NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2021

by | May 26, 2021 | Rumors | 33 comments

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.


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.

Has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played his final game with the Edmonton Oilers? (NHL Images)

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.


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.


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.


  1. If I am Edmonton, I pass on RNH save the money and spend on Barrie and a Goalie otherwise we will be in this exact same storyline a year from now.

    Plus find some low value forwards – could not hurt vs the band wagon players currently behind McJesus and Drai!

    • I understand it is the way things work, but after you draft RNH early, and then you sign this still a work in progress guy to a larger $ contract, and they are not the dynamic impact guy, in my humble opinion the system overpaid him, and the growth was not commensurate the dollars. You get to now, doe the player RNH understand the team was loyal so you simply stay around the same salary to even past salary-things outs? I am not naive, but to me this is the biggest issue hampering teams winning consecutive cups, improving to be regular contenders, and the have nots improving. It is not like the covid marketplace gets RNH a super bump in salary. It could get him a new team, but Cap reality sucks. (hey, after almost SIX early draft selections, no boo-hoo to the Oilers) but something is rotten when the bigger mid-line up pieces depart like this.

    • “If I am Edmonton, I pass on RNH save the money and spend on Barrie and a Goalie otherwise we will be in this exact same storyline a year from now.”

      Letting RNH and their playoff MVP Mike Smith go and keeping Barrie will result in a WORSE storyline next year.

      You know that, right?

  2. Edmonton are probably better served getting some help at the bottom and get a goalie than sign the Nuge. Turris was a bust, a worthwhile gamble that didnt pay off. They need better 3rd and 4th lines, resign Larsson and how about buying out Koskinen, saves 3m next year and resign Smith as Backup. He has been good but isnt a 1st starter. They should also consider buying out Neal, he is just to slow for todays game

    • There is bigger savings buying out Neal than Koskinen. Depending how the goalie situation worksout this offseason will depend if Koskinen is bought out. His cap hit didn’t hurt this season due to how Smith played and his low cap hit.

    • Kent , I agree on all points , Koskinen and Neal bought out Larsson resigned. Bring up Bouchard and Broberg next year.

      • Heh. Turris was a bust when Nashville forked over $6 mil and was still a bust when Holland “took a chance” and gave him $1,650,000 – which has one more year to run.

        Yet another example when some were saying Dorion got hosed – like the Karlsson and Duchesne purges.

      • Holland can still bury 900K of Turris’s cap hit in the AHL. It was a risk worth taking IMO. It hasn’t hurt anything on the Oilers side.

    • Buffalo will have cap space this off season so why not trade them Koskinen and Neal for Okposo.

      Though it ONLY gives EDM 4.5 in cap space it still gives them 4.5 in cap space.

      Buffalo needs a goalie anyway and well Ullmark may want more than a 2-3 yr deal at 4.5 so this gets buffalo someone for now.


      • Koskinen is terrible and isnt an nhl goalie, Ullmark will be worth the pay, probably

    • Could Oilers try to bring back Hall and let RNH walk? I agree with poster above. He’s not worth 7 mil. 28 years old and coming off a 35 point season? No thanks. Maybe 4 years at about 5 mil.

  3. I really like Nuge. He is a great team first guy. I can understand if he wants to test free agency though. Sometimes you just have to put yourself first.
    With Nuge and Larsson as the only key free agents to sign the Oilers have just over $22 million in cap space with 17 players already signed for next season, so the cap space is there. Still, Holland needs to be smart with the cap space. Nurse is set to be a UFA next season.

    • Rumor has it Larsson is coming back.
      So if true the Oil need 1 top 6 winger if Nuge stays. If he leaves they need 2.
      Nuge is what he is. Not great producing 5 on 5 this year. Not great with McDavid. Was very good in a small (30 game) sample size with Draisaitl last year. Overall a not a big point producer worthy of big $.
      Good on PK and PP and can play quality C in a pinch, so versatile.
      What’s that worth? I dunno $5.5 for 5 years?
      D – all depends on Klefbom. If he plays they’re set. If he doesn’t, problem that needs to be addressed but they will have his $ to spend.
      Martinez for a year or 2?
      Really need a tender. Who that is, I have no idea who becomes available pre expansion draft, but you would think someone will.

