NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

It’s been a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the first round but that hasn’t stopped speculation over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes the clock is ticking for the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup hopes with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner under contract. Matthews’ current deal expires in 2024, Marner’s the following year.

If things go sideways, the pair can depart via the unrestricted free agent market. Traikos doubts the pair will want to endure another five years of disappointment, much less a decade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Traikos feels the Leafs have three seasons to either win the Cup or make significant progress toward doing so to convince those two to stay. A lot can happen over that time. What Dubas does over the next three years will determine the futures of Matthews, Marner and the Leafs.

Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could find it difficult to bolster the roster with limited cap space this summer. They have roughly $67.8 million invested in next season’s cap payroll, leaving little room under the $81.5 million cap.

With Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan adamant that high-paid forwards Matthews, Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander aren’t going anywhere, the Leafs will have to look elsewhere to free up payroll.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images).

Dubas could avoid potentially losing Morgan Rielly to free agency next summer by trading him now. It would free up $5 million in cap room but also leave a big hole on their blueline, one Rasmus Sandin could eventually fill. If Alex Kerfoot is taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, it’ll free up $3.5 million.

Koshan considers re-signing Zach Hyman a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 28 and the Leafs lack the money to re-sign him. It’s believed the 28-year-old winger could get multiyear offers between $5 million and $6 million annually on the open market. With other holes in the roster to address, the Leafs can’t afford that even if they lose Kerfoot’s cap hit to the Kraken.

Hyman’s agent dismissed a rumor claiming the Leafs had already offered a deal worth $5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hyman is a Toronto native. He could accept a “hometown discount” to stay with the Leafs, especially if he thinks he won’t get better offers in the free-agent market under a flattened salary cap. However, this is also his best opportunity to land a lucrative long-term deal. There will be teams willing to pay between $5 million and $6 million for his services on the open market despite the flat cap.

Even if Hyman accepts a lesser deal of, say, $4 million annually, that’s still going to take a big bite out of the Leafs’ cap space. That could force Dubas to consider a bigger move this summer.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox believes the Leafs must make a decision soon on Rielly. Do they keep him for next season as an “own rental” for one last shot at the Cup with the Leafs, do they trade him, or attempt to negotiate a contract extension starting on July 28? His trade value, combined with his affordable $5 million cap hit, might never be higher than it is now.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes trading Rielly should be on the table if the Leafs are committed to Sandin taking over his role. He points out they got a first-round pick and promising prospect Filip Hallander by trading Kasperi Kapanen last year to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rielly would be worth at least that much, and freeing up his $5 million cap hit would give the Leafs room to bring in a couple of affordable bottom-six forwards.

While Dubas and Shanahan said they’re not trading Marner, McGran wondered if they would listen if it was talent-for-talent. Perhaps they’d listen if the Columbus Blue Jackets offered defenseman Seth Jones, or the Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, or the Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk or Johnny Gaudreau.

McGran admits it would get tricky trying to move Marner. He expects Dubas won’t change his approach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Rielly is a more realistic scenario than moving Marner. Yes, the latter could happen if the Leafs got a terrific offer. But Rielly’s affordable cap hit for next season is easier for other clubs to absorb than Marner’s $10.9 million through 2024-25.

The question is, will Dubas make that move? As The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel observed last week, the Leafs better make sure they have a suitable replacement lined up. Siegel doesn’t consider Sandin ready yet for a full-time top-four role. If Dubas shares that view, Rielly could return for at least next season unless he can find an appropriate substitution in the trade or free-agent market.

Mark Zwolinski examined the Leafs’ options for a backup goaltender for Jack Campbell next season. One option is bringing back Frederik Andersen if he accepted a pay cut in the $2 million range. Free-agent options could include Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Colorado’s Devan Dubnyk or Edmonton’s Mike Smith.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen has played his last for the Leafs. He did his best and was often overworked and underappreciated, but Campbell has taken over the starter’s job now.

I don’t see Rinne leave Nashville if he still wants to play one more season. The Oilers have already indicated they’re bringing back Smith. Dubnyk’s performance has really declined over the last two years. Other free-agent options include former Leafs James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier or the Hurricanes’ Petr Mrazek.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 6, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 6, 2021

Will the Blues trade Vladimir Tarasenko or Vince Dunn this summer? What could the Flames get for Sean Monahan? Check out the latest speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

WILL TARASENKO OR DUNN HIT THIS SUMMER’S TRADE BLOCK?

