NHL Rumor Mill – September 1, 2021
COULD HERTL AND THE SHARKS PART COMPANY THIS SEASON?
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz suggests it might be wise for Tomas Hertl and the San Jose Sharks to wait a little while before engaging in contract discussions. The 27-year-old winger is entering the final season of a four-year, $22.5 million contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer.
Kurz feels the direction of the Sharks could determine Hertl’s future in San Jose. This isn’t a “go-for-it” year as the club is attempting to remain competitive while restocking the roster with youth. Shopping Hertl and his expiring contract could help to accelerate that reset if general manager Doug Wilson seeks more draft picks and prospects.
Hertl could seek a deal comparable to the eight-year, $62 million deal Sean Couturier recently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite his obvious talent, he’s also been sidelined by multiple knee injuries throughout his career. With the Sharks already carrying several hefty contracts, adding another could be risky.
Kurz indicates Multiple sources say he’s among the Sharks players unhappy over how the club handled Evander Kane’s poor conduct last season. Hertl might not want to stick around if the Sharks don’t improve their team culture but Kurz said there’s no sign he’s on the trade block.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hertl’s popped up in internet speculation linking him to the Ottawa Senators but the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch was told there was nothing to that conjecture. Nevertheless, the versatile Sharks center could start appearing more frequently in this season’s rumor mill if his club is out of the playoff chase by this season’s NHL trade deadline.
LATEST ON THE KOTKANIEMI OFFER SHEET DRAMA
TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean doubts the Montreal Canadiens will match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed on Saturday with the Carolina Hurricanes. He believes the Canadiens already have a strategy and a really good idea of what they intend to do but will keep the Hurricanes waiting until the last minute.
Renaud Lavoie concurred with Jean while Felix Seguin considers that offer way too much for a player like Kotkaniemi. It feels it would be unreasonable for the Canadiens to match it.
Lavoie feels this is a difficult decision for the Canadiens but also wonders how nervous the Hurricanes front office feels. He said the Canes offer was a joke and believes they were 100 percent certain the Habs would match it.
Jean, meanwhile, believes Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and his staff are still considering their options. They need to see what kind of return they could get for the compensatory draft picks (the Hurricanes’ first and third-rounders in next year’s draft) if they don’t match the offer.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien examined the Canadiens’ options. Among them is using that compensatory package to acquire a replacement for Kotkaniemi via the trade market.
O’Brien cited recent speculation floated by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Eric Engels suggesting Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak as a possible target. He also proposed hanging onto to those picks and use them to select some quality talent in what’s expected to be a deep draft next year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Bergevin is exploring all his options, including swapping those Hurricanes picks for a potential immediate upgrade over Kotkaniemi. I think he’s also trying to make the Canes sweat a little by waiting until the last minute to make his decision.
Bergevin could also keep those picks and sign a short-term replacement like Eric Staal or Tyler Bozak to fill in this season as a third-line center. The Habs GM could also decide to match the offer though it would blow his salary-cap structure to pieces for this season and next when Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Jake Evans are restricted free agents.
Lavoie’s comment about the Hurricanes is interesting. Most of the coverage of their side of this story played up the revenge angle for the Aho offer sheet two years ago or praising the clever scamps in their PR department for trolling the Canadiens on Twitter when this signing was announced.
Some reports speculated Kotkaniemi signed this offer sheet with the understanding he would ink a longer-term deal with the Hurricanes next summer for an annual average value lower than $6.1 million. But what if that’s not the case? What if the Canes believed the Habs would match and it doesn’t happen?
It would be an interesting twist. We’ll just have to wait until the end of this week to see how this all plays out.
UPDATE ON KAPRIZOV
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the KHL season is underway in Russia with no indication Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov will sign a one-year deal with CSKA Moscow as rumored earlier this summer. He played with them for several years before joining the Wild last season. In recent days, CSKA Moscov indicated they don’t intend to bring Kaprizov back.
The Wild continue to hope that’s the case as they continue contract discussions with the Kaprizov camp. The Wild have come down from their desire to sign the 2021 Calder Trophy winner to a seven- or eight-year deal while the 24-year-old winger is willing to consider a deal longer than three years.
There’s no indication a deal between the two sides is close. Russo speculates the two sides could hammer out an agreement for five years with an annual average value of around $9 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The KHL contract threat seems to be Kaprizov’s agent attempt to use what little leverage he has to extract a shorter-term deal from the Wild. Most observers dismissed it as a bluff.