NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

by | Dec 22, 2020 | Rumors | 21 comments

Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.

Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.

Will Zdeno Chara return with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.

Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.

If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.

Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.

Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.

Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.

Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.

Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.


  1. Hainsey, DelZ, Bowey, Rutta, Hutton

    All available and very likely if signed …. will be at $700K – $1.0 M

    Those at $700 K moved at TDL and taking into account escrow and deferral …. .will have only been paid about $390 K …. but could be then moved at TDL to a contender for a pick

    Reasonable investment for those with space

    Kings and Devils both currently only showing (on CapFreindly) 6 D

    IMHO….Big Z retires as a Bruin… now or later

    Some team is going to get Vats at $2’ish and be happy

    • Not sure why Perry is in top 3. His best years are way behind him. He’s more of a liability due to his lack of skating and penchant for taking bad penalties. Had a little bit of a rejuvenated playoffs after long covid break.

      • Agree Slick

        Only thing I can think of is that they expect he’ll sign for League min with PBs

        His PBs (max 1.75 M; which he eventually earned $1.6 M of) for 19/20 per CapFriendly were:

        “ Games Played Bonus: $250,000 at each of the following levels (10, 20, 30, 40, 50 gms) + Playoff Qualification Bonus: $250,000 (club qualifies for playoffs & player played in 50 reg season gms) + Playoff Bonus: $100,000 (club wins 3 RDs & player played in 50% of playoff gms) + Stanley Cup Bonus: $150,000 (club wins the Stanley Cup & player played in 50% of playoff gms)”

        So acquiring team can get him for a low Cap hit of $700 K with associated PBs that if structured properly will make his payday and effective cost/cap amenable for both him and team

        He falters….and no PBs attained…. low risk $700 K cap hit

        He over plays (PBs kick in) …. then team benefits from the uptick in expected play and deals with the Cap issue (associated with the PB) ay year end and/or next year (partial/all PB Cap carryover)

        With that in mind… and with his pedigree…. his low risk contract would be in demand by several teams…. thus moving him up the TSN available UFA list

        Other than that…. I don’t know why he’s that high

        I’d have put *Vats and Haula at 2nd /3rd or interchangeably 3rd/2nd

        Big Z in top 10 to me doesn’t make sense if I use my previous conclusion (which I continue to believe) …. Big Z retires a Bruin ….. now or later…. meaning 1 possible fit… meaning no need to be in top 10

        *Re Vats…. with Klefbom gone for season …. wouldn’t Holland heavily pursue Vats ?

        With Oil at 22 players and effectively with ~ $4M (after Klefbom is on LTIR) in space….. and Bear to re-up….

        Then another player (at least at League min) must go down if they wish to sign Vats…. that’s another $700 K

        So $4.7 M to sign both Bear and Vats…..doable (if Bear signed as s bridge deal…. which should be the case)

        Food for thought

      • Pengy, agree Vat should be higher. But, isn’t Klefbom a left d? I think Edm set on right side after already adding Barrie. Thought maybe he’d end up back with Devils. Should be interesting week or 2 coming up. Waiting for dominoes to start falling.

      • Hi Slick

        Vats plays both sides ; and IMHO, fairly equally

        He does shoot right

    • For the oil , two options I see at this point . Sign bear , holland has made clear he plans to use the leverage he has , need bear signed but he’s going to have to look to get what he’s worth later . My over under would be 1 million on a 1-2 deal , probably 1 , I’m hoping 2 . Signing him to 1 million and moving Neal to taxi squad for opening night would leave them within 25k of the cap with klefbom still on the roster to move on day 1 also opening up max ltir space .
      Or move him before day 1, opening up around 5 million roughly to sign bear , could then explore 2-3 year term with slightly higher dollar value for him and sign a veteran d man and a middle 6 lw left on the ufa market , possibly moving chiasson along the way . This is my take on what we see in the coming weeks . Moving klefbom on day 1 opens up the most options in season , I think that’s the most likely route.

  2. With the undertone of Neely’s presser yesterday. It sounds like the bruins would take Z back but as a third pair shut down role at reduced mins per game. If true I can see Chara signing elsewhere or retirement

  3. From what i’m reading Chara wants top 4 minutes, while Sweeney see him as a 5, 6 dman and pk time.

    This makes sense to me, otherwise i think Chara would’ve signed already. Chara agent said 20 teams have reached out to him.

    Not sure how many are willing to give him top 4 minutes…..

    • Watching Chara play the last 2 years he doesn’t move at all anymore his game has become his stick only and although he still takes the body his engaging with other players has almost stopped,the barking is still there but but the rest is gone, top 4 minutes no way 5-6 is more like it

    • Teams don’t GIVE top 4 minutes. It has to be earned and can change game to game. What he wants is top 4 MONEY.

    • I made a comment last week about Chara. He was in the top ten in the NHL for plus/minus, primary penalty killer (because of size and reach), chips in a few points, absolute leader of the team, and one of the only guys to step up and fight when needing too.

      Is he old? Yes, Is he Slower? Yes, but I would take him in a heartbeat over Cliffton and Moore.

      It would be a biog loss for their locker room if he leaves, and anyone that has played competitive sports knows what I mean.

      • Wow what Bruins games do you watch? Chara is now a standing pylon he doesn’t fight, he is hit more than he delivers a hit. Moore sucks but Clifton is fast and not afraid to go to the net and can hit and fight

  4. A team looking for a giant human pylon will be in on Chara … surprised it isn’t Rutherford.

  5. It’s great to read all of these top remaining UFA stories and not have to think about where they might fit in with the Habs because the shopping’s already done. Been waiting awhile for that.

  6. I believe that I count 31 UFAs included on the update:

    Over/Under 18 of them signed to NHL contracts to start the season??

    I believe that I will take the UNDER.

    ps. Hoffman to the Blues is TOO costly for me

    • Under for me as well IP

  7. As a Pens fan I am delighted in the current Caps’ situation:

    After putting Hank on LTIR… they have 11 F, 8 D, 1G (20 of 23) and only $500 K in space

    As has been suggested… moving Jensen (if possible ???)…. would only put them with $3 M …. and 4 spots to fill (including a back-up)

    So something more has to come off that roster…. greatly appreciated by this Pens fan 👍😁

    • …unless they all come from the AHL?

      • Well …. that’s also OK by me as a Pens fan👍😄👍😄

        I’m willing to give them Chad Ruhweedel …. League min D-Man…. for absolutely free !!!!!

  8. OEL or bust! This is a guy who actually wanted to be in Boston and Sweeney still couldn’t swing a deal maybe he needs to sit down with someone like Jimmy Rutherford or Scotty Bowman to learn the art of a trade. Sweeney’s good at signing roster players he’s one of the worst gm’s in the league at signing free agents and abysmal at drafting!

    • Here comes Charlie Brown’s teacher again! “wa-wa-wa wa-wa-wa!”