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford was asked if St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will consider trading Vladimir Tarasenko during a mailbag segment last week.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

He believes Armstrong will gauge Tarasenko’s trade value this summer. The 29-year-old winger has two years remaining on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $7.5 million and they need more production from him.

Tarasenko could improve with more playing time following his third shoulder surgery. However, if the Blues opt for a more hardworking, blue-collar lineup, they might feel it’s time to go in a different direction. Tarasenko might feel the same way.

If Armstrong feels Tarasenko cannot help the Blues, he’ll have to find a “hockey trade” because the Blues would benefit from a player or players at the equivalent of $7.5 million who can play within their system. Rutherford points out Tarasenko’s no-trade clause gives him some control here.

STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon believes Tarasenko’s salary, shoulder surgeries and declining production will have limited appeal in this summer’s trade market. “Only a moron would pay a premium for him while assuming his injury risk and cap hit,” said Gordon. He did, however, acknowledge Armstrong got the Philadelphia Flyers to take “The Ghost of Jori Lehtera” for Brayden Schenn.

Armstrong’s more realistic trade chips include Vince Dunn, Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev, Robert Thomas, Jake Walman, Scott Perunovich and Klim Kostin. Gordon also speculates the Blues GM could be willing to part with premium draft picks while trying to get his talented nucleus back into the Stanley Cup chase.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Vince Dunn is drawing trade interest around the league. There was a time earlier in the year when the Blues were thinking about moving him and were asking for a first-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out a Tarasenko trade but I wouldn’t anticipate it for the reasons cited by Gordon. He could be exposed in the expansion draft but those aforementioned factors could scare off the Seattle Kraken.

Dunn, on the other hand, seems the more likely trade candidate. The Blues were looking into moving him back in January but nothing came of it, perhaps because teams weren’t willing to part with a first-round pick.

At the time, I suggested the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets as potential destinations for Dunn. Maybe those clubs will be among the suitors.

If that move happens it’ll likely be near the July 23-24 NHL draft weekend. I daresay we’ll hear his name come up more frequently in the rumor mill over the next several weeks.

WHAT COULD THE FLAMES GET IN RETURN FOR MONAHAN?

THE ATHLETIC: Hailey Salvian was asked by a reader last week what kind of player the Calgary Flames could get in a one-for-one trade of Sean Monahan.

She isn’t certain what the return would be at this point, suggesting his value falls between what he was in 2018-19 and what we’ve seen in the last two years. The 26-year-old center’s recovery from recent hip surgery could be a factor. However, it’s not a big red flag because he’s expected to be ready in time for training camp.

The decline in his production over the last two seasons would have an effect on his trade value. His contract ($6.375 million AAV through 2022-23, modified no-trade clause) could also be a sticking point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Monahan also leaves a void at center that the Flames could struggle to fill. There’s also the risk of trading him this summer only to see him bounce back with another club while the Flames get a pittance in return.

Trading Monahan could be among the Flames’ options as management considers shaking things up following the disappointments of the last three seasons. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if they stick with him for one more season and see where things stand after that.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2021

Could the Oilers target a Lightning winger in this summer’s trade market? Is this season the last for Matt Dumba and Zach Parise with the Wild? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE OILERS TARGET A LIGHTNING WINGER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers’ priority should be landing a veteran winger who’ll mesh well with center Connor McDavid. That’ll take on greater importance if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins departs via free agency next month.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would be an obvious place to start because of their limited cap space and forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are among their pending unrestricted free agents.

Could the Edmonton Oilers have interest in a Tampa Bay Lightning winger such as Alex Killorn? (NHL Images)

They could attempt to shed salary by trading a veteran forward at a bargain price. Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat or Yanni Gourde could become a trade candidate. Staples doubts Killorn will be available given his strong performance in this year’s playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $22 million in cap space (as per Cap Friendly), Oilers general manager Ken Holland should have sufficient cap room to acquire a top-six winger via trade or free agency even if he re-signs Nugent-Hopkins, Mike Smith and Adam Larsson. He could have more if he buys out James Neal and/or Mikko Koskinen and finds a trade partner to take Zack Kassian off his hands. Holland could be willing to talk trade with the Lightning depending on who they’re trying to offload this summer.

Something’s gotta give in Tampa Bay this summer. They could, as Staples suggested, buy out Tyler Johnson or hope the Seattle Kraken select him in the expansion draft. Even then, they could still trade another forward to get some additional wiggle room under the cap. That could force them to part with Palat, Gourde or Killorn.

Gourde’s full no-trade makes him the least likely of that trio to be moved. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade clause. Palat’s full no-trade becomes a modified no-trade next season in which he submits a 20-team list of preferred destinations.

