NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

Alex Ovechkin, Brenden Dillon, and the Capitals postpone contract talks until after the playoffs, plus the latest on the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said contract extension discussions with Alex Ovechkin are on hold until after the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Given the uncertainty that’s unfolded this year in the NHL, MacLellan indicated both sides want to see how everything pans out.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Ovechkin, 34, has one year remaining on his contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a rumor, of course, but Ovechkin’s contract status could generate interest following this season. The longer he goes without an extension, the more speculation about his future with the Capitals.

Ovechkin’s current contract counts as over $9.538 million annually against the Capitals’ salary-cap payroll. In actual salary, he’s earning $10 million per season.

Despite his age, Ovechkin remains among the NHL’s elite players, winning the Richard Trophy for the ninth time as the league’s leading goal scorer (shared this season with Boston’s David Pastrnak). He’s among the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.

Ovechkin’s also the greatest player in Capitals history, the man who led them to their first Stanley Cup. He’s the face of that franchise. Re-signing him, however, could get interesting. 

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $57 million invested in 13 players to 2021-22, though that figure will rise depending on who they re-sign or add to their roster this season and for how long. Winger Jakub Vrana and goaltender Ilya Samsonov will be restricted free agents next year and due for pay raises. Finding sufficient space for Ovechkin’s new contract, as well as Vrana’s and Samsonov’s, and having enough to fill out the rest of the roster could be challenging. 

I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals don’t work something out. It’ll be fascinating to see how much term and dollars he gets to stay in Washington and the effect the Capitals’ payroll under what could be a flat cap for ’21-’22.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan reports MacLellan also indicated contract negotiations for this year’s pending free agents are on hold until the playoffs are over. That includes defenseman Brenden Dillon, a pending UFA who joined the Capitals from the San Jose Sharks near the February trade deadline. Dillon has expressed interest in re-signing with the Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Radko Gudas are UFAs at the end of this season, while Travis Boyd and Jonas Siegenthaler are restricted free agents. With over $71.1 million invested in 16 players, there’s not a lot of wiggle room there.

Holtby, Kovalchuk, and Gudas are expected to depart via free agency. Boyd and Siegenthaler should be affordable re-signings. Depending on Dillon’s asking price, they might be able to squeeze him into their payroll.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl expressed his belief the Buffalo Sabres’ No.1 job is to find a center for high-prices winger Jeff Skinner.

He doesn’t expect the Sabres will pinch pennies with their roster. However, he acknowledged an off-season comment by team co-owner Kim Pegula where she noted the club had spent toward the cap for years with little to show for it.

Vogl also believes the Sabres must improve their goaltending. He’d be concerned if they should pass up a netminder who’s available for a reasonable price.

Defenseman Brandon Montour could become a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and the Sabres have sufficient right-side blueline depth.

Whether the Sabres plunge into this year’s UFA pool depends on the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given their recent front-office purge, it’s difficult to determine what’s in store for the Sabres under rookie general manager Kevyn Adams. I agree with Vogl regarding their needs, but Adams and company could see things differently. The earliest indications should come in the days following the Stanley Cup Final and leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft.

If the Pegulas get frugal with their payroll, we can expect a younger roster supplemented by cheap, short-term additions via the trade and UFA market. However, that probably won’t sit well with captain Jack Eichel. The Sabres must commit to winning or risk alienating their franchise player.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

Check out recent Flames and Canucks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): During a recent mailbag segment, Scott Cruickshank was asked about recent trade rumors swirling around Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. The 26-year-old has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

There was some speculation suggesting Gaudreau won’t re-sign with the Flames but Cruickshank believes he’s not necessarily gone once his contract is up. He doesn’t think general manager Brad Treliving is actively shopping the winger but believes he’d be nuts not to entertain all offers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Gaudreau’s production this season combined with last spring’s poor playoff performance (a lone assist in five games) gave rise to the trade whispers. A better effort in the upcoming playoff tournament could put some of that talk to rest. Still, the Gaudreau trade chatter could ramp up if the Flames make another early playoff exit.

Cruickshank was asked what it would take for the Flames to acquire Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, as well as Casey Mittelstadt and/or Sam Reinhart. All three are restricted free agents with Montour and Reinhart carrying arbitration rights.

