NHL Rumor Mill – December 8, 2020

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Rumors | 45 comments

With the NHL and NHLPA aiming at a Jan. 13 start date for this season, here’s a look at some unresolved free-agent business in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently examined several unresolved storylines that will rise to the surface once the NHL and NHLPA reach a resolution for the 2020-21 season. Among them was the status of unsigned free agents.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the 2020 NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

A number of decent players remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market because of the flattened salary cap and a limited number of teams with cap room. They include winger Mike Hoffman, defensemen Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen, forwards Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair, and blueliner Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman is reportedly willing to accept a one-year contract worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. He’s been linked to several clubs but the Nashville Predators could be the front-runners for his services. They have the cap space (nearly $13 million, according to Cap Friendly) and a pressing need for experienced second-line scoring depth.

Some have suggested Hamonic might return to the Calgary Flames but the Winnipeg Jets appear to be a better fit for the Manitoba native. They need more blueline depth and would have the cap space once sidelined center Bryan Little and his $5.291 million cap hit are placed on long-term injury.

Granlund and Duclair have been mentioned as options for the Columbus Blue Jackets to provide a boost to a popgun offense further weakened by losing winger Gustav Nyquist to shoulder surgery. Granlund could be a better fit there. Given Duclair’s brief unsuccessful tenure with the Jackets in 2018-19, I don’t see either side being keen for a reunion.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the format of this season looks like before making a decision. The long-time Bruins captain could return to Boston for one more season but there’s talk other clubs expressed interest in the 43-year-old defenseman.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap and must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The New York Islanders have only $3.9 million in cap space with first-line center Mathew Barzal to sign. Boylen suggests both clubs could face losing trades in order to free up sufficient cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning definitely faces that situation, with Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn considered the likely trade candidates. The Isles, however, will benefit from placing Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR because of his career-ending eye injury. They could still make a cost-cutting trade but don’t face the same pressure as the Lightning.

Other notable restricted free agents include Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space, more than enough to sign Dubois. The Blues are above the cap by $1.175 million but will get cap relief to sign Dunn by placing Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million) on LTIR. The Devils have $17.1 million in cap room so re-signing Blackwood isn’t an issue. The Oilers are just above the cap but are expected to place Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on LTIR, giving them the necessary wiggle room for Bear.

Given the high number of NHL teams (16) with less than $2 million in cap space, Boylen anticipates seeing “at least a few one-sided deals” as cap-strapped clubs attempt to shed salary once clarity is reached on the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 10 of those teams – Arizona, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington, Vegas, Anaheim, Winnipeg, and Edmonton – will get cap relief by placing some sidelined players on LTIR. Nevertheless, some of those clubs could attempt to shed a salary or two before the projected puck drop of Jan. 13.


  1. Raise the cap!!!

      • I disagree the cap makes parity the other sports dont have parity which makes the NHL the most competitive league

      • Cap is great. Only the big clubs will abuse it if they can. And NO on the luxury tax. Learn how to operate like everyone else. teams that trade for broken player contracts are cheating. (even though it’s “legit”. It’s not in the “spirit” of the CBA. You’ll only hear this noise from Leafs, ranger, and flyer fans. Keep the cap, & no luxury tax.

      • Only someone whose team has recklessly spent themselves into cap hell would agree with that.

      • screw the cap. get the all star teams up against each other like the glory days of the wings/avalanche days. raise the level of hockey instead of levelling it.

      • Vincois, you entirely contradict yourself. Learn how to operate but keep the cap? The way to operate is generate interest in your team, generate sales at gate, tv and merch and spend it on talent to keep it growing. The ones that dont know how to operate are beggars at the salary cap trough. As Annie says no cap, go to superteams that people want to watch like the leafs. expansion has been the death of what could have been an incredible sport for the cities that deserve it and true hockey fans that want a top notch product.

      • Super my ass. Only in the befuddled mind of a hero-worshipping fawner. Get a life for God sake.

