Ovechkin Tops NHL’s 2021 UFA Class
A look at some bold predictions for 2021 in the NHL Rumor Mill.
SPORTSNET: Over the weekend, Luke Fox made some bold NHL predictions for 2021. Some of them involved possible trades and free-agent moves.
Fox believes Alex Ovechkin will reach a four-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, perhaps accepting a slight pay cut to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals fail to reach an agreement on a new contract before his current deal expires next summer.
Taylor Hall “explodes offensively” skating alongside Jack Eichel this season with the Buffalo Sabres. However, Fox predicts Hall will chase his Stanley Cup dreams elsewhere as the Sabres’ poor goaltending turns them once again into an also-ran.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I disagree with that prediction. However, that could change if the Sabres actually reach the playoffs.
Fox expects the Winnipeg Jets will trade Patrik Laine at some point in 2021. He’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and the Jets don’t have enough dollars to keep Laine in the fold.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been plenty of Laine trade speculation since early September, with his agent at one point suggesting it would be mutually beneficial for both sides if the young sniper was moved. If that comes to pass, the issue for Jets management is finding a suitable return. They could use a proven right-side, top-pairing defenseman.
Fox suggests the Ottawa Senators should expose recently-acquired goalie Matt Murray in next summer’s expansion draft and protect emerging netminder Filip Gustavsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My guess is they’ll expose Marcus Hogberg in the draft unless Murray plays poorly this season.
Dougie Hamilton could be leaving the Carolina Hurricanes via trade or in next summer’s UFA market. He’s due for a significant raise but there’s no indication the two sides are close to agreement on an extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon Hamilton’s asking price and where the Hurricanes are in the standings by the April 12 trade deadline.
Tyson Barrie could be reinvigorated with the Edmonton Oilers and earn a contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out Adam Larsson comes off the Oilers’ books next summer, freeing up sufficient cap space for Barrie. A solid performance could keep him in Edmonton beyond this season.
Fox also predicts Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault could get squeezed out by young centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, forcing him to seek work elsewhere via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out that possibility. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played very well during last summer’s playoffs. If those performances carry over into this season, Danault could see third-line duty with the Habs. He doesn’t see himself in that role and I doubt he’d be willing to accept it on a permanent basis to stay in Montreal.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could expand his list of preferred trade destinations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boston and Vancouver were the only clubs on Ekman-Larsson’s preferred trade destination list. The Coyotes couldn’t swing a deal before his deadline of Oct.9. The Coyotes captain maintains he loves living and playing in Arizona. We’ll see if management tries again to shop him following this season.
The latest on Evander Kane, Tyson Barrie, Austin Watson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane took to Twitter yesterday to challenge Jake Paul to a fight after Paul knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the undercard of Saturday’s boxing match between aging fighters Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr.
THE SCORE: Kane’s challenge to Paul prompted taunts from Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves and his brother Jordan, who plays for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Reaves has a longstanding rivalry with Kane.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sunday was definitely a slow day for hockey news. With the American Thanksgiving weekend now over, here’s hoping we see some definitive news this week on whether the NHL and NHLPA can resolve their escrow and salary deferral differences and reach a decision on a truncated season.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz believes Tyson Barrie has a great opportunity with the Edmonton Oilers to bolster his stock after last season’s disappointing performance with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Oilers last month. The puck-moving blueliner will be eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer. A bounce-back effort will not only improve his free-agent value but could also entice the Oilers into re-signing him.
OTTAWA SUN: Austin Watson is looking forward to a fresh start with the rebuilding Senators. The 28-year-old forward was acquired from the Nashville Predators last month.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Larry Carriere is stepping away from the Canadiens front office after 10 seasons to explore other options. He’s spent 42 years in pro hockey, seven as a player and the rest in scouting, coaching and front-office roles with the Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals and the Canadiens.
CTV EDMONTON: The government of Alberta paid $4 million to the NHL during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to advertise in the city of Edmonton. It was seen as an opportunity to showcase the province to millions of viewers from outside Alberta.
The latest on Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos, plus a look at yesterday’s notable free-agent signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
UPDATES ON JOHNSON AND STAMKOS
THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson cleared waivers yesterday. The Lightning had hoped a rival club would claim Johnson and clear his $5 million annual average value from their books.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts hope to shed some salary to create cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Trading Johnson is still possible but the Lightning will have to include a sweetener in the deal like a quality draft pick, prospect or young player. He has a full no-trade but has reportedly submitted a list of preferred trade destinations.
TSN: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair an abdominal core muscle. He’s expected to make a full recovery before the start of the 2020-21 season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos will have plenty of time to recover. The NHL and NHLPA have targeted Jan. 1 for the start date of next season. I believe March 1 could be a more realistic start date, depending on the course of the second wave of COVID-19.
