The NHL’s Buyout Barometer – Pacific Division (Part I)
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the latest Oilers speculation and some suggested backup goaltender options for the Ducks.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers would be able to trade Kris Russell, and if Matt Benning would be retained and traded or let go.
Russell’s annual average value is $4 million through 2020-21. The 33-year-old defenseman is seeing third-pairing minutes on the Oilers’ blueline. Benning, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Spector feels general manager Ken Holland’s ability to move Russell will impinge on what he’ll offer Benning. He doesn’t see much sense in cutting Benning loose but expects he or Russell is likely to be moved to make way for a younger rearguard like Caleb Jones or Evan Bouchard.
Asked if the Oilers could buy out Russell or winger James Neal, Spector doesn’t expect that to happen unless the NHL offers up compliance buyouts in the off-season.
(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Russell’s play and his cap hit will make him difficult enough to move. It gets tougher when his 10-team no-trade list climbs to 15 teams for 2020-21. They also can’t bury him in the minors because he has no-movement protection. Maybe they find a taker in the off-season, but I doubt it. I also agree with “Cousin Mark” about the buyout option.
Benning, meanwhile, could end up on the trade block if his contract talks become contentious. With Cap Friendly indicating the Oilers carry over $71 million invested in 16 players for next season, Holland can only offer Benning at best a modest raise over his current $1.9 million salary-cap hit.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports the New York Rangers would potentially part with a high draft pick to facilitate a swap of Lias Andersson to Edmonton for Jesse Puljujarvi. However, he’s been told the Rangers have more interest in Puljujarvi than the Oilers have in the slow-footed Andersson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Andersson-for-Puljujarvi rumor has floated around for a while, but I’m not convinced this is going to take place. Stranger things have happened but I don’t see the Rangers giving up a high draft pick to make this happen.
DUCKS BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently examined several possible backup goalie options for the Anaheim Ducks if Ryan Miller isn’t re-signed or retires. Among them are Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens does a good job breaking down the pros and cons of each netminder. Khudobin and Greiss could prove too expensive as both will be in demand. Smith and Anderson are coming to the end of their respective careers. Talbot could seek a starter’s job after regaining his form this season with the Flames.
The Ducks could be forced to consider more affordable short-term options to spell off John Gibson, but that might not be suitable to ease his heavy workload.
The NHL releases its detailed next phase for its return-to-play protocol. Check out the highlights and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
Players can train in small groups of no more than six in the facility voluntarily. The training is non-contact and the players cannot skate or train in another facility. Players will be encouraged to shower at home.
Players must be tested for COVID-9 two days before reporting to their facilities. Players and staff must self-monitor temperature and symptoms daily. Anyone developing symptoms will be isolated. All players and staff must immediately notify the club medical staff if they suspect coming in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Equipment must be thoroughly cleaned between each player’s usage.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports individuals traveling to their team’s cities by commercial air or rail must self-quarantine for 14 days immediately following their arrival. The same rule applies to those arriving from high-risk areas and those landing in areas where local authorities continue to impose a quarantine period for any travelers.
Teams will provide accommodation for those players (such as AHL players) who don’t maintain a residence in their club cities.
Fitness testing by the clubs is not permitted during this phase.
Non-essential personnel (media members, agents, massage therapists, etc) will not be permitted to enter the facilities. Player’s family members also won’t be permitted.
Johnston also reported players must undergo a pre-participation medical examination before they can begin skating. They also won’t be allowed to access saunas, hot tubs, or steam baths. Where possible, the team will assign a different athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and equipment manager to each group of six.
Teams that fail to comply with the Phase 2 guidelines could face fines, loss of draft choices, or ineligibility to participate in the 24-team tournament.
TSN: Face coverings (cloth or surgical) will be worn at all times – except when exercising – when entering or leaving the club facility and inside the facility where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Coaches cannot be involved in on-ice training but can watch from the stands.
Players who live in NHL markets other than where they play will be permitted to use the facilities in that city, depending on availability, so they don’t have to travel back to their team’s home city for Phase 2.