      • With just a couple assumptions , that I believe are happening , here is how I see holland approaching this off season .
        1 larsson resigns for around 3.5×4 years .
        2 yamo resigns for around 2×1.8
        3 Neal is bought out
        4 for these numbers I will assume klefbom is out , if he’s back , even better

        These numbers , would leave ken with roughly 26.5 million to fill out the roster , broken down it looks like this . Roughly .

        Goalie : up to 6.5 million
        Nuge OR top 6 winger : 6 million
        Top 6 winger : up to 6 million
        Top 4 d : up to 4.5 million (klefbom here if healthy)
        Leaving 3.5 to fill in the bottom 3 spots. Could see Khaira back around 1 million leaving 2.5 million to add 2 .
        Ken will have lots of options , depending on klefbom health and nuge decision . The cap space will be there for a variety of paths he could choose to go down

      • For a goalie I like Dreidger from Florida. Florida has to protect Bobrovsky in the expansion draft because of his NTC and Knight is exempt. So Dreidger should be available through trade at a decent price.
        Rask and Halak are also UFA’s this offseason. Not sure how that will work out in Boston. Jeremy Swayman may be ready as a backup or a 1B next season. Although I’m not sure Holland will want to go the old goalie route again.

      • Driedger is a UFA. Florida does not need to protect him. But he isn’t going to come cheap.

  4. If your Boston do you let Krech walk and sign Nuge he is younger and let him play with Hall? I know all depends on the money but I don’t see a big pay difference between the two. Ideally I’d like Krech to sign a two year deal at about 5 million but not sure I see that happening.

    • They didn’t bring much success together in EDM so I would say NO if I were Boston on that combination. Either play solo yes but not together.

  5. I do not get the hate on Nuge. He played really well this year. Seems to be able to move through out the line up and contribute. I don’t believe quality centre’s at age 28 have contract values decline. If I were the Oilers I would sign him at 6.5 for 4-5 years.

    The oilers can have McDavid on the top line Draisaitle on the 2nd Nuge bumping around the two. While the two join each other at times.

    They really need to improve that bottom half of the roster. Plus get another player for the top two lines who plays with grit.

    They need to change their play style away from being reliant on McDavid.

    Not an easy task but I don’t see much out their to replace Nugent-Hopkins.

    I’m not against trading him as it will be an affective way to change the atmosphere of the team. But for what? Maybe they can look towards the leafs and take foligno or Colorado and try and pry Kadri away.

    How ever it’s the bottom half of the at roster that needs to become more of a threat not the top half.

    • Like I said above, I like Nuge. He produced really well on the pp this season, but struggled at even strength this past season. I would love if the Oilers could get him for around $6.5 million a season, however from what I have heard is he’s wanting over $7 million. Which IMO is a little high.

      • Like Ray says, nothing wrong with Nuge but with the salary he wants the money is better spent elsewhere. Its like Vancouver, they need 2 top six wingers but they need players in the bottom six who isnt caved in their own zone more. They also need better D, so lots of needs….. 😉

    • Nothing wrong with Nuge. The question is what is the best way to spend the available cap space.
      Nuge can demand more because he can be a 2C on another team. IMO the Oil don’t need a 2C because they have Draisaitl.
      Nuge wasn’t great with McDavid and really produced sweet FA 5 on 5 with him this year. He wasn’t very good in that role.
      So, on the Oilers he is a 2nd line winger who produces at an average rate. That isn’t worth 7 or even 6.5 in with the flat cap.
      So if he won’t take less, what do you do?
      Jeff, you’re right, if you don’t sign him you better replace him or they will take a step back. So Nuge has leverage if he wants to stay.

      That’s why GM’s get the big bucks I guess.

  6. We all know Gary Bettman’s dream would be to have Connor McDavid wearing a New York Rangers uniform.

    What realistic package could the Rangers put together that would give the Oilers cause for pause?

    • Doug, it doesn’t matter what Bettman wants. McDavid is not getting traded anywhere unless he loses his mind and demands a trade. I am a Flames fan and IMO there is no chance that the Oilers would move the best player in the game.

    • The Rangers, or any team for that matter, can’t put any package together that will tempt Holland to trade McDavid. Toronto couldn’t put a package together that included Matthews that would tempt Holland to trade McDavid.
      The Oilers aren’t in the need to make a blockbuster deal. All they need to to make a few tweaks and use their cap space wisely. If you add Matthews, Marners, and Tavares point totals together that still doesn’t equal McDavid’s point total this season.
      With McDavid quality outweighs quantity.

