NHL Rumor Mill – December 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 21, 2020

A look at a recent update on the notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently published her updated list of the top remaining unrestricted free agents.

Mike Hoffman remains atop the list, with the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils among possible destinations.

Could Mike Hoffman soon have a new contract? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports talks have heated up with Hoffman, with as many as six clubs involved. With the dates for training camp and the start of the season now official, Hoffman won’t be the only UFA whose contract discussed will intensify.

Sadler cited Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland earlier this month linking winger Mikael Granlund to the Predators, Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, among other clubs. She doubts there will be a reunion between the Predators and Granlund, who struggled during his brief tenure in Nashville.

Manitoba-born defenseman Travis Hamonic could be a fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers had had some interest in Hamonic. Sadler also notes his former team, the Calgary Flames, could use him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation persists linking Hamonic with the Canucks, but they’ll have to clear some cap space to do it. One way could be placing Micheal Ferland (head trauma) on long-term injury reserve as well as demoting someone like winger Sven Baertschi. The Flyers no longer seem interested while the Flames seem to be going with younger, more affordable blueliners.

Speculation persists of a possible reunion between center Erik Haula and the Vegas Golden Knights. Given their cap constraints, they’ll have to shed a salary to get under the salary cap and to sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent trade chatter about the Golden Knights shopping Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault was based on them cutting cap payroll and perhaps add an affordable forward like Haula.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley denied Pacioretty was being shopped but we haven’t heard any denials about Marchessault’s trade status. I think the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup hopes are better with those two in the lineup. They’ll have to consider other options if they want to bring back Haula.

Other notables on Sadler’s list include center Carl Soderberg, defenseman Sami Vatanen, forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Derick Brassard and Corey Perry and blueliner Zdeno Chara, as well as winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider, plus defenseman Ron Hainsey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed Martin, Greene and Schneider already have deals with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once center Mathew Barzal is re-signed.

Anthony Duclair, Ilya Kovalchuk and Melker Karlsson also appeared on Sadler’s list. Since its publication last week, Duclair signed with the Florida Panthers, Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with a KHL team while Karlsson is under contract with a Swedish team for the rest of this season.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

How will the Capitals replace Henrik Lundqvist? Will the Blues go the free-agent route to replace retired Alexander Steen? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir wonders how the Washington Capitals will replace Henrik Lundqvist as a heart condition has sidelined the 38-year-old goaltender for this season.

Could Ryan Miller be an option for the Washington Capitals to replace Henrik Lundqvist? (NHL Images).

Among the options is signing an unrestricted free agent. Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard are available. It’s believed Miller prefers to remain out west with his family but El-Bashir wonders if he’d be tempted by the opportunity to play for a contender during a shortened season.

The Capitals could go the trade route or bring in Vitek Vanecek or Pheonix Copley to back up Ilya Samsonov.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen believes the Capitals’ limited cap space makes it difficult to trade for a goaltender. In addition to Miller and Howard, he listed Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider as UFA options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller prefers staying in California and could sign a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. If that’s not possible, maybe he’d consider joining the Capitals.

Anderson is 39 and it appears his NHL days are over. Schneider is believed to have an agreement with the New York Islanders to be officially announced once they’ve signed Mathew Barzal.

Howard is keen for a bounce-back season following a poor 2019-20 performance with the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. He could be the Capitals’ best bet if they cannot find a suitable replacement for Lundqvist via trade or from within.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports Alexander Steen’s retirement due to a back injury will provide the St. Louis Blues with salary-cap flexibility. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.2 million but will get some wiggle room by placing Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit for this season on long-term injury reserve. They will use part of it to sign restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn, who might cost approximately $2.5 million.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the Blues could also use that cap relief to add a scoring winger. His suggested free-agent options include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also suggested Hoffman, Granlund and Athanasiou, as well as forward Erik Haula as UFA targets for the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues could get additional cap relief by placing sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR. However, he’s expected to return later this season, prompting Rutherford to speculate they probably won’t “borrow” from his $7.5 million cap hit.

Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. Maybe he’d accept a lower price to play for a contender but I think he’ll try to stick to his guns. Granlund, Athanasiou and Haula could be more affordable options.










NHL Trade and Free-Agent Markets Could Soon Stir to Life

NHL Trade and Free-Agent Markets Could Soon Stir to Life

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.

The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.

Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.

Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.

If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

A look at some predicted destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently predicted destinations for the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

Would Mike Hoffman be a good fit with the Los Angeles Kings? (NHL Images)

Wegman last month predicted the Los Angeles Kings as a destination for winger Mike Hoffman, considering him a good fit alongside Anze Kopitar on their top line. He suggested a four-year deal worth $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: With Cap Friendly indicating the Kings have $13.6 million in cap space, they can easily afford Hoffman. However, I doubt general manager Rob Blake would bring a 30-year-old winger to a rebuilding roster on a multi-year deal.

Hoffman is reportedly willing to consider a one-year deal for between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. Maybe Blake would be interested in a one-year contract if he can get Hoffman at a lower rate and then flip him for futures at the trade deadline.

