NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

Are the Oilers making progress in Nugent-Hopkins’ contract talks? Will they trade or buy out Mikko Koskinen or James Neal? Could Oscar Klefbom be exposed in the expansion draft? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Oilers general manager Jim Matheson faces a long to-do list this summer. Topping that list is signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a new contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

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

Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay but Matheson wondered if Holland will go higher than $6 million per season or $5.5 million and over five years. He also feels the Oilers see him now as a top-six left-winger rather than a center and want to pay him as such.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson’s colleague David Staples cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming Nugent-Hopkins contract talks haven’t gone well and his status remains uncertain. They were apparently close to a deal before the season began but things fell apart at the last minute.

Plenty of time for the two sides to work things out. I’d get concerned, however, if they haven’t gotten any closer when the calendar flips to July. Nugent-Hopkins will draw plenty of interest around the league if he goes to market on July 28. Someone will pay him what he wants.

The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old goaltender Mike Smith. As for Mikko Koskinen, Matheson believes his return is less than 50-50. They might not buy out Koskinen but Matheson wondered if they’d absorb part of the goalie’s $4.5 million cap hit to facilitate a trade or include a player or draft pick to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples noted Friedman said buying out Koskinen was a possibility. He also cited NHL insider Brian Lawton telling Oilers Now show host Bob Stauffer the Oilers shouldn’t bring Koskinen back. However, Staples suggests finding a suitable replacement this summer won’t be easy.

Koskinen, 32, struggled at times this season and wasn’t a reliable backup for Smith. He has just one year left on his contract. I think Holland will try to trade him, even if it means eating some of his salary. Failing that, he’ll probably go the buyout route at a cap hit of $1.5 million for 2021-22 and 2022-23 as per Cap Friendly.

Turning to the blueline, Matheson wondered if Holland will leave Oscar Klefbom unprotected in the expansion draft. He’d be taking a chance on the Kraken being scared off by the defenseman’s season-long absence with a shoulder injury.

Pending UFA blueliner Tyson Barrie is looking at a long-term deal and will see what’s out there. Matheson expected Holland will re-sign Adam Larsson, perhaps around the same $4.1 million range of his current deal. The question is whether it’s three or four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland must also ensure he’ll have sufficient long-term cap space to sign Darnell Nurse to a contract extension. He’s slated to become a UFA next summer but contact talks can begin this summer. If Klefbom is selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft it’ll free up $4.1 million from their cap payroll, giving Holland extra room to sign Nurse or make other moves.

Matheson considers it likely Holland will buy out veteran winger James Neal. Doing so would free up $3.83 million in each of the next two seasons to target an unrestricted free agent winger such as Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Toronto’s Zach Hyman. If Neal is bought out, Matheson sees him returning to Pittsburgh where he had his best seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Mark Spector believes Holland should buy out Neal, considering him dead cap space already at $5.75 million annually and barely playing. It would count as $1.92 million over the next four years against the Oilers cap.

He also suggests Holland should explore trading Neal, absorbing half his salary for the final two years of his contract to make it work. However, he feels there would have to be something else included in the deal.

A trade is possible. A buyout is more likely. And no, he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin like him. He’s a fading star who won’t address the Penguins’ need for a better starting goalie and more skilled toughness in their lineup.

Matheson also suggested St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Vegas Golden Knights versatile forward Mattias Janmark and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth as possible free-agent targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland would have better luck landing Janmark and/or Nemeth than Schwartz. The Blues hope to re-sign him. Failing that, he’ll draw considerable interest in the free-agent market. The Oilers might not win a bidding war for his services.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

Are the Penguins facing a roster shakeup? What next for the Panthers following another early postseason exit? What could be in store for the Oilers this offseason? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan wonders if the Pittsburgh Penguins will face a roster shakeup following their first-round elimination by the New York Islanders. Veteran core players Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have a year remaining on their respective contracts, with Malkin carrying a no-movement clause.

The Penguins risk losing a young depth forward such as Zach Aston-Reese, Jared McCann or possibly Kasperi Kapanen to the Seattle Kraken in this summer’s expansion draft.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel also wonders about the futures of Malkin and Letang, as well as that of head coach Mike Sullivan.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Based on comments earlier this season by Brian Burke, the Penguins president of hockey operations, Vensel speculates they could try to bolster their goaltending while also adding some size and toughness to the lineup. The shaky performance of Tristan Jarry could send the Penguins into this summer’s trade and free-agent markets in search of help between the pipes.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille believes Jarry’s goaltending cost the Penguins the series. He wonders if they’ll move around some money to pursue a free agent such as Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier or Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark or look to the trade market for help.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t need to blow up the roster but changes are necessary after three consecutive early postseason exits. Burke and general manager Ron Hextall will likely retool rather than rebuild, bringing in younger players to support their aging stars.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn’t in favor of breaking up the core. His opinion could carry some weight with Burke and Hextall but the final decisions rest with those two.

