NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

An update on Patrik Laine plus recent Blackhawks and Red Wings speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe prefaced his latest mailbag segment by wondering if the Winnipeg Jets could attempt to trade Patrik Laine to the Seattle Kraken if unable to sign him to a new contract. The 22-year-old winger becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.

Could Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine end up with the Seattle Kraken next summer? (NHL Images)

Wiebe believes few teams could afford to pay Laine a hefty long-term salary or the type of return the Jets would seek. The Kraken, however, enter the league next summer unencumbered by the salary-cap constraints faced by the other clubs. Laine could prove a tempting star to build around.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is merely kicking around a theory here. We don’t know what the Jets will do with Laine or what Kraken GM Ron Francis might do if the winger hit the trade block next offseason. Nevertheless, it could be something worth monitoring as next summer’s expansion draft draws near.

Wiebe goes on to suggest there could be some unresolved issues between Laine and the Jets. However, there’s no concrete evidence suggesting the two sides have reached the point of no return and a trade becomes inevitable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues are likely Laine’s rumored unhappiness over his role with the Jets. His agent suggested weeks ago his client might be better off playing for a club that would provide him first-line minutes.

It’s believed the Jets brought back Paul Stastny to address that issue. However, that will depend upon whether those two can rekindle their offensive chemistry from Stastny’s brief appearance with the club in 2018.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: In a recent mailbag segment, Charlie Roumeliotis was asked how the Blackhawks will address a surplus of players on their roster if everyone is healthy to start the season.

If Dylan Strome is re-signed and Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith are medically cleared to play, the Blackhawks will have 15 forwards and only 12 spots available. A healthy Brent Seabrook will also result in a crowded blue line with prospects like Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk hoping to crack the roster.

As of now, the Blackhawks intend to let training camp sort itself out. If a player gets squeezed out, that’s when a trade could be explored.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw (head) and Smith (back) appear headed for LTIR. Seabrook claims he’s fully recovered from shoulder and hip surgeries and intends to play. The Hawks have the option of demoting one or two lower-salaried players if they have a fully healthy roster. If they go the trade route they could seek a draft pick or prospect.

NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman will continue trying to find ways to improve his roster for 2020-21. He acknowledged his club’s restrictions in trying to improve each season, pointing out it’s not as simple as swinging trades for a bunch of good players and signing a bunch of free agents.

Yzerman, however, didn’t rule out making moves before the start of the season. He’s aiming to improve in the short term while maintaining flexibility for long-term growth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman proved last season he’s willing to use the trade market to bolster his rebuilding club. One of those moves netted Robby Fabbri, who become one of the few brights spots for the Wings amid an otherwise miserable season.

Cap Friendly indicates the Wings have over $9 million in cap space for 2020-21. If the right opportunity presents itself, Yzerman could use some of that cap room to perhaps add a player who could address some of their short and long-term needs.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

A look at the latest speculation involving some of the remaining notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the status of several notable remaining restricted free agents following the Tampa Bay Lightning signing Mikhail Sergachev and the Boston Bruins signing Jake DeBrusk last week.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

Mathew Barzal remains atop the list. Fox reminds us New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello promised to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old center.

Lamoriello has limited cap space but will garner some extra wiggle room with defenseman Johnny Boychuk headed for LTIR following a career-ending eye injury. It’s believed the Isles GM prefers locking up Barzal for around $7.5 million annually. Barzal reportedly is considering a team-friendly deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like most general managers with key RFAs still to sign, Lamoriello could be waiting for official confirmation of a start date for this season before getting Barzal under contract. It’s not unusual for negotiations with a top RFA to stretch out until the start of training camp and sometimes into the opening days of camp.

Following the Sergachev signing, Anthony Cirelli’s agent said there was nothing new to report on contract talks with the Lightning. The cap-strapped club must shed salary to re-sign Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak and become cap compliant whenever the season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning are trying to move winger Tyler Johnson and his $5.5 million annual average value. There’s also speculation winger Alex Killorn ($4.45 million) could be a cost-cutting trade candidate.

Contract talks between Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t concerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski’s contract was signed right before training camp last year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $9 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly), the Jackets have plenty of room to accommodate a new deal for Dubois. That’s without placing injured winger Gustav Nyquist ($5.5 million) on LTIR.

Fox speculates New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood may wish to use Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins’ two-year, $8 million bridge contract as a starting point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have plenty of cap space to re-sign Blackwood and fellow RFA Jesper Bratt. They’ll get it sorted by training camp.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said he and the Vince Dunn camp intend to wait until close to training camp to sign an extension. Placing sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen on LTIR will free up cap room to sign the 23-year-old defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After watching Alex Pietrangelo depart via free agency last month, some Blues fans are concerned over why it’s taking so long to get Dunn signed. Now we know why. They’ll get a deal done.

