NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2020

The latest Jets speculation plus an update on Oilers’ winger Jesse Puljujarvi in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Murat Ates was asked if the Winnipeg Jets might bring back Paul Stastny, who briefly skated with them in 2018 before signing with the Vegas Golden Knights. Stastny spent part of this season on the third line.

Could the Winnipeg Jets bring back Paul Stastny? (Photo via NHL Images)

Despite the recent decline in Stastny’s ice-time and production and his $6.5 million annual average value, Ates still believes he’d have value as a second-line center. Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, he believes the Jets would have to shed salary to take on Stastny’s contract.

Asked about how general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff plans to restock the defense corps, Ates speculated re-signing Dylan DeMelo is a priority and sign a veteran blueliner for the top four, perhaps from among their own UFAs. He doubts Cheveldayoff will pursue a big-ticket rearguard this year because they’re currently well-positioned to survive next year’s Seattle expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $73.3 million invested in 15 players next season, the Golden Knights could be forced to dump some salary. Stastny could become a cap casualty. He’s got a 10-team no-trade list, but the Jets might not be on it. As Ates pointed out, Stastny waived his no-trade on his last contract to accept a trade to Winnipeg. 

Ates noted the Jets have sufficient cap space to re-sign all their restricted free agents, re-up DeMelo for $3.5 million, and have over $4 million remaining. He’s right when he said they’ll have to shed salary to bring back Stastny or acquire someone similar. Asking the Golden Knights to pick up part of his cap hit could involve parting with an extra draft pick or someone like Jack Roslovic. 

Perhaps Cheveldayoff envisions Roslovic moving into the second-line center role to start next season. He could see how the 23-year-old center performs in that role before looking outside the organization to fill that spot.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports hearing some NHL clubs kicked the tires on Jesse Puljujarvi but the Oilers never heard anything close to fair market value. A recent report out of Finland indicating Puljujarvi isn’t ruling out returning to the Oilers had Leavins speculating the 22-year-old winger may have realized he received some bad advice about requesting a trade.

EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson also weighed in on Puljujarvi’s apparent change of heart. He said the Oilers still consider him a third-line winger until he proves he’s better. Puljujarvi reportedly showed some maturity in his play this season in Finland.  If Puljujarvi returns to the Oilers, Matheson believes it’ll be on a one-year, $874K qualifying offer. Otherwise, he could be looking at options in Finland, the KHL, or perhaps Sweden or Switzerland.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Puljujarvi returns to the Oilers, he’ll have to start as a third-line and earn top-six minutes as the season progresses. He still has plenty of time to develop into the scoring winger he was projected to become. How he fares is up to him now.

As for fair market value in a trade, the Oilers won’t get a first-round pick if Puljujarvi’s seen as a third-liner. It might be best for both sides for him to return next season and see how things unfold. If he finally blossoms into a scorer, it will improve his trade value if he still wants out of Edmonton. If he wants to stay, he’ll provide an additional boost to the Oilers’ offensive depth.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

Check out the latest on the Kings and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his postmortem on the Los Angeles’ Kings 2019-20 season, Matt Larkin observed they’ll have around $20 million in salary-cap space if the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season. With all their impact players under contract, Larkin wondered if general manager Rob Blake will chase a major unrestricted free agent. Noting it’s still too early for the club to become a contender, Larkin believes Blake could remain conservative for another year.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Kings might re-sign Trevor Lewis to a contract extension in the off-season. She doesn’t think so, pointing out the 33-year-old center was reportedly available at this year’s trade deadline. She suspects there haven’t been any contract discussions lately.

Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (Photo via NHL Images).

Dillman was also asked if Jeff Carter might be traded. She doubts it, pointing out the 35-year-old center recently underwent core-muscle surgery. She said there wasn’t a trade scenario before Carter’s surgery, but if there was, this would change the equation.

Asked which player she felt might be a good target for the Kings in the 2022 UFA market, Dillman cited Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. She cautioned, however, that most pending free agents tend to re-sign with their teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Blake is likely to wait another year before attempting to make a big splash in the UFA pool. However, I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll attempt to pry away a good young player from a cap-strapped rival.

With over $69 million invested in 16 players (as per Cap Friendly) for next season, the Kings also have sufficient cap space to make that kind of addition. Blake has some tradeable assets if the opportunity arises to land a promising NHL talent. The Kings have seven picks in rounds two through four of this year’s draft and six in the same rounds next season.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked what he thought the Pittsburgh Penguins will do about their goaltending situation. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both restricted free agents with arbitration rights and the Penguins can’t afford to keep both.

Yohe speculates Murray could hit the trade block. He’ll command the most money, which could be a problem for the Penguins if the salary cap declines next season. To keep both goalies would mean trading Kris Letang or a couple of other important players.

