NHL Rumor Mill – April 25, 2023
Jason Zucker hopes to remain with the Penguins, Predators new GM Barry Trotz outlines his offseason plans, and the latest on the Canucks in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ZUCKER WANTS TO RE-SIGN WITH THE PENGUINS
TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh reports Jason Zucker wants to remain with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 31-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He’s completing a five-year contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million.
Healthy for the first time since 2018-19, Zucker scored 27 goals and 48 points this season and led the Penguins with 195 hits. He said he wants to come back but that’s out of his hands right now as the club searches for a new general manager.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Nick Horwat also took note of Zucker’s performance this season. While he thinks the Penguins would like to keep him, Horwat believes the winger has priced himself out of Pittsburgh. His age could also make him too old for the direction the club could want to go.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Penguins have over $20 million in projected cap space for 2023-24 with 14 roster players under contract. They have the space to re-sign Zucker but it’ll likely depend on how much he’s seeking and for how long. He might have to accept a slight pay cut on a short-term deal to remain with the Penguins. Otherwise, they probably can’t afford to keep him unless they shed some salary to make room for a raise.
WHAT DOES TROTZ HAVE IN MIND FOR THE PREDATORS?
NHL.COM: Emma Lingan recently reported on Barry Trotz outlining his vision for the Nashville Predators since taking over as general manager. He hopes to build on the club’s blend of experience, youth and goaltending.
Trotz called Juuse Saros an elite goaltender. He believes the roster needs some improvement, calling on his top veteran players to be at the level expected of them. He’s also pleased by the emergence this season of promising young players such as Tommy Novak and Luke Evangelista.
The new Predators GM will look at making some additions during the offseason. “I’m looking to get faster,” he said. “I want to add some size at key positions, and I want to add a little scoring.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have almost $18 million in cap space for next season with 14 roster regulars under contract. They’ve also got 12 picks in the first five rounds of this year’s draft, including two first-rounders. Perhaps one or two of those picks will be used as trade bait to address some of the needs Trotz hopes to address.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre examined the Vancouver Canucks’ offseason priorities.
Topping the list is getting Elias Pettersson signed to a contract extension. He’s a year away from becoming a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll also be a year away from UFA eligibility. He just completed a career-best 102-point season. MacIntyre speculated that Canucks GM Patrik Allvin may be more willing than most think to let the matter slide into (or after) the final season of Pettersson’s current contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will be a mistake in my opinion. Pettersson’s going to cost a lot to re-sign after his emergence as a superstar this season. Another 100-point performance will only push the cost of signing him even higher. If there’s a deal to be done with Pettersson this summer, make it so.
MacIntyre believes Allvin will go shopping this summer for a third-line center via trade or free agency. Landing a 20-something free agent like Max Domi, Pius Suter or Ivan Barbashev for that role won’t be cheap. He also believes they need to add another second-pairing defenseman.
The Canucks are already exceeding next season’s cap ceiling with $85.2 million in commitments, including injured players. They’ll have to shed salary in order to make additions. Moving the contracts of Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Tyler Myers could prove difficult. MacIntyre speculates it could come down to trading Brock Boeser, Conor Garland or both.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekman-Larsson’s $7.26 million cap hit through 2026-27 and his declining performance makes him almost impossible to trade. Myers has only a year left on his deal and could be easier to move once his $5 million signing bonus is paid on Sept. 15. However, that could complicate the timing of a trade. So could his 10-team no-trade clause.
Boeser and Garland would have much more value in the trade market given they’re in their late 20s. There’s also speculation they could listen to offers for J.T. Miller before his no-trade clause kicks in on his new contract on July 1. It could take one heck of an offer, however, to convince them to part with him.