NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2023
Could the Penguins reunite with Phil Kessel? What’s the latest on Elias Lindholm’s contract talks with the Flames? Could the Bruins pursue Senators center Shane Pinto? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
DON’T EXPECT THE PENGUINS TO BRING BACK KESSEL
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dave Molinari recently noted a segment of Penguins fans would love to see the club reunite with Phil Kessel. The winger played a key role in the club’s back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.
Now 35, Kessel is an unrestricted free agent after winning his third Cup last season with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s let it be known that he’s willing to play a secondary role with whatever NHL team signs him even if it means jeopardizing his consecutive games-played record.
Molinari doesn’t see the Penguins pursuing Kessel. He pointed out that general manager Kyle Dubas has been reconstructing the club’s third and fourth lines. Kessel’s game doesn’t fit a checking-line role. The winger also had a strained relationship with head coach Mike Sullivan during his tenure with the Penguins.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Nick Horwat suggested that Kessel could provide a bump to the Penguins’ offense and become a trigger man on their power play. Like Molinari, however, he observed that Kessel’s style of game doesn’t match those of the two-way or defensive-minded forwards brought in by Dubas.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bringing back Kessel for a last hurrah in Pittsburgh would make a nice story. As Molinari and Horwat pointed out, however, his style of game wouldn’t fit on their Penguins’ checking lines. A reunion might be possible near the trade deadline if one of their top-six forwards becomes injured but even that seems remote at best.
UPDATE ON ELIAS LINDHOLM
Friedman initially felt Bo Horvat’s contract with the New York Islanders would be comparable. Horvat is starting an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $8.5 million.
The number for Lindholm, however, could be higher. Friedman heard it could be closer to $8.75 million annually or $9 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a substantial raise for Lindholm. The 28-year-old center’s AAV for this season is $4.85 million. His production fell to 22 goals and 64 points in 80 games last season following his career-high 42-goal, 82-point performance in 2021-22 when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were still with the Flames.
While that decline can be blamed on the departures of Gaudreau and Tkachuk last summer, the style of game the Flames played last season under head coach Darryl Sutter also likely played a part. With Sutter no longer behind the bench, Lindholm’s production and that of his teammates could improve this season.
Lindholm will be 29 when his new contract goes into effect next summer. He could prove to be an expensive risk for the Flames or any other club. Lindholm is currently among the league’s best two-way centers but his performance will inevitably decline over the course of an eight-year deal.
COULD THE BRUINS PURSUE PINTO?
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports a trusted NHL source claims teams are inquiring about the cost of Shane Pinto in the trade market. The 22-year-old Ottawa Senators center is a restricted free agent and it’s believed there is a wide gap in negotiations between the Pinto camp and Senators management.
The Senators are up against the salary cap this season. Murphy’s source claims the Senators would be willing to entertain trade offers because they believe prospect center Ridly Grieg is every bit as good or better than Pinto.
Murphy wondered if the Boston Bruins could get into the Pinto sweepstakes. The asking price could be high as the Senators would want prospects who could crack the roster this season. “That’s probably Fabian Lysell and Johnny Beecher,” said Murphy’s source.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication thus far out of Ottawa claiming the Senators are dangling Pinto in the trade market or listening to offers. Recent reports claim the two sides continue to work on a new contract.
That could change if Pinto isn’t re-signed when training camp opens on Sept. 21. If the Senators make him available, the Bruins’ depleted prospect pool would make it difficult for them to outbid other clubs.