Asked which two players won’t be on the roster next season, Yohe thinks Nick Bjugstad and Patrick Marleau are the most likely candidates. Bjugstad’s injury history, however, will make him hard to trade. Marleau, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t ruled out re-signing Murray and Jarry, but it will require some salary and roster juggling to pull it off. Even if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Penguins have over $68 million committed to 15 players in 2020-21. New contracts for both goalies will eat up a big chunk of that cap room.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2020

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


SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers will talk contract extension anytime soon with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ representatives. The 26-year-old center is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Photo via NHL Images).

Spector doesn’t expect Oilers general manager Ken Holland will make a contract offer until well into the 2020-21 season. He doesn’t see a great deal of pressure on either side right now but expects Nugent-Hopkins will re-sign. He thinks RNH could seek a salary comparable to teammate Leon Draisaitl‘s $8.5 million annual average value.

(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some recent speculation about Nugent-Hopkins’ future in Edmonton. Considering his development into a solid two-way, top-six forward who can play center or wing, I expect they’ll re-sign him. $8.5 million annually is expensive, especially if the salary cap remains flat for 2021-22. Still, he’s an invaluable part of their core. I expect the two sides will work something out next year.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites a report out of Finland indicating Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t ruling out returning to the Oilers after this season. The 22-year-old winger opted to play in Finland this season while waiting for the Oilers to honor his trade request.

Never say never,” Puljujarvi reportedly said, adding that everything is possible and he hasn’t set any timeline for his decision. Staples feels the best way for the Oilers to get full value out of the winger is for him to return to the club in a meaningful role. He thinks he still has a chance to become a second-line winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Puljujarvi had by most accounts a decent season in Finland. Maybe it’s the reset he needs to get his NHL career back on track.

Holland was reportedly seeking at least a first-round pick as part of any deal involving Puljujarvi, who was selected fourth overall in the 2016 draft. The Oilers GM obviously didn’t get anything proposals he liked, and I doubt that’ll change after this season. If Puljujarvi wants to resume his NHL career, it looks like it’ll be in Edmonton.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required) Corey Masisak recently examined several possible UFA goaltending options for the New Jersey Devils. They’ll need a suitable backup for Mackenzie Blackwood if they buy out Cory Schneider. If they keep Schneider, Masisak thinks they could look for someone to compete with him for the No. 2 spot.

Those that would require a significant investment include Anton Khudobin, Robin Lehner, Cam Talbot, Corey Crawford, and Thomas Greiss. Cheaper short-term options include Aaron Dell, Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Brian Elliott, and Jimmy Howard, while Laurent Brossoit, Michael Hutchinson, and Louis Domingue would be among the low-risk candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin or Greiss might be their best choices. Lehner will be looking for a long-term contract as a starter so that rules him out if the Devils see Blackwood as their No.1 goalie. Crawford is likely to re-sign with the Blackhawks while Talbot could stay in Calgary.

Miller, Anderson, Smith, Elliott, and Howard are all past their primes. Apart from their contracts, they probably wouldn’t be an improvement over Schneider. Neither would Brossoit, Hutchinson, or Domingue.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Blackhawks, Ducks, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has stayed in touch with his pending free agents. However, he hasn’t spoken much about their pending free agency.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (Photo via NHL Images).

​Re-signing Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome are on Bowman’s to-do list but he can’t get into negotiations until he knows what next season’s salary cap will be.

In a mailbag segment, Lazerus was asked who he felt would be the Blackhawks’ starting goalie next season. He still believes it will be Crawford, who badly wants to remain in Chicago and is coming off a strong season.

Making the money work will be difficult, especially with Kubalik and Strome to re-sign. Nevertheless, Crawford would be a better option than most of this year’s pending UFA goalies and not as expensive as Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks don’t have much choice but to re-sign Crawford. They don’t have anyone in their system ready to step in as their full-time starter. Finding a suitable replacement will be expensive. Perhaps Bowman inks the 35-year-old Crawford to a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $4 million.

Asked if the Blackhawks should trade Strome, Lazerus believes it would be a mistake to move the 23-year-old center. He envisions Strome becoming the Hawks No. 2 center behind Kirby Dach in four or five years while Jonathan Toews moves into the third-line center role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome’s production dropped this season (38 points in 58 games) after tallying 51 points in the same number of games with the Hawks last season. Lazerus suggests he’s still scarred by his experience with the Arizona Coyotes and could take a little less to stay where he’s happy and getting lots of playing time.

Strome is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Bowman will likely use that to leverage an affordable short-term bridge deal.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently did his postmortems of the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

Larkin doesn’t expect the rebuilding Ducks will be adding any expensive veterans, especially with their limited salary-cap space for 2020-21. He anticipates they’ll keep trying to shed salary and make room for younger players.

