Destinations For Dubois The Hot Topic In The NHL Rumor Mill
A look at some predicted moves for this season involving Patrik Laine, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Duncan Keith and more in the NHL rumor mill.
TSN: In his 31 bold predictions for the new NHL season, Frank Seravalli envisioned the Winnipeg Jets moving winger Patrik Laine before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. Two potential destinations: the Columbus Blue Jackets (for Pierre-Luc Dubois?) and the Carolina Hurricanes (for Brett Pesce or Vincent Trocheck?).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve learned never to say never in this business so I don’t rule out Laine hitting the trade block before Apr. 12. However, I don’t see that happening if the Jets are in the thick of the playoff chase.
Seravalli isn’t the only pundit suggesting swapping Laine for Dubois. On paper, it makes sense. The Jets get a reliable second-line center while the Jackets bring in a type of goal scorer they haven’t had since Rick Nash left town almost 11 years ago.
The problem is we don’t know if Jets management wants to swap Laine for a second-line center when blue-line depth is their primary concern. I think they’ll want much more than that for a winger with 50-goal potential. We also don’t know how well Laine will get along with Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. There’s also the concern over whether Laine or Dubois would commit long-term to their new clubs.
Laine would certainly provide a boost to the Hurricanes’ offense but he could end up on the second line if he doesn’t click with first-line center Sebastian Aho. A return of Trocheck and Pesce could tempt the Jets, but not if it’s just one or the other unless something else of significance is included in the deal. Moving Trocheck for Laine would leave the Hurricanes without a suitable second-line center.
Seravalli predicts Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could become the top target on TSN’s top free-agent list for 2021. The 27-year-old center wants to stay with the Edmonton Oilers but the club has no plans of going beyond $7 million annually on a long-term deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap for next season could work to the Oilers’ advantage here. Nugent-Hopkins might not find many better offers because a number of teams will have limited cap space to make a competitive bid for his services. We’ll see how things unfold by July.
Speaking of the Oilers, Seravalli believes they’ll trade for another goaltender before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli made that prediction before Smith landed on long-term injury reserve last week. General manager Ken Holland will keep an eye on the waiver wire in the short term but I wouldn’t rule out Holland testing the trade market this season.
Seravalli thinks Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith will seek a trade after this season. The 37-year-old blueliner has two years left on his contract at $5.5 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Again, never say never. He’s got a full no-movement clause but could waive it if the right opportunity presents itself. Cap Friendly indicates Keith only has $3.6 million in actual salary remaining on his deal ($2.1 million for next season, $1.5 million for 2022-23). However, the cap hit itself could be difficult to move unless the Blackhawks pick up part of it. His age will also be a factor. He turns 38 this summer and his best seasons are now behind him.
The 2020-21 season begins today. Check out the notable NHL stories in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league yesterday revealed 27 players on nine different teams tested positive for COVID-19 between Dec. 30 and Jan. 11. Seventeen of those players were with the Dallas Stars. Most were asymptomatic and all are currently recovering without complications.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Positive tests were bound to happen with the league returning to action under its current format. The high number of Stars players sidelined by the coronavirus is a stark reminder of how quickly it can spread. This probably won’t be the only incident of community spread on an NHL team over the course of this season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Speaking of the Stars, they returned to practice yesterday for the first time since last Wednesday. Fifteen players were missing, including defensemen Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Jamie Oleksiak and forwards Radek Faksa and Joel Kiviranta, though the club didn’t reveal if their absence was due to COVID-19 protocols or injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams didn’t have to provide details of a player’s absence during training camp. They’re supposed to do so during the regular season.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said Evander Kane will not sit out this season. The 29-year-old left-winger filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 9 with the petition containing a clause suggesting he could terminate his contract or opt-out of playing this season. However, Boughner confirmed Kane will be in the lineup for their season-opener on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He doesn’t feel the winger’s financial woes will be a distraction.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s bankruptcy probably won’t be a distraction for the Sharks over the course of the season but it could be fodder for trash-talking aimed at the winger by his opponents.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle doesn’t appear to be part of the club’s plans when their season opens on Sunday. He recently skated with a second group of fringe players and wasn’t playing with a dedicated defense partner during Tuesday’s practice. It appears the club wants Yandle to waive his no-movement clause but the blueliner said he hasn’t been asked to do so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting development with the Panthers. If Yandle becomes a healthy scratch his streak of 866 consecutive games will come to an end. I’ll have more on Yandle in the Rumors section.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Jordie Benn missed practice yesterday. The club would neither confirm nor deny their absences are COVID-related. More details are expected today.
Meanwhile, the Canucks announced the signing of defenseman Travis Hamonic to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. The 30-year-old blueliner attended Canucks training camp on a professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic is the latest of several notable unrestricted free agents forced to accept short-term contracts for less than market value because of this season’s flattened salary cap. He’ll hope a strong performance with the Canucks this season will improve his chances of a better deal in this summer’s UFA market.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Marcus Foligno to a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension beginning in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno is part of the Wild’s veteran leadership core. The annual average value of his new contract is $3.1 million. Cap Friendly indicates the deal doesn’t include no-trade protection.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed head coach Jeremy Colliton to a two-year contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colliton hasn’t enjoyed the success of his predecessor but the Blackhawks aren’t the powerhouse they once were. Management evidently sees Colliton as a key part of their current transition period as they ease more youth into their lineup.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes made a minor trade yesterday, with the Senators shipping defenseman Max Lajoie to the Hurricanes for forward Clark Bishop.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins will honor Willie O’Ree by retiring his No. 22 jersey to the rafters of the TD Garden during a Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils. O’Ree was the first black player in NHL history, debuting with the Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958. He played a total of 45 games with the Bruins. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fitting, long-overdue tribute to a hockey trailblazer and one of the game’s finest ambassadors.
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.