The Winnipeg Jets have reportedly shopped forward Jack Roslovic during this off-season in search of a top-four, left-side defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might scoff at the notion of Roslovic fetching that type of return. However, the Jets could target a club in need of shedding cap space. The Jets are above the cap by $697K but are expected to place sidelined center Bryan Little ($5.29 million) on LTIR, giving them sufficient space to swap Roslovic for a decent rearguard.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Updates on the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently updated the status of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. She noted the UFA market is at a standstill given the uncertainty over the season.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

Mike Hoffman still tops the list of available talent. Sadler noted the Nashville Predators were believed to have an interest in the winger. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could use more scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Jackets and Devils have the cap space to sign Hoffman to the one-year deal he’s seeking worth between $5.5 million and $6 million. If they are interested in him, however, they’re likely playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price. Once we know when (if?) the season will begin, perhaps he’ll sign with one of them.

Sadler believes teams that fail to sign Hoffman could turn their focus toward winger Mikael Granlund. The annual average value on his previous contract was $5.75 million but he’ll have to accept less than that now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will likely have to accept a lot less given the current economic situation and the decline in his production over the last two seasons. He could be looking at offers of $2.5 million on a one-year deal.

Travis Hamonic’s Manitoba roots, combined with the Jets’ need for blueline depth, makes Winnipeg a potential match. Sadler also suggested the Calgary Flames could use him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are above the salary cap by over $697K but could have the wiggle room to add Hamonic (if they wish) by placing Bryan Little and his $5.29 million cap hit on LTIR. I don’t think we’ll see a reunion between Hamonic and the Flames unless he agrees to a substantial pay cut.

Sadler pointed out winger Anthony Duclair is currently training in Arizona with such notables as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Matt Dumba and Jonathan Toews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might help Duclair’s value if he’s training with some of the league’s top stars. As Sadler points out, he appears determined to be at his best for the coming season.

Noting Ilya Kovalchuk’s brief but successful stint with the Canadiens, Sadler wonders if a return to Montreal is possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship sailed when the Habs acquired Josh Anderson and signed Tyler Toffoli last month.

The Vancouver Canucks could still be searching for a defenseman. Sadler suggested Sami Vatanen as a possible fit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are over the cap by $1.5 million but could get some relief if Micheal Ferland’s post-concussion issues put him on LTIR. His annual average value is $3.5 million, giving the Canucks some room to add Vatanen or another defenseman at an affordable price.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 28, 2020

Will the Blue Jackets shop for a scoring forward? Who could become trade bait if the Sharks become a lottery team again? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti wondered if the Columbus Blue Jackets will add a scoring forward before the start of 2020-21. It will depend upon the cost of re-signing Pierre-Luc Dubois because they’d prefer to know how much salary-cap space they’ll have once the 22-year-old center is under contract.

Could the Columbus Blue Jackets attempt to sign Mike Hoffman? (NHL Images)

The Jackets have an opening on their second line with winger Gustav Nyquist out 5-6 months recovering from shoulder surgery. They’ll explore internal options but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t rule out signing a forward if the right opportunity presents itself and they have the flexibility to do so. Wingers Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently saying the Jackets tried to move forward Brandon Dubinsky’s contract. Friedman also speculated they could be among the clubs that looked at Hoffman and/or Granlund.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space. That’s more than enough to re-sign Dubois. Kekalainen has downplayed how long it’s taking to get the center signed, pointing out many notable RFAs usually aren’t signed until close to training camp.

Assuming it costs $6 million annually to sign Dubois, the Jackets would have around $3 million to add an affordable forward. They could get additional wiggle room to exceed the cap by placing Nyquist and his $5.5 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve, though they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant if he returns during the season.

Kekalainen also hinted earlier in the offseason that Dubinsky ($5.85 million) could also end up on LTIR owing to a nagging wrist injury. Perhaps he’ll try to trade Dubinsky’s contract to a cap-strapped club in hopes of landing something worthwhile in return.

Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year contract between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. His agent claimed 13 teams expressed various degrees of interest in his client. Most could be playing the waiting game hoping he’ll drop his asking price. The Jackets could be among them. Granlund might be a more affordable option.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz was asked which member of the San Jose Sharks could be traded (apart from Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic) if they’re a lottery club in 2020-21.

