NHL Rumor Mill – January 2, 2023

by | Jan 2, 2023 | Rumors | 23 comments

Will the Senators re-sign or trade Alex DeBrincat? Are they still trying to move Nikita Zaitsev? What’s the latest on the Coyotes? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren recently wondered about Alex DeBrincat’s long-term future with the Senators. The 25-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer who’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility.

Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).

DeBrincat carries an average annual value of $6.4 million on his current contract. However, he’s earning $9 million in actual salary, which is what it’ll cost the Senators to qualify his rights this summer.

Warren speculates DeBrincat is in the running for a long-term contract worth between $8 million and $9 million. However, he wondered if the Senators’ existing managing board would approve such a deal, especially with the team up for sale and new ownership looming in 2023.

The Senators also have Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris on long-term deals each worth around $8 million annually. Given the state of their blueline, Warren mused over whether the money that would go to DeBrincat would be better spent improving the defense corps. If they remain out of playoff contention, perhaps they’ll contemplate shopping DeBrincat before the March 3 trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators gave up a lot to acquire DeBrincat from the Blackhawks knowing full well what his contract situation was going to be. Unless the DeBrincat camp seeks over $10 million annually, I believe the Sens will re-sign him to a long-term deal worth close to $9 million annually.

ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reported Sunday the Senators are actively trying to trade defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. “They’ve granted permission to his representatives to speak with clubs,” writes Weekes, adding they’re willing to include a high draft pick or a prospect to accommodate a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zaitsev carries an average annual value of $4.5 million through 2023-24. That’s why they’re trying to trade him and have been doing so since November. He’s currently on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

The inability to find any suitors thus far for Zaitsev is the reason behind the Senators’ willingness to package a high pick or a prospect in the deal. They seem desperate to get that contract off their books. It remains to be seen if they can pull it off.


GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan looked at several Arizona Coyotes players who could draw interest from playoff contenders at the March 3 trade deadline.

Everyone knows defenseman Jakob Chychrun wants to be traded. He has 17 points in 19 games since returning from offseason wrist surgery in November. The Coyotes’ likely asking price is two first-round picks and either a second-round pick or a prospect. Chychrun earns an AAV of $4.6 million for the next two seasons but his actual salary rises to $5.4 million next season and $7 million in 2024-25.

Blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere is a pending unrestricted free agent rearguard on pace for 61 points this season. His AAV is $4.5 million but his actual salary this season is $1 million as his $2.5 million signing bonus was paid out at the start of the season. Morgan believes it makes little sense to move Gostisbehere for less than a second-round pick.

A dark horse trade candidate is goaltender Karel Vejmelka. Morgan wondered if clubs might have faith in Vejmelka’s body of work to offer up something meaningful. If not, does it make any sense to move him? Morgan suggests doing so could hurt the Coyotes’ morale.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Chychrun’s a goner by deadline day if he remains healthy and productive. Gostisbehere will also likely be skating with a contender by March 3.

As for Vejmelka, he’s signed through 2024-25 with a very affordable $2.7 million AAV and hasn’t asked to be traded. The 26-year-old goalie should have a place as part of their long-term plans. Unless the Coyotes get an irresistible offer, I don’t see them moving Vejmelka.


  1. If yotes move their goalie Armstrong needs to be fired. This guy stands on his head every game he plays and keeps his team in games they have no right to be in (see 2 Toronto games).

    Chyc i trade if the offer is right, but ask is way to high.

    Hell i want my flyers to trade Provorov for Clarke 1st & 2nd and that wont even happen.

  2. Re: “Warren speculates DeBrincat is in the running for a long-term contract worth between $8 million and $9 million. However, he wondered if the Senators’ existing managing board would approve such a deal, especially with the team up for sale and new ownership looming in 2023.”

    Why wouldn’t having a high-scoring winger like DeBrincat sewed up NOT enhance the sale of the team. It’s not like whatever he settles for is going to come out of the pockets of “the existing board.”

    With the recent re-signing of Zub, and the improved play of top prospect Bernard-Docker since being elevated from the AHL. their core of D is Chabot, Zub, Sanderson and Bernard-Docker.

    Among their expiring UFA deals (totaling $10,966,667) are veterans Hamonic and Holden – I would expect maybe one of the two to be back.

    Moving Zaitsev is paramount (or, at worst, buying him out) but the return in any deal won’t be someone like Chychrun, but rather a steady, established 5/6 type which would necessitate sending a high pick or someone like Brannstrom or Lassi Thompson to a team with abundant cap space such as Anaheim or Arizona.

    • George O

      What would you see as the better option for Zaitsev? Buyout or trade including an asset?

      When the Leafs traded Marleau he had 1 year at $6.5M remaining and it cost the Leafs a 1st round pick.

      With Ottawa currently in 21st place in the league a 1st round pick could end up being a pretty good player.

