NHL Rumor Mill – December 24, 2020

by | Dec 24, 2020 | Rumors | 11 comments

The Lightning still needs to make a cost-cutting trade despite Nikita Kucherov heading to LTIR, talk of Coyotes center Derek Stepan possibly heading to the Senators, and the latest on the Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Ryan S. Clark reports losing cornerstone winger Nikita Kucherov for the regular season to hip surgery helps the Tampa Bay Lightning address their need to become salary-cap compliant before the start of the season.

The Bolts still have to sign restricted free agent center Anthony Cirelli and were trying to shop winger Tyler Johnson in a cost-cutting deal. Placing Kucherov and his $9.5 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve could free up sufficient space to re-sign Cirelli without having to move Johnson.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were trying to trade Tyler Johnson earlier in the offseason (NHL Images).

However, Lightning general Julien BriseBois said he will seek opportunities to free up more cap room. He indicates he still doesn’t have sufficient maneuverability and is speaking with a couple of teams. BriseBois revealed he had been working with a team after the playoffs on a deal for Johnson that would’ve involved a third club taking on part of the winger’s $5 million cap hit but it proved too expensive to be feasible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Lightning sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $6.89 million. Contract talks continue with the Cirelli camp. Placing Kucherov on LTIR will leave the Lightning with less than $3 million to lock up Cirelli. He has no leverage coming off his entry-level contract but his agent can justifiably argue that his client is worth more than that.

Perhaps BriseBois will still try to move Johnson or maybe Alex Killorn and his $4.45 million cap hit. Maybe he’ll consider another option. Whatever he’s got in mind will have to not only ensure sufficient room to sign Cirelli but also enough for other moves as required over the course of the season.


TSN 1200’s Shawn Simpson tweeted he’s hearing the Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators are discussing a deal involving Coyotes center Derek Stepan. He has one season remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.5 million but his actual salary is $5 million.

The Ottawa Sun’s Ken Warren points out Stepan’s actual salary for this season consists of a $3 million signing bonus. The Coyotes lack picks in the first and third rounds of the 2021 NHL draft. The Senators have three second-round picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stepan also lacks no-trade protection so the Coyotes can peddle him to any NHL club without his permission. The Senators would only be on the hook for $2 million of his actual salary if this goes through. He’d provide some welcome experience and leadership to their checking lines.


TSN: Salim Valji reports Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving recently said discussions about player movement have picked up as teams prepare for the start of the season on Jan. 13. He expects we’ll see some trade activity in the weeks leading up to the season opener.

The Flames only have around $223K in salary-cap space. Treliving expects his current roster is the one he’ll go to training camp with but indicated he continues having discussions with other teams looking for opportunities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving will probably evaluate his roster during training camp to determine any pressing needs to be addressed before Jan. 13. Given his limited cap space, he could be looking at dollar-for-dollar moves.


  1. Stepans contract was one that was discussed a lot here. Surprised he hadn’t been traded already. Read yesterday that Tampa could pay Cirelli up to 5 mil per if they move guys to taxi squad and go with a roster of 20? This whole thing with taxi squads is confusing now trying to figure out teams cap space. Where as you usually figured a team kept a roster of 22/23 players, that seems to have gone out the window. Cirelli might not have arb rights but, if he was willing to sign an offer sheet, he could easily get more than 3 mil per right now. Tampa wouldn’t be able to match.

  2. Tampa has a plan and an amount they would be willing to match if Cirelli signed an offer sheet. They wouldn’t have gone this far into the process without a plan B.

    Now that teams have a better understanding of their maximum revenue and risks going forward I doubt that teams will be making any significant moves this season. Some Owners are more concerned about their financial recovery or even solvency than this seasons record. I think we will see a lot of player movement and potentially a team movement or sale this offseason. Unlike the US Government, NHL teams can not take on infinite debt.

  3. No gate revenue is not sustainable to almost any length of time. I thought I heard Dallas will have 6500 in the stands. It’s something I guess. I really doubt we see that across the board.
    Bank Ads on helmets won’t cut it.

  4. So Cirelli signed 3 years…4.8M per. How? I thought Kucherov couldn’t go on LTIR until season starts?

    • Cap Friendly had him on LTIR yesterday. They have some examples in LTIR FAQ under the CBA tab. But I stopped at “LTIR is a very complicated aspect of the NHL operations and the vast majority of details are not specified in the CBA.”

  5. Speaking of cap friendly, they already have Tampa 3.52 over the cap for next year! With only 16 players under contract. Should see a trade sooner or later. Merry Christmas all.

  6. Tyler Johnson has already cleared waivers, which shows that the Lightning doesn’t care about hurting his feelings or losing him for nothing, He doesn’t have an NMC, if that would preclude his being moved. Wouldn’t he be eligible for placement on the taxi squad as a cap-relief strategy?

    • No but Tyler Johnson still has a full NTC, So he still has a say in where he goes. So it’s still pretty much like a NMC he can still refuse to waive if he so chooses.

      • I thought that under an NTC the player can’t refuse waivers or an assignment to the minors?

      • Hi GP

        The NMC precludes being sent to the minors or traded …. without consent from player

        NTC only covers trades… player can be sent to minors (after clearing waivers)

        Nmc …. must be protected from Kraken

        NTC…. does not have to be protected

  7. Even with Kucherov on LTIR TB would need to drop 2.2m to be compliant. 3 players on the taxi squad is a 19 roster.