NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2020

Check out recent Devils and Blackhawks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FREE-AGENT FORWARD TARGETS FOR THE DEVILS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Corey Masisak recently examined several potential free-agent forward targets for the New Jersey Devils. Among the possibilities was former Devils turned Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestnikov, and Nashville Predators’ forward Mikael Granlund.

Could the New Jersey Devils attempt to bring back Taylor Hall? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak wasn’t saying the Devils will target those players. He’s merely looking at possible options.

He doubted Hall might return to the Devils if he doesn’t find a suitable contract in the UFA market but doesn’t completely rule it out. I believe we’ve seen the last of Hall in a Devils’ jersey. He probably wants to play with a contender, which rules out his former team.

I share Masisak’s view that the lack of impact UFA forwards in this year’s market could put Hoffman and Dadonov out of the Devils’ price range. Toffoli will also probably be too expensive. Namestnikov and Granlund could be more affordable, but their inconsistent play in recent years probably won’t make them a good fit for the Devils.

Bargain options could include Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis, Nashville’s Craig Smith, the New York Rangers’ Jesper Fast, Florida’s Erik Haula, Minnesota’s Alexander Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary, Tampa Bay’s Patrick Maroon, Vancouver’s Josh Leivo, and Detroit’s Sam Gagner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith and Fast seem like the best of this bunch. They would bring experienced, affordable depth to the Devils’ forward lines but not enough to move the needle forward.

Masisak also looked at some short-term veterans like Carl Soderberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Patrick Marleau, Corey Perry, and Brian Boyle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These guys are in the twilight years of their respective careers. Kovalchuk could return to the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs could re-sign Spezza, and Marleau could return to San Jose if there’s a spot available with the Sharks. Like the bargain options, there’s no one in this group who could significantly advance the Devils’ rebuild. 

BLACKHAWKS FACING PIVOTAL DECISIONS

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Paul Thompson reports the Blackhawks still have pivotal roster decisions to make following the 24-team playoff tournament. Here’s a look at several of the notable ones.

Long-time starting goalie Corey Crawford is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. If he re-signs it likely won’t be for the $6 million annually of his current contract. His age (35) and recent concussion history are cause for concern.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hawks might not have much choice. They sent Robin Lehner to Vegas at the trade deadline. Malcolm Subban, part of the return in that deal, is not an NHL starter. Washington’s Braden Holtby could be available but he’ll probably be too expensive for the Hawks.

Winger Brandon Saad is eligible next summer for UFA status and carrying a $6 million cap hit for 2020-21. He was a frequent subject of trade chatter this season and could surface again in the rumor mill. However, Thompson suggests the Hawks could keep him if they decide to build on the current roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $75 million invested in 19 players for next season and Crawford, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, and Drake Caggiula due for new contracts, the Blackhawks must shed salary to accommodate those deals. They could get some cap relief if Brent Seabrook goes on long-term injury reserve next season. Nevertheless, they might still have to move out Saad to clear more space.

Winger Andrew Shaw was frequently sidelined over the past three seasons. Given his injury history, he might be a luxury they can no longer afford. Shaw has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw could also end up on LTIR to start next season. If his concussions are serious enough, he could be there permanently.

Defenseman Olli Maatta is likely a trade or buyout candidate. He’s got two years left on his contract worth over $4.08 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maatta saw third-pairing minutes with the Blackhawks. His performance was going downhill during his final two seasons in Pittsburgh before he was shipped to Chicago. They could try to trade him in the off-season, but the decline in his play could make him tough to move.

Center Zack Smith underwent season-ending back surgery and could be a buyout candidate. He signed through next season with a cap hit of $3.25 million.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: Smith can’t be bought out if he hasn’t fully recovered from surgery whenever the buyout period rolls around.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 31, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 31, 2020

Another look at this year’s non-playoff clubs in the Sunday NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: John Matisz recently examined the most important business facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs. Here’s a look at some of his notable observations.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf (Photo via NHL Images).

Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray could face some soul-searching over whether to open contract extension talks with long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. He would attract considerable interest among playoff contenders before the 2021 NHL trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf has an annual average value of $8.25 million with a full no-movement clause for next season. If he and the Ducks fail to reach agreement on a new contract, it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll agree to waive that movement clause.

With several veterans carrying expensive contracts, Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill needs to sign RFA winger Sam Reinhart and goalie Linus Ullmark to reasonable contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could be easier said than done. Both players have arbitration rights. Coming off a bridge contract, Reinhart could be seeking a lucrative long-term deal.