      Would OTT be better off buying him out for a $2.8M dead cap hit next year and keeping the two prospects you mentioned? Seems they could find a useful 5/6 defenceman for the difference of his regular $4.5M cap hit.

      • You make a good case for a buyout Daryl. That’s likely what will happen, but I suppose checking around to see if he can be moved with minimal “sweeteners” falls into the classic “nothing ventured … nothing gained” category.

        I certainly would not give up their 1st round pick – not after having dealt away last spring’s 1st (15th overall). They do have 2 2nd round picks in 2024 so perhaps one of those …. and we don’t know yet what the “future considerations” are from the Leafs in that Murray deal. 🙂

    • George..understood..
      What kind of package would work from penguins point to land chychrun

  3. Debrincat for Seth Jones! Why not! It checks the boxes for both teams! 😉😎

    Ok, the Cat probably needs to be traded for an able-bodied RD. Or a good winger and a high prospect. I still think Josh Anderson and Savard for the Cat would work out. I don’t see the Sens shelling out that kind of money to keep him.

    • Why wouldn’t they “shell out” that kind of money if they see him as a mainstay in the lineup for the next 7/8 seasons? Whoever winds up buying the team is shelling out big bucks and would want to have as solid a roster as he/she can to ensure ticket sales keep going up.

      And, no, Seth Jones is near the top of any list of “overrated and overpaid” players. Plus he’s made it plain he wants no part of playing anywhere in Canada.

      • Surely Warren has the answer to this, George: improving the defensive corp. The Sens have two RFA D and one UFA D at the end of the season, and while I haven’t watched the Sens this year their blue line doesn’t say “solid” to me.

        Signing Debrincat means having a high % of the cap tied to 4 forwards. Not a recipe for success, particularly as Debrincat has 13 goals so far.


      • LJ, as of today Ottawa has allowed 116ga – a total exceeded by 14 teams: Detroit (117), Buffalo (118), Philadelphia (124), Edmonton (127), Arizona (128), Florida (131), St. Louis (135), Chicago (137), Vancouver (138), Montreal (138), Columbus (138), Los Angeles (138), San Jose (146), Anaheim (154).

        They are also close in goals allowed to another 11: Calgary (115), Seattle (115), Vegas (111), Pittsburgh (109), Washington (108), Nashville (107), NYR (105), NYI (104), Dallas (104), Tampa Bay (102) and Minnesota (102).

        That’s 25 out of 31 other teams. Nor has their goaltending been horrible with Talbot having a 2.75gaa and 0.911 save % and Forsberg 3.23ga and a 0.906 save %.

        Much of their D woes came when Zub was lost for long stretches, and for most of the season they have been near the top in 1-goal losses as well as empty-net goals allowed.

        So, if their D is, indeed, viewed as a major weakness it would seem they are in the same boat as over 4/5 of the league – presumably all or most seeking upgrades where none exist.

        In terms of RFA D, the 2 main ones are Bernard-Docker (who will get a very modest 3-year bridge deal) and Brannstrom (who I think will be gone by or before TD Day, Of their 2 UFA D (Hamonic and Holden), the only one I see being re-upped is Holden – at minimal cost as a 7th-type D-man. Hamonic is gone, to be replaced either by someone brought in through trade, a UFA signing, or the elevation of a prospect like Thompson.

        As for having a high % of their cap spent on 4 forwards, should DeBrincat sign a long-term deal at, say, $8,750,000 per (which I bet he will) their total on 4 Fs would be $31,805,714.

        Toronto, for example, pays out $40,505,616 for their top 4 while Edmonton coughs up $31,625,000. A few other teams are in that same range for their top 4 Fs.

      • Quite a thorough analysis, George. What I conclude from your reply is that the Sens will soon be in need of D, which IMO makes it all the more important for them to have $ at the ready. As you point out it is a seller’s market for D.

        PS: You gave me a flicker of joy by pointing out the Habs are not the worst goals against team in the entire NHL. What a Sh*& show of late.

      • One thing Dorion is not afraid to do and that’s to make a move or two when it appears necessary.

        With Norris and Stutzle entrenched as the 1 & 2 top Centers – and although I’d hate to see him go – it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Shane Pinto gets moved before next season. He’s an upcoming RFA and trying to get him signed long-term may be sacrificed for an upgrade at C. He is better than a 3rd line C but with no room at the top Dorion might dangle him as the “sweetener” in a deal involving Zaitsev where the return would be a top 4 RD.

        Or, I could be way off the mark – LOL.

        And speaking of the Habs, right now they spend $25,375,000 off the cap on their top 4 Fs – which currently includes Drouin and his $5.5 mil cap hit. I seriously doubt he’s brought back, but Caufield (ELC of $880,333) is an RFA so what is it going to cost to get him re-upped? Suzuki got close to $8 mil – will Caufield come in anywhere near that? One way or another he’ll get more than Drouin is currently costing and when he replaces the departing Drouin on the top 4 paid with Suzuki, Gallagher and Anderson), that total will be much closer to what Ottawa’s 4 would cost with DeBrincat upping for around $8.7.

