NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

The latest on the Flyers, Islanders and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is still actively talking to teams, but the flattened salary cap is making it difficult to add players to his roster.

This is the most difficult offseason that I’ve ever seen,” said Fletcher. He feels the NHL is entering the Flat Cap Era. “As crazy as it is right now out there, I think next summer could be even worse in terms of having some paralysis in the market, and having just too many teams having to move money.”

Fletcher is also focused on the long term. Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim will be restricted free agents next summer while Scott Laughton is due to become an unrestricted free agent. Sean Couturier is two years away from UFA eligibility.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

Carchidi observers forwards such as Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou remain available in the UFA market. However, he doesn’t know if Fletcher will pursue one of them.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall wondered what the Flyers’ recent signing of Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract means for Shayne Gostisbehere. Both defensemen play a similar offensive-minded style. While Gustafsson’s addition doesn’t guarantee Gostisbehere will be traded, Hall suggests it increases the possibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could make it more difficult for the Flyers to move Gostisbehere. As per Cap Friendly, the 27-year-old blueliner has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.5 million.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports unrestricted free agents Andy Greene and Matt Martin are expected to return with the New York Islanders. The Isles could also be in the market for a bargain third-line winger. He listed Derick Brassard, Carl Soderberg, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Riley Sheahan among forwards who might be available for the right price.

Staple added there’s nothing new regarding a recent rumor suggesting the Isles were close to trading defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million AAV for next season. He speculates perhaps the Isles could interest the New Jersey Devils in winger Leo Komarov, who has a $3 million cap hit for the next two years. Staple also thinks Andrew Ladd is a likely LTIR candidate given his recent injury history.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders have $8.9 million in cap space, but a new contract for RFA center Mathew Barzal will likely eat up most of that, while defenseman Ryan Pulock is also due for a significant raise. Pulock has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

GM Lou Lamoriello must shed salary to re-sign Barzal and Pulock and bring back Greene and Martin. Moving Boychuk could alleviate much of that cap concern, but Lamoriello could be forced to include a draft pick, prospect or young NHL player in the deal.

WGR 550: Brayton J. Wilson believes the Buffalo Sabres should revisit the idea of trading defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to provide themselves sufficient salary-cap flexibility for next season. The Sabres have a projected $13.645 million available but most of that will be taken up re-signing RFAs such as Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt and Linus Ullmark and perhaps bring back Dominik Kahun after he wasn’t extended a qualifying offer.

Ristolainen, 25, has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.4 million. Wilson feels it may be worthwhile under the current economic conditions to move the blueliner for less than market value, pointing to the Vegas Golden Knights accepting a third-round pick in 2022 from the Vancouver Canucks for Nate Schmidt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ristolainen trade rumors had the Sabres attempting to move him in exchange for a scoring forward. That need has been addressed with the additions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal.

It might be easier to move Ristolainen for a draft pick in a cost-cutting deal, but that’s assuming GM Kevyn Adams is willing to move him. Head coach Ralph Krueger apparently thinks highly of the Finnish blueliner and his opinion seems to carry considerable weight within the Sabres’ organization. Ristolainen probably won’t be shopped if Krueger wants him in the fold for next season.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 18, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 18, 2020

A look at the notable remaining UFAs plus the latest on the Lightning and Canucks in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

BARGAINS AVAILABLE IN UFA MARKET

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos recently examined the best remaining bargains in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market. Topping the list is winger Mike Hoffman, prompting Traikos to wonder if it might make sense for the Ottawa Senators to bring him back.

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

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never, but given Hoffman’s messy departure from Ottawa over two years ago, I don’t see a reconciliation between the two sides.

Traikos also suggested the Nashville Predators would be a good destination for winter Anthony Duclair because of their need for scoring wingers. He doesn’t rule out Travis Hamonic returning to the Calgary Flames but also thinks a chance to play for his hometown Winnipeg Jets would be a perfect situation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair’s streaky scoring could prompt Predators general manager David Poile to seek a more consistent option. Hamonic could be a fit on the Jets blueline but they’re bumping against the cap ceiling.

