NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2021

by | May 24, 2021 | Rumors | 23 comments

The Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues face serious offseason decisions following their first-round exits Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.


ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan believes re-signing Alex Ovechkin is the offseason priority for the Washington Capitals. Their 35-year-old captain and franchise player is eligible for unrestricted free agent status on July 28.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Kaplan wonders how much it would cost the Capitals and for how long to keep Ovechkin in the fold. Sources said he initially sought $12.5 million per season before the pandemic struck. With the salary cap flattened at $81.5 million for the foreseeable future, the Capitals might have budgeted for less. Nevertheless, Kaplan believes Ovechkin will be staying in Washington.

After a coaching change last year failed to improve their playoff fortunes, management could shake up the roster. There’s speculation the club could be growing impatient with center Evgeny Kuznetsov. He carries a $7.8 million annual salary-cap hit through 2024-25 as well as a 15-team no-trade list.

Kaplan noted the Capitals are among the NHL’s oldest teams. They could start retooling on the fly by bringing in some younger talent like top prospect Connor McMichael.

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir also weighed in on the Capitals’ offseason needs, including Ovechkin’s contract and Kuznetsov’s status.

El-Bashir feels whatever general manager Brian MacLellan does with Ovechkin’s new deal will affect the rest of this summer’s decision. Moving Kuznetsov’s big contract won’t be easy but there could be a team with interest in the 29-year-old center. He wonders how this year’s disappointing finish will affect the Capitals’ expansion draft protection list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals part ways this summer. Kaplan pointed out Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has indicated his intent to ensure his captain stays put.

Because of the flattened cap, Ovechkin might have to accept something between $9 million and $10 million on perhaps a three-year deal. Despite his age, he’s shown little sign of slowing down, with 24 goals and 42 points in 45 games.

A roster shakeup was likely to happen for cap purposes even if the Capitals hadn’t bowed out in the first round. Cap Friendly shows them with just over $72 million invested in 18 players for 2021-22, with Ovechkin as the only core player due for a new contract.

Moving Kuznetsov would help to address that issue. There could be a market for his services but the recent decline in his play, his three-game suspension for “inappropriate conduct” in the fall of 2019, getting placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list twice this season and his recent benching for missing a team function all but scream, “buyer beware.”

The expansion draft will help alleviate some of that salary-cap issue as they’re going to lose a player to the Seattle Kraken. It could be a high-salaried veteran such as T.J. Oshie ($5.75 million annual average value) or perhaps someone like Justin Schultz ($4 million), Lars Eller ($3.5 million) or Brenden Dillon ($3.9 million).


ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski speculates the St. Louis Blues roster could have a different look next season following a second straight first-round elimination. Pending UFAs include Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman, Tyler Bozak and Carl Gunnarsson, though management has expressed interest in signing Schwartz. They could also bring in an experienced backup for starter Jordan Binnington.

Wyshynski also wondered if the Blues would dare leave oft-injured sniper Vladimir Tarasenko unprotected in the expansion draft. Others who could be exposed include Schwartz, Sammy Blais, Ivan Barbashev, Marco Scandella and Vince Dunn. It’s expected Dunn, a restricted free agent, could be playing elsewhere next season.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford believes Schwartz’s status could be the Blues’ biggest question heading into the offseason. He struggled down the stretch and in the playoffs but their left-wing depth is thin.

Rutherford suggests Dunn and perhaps Robert Thomas could be trade candidates. He also feels they need to address their backup goaltending, add size to their blueline, and bring back the versatile Bozak on a one-year, plus-35 contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues have $66.8 million invested in 20 players next season. A new contract for Schwartz will take a big bite out of their remaining cap space but they could have little choice if they don’t feel they can find a suitable replacement via trade or free agency.

Dunn was a fixture in this season’s rumor mill. He could be shopped this summer for a return that addresses one of the Blues’ roster needs.

Rutherford isn’t advocating for Thomas to be traded but wondered where he fits on the top six if Brayden Schenn is their second-line center. As he suggests, it might not hurt to examine his value in the trade market.

Exposing Tarasenko in the expansion draft would be a bold move. However, I don’t think it’s one they’ll consider.


  1. I’m hoping the Habs go after Dunn. They need an LD who can play top-4 minutes and move the puck. I like Chariot and Edmundson, but having both of them occupying the top 2 LD spots is not ideal. Chariot is a top candidate to go to Seattle.
    I don’t expect Tatar to be back. Possibly Drouin not either. Seeing as how Hoffman is not likely to return to the Blues, the Habs may re-visit their interest in him.

