NHL Rumor Mill – June 20, 2022
The Panthers’ offseason cap crunch, a look at possible moves by the Sabres and the latest Ville Husso speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CAP CRUNCH LEAVES PANTHERS FACING TOUGH DECISIONS
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli and Mike McKenna recently examined the difficulties facing the Florida Panthers as they attempt to navigate their salary-cap crunch. They have just $3 million in cap space for 2022-23 and sacrificed a lot of draft capital acquiring Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot at the trade deadline.
General manager Bill Zito has to pare down some payroll. McKenna suggested winger Patric Hornqvist and his $5.3 million cap hit for next season as a trade candidate.
Seravalli wondered if Zito would consider trading goaltender Spencer Knight with Sergei Bobrovsky carrying a hefty long-term contract making him difficult to move. McKenna didn’t think so, pointing out no one’s won a Stanley Cup without homegrown talent. He suggested the Panthers GM might have to find a way to get creative with Bobrovsky down the road.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos recently said the Panthers are shopping Bobrovsky aggressively, so much so they’re willing to retain 50 percent of his $10 million annual cap hit. That might not be enough to ship him out if he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause. Zito could be squeezed to add a good young player or a quality prospect into the deal, further depleting his prospect pipeline.
Hornqvist has an eight-team no-trade list but his age (35) and declining performance are the biggest stumbling blocks on the path to a trade. He’s not impossible to move but Zito could be pressed to add a sweetener or take back a player with a comparable salary.
LATEST ON THE SABRES
THE ATHLETIC: Matthew Fairburn speculated on how the Buffalo Sabres will address their goaltending depth for next season. Craig Anderson was a strong presence on the club’s last season but remains undecided if he’ll return or retire. Promising Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen should be ready to step into a larger role but remains unproven at the NHL level and has been plagued by injuries.
Free-agent goalie candidates could include Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper, Ville Husso, Jack Campbell and Braden Holtby. Trade options could include the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson or the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres stand a better chance of signing one of those free-agent goalies than acquiring Gibson or prying Hellebuyck out of Winnipeg. Gibson last week denied reports he’s open to being traded. The Jets still see themselves as a playoff team next season, something they definitely won’t be if they trade Hellebuyck.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski recently reported the Sabres don’t expect some of the higher-tiered UFA goalies will be available to them. Going the cheaper route might be their best option again this summer.
Lysowski also speculated that Victor Olofsson could be a trade candidate. He had 20 goals and 49 points this season but is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who needs to produce more. He completed a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.050 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have $35 million in cap space and must spend to reach the $61 million cap minimum. Fleury, Kuemper and Campbell could be out of reach but Husso could be a possibility. Holtby is past his prime but could be a good mentor in a backup role to Luukkonen. Olofsson could also be a decent bargaining chip if the Sabres want to pursue a goalie through the trade market.
COULD THE OILERS PURSUE HUSSO VIA FREE AGENCY?
NHL WATCHER: tweeted on June 14 that Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was wondering if the Edmonton Oilers might revisit their rumored interest in Ville Husso from earlier this season. He believes they’re planning for a future without starting goalie Mike Smith via retirement or LTIR.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Oilers with $7.1 million in cap space for 2022-23 with 15 players under contract. They can get $4.16 million in cap relief if necessary by placing Oscar Klefbom on long-term injury reserve and an additional $2.2 million if Smith retires or also hits LTIR.
That could free up enough to sign Husso if they’re still interested. However, it might not leave enough to suitably fill out the remainder of the roster. They could face parting ways with an RFA like Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi or attempting to move out another salaried player like Zack Kassian.