Traikos suggested Sami Vatanen could be a perfect stopgap on the Senators blue line until youngsters such as Erik Brannstrom, Jake Sanderson and Lassi Thomson are ready. He also feels winger Corey Perry could attract interest from Stanley Cup contenders, including the Dallas Stars. Speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou could also be a fit with the Senators or the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stars bring back Perry for another season. Vatanen and Athanasiou could be very affordable short-term options for many NHL clubs right now.

LATEST ON THE LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith recently examined the Tampa Bay Lightning’s efforts to clear salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents such as Anthony Cirelli and Mikhael Sergachev. It’s clear they’ll have to package Tyler Johnson with a pick or prospect and retain part of his $5 million annual salary-cap hit if they hope to move him in a cost-cutting deal.

Smith also noted rumors of the Lightning approaching Steven Stamkos about a trade. While neither the club or the Stamkos camp is talking about it, their Lightning captain’s full no-movement clause gives him complete control over the situation. Smith cited Pierre LeBrun indicating Stamkos has decided he’s staying put until further notice.

The Lightning are reluctant to move Alex Killorn, in part because of his leadership and affordable contract. They also haven’t approached Yannie Gourde or Braydon Coburn about a trade. Smith believes Ondrej Palat is one player the Bolts would least want to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams are sitting back and playing the waiting game with the Lightning. The Bolts’ need to shed salary gives GM Julien BriseBois little leverage in the current economic conditions. He still has plenty of time to address this situation, but it looks like he’ll have to make a painful move or two and it will involve adding assets to make it happen.

UPDATE ON THE CANUCKS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston believes the Vancouver Canucks need to do some salary-cap juggling following their recent acquisition of defenseman Nate Schmidt. They have limited cap space with restricted free agents Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette in need of new contracts. He also believes they need to add an experienced defenseman and a second-line winger. One way to alleviate their cap crunch would be to place Sven Baertschi on waivers and demote him to free up $1 million.

Johnston also doubts the Canucks will find a new home for winger Loui Eriksson and his $6-million annual cap hit. He believes if that were possible it would’ve happened by now. He doesn’t expect Eriksson or Baertschi will be bought out once Virtanen signs.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the Canucks kicked tires on UFA winger Mike Hoffman but adding him is only possible if they can carve out sufficient cap space to sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $1.998 million in cap space. Johnston expects the combined contracts for Virtanen and Gaudette will be $4 million, meaning GM Jim Benning still has some cost-cutting to do.

The Canucks could get $3.5 million in wiggle room if oft-injured winger Micheal Ferland starts the season on long-term injury reserve but that likely won’t be determined until the training-camp medicals. Eriksson’s cap hit likely means he’s not going anywhere unless the Canucks buy him out. Brandon Sutter came up in trade rumors but his 15-team no-trade list and $4.37-million cap hit makes him difficult to move.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 17, 2020

The latest on Patrik Laine and Mike Hoffman plus updates on the Bruins and Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON LAINE

WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck notes TSN’s reporting Patrik Laine’s agents suggesting a trade for their client might be mutually beneficial for Laine and the Jets, comparing it to Jacob Trouba’s agent requesting a trade back in 2016. He was traded in 2019 to the New York Rangers.

Winnipeg Jets left wing Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

Billeck wonders how it reached this point with Laine, pointing out the Jets’ difficulty of retaining some of their stars. He suggests the blame lies not with the city or other issues but within the organization. He also wondered how that could affect the morale of Laine’s teammates if he’s the latest star to head out the door.

Billeck feels the club has failed to provide Laine with a center to play with. He feels there’s no reason Laine can’t be the top-line left wing while Kyle Connor plays with Nikolaj Ehlers on the second line.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe also cites Laine’s probable disappointment in not getting first-line minutes. He wouldn’t be surprised if general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was dangling the winger in the trade pond to see what offers he might attract to address the Jets’ roster needs.

He doubts any public attempt by Laine’s agents to force the issue will work with Cheveldayoff, pointing out it years before Trouba and Evander Kane were dealt after making trade requests.

Wiebe doesn’t believe the Jets would trade Laine for just pennies on the dollar. He listed seven teams (Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets) that could have the assets to acquire the young sniper.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe’s proposals include such notables as Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau, Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart, Carolina’s Brett Pesce and Martin Necas, Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm, the Islanders Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock, and Columbus’ Zach Werenski. Some of those, like Huberdeau, could be part of a one-for-one swap. The rest would have to be the centerpiece of a larger package.

