NHL Rumor Mill – April 18, 2023

by | Apr 18, 2023 | Rumors | 24 comments

Check out the latest on J.T. Miller, John Gibson, Thatcher Demko and Ross Colton, plus an update on the Flames in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman weighed in on the rumors leading up to the trade deadline that had the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks discussing a trade of Canucks center J.T. Miller. He believes the Canucks sought two first-round picks and a good prospect but the Penguins didn’t want to go there.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Nick Horwat writes there were reports that Jason Zucker and a pair of first-round picks would’ve headed to Vancouver in that proposed deal. He believes the Penguins’ management changes last week likely mean they won’t be pursuing Miller this summer.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance recently pondered whether the Canucks need for salary-cap flexibility could lead them to peddle Miller again as they reportedly did at the March 3 trade deadline. He feels it’s a now-or-never proposition given his new contract (with its full no-movement clause) kicks in on July 1.

Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (NHL Images).

Drance also suggested Conor Garland could be a cost-cutting candidate for the Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out a Miller trade before July 1 but it will be much harder to pull off after that. The Canucks won’t just give him away. If there’s no suitable return to be found for Miller, they’ll look at moving out someone like Garland, who’s on a more affordable contract.

Speaking of Zucker, Friedman believes the Penguins want to re-sign him but he doesn’t see how that’s possible. They have the cap space to do so but the new management could prefer adding younger, more affordable talent.

Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion talked about trading for a goaltender. Friedman believes the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson would be a good fit. He wants to play for a winner and the Ducks are willing to accommodate him.

Gibson has four years and $25.6 million remaining on his contract. Friedman acknowledged that issues like Gibson’s health, his willingness to go to Ottawa and the type of deal are among the considerations.

Speaking of the Senators, they would be interested in bringing back pending UFAs Austin Watson and Travis Hamonic on one-year contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gibson’s supposed unwillingness to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs has also sparked speculation that he wouldn’t be interested in playing for any Canadian team. Perhaps we’ll find out this summer if that’s the case. He could become a target for the Penguins as they’re not expected to bring back pending UFA Tristan Jarry.

Speaking of the Canucks and goaltenders, Friedman believes there was a time they would’ve considered trading Thatcher Demko this summer. However, that’s over considering how well he played following his return from injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ross Colton is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights who is also a year away from UFA eligibility. Friedman suggested he could become a trade candidate given the Lightning’s tight salary-cap situation for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colton, 26, is a versatile two-way depth forward for Tampa Bay who’s completing a two-year deal worth $1.125 million annually. Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning have just $2.4 million in projected cap space for 2023-24 with 15 roster players under contract.

The Bolts will free up another $6.875 million by placing permanently sidelined Brent Seabrook on long-term injury reserve. They must also re-sign RFA winger Tanner Jeannot and re-sign or replace UFAs Alex Killorn, Corey Perry and Brian Elliott. That could make Colton an enticing trade option or perhaps a tempting target for an offer sheet.

There’s no truth to the rumor that former Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette would retire instead of coaching again.

Friedman expects Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo wants to play in 2023-24 rather than retire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I mentioned yesterday, the Sabres have the cap space to bring him back for another season on an affordable short-term 35-plus contract.


SPORTSNET: Eric Francis believes the list of potential replacements for departed Flames GM Brad Treliving will be a long one, and will include assistant general managers Craig Conroy and Brad Pascall. He felt the club’s culture needs fixing, making this hire one of the most important in franchise history.

Francis noted the bulk of seven core players could depart the Flames next summer via free agency. How many of them will need to be traded this summer will be among the priorities facing the new GM.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those pending UFAs include Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov. Lindholm and Backlund were non-committal about their futures while Toffoli and Zadorov expressed interest in contract extensions.


  1. Re John Gibson – 4 more years at $6.4 mil per and an injury history that ranks him right up there with Matt Murray, Cam Talbot and Tristan Jarry?

    Been there – done that. No thanks, even if he did lower himself to allow a trade to backwoods Ottawa and 3rd world Canada.

    If Dorion doesn’t bring in another goalie through trade or the UFA heap, I’d rather go with a Sogaard-Forsberg tandem and use the cap space to further strengthen the D in front of them.

    • In total agreement with your thoughts George

      • George I think it is less about Canada and more about lost wages when paying for a Canadian team.

        Not to mention the tax free states which can offer lesser contracts because of this. Other part is most of these states are in warm weather areas. Seriously who wouldnt want to play any sport in florida with the breaks they get.

      • Ottawa is a beautiful city, and the area is great as well, folks should go there and check it out. FLA is nice in the parts I have been too as well, with the beaches and ocean right there. The everglades are cool. Depends what you like I guess. Our cultures are similar in ways and different in others and that can have an impact for some folks in either direction.