  2. Why not add a luxury tax type of system to the cap. This would increase revenue sharing and benefit the richer clubs by being able to flex their financial might. You could put a cap on that as well. Maybe something like 10% of current cap. This seems win win win for everyone and the league.

    • A luxury tax would mean reopening the CBA which neither side intends to do. The league was resistant to a luxury tax in the past so I doubt they’ll be interested this time. It would mean turning the current system from a hard cap to a soft one.

      • There is a better way to go than a luxury tax. I would be surprised if I am the only one who has pitched the idea of teams getting cap relief by re-signing their own drafted players. Where the hard cap as we know it made today’s GM’s more prudent at their craft, I for one am tired of teams getting penalized for drafting better than others then watching the vultures circle in the way of other teams who could not draft as well.

      • Also, adding a luxury tax would mean delinking the cap to the HRR. No one on the owner side is going to agree to that.

    • NYR4 Life
      No team can be completely home grown but the teams that win the Cup the most are generally loaded with their own prospects.
      As you mentioned the Cup winning Rangers I’ll look at the Dynasty (No need to mention the team, everybody knows who it is.)
      All of these players were homegrown drafts picks

      Denis Potvin
      Bryan Trottier
      Mike Bossy
      Clark Gillies
      Bob Nystrom
      Stephan Persson
      John Tonelli
      Ken Morrow
      The Sutter Brothers
      Dave Lagevin
      Tomas Jonnson
      Bob Lorimer
      Gary Howatt

      And I would add Billy Smith, since the Isles didn’t exist when he was drafted. But the did pick him in the Expansion Draft, so in a sense he was drafted.

      Can you imagine the size of that payroll today without a Cap?
      Or the Oilers in ’85?

  3. Drop the puck

    56 games Jan 13.
    Pastrnak going to miss half the season. Nyquist Tarasenko Seguin most

    World Juniors can’t wait

  4. At least create a soft cap system where teams can spend above the cap but pay a financial penalty that would be split between all teams under the cap. It’s been proven time and time again that you can’t just spend your way to the cup so the league will still be balanced enough. Also really sucks when teams like Chicago and Tampa who do a great job drafting and developing there players but can’t keep them. Teams shouldn’t be punished for winning the Stanley cup. Imagine if Chicago didn’t have to dismantle there teams every time they won the cup. Tampa gets to go through that now. They didn’t buy there cups the drafted and developed those players.

    • So what you’re saying is if Tampa and Chicago didn’t have to follow the cap, they would keep winning the Cup. Kind of undermines your initial argument regarding not buying your way to the Cup.

      The whole point of the cap is to create the parity that the league enjoys that most leagues don’t. You can’t pull an LA Lakers and stack a roster to win. Teams have to be smart and invest for the long term. Yes that means occasionally having to sell off overpaid 3rd liners as young talent replaces them, but it also means that teams like the Sens, Wild, Coyotes, and Florida have the opportunity to be competitive.

      Yes as CB notes above, the luxury tax system would increase revenue sharing, which would seem good, except that getting curb stomped every night by the rich teams is going to empty arena’s. Parity keeps things interesting and is better for the FANS. (Except Wendal who just wants Toronto to be able to add a few more $10M+ players).

      • Tampa fan here. Yes there is major pain that the Lightning have to shed good players. But, absent the cap, they would have had a slim chance to contend, much less contend year after year for half a dozen years. And during the lean years when building a non-traditional market into a hockey town, it was essential. Even now, with the building sold out, merchandise in the top few, and a decent TV contract the big markets dwarf Tampa in revenue. So, keep the cap, it values management over money.

      • you are not buying your way to a Cup when you draft well.

    • Roger, let’s be clear: the Blackhawks are not being punished, and certainly not for winning the Cup.

      Hawks’ brain trust made a decision to overpay Kain and Toews by so much that they couldn’t manage their roster. LA made the same mistake after their Cup wins.

      Bad signing decisions are no different than bad roster evaluations, bad coaching hirings or any other important management decision in managing a hockey franchise.