The rebuilding Detroit Red Wings need depth throughout their roster. Acquiring a decent goaltender should be the priority for GM Steve Yzerman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This year’s UFA goalie market includes Washington’s Braden Holtby and Vegas’ Robin Lehner. Both, however, could prefer signing with contenders. Other options could include Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, or the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss. The Wings, however, could be forced to overpay.

The Los Angeles Kings have 21 picks in the next two drafts, including five second-rounders. Matisz wondered if packaging one or two picks with Jeff Carter at the 2020 draft might net the Kings a young, established NHL player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could depend on how much of a market there is for Carter. He’s a proven performer but age seems to have caught up with the 35-year-old center. He’s also got two more seasons with an annual average value of $5.275 million, though in actual salary he’s earning $2 million annually. The Kings might have to absorb part of that cap hit.

The New Jersey Devils’ biggest decisions are deciding whether they’ll remove the interim labels from GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine or hire full-time replacements. They’ve interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis and former NHL coaches Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once they’ve sorted their management and coaching positions, the Devils can focus on addressing their roster issues.

Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion could be busy in the off-season. Among his 13 players on expiring contracts are Craig Anderson and Anthony Duclair.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 39-year-old Anderson could be brought back cheaply on a one-year deal, but it remains to be seen if he’s keen to spend another season with the rebuilding Senators or if Dorion wants him back. Duclair is a streaky scorer with arbitration rights, but he could end up having to accept a one-year “show-me” deal.

San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson will have to get creative to shore up his goaltending. Martin Jones is no longer an effective starting goalie but he’s got four more years left on his contract with an AAV of $5.275 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21, Wilson could try to move one of his high-salaried veterans for younger talent. However, they also carry various no-trade/no-movement clauses. He could look for a short-term free-agent bargain like Khudobin or former Shark Greiss.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 30, 2020

Recent speculation on the Red Wings, Sharks, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD RED WINGS TARGET KRUG, BARRIE, OR LEHNER?

THE DETROIT NEWS: Bob Wojnowski recently reported Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman acknowledged he might be slightly more aggressive in shaping his roster this off-season via trades and free agency. He wants to build up the supporting cast around Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi as the young core improves.

The Detroit Red Wings could have interest in Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug if he hits the UFA market (Photo via NHL Images)

Yzerman stressed he won’t go into the free-agent market to make a splash. He’ll instead focus on “sensible signings”. He remains confident he’ll re-sign restricted free agents like Mantha and Bertuzzi. “We’re not gonna let them go anywhere, we’ll get deals done,” he said.

Wojnowski speculated the Wings might be interested in pending UFA defensemen like Boston’s Torey Krug and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie or a goalie like Vegas’ Robin Lehner. “But who knows if they’d be interested in the Wings, who have decent young players and lots of draft picks, but few guaranteed stars,” said Wojnowski.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite having plenty of salary-cap space, Yzerman remains focused on a patient rebuild. I expect we’ll see more trades akin to last fall’s Robby Fabbri deal with St. Louis, targeting struggling young players on other clubs. He could be very interested in Krug, Barrie, or Lehner if they express interest in coming to Detroit, but he’ll likely have to settle for affordable second-tier depth talent on short-term deals.

SHARKS FACE BUSY OFF-SEASON

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White recently reported San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces a busy off-season. He must hire a full-time head coach, shore up his goaltending, add scoring depth on the wings, supplement his aging, expensive core with young NHL talent, and do it all with a limited budget.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Resolving the coaching situation seems the easiest of Wilson’s tasks this off-season. Wilson seems to be leaning toward removing the interim tag from head coach Bob Boughner’s title. The rest will be challenging. 

Wilson could peddle the 2020 first-round pick he acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning before the trade deadline to bring in an established young NHL player. However, that would leave him without a pick in the opening round.

Most of his core veterans have no-trade protection and hefty contracts. Wilson could shop restricted free agent winger Kevin Labanc, but then he’d have to find someone to replace him. He could pursue a UFA backup like Dallas’ Anton Khudobin or the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, but he’ll have competition from other clubs for their services.

NO LONG-TERM UFA SIGNINGS FOR THE SENATORS

NHL.COM: Mike G. Morreale reports Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is unlikely to sign any unrestricted free agents this year to long-term contracts. He could instead add some veteran depth on short-term deals.

The draft order could also determine how busy Dorion might be in the UFA market. He could have three picks in the first round, seven in the opening two rounds, and 13 over seven rounds. “If you’re going to pick Nos. 1-2, it’s different than picking Nos. 5-6,” Dorion said. “The players going 1-2 probably have a higher chance of playing in the NHL next year. At the same time, we know we’re going to take two good players with our first two picks.”

