle back on a UFA like Ben Hutton to see if their asking price is more reasonable.
With 21 players already under contract for next season, the Jets will have limited salary cap space even after they place Bryan Little on LTIR. Wiebe doesn’t expect a big-name move by the Jets to address their defense unless they make a blockbuster trade involving winger Patrik Laine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll have to be one helluva defenseman coming to the Jets to make Cheveldayoff part with Laine. The Jets GM could be comfortable starting the season with his current blueline and see how things develop leading up to the trade deadline.