NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2021
Check out the latest on the Oilers, Leafs, Panthers, Blues and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NO PROGRESS IN NUGENT-HOPKINS CONTRACT TALKS
TSN: Frank Seravalli reported there’s been no meaningful progress in contract talks between the Edmonton Oilers and pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers apparently made a five-year offer but it isn’t one the 27-year-old center is rushing to sign. Both sides intend to continue negotiations and there’s no belief the Oilers will move Nugent-Hopkins if he’s unsigned before the April 12 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay in Edmonton and the Oilers want to keep him. The term could be the issue here as management could be reluctant to re-sign him to the maximum eight years given the uncertainty over the salary cap over the next several years.
The Oilers hope to unseat the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top spot in the Scotia North Division. They’re not about to peddle away one of their core players regardless of the status of his contract talks.
LEAFS NOT SHOPPING FOR A GOALIE
TSN: Pierre LeBrun doesn’t think the Toronto Maple Leafs are panicked about their goaltending situation and doesn’t believe they’re even calling around for a netminder. They expect sidelined starter Frederik Andersen will return fully healthy and won’t rush back as he did earlier in the season when Jack Campbell was injured. They could reconsider if Andersen suffers another setback. Campbell, meanwhile, is 7-0 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs might not be panicked about their goaltending but the same cannot be said about a number of denizens of Leafs Nation. They are practically begging GM Kyle Dubas to acquire a goalie.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk believes the Leafs’ current goaltending isn’t good enough, citing Andersen’s recent injuries and shaky confidence, Campbell’s injury history and Michael Hutchinson’s inconsistency.
The pleas from Leafs fans and observations of Toronto pundits seem likely to fall on deaf ears in the front office. Dubas seems intent on sticking with his current goalies for better or worse.
TEAMS CALLING ABOUT PANTHERS’ DRIEDGER
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports teams are calling the Florida Panthers about pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger following their signing of prospect netminder Spencer Knight to an entry-level deal. Panthers general manager Bill Zito was coy about what Knight’s signing meant for Driedger’s future. LeBrun feels there’s a possibility Driedger gets moved by the trade deadline given the market for goaltenders and his cheap cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Based on LeBrun’s earlier report, the Leafs aren’t among the clubs calling the Panthers about Driedger. He’s played well, offsetting Sergei Bobrovsky’s early-season inconsistency. Shipping him out before the trade deadline could be a risky move. Knight has considerable potential but lacks NHL experience.
LATEST BLUES CLUES
STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon said it’s not hard to imagine some NHL general managers contacted St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong asking about Mike Hoffman after the struggling winger was made a healthy scratch earlier this week. While Hoffman could entice contenders looking for scoring they won’t offer anything in return that will bolster the Blues’ sagging offense.
Gordon also noted Blues defenseman Vince Dunn has frequently surfaced in trade rumors this season given his long-term earning power clashing with the club’s long-term salary-cap concerns. He could be enticing to teams seeking a defenseman like the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. However, trading Dunn means the Blues could risk losing a valuable forward to the Seattle Kraken in this summer’s NHL expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gordon’s colleague Jim Thomas believes the Blues’ next six games before the deadline will determine if Armstrong becomes a buyer, seller or spectator at the deadline.
As Gordon points out, Armstrong isn’t afraid to make bold moves in the trade market. If he gets a pitch for Hoffman or Dunn that improves the Blues’ scoring punch he’ll be all over it. Finding such an offer, however, might not be easy given most of the teams have limited cap space, just like the Blues.
PENGUINS SHOPPING FOR A CENTER
NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti cites Brian Burke, the Pittsburgh Penguins director of hockey operations, recently telling Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his club is in the market for a center with Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger sidelined.
Burke also said the Penguins would like to add some toughness to their lineup. He indicated the club’s second-round pick in this year’s draft is off-limits in the trade market as they lack a first-round pick. They have depth in defensemen to use as trade bait but Burke isn’t sure he’s willing to use that depth for help in other areas of his roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins have played well despite the absence of Malkin and Blueger. That doesn’t mean they won’t be active in the trade market but it could take away some of the urgency to find a center.