NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2021

Who could the Leafs, Flyers, Jets and Islanders pursue leading up to this year’s trade deadline? Read on to find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t have much time to decide if he’ll make any acquisitions by the April 12 trade deadline. While that date is five weeks away any players acquired from American teams would face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Could the Leafs, Flyers or Jets pursue Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm at the trade deadline? (NHL Images)

Traikos feels the Leafs don’t need another skill player such as Buffalo’s Taylor Hall. “It needs more blue-collar players like (Zach) Bogosian and (Wayne) Simmonds. Guys like Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm and Calgary forward Sam Bennett. It needs guys that can push back against Boston and Tampa and Vegas. Guys that can help the Leaf go the distance.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Making the dollars fit is the sticking point for the Leafs. Cap Friendly indicates they have just $130K in projected trade deadline salary-cap space. It’ll have to be a salary-in, salary-out scenario, the selling team retains some salary, or Dubas and his capologist find another creative way to free up the necessary space to make an addition.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked if the Philadelphia Flyers would try to bolster their blue line by acquiring Mattias Ekholm from the Predators. Rosen believes he’d be a good fit and a more well-rounded rearguard than current Flyers left-shot defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Robert Hagg.

However, the Flyers could face competition for Ekholm’s services in what could be a limited trade market. He also has a year remaining on his contract, which could affect their protection list for this summer’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The effect of an Ekholm addition upon the Flyers’ protection list suggests they could opt for a rental player instead. Options could include Detroit’s Marc Staal, Patrik Nemeth or Jon Merrill, Arizona’s Alex Goligoski, Ottawa’s Mike Reilly or Vancouver’s Jordie Benn, though they’re not as good as Ekholm.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Murat Ates was asked if the Jets should acquire a defenseman. While he feels Ekholm would be a good fit he believes the Jets would prefer a right-hand defenseman to pair with Josh Morrissey.

Ates mentioned Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen but his $5.4 million cap hit through next season could make him expensive if he fails to deliver. He also feels acquisition cost could keep the Jets out of the Matt Dumba sweepstakes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Columbus’ David Savard is rumored to be available if the Blue Jackets become sellers at the deadline. Sames goes for the Sabres’ Brandon Montour. They’re UFAs who might serve as good rental options though whether they’d be a good fit with Morrissey isn’t a certainty.

Arthur Staple recently examined possible blue line depth options for the New York Islanders. Given their limited salary-cap space, he anticipates GM Lou Lamoriello will look at affordable options such as the Red Wings’ Jon Merrill, the Senators’ Mike Reilly or Nashville’s Mark Borowiecki.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 5, 2021

Walter Gretzky, the father of Wayne Gretzky, passed away at 82, the Flames replace head coach Geoff Ward with Darryl Sutter, plus recaps of Thursday’s games and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Walter Gretzky, father of Wayne Gretzky, passed away at age 82 after battling several illnesses including Parkinson’s disease. The world’s most famous hockey dad, Walter’s guidance and tutelage helped develop Wayne into the greatest player in NHL history.

Walter Gretzky passed away at age 82 (NHL.com).

For my sister and my 3 brothers, Dad was our team captain – he guided, protected, and led our family every day, every step of the way,” wrote Wayne on Twitter in announcing Walter’s passing. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Gretzky family and Walter’s friends. He will be greatly missed. A kind, friendly man who devoted considerable time to charitable causes and always had time for a fan, Walter’s passing leaves a void in the hockey world.

 

The Calgary Flames’ 7-3 drubbing of the Ottawa Senators was overshadowed by their firing of head coach Geoff Ward following the game. His replacement is Darryl Sutter, who coached the Flames from 2002 to 2006 and was also their general manager from 2003 to 2010. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Flames signed Sutter to a three-year contract (this season plus two more).

Flames winger Dillon Dube tallied his first career NHL hat trick while Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists. Sam Bennett was made a healthy scratch from this contest as a “coach’s decision” by Ward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ward became the Flames’ interim head coach in November 2019 and was named their full-time head coach last September. The club’s inconsistency this season has threatened to derail their playoff hopes. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform under Sutter, a no-nonsense coach who guided the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final and went on to win two Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.

The New York Islanders extended their home record to 8-0-2 by dropping the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. Matt Martin scored twice and Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist. Sabres winger Taylor Hall tallied his first goal since the club’s season-opener on Jan. 14.

