NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2021
What does the future hold for Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What players could the Blackhawks target via free agency? How will the Stars address their goaltending logjam? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE OILERS RE-SIGN NUGENT-HOPKINS?
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wonders what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ next contract will look like and whether it’ll be with the Edmonton Oilers. The versatile 28-year-old forward is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s coming off a seven-year deal worth an annual average value of $6 million.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Derek Van Diest wondered if Nugent-Hopkins has played his last game with the Oilers. He claims he’s not thinking about free agency right now, adding his goal is to stay in Edmonton. Nugent-Hopkins was the third-highest paid Oilers behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman believes a new contract for Nugent-Hopkins with the Oilers could get tricky. Oilers general manager Ken Holland must be careful not to offer too much money or term, assuming he brings Nugent-Hopkins back. There were reports of progress in contract talks at various points in the season but nothing got done.
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes the Senators should give Nugent-Hopkins a long look if he hits the open market on July 28. He could be a good fit centering the Senators’ second line alongside winger Tim Stuetzle if they could sign him within a $5 million to $5.5 million range per season on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins’ contract status is the Oilers’ biggest priority this offseason. He could see if he can get a better deal via free agency if the Oilers offer a deal similar to this current salary or less. If that happens, Holland will be scrambling to find a suitable replacement via free agency or the trade market.
The Senators could approach Nugent-Hopkins if he becomes available. If they’re unwilling to come up over Warren’s suggested range, however, they won’t be among the suitors for long.
The flattened salary cap will affect Nugent-Hopkins’ efforts to land a more lucrative contract. Nevertheless, don’t rule out the ability of general managers with lots of cap space to overpay for talent when the free-agent auction fever hits.
POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Phil Thompson recently examined some of the Blackhawks’ biggest needs for next season. They require a top defenseman, more consistent scoring threats, and more size in front of the net.
The Blackhawks could still have over $10.8 million in long-term injury salary relief from Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw for next season, though GM Stan Bowman has hinted certain factors could affect that. Nevertheless, Thompson believes they should have sufficient cap space after re-signing affordable young RFAs such as Adam Gaudette, Pius Suter and Brandon Hagel.
Thompson wondered if the Blackhawks would be in the market for a defenseman like Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton or Edmonton’s Tyson Barrie, or forwards such as Toronto’s Zach Hyman or Florida’s Alexander Wennberg. More affordable options could include Arizona’s Michael Bunting, Boston’s Mike Reilly, Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Detroit’s Luke Glendening.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowman could pursue a big-ticket UFA but I think he’ll seek more affordable veteran options to augment the younger players he’s bringing into the roster. Much of what he’ll do, of course, will depend upon how much cap space he’ll have to work with.
Cap Friendly indicates the Hawks have over $76 million invested in 23 players for 2021-22. Placing Seabrook and/or Shaw on LTIR will help but those factors Bowman alluded to could complicate things. The Blackhawks GM could attempt to get around that by shopping their contracts to teams seeking cap relief or those attempting to stay near the $60.2 million cap floor next season.
STARS HAVE OPTIONS TO ADDRESS CROWDED CREASE
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks examined several options facing the Dallas Stars to address their crowded goal crease. They currently carry three goaltenders in Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger. Khudobin and Oettinger were their regular tandem this season while Bishop recovered from knee surgery that sidelined him the entire season.
One option is the Seattle Kraken select Khudobin in the expansion draft. Bishop has a no-movement clause and there’s no indication he’ll waive it to be exposed in the draft. Oettinger is exempt from the expansion draft.
Sending Oettinger back to the AHL next season is another option as he’s waiver-exempt until he plays 24 more NHL games. They could also trade or waive Khudobin, carry all three goalies next season, or return with the Khudobin-Oettinger tandem if Bishop isn’t ready to play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oettinger is the Stars’ future starter and outplayed Khudobin this season. GM Jim Nill could prefer the youngster as Bishop’s backup for next season.
Nill could attempt to trade Khudobin before the July 21 expansion draft rather than lose him to the Kraken for nothing. While he backstopped the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, his struggles this season could hurt his value in the trade market. It could also make the Kraken think twice about selecting him unless Nill offers up an incentive like a draft pick or prospect in a side deal.