Laine’s agents can suggest a trade but that doesn’t mean Cheveldayoff will do it. The return has to make sense for the Jets. Hanging over this, of course, is Laine’s contract. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll demand a significant raise over his $6.75-million annual average value.

Perhaps this situation gets resolved by moving Laine to the first line and dropping Connor down to the second line with Ehlers and Paul Stastny. He lights it up next season, the Jets reward him with a lucrative long-term deal and everyone’s happy. Another option is Laine goes to arbitration next summer, ensuring he’ll be leaving Winnipeg when he reaches UFA eligibility at 25. Or Cheveldayoff gets a trade offer too good to pass up in the coming weeks.

What’s certain is we haven’t heard the last of Laine in offseason trade chatter.

POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS FOR HOFFMAN

THE SCORE: Matt Teague and Brandon Maron list the Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers as possible destinations for Mike Hoffman. The 30-year-old winger remains the best available player in this year’s UFA market. He’s reportedly willing to accept a one-year contract worth around $6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Bruins and Blue Jackets have been linked to him in recent trade speculation. The Preds have the cap space to meet his salary demand. The Bruins have over $12 million available but must also re-sign Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Zdeno Chara. The Jackets must re-sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois before they commit dollars to another forward.

The Kings have over $13 million in cap space and recently acquired Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks. GM Rob Blake, however, seems intent on maintaining his rebuilding program. Adding an expensive, short-term veteran doesn’t seem to fit into that plan. As for the Panthers, they could circle back to Hoffman now that Evgenii Dadonov has departed for Ottawa.

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens look at six possible replacements for Ryan Miller if he doesn’t return as the Anaheim Ducks backup. He suggested Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Michael Hutchinson, Garret Sparks, Adin Hill and Pheonix Copley.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty cites a couple of sources saying the Bruins could consider former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner as a cheap insurance option in case youngsters like Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril show they aren’t ready for prime time










NHL Rumor Mill – October 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 16, 2020

The Patrik Laine trade speculation persists, an update on Zdeno Chara and the latest on the Blue Jackets and Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the agents for Patrik Laine denied speculation suggesting the 22-year-old winger wouldn’t report to Winnipeg Jets training camp if he’s not traded before then. However, Laine knows he’s been in trade discussion. Given his lack of first-line minutes over the last two years, his agents believe it would be mutually beneficial to the player and the team if he’s dealt before training camp. They added there’s been clear communication with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Trade chatter persists about Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

LeBrun spoke to Cheveldayoff, who maintains he’s considering all trade options and insists Laine remains a big part of the Jets organization. However, he feels the Winnipeg GM isn’t going to trade the winger just for the sake of it and would want a return that makes sense for the club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I thought the return of Paul Stastny might quell the Laine trade chatter but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Jets addressed their need for a second-line center by reacquiring Stastny but they still need a right-side defenseman to skate alongside Josh Morrissey on their top blueline pairing. That’s probably Cheveldayoff’s asking price for Laine.

The question is, which team needs scoring and has the defensive depth to make that move? Some observers suggest the Carolina Hurricanes and Brett Pesce, but I don’t think he’s enough on his own to pry Laine away from the Jets. Another suggestion was the Florida Panthers and Aaron Ekblad. However, defense was a big problem last season for the Panthers, one that would be exacerbated by trading Ekblad.

The Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba is thought to be available, but they need a first-line center, not a scoring winger. The New Jersey Devils could use Laine, but I don’t see the Jets asking for P.K. Subban following his sub-par performance over the last two years. The Columbus Blue Jackets could be a suitor, but the Jets will likely prefer Seth Jones over David Savard and that’s a deal-breaker for the Jackets.

LeBrun also reports Zdeno Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, suggests his client’s return for another season with the Boston Bruins isn’t a slam dunk. LeBrun feels the Bruins remain the front-runner but other clubs have called. Keator said Chara intends to take his time. The schedule format for next season also interests the veteran defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara could be keeping all his options open. Nevertheless, some of this could simply be posturing to squeeze the Bruins for the best deal possible.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Porzline recently wondered if Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was done dealing after clearing salary-cap space while adding Max Domi and Mikko Koivu. He speculates Kekalainen could target one of the remaining scoring forwards in the UFA market if their asking prices drop the longer they’re available, if Pierre-Luc Dubois signs a new contract or if any team looking to target Dubois for an offer sheet makes a different move.