Chris Kreider tallied a hat trick to lead the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils 6-1. It was a costly win for the Rangers as goaltender Igor Shesterkin left the game in the third period with a lower-body injury. Struggling Blueshirts center Mika Zibanejad had his ice time reduced, including being bench for the first half of the second period. Earlier in the day, the Devils announced captain Nico Hischier is week-to-week with a sinus fracture after being hit in the face by the puck during Saturday’s loss to Washington.

Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov finally faced off against brother Evgeny Svechnikov in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Andrei had a goal and an assist while Evgeny picked up an assist for the Red Wings. Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player discipline for a dangerous slew foot on Wings forward Robby Fabbri.

The Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. Claude Giroux scored twice, including the game-winner. Flyers forward Joel Farabee missed the game as he was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Penguin captain Sidney Crosby came off the list yesterday and picked up an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Farabee is just one of three players on the protocol list, joining Boston’s Charlie Coyle and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.

Paul Stastny scored twice and Pierre-Luc Dubois tallied in overtime as the Winnipeg Jets nipped the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Corey Perry had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who’ve dropped six games in overtime this season and are 3-5-4 in their last 12 games. They hold a two-point over the Flames for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Scotia North Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Alex Killorn. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shutout streak ended at three games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A tough loss for the Blackhawks as they outplayed the Lightning through the first two periods and carried a 2-0 lead into the third.

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad had a career-best four-point performance (two goals, two assists) as his club held off the Nashville Predators 5-4. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov collected three helpers. Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson each had a three-point game for the Predators.

The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.

A two-goal performance by Jake Virtanen lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-1 upset of the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. Canucks center Elias Pettersson missed the game with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was fined $5,000.00 by the league’s department of player discipline for spearing Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic on Wednesday.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm will be sidelined for six weeks with a fractured wrist.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks forward Joachim Blichfeld received a two-game suspension by the league for an illegal hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday. MacKinnon’s status remains uncertain as the Avs have yet to release an update on his condition.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2021

A look at TSN’s latest trade-bait board in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: With the NHL’s Apr. 12 trade deadline six weeks away, Frank Seravalli lists Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, Columbus Blue Jackets blueliner David Savard, New York Rangers rearguard Tony DeAngelo, Buffalo Sabres defender Brandon Montour and Sabres winger Taylor Hall among the top-five players on his trade-bait board.

Ekholm has a year remaining on his contract and could fetch more than Savard, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, Seravalli believes the latter’s playoff experience and right-hand shot will draw interest from postseason contenders. It remains to be seen, however, if Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will move him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Philly’s Jordan Hall observed recent trade speculation linked Ekholm to the Philadelphia Flyers. However, he believes the club’s performance over the next month will determine if they need external help on their blue line.

Seravalli notes Kekalainen tends to let pending UFAs play out their contracts but that might change if the Jackets fall further out of playoff contention. DeAngelo remains available but his banishment from the Rangers over his personal issues makes rival general managers reluctant to take a chance on him right now.

Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images)

It’s only a matter of time until the Sabres become sellers. Montour and Hall are both pending UFAs but the latter has a full no-movement clause. His camp was reportedly interested in talking contract extension with the Sabres but that might have changed given the club’s ongoing poor play. His $8 million cap hit could be difficult for most contenders to absorb. 

Predators winger Mikael Granlund, Detroit Red Wings forward Bobby Ryan, Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen, Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett and Canucks winger Tanner Pearson round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund, Ryan and Pearson are pending UFAs on teams with fading playoff hopes. Granlund was linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs while Ryan acknowledged the possibility he could be traded but hopes to return to the Wings this summer as a free agent.

Virtanen and Bennett are fixtures in this year’s rumor mill. The Canucks reportedly attempted to ship him to the Anaheim Ducks over the weekend for Danton Heinen but his $3.75 million in actual salary for next season was a rumored sticking point. The Athletic’s Thomas Drance believes this shows the Canucks still hope to get something decent back in return.

The Bennett trade chatter picked up a month ago when his agent went public with a trade request. Flames GM Brad Treliving recently stated his club will decide the versatile forward’s fate and not his agent. Treliving may be reluctant to move Bennett this season because he ramps up his game in the playoffs. However, he could change his mind at the trade deadline if the struggling Flames fail to improve.

