NHL Rumor Mill – May 14, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 14, 2022

What will the Capitals do with their goaltending this summer? Are the Sharks open to trading Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns? Will the Blackhawks seek improvement between the pipes? Who could the Red Wings target via free agency? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE CAPITALS LOOK TO IMPROVE THEIR GOALTENDING?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski considers the Washington Capitals goaltending an interesting situation worth monitoring during the offseason. Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are both restricted free agents. Vanecek had a solid regular season but fared poorly in the playoffs while Samsonov was the opposite.

Wyshynski wondered if the Capitals will seek an upgrade between the pipes. If they decide to keep their tandem intact, for how much and for how long? He also believes their blueline needs improvement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals need a reliable starter. There are only four suitable options via this summer’s unrestricted free agent market and one of them (Marc-Andre Fleury) apparently isn’t interested in playing for them. Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper, Toronto’s Jack Campbell and St. Louis’ Ville Husso could be available but will be expensive to sign. The Capitals would face competition from other clubs for those goaltenders should they test the open market on July 13.

General manager Brian MacLellan could try the trade market by looking at netminders such as Anaheim’s John Gibson, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, Vegas’ Robin Lehner and the New York Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov. Acquiring either of them, however, won’t be easy and will cost assets as well as salary.

Limited salary-cap space will also impede the pursuit of a goalie upgrade or the addition of a quality defenseman. Cap Friendly shows the Capitals with $73.5 million invested in 17 active players for 2022-23 with Vanecek and Samsonov as their key free agents. MacLellan might have to shed a contract or two to find sufficient cap space to address those needs.

THE SHARKS COULD BE OPEN TO TRADING KARLSSON OR BURNS THIS SUMMER

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks interim general manager Joe Will indicated he has no problem talking to other clubs about trading Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns this summer. Both players recently surfaced in the rumor mill after the Sharks missed the playoffs last month.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

Will said nothing was off-limits in terms of looking at ways to improve the roster wherever they could. However, he added that would be a decision left to whoever becomes the club’s general manager. He stated no changes are imminent but they’re open to discussion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Will is talking about a hypothetical trade scenario involving Karlsson or Burns rather than something that will actually take place. He or his successor are making it known they’re open to offers for their high-end talent but that doesn’t mean they’re actively shopping those players.

That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sharks management quietly gauged the market for Karlsson or Burns. However, Karlsson’s injury history, the 37-year-old Burns’ age, and their respective hefty contracts and no-trade clauses make moving either defenseman a difficult task in an offseason where the salary cap is rising by only $1 million for 2022-23.

LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus recently reported goaltending is the biggest issue facing the Chicago Blackhawks this summer. Current netminders Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia are slated to become UFAs this summer.

GM Kyle Davidson said Lankinen and Delia are part of the conversation but there are players in this summer’s free-agent market the Blackhawks will be looking at. He also didn’t rule out a foray into the trade market. A source claims the club hasn’t started contract discussions yet with Lankinen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Blackhawks could keep Lankinen or Delia as a backup as they pursue a reliable starter via free agency or a trade. Many of the options I listed for the Capitals could also apply here.

Davidson has $61.4 million committed to 14 players with Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach, Caleb Jones and Philipp Kurashev slated to become restricted free agents. There is sufficient room to add a decent starter provided those RFAs can be inked to affordable deals. Strome or Kubalik could be traded or allowed to depart as UFAs.

WHO COULD THE RED WINGS TARGET VIA FREE AGENCY?

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen recently published a list of forwards who might interest Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman in this summer’s UFA market.

Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers forward Andrew Copp and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nick Paul were Allen’s top three candidates

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trocheck and Paul should be available this summer but it remains to be seen if they want to sign with a rebuilding club. Copp, however, could be off the market as the Rangers are quite keen to re-sign him.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, Rangers center Ryan Strome and Lightning winger Ondrej Palat were also among Allen’s choices.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Red Wings’ plentiful cap space means they could afford to pay Forsberg a big raise. Like Trocheck and Paul, he might not prefer joining a rebuilding team.

Strome’s situation with the Rangers could go either way. Yzerman drafted Palat when he was GM of the Lightning so the latter might be willing to consider a reunion.

Colorado Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin, Avs winger Andre Burakovsky, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev and KHL forward Andrei Kuzmenko round out Allen’s listing.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2022

A look at the Wild’s offseason priorities and the latest on Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith as he approaches UFA eligibility in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE WILD?

ESPN.COM: Kristen Shilton looks at the Minnesota Wild’s keys to the offseason following their first-round postseason elimination by the St. Louis Blues. General manager Bill Guerin goes into the summer with roughly 15 percent of his salary-cap payroll eaten up in dead cap space from last year’s buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala (NHL Images).