Crosby isn’t going anywhere and Malkin won’t be traded unless he requests it. The Penguins could shop Letang but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returns. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred destinations. He also carries a $7.25 million cap hit next season.

Goaltending is their weakness. Jarry was supposed to be an improvement over the departed Matt Murray but he couldn’t handle the pressure as a starter. Finding a suitably experienced starter will be top of the list, followed by adding more size and toughness.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Florida Panthers could lose a good roster player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It could be a forward such as Patric Hornqvist or Mason Marchment, a blueliner like Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas or Markus Nuutivaara, or pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Dave Hyde pondered what promising goalie Spencer Knight’s performance in the final two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning means for Sergei Bobrovsky’s future in Florida. He wondered if general manager Bill Zito will try to move Bobrovsky this summer if someone is willing to take on the veteran netminder’s hefty contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers drafting Knight in the 2019 draft and signing Bobrovsky days later was a topic of recent amusement for some folks on social media. They conveniently overlook the fact that it was former Panthers GM Dale Tallon who made those moves. Zito was left with a headache.

Bobrovksky’s inconsistent play since joining the Panthers, his full no-movement clause and $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 makes him difficult to move, especially with the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season. As per Cap Friendly, a buyout will be an expensive long-term headache.

MORE OILERS SPECULATION

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson doesn’t expect Oilers GM Ken Holland to go on a massive spending spree this summer to bolster his roster. While Holland will have $28 million in cap space, a portion will be spent on trying to re-sign pending UFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.

Matheson considers Larsson the cheapest and most likely to be re-signed. Nugent-Hopkins will be the most expensive while Barrie could be departing after a year in Edmonton because he’ll want a long-term deal.

Holland said he intends to bring back goaltender Mike Smith for another season. Matheson wonders if Mikko Koskinen will be traded, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or prospect to a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of their young goalies.

Buyouts are also possible. Matheson believes James Neal to be the most likely candidate. Holland didn’t rule out trading a prospect such as Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway for immediate help but he said he’s not doing that for a one-year player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could try to convince Nugent-Hopkins to accept slightly less than his current $6 million annual average value. If RNH signs elsewhere, Holland will use the savings to bring in a replacement via trade or free agency.

I like Matheson’s suggestion of packaging Koskinen to the Blue Jackets for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. Koskinen’s 15-team no-trade list, however, could be a sticking point if he doesn’t want to go to Columbus. Even then, the Jackets could get better offers for one of those goalies.










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 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 14, 2021

The latest on Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, Tyson Barrie and Nolan Patrick plus recent speculation on the Red Wings and Lightning in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON EICHEL, HALL, BARRIE AND PATRICK

WGR550.COM: TSN insider Frank Seravalli said he spoke to an NHL general manager potentially interested in trading for Jack Eichel saying he considers the Buffalo Sabres captain untradeable at the moment. He cited the status of the center’s health and his apparent unhappiness with the Sabres.

Eichel and the Sabres’ front office are in disagreement over the treatment of a herniated disk in his neck. He’s said to be interested in a surgical procedure never done on an NHL player before while the Sabres prefer a conservative rehab approach.

Seravalli still feels there are teams around the league with sufficient salary-cap space who would take the risk on Eichel. He believes the Los Angeles Kings are interested based on a cursory conversation they had with the Sabres before the trade deadline. He thinks they have the assets to make a trade work but rules out the Kings parting with top prospect Quinton Byfield.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel and the Sabres have reportedly agreed to wait until early June to decide on the next step in his treatment. The healthier he is, of course, the more interested they will be. As Seravalli indicated, those clubs will want to review Eichel’s medical reports before agreeing to swing a deal with the Sabres.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss recently reported Bruins president Cam Neely said his club would like to try and re-sign Taylor Hall but they’d like to see how things go in the playoffs. Hall is providing a big boost to the Bruins’ offense since his acquisition from the Sabres at the trade deadline.

Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer but has expressed an interest in staying with the Bruins. His performance in the upcoming postseason and what he’s looking for in his next contract will determine his future in Boston.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports Tyson Barrie could test this summer’s UFA market following his solid bounce-back performance this season with the Edmonton Oilers. Barrie would like to stay in Edmonton but he also wants the stability of a long-term contract. That might not be possible with the Oilers attempting to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last season’s disappointing performance with the Toronto Maple Leafs hurt Barrie’s stock in last year’s free-agent market. His play this season could fetch him a lucrative new deal elsewhere. Dreger mentioned Barrie could seek a five- or six-year term. Whether that’s possible given the current salary-cap constraints remains to be seen.

Frank Seravalli speculated on the possibility of Nolan Patrick seeking a fresh start away from the Philadelphia Flyers. The 22-year-old forward is a restricted free agent and recently hired his third agent in as many years. Seravalli said the Flyers still feel Patrick is a player just scratching the surface of his talent and would like to see him get a full summer of training and come to training camp healthy for the first time in a while.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Selected second overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, Patrick missed all of 2019-20 with migraine issues. Perhaps the two sides will work out another one-year contract and see how things work out from there.

RECENT SPECULATION ON THE RED WINGS AND LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: Max Bultman recently examined the Detroit Red Wings’ biggest offseason priorities. He wondered if they might use their stockpile of draft picks and abundant salary-cap space to accelerate their rebuild as long as the players’ involved fit their desired age range.

Perhaps GM Steve Yzerman could attempt to use one of his younger players to make a deal similar to the one where he shipped Anthony Mantha to Washington for a package deal involving Jakub Vrana.

Bultman also feels the Wings should see if they can leverage this summer’s expansion draft to perhaps add players who might be exposed by other clubs. They must also find more offense and decide if they’ll bring back goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings were among the teams linked to Jack Eichel earlier this week. While they have the cap space and assets to make a competitive bid, I’m not convinced Yzerman would pursue that type of deal. I’m not saying he won’t kick the tires but a blockbuster of that magnitude could cost more established assets than he’s willing to give up.

In a recent mailbag segment, The Athletic’s Joe Smith was asked which Tampa Bay Lightning players are most likely to be shipped out this summer to dump some salary.

Smith believes Tyler Johnson will be moved despite the failed attempts to move him via trade and waivers in the offseason. Johnson’s no-trade clause becomes a modified one this summer but a sweetener (like a first-round pick) might have to be added.

The Lightning also have players they could move in return for assets, such as Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn. They don’t want to lose either player but one of those forwards could be among the cost-cutting options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could also involve some creative moves by Lightning GM Julien BriseBois involving a third team similar to the deal that brought David Savard to Tampa Bay before the trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

What could be in store this summer for the Oilers? Will the Blackhawks re-sign or trade Nikita Zadorov in the offseason? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Salary-cap limitations prevented Oilers GM Ken Holland from making big moves at the recent trade deadline. Terry Jones expects Holland could be able to do more in the offseason and next season once he’s out of salary-cap hell.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (NHL Images).

Holland told Jones he doesn’t know if top-pairing defenseman Oscar Klefbom has made a decision about continuing his career following shoulder surgery. He intends to speak with the blueliner in June and July as they get closer to the expansion draft and free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom has two more seasons left on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.167 million. Getting him back healthy for next season will certainly help his defense core.

If Klefbom’s career is over he’ll go on permanent long-term injury reserve if necessary, giving the Oilers GM some cap relief to perhaps put toward re-signing an unrestricted free agent such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson or Tyson Barrie, or perhaps to find one of their replacements.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Following last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, Ben Pope suggested Nikita Zadorov has the remainder of this season to prove to the Chicago Blackhawks he still belongs in their future. Pope wrote the Blackhawks set a high asking price for the big 26-year-old blueliner before the trade deadline but decided to keep him when no one met that price.

Zadorov becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. It’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights but it’s expected he’ll seek more than that on his next contract. Pope speculated Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman could trade Zadorov this summer if he fails to solidify his role as their shutdown defenseman.

Mental mistakes and turnovers have proven costly for Zadorov. He faces a competitor for his job in Riley Stillman, who was recently acquired from the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks shipped winger Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche for Zadorov and Anton Lindholm, the latter spending this season on their taxi squad. The big blueliner could be shopped in the offseason or perhaps left exposed in the expansion draft if he fails to make a positive impression over the remainder of this season.

Bowman will probably prefer to trade Zadorov rather than lose him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken. The decline in his stock, however, means he might only fetch a mid-range draft pick or a prospect.










Ovechkin Tops NHL’s 2021 UFA Class

Ovechkin Tops NHL’s 2021 UFA Class