NHL Rumor Mill – June 21, 2021

by | Jun 21, 2021 | Rumors | 43 comments

The latest on Dougie Hamilton, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reported Saturday it sounds like there’s a lot of conversations between agent J.P. Barry (who represents Dougie Hamilton) and other NHL clubs. The 28-year-old Carolina Hurricanes defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hamilton and his agent have been granted permission by the Hurricanes to speak with other teams on a deal that could work into a sign-and-trade situation. However, Johnston gets the feeling this won’t be resolved quickly, suggesting it could take several weeks, perhaps close to the July 28 start date of free agency.

Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs should at least consider attempting to acquire Hamilton. Doing so, however, could mean trading away Morgan Rielly to free up sufficient salary-cap space to sign Hamilton to a long-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Next month’s NHL expansion draft (July 21) is probably a big reason why a possible sign-and-trade scenario for Hamilton would take weeks. The acquiring club would have to include him on their player protection list.

If the Leafs aren’t trading any of their high-priced forwards, trading Rielly seems the most logical way to clear cap space to sign Hamilton. Slated to become a UFA next summer, Rielly will seek a big raise over his current $5 million annual cap hit.

That might not be the best move on the Leafs part. They would get deeper on the right side of their blueline by signing Hamilton, but moving out Rielly leaves a big gap on the left side.


AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan confirms reports indicating the Arizona Coyotes will explore trade options for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 29-year-old defenseman is also more open to that possibility compared to last fall when he was willing to waive his no-movement clause for only the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.

Ekman-Larsson has six more seasons left on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.25 million. Morgan points out the blueliner’s performance has declined over the past several seasons. A change of scenery might do him good after years of losing in Arizona and carrying the burden of the captaincy.

Morgan indicated Ekman-Larsson has not provided the Coyotes with a list of preferred trade destinations. However, the plan is for the club to seek whatever trade option are available and present them to the defenseman’s camp to see what ones are acceptable. The Coyotes could look for comparable contracts that other clubs are trying to move. Perhaps some of those could have a little less term. They could also retain part of his salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Ekman-Larsson’s contract wouldn’t be easy under normal circumstances. It could be more difficult under a flattened salary cap this summer.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Coyotes can work something out. Retaining part of his salary could be more enticing for other clubs, but it still means the Coyotes would be carrying that portion for six more years.


PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski suggested Rasmus Ristolainen as a possible trade target for the Pittsburgh Penguins to add a physical defenseman to their blueline. The 26-year-old rearguard impressed Kingerski with his play against the Penguins this season, especially on Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

Kingerski speculates offering up a second-round draft pick, plus more, could get it done, or perhaps a team could get away with a solid prospect. The New Jersey Devils are also said to be interested in Ristolainen, who wouldn’t object to getting traded.

The Penguins would need to clear some cap space for Ristolainen’s $5.4 million cap hit. However, they could get some relief from the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins management made it clear during the season and after the playoffs that they’re looking to add more size and grit to their lineup. Ristolainen could help but they could also have other options in mind.


  1. Why would Buffalo trade Risto to Penguins for a 2nd rounder and a “prospect”? Makes zero sense unless that pick is a 1st.

    • Totally agree, sure he has his flaws but in the end is a really good D with the right partner so it starts with a first

      • Pittsburgh has no first this year. The Sabres should ask for Poulin. And if its NJ they should ask for Dawson Mercer, or Moynihan and the Isles 2021 1st.

    • They’d have him for 1 year, then UFA. (unless he’s willing to sign longer term) How much would qualified for making 5.3 now after next season.? I agree he’s a decent D man on a better team. If he’s unwilling to sign (longer term) I’m guessing a 2nd rounder & a prospect isn’t out of line.

      • My first thought was that a 1st is out of line as well for a soon to be ufa middle pair d man. Then I thought about savard. He got a 1st. So maybe risto does to…

      • IMO Risto has good to really good upside. He is Buffalo’s #1 Dman as he plays the most minutes, has for a few seasons.
        To quote your new President of Hockey Ops, the most difficult player to judge is a D man on a bad team.
        He plays the other teams best guys, starts most of his shifts in his own zone, for the most minutes, on the worst team in the NHL. Big, skates well for big, and contributes offensively 5 on 5. Can play 2nd PP and kills penalties.
        Worth the gamble for many teams I would guess. If he works out sign him long term, if he doesn’t, don’t.
        The teams I know well, the Oil and the B’s, have depth on RD, so not a fit there.
        Letang is a UFA after this season, so not a totally crazy idea for PIT.
        IMO he is a lot better than folks think because of where he plays and what he does for them.

    • The Penguins need to create cap space, retool the roster with quicker and bigger talent, and acquire draft picks to replenish the farm.

      The Sabres have enough draft picks to be effective in the draft. Their priorities involve drafting well and brining in talent to win.

      • Yes they do need to clear cap space but not for a defenseman whose – 41 please..better options out there.

