NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt believes the San Jose Sharks shouldn’t be ruled out if Jack Eichel demands a trade. The Buffalo Sabres captain recently expressed his unhappiness over the club’s constant losing. That was soon followed by the team’s ownership purging its front-office staff.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

While Sabres ownership hopes the shake-up quickly turns things around, Witt wonders if Eichel could run out of patience and demand a trade. If so, he pondered the possibility of the Sharks getting into the bidding for the young center’s services.

If Eichel sought a trade, Witt believes the Sabres’ asking price would be astronomical. He cited NHL Network’s Mike Johnson suggesting the package would have to include a current young player, a future first-round pick, and two top prospects.

Witt suggests one shouldn’t dismiss the Sharks as long as Doug Wilson is general manager, pointing to his acquisitions of Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and Evander Kane, among others. He speculates a possible Sharks trade package would include Burns, Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen, and a first, and that might not be enough. Burns’ age (35) and three-team trade list would be sticking points. Witt suggested Timo Meier as another option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Eichel hasn’t asked to be traded. I expect he’ll be suiting up with the Sabres for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, another year or two of mediocrity could test his patience.

The Sharks could come calling if Eichel hits the trade block. If Wilson could land a superstar in his mid-twenties I expect he’d do it, especially if he’s looking for a young star to build around quickly. I doubt the Sabres would be interested in Burns, but they could ask for Meier.

Of course, this is all spitballing. It’s a quiet time for pundits covering the non-playoff clubs and they’re going to spend some time speculating over what moves those teams could make. As long as the Sabres continue to flounder among the league’s worst teams, the more speculation will grow over Eichel’s future in Buffalo and the more media musings over where he could go.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked about what type of contract Sam Reinhart might get from the Sabres. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Rosen suggests St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz as a comparable. While Schwartz is three years older, his rate of production during his early years was similar to Reinhart.

He signed a five-year, $26.75 million deal in 2016, with the annual average value ($5.35 million) representing 7.3 percent of the Blues’ cap hit at the time of the signing. A similar percentage for Reinhart would be about $6 million, though Rosen suggests there could be some wiggle room to be between $6-$7 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the recent front-office changes, I don’t see the Sabres passing on re-signing Reinhart. It could be something between four and six years worth around $6.5 million annually.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 28, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 28, 2020

Could the Sabres, Senators, or Devils trade their 2020 first-round picks? Check out the latest in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington believes Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams should trade his club’s first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Sabres hold the No. 8 pick but Harrington proposes it should be in play. He feels the club needs immediate help and cannot wait two or three seasons for a prospect to develop.

Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams (Photo via NHL.com).

Harrington points out the Sabres need a second-line center, suggesting perhaps packaging the pick with defenseman Brandon Montour. “You don’t know who might be willing to deal until you put up that “For Sale” sign,” he writes.

Such a move comes with risk. Several players selected between seventh and 10th overall in recent years have gone on to stardom. Among them are Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Toronto’s William Nylander, and Columbus’ Zach Werenski.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Adams would make a bold statement by shopping that pick. Time will tell if he’s willing to entertain the possibility. It wouldn’t hurt to shop it around and see if someone’s willing to meet your asking price.

The return would have to be an established scoring center in his mid-twenties and under contract for several years. Yes, there’s risk in trading that pick away, but it would be worthwhile if the return provided instant help for the rebuilding Sabres.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is cool to the notion of trading down from No.3 or No. 5 in the draft. He indicated it would have to be “a special player coming our way” to make that happen. Dorion also said a GM listens to everything and didn’t rule out selecting a goaltender with one of those picks. He declined to comment if he would offer those two picks for the first-overall pick.

OTTAWA SUN‘s Bruce Garrioch reported Dorion would listen to offers for either pick but is 99.9 percent sure he’ll keep them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion played coy regarding that question about bundling those two picks for the first, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he made the pitch to whoever wins it. I think he knows he won’t get it but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. He’ll also likely listen to offers from other clubs but, as with trading down, it’ll take a special player for him to part with one or both selections.

New Jersey Devils’ official team reporter Amanda Stein took to Twitter reporting Devils interim GM Tom Fitzgerald would consider trading one of his club’s potential additional first-round picks should the opportunity present itself.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision might not be Fitzgerald’s to make. Devils’ ownership still hasn’t decided if they’ll keep him as their full-time GM or hire a replacement.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2020

A look at this year’s top UFA goaltenders in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and Washington’s Braden Holtby top Sean O’Leary’s ranking of this year’s top-10 NHL unrestricted free agent goaltenders.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (Photo via NHL Images).

