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.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton topped Frank Seravalli’s recent list of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell indicated in March the two sides agreed to put aside contract talks until the end of this season. Sources claimed a big gap exists between how much the Hurricanes are willing to pay and what Hamilton’s camp believes is his market value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it makes little sense for the Hurricanes to sign Hamilton before the expansion draft. That would mean protecting him at the expense of perhaps losing blueliner Jake Bean to the Seattle Kraken.

However, the Kraken has a three-day window before the expansion draft to interview pending free agents. Things could get interesting if Hamilton is willing to listen to what they could offer.

Seravalli excluded Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog from this list. There’s no indication either player will be leaving their respective clubs. Both would impact their team’s expansion protection lists if they sign before July 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs could be comfortable waiting until after July 21 to re-sign them if both players are determined to stay put.

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf was also excluded. The Ducks are open to having him return for another season but it remains to be seen if he’ll look elsewhere to chase another Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf, 36, could be back for one more year. Several factors – including his family, his health and his willingness to accept a lesser role with the rebuilding Ducks – will determine his future.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman and Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers hope to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins but that will depend on what he’s seeking in terms of salary. He’s completing a seven-year, $42 million contract. Barrie’s future in Edmonton is less clear.

Mutual interest exists between Hall and the Bruins in talking contract after this season but that will depend on his playoff performance. Hyman wants to stay in Toronto and the Leafs want to keep him but their limited salary-cap space could be an issue.

Seravalli includes former Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet on his list at No. 6. He believes Tocchet will draw interest from multiple teams.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault and Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg fill out the top-ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask on a short-term deal if he’ll accept less than his current annual average value of $7 million. Martinez and Danault face uncertain futures with their current clubs as there’s little indication of contract talks. Wennberg rejuvenated his career in Florida. Panthers GM Bill Zito knows him from their days with the Jackets, signed him last fall, and could ink him to a new deal.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman, Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Blake Coleman checked in at Nos. 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Sabres hope to re-sign Ullmark. Whether he wants to stay is another matter. Hoffman was hoping a big season in St. Louis would bolster his stock in this summer’s UFA market. His inconsistent play, however, could put a lucrative new deal further out of reach.

Recent reports out of Edmonton suggest the Oilers are close to a new deal with Larsson. Andersen’s injury history and his uneven playoff performances could hurt his value but not enough to prevent him from landing with another NHL club. Coleman’s physical two-way style and decent scoring touch will draw plenty of attention if he tests the market.

Colorado Avalanche winger Brandon Saad, Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri, and Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak fill in spots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs likely won’t have the cap space to re-sign Saad as they’ll be keeping Landeskog plus goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar must be signed. The Blues prefer to keep Schwartz but their limited cap space will make it difficult to do.

Granlund could be an affordable re-signing for the Predators. Palmieri’s stock took a tumble in the regular season but could rebound with a strong postseason effort. The Stars could part ways with Oleksiak as they’ll need their limited cap room to re-sign blueliner Miro Heiskanen.

Bruins center David Krejci, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Lightning defenseman David Savard and Bruins blueliner Mike Reilly are in spots 21-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could re-sign Krejci on an affordable short-term deal, especially if they can also retain Taylor Hall. The Jets could retain Stastny if he’s agreeable to a cost-effective contract.

The Canadiens will likely cut ties with the inconsistent Tatar. Savard was a playoff rental for the Lightning as was Reilly with the Bruins. Savard will draw interest from clubs seeking a shutdown blueliner.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci, Arizona Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski, Leafs forward Nick Foligno, Canadiens winger Corey Perry and Coyotes forward Michael Bunting complete the top 30.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 6, 2021

What next for the Rangers following yesterday’s front-office purge? Could Rasmus Sandin’s emergence on the Leafs’ blueline lead to a Morgan Rielly trade? Which Sharks forwards could end up on this summer’s trade block? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker believes the New York Rangers replacing team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton yesterday with Chris Drury indicates ownership wants the current roster reconstruction wrapped up quickly. Drury will be expected to turn the Rangers into a Stanley Cup contender as soon as possible. Reaching the playoffs was a goal this season but will become a requirement in 2021-22.

New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Rangers GM Glen Sather will be working with Drury in a consulting role. Sather was well known for his wheeling and dealing during his long management career. He would prove useful if ownership pressures Drury to explore this summer’s trade and free-agent markets to accelerate the rebuild.