    • I get Risto is big, physical and tough but at -41 and a big salary..makes no sense.

      Bad idea..

      • You do realize he plays for a really bad team with no goaltending at all.

    • Exactly!!! Risto is a#1 def = 1st round pick and good prospect at least.

  2. Well, one thing’s for certain, if the Pens add Risto they would have at least one physical defenseman …

  3. Crazy question:

    Are the Leafs able to expose John Tavares in the expansion draft or does him NMC prevent that? If there is a loophole there the Leafs would clear 11 million off the cap and sign 2 good players with that.

    • NMC prevents it unless he agrees to waive it. I doubt he’ll do that.

  4. To all those teams attempting to go after Dougie leave well enough alone he’s a headcase. Now is time for the b’s to move OEL stock is low. He won’t be resigned by Arizona. Grab him

    • OEL is signed for 6 more years. He’ll be 35, then, and it won’t be a question of whom he’ll resign with, but if anyone will offer him a contract.

      • He has always been a good skater and I think he can rebound on another team, but his cap over the term of the contract is probably about 3m to much so thats what Arizone needs to retain

    • You are now apparently trading for OEL & Eichel this offseason. Bruins are going to look great … just one question… where is the $18 million in cap space and assets coming from?

      • He also calls for Neely and Sweeney to be fired. I’m sure the new front will have it all figured out.
        Rick doesn’t offer solutions just poorly thought out knee-jerk reactions.

      • That’s on management’s table not mine you’ll have to ask Sweeney

  5. If the Leafs move out Reilly to make room for Hamilton it would really not accomplish anything. Would merely shift their defensive weakness from the right side to the left. There’s no escaping the fact that improvement on D would necessitate a trade of one of the high priced forwards.

    • Yes, however losing Reilly for nothing at the end of the season is not ideal. As for the defensive zone they’re not losing a lot without him.

    • True, but its easier to find LD and you can trade Reilly for picks so depending on what Hamilton wants its sounds like a good deal but he isnt worth it if it starts with an 8, for me its 7×7,75

    • Howard

      It might improve the Leafs PP? Reilly is not a threat to shoot the puck, Hamilton is.
      Hamilton is an upgrade defensively. Reilly could be used to add a good LW to replace Hyman.
      Hamilton can be put beside Brodie on the top pair.

      • Reilly not a threat to shoot he scored 20 goals 3 years ago then for his reward Dubas brought Barrie and took Reilly`s PP time away. Under Keefe his primary job is to set up Matthews not as much shooting. Under a better coach Reilly will shoot more and join the rush more often. Keefe has been trying to make him into a all around type of defenceman to which he`s not. Reilly is more suited to be a 4th forward type and that`s where he`s most effective. Hamilton might be better on the PP but Reilly is far more dangerous if they let him loose. Everything is set up for Matthews if he goes into a slump early exit

      • I agree with Bob. Barrie was supposed to be a guy who shot a lot and made plays from the point. Keefe may be good at making his forwards happy, but he is not good at maximizing the skills of all of his players. Mikheyev was a sniper in the first half of his rookie year – but forgot how to shoot last year. Engvall is a big, smooth skater with good defensive skills and scores the odd highlight reel goal when given a chance – but Keefe complains that he isn’t enough of a high energy checker for the 4th line.
        Marner has given up being anything more than a set-up man for Matthews, and it shows in his game this past season – lots of points, but far more passes to nowhere, mishandled pucks, and the complete disappearance of Marner skating through defencemen while carrying the puck.
        Throw in the 3 month mystery about how all this high end talent stopped scoring on the power play and the play-offs failure to make any sort of adjustments to get space for the snipers….I like Keefe, but he’s still an AHL coach. It was the same vs Columbus last year, he kept the team cycling on that crazy powerplay while the Blue Jackets just pulled back and waited. Most of the zone entries took 20 seconds or more to set up. Lou built a team that was second to nobody in terms of speed, and Keefe wastes that speed and holds it back.
        Time for a coaching upgrade. Keefe has too much to learn and is taking too long to do it.

  6. Ristolainen is another of those players who are seeing their own worth devalued by both themselves and their team

    He has put his unhappiness out there in public for a few years.

    He has been the subject of trade talks for the past three years.

    His stats and eye test show him to be very good and very bad, so which one do you get in a trade.

    He has $5.4 for one more year and then is UFA.

    • Habfan. I would be more inclined to question their value if they were actually happy in Buffalo. Risto comment was he wouldn’t be upset if he was traded. Hasn’t asked.

    • His value is being lowered by himself and his play. Risto is an absolute beast when it comes to delivering hits, but he is delivering hits so often because his possession game is not impressive and when he is on the ice, regardless of his defensive partner his team is always being pressured. It has been this way since 16/17. Risto was heralded as a future #1, but that is not who he has developed into.