Red Wings forward Luke Glendening, St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, Sabres center Eric Staal, Wings blueliner Marc Staal and Senators winger Ryan Dzingel fill the final five spots on the list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Ryan, Glendening and Marc Staal are both pending UFAs who could be shopped at the deadline for draft picks. The latter still has a no-movement clause but could waive it for a contender.  Detroit Sports Nation cited a report in The Athletic quoting an NHL executive’s belief that Wings GM Steve Yzerman could shop a young forward like Tyler Bertuzzi or Anthony Mantha if the right deal came along. Bertuzzi could draw more interest but Yzerman could prefer moving the talented-but-inconsistent Mantha, who also has a bit of an injury history. He’ll likely seek a good young player in return.

Dunn was the hot topic of trade chatter a month ago but that has died out as the Blues deal with an injury-ravaged roster. Eric Staal still has a 10-team no-trade list but his experience could make him an invaluable addition to a playoff club. Dzingel was recently acquired by the Senators from the Carolina Hurricanes but could also be moved by the trade deadline for a draft pick.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.

It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.

Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.

Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.

UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.

We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”

Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.

An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible. 










NHL Rumor Mill – February 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 18, 2021

Check out the latest on the Bruins, Wild and Stars in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE BRUINS PURSUE EKHOLM?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss’ belief the Bruins should make acquiring a defenseman a trade-deadline priority was among his five takeaways of the club’s performance at the quarter-point of the season.

Should the Boston Bruins pursue Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm? (NHL Images)

Goss expressed some concern about the Bruins’ scoring depth but felt they still need more experience and physicality on the blue line. He also pointed out Charlie McAvoy is the only Bruins’ rearguard with more than three points, suggesting they could use a blueliner who can generate some offense.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy took note of TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reporting Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm could be available. With Matt Grzelcyk in and out of the lineup due to injuries, Murphy wonders if Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will try to fill that second-pairing left slot with Ekholm. Murphy also noted the Bruins’ offseason interest in Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm is a solid all-around defenseman carrying an affordable $3.75 million salary-cap hit through 2021-22. He could be a good addition to the Bruins or any other NHL roster.

The Bruins have over $4 million in projected cap space so there’s room for Ekholm’s cap hit, though it would be a tight squeeze. Depending on the Predators’ asking price, the Bruins could send them a player to free up some cap room. Winger Anders Bjork ($1.6 million annual average value) often comes up in Bruins’ trade chatter. Maybe the Predators would be interested in the 24-year-old winger if they decide to get younger.

SOME RECENT WILD SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked what it would take for the Minnesota Wild to acquire Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett or Ottawa Senators center Derek Stepan.

Russo acknowledged the Wild’s need for depth at center. Stepan’s $6 million cap hit, however, would be a concern, as would Bennett’s arbitration number this summer. The Wild have limited salary-cap space and the Flames or Senators would have to take a contract in return. Bennett’s inconsistency was also a concern for Russo.

Asked about Matt Dumba’s trade status, Russo feels the defenseman’s performance over the remainder of the season will make him more or less likely to be moved. His $6 million cap hit, his play last season and the fact that the acquiring club might have to alter their expansion draft protection list plans could make the 26-year-old blueliner difficult to move. Asked if Dumba might be a fit with the Vancouver Canucks, Russo said he got the impression the Canucks’ interest in him was nil.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with most capped-out NHL teams, the Wild probably won’t make a major move before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. They could swing a minor deal or two if necessary provided they can make the dollars fit. Otherwise, what you see is what you get with the Wild this season. Any significant moves on their part (Dumba?) could take place in the offseason before the July expansion draft.

DON’T EXPECT BIG MOVES BY THE STARS

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Matthew DeFranks was asked if the Dallas Stars should use Esa Lindell or John Klingberg as trade bait for draft picks and prospects to restock their system as they haven’t seemed to develop any real NHL level talent recently. DeFranks disagreed with that premise and doesn’t believe they should shop Lindell or Klingberg. If they were to move either defenseman, he felt the package would be around NHL talent with the Stars championship window currently open.

DeFranks was also asked if the Stars would be a player in this year’s trade market. If they do become active it won’t be a big move. He also pointed out center Tyler Seguin and goaltender Ben Bishop will be returning to the lineup from offseason surgeries later this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars have struggled to score and kill penalties in recent weeks. I daresay those would be the areas they would address if they decide to test the trade market.

Lindell and Klingberg are their top-pairing defense. They’re not going anywhere.










Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill