Crawford Retires, Barzal Re-Signs As NHL Regular Season Approaches
The latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Devils’ options to replace Corey Crawford, and an update on the Islanders in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers would have to pay a “painful cost” to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center reportedly seeks a trade despite recently signing a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Brooks said the Rangers are monitoring Dubois’ situation. He believes the Jackets will want a center in return, suggesting the Blueshirts might have to part with Filip Chytil as part of the return. He also thinks the Jackets would want Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko in the deal. Brooks suggests K’Andre Miller, Matthew Robertson, Tony DeAngelo or Vitaly Kravtsov could also interest the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Jackets would want a player who can improve their roster immediately. Maybe they’d be tempted to accept a package of young Rangers’ players/prospects if Lafreniere were part of the deal, but I don’t see the Blueshirts moving him or Kakko. Perhaps the Jackets would accept a package of young players and/or prospects if they could flip some of them to another club for an impact center.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons said if he were New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello he’d trade recently-signed Mathew Barzal to the Jackets for Dubois. While Barzal is the better offensive player, Dubois is bigger, less expensive and plays a better three-zone game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: But Lamoriello isn’t Simmons and he’s not going to trade Barzal for Dubois. It would be a little risky for the Isles as we don’t know if Dubois would commit beyond next season to staying on Long Island.
THE ATHLETIC: Corey Masisak examines the New Jersey Devils’ options to replace Corey Crawford. The 36-year-old goaltender announced his retirement yesterday.
For now, their tandem will be starter Mackenzie Blackwood with Scott Wedgewood as the backup. Masisak points out the external options aren’t ideal, with Jimmy Howard as the only goalie in the unrestricted free agent market who won a game in the NHL last season. Howard won just two of 27 appearances with a .882 save percentage with the Detroit Red Wings.
There were reports earlier in the offseason that the Vegas Golden Knights were looking to trade Marc-Andre Fleury but Masisak felt they had time to find a suitable backup by then. He wonders if the Arizona Coyotes might promote Adin Hill and listen to offers for Antti Raanta, who has a year left on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.25 million.
The waiver wire could be another option. The Toronto Maple Leafs placed Michael Hutchinson on waivers yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils could start the season with the Blackwood-Wedgewood tandem and see how things unfold. It’ll be interesting to see if they pluck someone off waivers. The fact no one signed Howard by now suggests he has little value to NHL clubs.
If the Devils opt for a trade they have plenty of salary-cap space to take on Raanta’s cap hit if the Coyotes want to move him. Fleury, meanwhile, isn’t available. The Golden Knights intend to start this season with Fleury and Robin Lehner splitting their goalie duties.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello was trying to trade a player in order to sign Mathew Barzal to a long-term extension. However, it appears no team was willing to take on Thomas Hickey or Leo Komarov with budgets tight and the start of the season fast approaching. Barzal yesterday inked a three-year, $21 million contract with the Isles.
Corey Crawford retires, Islanders sign Mathew Barzal, COVID-19 continues to affect training camps, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NJ.COM: Corey Crawford announced his retirement yesterday. The 36-year-old goaltender spent 10 full NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed a two-year contract last fall with the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford had been absent for several days last week from the Devils training camp. On Friday, it was announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
Crawford enjoyed a stellar decade with the Blackhawks, backstopping them to two Stanley Cups (2013, 2015). He was also a two-time winner (2012-13, 2014-15) of the William M. Jennings Trophy. He played 488 regular-season games, with a record of 260 wins, 162 losses and 53 overtime losses, with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 26 shutouts.
PuckPedia indicates Crawford is retiring rather than going on long-term injury reserve. Under the new memorandum of understanding to the collective bargaining agreement, his salary comes off the Devils’ books. Any multi-year plus-35 contracts where the compensation is the same or goes up with no signing bonuses after the first year no longer count against the salary cap upon retirement.
Best wishes to Crawford and his family in their future endeavors.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders yesterday signed Mathew Barzal to a three-year, $21 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million, though in actual salary he’ll earn $4 million this season, $7 million next season and $10 million in 2022-23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The actual salary for the final season is notable because that’s what the Islanders must offer Barzal in 2023 to qualify his rights when he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s going to get a hefty raise on his next contract but that’s what it’ll take to keep their first-line center on Long Island.
**UPDATE** Under the terms of last year’s CBA extension (as per Cap Friendly), “The Qualifying Offer is limited to 120% of their previous contract’s annual average (AAV).” This applies to players on contracts signed after July 10, 2020. In Barzal’s case, 120% of the AAV is $8.4 million, not $10 million. My thanks to “Howard” and “Caper” for pointing this out.
This signing leaves the Isles over the $81.5 million salary cap by nearly $3.1 million, but they’ll get cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR to start the season. Nevertheless, the Isles could still be attempting to make a cost-cutting trade. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers’ winger James Neal has finally hit the ice in training camp after missing the first five days of practice in quarantine. For their season-opener, he’s expected to either be on the 23-man roster listed as unfit to play and on injured reserve or part of their six-man taxi squad.
