NHL Rumor Mill – November 2, 2020

by | Nov 2, 2020 | Rumors | 43 comments

A look at five teams with unanswered offseason questions in the NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently listed five NHL teams with some unanswered questions to address in this offseason.

Gretz noted the Edmonton Oilers brought back the goaltending duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, wondering if they will be good enough in 2020-21. Smith is 38 and hasn’t played well over the last two seasons while the 32-year-old Koskinen still hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers couldn’t or wouldn’t pay big bucks to land someone like Jacob Markstrom via free agency. They’ll start next season with their current tandem and see how things shake out. I expect they’ll test the trade market if Smith and Koskinen aren’t getting the job done.

Defense remains the Winnipeg Jets’ Achilles heel entering 2020-21. Gretz feels they’re lacking a true No. 1 defender and maybe another top-four option.

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains in part why Jets winger Patrik Laine keeps appearing in offseason trade speculation. He’d certainly land a No.1 defenseman, but no one’s willing to part with a top blueliner right now for a 40-goal first-line winger.

Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe doesn’t see the Jets trading Laine unless they’re blown away by a big offer in the coming weeks or months. He didn’t rule out using Jack Roslovic and Sami Niku in a package deal or in separate trades to bring in a defenseman. Maybe that package nets a second-pairing rearguard but it’s not enough for a top defender.

Gretz wonders how the Nashville Predators will replace the offense lost by the departures of Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund and Nick Bonino. He doesn’t think the additions of Brad Richardson, Nick Cousins and Luke Kunin will address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hence the rumors claiming the Predators have interest in Mike Hoffman. However, the 30-year-old unrestricted free agent winger reportedly seeks a one-year deal worth $6 million. It’s believed the Predators (and other interested clubs) are playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price.

The departure of Torey Krug via free agency leaves a big hole on the left side of the Boston Bruins’ defense corps. Gretz pointed out Sami Vatanen and Slater Koekkoek remain available but they’re not going to replace Krug’s minutes and production.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have over $6.6 million in cap space. However, they must re-sign restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk and determine if long-time captain Zdeno Chara will return for another season. New contracts for those two will eat up most of that cap space. They won’t have enough cap room to bring in someone to suitable replace Krug unless they go the trade route, and that’ll mean parting with a very good player.

Gretz also wondered why the Buffalo Sabres stuck with goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. The latter was a notable flop between the pipes. He feels none of their offseason additions will matter if their goaltending doesn’t improve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gretz did point out Ullmark was solid last season. Nevertheless, he’s yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Hutton blamed vision problems for his struggles last season but credits therapy with addressing that issue. Like the Oilers, I daresay the Sabres will evaluate their goaltending during next season and look to the trade market if there’s no significant improvement by their current tandem.


  1. I was surprised the Oilers didnt off Markstrom something like 5,5-5,75 times 6, which was lower than the Flames, but they do have a potentially more interesting team and maybe could have gotten away with offering a little less. With that said, I still believe the two teams that should have tried better are the Avs and Canes

    • Mr. Nilsson, the story in Edmonton is they were in on Markstrom. $5M x 7 yrs.
      My guess is they look to pick off a quality young AHL guy who is blocked, like in Arizona.

    • The Flames offer also includes a NMC throughout the contract and a $2.5 million signing bonus in the final 2 years of the contract. Because of the signing bonus the contract wouldn’t be worth buying out in the declining years.
      I was questioning the Oilers opening the money vault on Markstrom before free agency. After what I saw the Flames sign him for and the addition of the signing bonus and NMC I’m glad the Oilers didn’t sign him. There is no guarantee that he can duplicate what he did last season. The seasons before that he was just an average goalie and no better than Koskinen.

      • With ya KevJam, Markstrom’s numbers weren’t much different than Koskinen’s last season. Almost identical actually and I would argue that Markstrom had a better defensive team in front of him, although probably pretty close.
        Koskinen is a middle of the pack #1 tender in the regular season. He doesn’t suck, he is average.
        Didn’t have a great playoff though.

      • Markstrom was Canucks MVP the last two seasons. He is a huge upgrade in goal for Calgary and would have been for the Oilers as well.
        Without Markstroms outstanding play last season its highly doubtful Vancouver would have qualified for the playin round let alone the actual playoffs.
        The Canucks brutal defence will likely be exposed playing in front of whats left of Bradon Holtby.

      • Exactly how much of an upgrade Markstrom is on Koskinen is debatable considering that their numbers were similar last season, even their advanced stats were close. Just because of that isn’t reason enough to over pay for long term on Markstrom at the age of thirty.
        In Calgary, Talbot had better numbers last season than Markstrom, in both the regular season and playoffs.

  2. With a goaltending glut available this off season no excuse for the Oilers and Buffalo. Both also passed on Askarov.
    I guess goaltending is overrated . Maybe regular season but definitely not post.
    I will say Kahun might be a nice surprise for them if put in the right situations

    • how could the Oilers draft Asarov? He was selected ahead of their draft position?