NOTABLE UFA SIGNINGS
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Barrie addition is an affordable short-term acquisition to address Oscar Klefbom’s anticipated lengthy absence as he deals with a nagging shoulder injury. Bringing back Smith, however, doesn’t improve their goaltending, which is their biggest weakness. After failing to find an upgrade via free agency, GM Ken Holland seems unwilling to take a chance in the trade market.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks are reportedly close to bringing back winger Patrick Marleau for a third stint.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau’s had a long, productive NHL career, most of it with the Sharks. However, the 41-year-old winger is well past his prime. This could be based more on sentimentality than what he can actually bring to their lineup.
SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed former Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild opted not to re-sign their long-time captain after the 37-year-old Koivu dropped down their depth chart last season. His best days are behind him but he could still have one decent season left as a fourth-line center with the Jackets.
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings signed goaltender Thomas Greiss to a two-year deal with an annual average value of $3.6 million and defenseman Troy Stecher to a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.7 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Two decent short-term deals bringing some much-needed goaltending and blueline depth to the rebuilding Wings.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed winger Craig Smith to a three-year deal with a $3.1 million AAV.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes signed winger Jesper Fast to a three-year deal ($2 million AAV).
SPORTSNET: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Cody Eakin to a two-year, $4.5-million contract.
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year, $1-million contract.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed forward Johan Larsson to a two-year, $2.8-million contract.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals signed defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year, $800K contract.
NOTABLE RFA SIGNINGS
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The Sharks re-signed winger Kevin Lebanc to a four-year deal worth an AAV of $4.725 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is Lebanc’s reward for only taking a one-year, $1-million contract last year when the Sharks were facing a salary-cap crunch. His production was down last season but that could be due to the Sharks’ overall poor performance last season. This could be a worthwhile contract for the Sharks if Lebanc regains his 56-point form from 2018-19.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed wingers Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin to two-year contracts. Burakovsky’s AAV is $4.9 million while Nichushkin’s is $2.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Both forwards were key contributors to the Avalanche last season. Burakovsky enjoyed a career-best 20 goal, 45 point performance in 58 games last season while Nichushkin has turned into a versatile checking-line forward.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres re-signed defenseman Brandon Montour to a one-year, $3.85-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montour was the frequent topic of trade speculation last season. It’ll be interesting to see if he has a future in Buffalo beyond next season.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild re-signed winger Jordan Greenway to a two-year, $4.2-million contract.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: The Ottawa Senators acquired forward Austin Watson from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round pick.
NHLPA: 26 NHL players filed yesterday for salary arbitration. The arbitration period begins Oct. 20 and concludes Nov. 8.
Detroit Red Wings
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Plenty of notable talent remains in the NHL’s UFA market. Check out the latest on Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall and more in today’s rumor mill.
STLTODAY.COM: Tom Timmermann took note of the Vegas Golden Knights trading center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets yesterday. He speculates it was done as part of an attempt clear sufficient salary-cap space to sign former St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights only have $1.875 million in cap space. They must shed more salary to come up with enough for Pietrangelo. The Las Vegas Sun’s Justin Emerson isn’t ruling out a splashy signing, suggesting Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Nate Schmidt could become cost-cutting trade options.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas put in a call yesterday to Pietrangelo’s agent but that’s as far as it went. Dubas admitted the Leafs were never close to signing the former Blues captain, shifting instead to signing former Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie.
TVA SPORTS: reports Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin indicated former Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall was a player he was watching closely in the UFA market. He added signing Hall would depend upon the number of years and the annual average salary. TVA Sports also speculated the Habs could have an interest in Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss notes the Bruins have around $15 million in salary-cap space, suggesting they use it to pursue a forward. UFA options could include Hall, Tyler Toffoli, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov or Craig Smith.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall is reportedly willing to consider one- or two-year deals with an eye on testing the free-agent market again for a more lucrative deal. That will undoubtedly make him attractive to playoff hopefuls like the Canadiens. The Bruins, however, could have the upper hand if they still feel their Stanley Cup window remains open.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnson reports the Vancouver Canucks have been connected to former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were also linked to Barrie.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples notes conflicting reports among TSN insiders linking Barrie to the Oilers. Ryan Rishaug and Darren Dreger said the club is in the mix for the blueliner, but Pierre LeBrun said Barrie was too expensive for the Oilers. That view is shared by Staples’ colleague Jim Matheson, who also reported the Oilers could be interested in UFA goalie Thomas Greiss or trade with Carolina for Petr Mrazek.