      • As a Ranger fan I would love to see McDavid in a Rangers uniform but as a person with a little common sense, I know it won’t happen. However RNH would be a perfect fit on the Ranger as they have been looking for a while for a decent #2 C. A sign and trade might work very well as the Rangers have quite a few up and coming players that could possibly interest the Oilers in acquiring. I am not talking about the hopefully young promising superstars like Lafrenierre, Kravtsov, Kakko, Fox and Miller and the like, but rather the players just under that like Di Gusieppe, Blackwell, Gauthier, Giorgiev and an abundance of left D-men..

        The Rangers are set, IMHO in D’s for the next decade(?) with Trouba, Fox and Lundkvist on the right and Hajek, Miller, Jones and Lindgren on the left.

        At right and left forward we have a number of excellent players but I won’t even guess who will be staying and who will be moving except for Panarin, Lafrenierre, Kreider and Barron on the left, Kravtsov, Kakko and Buchnevich on the right.

        Our biggest need is a #2 C and adding one to the roster would strengthen the C position as players would then be playing at a lesser spot (Zibanejad #1, Chytil as a #3 and Strome as a #4)

        I would hate having to add Giorgiev to a package going to Edmonton but the Oilers do need a future #1 G.

        Just my thoughts on the future. I think it looks very good for the Rangers as the only real holes I see as #2 C and another RD. It may still take a few years to develop but this team will be a perennial Stanley Cup contender in a few years time, IMHO.

    • Actually we don’t all know that Doug. I would be surprised if Bettman has spent 5 seconds thinking about where he wants McDavid or any other player to be playing.

  7. I feel a bit like a broken record, but if Nuge does hit the open market, I hope Ottawa takes a pass on him. Really, unless Ottawa is signing a TRUE 1st line center, I just don’t see the point. Norris played well, has room to grow, and plays a good 200ft game. Pinto looked really good as well, plays a 200ft game. Colin White is penciled in at 3C, plays a 200ft game.

    Nuge has some dyanmic offense, but also some defensive struggles. Most importantly, he really struggles at winning faceoffs, something all the Senators current C outside of Norris struggle with. Ottawa needs to add a center, that is certain. But unless you have a guy that is stepping into the number one spot. Your better option is going after a guy who can play the bottom 6, win faceoffs, and kill penalties. THIS is who Ottawa needs the most.

    I think a guy like Luke Glendening is who you target? Is that a big splash signing? Nope. But if Ottawa could add a guy like Glendening & maybe Brandon Saad then I think their forward lines next year would be very tough to handle!

    Tkatchuk – Norris – Batherson
    Stuetzle – Pinto – Brown
    Saad – White – Dadonov
    Forementon – Glendening – Paul

    Every line has the ability to score and play a solid game. Dadonov & Forementon can add to the powerplay as well! I like this path, better than Nuge.

    • JJB , I agree that Ottawa need a couple of experienced bottom 6 forwards. Biggest need IMO is a top pair stay at home RD to play with Chabot ( think Methot / Karlsson ) .

  8. Wouldn’t the Oilers be better off with something like a Saad & Palmieri than Nugent -Hopkins ? Ryan Macleod looks promising and Holloway is a player. Need a little more time
    They need more boots on the ground. What happens if one of the big two goes down 4-6 weeks ? Or Both ?
    Buy Neal out.
    Hard target Dreidger in terms of a trade. They should be able to offer more than Seattle

    • I would like Holland to look at Coleman and Hyman. I think they would add exactly what the Oilers need. Seeing that Tampa is already over the cap by $5 million for next season with having 22 players already signed, I don’t think they can afford to resign Coleman. Toronto will also be hard pressed to resign Hyman, but it won’t be impossible.
      Resigning Nuge and signing one of those players is actually doable with the cap space Holland has to play with.

  9. Many changes are coming in Edmonton. Ryan has never lived up to his $6M contract so if he’s serious ’bout wanting to stay he so needs to offer a hometown discount.

  10. You know how this is going to possibly go:

    1. Holland knows RNH was overpaid for 6 yrs so unless he resigns for a hometown discount of 5 mil or less he’ll let him walk and put the money for a starting goalie (Fast Freddie Andersen).

    2. Plant of UFAs this year that will be signing one or two year contracts. Lose RNH up UFA Holland has 6 mil to pay for same calibre player for 1-2.5 mil less.


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