Morreale speculates Dorion could use some of those picks as trade bait leading up to the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has sufficient cap room next season to add a couple of decent UFA depth players on short-term deals. He could make his biggest splash at the draft, using some of those extra picks to perhaps pry a quality talent away from a cap-strapped club.

If the Senators win the draft lottery, perhaps Dorion will be tempted to dangle the conditional first-rounder he got from the Islanders in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau deal as trade bait.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2020

Seven non-playoff teams can trade with each other, plus the latest on the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Matt Teague cites The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reporting the seven teams that didn’t qualify for the NHL’s 24-team playoff tournament are eligible to make trades with each other. Those clubs are the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This ties in nicely with yesterday’s rumor mill examining the off-season plans for those seven teams. Those clubs frequently appeared in the rumor mill before the trade deadline and during this limbo period as we awaited word of the league’s return-to-play intentions. 

A rebuilding team with lots of draft picks, like the Senators, could wait until the draft to start wheeling-and-dealing with teams looking to shed salary. Others could prefer waiting for teams to be eliminated from the tournament to broaden their field of possible trade targets. Nevertheless, we can’t dismiss the possibility of some of these clubs looking to get a head start on next season by talking trade among themselves. 

LATEST ON THE SABRES

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl reviewed Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill’s press conference earlier this week. He believes Botterill will use this extra time to find trade partners and scout free agents to bring in some much-needed roster reinforcements.

Vogl noted the Sabres will have salary-cap flexibility to bid for players even if the cap remains flat or drops for next season. However, he fears they could be another overpaid player or two on the roster.

Botterill acknowledged his club’s need for second- and third-line depth. Vogl, however, pointed out the Sabres GM has not done well thus far to address that issue. They need one or two centers or the Sabres will continue to struggle.

Vogl’s colleague Pierre LeBrun wondered if the Sabres might find a market for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen among the other six non-playoff clubs. However, he thinks the Sabres will need a wider pool of teams to deal with before trade talks get serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Next season will be crucial for the Sabres. They’ve gone nine years now without reaching the playoffs. Their fans are out of patience waiting for a postseason contender. Captain Jack Eichel yesterday voiced his frustration over the years of losing, while Ristolainen acknowledged he’ll be among the first players to be traded if changes are coming before next season. 

Botterill must deliver during this long off-season. Missing next season’s playoffs will likely cost him his job. It could also lead to more roster changes, perhaps even involving Eichel if he decides his NHL future no longer belongs in Buffalo.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2020

Check out the latest on the Leafs, Oilers, and Devils in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE LEAFS PURSUE BONINO?

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked if pursing a third-line center was a priority for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. Fox believes acquiring a top-four, right-shot defenseman remains Dubas’ priority, but feels improving the depth at center should be next.

The reader proposed pursuing Nashville Predators center Nick Bonino. Fox believes he’d be a wonderful addition but doubts the Predators will part with him. He instead suggested some short-term UFA options like Joe Thornton, Derick Brassard, Nate Thompson, Brad Richardson, or Greg McKegg.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators GM David Poile still considers his club a contender. I don’t see him moving Bonino.

Cap Friendly indicates the Predators have over $72 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They could use some cap relief if they hope to re-sign UFAs like Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith, but Poile could consider other cost-cutting options (hello there, Kyle Turris).

The Leafs, meanwhile, have over $76.9 million tied up in 16 players. That’s not much room to pursue a top-four defenseman and a third-line center. They’ll have to shop one or two salaried players to address those needs.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (Photo via NHL Images).

One reader proposed the Leafs swap Morgan Rielly and William Nylander to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones and Josh Anderson. Fox loves the idea of such a blockbuster deal but noted how NHL teams love their talent too much to make such transactions. He also pointed out Jones and Rielly are massively popular in their respective markets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If you’re gonna dream, dream big. Thanks to the salary cap, true blockbuster trades are increasingly rare.

OILERS COULD KEEP 2020 THIRD-ROUND PICK

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the NHL deciding the regular season is over could mean the Oilers won’t have to part with their conditional 2020 third-round pick to the Calgary Flames. It was part of the deal that saw the Oilers ship winger Milan Lucic to Edmonton in exchange for winger James Neal.

Under the conditions of the trade, the Oilers’ pick would’ve belonged to the Flames if Neal scored 21 goals this season. He had 19 when the schedule was paused. Oilers GM Ken Holland said he hasn’t been officially told that’s the case.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis said the league still hasn’t addressed how it will sort out this season’s conditional trades. He suggested three possible approaches. One, the season is interpreted as having ended at 71 games, meaning the Oilers keep their pick. Two, the league prorate results over 82 games, meaning Neal could be credited with 22 goals and the Flames get the pick. The third is a compromise in which the Flames get some lesser draft compensation from the Oilers.