      • A little late in the day for a reply, but I am desperate for you to be right that Drouin will not come back. The Habs are fettered with Gallagher’s ludicrous contract in length and dollars, but $5 million will go with Dadonov (or is that Deadanov) and hopefully that will make room for what I hope will only be 8 million for Caufield.

      • should read “(Pinto’s) an upcoming RFA and trying to get him signed long-term may be sacrificed for an upgrade at D” – not C.

  4. Debrincat for Chychyrn?

    • Not – a – chance!

      • George O…Pittsburgh is without Petry and Leta g for a bit.

        I would go hars after the 24 year old Chychrun he is under contract for 2 more years a only$4.6

        Penguins will have you g number one prospect defensemen owen Pickering coming in 2 years. Chychrun will o ly be 26 27 two young big d men for the future and cap will b up $4 million by then
        Is this enough

        # 1 pick 2023
        #2 pick 2023
        Prospect Sammy Poulin
        Brian Dumoulin
        Kaspari Kapanen
        Pierre Oliver Joseph

      • Well, for starters Blackngold, I can’t recall when I’ve seen a trade involving that many pieces for 1 player. Certainly not in the cap era.

        The only player among those named that might elicit interest from Arizona is Joseph. He’s a decent prospect. Poulin wasn’t doing much in the minors before going on a “leave of absence”, while Dumoulin and Kapanen are names I’ve often seen bandied about by notable Penguins fans in the category ‘how do we get rid of them?”

        And those picks figure to be well into the bottom 3rd of both rounds.

        For the very reason you state – cap considerations – there will be several teams eventually coming up with better prospects and whose picks will be higher up the scale in each round as long as Chychrun shows he can remain in the line-up and continue to produced at the rate he’s been demonstrating so far.

  5. So how many teams that are buyers at deadline can fit cap hits of any of the dmen mentioned? Chychrun (2more seasons) and Zaitsev (1) have years left on deal. I say no way Debrincat gets traded. Zaitsev will be easier to move in offseason after bonus is paid, although I can see them trying to move him before. Maybe Ottawa takes back an expiring contract? Arizona would have a hard time staying above cap floor if they traded both Ghost and Chychrun. Since the only reason they trade him is because of that 12.4 million owed the next 2 years plus whatever’s left this season, Chycrun probably goes. I predict to Minnesota. Ghost, like Kessel last year, probably stays since they don’t owe him much. Bjugstad also ufa for Arizona.

  6. Zaitsev (retain $1M) + Caps 2024 2nd + a 6th for Ghost
    Ghost can play either side, he will be a UFA but does he wanna stay in AZ?? Will he extend in Ott??

  7. I think Ottawa will try to re-sign the Cat for around similar money to Tim Stützle & Brady Tkachuk & Thomas Chabot $8.M to $8.5M …?
    No more than $9.M or it could upset the dynamic of the team if he is up in the $9.5M to $10.M range

    If The money is not working out, i can see the trading him for a starting Goaltender or a 2nd pairing RD man d/man to play with Sanderson in the Top 4❓

    As far as often injured Nikita Zaitsev go’s
    he gets traded before the March 3rd deadline to a playoff contender & his salary retained for 2023….With a 2nd rd pick in 2024 as there is 2 picks avalable

    Sens have $17.M in cap space for the 2023/4 season & 7 UFA players to replace and still have to Re sign young Shane Pinto to a bridge deal? He has played very well… and Potentially a Good Starting goaltender
    but who would they look at as a younger Starter⁉️

  8. No contender wants Zaitsev . For his defence play ? Unless the sweetener is the deal , the only way he trades. Otherwise bought out

    That cap hit looks attractive for Chychrun . Someone might bite with conditional picks involving multiple firsts and seconds but 4 top assets I don’t know

  9. williew

    Not sure Zaitsev is attractive to any contending teams? Even with 50% retained there are better options available for depth defencemen.

    Plenty of better defencemen will be available at the deadline. Luke Schenn comes to mind and at only $950K a much better player than Zaitsev at 1/4 the cap hit.

    Don’t see the need for OTT to trade him now. Not likely they’ll make the playoffs and doesn’t make sense to add a draft pick or good prospect now when they can buy him out in the summer. Dead cap space would be $2.8M in 2023-24 and $888K in 2024-25

    • Hi Daryl,
      Agreed… 100% there will be much better d/men avalable at the trade deadline, Luke Schenn for sure if Vancouver move him

      But your getting a 2nd rd pick to take him also?
      i dont see the sens buying him out they already have $3.5M in buy outs next season…❗️

      I could see a team like AZ taking him as they have $18.M this year and $40.M next year for a 2nd pick to help there re build,
      The same with Buffalo they have $17.M &$30.M in space and doing a re build…..❓
      but they already have 3X2nd rd picks in 2023….