Contract negotiations with Kevin Fiala will be a priority. The 25-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights coming off a one-year, $5.1 million contract after a career-high 85-point performance.

Goaltending will also be an issue with Marc-Andre Fleury slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Cam Talbot has one season remaining on his contract but they’re in need of a reliable backup. Guerin must also re-sign RFA defenseman Jacob Middleton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Wild have almost $79 million invested in 23 players for next season, with over $12 million of that going to Parise and Suter.

Fiala enjoyed a terrific performance, providing invaluable scoring punch to their lineup. However, he was held to just three assists in the Wild’s six-game series against the St. Louis Blues and appeared frustrated at times over his lack of production. That could have an effect on contract talks with Guerin.

Coming up with the cap space for Fiala, Middleton, and a new backup will mean shedding some salary via trades. Unless Guerin ships out Fiala and Middleton and goes with cheaper replacements, he might have to peddle Matt Dumba, who’s frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the past two years. Dumba is slated next summer for UFA status and carries a $6 million cap hit for 2022-23.

LATEST ON REILLY SMITH

LAS VEGAS SUN: Danny Webster reported Reilly Smith could be a hot commodity in this summer’s free-agent market. The 31-year-old winger is slated to become a UFA and had 38 points in 56 games this season until sidelined by injury for the final six weeks of the schedule.

Webster stated there was mutual interest between Smith and the Golden Knights on a contract extension. However, the club is already $500K over the $82.5 million cap for next season with only 18 players under contract. They’ll have to decide if trading someone like Evgenii Dadonov, William Karlsson, Laurent Brossoit or even Robin Lehner is worth bringing back Smith.

Smith is completing a five-year deal with an annual cap hit of $5 million. The Golden Knights won’t go that high but Webster suggested clubs like the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils or Ottawa Senators might be willing to pay that much.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s going to be interesting to see what the Golden Knights do after missing the playoffs for the first time in their short franchise history. Smith could be allowed to walk away or they could shake things up with some cost-cutting deals that also enable them to bring him back if he’s willing to accept a bit of a pay cut to stay in Vegas.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2022

Could the Canucks attempt to trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Are they laying the groundwork for a potential offer sheet? Could Ducks winger Max Comtois hit the trade block this summer? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST CANUCKS SPECULATION

DAILY HIVE: cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculating the Vancouver Canucks could attempt to trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson. During a recent interview with CHEK TV’s Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal, Friedman said he anticipated the Canucks will be “a very aggressive team” in the offseason. He thinks they’ve looked around to see if there’s a market for the 30-year-old defenseman.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks’ previous management acquired Ekman-Larsson last summer. Daily Hive’s Rob Williams pointed out the blueliner played well defensively this season, sitting second among the Canucks in ice time. However, his 29 points were his lowest during a full 82-game schedule.

Williams also noted that moving Ekman-Larsson’s contract could be a herculean task. The Canucks carry $7.26 million of his $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit with the Arizona Coyotes picking up the rest.

Ekman-Larsson is signed through 2026-27 and still carries a full no-movement clause. Even if he agreed to waive that clause to go to a club of his choosing, his cap hit and the remaining term of his contract will be tough to move with the salary cap rising by only $1 million to $82.5 million for 2022-23.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. However, it will take some salesmanship on the part of Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford to pull it off.

SPORTSNET: Jeff Marek recently suggested the Canucks could also be laying the groundwork for a potential offer sheet this summer. He pointed out the Canucks got back their own third-round draft pick in this year’s draft from the Ottawa Senators in the Travis Hamonic trade.

Marek pointed out that successfully signing a restricted free agent to an offer sheet this summer worth between $4.1 million and $6.1 million would require giving up their own first and third rounders as compensation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marek said he’s not sure if the Canucks will play the offer sheet game this summer but commended them on “getting as many weapons together as possible.” Going that route would also mean shedding some salary, which might in part explain the Ekman-Larsson speculation.

This could be worth monitoring when the free-agent market opens on July 13. Offer sheets are rare and only two players in the salary-cap era (the latest being Jesperi Kotkaniemi) have been successfully signed away. Nevertheless, we can’t rule out that possibility if the Canucks can dump some salary beforehand.

WILL COMTOIS BECOME A TRADE CANDIDATE?

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens recently reports Max Comtois’ disappointing season with the Anaheim Ducks saw his name pop up in trade rumors. There was some thought that the 23-year-old winger might benefit from a change of scenery.

Comtois, however, hopes to stay put. He lacks a no-trade clause and acknowledged it is up to management to decide. Still, he said he likes the team and hopes to help this rebuilding club succeed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comtois led the low-scoring Ducks with 16 goals and 33 points in last season’s COVID-shortened campaign. He got off to a slow start to this season before being sidelined for six weeks by a hand injury and struggled to regain his form following his return.