SUGGESTED BLUELINE TRADE TARGETS FOR THE DEVILS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked about realistic blueline trade targets for the New Jersey Devils.

Masisak ruled out pursuing young defensemen on potentially cap-strapped teams like Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev and St. Louis’ Vince Dunn as he expects they’ll be re-signed by their respective clubs. Older, short-term options could be available, such as Chicago’s Olli Maatta or Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.

He also noted the Buffalo Sabres have too many blueliners, suggesting Colin Miller as a target. He also wondered if the Minnesota Wild might part with Jonas Brodin. Even some potential free agent bargains like Cody Ceci or Joel Edmundson might be worthwhile for the right term and price.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak believes the Devils’ priority could be adding a defenseman or two after trading away Sami Vatanen and Andy Greene in February. Who they target, however, depends upon who’s sitting in the GM’s chair following this season. Will interim GM Tom Fitzgerald remains on the job, or will they hire someone else?










NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the potential off-season plans for the seven non-playoff clubs.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The beat writers for the seven non-playoff teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks – examined those clubs’ possible off-season plans.

Eric Stephens reports the Ducks must determine if Ryan Miller will return as their backup goaltender. They could also discuss if they’ll stick with winger Rickard Rakell and defenseman Josh Manson or test their value in the trade market. Adding an affordable right-shooting defenseman could be an option.

Could the Anaheim Ducks shop defenseman Josh Manson? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rakell and Manson popped up frequently in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. While they could fetch good returns via trade, moving either guy will also weaken the Ducks’ roster. Unless general manager Bob Murray intends to tear things down, I don’t see either guy being shopped. 

Joe Yerdon believes the biggest task facing Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is re-signing winger Sam Reinhart. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and is due for a lucrative, long-term deal. They could also use an experienced second-line center to ease the workload of promising youngsters Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $47 million committed to 10 players next season, the Sabres have the cap room to re-sign Reinhart to a long-term deal. How much, and for how long, could take some time to sort out, but I expect it’ll get done. 

Max Bultman believes Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman must decide if he’ll retain or replace head coach Jeff Blashill. He must also re-sign restricted free agents such as Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Both are RFAs with arbitration rights in need of long-term deals. Yzerman must also find a backup goalie for Jonathan Bernier and a veteran defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings have over $46.2 million invested in 11 players next season. Yzerman has plenty of cap space to re-sign his key free agents and address his other needs. Who he might pursue via trade or free agency are questions for whenever the off-season finally rolls around. 

Lisa Dillman observed the Kings have sufficient salary-cap space to make a big splash or perhaps a strategic addition to their roster. GM Rob Blake has indicated he’d like to bolster the left side of his blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake has lots of cap space (around $20 million) to make a big acquisition, but I doubt he’ll go that route this year. He could instead seek an affordable, short-term addition or two to ensure he’s got sufficient room for a significant move next year. 

Corey Masisak reports the Devils must determine if interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and interim head coach Alain Nasreddine will return or be replaced. Whoever becomes the GM must decide if they’ll stick with Cory Schneider as part of their goalie tandem, bring in a third goalie to compete with Schneider, or buy out his contract. The Devils also need one or two top-four defensemen and multiple top-six wingers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have lots of issues to be addressed this off-season. Most of them cannot be done until they’ve sorted out who the general manager will be. 

Hailey Salvian believes free-agent goalie Craig Anderson’s tenure with the Senators has come to an end. RFA winger Anthony Duclair seems to have found a home in Ottawa, but contract term and money remains unclear. RFAs Chris Tierney and Connor Brown also earned raises. Pending UFA blueliners Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki could be brought back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Pierre Dorion has only $41.9 million committed to nine players next season. He’s also got 13 picks in this year’s draft, some of which are likely to be used as off-season trade bait. I expect he’ll be busy trying to add some experienced depth to his rebuilding roster. 

Kevin Kurz believes the Sharks’ first order of business is deciding if interim coach Bob Boughner returns full-time behind the bench. Backup goalie Aaron Dell has likely played his final game as a Shark. GM Doug Wilson must do more than just make periphery changes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 million committed to 13 players, Wilson will have to get creative if he intends to improve his roster for next season. It’s been suggested he shop one of his high-priced stars, but they all carry hefty salaries and most of them have no-trade protection.