NHL Rumor Mill – December 31, 2021
How will the Golden Knights clear salary-cap space for Jack Eichel’s return in February? Could the Canadiens trade Brendan Gallagher or Tyler Toffoli before the March trade deadline? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Evgenii Dadonov and Reilly Smith top Owen Krepps’ list of potential cost-cutting Vegas Golden Knights trade candidates to clear salary-cap space for Jack Eichel’s return to action in February.
The Golden Knights acquired Eichel in an early-season trade from the Buffalo Sabres. He’s been on long-term injury reserve after recovering from neck surgery last fall and is expected to make his Golden Knights’ debut in late February.
Eichel carries a $10 million annual salary-cap hit. His return would put the Golden Knights over the $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling by $4.6 million.
Krepps considered Dadonov the most likely trade candidate, pointing to his lack of consistency this season. He felt the winger could be of interest to rebuilding clubs like the Ottawa Senators or Detroit Red Wings. Dadonov’s annual cap hit is $5 million through 2022-23 and he carries a modified no-trade clause.
Smith is also earning $5 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. That could make him a trade candidate and he could fetch a good return. However, he’s producing at a better level than Dadonov and could be worthwhile retaining for the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krepps piece was published before Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty was sidelined indefinitely by wrist surgery. As NBC Sports’ James O’Brien points out, Pacioretty’s $7 million cap hit won’t totally cancel out Eichel’s $10 million but it would alleviate much of that potential salary-cap strain if the veteran winger goes on LTIR for the remainder of the season.
The Golden Knights could still be forced to move Dadonov or Smith if Pacioretty and Martinez return before Eichel’s debut or soon afterward. While Krepps believes Dadonov is the more likely trade candidate, I think it’s Smith who ends up moving despite his value to the Golden Knights.
Dadonov’s inconsistency, the extra year on his contract and his 10-team no-trade list would make him harder to move than the productive Smith, who lacks no-trade protection. I doubt the Senators are interested in bringing Dadonov back. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are jockeying for a wild-card berth and could prefer Smith over Dadonov if they’re in the market for a scoring winger.
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels made three bold predictions for the Montreal Canadiens in 2022. He doesn’t believe they’ll trade winger Brendan Gallagher before the March 21 trade deadline but felt winger Tyler Toffoli could be on the move by then.
Engels points out Gallagher is in the first year of a six-year, $39 million contract with a no-movement clause and partial no-trade clause. He considers the idea of retaining some of his salary and recouping good value in a trade to be farfetched. Engels also believes Gallagher would be of more worth to the Canadiens as their captain leading a crop of new up-and-coming players.
Toffoli, on the other hand, has an affordable $4.25 million annual cap hit and lacks no-trade protection. Despite his recent hand injury, he’s the type of player postseason contenders could be interested in as the deadline approaches.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that Engels is merely making “bold predictions” here and isn’t citing sources indicating what the Canadiens intend to do with Gallagher and Toffoli. They still haven’t chosen a new general manager yet and we don’t know what they and Jeff Gorton (their new executive VP of hockey operations) intend to do at the trade deadline.
Nevertheless, I concur with Engels that Toffoli would be more likely to move before the trade deadline than Gallagher if the Canadiens intend to commence a full roster rebuild.