    • Oilers drafted after Askarov was picked. So unless they traded up they didnt pass on him.

      • Also, can’t quibble with Buffalo’s pick of Jack Quinn. I bet he’s in the NHL long before Askarov joins Nashville.

        I thought maybe Holland would take a 1 year flyer on Craig Anderson who’s a fitness freak and could still be a benefit to some team needing a goalie capable of 2–25 games (in a condensed schedule).

    • Agree with you on this Ron Hull. 30 is not that old for goalies to develop to their peak. The last 2 years may be risky, but there are quite few goaltenders playing well into their mid to late 30s. Oiler fans should worry about their own lot . Mike Smith is a lot more concerning and although Koskinan didn’t show well in the play in against the Hawks

      • Correction-although Koskinan was decent in the regular season he didn’t play well in the Chicago series

  3. If the Bruins go the trade route with DeBrusk for a much needed LD then it weakens their wingers & if they resign DeBrusk the cap space is gone …. don’t think Chara is coming back the Bruins seem to be going with the younger players in their system …. next season is when the BIG player turnover happens for them they’ll have multiple UFA & RFA players

  4. Lyle – someone – do you know the difference between Projected Cap Space and Current Cap Space in CapFriendly? It appears to fluctuate daily.

    They don’t seem to cover that in their FAQ. Has it to do with anticipated demotions/elevations from their list of Non-Roster players?

    • George, they indicate the difference in the little blue question marks next to them. Just scroll over each one and a pop-up explanation appears.

      • Thanks Lyle.

  5. Good morning

    OILERS – Goalies

    As we have seen time and time again in the playoffs ..GOALIES steal wins and Cups !

    This year was no different with literally the hottest 2 goalies in the playoffs getting to the finals and the best one prevailing !

    I do not see Edmonton having a 1 – or 2 quality starting goalie that can win a cup ..in Smith or Koskinen.

    Even the Bolts sometimes could not score there way out of situations with a heavy offensive core…they still needed Headman and Vasilevsky to be the 2 best all around players on the team !
    McDavid and Draisaitil are not going to power their way to a Cup …..sorry ..without a solid goalie tandem or strong D core..


    In what is going to be a shortened season why not bring Chara back …he is in very good shape and for only one more year and a 50 to 60 game season why not !
    Limit his ice time a bit more to key situations and match ups he would be very serviceable.
    Grzelcyk McAvoy and Carlo have to step up to fill in for Krug ..its time !


    As stated before I have had a ten pack for sabres games for the past 7 years …and have seen the best teams come through Buffalo and watched the gaolie situation closely being a goalie myself ..Ullmark ..is actually a really good goalie ..he’s has had CRAP in front of him for years !
    Breakdown after breakdown after breakdown !
    Crappy puck control in the neutral zone and literally the Sabres have given up on games A LOT!
    Ullmark totally reminds me of Markstrom …and his start in the NHL ..his style of play is also very similar …maybe one of the best lateral moving goalies in the league for sure !

    He just needs better support ..and a D core that takes zone coverage seriously and can break out without coughing up the puck !

    Could be a break out season for him and surprise a few people !

    Thx for reading take care

    • Kal: Sabres giving up on games? Are you sure, or might you be frustrated with them.

      I ask because pros giving up “A LOT” is a shocking thought. That usually gets players benched, sent down or traded, for if they give up then there is little down side to replacing them eve with inferior players.

      • You should have watched the Oilers play during the decade of darkness. Oilers players gave up a lot of games too back then. Taylor Hall was a culprit for those with his lack of motivation and poor passing to give up the puck.

  6. As of November 2nd and Covid-19 getting worst in a lot of places. There is no hard deadline for a season to start.

    With that said there is no rush to sign by player or team. The future is uncertain.

    You have 7 teams that haven’t played hockey in almost 8 months and it will be close to a year before they get close to some hockey.

    There is still a lot to be done before they get on the ice.

    • At this point, most of the players who will have NHL jobs whenever the league starts backup have already signed. Most of what’s left will have fewer suitors/offers. I definitely don’t see teams needing to rush at this point and in most cases.

      If I were a player though, I’d really want to have some assurance of where I’d be playing next season, especially if I had a family.

      If I were Hoffman, I’d consider taking a smaller contract with a healthy signing bonus. This would lower the cap hit while guaranteeing a solid payout for next season, even if it is shortened or cancelled.

      What if a team offered him a 1-year $4M deal, with a signing bonus of $2M payable on December 1st?

      • Signing bonus will still count against the cap so a team would still be signing him up a 6 million salary and cap hit. Considering there is no guarantee when the next season will start or if there is one at all, GMs are unlikely to give a signing bonus of millions due in Dec 2020 for a 1 year contract and potentially not playing this season. That would result in a team paying out millions in bonus money to a 1 year player and not actually having money coming in with no games being played. It’s only the long term contracts that are getting serious bonus money right now with the future of next season in jeaporady.