Citing Evolving-Hockey.com, Cruickshank indicates Reinhart could get over $8.7 million annually on an eight-year deal, Montour $4.8 million annually for three years, and Mittelstadt $1.17 annually on a two-year deal. Prying those players from the Sabres would mean parting with some core Flames players, high-level youngsters, and draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Sabres moving Reinhart unless he wants out. So far, there’s no indication he’s unhappy in Buffalo or wants a trade.

Montour’s supplanted Rasmus Ristolainen as the most likely Sabres trade candidate because he reportedly doesn’t fit well into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. Perhaps there’s a fit in Calgary if the Flames lose T.J. Brodie and/or Travis Hamonic to free agency at season’s end.

Mittelstadt is a former first-round pick (eighth overall, 2017) whose slow development has frustrated Sabres followers. I don’t think the Flames would be interested unless he’s part of a package involving a much better player coming to Calgary.

Asked which player he’d try to add if he were Flames GM, Cruickshank suggested Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a big, 26-year-old right-winger who tallied 27 goals in 2018-19, but he also missed most of 2019-20 to a shoulder injury and he’s an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cruickshank feels Anderson would be worth pursuing depending on the Blue Jackets’ asking price and the cost of his new contract. Anderson popped up frequently in media-generated rumors before the February trade deadline. The Flames could have plenty of competition if they attempt to acquire him.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnson reports the Vancouver Canucks patience with Jake Virtanen may be running thin. The 23-year-old winger wasn’t part of their lineup for their exhibition game loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Virtanen’s fitness levels and consistency have been questioned in the past. He was also surpassed by more defensively-responsible forwards like Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter, and Zack MacEwen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was enjoying a career-best performance before the pandemic. He was on pace to finish with 20 goals and 40 points (18 goals, 36 points) when the schedule was interrupted. Nevertheless, his fitness, inconsistency, and seeming unwillingness to improve his defensive play knocked him out of the Canucks lineup against the Jets and could relegate him to the press box for their upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild. 

Virtanen’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but it remains to be seen if he has a future in Vancouver after this season. His name could pop up in the rumor mill if he remains on the sidelines during the playoff tournament.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 30, 2020

The latest Islanders and Coyotes speculation plus an update on Jesse Puljujarvi in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Before the New York Islanders facing the New York Rangers in yesterday’s exhibition game, Arthur Staple took questions from Isles fans in a live chat.

New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (NHL Images).

Asked about possible cost-cutting measures for the cap-strapped club, Staple doubts anyone will trade for Semyon Varlamov. The goaltender has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple indicted former Isles goalie Robin Lehner would be available via free agency for perhaps the same price. Unless general manager Lou Lamoriello is willing to include a sweetener, I don’t see Varlamov being moved. They plan to let Thomas Greiss depart via free agency and have Varlamov tutor promising Ilya Sorokin.

Staple suggests Nick Leddy could be the Islanders’ best trade chip. The defenseman has two years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $5.5 million. Others could include blueliner Johnny Boychuk and perhaps Josh Bailey. He felt they would have to include a first-round pick if they hope to move winger Andrew Ladd.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ladd was almost moved to Minnesota for Zach Parise at the trade deadline but that deal fell through. Given the new economic landscape, I doubt they’ll revisit that plan.

Leddy lacks no-trade protection and has a reasonable cap hit but his actual salary could be a sticking point. It rises to $6.5 million next season and $7 million in 2021-22. Injuries are taking a toll on Boychuk, who has a modified no-trade clause and a $6 million AAV through 2021-22. Bailey’s AAV is $5 million through 2023-24.

Staples doesn’t expect a rival club attempting to sign Mathew Barzal to an offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never, but it’ll have to be a monstrous offer to make Lamoriello walk away. It’s possible but unlikely, and Lamoriello will do everything he can to match it.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy wondered what’s in store for the Arizona Coyotes under interim GM Steve Sullivan. His most pressing matter is re-signing Taylor Hall before the winger becomes eligible for unrestricted free-agent status at the season’s end.