While the league views this document as comprehensive, it acknowledged it cannot mitigate all risks. “A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome,” the 22-page memo continued. “COVID-19 generally affects older age groups and those with previously existing medical conditions, more so than younger, and otherwise healthy, individuals.
“We recognize that players and personnel have family and household members who may fall into these vulnerable categories.”
Pierre LeBrun also noted the memo indicates the league is targeting a date in early June to transition to Phase 2. It has yet to be determined how long Phase 2 will last.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports if all goes well in negotiations between the league and the NHL Players’ Association and governing health officials, training camps (Phase 3) could begin by late June. That could put the league in position to resume play by the second or third week of July, with the Stanley Cup champion crowned in mid-to-late September.
The league and the PA are expected to resume negotiations today on an agreement covering all outstanding issues related to returning to action this summer.
THE SCORE: cites Minnesota Wild player rep Devan Dubnyk telling The Athletic’s Michael Russo the agreement on a 24-team tournament doesn’t mean hockey’s back. “We still have a long way to go,” he said.
Dubnyk indicated the two sides still must address the logistics of staging that tournament. The length of isolation away from families remains a concern for the players, as well as the quality and cost of accommodation, food and travel in the host cities, and the effect upon the league’s finances.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve cited the highlights of the league’s Phase 2 memorandum. The comprehensive document isn’t perfect, and I don’t doubt issues could arise that aren’t covered in the memo that will require immediate action. But as The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell observed, the attention to detail is impressive. This wasn’t something just slapped together within a few days.
How this phase unfolds will determine when the training-camp phase can begin. While NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said a few positive COVID-19 cases aren’t enough to derail the process, it will remain a concern for the players and the staff. A significant spike in cases could derail Phase 2, jeopardizing the planned 24-team tournament.
IN OTHER NEWS…
WGR 550: cited TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reporting the NHL Draft Lottery could be held on June 26. A date for the 2020 Draft has yet to be determined.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie took to Twitter indicating there are more questions than answers regarding the draft. “When will it be? How many teams? What format? Odds? For now, a lot more questions than answers. Not even the GMs who are in the lottery, or hope to be, seem to have many, if any, firm details on it.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lottery will likely be held in late-June, but I think the league will wait and see how things pan out with its tournament plan before announcing the date and the details for the draft.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes player rep Jordan Martinook confirmed his clubs was one of the two that voted against the 24-team format. The Tampa Bay Lightning was the other.
Martinook said he and his teammates had concerns the extra play-in round would lengthen the playoffs and their odds of winning the Stanley Cup. “It wasn’t like we didn’t want to play or anything,” he said. “It was just this particular option maybe didn’t benefit us. It’s just kind of the stance we took.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the standings when the season was paused, the Hurricanes held the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we take a look at the latest Blues speculation plus several suggested second-line center and defense targets for the Jets.
LATEST ON THE BLUES
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat, Tom Timmermann was asked if the St. Louis Blues could trade Jaden Schwartz, Jake Allen, or both as cost-cutting measures.
He feels trading Allen would be the easiest solution to freeing up salary-cap space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo. The improvement in his play this season could improve his trade value.
If Schwartz intends to seek a significant raise on his next contract in 2021, the Blues could be forced to move him. Trading him early when a team can get a full season out of him before his contract expires would improve his value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players, with Pietrangelo and RFA blueliner Vince Dunn their priorities to re-sign. Shedding Schwartz ($5.35 million through 2020-21, 15-team no-trade list) and Allen ($4.35 million through 2020-21) would free up $9.7 million in cap room. That’s enough to re-sign Pietrangelo, but not for Dunn.
Unless Blues management intends to let Pietrangelo walk after this season, they’ll probably have to dump around $14 million to retain their cap, re-sign Dunn, and leave sufficient cap space for other roster moves next season.
SECOND-LINE CENTER & DEFENSE OPTIONS FOR THE JETS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Murat Ales suggested 16 candidates to address the Winnipeg Jets’ second-line center position for 2020-21.
In-house options include Bryan Little, Andrew Copp, and Jack Roslovic.
Unrestricted free agent possibilities include re-signing Cody Eakin or pursuing the Islanders’ Derick Brassard, Minnesota’s Alex Galchenyuk, Nashville’s Mikael Granlund, Arizona’s Carl Soderberg or Florida’s Erik Haula.