The incident earlier this week with Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson showed a glaring need for more grit in the New York Rangers’ lineup. The club is expected to address its lack of experienced and heavy skaters in the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have considerable depth in young players and prospects to use as trade bait to address that need. Cap Friendly indicates they have $55.6 million invested in 17 players, giving Drury sufficient cap space to target teams looking to shed salary this summer or to pursue unrestricted free agents.

Walker also reported former Rangers captain Mark Messier yesterday told ESPN NY radio he’s ready to help the club any way he can. He believes “One thousand percent” he could coach despite having no prior experience.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I admire Messier’s confidence. However, the Rangers will need an experienced, respected bench boss if they replace David Quinn as head coach. Messier doesn’t tick that box.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently suggested the emergence of Rasmus Sandin on the Maple Leafs’ blueline could make things a little uncomfortable for Morgan Rielly. If the club develops faith in Sandin, trading Rielly and his $5 million cap hit for next season to free up money to re-sign Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen could become an option.

McGran feels Rielly could fetch a return comparable to the first-round pick and prospect the Leafs got for shipping Kaspari Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the blueliner would be safe if Andersen isn’t re-signed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McGran’s just spitballing here. I don’t think Rielly’s got anything to worry about. I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs bring back Andersen. They’ll likely stick with Jack Campbell as their starter and seek a reliable, affordable backup for him in the offseason.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz suggests San Jose Sharks forwards Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc could become expendable after being pushed out of the top-six at times in recent weeks. He speculates one or both could be moved out this summer, perhaps in pursuit of an effective third-line center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s got a $6 million annual salary-cap hit through 2022-23 while Labanc’s is $4725 million annually through 2023-24. Those contracts could prove tough to move with the salary cap staying around $81.5 million next season. It’s not impossible to move them but it could be more of a dollar-in, dollar-out scenario or perhaps the Sharks will have to retain some salary in the deals.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2021

Looking ahead at what the offseason could have in store for the Blue Jackets and Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline examined what could in store during the offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets after being sellers at this year’s NHL trade deadline. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen insists his club isn’t rebuilding but retooling.

Will Seth Jones re-sign this summer with the Columbus Blue Jackets? (NHL Images)

Kekalainen faces a busy offseason. Head coach John Tortorella could be on his way out as he’s in the final year of his contract. Goaltenders Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer and it’s likely one of them will be traded this summer. Winger Patrik Laine is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Defenseman Zach Werenski reaches a similar status next summer but could be re-signed to an extension this summer. 

Blueliner Seth Jones is a year away from UFA eligibility and can be signed to a contract extension this summer. His willingness to commit long-term to the Jackets will determine if the club is retooling or rebuilding. Kekalainen could move quickly to trade Jones if the rearguard rejects an extension.

With three first-round picks in this year’s draft, the Jackets could try to shop one of them (except their own) to add a roster player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a summer of significant change for the Jackets. As Portzline suggests, that will be determined by what happens with Jones. His situation will be closely monitored by Jackets followers this summer.

Merzlikins was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate leading up to Monday’s deadline. He has better stats than Korpisalo, potentially making him a more valuable trade chip to add a quality forward if packaged with one of their extra first-round picks.

Laine will seek a big raise over the $6.75 million salary-cap hit of his current contract. His performance this season, however, might not help his case if it goes to arbitration. Werenski, on the other hand, shouldn’t have much difficulty getting a hefty pay hike given his value to the Jackets blueline.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Tortorella. Many observers (including me) feel the Jackets need a change behind the bench but Kekalainen could see it differently.

MAPLE LEAFS

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently examined the cost for the Maple Leafs of re-signing pending UFAs Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman. He anticipates the latter could command something comparable to the $6.5 million AAV that kicks in next season for Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher.

Keeping Andersen and Hyman would mean trading away someone of significance such as Alex Kerfoot and his $3.5 million cap hit. If the Leafs believe Jack Campbell is ready to become a full-time No. 1 goalie they can let Andersen walk and hopefully have enough space to re-sign Hyman and perhaps add a reliable backup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is probably Andersen’s last season with the Leafs regardless of Campbell’s status. If they have any doubts over Campbell as a starting goalie they’ll keep him as a backup and look to the trade market (maybe Elvis Merzlikins?) or free agency for a suitable starter

As for Hyman, I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs let him walk. He’s developed into an invaluable top-six forward. Unless his salary demands are ridiculous he’ll be re-signed to a long-term deal.










