NHL Rumor Mill – July 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 9, 2020

A look at the five teams affected the most by a flat salary cap in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin lists the Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Arizona Coyotes as the five clubs that will be most affected by a flat salary cap in 2020-21.

The Lightning has 15 players signed for next season with $5.33 million in projected cap space. That won’t be enough to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Larkin suggests Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn as trade candidates. Gourde has a no-trade clause but Larkin thinks he could waive it for a fresh start elsewhere after seeing a reduced role this season. Larkin’s no-trade clause becomes a partial listing of 16 no-trade destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) considers Killorn the top trade candidate, in part because of the flexibility his modified no-trade provides the Lightning. He also suggests Tyler Johnson ($5 million AAV through 2023-24) might be willing to waive his no-trade clause if it’s for a destination where he’d have a top-six center role. Cedric Paquette ($1.65 million through next season) could also be a trade option.

I think there will be more interest in Killorn, who’s more affordable ($4.45 million annual average value through 2022-23) than Gourde ($5.16 million AAV through 2024-25) and has a better reputation as a two-way forward. There’s no certainty Johnson would agree to be moved and his lengthy contract could be a deal-breaker for some clubs during these uncertain times.

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen could become an off-season trade candidate (Photo via NHL Images).

The Blues have 20 players under contract for next season with a little over $2 million in cap space and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn to re-sign. Larkin speculates they’ll attempt to move out goaltender Jake Allen ($4.35 million AAV through 2020-21) and suggests keeping an eye on winger Jaden Schwartz ($5.35 million AAV through ’20-’21, 15-team no-trade list).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon wonders how other teams will view Allen’s cap hit. Center Tyler Bozak has come up in recent trade speculation, but Gordon considers Bozak’s $5 million AAV a luxury few teams can afford.

Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford considers moving Schwartz far-fetched while the Blues’ championship window remains open. They could buy out the final season of Alexander Steen’s contract ($5.75 million AAV) but they’ll only get $2.4 million in cap relief for next season.

If the Blues intend to re-sign Pietrangelo and Dunn, significant cost-cutting is in order. Any way you slice it, however, it means parting with a couple of meaningful players.

The Blackhawks have 18 players inked for next season with $7.35 million in projected cap space. Larkin believes they could get much-needed cap relief if Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million AAV through 2023-24) and Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million AAV through 2021-22) go on long-term injury reserve for next season. Seabrook however, is attempting to return for the upcoming playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larkin and The Athletic’s Scott Powers point out the Blackhawks lack sufficient cap space to re-sign goalie Corey Crawford and forwards Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. Powers suggests they could buy out defenseman Olli Maatta ($4.083 million AAV through 2021-22) and center Zack Smith ($3.25 million through 2020-21). The combined savings (over $5.5 million) along with Shaw potentially remaining on LTIR would free up valuable cap room to re-sign those key players.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have 16 players signed for next season with $4.59 million in projected cap room. With Tyson Barrie expected to depart via free agency, Larkin believes they won’t have enough space to bring in one or two impactful right-shot defensemen. GM Kyle Dubas could attempt to shop a mid-tier forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot for a blueliner. He also wonders if Dubas might attempt to acquire more LTIR contracts with David Clarkson and Nathan Horton coming off the books in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran points out the cost of re-signing Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev could eat up most or all of that cap space. He also anticipates one of those mid-tier forwards could be shopped, including Zach Hyman among them. Unless the CBA extension prohibits clubs from acquiring the contracts of players on permanent LTIR, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dubas goes to that well again to gain some wiggle room.

The Arizona Coyotes have 16 players signed with just $1.51 million available, though they’ll gain some cap relief with Marian Hossa ($5.75 million) on permanent LTIR. They need more than that if they hope to re-sign pending UFA winger Taylor Hall. Larkin suggests packaging center Derek Stepan ($6.5 million through next season) with a sweetener to free up more room.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take one helluva sweetener to tempt a rival club with more cap space into taking Stepan’s contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2020

Check out the latest on the Golden Knights, Bruins, and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ GOALTENDING

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports the salary cap remaining frozen at $81.5 million for next season makes it tougher for the Vegas Golden Knights to re-sign Robin Lehner. Acquired at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Can the Vegas Golden Knights afford to re-sign Robin Lehner? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Golden Knights have over $74.6 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Lehner will be seeking security after spending the past three seasons on one-year contracts. He could command around $6 million annually on the open market.

If Lehner departs, the Golden Knights must find a backup goalie for Marc-Andre Fleury. It could be recently re-signed Oscar Dansk, an affordable free agent, or perhaps trading for a promising netminder like the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jesse Granger last week suggested the Golden Knights pursue goalies in the trade market who could be left exposed by their current clubs in next summer’s NHL expansion draft. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Antti Raanta, and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen were among his proposed targets.

Andersen won’t be available next season but Murray and Raanta could be. Murray is a restricted free agent so his next contract will take up a big chunk of the Golden Knights’ payroll, meaning they’ll have to send salary the other way. Same goes for Raanta, but the Coyotes wouldn’t want salary back if they’re moving him to clear cap room to re-sign Taylor Hall.