O’Leary observes Lehner has better stats than teammate Marc-Andre Fleury, suggesting it’s possible Lehner could outperform Fleury and take over as the Golden Knights’ starting goalie in the playoff tournament. Nevertheless, he believes it will be difficult for the cap-strapped Golden Knights to re-sign Lehner with Fleury carrying two more years on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some media speculation suggested the Golden Knights pull a swerve by trading Fleury to free up sufficient cap space to sign Lehner. Fleury, however, has a 10-team no-trade list. His age (35) and $7 million annual average value could also make him difficult to move if Vegas wanted to go down that road.

I’ll be surprised if the Canucks part ways with Markstrom. He’s become a reliable starter in Vancouver and they want to keep him. I think the two sides can agree on around $6 million annually, but the term could be a sticking point. Markstrom is 30 and the Canucks could be leery of any deal beyond five years.

Some might be surprised to see Holtby slide to third despite being a former Vezina winner (2016) who backstopped the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018. His struggles over the last two seasons account could hurt his value. 

Holtby will draw interest if he hits the open market, but he probably won’t get the type of big-money contract he otherwise would’ve had his numbers remained strong. Of course, that will change if he carries the Caps on another deep playoff run.

Chicago Corey Crawford and Dallas’ Anton Khudobin are fourth and fifth on O’Leary’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford and Khudobin could stay put. Crawford wants to remain in Chicago but he’ll have to accept less than his current $6 million AAV on a much shorter contract. The Stars, meanwhile, are believed interested in keeping their tandem of Khudobin and Ben Bishop intact. That could require a bump above Khudobin’s current $2.5 million annual salary.

The New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, San Jose’s Aaron Dell, and Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greiss would be a fine backup for any NHL club. Talbot’s bounce-back performance this season could have him looking for a starter’s job.

Smith is in the twilight of his career, but some Edmonton pundits think the Oilers should bring him back for one more season. Dell’s had a rough couple of years as a backup in San Jose. Elliott could be re-signed by the Flyers for another season to back up Carter Hart.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2020

Updates on Jake DeBrusk and Carl Soderberg plus the latest on the Blackhawks free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD DEBRUSK BECOME A TRADE CANDIDATE?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty believes Jake DeBrusk is in line for a raise but it likely won’t come from the Bruins. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent after this season.

Could the Boston Bruins trade winger Jake DeBrusk in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Haggerty suggests DeBrusk could command between $4.5 million and $5.5 million annually on his next contract. The Bruins have over $63 million invested in next season’s payroll with DeBrusk, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, and several others to re-sign.

With the salary cap expected to remain at $81.5 million for next season, Haggerty speculated Bruins management might have to consider trading DeBrusk if it came down to a choice between the winger and Krug. He believes this would be the time to move him to get back close to the maximum value for a young, still-developing player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s too early to tell what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will do once the off-season begins. Nevertheless, this situation could be worth monitoring.

Those cap constraints cannot be ignored. If they re-sign Krug for between $7-$8 million AAV and DeBrusk to $5 million, it won’t leave much wiggle room for the rest of the roster. Somebody else will have to go if they don’t move DeBrusk.

BLACKHAWKS FREE AGENTS FACE A LONG WAIT

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman earlier this month said he hadn’t started contract talks with his pending free agents. Bowman said it’s far too early to become those discussions given the uncertainty over the salary cap.

The Blackhawks’ notable free agents include goaltender Corey Crawford and forwards Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, and Drake Caggiula. Pope speculates they could end up waiting four months longer than usual to find out their fates.

Crawford is an unrestricted free agent but hopes to re-sign with the Blackhawks. Strome, Kubalik, and Caggiula are restricted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most NHL free agents are in the same boat. The league and NHLPA have an agreement to tentatively extend all expiring contracts to Oct. 31. They can be re-signed by their current clubs before then but most GMs will wait until they know for certain what next season’s salary cap will be. 