Portzline also mused about the possibility of the Jackets GM targeting a cap-strapped club for a forward. He proposed Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson as one option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have $13.625 million in cap space. That’s not including placing Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million) on long-term injury reserve if necessary. If ownership is willing to spend to the cap, they’ll have no problem matching an offer sheet for Dubois.

While an offer sheet is a concern, I don’t think it’s going to happen because the Jackets have the space to match. In the meantime, there could be enough room to pursue a scoring forward for the right price via free agency or trade.

 










Jumbo Joe As A Maple Leaf Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Jumbo Joe As A Maple Leaf Just Doesn’t Make Sense

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2020

The latest on Mike Hoffman, Joe Thornton, Steven Stamkos, Patrik Laine, Jake Gardiner, Anthony Duclair and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports teams in the market for a scorer like Mike Hoffman include Boston, Carolina and Columbus.

Free-agent winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss believes Hoffman would make sense for the Bruins on a one-year, $6 million contract. However, that would bite deeply into their $11 million in cap space and could mean trading winger Jake DeBrusk or a defenseman.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch believes Hoffman will make his decision within the next couple of days. He includes Edmonton and Nashville among the potential suitors.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are courting Joe Thornton but Friedman says not to underestimate the center’s loyalty to the San Jose Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I respect Thornton and his Hall of Fame-worthy career, but he’s 41 years old and coming off his worst performance (31 points) since his rookie season in 1997-98. That’s right, he made his NHL debut 23 years ago. Thornton is not who the Leafs need to center their third line.

Friedman believes the Tampa Bay Lightning asked captain Steven Stamkos to consider waiving his no-movement clause. “There’s a wall of secrecy around it”. Stamkos is recovering from abdominal surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Stamkos waives his clause.

Friedman also wondered if the Columbus Blue Jackets made a pitch for Alex Pietrangelo before he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights. Defenseman David Savard was available for a while but that appears to have changed with Pietrangelo going to Vegas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blue Jackets have over $13 million in cap space. That’s enough to re-sign center Pierre-Luc Dubois and add another player via trade or free agency.

Anaheim, Boston, Colorado, Toronto and Winnipeg are among the clubs to check into the availability of Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. It’s believed the Leafs rejected a request for Travis Dermott/Andreas Johnsson. Tyson Jost of the Avalanche and Jack Roslovic of the Jets were also discussed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar recently filed for salary arbitration. Speaking of Roslovic, the Jets are reportedly gauging his value in the trade market. They’d like another established NHL defenseman before next season begins.

Speaking of the Jets, Friedman believes their re-acquisition of Paul Stastny means things remain “status quo” regarding winger Patrik Laine.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine isn’t going anywhere unless a team offers up a top-two defenseman similar to Columbus’ Seth Jones in return.

The Vancouver Canucks had an interest in free-agent defenseman Travis Hamonic before their acquisition of Nate Schmidt. They are looking for another defenseman, prompting Friedman to suggest Slater Koekkoek or Sami Vatanen. Hamonic had some interest from Eastern clubs like Philadelphia but prefers staying in the West.

The Flyers had talks with Arizona regarding Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes are examining trade options with blueliner Jake Gardiner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes could make Demers their cap-cutting trade candidate after failing to move Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week. The 32-year-old’s modified no-trade clause expired at the end of last season. He has a year remaining on his contract worth an annual cap hit of $4.5 million but his actual salary is $2.6 million after being paid his signing bonus for this season.

An interesting bit about Gardiner, who has three years left on his contract worth an AAV of $4.050 million with a seven-team no-trade list. I’m not sure how much interest he’ll garner in the trade market given how his performance declined over the last two years.

The Panthers are among the clubs that have talked to free-agent winger Anthony Duclair.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports five or six clubs have heard from Duclair, who’s representing himself in the free-agent market. The Senators haven’t shut the door on the winger, who rejected their two-year extension offer that would’ve doubled the $1.65 million he made last season.