NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2022
Are the Penguins in danger of losing Malkin and Letang to free agency? What’s the latest on the Lightning? Could a couple of Golden Knights become offer sheet targets?
ARE MALKIN AND LETANG EDGING CLOSER TO FREE AGENCY?
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman cites The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reporting sources claiming the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t had regular contract talks with Evgeni Malkin since mid-May. A number of agents and several people within the Penguins organization believe the 35-year-old center won’t be returning. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13.
Yohe also reported the Penguins offered Kris Letang a three-year deal. However, the 35-year-old defenseman wants a five-year contract worth over $8 million annually. Like Malkin, he’s due to become a UFA on July 13.
Malkin was reportedly willing to accept a pay cut from his current $9.5 million annual average value. Letang, meanwhile, seeks a raise over his current $7.25 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A recent report indicated management intends to turn its focus toward Malkin once they’ve sorted out Letang’s situation. That could explain the lack of discussions.
Letang could be pricing himself out of Pittsburgh. What he’s asking for is two years too long for the annual salary he’s seeking. Perhaps the Penguins would agree to $8 million annually for three years. If that’s not acceptable to Letang he could test the market but I don’t see many teams lining up to meet his asking price.
Re-signing both players will bite deeply into the Penguins’ $23.2 million in salary-cap space for 2022-23. Yohe indicated a defenseman such as Marcus Pettersson, John Marino or Brian Dumoulin could become a cost-cutting candidate. One assumes they’d move one of them after signing Malkin and Letang. No sense doing so if one or both end up departing via free agency.
LATEST ON THE LIGHTNING
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois indicated during his post-Stanley Cup Final press conference that he’s hopeful of re-signing Ondrej Palat, Nick Paul and Jan Rutta. The trio is slated to become UFAs on July 13.
The Lightning, however, once again has limited salary-cap space. To retain at least Palat and Paul would mean shopping a salaried player to free up sufficient dollars.
Smith believes they have several players with value in the trade market. One of them is Alex Killorn, who has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $4.45 million and a 16-team no-trade clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The one advantage the Lightning have, apart from their championship pedigree, is the lack of a state tax in Florida. That makes it possible for them to sign players for less than market value because their dollars will go further in that state.
Paul was traded by the Senators because he reportedly spurned a four-year, $10 million contract offer. He could seek something between $3.5 and $4 million annually. Palat was earning $5.3 million annually on his current contract. He could get as much if not more on the open market, but maybe the 31-year-old winger will accept a little less to stay put.
Killorn was a frequent subject of trade speculation whenever the issue of the Lightning needing to free up cap room comes up. This time, however, it could become a reality. The 32-year-old winger only managed four points in the postseason but enjoyed a career-high 25 goals and 59 points in the regular season.
COULD TWO GOLDEN KNIGHTS BECOME OFFER SHEET TARGETS?
THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger speculated over whether Nicolas Roy or Nicolas Hague will be targeted for offer sheets by rival clubs. Both players are restricted free agents with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Roy is coming off a career-best 15 goals and 39 points in 2021-22. The 25-year-old forward was on a two-year deal earning $750k annually. Hague, 23, had 14 points in 52 games. The defenseman is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.
The Golden Knights lack salary-cap space at this time to sign both players after shipping out Evgenii Dadonov to Montreal earlier this month. Another cost-cutting move could be on the horizon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy recently reported at least two Eastern Conference clubs had “serious interest” in Hague. That could force the Golden Knights to make that cost-cutting move before he becomes eligible to receive an offer sheet on July 13.