NHL Rumor Mill – December 15, 2022
THE LATEST ON BO HORVAT
SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman believes it’s unlikely Bo Horvat will still be with the Vancouver Canucks past the March 3 trade deadline. The Canucks have definitely put the 27-year-old center on the trade market and are seeking a premium return for their captain.
Friedman claims there was never a time when a contract extension was close for the pending unrestricted free agent. He said it sounds like Horvat was offered seven and eight-year deals but a wide chasm remains that could be difficult to bridge. The Canucks aren’t keen to sign him for more than J.T. Miller’s $56 million but Horvat’s current play puts him over that amount.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma believes creativity is needed by the Canucks to re-sign Horvat. A leap from the center’s current $5.5 million average annual value to a market value of $8 million can be achieved if they can clear the necessary cap space.
By Kuzma’s estimate, the Canucks would need to find $3.74 million in cap space to retain Horvat and address other roster priorities like re-signing Andrei Kuzmenko next summer. An NHL insider suggested Conor Garland or Ilya Mikheyev can be easily moved. They could also attempt to move Brock Boeser, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Myers for draft picks. However, the insider isn’t sure if the Canucks want to retain Horvat.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner cites a source claiming the New York Islanders have checked in with the Canucks about Horvat. With over $10.8 million in projected trade deadline cap space, the Isles can afford his cap hit.
Rosner speculates the Canucks could seek top Isles prospect Aatu Raty as part of the return. Defense prospects such as Samuel Bolduc or Calle Odelius could also be enticing to the Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I mentioned before, the Canucks could resume contract discussions with Horvat leading up to the trade deadline if they don’t get suitable offers from other clubs. However, they don’t have the luxury of time as they did with J.T. Miller last summer. Horvat could be a goner for the right price, which will be high given he’s on pace for a career-high 59 goals this season.
UPDATE ON JESSE PULJUJARVI
SPORTSNET: Friedman believes this season will be Jesse Puljujarvi’s last with the Edmonton Oilers as everyone agrees it’s time for a fresh start. He’s heard the Anaheim Ducks. Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings have at least looked at it but doesn’t think they’ve come anywhere close to what the Oilers would consider fair.
The Oilers won’t move Puljujarvi now as they don’t want to be shorthanded while currently riddled with injuries and battling for a playoff spot. However, that could change once they get healthier. If this carries over into the summer, the Oilers could decline to re-sign Puljujarvi, allowing him to test the free-agent market.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Anaheim Ducks appear to be taking a hard look at Puljujarvi. Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek was in Nashville on Tuesday watching the Predators and Oilers.
Matheson speculates the Ducks could be thinking of a “test drive” with Puljujarvi for the remainder of the season. If they like what they see, they could re-sign the winger for less than his current cap hit of $3 million.
The Oilers want to clear some cap space to pursue a defensive blueliner before the trade deadline. The Ducks have five picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers aren’t dealing from a position of strength. Puljujarvi’s stock has tumbled since the offseason because of his low production and public self-doubt over his abilities as an NHL scorer. If they need to clear cap space before the trade deadline they’ll probably have little choice but to accept whatever they can get for him, even if it’s below what they would consider fair.
IN OTHER RUMORS…
MLIVE.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Ansar Khan was asked how Tyler Bertuzzi’s latest injury will affect his contract talks with the Detroit Red Wings. He doesn’t think it will but suggests the bigger question is whether the two sides can reach an agreement on a new contract before the trade deadline.
If they can’t, Khan believes Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman will trade Bertuzzi rather than risk losing him for nothing to next summer’s UFA market. He suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs were long rumored to be interested in Bertuzzi and remain the logical destination.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Injuries to Leafs defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin have observers (including me) believing they could prefer shoring up their blueline before the trade deadline. However, with youngsters Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and Conor Timmins holding the fort, perhaps they might shift their focus to adding another forward.
SPORTSNET: Friedman wondered if the Arizona Coyotes might be willing to entertain offers for Karel Vejmelka. The 26-year-old goaltender is playing well and carries an affordable $2.75 million cap hit through 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vejmelka’s goals-against average is 3.07 but his .913 save percentage is impressive considering the team he plays for. He could draw plenty of interest from playoff contenders seeking an upgrade between the pipes.
The Coyotes are rebuilding under GM Bill Armstrong but I don’t think it’s his intent to perpetually trade away veterans for draft picks. Good starting goalies are difficult to find and Vejmelka is still young enough to be an important piece of their future.
The Canucks aren’t interested in moving first-rounders and would like to replace the second-round pick they shipped to the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the season.