The Calgary Flames yesterday indicated Sam Bennett was “unfit to participate” in practice. They also signed Brett Ritchie to a professional tryout offer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings claimed defenseman Christian Djoos off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The Penguins canceled practice yesterday due to potential exposure to COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution. The club is expected to release a statement today regarding Sunday’s schedule. It’s unknown if any players, coaches or staff members tested positive.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi, defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Sean Walker, and goaltenders Cal Petersen and Matthew Villalta were deemed “unfit to participate” in yesterday’s scrimmage.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they will open their season without fans in attendance over concerns of rising COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County and west-central Florida. The Lightning have permission to allow a limited number of fans inside Amelie Arena but have opted to wait until at least Feb. 5, when they’ll reassess the local situation.
The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced it will stage a 24-game regular season for 2020-21. The start date has yet to be determined. The WHL is among the feeder leagues for the National Hockey League.
Suggested trade destinations for Pierre-Luc Dubois and what could be holding up the Islanders’ attempt to sign Mathew Barzal in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun listed the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks among seven teams he believes would make sense as trade destinations for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center has reportedly sought a trade despite re-signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets last week.
LeBrun feels the Flames could be an attractive trade partner for the Jackets if they seek a return that can help them right away. He spitballs a deal involving Dubois for Sean Monahan. LeBrun suggests Dubois would be the kind of young core piece that would fit into the Blackhawks’ current direction. However, he believes the Jackets would want promising center Kirby Dach as part of the return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also pitched the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. He discussed them during a recent TSN “Insider Trading” segment. You can get the details and my thoughts on those clubs as Dubois trade destinations by following this link.
As for the Flames and Blackhawks, I can’t disagree with LeBrun’s assessment of Dubois’ impact upon those clubs and the Jackets’ asking price. The Flames could consider shaking things up if this season ends in disappointment so I wouldn’t dismiss a Dubois-for-Monahan swap. I don’t see the Blackhawks moving Dach so Dubois probably isn’t landing in Chicago.
LeBrun’s colleague Lisa Dillman examined the pros and cons if the Kings tried to acquire Dubois. Pros include Dubois filling a need for a No. 1 center as Anze Kopitar ages as well as their depth in promising assets to tempt the Jackets. Cons include what could be an expensive asking price (Quinton Byfield?) by the Jackets and the cap hit required to keep Dubois in Los Angeles after his current deal expires.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dillman that the Kings should at least explore the option of acquiring Dubois. If the asking price is Byfield, however, that could be a deal-breaker.
OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes the Senators should contact the Jackets about Dubois’ availability and the asking price. He feels the Sens have the depth in prospects, especially young defensemen, to make a serious pitch. Dubois would address the Senators’ need for a first-line center now and for the future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators and Jackets have a trade history. While the Sens have plenty of promising youngsters to offer up a trade bait, the Jackets probably want a return that provides immediate help to their roster.
The Jackets are not a rebuilding club but one that sees itself building toward Stanley Cup contention. I think they’ll want a scoring forward (preferably a center) in return rather than budding young NHL defensemen unless those prospects are flipped to another team to acquire a scoring center.
The Senators would also want assurances from the Dubois camp that he’ll commit to a long-term deal with them after his current contract expires at the end of next season. Otherwise, it’ll be a waste of assets to acquire a player who doesn’t want to be there.
Turning to Mathew Barzal’s contract negotiations, THE ATHLETIC’s Arthur Staple reports it’s believed New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello is trying to unload another contract in order to sign the 23-year-old center to a lucrative long-term deal. Once completed, Staple suggests Barzal could get perhaps a six, seven or even an eight-year contract at an annual average value close to $10 million.
Staple speculates defenseman Thomas Hickey ($2.5 million AAV, $3.75 million in actual salary for this season and next) and forward Leo Komarov ($3 million AAV, $3.5 million in actual cash) as potential trade candidates. Trading Johnny Boychuk’s contract is another option but that would take away the Isles’ long-term injury reserve flexibility for this season. It doesn’t appear anyone’s taking Andrew Ladd and his $5.5 million AAV off their hands.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello attempting to make a cost-cutting trade to free up cap space for an expensive long-term contract for Barzal would explain why the young center remains unsigned a week into training camp. Perhaps this can be sorted out during this weekend.
However, Barzal’s missed a week of practice and scrimmages with his teammates. That’s not going to help his preparation for the upcoming season.
The latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alex Ovechkin, Frederik Andersen and Mathew Barzal in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: During the latest “Insider Trading” segment, Darren Dreger reported the latest regarding Pierre-Luc Dubois’ trade request from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson, remains in constant contact with Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. The young center promises to be a good teammate for his Blue Jackets teammates but there’s a sense the Dubois camp and Jackets management would like to work out a trade sooner rather than later.