New general manager Pat Verbeek could still see Comtois as an important part of his roster rebuild. He’s signed through next season with an affordable $2.037 million cap hit. Still, Verbeek showed his willingness to wheel and deal before the trade deadline. He could consider Comtois as a potential trade chip this summer.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2022

Are significant offseason changes in the cards for the Predators? Could the Senators and Islanders shop their 2022 first-round draft picks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHANGES COMING FOR PREDATORS?

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes Nashville Predators’ ownership must react after getting eliminated from the opening round of the 2022 playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche. It’s the first time the Predators have been swept from a postseason series in franchise history.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

The subdued atmosphere in Nashville during Games 3 and 4 of that series has to be a concern. So is a club getting outclassed despite carrying two 40-goal scorers in Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene, a 90-point defenseman in Roman Josi, an All-Star goaltender in Juuse Saros and the rookie goal-scoring leader in Tanner Jeannot.

Vingan believes the blame lies with David Poile, suggesting it might be time to hire someone to work in tandem with Poile but has the final say over personnel decisions. He noted the club faces some critical decisions this off-season, including new contracts for pending free agent Forsberg and head coach John Hynes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators ownership could surprise us by following Vingan’s advice or perhaps even firing Poile. However, he started a “competitive rebuild” last summer with the club exceeding expectations when they weren’t considered a playoff contender to start the season. Those factors probably ensure there won’t be any shakeup in the general manager’s office this summer.

NHL.COM: John Glennon reports Forsberg said he wants to return with the Predators. He said there’s been a progression in contract talks throughout the season, adding there will be ongoing discussions. “We’ll just have to see where we end,” he said. Those talks were paused at the March 21 trade deadline but he said they’ll resume soon.

Forsberg is coming off a career-high 42-goal, 84-point performance. The 27-year-old winger said he likes the direction of the Predators and believes they can be a Stanley Cup champion in the future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Poile wants to keep Forsberg but the latter’s asking price will be an issue. The Predators are already carrying two forwards (Duchene and Ryan Johansen) each carrying annual average values of $8 million. Forsberg will likely seek something comparable if not more.

COULD THE SENATORS OR ISLANDERS SHOP THEIR FIRST-ROUND PICKS?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch noted the Senators will have the opportunity to add another promising talent to their roster with the seventh-overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. However, he noted there’s a belief GM Pierre Dorion could be willing to part with that pick if a rival club offers up a player who can help the Senators compete for a playoff spot. It’s unlikely any decision will be reached until the first round of the draft on July 7.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner wondered if the New York Islanders might use their pick (13th overall) to address more immediate needs. He pointed out GM Lou Lamoriello has talked about making hockey trades during this offseason.

This year’s draft isn’t considered a deep one. Rosner suggested that the pick could be used to acquire a top-four defenseman or a top-six forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be some cap-strapped teams attempting to shed salary or rebuilding clubs looking to stockpile first-round picks in this year’s draft. Perhaps the Senators or Islanders can find some suitable trade partners among those clubs.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2022

Where could Barry Trotz end up after being fired as Islanders head coach? Who could the Isles hire as his replacement? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reported on the New York Islanders’ surprising decision to fire head coach Barry Trotz on Monday. He speculates Trotz’s handling of young forward Oliver Wahlstrom and the reduction in Mathew Barzal’s role and ice time may have factored into general manager Lou Lamoriello’s decision to part ways with Trotz.

Former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz (NHL.com).

A source with knowledge of the Islanders’ dressing room pushed back against Lamoriello’s claim the decision was made without input from the players. The source said making that move after conducting the players’ exit interviews indicated the Isles GM was listening to their comments.

Kurz speculates Trotz’s physically demanding style of play in a season that started with a 13-game road trip followed by a COVID outbreak might have contributed to the club’s disappointing performance. The coach himself also pondered that possibility.

As for Trotz’s potential replacements, Kurz’s list included former NHL coaches such as Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville, and Claude Julien, as well as current Isles assistant coach Lane Lambert.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner also weighed in on the next Islanders head coach, claiming he’s been told Lamoriello has looked into Paul Maurice and John Tortorella. He also speculated Peter DeBoer could be an option if he’s fired by the Vegas Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello gave no timetable for naming Trotz’s replacement. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be surprising if he reaches a decision before the 2022 NHL Draft in early July.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Lamoriell opts for someone with plenty of NHL experience and success, promotes Lambert, or considers an option outside the box for many observers. We probably won’t get any indication of which way the always-secretive Isles GM will go before he announces his choice.