        The cold thing is way overblown IMO.

        IMO there is definitely some US born players who want to stay in the US, makes sense. It’s where they are from and where their family and friends are. Also important to note that the vast majority of Canadian born players retire in Canada. If you live in Canada, plan to retire and live in Canada, and get paid in US$, it is a huge win financially. At least these days with forex being what it is and what it is historically.

        This is pretty simple IMO, US guys like the US, Canadian guys like Canada as far of where to live without hockey. The majority of players from both countries are willing to play in the other country if they like the team and the organization and have a chance to win. Some are different that way. No biggie.

        Where they summer and retire is usually where they are from. Not rocket science and who cares.

        Add in the Euro guys and it all evens out. Ekholm and his wife were thrilled to come to Edmonton, as they are from a northern country as well. They love it here in Edmonton because the culture, the schools and other aspects that are more similar to where they are from. They came from a lower tax, southern state in Nashville. I was just there again last week, fun town, but I wouldn’t choose to live there. I like Canada.

        To each their own. Build a good organization that treats players well, and can win, and you will attract enough players. Big non issue IMO.

      • Then form an effing league consisting only of tax-free or snow-free states and let the rest play in their own league.

        You know, if salaries for pro athletes were anywhere near the norm – say, in the $50,000 to $200,000 range for argument sake – I could better understand this alleged angst over the so-called “unfair tax burden” … but when they’re making in the millions of dollars – or even NHL minimum which dwarfs the income of probably 99% of the populations of Canada and the U.S. – I find it hard to believe that there can be legitimate worry about their take-home pay.

      • They are competitors george. And who wants to take home less than a less talented player playing elsewhere in the league. They also have a ceiling of 40 or so years if they are lucky till retirement. Roughly only a twenty year career window compared to the 45 year window for many other professionals… and that’s if a career ending injury don’t occur. They want to set themselves and subsequent generations of their families up best they can.

      • Do you wonder how you would think, George, if you as a player had the choice between a 52% tax bracket and a much lower one? The difference being, as an easy example, several million dollars over the life of the contract? Would you be indifferent to waving goodbye to that amount of money?

        Even the lowest paid NHLer makes damn good money – for the length of their career. But there are taxes, agent fees and escrow to factor in to the equation. A 2 million dollar a year player takes home less than a million bucks. Yes, still big bucks, but for 4 or 5 years? A player’s NHL pension kicks in at, what, 60? That’s about a 30 year gap of self funded living.

        Superstars? No question, they retain tons of money. But how many of them take a home discount to help their teams with cap space, the better to increase their chances of a Cup?

        I struggle myself with that but are players any different than the non-hockey wealthy, who park their money off shore or have expensive accountants to reduce their taxes as much as possible?

        Unlike Ray, I think taxes are an issue for many players. And unlike you, I think it’s logical for it to be so. But, like you, I don’t have to like it either.

      • Which is why I suggest they form a league for franchises in tax-free states and let the rest play in another league. And I agree that’s a tad silly, so why not come up with a formula that counter-balances the current advantages enjoyed in enticing UFAs or trades thanks to the lack of a tax.

        It ain’t rocket science.

      • How do you balance out the other inherent advantages some teams have over others? Weather. Size of the city. Size of local foreign communities (for example size of Russian population for Russian players). New arenas vs older arenas. Local politics. The allure of playing for an original six. All of these factor into where players want to play and provide some teams with advantages making them more attractive.

        If the cities and fans are so concerned about it they should vote in politicians that say they will balance the tax situation for nhl players.

      • Clearly you can’t. But then what it boils down to is, it’s flat out impossible to have a league of any sort without franchises having substantial advantages over the rest … on a downward scale from the most desirable location to “Hell, I don’t wanna go there.”

        And, in effect, that is what we have in the NHL.

      • Here are some of the more recent acquisitions by the Oilers. AB teams are middle of the pack tax wise with rest of the league.

        Ekholm(Sweden) – traded here. Thrilled about being in EDM, will pay more taxes. Doesn’t care.
        Campbell (USA) – UFA. Hasn’t worked out so far, but wanted to be here, plenty of teams could have pursued him and likely did, so could have paid less tax. Wanted to be in EDM.
        Hyman – UFA. Worked out great. Could have went to multiple teams. High or low tax. Wanted to be here.
        Nuge – re-upped to stay here on a great contract for EDM. Pretty sure he understands the tax rates. As a proven 200′ C with skill he would have been in huge demand. Could have saved some tax $.

        I could go on.

