NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2023

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Rumors | 12 comments

Speculation over Evgeny Kuznetsov’s and Anthony Mantha’s future with the Capitals, the latest on the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson plus possible off-season free-agent targets for the Canucks in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir cited a report out of Russia on Saturday claiming Evgeny Kuznetsov has requested a trade from the Washington Capitals. He cautions that such reports tend to be inconsistent when it comes to accuracy. Nevertheless, he expects Kuznetsov will be asked about it following practice on Monday.

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (NHL Images).

El-Bashir noted Kuznetsov’s name surfaced in the trade rumor mill in 2021. Nothing came of it and he enjoyed a bounce-back 78-point performance in 2021-22. This season, however, the 30-year-old center is struggling again with 53 points in 73 games and a team-worst plus-minus of minus-19.

If the Capitals are open to trading Kuznetsov in the offseason they’ll have a difficult time moving him. His struggles this season combined with his $7.8 million annual average value through 2024-25 and 10-team no-trade list will affect his future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: El-Bashir also wrote about Kuznetsov’s uncertain future with the Capitals last week. If he has asked for a trade I don’t like their chances of moving him unless they’re willing to retain some salary, bundle him with a draft pick or a prospect, or take back a toxic contract in return.


El-Bashir also noted Anthony Mantha’s on-ice difficulties this season has made his future with the club feel tenuous. The 28-year-old winger has 11 goals in 64 games, including just two thus far in 2023. He’s also been a healthy scratch several times this season.

Mantha’s future with the Capitals could depend on whether they bring back Peter Laviolette as head coach. Perhaps he’ll improve under a new bench boss.

El-Bashir doesn’t see the Capitals buying out Mantha this summer. He has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.7 million. Buying him out would count as $1.3 million against the cap for 2023-24 and $2.1 million for 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mantha would also be difficult to move in a trade. He lacks no-trade protection and his cap hit is much lower than Kuznetsov’s but his performance this season won’t help his value in the trade market. They might have to keep him and hope for a bounce-back effort next season.


THE ATHLETIC: Corey Masisak was asked in a recent mailbag segment if there was a scenario where Erik Karlsson remains with the San Jose Sharks beyond this offseason. He believes the issue that made the 32-year-old defenseman difficult to move this season (his expensive contract) will continue to hamper any effort by management to trade him this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak acknowledged that teams will have more salary-cap flexibility in the offseason. Nevertheless, he’s correct that Karlsson’s contract will remain very difficult to move.

Karlsson’s $11.5 million annual cap hit through 2026-27 is too rich for most teams unless the Sharks retain a healthy chunk or they accept one or two salaried players in return. His no-movement clause also limits where they can peddle him.


CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal and Don Taylor recently discussed two possible free-agent targets for the Vancouver Canucks this summer.

Dhaliwal said the Canucks have made it clear they’ll be looking for a third-line center when the unrestricted free-agent market opens on July 1. He believes Ivan Barbashev of the Vegas Golden Knights is worth keeping an eye on.

Dhaliwal also believes the Canucks should pursue Los Angeles Kings defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could use Barbashev and Gavirkov. Whether they can land either guy remains to be seen. They will draw plenty of interest in this summer’s free agent market. Dhaliwal also acknowledged that the Canucks would have to shed some salary to make room for those players.


  1. I honestly have no sympathy for teams that are saddled with ridiculous contracts like the Karlsson one. They made their bed!!

    • It looked like a gift from Heaven to most in the Sharks’ world when they got him in September of 2018, and the results from that first season bore out that enthusiasm when they got to the Western final before losing out to the eventual cup winners the Blues, going down 4-2.

      But then, after having given up their 1st pick in the 2020 draft as part of the package going to Ottawa, they conveniently fell to dead last.


      • yep. for me it’s really an indictment of throwing long term and high numbers at ANY player outside of certain superstars.

        I mean it’s not as bad as three long contracts like Calgary just did… but still.

      • And yet.
        He’s going to win the Norris this year and have one of the best offensive seasons by a defenseman ever…..oh…I’ll add that this will be his 3rd Norris…and he should probably have 4 or 5. The contract is exactly what you’d expect to pay for this season’s performance. The issue is — how many more times will he live up to this contract. if you could be assured of 80 points out of him for the next 4 years of this deal….I feel people would be happy paying it.

  2. Kuznetsov is an interesting option for teams that need a top 6 C. Especially if they eat $ to facilitate a trade.

    He’s had some excellent seasons in the past, and was fantastic in the playoffs when the Caps won it all. Led them in points and had the best +/- among forwards when the going got tough.

    Bigger guy with crazy good skill.

    I think he has a rep for a bad attitude or is he a lush who doesn’t get in shape?

    I dunno, but if he gets his sh*t together, he can be a true #1 C.

    Bruin fans?

    • I like the player. I honestly don’t know much about the person. I’ll see what I can find out.

      • Well this is concerning, might want to be sure that ain’t happening anymore!

        I thought I remembered something about off ice issues with him.


      • Yeah, I know about that, but he was younger and some of us do stupid things at that age. It’s around the game. Has been for a long time.
        From what I gather he’s a good family man and father. I’d put more stock into that than a little happy dust when he was younger.
        My concern is that he doesn’t go all out all of the time. He has the skills to be a top tier player, but hasn’t got the compete level on a consistent basis. His IQ is super high and his distribution is elite.
        I’d do it if 37 or 46 shuts it down after the season ends. Maybe that would entice ScOralv to stick around as well.

      • True that SOP, we sure did.

      • Intriguing player!Would take a chance if money was right!Could be another Kucherov or Varana,take your pick?

  3. SJ needs to trade him this summer when his value is as high as possible, dont understand why they didnt retain more and got some prospects back to make a trade happen, its not as if they will need that cap the next 3-4 years anyway.

    I dont get the speculation about players to Vancouver, they are over the cap now, how are they ever going to add when other teams know they want to trade certain players making them untradeable

  4. IF someone wanted to take a flyer on Mantha, given that, to buy him out would cost Washington $1.3 mil in 2023-24 and $2.1 mil in 2023-25 (total of $3.4 mil), and his cap hit, with one more year to run, is $5.7, if they withheld $1.7 mil in a deal for a 5th/6th round pick, they might find a taker at $4 mil, thereby saving $1.7 mil.

    That’s about the ONLY way they’re going to be able to trade him.