LATEST ON THE RED WINGS
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman isn’t done making moves to plug some holes in his roster. He signed winger Bobby Ryan and defenseman Jon Merrill yesterday. The Wings need a goaltender as well as another defenseman and another forward.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan suggests Thomas Greiss would be the Wings’ best option for a short-term goaltender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Wings still have over $25 million in cap space. If yesterday’s signings are any indication, however, Yzerman doesn’t intend to make an expensive splash in the UFA market. With so many goalies coming off the market yesterday, Greiss is now the best of the remaining bunch.
The NHL’s free-agent market opens at noon ET today. Check out the latest speculation on Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Torey Krug and many more in today’s rumor mill.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was ready to go to market as of yesterday afternoon. He’s up to visiting with interested clubs that are willing to have him travel. It could take a couple of days until he reaches a decision on his destination and next contract. The Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs could be among the interested parties.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports it could take moving a high-profile Leaf or two, such as William Nylander or Frederik Andersen, to free up cap space to sign Pietrangelo. He feels general manager Kyle Dubas has hinted that’s not going to happen, giving Andersen a vote of confidence while staying out of the Matt Murray trade market.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi expects Pietrangelo will be too costly for the Philadelphia Flyers. He suggests more affordable options like Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, Boston’s Torey Krug or Calgary’s T.J. Brodie.
TSN: Darren Dreger said the Arizona Coyotes might not be able to meet the Friday trade deadline set by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’ll only waive his no-movement clause for the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report the Canucks appear the more interested buyer for Ekman-Larsson.
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the parameters of a deal with the Canucks would include “a draft pick of some magnitude, an inefficient contract from their bottom-six and a prospect.”
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: cites TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting the Bruins don’t like Arizona’s asking price. The Coyotes are believed to prefer the Bruins’ prospects over the Canucks.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report there’s some talk Coyotes winger Taylor Hall would consider a reunion with the Edmonton Oilers. It would be difficult to achieve that unless the Oilers shed some salary.
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers suggests Hall would be a perfect fit for the Colorado Avalanche’s second line. He’s open to a short-term deal, perhaps a one-year contract that could pave the way for a longer contract in free agency after next season.
THE ATHLETIC: With the Columbus Blue Jackets shedding salary yesterday, Aaron Portzline wonders if they might get into the bidding for Hall. Other options could include Florida’s Mike Hoffman or Evgenii Dadonov or Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli.
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the Vancouver Canucks remain confident of re-signing Jacob Markstrom despite persistent rumors linking the goaltender to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Oilers are among the teams that could be interested in Markstorm if he goes to market today.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman reported the Flames, Detroit Red Wings and Oilers (despite their salary-cap constraints) could pursue Markstrom.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples doesn’t see how the Oilers could afford Markstrom, who could seek $6 million annually on a long-term deal.
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson believes Markstrom should be the Flames’ top target in the UFA market. He feels Markstrom could become the high-end goalie they’ve been missing since Miikka Kiprusoff retired.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks listed the Minnesota Wild as a possible destination for Markstrom if he goes to market.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sarah McLellan also included Markstrom among possible Wild UFA targets. Other options could include Washington’s Braden Holtby and Chicago Corey Crawford.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the Vegas Golden Knights have put trading goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the side burner for now. His no-trade clause and $7 million annual average value makes him difficult to move.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is garnering interest from the Oilers.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild could be interested in Holtby.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report of increased chatter suggesting the Red Wings could pursue Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. He was raised in a Detroit suburb and seeks long-term security. The Wings have the cap space to make a lucrative offer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman would like to address his blueline issues with one or two defenseman signings. It remains to be seen if he’ll pursue Krug. Yzerman said he expects to be “relatively conservative” in the free-agent market.
TSN: Goaltender Anton Khudobin is heading to market after talks broke off with the Stars. The Flames could be interested, along with the Canucks if they fail to re-sign Jacob Markstrom or the Golden Knights if they can move Marc-Andre Fleury.
TOFFOLI AND TANEV
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Chris Tanev are heading to market.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Toffoli tops Brian Witt’s list of possible free-agent targets for the San Jose Sharks.
BRODIE AND HAMONIC
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Flames renewed contract talks with defenseman T.J. Brodie. Dreger also believes Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic would sign with his hometown Winnipeg Jets but there’s not a lot of interest at the moment. The Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Oilers could be among Hamonic’s suitors.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman reported the Oilers could have an interest in Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie as a short-term replacement for sidelined blueliner Oscar Klefbom.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss could draw interest from the Canucks if they fail to re-sign Markstrom or Vegas if they trade Fleury.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggested Greiss or Cam Talbot could be a fit with the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The opening hours of the free-agent period tend to be very busy with the best available players being quickly signed. However, it will be interesting to see how the flattened salary cap affects the market and the pace of the signings.