Staples recently noted Oilers insider Bob Stauffer speculating the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers could have interest in Kassian. Some Oilers followers could be against trading Kassian because of his physical presence. However, he’s carrying a $3.2 million annual cap hit through 2023-24. Given the decline in his offensive production, the Oilers would be better off trading him and finding a more affordable option.

LATEST ON DUMBA AND PARISE

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sarah McLellan recently reported questions about Matt Dumba’s future with the Minnesota Wild have increased of late with the expansion draft on the horizon. With most teams tending to protect three defensemen and three Wild blueliners (Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin) carrying no-movement clauses, Dumba could be left exposed in the expansion draft or traded beforehand.

Dumba, however, said he hopes to remain with the Wild. He said he grew accustomed to his name surfacing in the rumor mill near the trade deadline.

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Muzitani recently reported Zach Parise told reporters he wants to return with the Wild next season. Because of his hefty contract, finding a trade partner seems unlikely while the front office doesn’t seem interested in going the buyout route.

Parise’s future came into question as he was dropped to the fourth line this season and was a healthy scratch late in the season and during the first three games of their seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights. However, Parise played well when inserted into the lineup for the final four games of that series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild could make Dumba unavailable in the expansion draft by opting to protect eight skaters. However, that puts them at risk of losing one of their good young forwards. Wild GM Bill Guerin will probably try to swing a side deal with the Seattle Kraken to ensure they don’t take Dumba if they leave him exposed. They could also try to convince Suter to waive his no-movement clause. The Kraken could be scared off by his expensive contract.

The Wild and Parise are stuck with each other until his contract expires in 2025. He’ll have to accept a lesser role with the club. As Muzitani observed, that’s something that will have to be worked out between Parise and head coach Dean Evason in the coming months.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 4, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 4, 2021

More proposed destinations for Seth Jones plus the latest on the Predators and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PROPOSED DESTINATIONS FOR SETH JONES

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston listed the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs as possible destinations for Seth Jones. The 26-year-old defenseman recently informed the Columbus Blue Jackets of his intention to test next summer’s free-agent market.

Speculation persists over possible destinations for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (NHL Images).

The Kings are considered early favorites, given their extra second and third-round picks and impressive depth in young forwards and prospects to offer up as trade bait. The Blackhawks also have extra picks and depth in prospects plus they hold the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Johnston suggests the Oilers could feel pressure to add a defenseman if Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie depart this summer via free agency. Lacking extra draft picks, GM Ken Holland might have to part with one of his young players. The Flyers, meanwhile, would have to move a few bodies to free up cap space.

The Canadiens have extra picks and several players coming off the books this summer. Johnston suggests Jones would be an ideal replacement for Shea Weber if the Habs could find a way to move his $7.75 million annual cap hit. The Red Wings have the draft capitals to do it with 12 picks in this year’s draft, seven of those in the first three rounds.

As for the Leafs, the comments of GM Kyle Dubas and winger Mitch Marner suggest he’s not going anywhere. Nevertheless, Johnston wondered if he’d be off the table for a defenseman like Jones.

OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito could shoot for a reunion with Jones. Zito was the Blue Jackets former assistant GM before taking the full-time gig with the Panthers.

Brennan, however, thinks the Colorado Avalanche could make a pitch for Jones. They’re bound to lose a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. He also believes the Leafs will have to get creative to land Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The team with the depth in draft picks, prospects and young players plus the cap space to ink Jones to a long-term extension is the most likely to pry him away from the Jackets in this summer’s trade market. The Kings and Blackhawks seem to be the favorites but that depends on their willingness to meet what’s bound to be an expensive asking price by the Jackets.

One of those other teams mentioned by Johnston and Brennan could surprise us with some intricate wheeling-and-dealing. The key remains the willingness of Jones to sign an extension with the acquiring club. If he’s noncommittal that will narrow the field of potential suitors, making it difficult for the Jackets to get a significant return.

LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina made several bold predictions regarding possible offseason moves by the Nashville Predators. He thinks aging goalie Pekka Rinne could be brought back for one more season, Matt Duchene and/or Ryan Johansen could be left exposed in the expansion draft. Juuse Saros and Mikael Granlund will be re-signed while Viktor Arvidsson could be traded to make room for a young winger.

