NHL Rumor Mill – April 18, 2023
RUMOR TIDBITS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE ON THE FLAMES
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.