Kennedy speculates Hall could test the market before deciding what to do. Sullivan and the Coyotes’ ownership must decide if re-signing the 28-year-old winger to an expensive, long-term deal is in their best interests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take a heckuva sell job on Sullivan’s part to convince Hall to stay, especially if they get eliminated from their upcoming qualifying-round series by the Nashville Predators.

Cap Friendly indicates they have over $79.9 million invested in 17 players next season. They’ll get $5.275 million in cap relief by placing all-but-retired Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve, but that’s not enough to re-sign Hall and fill out the rest of the roster.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples observed a report out of Finland suggesting winger Jesse Puljujarvi indicated he recently had a “good and constructive” conference call with Oilers GM Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett. The young winger isn’t ruling out returning to the club next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A restricted free agent, Puljujarvi spent this season playing in Finland hoping the Oilers would honor a trade request. Holland didn’t budge, leaving the young forward to re-examine his position.

Puljujarvi wants to return to the NHL and it appears he’s accepted his share of the responsibility for his poor play. However, we still have to wait and see if this means he’ll be returning to the Oilers next season.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 29, 2020

The latest on the Rangers, Red Wings, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a strong postseason by Tony DeAngelo could increase his value when he negotiates his new contract and in the trade market. The Rangers defenseman is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the season’s end.

New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo (NHL Images).

Brooks feels the only path for a long-term deal for the young blueliner is moving him to the left side of the Rangers’ blueline. Trading DeAngelo would leave the Blueshirts scrambling to find an affordable veteran third-pairing, right-shot rearguard via free agency.

A strong playoff tournament by third-line center Filip Chytil could affect how the Rangers management approach contract talks with second-line center Ryan Strome, who’s also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Brooks would be shocked if they give Strome a long-term deal, especially when they’ll have to pay Mika Zibanejad $10 million annually to keep him off the UFA market in 2022. It would also keep Chytil relegated to the third line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $67 million tied up in 15 players for next season, with DeAngelo, Strome, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev among their notable free agents. It could be a tight squeeze fitting them within their cap payroll unless they shed a salary, which explains in part the speculation suggesting they could buy out the final season of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract.

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports acquiring a goaltender is among this off-season’s top priorities for Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. He’s skeptical the rebuilding Wings can entice any of this summer’s notable UFA goalies unless they overpay.

Khan suggests Yzerman go shopping via the trade market. Possible options include Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues, or Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan suggests bringing one of them in as long-term or stop-gap measures. Yzerman could prefer the long term.

Murray, Jarry, and Georgiev are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. The Wings GM could swing a deal acquiring one of them after they’re signed to a new contract.

Allen is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Assuming Yzerman was interested, he could seek assurances Allen would re-sign before trying to acquire him.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Hailey Salvian recently examined which Ottawa Senators’ free agents are staying or going. She doesn’t see them keeping Craig Anderson, Mikkel Boedker, Scott Sabourin or Matthew Peca, and feels it’s 50-50 UFAs Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki are re-signed.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

The latest on Taylor Hall, Semyon Varlamov, Mikael Granlund, Evgeni Malkin, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman believes the Arizona Coyotes offered Taylor Hall a five-year contract worth an annual average value of $7.25 million. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

Friedman doesn’t think that’s their final offer. He also feels situation means as much to Hall as anything. He noted rumors are linking the Coyotes to former Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli but doesn’t see that happening while re-signing Hall is an option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s market value before the pandemic was considered between $9 – $10 million annually. The Coyotes’ offer could reflect the new economic landscape even if it is an opening pitch. Assuming they’re willing to pay much more, Hall must believe the Coyotes are poised to become a perennial playoff club before agreeing to sign. He’s appeared in only one post-season round during his career.

Chiarelli traded Hall to New Jersey in 2016. That move didn’t sit well at the time with the winger.

Friedman wondered if the Edmonton Oilers can find room to squeeze Andreas Athanasiou into their tight cap space. The winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. Athanasiou’s performance in the upcoming tournament could determine his number.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is earning $3 million AAV on his current contract. Even if the winger plays well, Oilers GM Ken Holland could try to convince him to accept a one-year deal for the same AAV with the promise of a better deal after next season.