The Golden Knights might prefer more affordable options. Trading for a young, affordable goalie like Georgiev might be the best move.

NO HOMETOWN DISCOUNT FOR DEBRUSK?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the agent for Jake DeBrusk brushed aside talk of his client accepting a hometown discount. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent who’s average 20 goals and 40 points in each of his first three NHL campaigns.

DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, said they’re not considering taking less than market value at this stage. He also pointed to his client’s performance in big games during the playoffs, noting he’s been a top-six winger almost from the moment he first stepped on NHL ice.

During an appearance on NBC Sports Boston Zoom last week, Edmonton Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer suggested DeBrusk was worth between $5.5 million and $6 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. That gives Bruins management leverage to ink him to an affordable bridge deal if necessary. Much will depend on whether they can re-sign defenseman Torey Krug and the cost of keeping him off the UFA market at season’s end.

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked about Brandon Montour‘s future with the Sabres. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent who could cost $5 million annually to re-sign. Given their abundance of right-shot defensemen and their need for help on their forward line, Lysowski feels Montour has enough value to fetch a good return via trade.

Asked about whether Rasmus Ristolainen might be traded, Lysowski noted the coaching staff spoke highly of the blueliner. With head coach Ralph Krueger considering Ristolainen a core player, he probably won’t be moved.

Lysowski also doesn’t see the Sabres shopping their first-round pick (eighth overall) in this year’s draft. He also suggests they sign a UFA goalie to a short-term contract and attempt to find a team that will take the final year of Carter Hutton’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montour frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors because of his difficulties in adjusting to Krueger’s defensive system. He was acquired by now-former general manager Jason Botterill, so I don’t think new GM Kevyn Adams would have any qualms about shopping him for a second-line scoring forward.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2020

Find out how a flat salary cap could affect the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Brent Seabrook’s contract creates a salary-cap headache for the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old defenseman has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.875 million.

Brent Seabrook’s contract could create some salary-cap difficulties for the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo via NHL Images).

With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, Seabrook’s AAV will make it difficult for the Blackhawks to re-sign some key players. It will also affect efforts to improve their roster.

Seabrook has a full no-movement clause until 2022. It also means he must automatically be protected in next year’s expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it.

A huge portion of his salary is tied up in signing bonuses, rendering any buyout pointless. There won’t be any compliance buyouts under the proposed CBA extension.

Despite his recent surgeries, they won’t be putting him on long-term injury reserve as he appears on track to return to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 16 players for next season, with Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, and Drake Caggiula to re-sign.

Seabrook was the topic of trade speculation in 2018-19 but his contract was considered unmoveable even then. If he agreed to waive his clause, the flat cap makes it unlikely the Hawks will find any takers now.

Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad was frequently mentioned in this season’s trade rumors. Don’t be surprised if his name resurfaces as a cost-cutting trade candidate.

THE JOURNAL NEWS: Vincent Z. Mercogliano recently examined the effects of a flat cap for next season upon the New York Rangers. He believes it’ll leave them with around $13.5 million in cap space.

Re-signing Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo are the priorities. Mercogliano speculates each could cost $5 million annually but it behooves the Rangers to get that down to $4 million each or risk losing winger Jesper Fast to unrestricted free agency unless he’s willing to return for a minor raise over his current $1.85 million. RFA winger Brendan Lemieux must also be re-signed.

If Fast departs, Mercogliano suggests re-signing RFA Phil Di Giuseppe, adding an affordable player via the UFA market as a replacement, or perhaps letting a young forward like Lias Andersson to step into that role.

They could also explore trading Strome or DeAngelo, buy out the final season of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, or entertain trade offers for RFA goalie Alexandar Georgiev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of options to choose from here. Most of the Rangers speculation suggests Lundqvist could be bought out, but that’s not a certainty. There has been some media trade chatter about DeAngelo, Georgiev, and Andersson.

Something’s got to give in the off-season and it’ll be interesting to see what general manager Jeff Gorton has in store. One of those players noted above probably won’t be a Rangers when next season begins.










NHL, NHLPA Reach Tentative Agreement on Return-to-Play and CBA Extension

NHL, NHLPA Reach Tentative Agreement on Return-to-Play and CBA Extension

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association released a joint statement today announcing a tentative agreement on a Return-to-Play Plan and a Memorandum of Understanding on a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement. 

“As part of the tentative agreement, the following dates have been established:

July 13 – Start of formal training camps;

July 26 – Clubs travel to hub cities;

August 1 – Start of Qualifying Round.

The tentative agreement is now subject to approval by the NHL’s Board of Governors, as well as the NHLPA’s Executive Board followed by the full NHLPA membership. The respective review and approval processes will take place over the next few days and there will be no further comment until those processes are completed.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  I hope to have more details as they become available for the Tuesday, July 7 morning coffee headlines. I suspect most of it will be information that has already been reported in recent days and duly noted on this site. 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

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

OILERS FACE A CAP SQUEEZE

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently reported the Oilers will be squeezed by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21. With over $71 million already invested in next season’s payroll, general manager Ken Holland will have around $10.5 million available.

