Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 29, 2021
Could the Canadiens target the Sabres Jack Eichel or the Coyotes’ Christian Dvorak if they don’t match Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet? Which centers could the Penguins target if the need arises this season? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
COULD THE CANADIENS BE SHOPPING FOR KOTKANIEMI’S REPLACEMENT?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the Carolina Hurricanes signing Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet on Saturday. Friedman said the Hurricanes had discussed the possibility of a trade for Kotkaniemi with the Canadiens but couldn’t work out a deal. He thinks the Hurricanes informed the Canadiens of their intention to sign Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet, probably within 24 hours of doing so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial reports of Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet took most observers by surprise. Some suggested Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was caught off-guard, chiding him for not signing Kotkaniemi when he had the chance to avoid this situation.
Based on Friedman’s reporting, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Habs GM still didn’t seem fully convinced Kotkaniemi was fully prepared for second-line center duty. He was using his leverage to attempt to sign the youngster to a two-year bridge deal worth around $2.5 million annually.
Bergevin also had plenty of advance warning of Carolina’s interest in Kotkaniemi. While the Hurricanes’ PR team played up the revenge angle on Twitter to great amusement on social media, that seems to be merely a secondary factor. Why engage in trade talks if they intended to do the offer sheet all along? And why inform the Habs of their plan and provide Bergevin an opportunity to get Kotkaniemi under contract?
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels speculates Bergevin could target Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak. The Habs GM will have some extra draft capital with the first- and third-round picks he’d get from the Hurricanes as compensation. The Coyotes showed a willingness over the past month to collect as many high-end picks as possible.
Dvorak, 25, would be a good fit. The 6-foot, 200-pound two-way center has averaged a half-point per game and carries a cost-effect annual cap hit of $4.45 million over the next four seasons.
Engels also wonders if Bergevin could use those picks as part of a package deal for Jack Eichel. They’d have to live with the risk of the 24-year-old center becoming the first player to have an artificial disc-replacement procedure before he played his first game with them. Bergevin could also attempt the offer-sheet route with Elias Pettersson but doubts he’ll target the Vancouver Canucks center.
TVA SPORTS: Yvon Pedneault also thinks Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will be working the phones to find a suitable, affordable replacement. He speculates he’ll target teams that have to reduce payroll before the start of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin has seven days to match the Hurricanes offer for Kotkaniemi. If he has no intention of matching he’s already calling around looking to package those compensatory picks for a replacement or an upgrade.
Dvorak reportedly drew considerable interest around the league but Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be reluctant to move him. Maybe he’d be swayed if Bergevin offered up a first and a third. PuckPedia shows the Habs currently have two picks in the third, fourth and seventh rounds of next year’s draft. Bergevin could include one or two of those along with the compensation from the Hurricanes or add a prospect or two to sweeten the pot.
Much has been made of Bergevin’s cozy relationship with Eichel’s new agent, Pat Brisson. However, the Sabres are still reportedly seeking four assets comparable to first-round picks. Unless that asking price is lowered, I don’t see the Habs getting into the bidding for the Sabres captain.
Bergevin could attempt to sign Pettersson to an offer sheet but I don’t think the young Canuck is interested. As Engels points out, the expensive price to do so would be difficult to squeeze within the Canadiens’ salary-cap limits.
COULD THE PENGUINS TARGET A RENTAL CENTER?
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently examined four possible rental centers for the Penguins if Evgeni Malkin should be sidelined by knee surgery longer than expected. That could create a problem with the Penguins lacking depth at center beyond their top four. The club was also wracked with injuries last season plus Malkin and Jeff Carter are unrestricted free agents next summer.
The first is San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl. Kingerski speculates he could be had for a similar cost the Carolina Hurricanes paid for Vincent Trocheck, which was two bottom-six forwards and a promising prospect.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming the Sharks intend to move Hertl or he intends to test the market. There could be mutual interest in working out an extension. If the Sharks do shop him I suspect they’ll seek a better return than what the Florida Panthers got for Trocheck.
Other options include Columbus’ Max Domi, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski if the Stars are out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, or swapping defenseman Marcus Pettersson’s bad contract for the Minnesota Wild’s Victor Rask.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kingerski acknowledged Domi is sidelined by shoulder surgery until December. He also pointed out the Blue Jackets’ own lack of depth at center. Pavelski has a three-team trade list and could prefer staying out west.