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes it’s time for the Predators to shake up their core. He also suggests they consider trading the oft-injured Arvidsson. While Arvidsson’s contract isn’t prohibitive, the $8 million annually being earned by Duchene and Johansen could leave the Predators eating part of their salary or adding a draft pick in the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Arvidsson would be easier if he were healthier, but if he were healthier, the Predators would have little reason to move him. His $4.25 million AAV isn’t expensive but he’s signed through 2023-24. It could be difficult finding suitors with the salary cap remaining flat for next season.

Moving Duchene and Johansen will be very difficult given their contracts and poor performance. GM David Poile could attempt to get a third team involved to broker a deal but that could still mean he’ll still have to absorb part of their salaries to make it work.

I doubt the Kraken will select Duchene or Johansen if they’re exposed in the draft. It would take a significant sweetener to convince them. Even then, I think they’d balk at paying out $8 million annually for a player with several seasons remaining on his contract.

WILL THE CANUCKS ADD A FORWARD VIA FREE AGENCY?

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston recently examined possible free-agent forward targets for the Vancouver Canucks. They have holes to fill at center and right wing but a tight budget could hamper efforts to address those needs.

Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg would be an interesting option but he’s not going to be cheap coming off a 17-goal season. The same goes for Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman, who tallied 14 goals. More affordable options could include Vegas’ Tomas Nosek, Chicago’s Vinnie Hinostroza or Carolina’s Steven Lorentz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Canucks GM Jim Benning can find a way to shed some burdensome contracts, he’ll have to go to the bargain bin this summer.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

The latest on Mitch Marner, Seth Jones, Sam Reinhart and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS GM SAID HE WON’T MOVE MARNER BUT SPECULATION PERSISTS

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger reports Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Mitch Marner won’t be part of any potential offseason roster changes. He defended Marner and Auston Matthews, adding that moving either of them would be foolish.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos acknowledged Dubas’ comments but believes rival general managers will be calling about Marner. He thinks the Leafs should listen to offers, especially if they’re coming from Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. Traikos wondered if they could swap out Marner for Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, or Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, or Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas seems adamant about not trading Marner or Matthews. It would have to be a significant deal to pry Marner away from the Leafs. Maybe he’s willing to listen if Jones or Gibson or Eichel were pitched to him for Marner, but we don’t know if those offers will be made.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S RECENT “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes there will be plenty of interest in Jackets defenseman Seth Jones despite his unrestricted free agent eligibility next summer. He feels it could be a complex transaction. He thinks it could be “a trade and free agency at the same time” unless someone’s willing to offer up a major package for Jones as a playoff rental for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I said before, interested clubs could want assurances Jones will sign a contract extension before signing off on a trade. He’ll be of more value in the trade market that way. Perhaps a sign-and-trade scenario takes place. Maybe the Jackets grant permission for rival general managers to speak with Jones’ agent about a new deal.

Speaking of the Jackets, Friedman believes they spoke to the Buffalo Sabres about Sam Reinhart. The Sabres are looking for goaltenders and could have interest in Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. He thinks these two clubs would make sensible trade partners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart for Korpisalo or Merlikins could make sense for both clubs. As Friedman noted, however, there’s no guarantee that a deal takes place.

Friedman expects the Anaheim Ducks will try to make a big move this summer. They attempted to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Blue Jackets before he was traded in January to the Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The pursuit of Dubois suggests Ducks GM Bob Murray will be in the market for a center. Aging captain Ryan Getzlaf is a UFA this summer. If he returns it won’t be in a top-six role.

Sources indicate league revenue for this season could be between $1.8 billion and $2 billion. Factor in money owed to the league by the players and the salary cap could remain static for several seasons, perhaps to 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman suggests that could mean offer-sheet thresholds could be lower than ever. I still don’t hold my breath waiting for one given how rarely that tactic is employed.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

Could Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas or Sheldon Keefe lose their jobs following another early playoff exit by the Leafs? Could the Florida Panthers try to acquire Penguins center Evgeni Malkin? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN/THE ATHLETIC: Lance Hornby and Jonas Siegel wondered if heads will roll in the Maple Leafs’ front office or among the coaching staff following the club’s early playoff exit.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com).

Brendan Shanahan’s in his seventh season as team president but the club’s postseason woes continue. General manager Kyle Dubas has been in the role three years and head coach Sheldon Keefe completed his second season.

Hornby and Siegel raised some questions about several of the moves made by the franchise in recent years and the overall performance. However, they don’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to lose their jobs. They instead anticipate an assistant coach such as Manny Malhotra, Dave Hakstol or Paul MacLean or goalie coach Steve Briere could become a sacrificial firing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun’s Steve Simmons also doesn’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to be fired. One or two of the assistant coaches could be replaced. The Leafs’ struggling power play could cost Malhotra his job.