Trade options include Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson, Montreal’s Max Domi, or Dallas’ Roope Hintz.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic could be the most likely in-house option. He wants to move up into the Jets’ top-six. It might be worthwhile to give him that opportunity. If it doesn’t work, they can turn to the in-season trade market.
Granlund might be the best of those proposed UFA options, though he’s spent more time on the wing in recent years. Unless Johnson waives his no-trade clause, he’s not going to Winnipeg. Despite the speculation in the Montreal media over Domi’s future with the Habs, I think they’ll re-sign him. The Stars aren’t moving Hintz, as the big 23-year-old sophomore winger is blossoming into one of their core forwards.
Ken Wiebe (subscription required) looks at 10 defense options via the off-season free-agent and trade markets. The UFAs include Washington’s Brenden Dillon, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk. His trade targets include Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Carolina’s Jake Gardiner, New Jersey’s Damon Severson, and Minnesota’s Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Hamonic, and Barrie could be reasonable options. Hamonic is a Manitoba native and could be keen on returning home if the Flames don’t re-sign him.
I don’t see the Ducks parting with Manson, the Devils with Severson, or the Wild with Dumba. Given the state of their respective bluelines, they need those rearguards if they hope to be competitive next season. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, might gladly listen to offers for Gardiner, but I doubt the Jets’ management would be interested in him.
Some positive reaction to the league proposed 24-team return-to-play tournament, New York state allowing pro teams to resume training, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
**UPDATE** The NHL has published its framework for Phase 2 of its Phased Return To Sport Protocol. You can read the details by following this link. I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s Morning Coffee Headlines.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Unlike some who feel the NHL’s return-to-play proposal could be a travesty, Mike McIntyre suggests it could be the most memorable Stanley Cup playoffs in our lifetime.
There won’t be any home-ice advantage, while the playing field will be level for the most part because many players have recovered from nagging injuries. It also provides for some potentially entertaining match-ups, such as the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets squaring off in the best-of-five play-in series.
McIntyre doesn’t feel this tournament should become the new normal. Provided the health and safety of everyone involved can be assured, he thinks this could give sports fans starved for live events the opportunity to enjoy this unique tournament from the comfort of their homes.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Jim Souhan acknowledged the daunting logistical hurdles the NHL must clear to safely stage this tournament, including COVID-19 testing, finding suitable hub cities, international travel issues, and the absence of the usual “sportstuff” that accompanies the game, such as fans and media scrums.
Nevertheless, Souhan suggests hungry sports fans should take what they can get, appreciate the players willing to take this risk, and hope the league is doing this because it can ensure the players’ safety.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The critics of this proposed tournament raised legitimate concerns. If the league cannot assure the health and safety of everyone involved, from the players, team and training staff, arena staff, broadcasting crews, plus all those involved in feeding, housing, and transporting those people, then no, this tournament shouldn’t happen.
On the other hand, the NHL will earn justifiable plaudits if they can pull this off, providing an example for other major professional sports leagues. I expect many of those voicing opposition to this tournament will tune in to follow the outcome. If this is done in careful steps, it’s worth a try.
TRIBLIVE.COM: For Patrick Marleau, this tournament could be his last shot at playing for the Stanley Cup. The 40-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins winger is in the twilight of his career and could retire after this season.
SPORTSNET: New York state governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday announced professional sports teams could resume training as of Sunday. Those include the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, as both clubs are eligible to participate in the proposed 24-team tournament.
NEW YORK POST: The league hasn’t told the Rangers (or Islanders) when they can reopen their facilities. “We have yet to set a date on which clubs may reopen their facilities for training and, eventually, formal training camps,” NHL group VP of communications John Dellapina told The Post via email. “We are still working with the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) on a league-wide plan to return to play.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan involves players returning to their respective NHL cities and taking part in small-group training in their team facilities. That could go into effect in early- or mid-June.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Representatives for Red Wings forward Dmytro Timoshov denied a recent report out of Russia claiming their client was close to signing with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga in Latvia.
NEWSDAY: Construction on the New York Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park is expected to resume on Wednesday.