        Calgary – some guys left, some came in on bloated contracts, more guys talking about not signing an extension above. GM turned down a contract?!

        One team struggling to keep guys, one team is attracting them and they are 2.5 hours apart by car in the same province.

        One team has a good chance to win, with a great culture. One team just missed the playoffs and the coach is a dour prick.

        I dunno, but real chance at team success and team culture seem like big deals to me.

        UFA’s with multiple options are the best players who make the most $, not the league min or $2M/year guys. They are the guys that the extra $200K/year in tax savings means the least, and often winning matters most. Some guys want the $ first, I would prefer the guys who go somewhere to win.

      • Somewhat. As I know it chafes you with players not wanting to play in Canada it doesn’t always work out bad for certain teams. Ott attracted Claude. Toronto attracted Tavares. Teams can try to combat it with good coaching hires. Good facilities. Good culture.

        Hell. Pittsburgh ain’t exactly Malibu. We’ve been lucky with hockey stars but even one of our best was “dying alive” in this town and demanded traded.

      • If only things are as simple as some make it be. If you’re taxed more, there’s ways around that. If your dollar goes further, have more outside you profession gigs, quality of living, schools, homes, etc.

        There’s a lot more than just not having to pay state tax in a state where your Lamborghini won’t last because it’ll get ripped off or all beat up by driving on pothole laden roads. LOL.

    • Agree completely and let’s face facts that Dorion has not had the greatest recent history in trading for goalies (hello Murray and Talbot).

    • Trade for Vladar? Vladar has a 2 x $2.2M contract. Wolf should take his spot as BU and should do a capable job and on an ELC
      Platoon Vladar with Forsberg. Still have cap for another move.

    • Soogard and Forsberg? You must be kidding.
      IMO there’s no world we’re the Sens go into the season with that tandem.
      Might as well kiss the playoffs goodbye from the get go.

      • One of them? Neither? Two different goalies? Let’s let the coaches and GM come to a conclusion based upon detailed analysis of game films – which they are likely already doing to lay the groundwork for possible UFA signings and/or trades.

  2. I was thinking maybe Blackwood from NJ for the job in Ottawa. I know he hasn’t had the best of numbers lately but he would be a better option then Jarry, Gibson, Talbot and would cost a lot less I am betting.

  3. There are two prime candidates for Ottawa, Swayman from Boston and Hellebuyck from the Jets. If The Flames are rebuilding, Markstrom at 1-2m retained could also be interesting

    • I know Calgary wont trade Markstrom there president said it yesterday.

      Boston would be crazy to let Swayman go as he is there goalie of the future. Only way i see him moving is an offer sheet but would he even sign one ? he is playing on the best team in hockey and got 20 wins as a back up goalie.

      Do the Jets have a goalie in the system ready to take over?

      • If he could get starters money and Boston only offers backup money I could see an offer sheet. Obviously a long shot but with the need for goalies now I’d say he has a better chance at an offer than the average rfa

      • If I were the Bruins (and as fan) my hope is that they trade Ullmark. That would free up 5mill off the books and they could probably entice someone to to take another contract with him.

        No way I trade Sway if it is me, but he might get traded for the same reason I stated around Ullmark.

  4. George is right the pay thing is a farce. These guys make more money in their rookie deal than most of their families did while raising them. They make enough to set them up comfortable for a long time. Once they are old enough to dictate where they can go theybusualky have kids, wives etc uprooting them and having to deal with customs and the differences in education from place to place is far from ideal. Their own parents are also aging or gone for some so it can often be a factor in that part of a career. Can’t blame them for it.

  5. The NHL reality is no different then the corporate reality.

    There is place some people would prefer to live over over places.

    A new Walmart manager doesn’t get to pick the city he wants to live in or the store he wants to manage.

    He will have an option and he can always turn it down and not become a manager.

    I’ve turned down jobs simply because of travel. I didn’t want to travel 135 plus days a year.

    I’ve turned down transfer because i didn’t want to live in certain community.

    NHL players, stay in 5 star hotels; I young player coming into the league has less choices or none.

    However they may be more interested in knowing what the social life is? How many quality night clubs, or fine dining. The social aspect his huge for some of these players.

    Difference wants for the young single guy, then the married with children guy.

    There is always going to be players who never want to play in Winnipeg and yes Winnipeg may have to pat extra to get the player they want.

    There is also some folks who like what Winnipeg has to offer. Kyle Connor, Nic Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Lowry and Josh Morrissey all signed long term deals to play here.

    Some players don’t like the media attention and don’t want to play in Montreal or Toronto.

    In the end there is 736 players in the NHL, if your fortunate enough to play were you want, good on you; for most their happy to sign an NHL contract.