    • I agree with your assessment, Howard. If Seattle decides not to select Jake Allen in their draft (I would personally go after Adin Hill and one of Samsonov or Vanechek from DC – as I do not think the Capitals will leave Oshie unprotected), then Chariot and Kulak become obvious targets. I also concur that Drouin has probably played his last game in Montreal: he is often vilified, but he is still a good player and I think a change of scenery to a local that is less intense would help him find success.

      Dunn would look good in a Canadiens uniform, but he would look good in a lot of uniforms: it will be interesting to see what transpires in the offseason for all teams. 🙂

  2. Caps need to do

    to BUF: Kuznetsov & Jensen -10.3
    to WSH: Reinhart & Risto +10.6

    solid winger with 200ft game and a hard defender built more playoff style which was needed against the Bruins.

    to EDM: Wilson for picks
    to any team Schultz for picks

    sign RNH as the 2C for 6.75 for 6

    by moving Wilson that will free up extra cap to get Ovi and build a slightly different roster that is tad more well rounded defensively to play with a bruins style team in the playoffs

    you also get rid of the Wilson headache.

    Lines could be


    • Come on, man. The rebuilding Sabres are going to trade for a guy who’s 29 and another that’s 30? And just what they need….another headache in the locker room (Kuznetsov). Why would you think Buffalo would consider this, even if Eichel is moved?

      • I agree with blurp. I don’t see anyone giving up much of anything for Kuznetsov. There are too many red flags surrounding him. He has earned a reputation as a lazy selfish player with little self discipline. The return for him will be underwhelming, and it might even require a sweetener to offload his contract.

  3. Kunastov being available worries me. After Melynk’s recent comments I’m worried he is the type of guy Ottawa might target. Hoping Dorian is smarter than that! But he has good career numbers and if he is coming discounted, who knows what could happen! He is just… so bad in the circle and doesn’t play the 200ft game Ottawa is trying to build. So I’m worried.

    Overall I’d say the Caps & Blues do need a shake up. Caps are old and font have a wealth if young talent. McMichael, Lapierre, and Alexeyev are the most exciting in Washington, which, McMichael could make Kunastov tradable without requiring a center back. If they could find a trade partner that gives them a pick + another player.

    • Daryl is right JJB. Not a chance Dorion deals for Kuznetsov. Not only does he have caveat emptor tattooed on his forehead with steady production decline since 2017-18, but he’s hauling down $7.8 mil per for the next 4 years – a span in which Dorion will need to deal with contracts for Norris, Batherson, Stutzle, Formenton, Paul, Pinto, Brannstrom, Bernard-Docker, Thompson, Gustavsson and Daccord (if Seattle doesn’t grab him).

      As for UFA Centres, here’s the complete list to date, listed in order of age – youngest to oldest:

      UFA Centers
      Clark Bishop – 25
      Ryan MacInnis – 25
      Michail Grigorenko – 26
      Luke Johnson – 26
      Liam O’Brien – 26
      Alexander Wennberg – 26
      Travis Boyd – 27
      Cedric Paquette – 27
      Gemel Smith – 27
      Nick Bjugstad – 28
      Patrick Brown – 28
      Joseph Cramarossa – 28
      Phillip Danault – 28
      Frederick Gauvreau – 28
      Tyler Graovac – 28
      Tanner Kero – 28
      Sean Kuraly – 28
      Jordan Martinook – 28
      Philippe Maillet – 28
      Greg McKegg – 28
      Tomas Nosek – 28
      Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 28
      Michael Chaput – 29
      Michael Granlund – 29
      Gaeten Haas – 29
      T. J. Tynan – 29
      Casey Cizikas – 30
      Justin Dowling – 30
      Erik Haula – 30
      Marcus Johansson – 30
      Drew Shore – 30
      Derek Stepan – 30
      Zac Dalpe – 31
      Tyler Ennis – 31
      Sam Gagner – 31
      Artem Anisimov – 32
      Luke Glendening – 32
      Riley Nash – 32
      Carter Rowney – 32
      Nick Bonino – 33
      Darren Helm – 34
      Ben Street – 34
      Tyler Bozac – 35
      Brandon Dubinsky – 35
      Michael Haley – 35
      David Krejci – 35
      Carl Soderberg – 35
      Paul Stastny – 35
      Travis Zajac – 35
      Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 36
      Ryan Getzlaf – 36
      Brad Richardson – 36
      Eric Staal – 36
      Nate Thompson – 36
      Valteri Filppula – 37
      Jason Spezza – 37
      Joe Thornton – 41

  4. JJB

    I don’t see OTT going after Kuznetsov. Melnyk was quoted that the Sens would be going after a defensive C and shutdown D-man…that they’re readily available as UFA
    I’m not a Sens fan but you have to like their crop of young C…they just need to ripen. Norris looks great!

