NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2023
Could trading Alex DeBrincat be among some notable offseason changes for the Senators? Will the Flames consider moving Elias Lindholm or Mikael Backlund? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
DEBRINCAT’S STATUS AMONG OFFSEASON QUESTIONS FACING THE SENATORS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Alex DeBrincat is non-committal about a contract extension with the Senators. The 25-year-old winger said he’s “definitely open to anything” but he intends to discuss his future with his family and his agent.
Garrioch believes that “doesn’t exactly scream that DeBrincat wants to be in Ottawa long-term, but the Senators need to find out one way or another before the NHL Draft in Nashville in June.”
TSN: Garrioch believes Senators general manager Pierre Dorion could look at trading DeBrincat if a long-term extension hasn’t been agreed to by the draft. He indicated that there have been no substantial discussions between Dorion and the DeBrincat camp.
Doiron indicated the Senators intended to make DeBrincat a $9 million qualifying offer even if there isn’t an extension in place. A restricted free agent this summer, the winger is a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrincat didn’t close the door on a contract extension but his comments certainly don’t sound encouraging. I can’t see Dorion hanging onto him for another season in the vain hope of changing his mind only to lose him for nothing to next summer’s free-agent market.
Dorion looks foolish for not ensuring DeBrincat would sign an extension last summer before acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Senators gave up three draft picks in that trade, including last year’s seventh-overall selection. That trade will have blown up in Dorion’s face if DeBrincat merely accepts the qualifying offer with the intent of testing the free-agent market in 2024.
However, the Senators GM can salvage this situation if he can get a solid return in a DeBrincat trade that provides immediate roster help. He’ll likely seek a comparable player rather than a top prospect or a first-round pick as the centerpiece of such a deal. DeBrincat could draw considerable interest given that most of the big names in this summer’s UFA market are past their prime.
In an earlier column, Garrioch wrote that goaltending is the biggest need for the Senators to address this summer. He also felt that winger Alex Formenton should be traded if he isn’t brought back. He spent the season playing in Switzerland after he and the Senators failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.
Speaking of Dorion, Ken Warren believes it’s not a certainty he and head coach D.J. Smith will be back next season with new ownership expected to take over the club in the coming weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be interesting to see what happens to the front office and coaching staff once the sale of the Senators is completed. The new owner could keep them intact to evaluate the club’s performance next season. Then again, perhaps they’ll come in looking to make sweeping changes in the management office and behind the bench.
COULD THE FLAMES SHOP BACKLUND AND LINDHOLM?
TSN/CALGARY SUN: Salim Valji and Wes Gilbertson reported Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm sounded non-committal about re-signing with the Calgary Flames by next summer. Both forwards are slated to become unrestricted free agents in July 2024 along with winger Tyler Toffoli and defensemen Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov.
Backlund, 34, said he loved Calgary and the Flames but he wants to win the Stanley Cup, adding he didn’t know what would happen if the club makes a contract extension offer this summer. Gilbertson noted Backlund’s long pause before answering a question about an extension raised eyebrows.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Lindholm replied, “We’ll see what happens. I’ve got one more year. Gotta look at it that way. I have one more year and that’s all I can say.” Gilbertson doesn’t feel that’s a “bring-me-a-pen proclamation”.
Valji noted that Zadorov and Toffoli were more upbeat as they expressed a willingness to get something done regarding their contracts. They also praised head coach Darryl Sutter, whose handling of the roster sparked questions among fans and media over his relationship with the players.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Randy Sportak suggested the comments coming from the Flames’ top two centers could force the club to finally bite the bullet and consider a roster rebuild. He believes it’ll be difficult to retain all their pending UFAs even if Toffoli, Zadorov, Tanev and Hanifin expressed a desire to stay.
A tough decision would be moving some of those veterans to retool the organization rather than stage a full rebuild like the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. A tougher one would be stripping it down.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportak raises a good point that the Flames face a crossroads this season. They could keep everyone and hope for a bounce-back performance next season. Over the long run, however, a veteran-laden team can be a drain on the salary cap and make it difficult to make room for younger talent.
Much will depend on the fate of general manager Brad Treliving, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Treliving invested heavily in this roster and could be reluctant to retool if he stays on the job. If he and the Flames part ways, his replacement could opt to shake things up.
As I’ve said before, we could be seeing another summer of change in Calgary.