NHL Goaltenders and Early Trade Deadline Odds

NHL Goaltenders and Early Trade Deadline Odds

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 28, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 28, 2021

The latest on Taylor Hall, Tanner Pearson and Travis Hamonic plus updates on the Leafs, Canadiens and Capitals in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Elliotte Friedman believes there’s a lot of teams checking in with the Buffalo Sabres regarding Taylor Hall. He wonders if the St. Louis Blues might be a fit if they can find suitable salary-cap space. The Blues are having trouble scoring of late.

Could the St. Louis Blues afford to acquire Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $5.4 million in LTIR salary available. However, they’ll lose that buffer when Colton Parayko and Ivan Barbashev come off LTIR later in the season. It’ll have to be a dollar-for-dollar swap for Hall. Even then, the Sabres will probably have to pick up half of his $8 million cap hit.

Friedman also reports Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said sideline goaltender Frederik Andersen is undergoing some different evaluations. He said the Leafs don’t feel Andersen’s season is in jeopardy and they’re not actively looking for a goalie. They don’t have much salary-cap room and don’t want to add a netminder unless they absolutely have to.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, unless Andersen’s season is over so they can put him on LTIR they cannot afford to pursue a goaltender.

UPDATE ON THE CANADIENS

TSN: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he’s not trying to free up salary-cap space to make more moves before the April 12 trade deadline. However, he didn’t rule it out. “Anything’s possible,” said Bergevin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Eric Engels believes Bergevin isn’t done dealing because of his depth in draft picks and a prospect pool that won’t suffer much damage if one or two were used as trade bait. He also believes the Habs GM could move a marginal player to free up cap space.

The Canadiens are in a good position to make another trade akin to their Friday acquisition of Eric Staal. The question, however, is whether Staal and whoever else Bergevin might bring in will ensure a playoff berth and a chance at a deep postseason run.

LATEST ON PEARSON AND HAMONIC

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports contract talks haven’t taken place yet between Vancouver Canucks management and Tanner Pearson. The 28-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent. He’s sidelined with a lower-body injury but could return to action before the trade deadline. Johnston believes he could become a trade candidate if the two sides don’t get a deal done before the deadline.

Speaking of the Canucks, Friedman believes the Carolina Hurricanes had an interest in Travis Hamonic. Like Pearson, the 30-year-old Hamonic is eligible for UFA status this summer. The Hurricanes are interested in acquiring a right-hand shot defenseman. However, Hamonic prefers to remain in Western Canada and isn’t waiving his no-trade clause.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston included Pearson among his five potential Canucks trade candidates. The others include winger Jake Virtanen, defenseman Alex Edler, center Brandon Sutter and blueliner Jordie Benn.

Sutter is already of interest to the Edmonton Oilers. Edler could draw some interest if he can be convinced to waive his no-movement clause.

Johnston believes the Canucks should attempt to stockpile draft picks with their tradeable assets to put toward future acquisitions. He recommends targeting teams in the offseason who risk losing players in the expansion draft, suggesting a defenseman like Devon Toews could be left exposed by the Colorado Avalanche. The Carolina Hurricanes could be another option given their depth in blueliners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks should be sellers by the deadline and look at coming back stronger next season. Peddle as many of those pending UFAs as possible and see if you can find a taker for Virtanen and the final year of his contract (with that $3.4 million in actual salary).

As Johnston suggests, follow the Canadiens example and stockpile draft picks that can be used in the offseason to pry away quality players (preferably defensemen) from cap-strapped clubs or teams that risk losing a good player in the expansion draft.

Edler might not be interested in waiving his no-movement clause. If Hamonic’s not waiving his no-trade that means he’s not heading to the Winnipeg Jets as some have suggested. Then again, maybe the Jets haven’t expressed an interest in the Manitoba native.

COULD THE CAPITALS SHOP FOR A GOALIE?

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir suggested Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier and San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk among his shortlist of potential goaltending trade targets for the Washington Capitals. Calgary’s David Rittich and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne are the other two, though he considers it unlikely Rinne will waive his no-movement clause to leave the Predators.

El-Bashir acknowledged the Capitals’ limited salary-cap space would make pursuing a rental goalie difficult for general manager Brian MacLellan. Further complicating things is the recent improvement of young goalies Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Bean suggests Samsonov’s recent play is taking some pressure off MacLellan to bring in an experienced rental goaltender. Given their salary-cap situation, the Capitals GM could be content to stand pat by the deadline.