Hornby wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs see which goaltenders are available in the summer’s trade and free-agent markets. If nothing’s worthwhile there, he suggests returning with Jack Campbell and either David Rittich or a goalie from within their system. He doesn’t expect Frederik Andersen will be re-signed.

Of the Leafs’ other unrestricted free agents, Hornby feels Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza and perhaps Alex Galchenyuk should be signed. Siegel thinks restricted free agent Travis Dermott will be an affordable re-signing.

With defenseman Morgan Rielly a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, Siegel believes the Leafs must decide on his future this year. Trading Rielly would fetch assets and clear cap space but the move would also leave a big hole on their blueline.

As for shopping a core player such as Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Siegel preaches caution here. Making change for change’s sake could set the Leafs back several years, pointing to the Boston Bruins’ trading Tyler Seguin in 2013 and the Edmonton Oilers trading Taylor Hall in 2016.

Both pundits believe the Leafs could lose Dermott or Alex Kerfoot in the expansion draft unless the Leafs cut a side deal with the Seattle Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have to tread carefully as Siegel suggests. Nevertheless, they must fully evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine what moves are necessary and what’s available to address their needs.

They’ve still handcuffed themselves with those big contracts for Marner, Nylander, John Tavares and Auston Matthews. The latter two, of course, aren’t going anywhere. Tavares has a full no-movement clause while Matthews is coming off a Richard Trophy performance despite his lack of production in the series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Marner, Nylander or Rielly are the prime trade candidates if they wish to shake up the core. Each would fetch significant returns in the trade market. By moving one of them, however, they must ensure they’re not creating one problem by trying to fix another.

Losing Rielly could hurt the Leafs the most as it could prove difficult to replace him on the blueline. If they’re going to trade him they better be sure they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up.

Their depth at center suffered against the Canadiens when Tavares and Nick Foligno were injured. They’ll have to address that issue if Foligno isn’t re-signed and they lose Kerfoot to the Kraken. Finding a suitable goaltender to split the duties with Campbell is a must. So is replacing Hyman if he departs via free agency.

The Leafs sacrificed speed for experienced grit this year. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have physical players in their lineup but they can’t be the slowfooted kind.

They could also end up pursuing bargain players via trades or free agency if they don’t make a significant cost-cutting move. Cap Friendly shows them with nearly $69 million tied up in 14 players. They will get some relief depending on which player they lose in the expansion draft, but not enough to make an impact addition.

THE LATEST PANTHERS SPECULATION

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards shot down a recent report in the New York Post speculating Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville could head to the Seattle Kraken. “No one is taking it too seriously,” said Richards, pointing out Quenneville is among the NHL’s highest-paid coaches and appears very happy in his current job.

Richards wondered what the Panthers will do with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Keith Yandle. They’re the club’s highest-paid players with a combined annual average value of $16 million. However, both were healthy scratches during the Panthers’ final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round series.

Both players have no-movement clauses plus Bobrovsky has a lot of years left on his contract. After seeing GM Bill Zito trade Mike Matheson and his contract last year, Richards doesn’t rule out the possibility of trading Bobrovsky or Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards considers it important for the Panthers to free up some salary to re-sign pending free agents such as Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Montour. They’ll also have to consider long-term cap space to sign Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to contract extensions over the next couple of years.

Zito didn’t sign Bobrovsky and Yandle to those contracts. He inherited them from his predecessor. Moving Matheson was easier because he lacked no-trade protection and had a more affordable $4.875 million cap hit. Trading those other two presents a bigger challenge for Zito.

Yandle could be easier to move than Bobrovsky. The 34-year-old blueliner’s got two years left on his deal with an annual average value of $6.35 million. It will require some creativity, perhaps a third-party broker and it could cost the Panthers a couple of draft picks or prospects to make happen in a package deal. Still, they’d have a better chance at moving Yandle than Bobrovsky’s $10 million AAV for the next five years.

Jimmy Murphy reported there have been numerous rumors over the last two years linking Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to the Panthers. Malkin lives in Florida with his family during the offseason.

Murphy cited an NHL source with direct knowledge of the situation saying he believes there is and has been mutual interest there. However, they’re stuck with Bobrovsky’s big contract plus they’re planning to sign Barkov to an expensive new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers’ rumored interest in Malkin first surfaced when Dale Tallon was the general manager. I doubt that’s the case now under Bill Zito. Even if he found a way to shed Bobrovsky’s salary, I don’t think he’ll use the savings to acquire an aging Malkin.