New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss is a UFA at season’s end while Semyon Varlamov still has term on his contract. If Greiss outplays Varlamov in the upcoming tournament, Friedman wonders if the Isles might attempt to re-sign him to a friendlier deal and try to trade Varlamov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but Varlamov is seen as a mentor for promising young Ilya Sorokin, who recently signed an entry-level deal with the Isles. Despite their cap constraints, I think the Isles intend to go with Varlamov and Sorokin as their tandem next season.

Friedman wondered if Mikael Granlund can ramp up his value in the upcoming tournament. The Nashville Predators winger is a UFA at season’s end and is a talented player during a time of fiscal tightness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled after joining the Predators in a trade with Minnesota late last season. However, his play improved once John Hynes took over as head coach in January. A solid performance in the playoff tournament could bolster his free-agent value.

The Florida Panthers are expected to cut payroll next season. Friedman notes wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are due to become unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their tournament play could determine whether they get re-signed by the Panthers. Even then, they might only attempt to keep one of them. How much they’re seeking on their next contracts will also be a factor.

Friedman will also be watching the goaltending situations in Pittsburgh and Calgary. Penguins goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents. GM Jim Rutherford hinted there are ways to move around some money to re-sign both goalies. Meanwhile, the play of Flames netminders David Rittich and Cam Talbot will determine whether management tries something bold between the pipes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford has proven he can make moves to free up sufficient cap room to acquire or retain key players and keep his Penguins among the Stanley Cup contenders. It’ll be interesting to see what he does under a flat cap this time around.

Rittich has yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Talbot is a UFA at the end of this season and could seek a starter’s role elsewhere if the Flames remain committed to Rittich.

Rutherford was also asked if there will be any trade rumors involving Evgeni Malkin this summer. “Only if somebody makes them up,” he replied.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ok, folks, let’s see your best Malkin trade rumor in the comments section. They can’t be any worse than some we’ve seen over the years.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2020

Some suggested free-agent targets for the Sharks plus a rumor linking Peter Chiarelli to the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE SHARKS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently listed several potential free agents that he could see the San Jose Sharks pursuing in the off-season.

Goaltending targets could include the New York Islanders Thomas Greiss, the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin, or the Calgary Flames’ Cam Talbot. Of the three, Talbot could be more affordable.

Could the San Jose Sharks pursue Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli in the free-agent market? (Photo via NHL Images)

Forward options include Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, and Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund. The Washington Capitals’ Radko Gudas and Winnipeg Jets’ Dylan DeMelo were among his defense targets.

Finding the right fit won’t be easy. With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, the Sharks have over $66 million invested in their payroll for 2020-21. Nevertheless, Kurz doesn’t expect them to sit idly by in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltending depth could be the priority given starter Martin Jones’ struggles and backup Aaron Dell’s expected departure via free agency. Talbot might be the cheapest option on Kurz’s list but he could also be looking for a starter’s job. If he can’t find that role, he could be amenable to another short-term backup role.

While the changing economic landscape could affect this year’s free-agent market, I doubt the Sharks could afford Toffoli or Dadonov. Granlund is a possibility as his stock declined following his trade to the Predators last year, though his play improved when John Hynes took over as head coach in January. Gudas or DeMelo could be more affordable options to shore up the blueline depth.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has a well-earned reputation for making bold moves. He could surprise us this summer, though it’ll mean shedding some salary if he intends to make a splash in the UFA market.

CHIARELLI TO THE COYOTES?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites colleague Jim Matheson and The Athletic’s Scott Burnside reporting speculation linking former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to the Arizona Coyotes as a possible replacement for now-former GM John Chayka.

Staples points out such a move would reunite Chiarelli with winger Taylor Hall, who was traded by Chiarelli to the New Jersey Devils in 2016. The only way he sees the Coyotes bringing in Chiarelli is if they have no chance of keeping Hall off the free-agent market in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, Chiarelli won a Stanley Cup in 2011 as GM of the Bruins. On the other hand, his tenure with the Oilers was considered disastrous.

The Coyotes must choose Chayka’s replacement very carefully. This is a team dogged for years by ownership instability and mismanagement. They’ve been building in recent years toward playoff contention with promising young talent. Putting the wrong person in the GM’s chair could send them spiraling again, raising questions about their long-term future in Arizona at risk.