      • Notice my proposal was not for $6M, it was for $4M ($2M bonus, $2M salary).

        The team gets Hoffman for less than his current $6m asking price, but at the cost of fronting him $2M which could potentially be for nothing.

        Hoffman gets less than current asking price, but $2M guaranteed even if the season doesn’t happen at all.

        It’s a bit of a risk/reward scenario for sure. For a team with deep pockets but not oodles of cap space I think it makes sense though.

      • The problem with that scenario is, deep pockets means nothing when you don’t have the cap space – and few of those teams have the space. Those that do – along with the non-deep pocket teams who DO have lots of cap space – are not going to suddenly be turned into contenders with the addition of Hoffman. Florida was barely a bubble team with him and Dadonov, and they have some other pretty good players still left there. And his addition isn’t going to put more fans in the seats – anywhere.

        Hoffman, when push comes to shove – is going to have to swallow his pride and sign a 1 year deal at around $4-5 mil. IF he’s lucky enough to find a taker.

      • My proposal *IS* a one year deal for $4M….but with the bonus of having some guaranteed money up-front. Still only a $4M cap hit.

      • What you are proposing is clear but why offer 2M upfront when teams are not making profits and all indications are Hoffman will be the one who has to settle but may get to pick from a couple of offers.

      • Go back and re-read my post. “If I were Hoffman, I’d consider…..” I was writing from Hoffman’s POV.

        I’m just saying that, if I were him and realizing that the $6M contract probably isn’t coming, I’d then focus on getting as much guaranteed money as possible.

        From a team’s perspective, maybe they negotiate down from the $2M, or they pay the $2M but only an additional $1M in salary ($3M cap-hit). Paying the money up-front is the cost of getting a 30-goal scorer for a bargain price. I never said it would work for every team…

    • Might be the year of the PTO once it actually gets started.

  7. The Oilers & Sabres deserve whatever fate they get heading into next season with those goaltenders …

    • Smith can get Hot all of a sudden, its not like he doesn’t work out and work on his trade. He just needs to transition to be a different goalie, its happened before and cups have been won, Ed Belfour or Chris Osgood comes to mind two players realized they had to change to stay relevant and did it.

  8. The Oilers have one super important need and that is a bona fide goaltender and they watched them all get snapped up.

    Management clearly didn’t have any defined plan b or c.

    • Can’t be cup bound if your not dishing out almost $15M for two +30 yr old goalies like cup contenders do such as the Habs.

      • Ron, Bergevin filled his needs while the Oilers didn’t. Where teams choose to spend money is another matter.

        You need the balance to fill your needs.

        Some teams believe in paying high for goaltending eg, Tampa, Vegas and Habs.

        Some put it into offense eg Oilers. Leafs and Hawks.

    • I don’t think Holland thought any of those other guys were worth the $$ habsfan 30. If he signed Markstrom he was moving another contract, not signing Barrie or buying out Neal.
      I think he will go after a guy like Hill in Arizona who is blocked. He can send Smith down if he struggles, and he won’t even have to report.
      Koskinen is a decent goaltender. Huge and works at his trade. A cup winning type? No, well not yet any way.

      • I’m aware it isn’t easy, teams have difficulty filling specific positions.

        Flyers couldn’t find a goalie for ages.

        Habs couldn’t find a centre for ages.

        Rare is the team with a stud G,D and C nowadays unless they convince players to take hometown discounts.

        This particular year there was a plethora of goalies on the market and teams that needed one went for it.

        Why not go for Craig Anderson for example to backup Koskinen if not challenge him for starter?

      • Craig Anderson is better than Smith?
        Hell Holtby was worse than Smith last year.
        Smith isn’t what we wanted, but we could do worse and he is cheap. The Oil didn’t have the cap space without a hole somewhere else, they went with the devil they knew.
        Smith is the backup and you can only play 1 tender at a time, they were right to spend the on Barrie as Klefbom is hurt.

    • You forget that at the time last season was cancelled, with Koskinen and Smith, the Oilers were in second place in their division. Both Smith and Koskinen are NHL caliber goalies. So much so that Koskinen’s numbers were fairly similar to Markstrom’s last season.

  9. With the season delayed and UPL playing well in the Liiga, the Sabres might have better goal tending emerge from within. This could be the break-out year for UPL as he is less than two years removed from hip surgery.

    • who is UPL?

      • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
        2nd round pick from 2017

    • Neither forget nor underestimate RTT! Great in the corners and a fearless defender.

      What, who?

      Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, seeing as obscure initials are being used ….

      • Nice

      • RTT – I thought you were trying to hype the “Retired Tim Tebow” giving hockey a try… Lol