NHL Rumor Mill – December 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 8, 2020

With the NHL and NHLPA aiming at a Jan. 13 start date for this season, here’s a look at some unresolved free-agent business in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently examined several unresolved storylines that will rise to the surface once the NHL and NHLPA reach a resolution for the 2020-21 season. Among them was the status of unsigned free agents.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the 2020 NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

A number of decent players remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market because of the flattened salary cap and a limited number of teams with cap room. They include winger Mike Hoffman, defensemen Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen, forwards Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair, and blueliner Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman is reportedly willing to accept a one-year contract worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. He’s been linked to several clubs but the Nashville Predators could be the front-runners for his services. They have the cap space (nearly $13 million, according to Cap Friendly) and a pressing need for experienced second-line scoring depth.

Some have suggested Hamonic might return to the Calgary Flames but the Winnipeg Jets appear to be a better fit for the Manitoba native. They need more blueline depth and would have the cap space once sidelined center Bryan Little and his $5.291 million cap hit are placed on long-term injury.

Granlund and Duclair have been mentioned as options for the Columbus Blue Jackets to provide a boost to a popgun offense further weakened by losing winger Gustav Nyquist to shoulder surgery. Granlund could be a better fit there. Given Duclair’s brief unsuccessful tenure with the Jackets in 2018-19, I don’t see either side being keen for a reunion.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the format of this season looks like before making a decision. The long-time Bruins captain could return to Boston for one more season but there’s talk other clubs expressed interest in the 43-year-old defenseman.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap and must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The New York Islanders have only $3.9 million in cap space with first-line center Mathew Barzal to sign. Boylen suggests both clubs could face losing trades in order to free up sufficient cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning definitely faces that situation, with Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn considered the likely trade candidates. The Isles, however, will benefit from placing Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR because of his career-ending eye injury. They could still make a cost-cutting trade but don’t face the same pressure as the Lightning.

Other notable restricted free agents include Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space, more than enough to sign Dubois. The Blues are above the cap by $1.175 million but will get cap relief to sign Dunn by placing Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million) on LTIR. The Devils have $17.1 million in cap room so re-signing Blackwood isn’t an issue. The Oilers are just above the cap but are expected to place Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on LTIR, giving them the necessary wiggle room for Bear.

Given the high number of NHL teams (16) with less than $2 million in cap space, Boylen anticipates seeing “at least a few one-sided deals” as cap-strapped clubs attempt to shed salary once clarity is reached on the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 10 of those teams – Arizona, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington, Vegas, Anaheim, Winnipeg, and Edmonton – will get cap relief by placing some sidelined players on LTIR. Nevertheless, some of those clubs could attempt to shed a salary or two before the projected puck drop of Jan. 13.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

An update on Mathew Barzal and some recent Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s efforts to re-sign Mathew Barzal got easier with defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s playing career coming to an end. Boychuk will be placed on long-term injury reserve for the final two years of his contract, giving the Isles $6 million in potential salary-cap relief per season.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

That cap flexibility will be placed toward signing Barzal. The 23-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Gross doubts he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Industry expectations suggest he’ll sign a two- or three-year bridge deal from the Islanders worth an annual average value of around $7 million.

The Islanders still have to announce its deals with unrestricted free agents Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Gross expects Schneider will most likely try to resurrect his career with the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $3.9 million in cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR allows them to exceed the cap by the equivalent of his $6 million AAV. Lamoriello could be waiting to find out when the season will begin before finalizing the Barzal contract and formally announcing the deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider.

An offer sheet for Barzal is possible but unlikely given the few teams with sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant offer. Lamoriello informed his rivals he would match any offer. I don’t see any of them trying to call his bluff.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined potential trade options for the Buffalo Sabres if they once again find themselves outside the playoff picture during 2020-21.

Winger Taylor Hall could be a valuable trade chip if the Sabres are out of contention by the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause in his one-year contract but could approve a deal if the Sabres sink in the standings. Veteran center Eric Staal is also under contract for the coming season. His affordable $3.25 million cap hit could make him enticing in the trade market.

If things go south for the Sabres, O’Brien wondered if this could be the season they trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He also doesn’t rule out moving winger Sam Reinhart but considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are a contender this season those players won’t be going anywhere even at the risk of losing Hall to free agency next summer. Another disappointing performance, however, will see them become sellers at the trade deadline.

NHL Free Agents Still Playing The Waiting Game

NHL Free Agents Still Playing The Waiting Game


The Myth of the NHL Offer Sheet Continues…

The Myth of the NHL Offer Sheet Continues…


NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

A look at the latest speculation involving some of the remaining notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the status of several notable remaining restricted free agents following the Tampa Bay Lightning signing Mikhail Sergachev and the Boston Bruins signing Jake DeBrusk last week.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

Mathew Barzal remains atop the list. Fox reminds us New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello promised to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old center.

Lamoriello has limited cap space but will garner some extra wiggle room with defenseman Johnny Boychuk headed for LTIR following a career-ending eye injury. It’s believed the Isles GM prefers locking up Barzal for around $7.5 million annually. Barzal reportedly is considering a team-friendly deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like most general managers with key RFAs still to sign, Lamoriello could be waiting for official confirmation of a start date for this season before getting Barzal under contract. It’s not unusual for negotiations with a top RFA to stretch out until the start of training camp and sometimes into the opening days of camp.

Following the Sergachev signing, Anthony Cirelli’s agent said there was nothing new to report on contract talks with the Lightning. The cap-strapped club must shed salary to re-sign Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak and become cap compliant whenever the season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning are trying to move winger Tyler Johnson and his $5.5 million annual average value. There’s also speculation winger Alex Killorn ($4.45 million) could be a cost-cutting trade candidate.

Contract talks between Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t concerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski’s contract was signed right before training camp last year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $9 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly), the Jackets have plenty of room to accommodate a new deal for Dubois. That’s without placing injured winger Gustav Nyquist ($5.5 million) on LTIR.

Fox speculates New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood may wish to use Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins’ two-year, $8 million bridge contract as a starting point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have plenty of cap space to re-sign Blackwood and fellow RFA Jesper Bratt. They’ll get it sorted by training camp.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said he and the Vince Dunn camp intend to wait until close to training camp to sign an extension. Placing sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen on LTIR will free up cap room to sign the 23-year-old defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After watching Alex Pietrangelo depart via free agency last month, some Blues fans are concerned over why it’s taking so long to get Dunn signed. Now we know why. They’ll get a deal done.

The Winnipeg Jets have reportedly shopped forward Jack Roslovic during this off-season in search of a top-four, left-side defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might scoff at the notion of Roslovic fetching that type of return. However, the Jets could target a club in need of shedding cap space. The Jets are above the cap by $697K but are expected to place sidelined center Bryan Little ($5.29 million) on LTIR, giving them sufficient space to swap Roslovic for a decent rearguard.

Latest on the Lightning, Bruins and Islanders in NHL Rumor Roundup

Latest on the Lightning, Bruins and Islanders in NHL Rumor Roundup