Speaking of DeBoer, Vegas Hockey Now’s Owen Krepps wondered if he’ll join Trotz among the ranks of unemployed NHL head coaches. If so, he suggested the Golden Knights might look at Trotz as a replacement.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Mike Stephens suggested the Philadelphia Flyers, Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets as three landing spots for Trotz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers replaced Alain Vigneault last December with Mike Yeo on an interim basis and are in the hunt for a new full-time head coach after announcing Yeo won’t return in the role next season.

Paul Maurice stepped down as Jets head coach in December. Assistant coach Dave Lowry was named interim bench boss but, like Yeo, won’t be returning in that role next season.

Stephens feels the Kraken lacks structure under current head coach Dave Hakstol. So far, there’s no indication Seattle GM Ron Francis intends to make a coaching change but someone as well-respected as Trotz becoming available could prove tempting.

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes the Jets should be in pursuit of Winnipeg native Trotz. He cited his impressive record of success with the Islanders, as well as with the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Sam Carchidi believes Trotz would be a perfect fit to revitalize the sorry-looking Flyers if he’s interested in the challenge.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen suggested the Red Wings could be a landing spot for Trotz. He also indicated the Chicago Blackhawks are among the NHL teams seeking a new head coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trotz won’t be out of a job for long. He’s reportedly taking a couple of weeks to rest and ponder his next move. I won’t be surprised if he’s got a new coach gig before the end of June.

It could come down to whether he’d prefer to join a retooling team (or one that needs to retool) like the Jets or looks for the challenge of joining a rebuilding squad like the Wings.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 9, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 9, 2022

The latest on John Klingberg’s contract talks with the Stars, a difficult postmortem could face the Predators if they’re swept by the Avalanche, and the Blue Jackets’ offseason focus in today’s NHL rumor mill.

STARS GM STILL HOPES TO RE-SIGN KLINGBERG

NHL.COM: Tracey Myers reports Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill would love to re-sign John Klingberg. However, he understands the 29-year-old defenseman has to look out for himself as he approaches eligibility for unrestricted free agent status this summer. Nill said he intends to speak with Klingberg’s representatives once the playoffs are over.

Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg (NHL Images).

Klingberg felt underappreciated by Stars management and expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in earlier contract discussions during an interview in January. However, he’s now indicated he refocused on his game since the All-Star break and has been happy with his performance. Nill is also happy with Klingberg’s play, claiming he’s had many discussions with the blueliner and the two have “a great relationship.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the two sides have patched things up from where they were in the first half of the season. However, it will still come down to what Klingberg seeks on his next contract and whether the Stars are willing to meet his expectations.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek last fall indicated Klingberg sought an eight-year deal worth between $62 million and $68 million. That’s between $7.75 million and $8.5 million annually.

THE TENNESSEAN: Gentry Estes believes the Nashville Predators could face “a tough postmortem” if they’re swept by the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night in Game 4 of their first-round series. They face losing the fifth consecutive postseason series.

The Predators opted not to trade Filip Forsberg in hopes of a playoff run. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Considering how overmatched the club has been against the Avalanche, it should mean more questions for the roster beyond Forsberg.

Head coach John Hynes’ contract expires at the end of this season. Estes suggested he could be retained given the Predators exceeded expectations this season but wondered why it hasn’t been announced yet. He also doubted a healthy Juuse Saros would’ve significantly altered the course of this series with the Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators GM David Poile last summer indicated his club was undergoing a “competitive rebuild”. If he meant remaining in playoff contention while making changes to his roster with a long-term goal of returning to Cup contender status, then it’s mission accomplished for this season.

Whether Forsberg will be part of that process beyond this season remains to be seen. He’s completing a six-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6 million and is coming off a career-best 42-goal, 84-point performance in 69 games. That could push the annual average value of his next contract to well over $8 million per season.

There were reports prior to the March trade deadline that there wasn’t much progress in contract talks between the two sides. Unless that changes, we could be seeing the last of Forsberg in a Predators jersey.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE BLUE JACKETS THIS SUMMER?

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline believes the Columbus Blue Jackets face heightened expectations for next season after overachieving in 2021-22. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen must get restricted free agent winger Patrik Laine under contract and shed some salary to make room for the younger players set to join the lineup next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine is completing a one-year, $7.5 million contract and has arbitration rights this season. Portzline indicated the 24-year-old winger wants to stay with the Jackets. However, Kekalainen will have to pony up some big bucks to keep him in the fold long term.

The Laine camp could seek over $9 million annually on a seven- or eight-year deal. They could also prefer a short-term deal to take their client up to UFA eligibility and a shot at a major contract on the open market.

Laine’s new contract will also bite deeply into the Jackets’ cap space. Cap Friendly shows them with over $54 million committed to 15 players.

A likely trade candidate is Gustav Nyquist. The 32-year-old winger has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. He enjoyed a bounce-back performance this season with 53 points. Perhaps a playoff contender seeking offensive depth on the wing would be interested in his services.