He doesn’t see any circumstance under which the Sharks would trade Tomas Hertl. Burns has a three-team trade list and Vlasic a full no-movement clause, making it very difficult to attempt to move either player. Kurz, however, speculates Burns might be open to moving if he believes the Sharks will struggle for the next couple of seasons, “especially with his beard buddy (Joe Thornton) now in Toronto.”

If the Sharks become sellers, Kurz feels the most likely trade candidates are pending UFAs like Devan Dubnyk, Stefan Noesen, Matt Nieto, Marcus Sorensen or maybe Patrick Marleau again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson is counting on his club to stage a bounce-back performance and be a playoff contender this season. If they’re not, the UFA selloff will begin as the deadline approaches. I agree with Kurz that they won’t move Hertl. I also doubt Burns and Vlasic will be going anywhere.

If Burns agreed to be moved his contract and age work against him. He turns 36 in March, his production dropped sharply last season (from 83 points in 2018-19 to just 45 in 70 games) and he’s carrying an $8 million AAV for five more years. Unless the Sharks agreed to pick up a healthy chunk of his cap hit, I don’t see many clubs agreeing to take on that contract. The same goes for the 33-year-old Vlasic and his $7 million AAV for six more years.










Latest on the Lightning, Bruins and Islanders in NHL Rumor Roundup

Latest on the Lightning, Bruins and Islanders in NHL Rumor Roundup

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

More speculation over which Lightning player could be moved in a cost-cutting trade plus the latest on the Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined which players the Tampa Bay Lightning could shop in a cost-cutting move. They’re above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev earlier in the week, with restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak in need of new contracts.

The Lightning put winger Tyler Johnson and his $5 million salary-cap hit on waivers last month but he went unclaimed. His no-trade clause gives him some say over where he could go but there might not be a market for a 30-year-old winger with declining stats and a high cap hit for the next four years.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn could become a cost-cutting trade candidate (NHL Images).

Alex Killorn is another candidate because of his modified no-trade clause whereas other Bolts with annual average values exceeding $4 million have full no-trades. Ondrej Palat and captain Steven Stamkos have also come up in speculation but both have full no-trade protection.

Whoever the Lightning trade they won’t get back a favorable return. However, the point is to free up cap room to keep as much of their roster intact as possible.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked if Tyler Johnson was a legitimate trade target for the Anaheim Ducks. While acknowledging Johnson’s had a solid NHL career, he wonders how well the 30-year-old will perform away from a deep roster like the Lightning. Given the Ducks’ own salary-cap constraints, the Bolts would have to absorb half of Johnson’s cap hit while the Ducks made a separate cost-cutting move to balance out the $2.5 million.

Stephens also suggested moving Ryan Kesler’s contract and perhaps another cap-related asset for Johnson if the center stays on long-term injury reserve during 2020-21. However, Ducks general manager Bob Murray could prefer retaining Kesler’s contract for his own LTIR purposes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson would be a tough sell that could end up costing the Lightning more than they’d like to part with in terms of a sweetener since they can’t afford to take back salary. It’ll be a tricky bit of juggling for Lightning GM Julien BriseBois.

Perhaps BriseBois could attempt to move Johnson for a permanent LTIR contract from another club thus providing sufficient wiggle room to re-sign Cirelli and Cernak and remain cap compliant. Some readers have suggested swinging a deal with the Detroit Red Wings to acquire the contract of all-but-retired center Henrik Zetterberg and his $6.083 million cap hit.

Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is the Lightning’s former GM and BriseBois’ mentor so there could be a fit there. However, Yzerman might not be keen to take on Johnson’s contract when he’s still got Frans Nielsen on his books for two more years at $5.25 million per season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Anaheim Ducks should embrace a rebuild rather than attempting to become a playoff contender in 2020-21. If David Backes ($4.5 million) ends up on LTIR it would provide the Ducks with more salary-cap wiggle room. That could allow them to take on another team’s problem contract along with some valuable pieces for their future.

Should they go the rebuild route, team captain Ryan Getzlaf could become a valuable trade chip if the 35-year-old center is willing to waive his no-movement clause to join a contender. Getzlaf is in the final season of his contract with an $8.25 million cap hit but earning only $3 million in actual salary.

O’Brien also suggested winger Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson as trade options. They’re in the late-20s and their contracts will expire at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Bob Murray is convinced his club can compete for a playoff berth this season. His opinion could change if the Ducks are wallowing near the basement again by the trade deadline.

Getzlaf, Rakell, Lindholm and Manson would all have considerable trade value if Murray opts to tear things down and stage a full rebuild. Backes on LTIR for the season might also be enticing to cap-strapped contenders looking to free up space for other moves.