The Oilers restricted free agents include Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, and Matt Benning. Their unrestricted free agents include Mike Smith, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis.

Staples feels $10.5 million should be enough to retain those free agents or bring in potential replacements. However, it rules out the possibility of pursuing a big-ticket free agent. He knows some Oilers followers would love to see the club bring back winger Taylor Hall, but that doesn’t seem possible, especially with younger players like Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard in need of contracts down the road.

Could the Edmonton Oilers consider an off-season buyout of James Neal’s contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

It could also be difficult to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson if the cap stays flat for 2021-22. Both are due to become UFAs next summer.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also examined the difficulties facing the Oilers under a flat cap.

He speculates useful UFAs like Smith and center Riley Sheahan could find cost-conscious offers unacceptable. The Oilers could also trade or walk away from RFAs like Athanasiou or Benning, who have arbitration rights.

For those without arbitration rights like Bear, Mitchell speculates they could get an affordable one-year bridge deal. They could also consider trading Kris Russell or Alex Chiasson or buying out winger James Neal’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fates of some of those free agents could depend upon their play in the upcoming playoff tournament. The same goes for Russell, Chiasson, or Neal. I agree that those players lacking arbitration will probably have to accept bridge deals for a year or two.

As Staples observed, Russell could be enticing to a cost-conscious club looking to reach the cap floor. He carries a $4 million cap hit but will earn just $1.5 million in actual salary after being paid his $1 million signing bonus for 2020-21. That’s assuming one of those clubs will be on his 15-team trade list for next season.

Cap Friendly indicates buying out Neal would free up over $3.8 million, leaving just over $1.9 million against the Oilers cap. However, it would also be that much dead cap space annually for the next six seasons.

Holland could be reluctant to move Chiasson. He carries an affordable $2.15 million cap hit for next season.

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl recently examined several potential free-agent forwards who could help the Sabres improve their road record. He suggested Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikail Granlund, Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov, or Florida’s Erik Haula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli, a skilled two-way player with Stanley Cup experience, would be the best bet. Granlund struggled following his trade from Minnesota last season but improved when John Hynes took over as Predators coach at midseason.

Both could provide a welcome boost to the Sabres’ secondary scoring. Signing them, however, could be difficult given the Sabres’ recent reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 5, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 5, 2020

Check out the latest unrestricted free agent speculation in today’s NHL rumor roundup.

TSN: Craig Button was recently asked to determine which NHL teams would be the best fit for this year’s top unrestricted free agents.

Button believes defenseman Alex Pietrangelo would be better off staying put with the St. Louis Blues. He’s the captain of the defending Stanley Cup champions and should be a Norris Trophy contender for the next several years. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has managed his salary cap very well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flat salary cap of $81.5 million for next season won’t make it easy for Armstrong to re-sign his captain. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $79 million invested in 20 players, with Pietrangelo and blueliner Vince Dunn to re-sign. Armstrong must shed some considerable salary to re-sign those two.

Should Taylor Hall sign a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche? (Photo via NHL Images).

Button also believes the Boston Bruins can re-sign rearguard Torey Krug. Like the Blues, the Bruins managed their cap well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins have more cap room than the Blues, with $63.5 million committed to 18 players. In addition to Krug, Zdeno Chara, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller and Joakim Nordstrom are also free agents, with Chara, Miller, and Nordstrom in the UFA category. Assuming they get Krug for around $7 million annually, it could complicate efforts to re-sign and replace the rest. Still, they’re in a better place cap-wise to re-sign their key players.

Asked about Taylor Hall, Button believes the Colorado Avalanche could be a good fit. If Hall wants to chase the Stanley Cup, Button recommends signing a one-year deal with the Avs. Given the ongoing uncertainty over the salary cap, a strong performance next season in Colorado would put Hall in a great spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s no secret Avs GM Joe Sakic attempted to acquire Hall before the New Jersey Devils shipped him to the Arizona Coyotes. He could be interested in the former Hart Trophy winner is willing to accept a one-year deal that doesn’t interfere with other signings this year.

Colorado has just over $59 million tied up in 10 players, with notables such as Andre Burakovsky, Ryan Graves, Nikita Zadorov, Vladislav Namestikov, and Valeri Nichushkin to re-sign or replace. Sakic could also be leery of making a long-term investment in a big-ticket free agent when Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, and Philipp Grubauer are slated to become free agents next summer.

Button suggested Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner return to where his NHL career started by signing with the Ottawa Senators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On paper, this looks like a reasonable idea. The rebuilding Senators need an established starting goaltender and they have the salary-cap space (only $41.9 million invested in just nine players) to make Lehner a very wealthy netminder.

However, we don’t know if cantankerous Senators owner Eugene Melnyk would approve such an expensive foray into the UFA market. Lehner could prefer signing with a contender rather than joining a rebuilding club, especially one with unpredictable ownership.