The Sharks, meanwhile, could see around one-third of their roughly $15 million in salary-cap space go toward re-signing Kevin Labanc to a make-good contract after he took a one-year bargain-basement deal last summer. They’ll also have to decide if they’ll bring back Joe Thornton for one more year. If they re-sign the 41-year-old center, it won’t leave much room to chase higher-end UFAs, especially a No. 2 goaltender. Larkin also wondered if they might consider buying out starting goalie Martin Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc has arbitration rights this time around, so GM Doug Wilson must either pay him a suitable raise or trade him. Labanc’s stats declined this season but that could be tied to the Sharks’ overall poor performance.

The cap hit for buying out Jones is $2.875 million for 2020-21, $1.875 million for 2021-22, $2.375 million in 2022-23, and $2.875 million for 2023-24 before dropping to $1.625 million annually through 2027-28. While it’s not expensive, it’s still a long time to be carrying that much dead cap space.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2020

Updates on Jack Eichel and Braden Holtby in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE SCORE: Matt Teague cited Jack Eichel’s recent interview with TSN’s Darren Dreger affirming he and Buffalo Sabres management are on the same page over the club’s lack of progress. The Sabres captain spoke with general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger, saying they understand and share his frustration. Eichel also said he wasn’t the only one expressing that opinion, only he was a little blunter.

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

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s remarks last month over the club’s constant losing prompted some observers to suggest he could end up on the trade block or Botterill could listen to offers. I believe that’s just wishful thinking…for now.

The Sabres have no intention of trading their franchise player. He’s the foundation piece upon whatever future success rests.

Eichel won’t be traded unless he asks for it and there’s no indication he wants out. That could change in two or three years, however, if the Sabres remain mired in mediocrity.


NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently reported on the uncertainty facing Braden Holtby and his fellow unrestricted free agents in the off-season caused by the coronavirus. The 30-year-old goaltender seemed destined to hit the open market, but Regan wondered if there’s an opportunity now for the two sides to work out a deal. “To be honest I have no clue,” Holtby said when asked about his future status as a UFA.

Regan doubts Holtby will sign a one-year contract in hopes of getting a better deal following next season. The Capitals’ future starter, Ilya Samsonov, is already on the roster. Regan doubts the Caps would bring back Holtby as their starter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There been a sense this season that Holtby and the Capitals would party company. This is his first time eligible for UFA status and he reportedly intends to make the most of it.

Holtby’s completing a five-year deal with an annual average value of $6.1 million. As a former Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion, Holtby feels he’s in line for significant pay raise.

The Caps, meanwhile, have over $71 million already invested in 16 players for 2020-21. Even if they re-signed Holtby to a hometown discount on a one-year deal, it would leave them with little to fill out the rest of the roster.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Rangers, Devils, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NEW YORK POST: In a recent mailbag segment, Larry Brooks was asked if the Rangers should trade prospect K’Andre Miller and maybe a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Jonas Brodin. The reader believes the Rangers’ biggest need is finding a suitable defense partner for Jacob Trouba.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (Photo via NHL Images).

Brooks believes Brodin would fill that spot nicely but it would be folly to acquire a player who’s a year away from unrestricted free agency, speculating it could cost the Rangers around $7.5 million annually to re-sign him. He also doesn’t believe it justifies moving Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks suggested the Rangers could resolve that issue from within. He pointed out Brendan Smith played well alongside Trouba after the Blueshirts traded Brady Skjei to Carolina. Libor Hajek could get a shot or they could move Ryan Lindgren alongside Trouba.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked about what it might cost for the New Jersey Devils to acquire Jack Eichel. Masisak doesn’t believe the Buffalo Sabres intend to move their captain, but if they did, they’d want an offer that includes Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier as part of the package.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. The asking price for Eichel would be significant, perhaps far too expensive for the rebuilding Devils. 

Asked about the best way for the Devils to weaponize their cap space for 2020-21, Masisak suggested pursuing a young player a cap-strapped club can’t afford to keep, a veteran player a team is willing to move to re-sign others, or taking on a bad contract if it’s packaged with a prospect or draft pick.

He also thinks it’s unlikely the Devils will make trades with the six other clubs that missed the playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before doing any of that, the Devils must decide if they’ll retain interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald as their full-time GM or replace him with a more experienced hand.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his season postmortem of the Ottawa Senators, Matt Larkin believes they’ll be closer to a salary-floor team next season. Nevertheless, he anticipates they’ll likely pursue a couple of UFA veterans on one-year contracts with an eye on flipping them at next season’s trade deadline for draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Senators also have 13 picks in this year’s draft. Apart from their three first-rounders, I can see them using two or three of those extra picks as trade bait to perhaps acquire a good young player from a team in need of shedding cap space.