    In a year or two they’re going to be a tough team to beat.

    • JJB to be clear. I do not want the Sens to go after Kunestov. Personally I want them to let Norris/Pinto play top two next year and bring in another defensive center for the bottom 6 who can win face offs and play the PK! That is my wish. Along with a similar type of player for the RW.

      Basically, I want an upgrade on Tierney (who I think we lose) and a veteran RW to play the 4th line, bring energy, and kill penatlies.

      Tkachuk- Norris – Batherson
      Stuetzle – Pinto – Brown
      Paul – White – Dadonov
      Forementon – ??? – ???

      These are the two spots I’m looking to fill. Maybe flipping between the 3rd/4th line. I don’t like Austin Watson there and I don’t think Parker Kelly or Ridley Greig are ready. Don’t waste Sokolov… if you can get the right center, maybe Abromov fills the right side internally.

  5. Wilson, the return of Kadri, and Olesiak for defense are the kind of headaches this old and old thinking Leaf fan would dance in the street to have…


    • Two out of three ain’t bad.

  6. Kuznetzov would return a halfway decent haul if moved. Top 6 centers are hard to find. But it’s kinda like the trade Malkin crowd. Malkin would also return a decent haul but no way that haul would be as helpful as a healthy motivated Malkin. So there is big risk trading these guys.

    • Big risk – both ways.

      • Agreed. Hence I doubt either moves.

  7. Ovi remains unusually productive at his age but will be 36 before the start of next season. At 9.5 million a season he has not been underpaid and if he wants an increase then the Caps are really in trouble. This is the third season in a row they have gone out in the first round. They presently have 0 cap space.

    Maybe they can move Kuznetsov, and maybe they get more cap space by losing a player to Seattle. Then what? They need several new impact players, not just one.

    If Ovi wants another cup I see only two paths: He takes a significant home town discount that frees up additional cap space. He is estimated to have made over 123 million already. He could play for the league minimum with no difference to his lifestyle. Or he could go via trade or UFA to a contender – which again would likely mean having to take a reduced pay day.

    I doubt either will happen, meaning lots of advil for the Caps head office.

  8. I agree with George as far as “buyer beware” on Kuznetsov. Teams will do their due diligence on the off ice stuff, but I don’t think he’s in a big decline. He was on covid list but does anyone know if he had it? He only played 41 games and numbers weren’t awful. I can see Rangers being interested. Any top 6 center becomes available, they’ll be on top of it. There’s no way they don’t try and upgrade from Strome at 2C. I have no issues with his contract or his age. He’s actually younger than Panarin. Depending on cost, he could be a better option than giving up top prospects for Eichel. 2.2mil less of cap hit that could go towards a new deal for Zib. The guy can skate and pass like not many others. Him and Panarin could be a lot more productive than Strome.

    • Slick, the implication about Kuznetsov having covid was that he got it by not following proper protocol. It may be that I am importing his reputation into that, but how otherwise does one get placed on the covid protocol list twice? More weight to your buyer beware comment.

      • LJ, as I said, teams will proceed cautiously. Another thing to look at is His actual salary. His 8 mil salary includes a 5mil bonus. That could figure into trade talks. Washington would probably prefer to move him before paying that out. Maybe they’d also like to get back a pick in the 1st round after sending theirs to Detroit.

  9. It’s hard not to overreact after the 1st round sweep to the Colorado but……………

    1. The Blues ran out of D’men in the series, but I would trade Vince Dunn anyway. Howard, if Montreal wants him, they can have him.

    2. The Blues need snipers (and help on left wing) and I would resign Hoffman, but Armstrong won’t! Hoffman and Berube NEVER were on the same page.

    3. The only UFA that is a priority to sign is remarkably Bozak.

    4. The Blues have zero immediate help coming from their minors, DO NOT give up on Thomas

    5. IF Schwartz is given a 6 year/6.5 million, I will………..

    6. IF David Perron is left exposed to Seattle, I will………

    7. VERY FEW (O’Reilly) untouchables—make an offer!!

    • To Blues: Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto

      To Oilers: Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas


  10. Sorry Augie,

    You “touched” my one UNtouchable.


  11. Ovi can definitely still score but besides the hit on Krech and a fluke goal I thought he didn’t do much. If I’m Washington I get him at a discount or see you later. Not sure what team would want him at stupid money maybe a team like Seattle I don’t see to many teams that can afford 10 million. I know Holtby wants to end up in Seattle maybe it would be a reunion.

  12. If Dunn or Blais are left exposed one of them is headed to Seattle.