      I have mixed feelings about the salary cap. But it was in place when the decisions are made. Complaining about the consequences of expensive signings is like complaining about getting an STD. Make better choices even in the heat of the moment.

    • No scj I’m saying Tampa drafted and developed most of the players that have and successfully won the cup with them. Now because some teams who don’t get many fans and can’t sustain a team they have to trade those players for less then value because they turned out to be good picks. Same for Chicago who had to trade Panarin, Saad, Big Buffalo and many other good players. Why shouldn’t they be able to keep these players that they picked and developed.

    • If there wasn’t a cap do you really think that Chicago would have been able to keep Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Crawford, Keith, and Leddy? A bigger market team would have swooped in and taken a few of them just because they would be able to afford to pay them more.

  5. IMHO

    —Chara… Bruin or retires

    —No Offer sheets

    —If 13/1 start finalized… I think with Pasta/Marchand LTIR and current space…. Hoffman… 1 yr with Bruins

    Less likely … but a fair chance… BrisBoise reaches a deal with possibly Stevie Y …. to get Zetterberg and his glorious LTIR

    Would love to see Duclair in Pens…. tight but doable …. effectively $2M available ($1.3 M now plus replacing a player who has to be at least $700 K). Also have ZAR LTIR to start

    If Dubas can play the up down game (with depth players) between games; to make Cap work; then so can Jimbo

    Sid Guentz Kappy

    Gino Rusty Zuck

    McC Duclair Poulin

    That’s 3 fast lines that can score

    And Blueger can Centre fourth line but if injured Jankowski or Rodrigues can step in

    4th line wingers will be Turbo and one of Jankowski, Rodrigues, Sceviour …. until ZAR returns

  6. The cap isn’t strict enough for my likings but heck I’m a fan of a small market team.

    I want them to get rid of the front loaded bonus heaven contracts.

    Of coarse Ottawa not willing to pay out the bonuses may have saved them in the long run. This rebuild looks promising.

    • I don’t have the time to dig up all the info today, but I would be curious to see how often the big market MLB teams make the playoffs vs the smaller markets, or consistently have winning records. The Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox are the biggest spenders and are consistently in the post season. A team like the Rays is well run, will have a good year or 2, then starts over. I think that is the difference.
      The Yankees are a good example of a team that is well managed, and has a money advantage. Is there another team that has had their level of consistent success over the last 25 years?
      Safe to say the TB Rays or Oakland A’s have no chance of duplicating that success? I would argue that is accurate.
      The NFL shares revenue between teams and has a hard cap, and if you want a system that has the most parity, that would be it IMO. But the sport and revenue model is totally different.

    • Using only championships as the marker for comparison seems like leaving a lot on the table. What about finals appearances? How about playoff appearances? How about bottom 5 in the standings comparisons? I cede the floor to your research on this as you expand the data in an attempt to strengthen your validity.

  7. As Much I can’t stand Bettman a cap is important. The red wings continually spent like it was water in the 90’s and built some impressive teams. Other teams couldn’t match. But this business about a cap can become too much of ball and chain. If you have to lose good players every year to it. Got be a little slack there for sure Just stop the nonsense and get back to playing hockey.

    • @rick Detroit had a great run of success because of there drafting not spending. They picked up Zetterberg and Datsyuk in the late rounds. Even Lindstrom wasn’t a high pick. Those are the players that gave Detroit the success they had. In the cap era Detroit would have been punished for drafting so well as those 3 players alone would have eaten most of there cap space.

      • What about Vernon, Shanahan, Draper, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Chris Chelios, and Dominik Hasek?
        Yes Detroit did some great drafting, but they also robbed from the poor.

      • You need money to pay these great draft choices and Illitch had that in droves Nuff said.

  8. Perhaps no one will sign Hamonic until he commits to a season?? What if he bails again?

    Is cap space more valuable than scoring now?? Can’t believe Hoffman is not signed. A good power play is pretty important these days and his left handed one timer would improve a lot of them!