      Based on where he is now, Risto is probably a good 2nd pairing defenseman and powerplay driver, with sheltered PK minutes. That isn’t to say he is a bad defenseman, but his play never reached his hype. Buffalo, SHOULD in fact move on from him. With Dalhin & likely Power, the biggest role that Risto plays (powerplay driver) is covered.

      Honestly, I think the perfect team to pursue him should be Carolina. Move Dougie in a sign and trade and use some of the assets to flip to Buffalo for Risto. Pesce can move up to the left side of Slavin and Risto can play on the left side of Bean, Risto replaces Dougie as the driver for the 1st powerplay. He won’t be as effective as Dougie, but is more suitable than anyone else in the Hurricanes franchise is right now, plus comes with a more affordable contract.

      He does block shots and has that grit. Carolina is the correct team to get his value. Just don’t put him on the top pairing.

    • He was having an excellent season being paired with McCabe till McCabe got injured. I think paired with a stay at home partner would be to his advantage.

  7. I think Rielly moving is a given. Love many of the qualities he brings but his hockey IQ is suspect so many times. He has one year left and all things being equal I would take RHD over LHD at the same cap hit. Just to add, one thing leafs have missed is a D with a big shot on the powerplay- Muzzin can shoot but hardly a PP1 guy. Having another shooter from the point creates more space for everyone.
    All of this to say- the only real move they should make is trying to move Marner- something this management team just wont do. Nothing to do with size, as there are many small players that excel in the playoffs- Marner isn’t one of them. he is just too easy to neutralize.
    A Marner for Matt Tkachuck plus type deal would change this teams psyche. Support players would do nothing as they just dont play the minutes.

    • In general I find it puzzling when writers propose trading good young players out in the name of rebuilding when the purpose of a rebuild is to stock up on good young players. Tkachuck is 23. Unless there is a team that offers clearly more than he is worth, why would you move him? For picks and prospects that you hope would develop into a Tkachuck in a few years? That’s going backwards. And it wouldn’t be for cap reasons.

      Of course it depends on what the return is and Sam I don’t know what the plus is with Tkachuck but trading him for Marner doesn’t do much for either team.

      For the Leafs it is one player in, one out. No solution to their enduring imbalance. For Calgary they lose a good all round player for one whose strength is puck distribution. To whom would he be distributing to?

      • fair points but its about style- Tkachuk is exactly what the leafs need. Attitude with skill on top line and for the Flames they get the arguably better player (at least for regular season). Mangiapane Monahan already bring a gritty element.. and this all ties in with what looks like the eventual trading of Gaudreau

      • Wrong tkachuck fellows, the one to have is in Ottawa. This one you’d need to qualify him (Rfa) at over $7m. For what he has shown so far, it’s a hard pass. $$$/pts is just not there thankfully he’s young but I’ll pass on that bet getting to the point it makes sense.

    • Marner is his own worst enemy. In his first 2 seasons, he was a game changer in the playoffs and generated all sorts of opportunities. But when was the last time anybody saw Marner beat a defense with his speed and stickhandling? When he does, it is always to park and attempt a set-up of Matthews. Near the end of the season, The Leafs had Marner and Matthews on a 2 on 0 break-away, no shot resulted as they fumbled away the puck trying to be clever. Far too much of that. I understand wanting your best buddy to get 50 goals in 50 games, but sometimes you need to go with what the other team gives you, or make some openings on your own. He used to be able to do it, but lately, he is his own worst enemy.

    • How much money leafs holding on Marner to make that happen? And that’s with both straight up for each other.

    • Sam, Tkachuk + for Marner? As they say in bingo, under the B serious, B serious.

  8. Hey Ron, sometimes not about points but that being said he has had a 77 point season lol. Both guys are gold and i would take them in a heartbeat

  9. Flames are not taking on additional $4m to swap Marner for M.Tkchuck. Regardless of who brings what to the game

    Ristolainen is worth more than a second no matter what the landscape . Christ pure rentals get more . David Savard was 1 rst and a 3rd. No 8 pick at his age gets more

  10. Bruins… OEL…..please don’t do it

  11. The Bruins need Dmen that can actually play D and get the puck out of their own end , they have 2 offensive Dmen don’t need another

  12. Trust me you don’t want Hamilton for Reilly.

  13. replacing Reilly with Hamilton doesn’t really do the Leafs any good. Their issue is with the cap and Hamilton is gonna cost them more than Reilly’s 5 mill this season and add to their cap hell.

    OEL isn’t goin anywhere anytime soon until he plays his way back to his 8.5 (or therebouts) cap hit. If I was The Coyotes I wouldn’t move him unless the team takes his full cap hit – no way I want an extra 2-3 mill hanging around for the next 6 years to remind me of a bad contract. I’d rather take less and get the cap space back or not move him at all…

    Marner for Tkachuk would be great – but why would Calgary do it? Just cause they have a history of bad trades with Toronto? Leafs should/would do it straight up to get rid of the 11 million (oops – sorry Austen – 10.9 mill) cap boat anchor that MM’s contract is becoming. There’s no “plus” on that deal…