COULD SODERBERG INTEREST THE OILERS?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jonathan Willis recently suggested Carl Soderberg could be a useful and affordable short-term free-agent addition for the Edmonton Oilers. The 34-year-old Arizona Coyotes center could fit comfortably among the Oilers’ middle-six forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers could use a more experienced and skilled third-line center, allowing them to drop Riley Sheahan to the fourth line. Soderberg’s at the age where he’s still an effective player but won’t get any expensive long-term offers. For the right price, he could be a decent fit with the Oilers for a year or two.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2020

Check out the latest Buffalo Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty suggests the Buffalo Sabres’ “dumpster fire” might be a good opportunity for the Bruins to look into acquiring Jack Eichel. The Sabres captain was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, providing the Bruins with a local boy possessing superstar potential. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci aging, Eichel would give the Bruins a dominant young center. 

Should the Boston Bruins look into acquiring Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel? (Photo via NHL Images).

Haggerty noted Eichel’s recent exasperation with the Sabres’ ongoing mediocrity, suggesting perhaps he’s tacitly pining for a change of scenery. Acquiring him would be expensive. Haggerty felt it could cost the Bruins promising young center John Beecher, winger Jake DeBrusk, and a robust high draft pick package. They might also have to include a defenseman like Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo, which would be a difficult decision.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Folks may be looking at Eichel’s comments and seeing more than is really there. There’s no question he’s frustrated over the constant losing, and Sabres’ ownership should be concerned if their franchise player isn’t happy. Nevertheless, there’s no indication Eichel wants out of Buffalo…yet.

Another season or two of mediocrity could test Eichel’s patience. If that happens, the Bruins could be among the clubs queuing up to inquire into his availability and the Sabres’ asking price.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently observed Sabres defensemen Brandon Montour and Colin Miller didn’t seem to fit into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. He wouldn’t be shocked if new general manager Kevyn Adams moved them in the off-season for some help on the forward lines. Harrington also noted Krueger really likes Rasmus Ristolainen, suggesting the recent change in management could be a good sign for the 26-year-old defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen, Montour, and Miller frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors. Ristolainen suggested he might be among the first to be moved if then-GM Jason Botterill wanted to make changes, but he also sang Kruger’s praises.

With Botterill gone, Ristolainen might not be a trade candidate after all. Montour and/or Miller, however, seem more likely to be moved by new management, especially if Krueger has any say in the matter.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his Sabres postmortem, Matt Larkin noted the Sabres will have over $34 million in salary-cap space to work with during the off-season. He feels that’s enough to re-sign restricted free agents like Montour, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Dominik Kahun, and Linus Ullmark while leaving enough to go shopping in the free-agent market. Given the current status of the club, however, they could be forced to overpay to attract UFA talent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather than chase overpriced UFAs, Adams should target clubs looking to shed salary before next season. With 13 teams carrying payrolls of over $70 million for next season, Adams could pluck away a couple of good young players from cap-strapped rivals.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 24, 2020

A look at this year’s top UFA defensemen plus the latest Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP DEFENSEMEN IN THIS YEAR’S NHL UFA MARKET

THE SCORE: St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, Boston’s Torey Krug, and former Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien top Josh Wegman’s listing of this year’s top NHL defensemen. Calgary’s TJ Brodie and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (Photo via NHL Images).

Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Carolina’s Sami Vatanen, and Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo complete the top 10.

Other notables include Pittsburgh Justin Schultz, Washington’s Radko Gudas, and Edmonton’s Mike Green.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No question Pietrangelo and Krug top the bill among this year’s class of UFA blueliners. Both will be among this summer’s most-prized free agents.

The Blues’ limited salary-cap space could see Pietrangelo depart if they cannot free up sufficient room to re-sign him. The Bruins could have an easier time keeping Krug in the fold, but they might also have to shed some salary to do it. 

I wouldn’t place Byfuglien that high on the list. While his talent is undeniable, there’s no indication he intends to continue his playing career after his contract was mutually terminated following a season-long absence over a dispute regarding the seriousness of his ankle injury. His recent injury history and age (35) could also make clubs leery of pursuing him if the salary cap remains flat next season.

Had Schultz been healthier, I think he would’ve ranked higher on the list. That could work to the advantage of interested clubs. He might have to accept a one-year “show-me” deal for perhaps less than the $5.5 million annual average value on his current deal. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the others on this list fare on the open market under a flat cap.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE JOSH ANDERSON?

SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked if the Montreal Canadiens should target Josh Anderson if the Columbus Blue Jackets’ winger becomes available in the trade market. While Engels admires Anderson’s size and speed, he’s concerned about giving up assets for a winger coming off a serious shoulder injury who’s a year away from UFA status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree. Anderson would provide some valuable size and physicality up front for the Habs, but those factors Engels noted raise red flags. Better to shop around for healthier options in the trade market.