Pierre LeBrun reports people around the league believed the Jackets will take their time on this, perhaps waiting until this year’s draft to get a deal done. He suggests the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets as possible trade partners.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun feels the Ducks and Kings have the depth in young assets to interest the Jackets. Unless they’re rebuilding, however, I don’t believe that’s what they’ll want in return for Dubois.
The Jackets are trying to become Stanley Cup contenders. Trading away their best center without getting a quality center in return won’t help unless the plan is to flip assets acquired from a club like the Ducks or Kings to another club in exchange for a scoring center.
The Rangers would probably love to have Dubois in their lineup but, as LeBrun suggests, the Jackets might not be keen to send him to a division rival.
LeBrun mentions the Canadiens’ current depth at center. If Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi blossom as expected this season, pending free agent Phillip Danault could become the odd man out. The Habs and Jackets have a recent trade history. Some Canadiens fans would salivate at the notion of swapping Danault for Dubois but I don’t see that happening. The asking price for Dubois could be Suzuki or Kotkaniemi.
Some observers suggest swapping Dubois for Laine. While the Jets winger wouldn’t address the Jackets’ need to replace Dubois at center, he would bring some much-needed scoring punch.
However, the Jackets would need assurances Laine will make a long-term commitment. The same goes for Dubois with the Jets. It’s believed Dubois wants to play in a bigger market, which would rule out Winnipeg as a destination.
LeBrun noted Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin’s contract expires at the end of this season. He expects an extension will be worked out during the season, but Frank Seravalli said Ovechkin’s initial pre-pandemic ask was $12. 5 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the hit to league revenue this season, it’s unlikely Ovechkin will get that much from the Capitals. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. Both sides want to get a deal done but Ovechkin will probably have to drop his asking price.
LeBrun reported the Toronto Maple Leafs have not held contract extension talks with goaltender Frederik Andersen. He thinks both sides are comfortable with letting the season play out before opening discussions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs will want to observe Andersen’s play this season, as well as examine the free-agent and trade markets by season’s end for any suitable replacements if they decide to part way with their starter. Andersen, meanwhile, can improve his value to the Leafs (or another club via this summer’s UFA market) with a strong performance this season.
Dreger reports the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal’s representatives continue working toward a new contract for the restricted free agent center. Barzal is in New York working out and awaiting a new deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m surprised Barzal’s still unsigned. It’s thought the Isles prefer signing him to a short-term bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract afterward.
Updates on Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mathew Barzal, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his first “31 Thoughts” column of 2021, Elliotte Friedman weighed in on the future of Patrik Laine with the Winnipeg Jets. The 22-year-old has been the subject of trade speculation for some time.
Friedman said Laine arrived in Winnipeg with the understanding he could be a Jet for the entire season. If Laine wants a trade his best option is to fill the net with pucks.
The Philadelphia Flyers considered acquiring the winger a few months ago but the cost in assets and salary proved too expensive. Friedman feels the Columbus Blue Jackets could be a suitor if Laine were to commit to staying in Columbus, assuming a trade could be worked out.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, Friedman feels there currently isn’t much optimism in fixing the situation between the organization and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center reportedly seeks a trade despite signing a two-year contract last week.
Several sources tell Friedman not to lay blame for this situation solely at the feet of Jackets head coach John Tortorella. The feeling is Dubois wants to perform on a bigger stage. In other words, a bigger market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some folks have suggested swapping Laine for Dubois, but getting either player to commit to their new cities could be the big sticking point. Winnipeg wouldn’t fit Dubois’ supposed desire to play in a big market.
As I’ve said before, moving Laine or Dubois seems unlikely during the regular season. Right now, they’re both too important to their respective clubs’ playoff hopes. It could also prove difficult to find suitable returns before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I’m expecting they’ll get shopped during the offseason.
Friedman feels a long-term deal between the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal doesn’t seem likely because of the team’s salary-cap situation. He expects the Barzal camp prefers contracts comparable to Toronto’s Mitch Marner or Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen but that’s not possible for the Isles at this point. Friedman speculates Barzal could get a two- or three-year deal worth around $6 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in camp though he can’t train with his teammates until he’s under contract. The Isles could go as high as $7 million annually for Barzal but I agree it’ll be a short-term deal with the promise of a long, lucrative contract down the road.
The Isles have also tried to move defenseman Thomas Hickey (with a sweetener). Half his $2.5 million cap hit for this season has been paid out in a signing bonus. He’s got one year left on his contract.
The Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils are among the clubs interested in free-agent defenseman Ben Hutton.
Every time Friedman sees a commercial starring Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, he wonders if they’ll find a way to play together someday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless it’s as teammates with Team Canada in the Olympics or the World Cup of Hockey, don’t expect to see that happen in the NHL anytime soon.
MacKinnon, 25, is the Colorado Avalanche’s franchise player. While his contract expires in 2023, the Avs will open the vault to keep him in Denver. The 33-year-old Crosby’s best seasons may be behind him but he remains the Penguins’ top player and among the league’s elite. He’s also under contract until 2025 with a full no-movement clause.