  9. This could be the dumbest question youve ever heard as i’m not to educated on contracts regulation but couldnt someone like Barzal sign a 5 year contract with a lower cap hit for this year and level it out on the other years. Again perhaps a dumb question , just asking

    • Cap his is averaged over the life of the contract.

      For instance a contract that pays $1M this year and $5M next will have a cap hit of $3M in each year.

    • Hi Luc

      Barzal can negotiate any Sal or SB (within League min-max) per year he wants. The total of the whole package is averaged over the term to get the Cap…. so Sal=SB flex; but Cap hit will be the same over the term

      • Sorry Double Minor

        Wasn’t meaning to duplicate ur response. It wasn’t there when I started typing.

        When I hit submit; your post then showed up

      • Should have been “Sal/SB” flex not “Sal=SB” flex

  10. No cap -Canada has 2 maybe 3 teams.
    Florida none. Carolina ?

    Success lies at the draft table and pro scouting.

    I also believe a lot of luck of the draw.

    Flyers move up grab Patrick . So far nothing Crosby vs Bobby Ryan or black Jack Johnson. A long list over a long time. I will refrain so I don’t Yakupov on my shirt.

  11. A salary cap helps new NHL teams remain solvent until they develop a fan base.

    The NHL’s circumstances are unique from those of other major leagues. It has added 25 teams since 1967. Many of those teams were established in cities that had little or no existing hockey market. In comparison, in 1967, the NFL expanded to 16 teams with the addition of the New Orleans Saints. Though it is now a 32-team league, the added teams were from cities with an already flourishing football market.

    Given that NHL revenue is mostly from ticket sales, it’s easy to see how, without a cap, a team like the Rangers, which charges $5,236 for a season ticket in Section 215 of Madison Square Garden, or the Leafs, whose tickets must be inherited, could outbid other teams, like the Hurricanes with a $774 season ticket price, for the best players and free agents. They would also be
    financially better prepared to scout and harvest the ever increasing number of foreign players. A rise in the frequency and the dollar amount of offer sheets would be a given.

    Major League Baseball has a luxury tax with no salary cap restrictions. Teams with high payroll rosters won the American League East 19 of 25 times (Yankees and Red Sox) between 1994 to 2018. High payroll teams don’t seem to have the same overwhelming advantage in the World Series, but this is due to the smaller number of games compared to wins over a full-length season.

    • That all sounds logical Francis. There is a reason baseball plays 162 games to figure out the best teams.
      I was looking up playoff appearance vs team value in MLB as well.
      Top 5 in value:
      NYY #1 -16 playoff appearances since 2000.
      LAD #2 – 11 playoff appearances
      BOS #3 – 10 Playoffs
      CUBS #4 – 7 Playoffs
      SF #5 – 7 Playoffs

      Bottom 5
      MIA #30 – 1
      KC #29 – 2
      TB #28 – 5
      CIN #27 – 3
      OAK #26 – 10

      What this shows is a pattern and that Billy Beane deserved to have a book/movie written about him.

  12. Good lord…with the way the comments are going today, you would think the Rangers and Leafs dipped thier nuts in every other teams bbq sauce.

    • That’s what that smell was!

      • That taint balls you’re smellin’

      • You suck

  13. That’s because with the cap those smaller market team can afford to keep their best players. If there wasn’t a cap it would be reversed. Arizona, Vegas, Edmonton, and Winnipeg would be on the low end and NYR and Philly would be near the top of the payroll list.
    NYR are going to pressed up against the cap here in a few years when their young players become FA’s.

  14. There is a point no one has made. The tax rate where you play. This gives a small number of teams an advantage to sign players for lower salaries. The higher tax teams need to offer higher salaries to sign the same players.

  15. I would much prefer a soft cap with a luxury tax. I think it would be workable if say that whatever a team spends over the cap they have to pay out a penalty with a rising percentage like in baseball. The tax money would be divided up and given to the 6 teams with the lowest spending on salary. This way the rich teams have a reason to want the soft cap and the poorer teams would want the luxury tax. Everyone benefits.