NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2023
A look at five clubs that still might make some offseason moves in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ESPN.COM: Kristen Shilton recently looked at five NHL clubs that still have to make some moves before training camp opens in September.
The Calgary Flames still have to determine what to do with centers Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund as well as defenseman Noah Hanifin. The trio is slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Shilton believes retaining their services would require the Flames to prove that they can still be a contender worth sticking with as standing pat isn’t the best way to do that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, will they make a major move to upgrade the roster in order to entice Lindholm, Backlund and Hanifin to stay?
Lindholm and Backlund expressed reluctance about signing contract extensions but haven’t told the Flames yet that they’re definitely heading to market next July. Earlier this month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Flames remain hopeful of re-signing Lindholm.
It may be too late to keep Hanifin in the fold. There were reports last month claiming the 26-year-old defenseman informed management that he wasn’t interested in a contract extension.
The San Jose Sharks have to find a trade partner for Erik Karlsson. Shilton compares his situation to that of Jakob Chychrun’s last summer. “We all know he’s going to be traded,” she writes. “It’s just a matter of when, and to where.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently admitted speaking to clubs like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Seattle Kraken and Toronto Maple Leafs. Of these, the Penguins appear to be the front-runners. My theory is they’re waiting to sort out Drew O’Connor’s arbitration before pulling the trigger as they’ll have a brief second contract buyout window to free some some cap room to take on Karlsson.
The Hurricanes’ signing of Tony DeAngelo last week likely takes them out of the Karlsson sweepstakes. Over the previous two years, the Kraken made splashes in the free-agent pool but have yet to swing a blockbuster trade. As for the Leafs, it’ll require considerable salary-cap juggling to pull it off.
Shilton noted the Minnesota Wild have limited salary-cap space for 2023-24. Nevertheless, she believes they could still have some wiggle room once they’ve got Filip Gustavsson and Calen Addison under contract to perhaps boost their secondary scoring.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on how much it costs them to get Gustavsson and Addison under contract. The high number of teams with limited cap room this summer could force forwards such as Tomas Tatar, Josh Bailey and Pius Suter to considerable pay cuts to play this season. They could also take a chance on a young forward like Max Comtois.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ve also been trying to move Anthony Mantha. However, their disappointing performances and expensive salaries for this season make them difficult to move without adding sweeteners, retaining salary, or both. They could end up retaining those two for the coming season and see how things unfold.
Shilton believes the Seattle Kraken need to address their goaltending if they wish to remain a playoff contender this season. Philipp Grubauer works better in tandem than as a primary No. 1 netminder. So far, their goalies for the coming season are Grubauer, Chris Driedger and Joey Daccord.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: UFA options include Martin Jones (who shared the duties with Grubauer last season), two 38-year-olds in Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak and the 35-year-old Alex Stalock. Kraken GM Ron Francis will have to go the trade route if he wants to find younger, more reliable backups.