Wegman also suggested Anthony Duclair for the Kings. While his defensive game leaves something to be desire, his abilities could prove useful in offensive-zone starts and on the power play for a club that struggled to score last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 25-year-old Duclair could be a better fit with the younger Kings and much more affordable than Hoffman. His defensive play and streaky scoring, however, are areas of concern here.

Erik Haula could address the San Jose Sharks’ lack of bottom-six depth at center. He wouldn’t be overly expensive for the Sharks, who have $2.3 million in cap space. While injuries hampered him over the last two seasons, he tallied 29 goals and 26 assists in his last full campaign in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula could be a good, affordable short-term investment as a third-line center in San Jose. Given his injury history and age (29), the Sharks probably wouldn’t invest beyond one year.

The Florida Panthers could use an experienced winger like Mikael Granlund to provide much-needed secondary scoring. He’s coming off a down performance last season with the Nashville Predators but averaged 63 points per campaign in the three previous seasons. He’d be guaranteed second-line minutes with the Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Panthers could be trying to bring back Hoffman. Nevertheless, Granlund’s low production last season and the current economic situation would work in their favor here. A one-year deal for between $3.5 – $4 million might get it done.

Wegman suggests Andreas Athanasiou as a middle-six forward option for the Nashville Predators. The speedy 26-year-old winger didn’t play well last season with Detroit and Edmonton but he tallied 30 goals with the Red Wings in 2018-19.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think the Predators are playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping to land him for a lower price. If that’s not possible, maybe they’ll take a chance on Athanasiou or Duclair on a low-cost one-year contract.

Manitoba native Travis Hamonic could be a perfect fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The 30-year-old defenseman would play close to home and help improve the Jets’ porous blueline. While they’re listed as not having any cap space, they could get some wiggle room by placing center Bryan Little ($5.29 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic and the Jets could be waiting to see how things shake out with Little before reaching an agreement. Then again, maybe the Jets have no interest in him.

Wegman suggests Sami Vatanen could be the best veteran free-agent defense option available to the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn’t bring in a suitable replacement for recently retired Matt Niskanen. The 29-year-old Vatanen has played 21 minutes per game in recent years and would give the Flyers a third right-handed shot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could surprise us, but I get the impression Erik Gustafsson will be his only UFA signing this year.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

The latest Bruins speculation plus some free-agent options available to the Blue Jackets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DJ Bean examined what’s left for the Bruins to do during this offseason. They must sign winger Jake DeBrusk, determine if defenseman Zdeno Chara will return and fill a need for depth among their middle-six forwards.

Will Zdeno Chara return to the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Given the Bruins’ limited salary-cap space ($7.35 million per PuckPedia) and DeBrusk’s streaky scoring, Bean believes the 22-year-old restricted free agent should receive a short-term deal worth somewhere in the range of $4 million annually.

Nothing much has happened with Chara, but if the unrestricted free agent wanted to leave, Bean thinks he would’ve done so by now. He feels the Bruins could use him as a third-pairing, left-side defenseman.

Bean believes the Bruins need additional left-wing depth. Possible options could include Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Erik Haula or Andreas Athanasiou. He doubts they have sufficient cap space for Hoffman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Bruins intend to sign DeBrusk on that short-term deal suggested by Bean. It’ll likely happen by the time training camp opens, which could be around mid-December if the NHL begins its 2020-21 schedule on Jan. 1.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the schedule forward for ’20-’21 looks like before deciding if he’ll return for another season. I concur with Bean that if the 43-year-old rearguard was signing with another club he would’ve done so by now, though we can’t rule out the possibility he’d get a better offer elsewhere. Nevertheless, I believe his preference is playing for the Bruins.

The Bruins could go the free-agent route to address their need for another left winger. Unless they make a cost-cutting trade, however, they can’t afford Hoffman. They might have to go into the bargain bin.

They could also go the trade route to address that need. Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty reports prospect defenseman Urho Vaakanainen could be a trade candidate.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger examined the free-agent options available to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen if he wants to bring in additional depth.

The Jackets could use a short-term replacement for Gustav Nyquist, who’s sidelined for five months recovering from shoulder surgery. Options include Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and former Blue Jackets Derick Brassard and Anthony Duclair. However, Hedger believes Kekalainen could instead look at promoting a promising young player.

Hedger feels the Jackets’ blueline depth took a bit of a hit when Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara were traded in cost-cutting deals. He suggests Sami Vatanen would be a good fit on the right side of the third pairing.

Kekalainen might need an experienced goalie if he decides to trade Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo for additional cap space. Options could include Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets popgun offense was a concern before Nyquist was sidelined. Kekalainen could go the UFA route or promote from within, but I’ve also read reports suggesting he could instead target a cap-strapped rival in the trade market.

Kekalainen could look to within his system to address his need on the third pairing but I wouldn’t rule out making an affordable short-term free-agent signing. Vatanen might be the best option but might not be cost-effective.

If Kekalainen trades Merzlikins or Korpisalo I believe he’ll promote Matiss Kivlenieks rather than add an aging UFA netminder.