Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 13, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 13, 2020

Could the Rangers trade Tony DeAngelo? Does the acquisition of Joel Edmundson signal more moves ahead for the Canadiens? What’s the latest on Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

DEANGELO ON THE BLOCK?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers could attempt to trade Tony DeAngelo rather than re-sign the restricted free agent defenseman. That’s because a contract of longer than one year for the 24-year-old DeAngelo would all but ensure losing promising Nils Lundkvist to unrestricted free agency on June 2, 2022 without the 20-year-old rearguard having played a game for the Blueshirts.

Lundkvist signed to play in Sweden next season. The Rangers hold Lundkvist’s rights until June 1, 2022. However, Brooks doesn’t like the odds of the young Swede signing with the Blueshirts when they’ve already got DeAngelo, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Fox filling the right-side blueline spots. He feels the Rangers will need a steady flow of impact players on entry-level contracts over the next several years to support and counterbalance the expensive contracts at the top of the depth chart.

Brooks believes it’ll cost the Rangers between $5.5 – $6 million annually to re-sign DeAngelo, who’d be filling the third-pairing spot on the right side. He said there’s no inclination to move him to the left side. Instead, he feels they’ll use DeAngelo as trade bait to bring in a long-term solution for their second-line center position. They could find more affordable options to replace DeAngelo on the third pairing via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have $67.1 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, with DeAngelo, center Ryan Strome, goalie Alexandar Georgiev and winger Brendan Lemieux as their notable restricted free agents. Jesper Fast is an unrestricted free agent who’s reportedly headed to the market.

Brooks has frequently suggested DeAngelo as a trade candidate this year because of the Rangers’ depth on the right side of their blueline and their need to address their second-line center role. General manager Jeff Gorton could re-sign Strome, who has arbitration rights and is a year away from UFA eligibility, but there’s a question over whether he’s worth a potentially expensive long-term investment, especially given the current economic climate.

The Rangers could get some cap relief if aging goalie Henrik Lundqvist is traded, bought out or retires. Trading him would require picking up a healthy chunk of his $8.5-million cap hit. Retirement would be the best option as it would clear the entire cap hit from their books.

The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello believes the most likely scenario is a buyout. However, that will only clear $3 million of his cap hit, as well as leaving $1.5 million in dead cap space for 2021-22. Nevertheless, that could be their only solution.

If Gorton goes the buyout route it could affect what he does with DeAngelo and Strome. It will also depend upon what’s available in the trade market to suitably address the Rangers’ second-line center needs. DeAngelo would be an intriguing trade target but finding a club willing to part with a good second-line center for him will be challenging for Gorton.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE CANADIENS?

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens acquisition yesterday of left-side defenseman (and pending UFA) Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes raises questions over what general manager Marc Bergevin has in store for his club in the coming weeks. The addition and possible re-signing of the 27-year-old Edmundson could create congestion at that position, especially if promising Alexander Romanov makes the roster next season.

Analyst Mike Bossy wondered if more moves are coming, suggesting perhaps Victor Mete’s days with the Habs might be numbered. Mete is a restricted free agent in October and due for a raise.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently observed the trade speculation brewing about Canadiens center Phillip Danault. He feels it would be a bad idea to move the two-way center and suggests the Habs should learn from what happened to the Buffalo Sabres when they traded away Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues.

The Sabres made that move in part because they felt promising Casey Mittelstadt was ready to move into the No. 2 center role. Instead, Mittelstadt struggled and spent time last season in the minors while O’Reilly went on to greater things with the Blues. Larkin doesn’t want the Habs to risk repeating that mistake with promising Nick Suzuki. He believes Danault would be difficult to replace.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edmundson’s addition indicates the Canadiens want more size, experience, and toughness on the left side of their blueline. Maybe that means Mete gets traded, maybe not. It’ll depend, of course, on whether Edmundson re-signs before the UFA market opens on Oct. 9.

I agree with Larkin’s take on Danault. Some of that trade chatter is stoked by the 27-year-old playing a third-line role during the playoffs and some because he’s a year away from UFA eligibility. While Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi played well in the postseason on the top-two lines, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can expect that level of play throughout next season. Maybe they’re ready for prime time, maybe not.

Better to hang onto Danault for next season and observe how things shake out. If Suzuki and Kotkaniemi keep Danault permanently on the third line, then they can look at moving him before the trade deadline. If they’re in the playoff chase, better to hang onto him when depth at center will be invaluable, even at the risk of losing him to free agency next year.

UPDATE ON ANDERSON

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace reports the Blue Jackets would like to re-sign Josh Anderson. The 26-year-old right winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility.

TSN’s Darren Dreger recently reported Anderson would like to stay with the Blue Jackets, but it would take a long-term deal to do that. GM Jarmo Kekalainen might not be keen to do that, as he’s looking to fit him within their roster structure and their salary cap. The flattened salary cap for next season will also affect negotiations.

Arace points out Anderson doesn’t have much leverage. Despite his arbitration rights, he missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. He also noted Anderson’s agent, Darren Ferris, threatened to have his client play in Switzerland during their previous contract talks before an agreement was reached.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline recently wondered if a new Blue Jackets negotiator might help the situation. Before accepting the Florida Panthers’ GM role, Bill Zito’s biggest role as Blue Jackets assistant GM was handling contract negotiations. Maybe his replacement can smooth things out. If not, Kekalainen could start listening to trade offers next month.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

Are the Oilers shopping for a goalie? Will the Blue Jackets get into the market for a center? How could the Blackhawks shed salary? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS SEEKING A GOALTENDER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers seek a goaltender to share the duties with Mikko Koskinen. While they’ve kicked the tires on Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, the Oilers would prefer adding a younger version of Mike Smith for around $2.5 million who can play 35-40 games with Koskinen.

Matheson points out the Oilers only have around $9 million in cap space. He also notes it’s a buyer’s market for unrestricted free agent goalies with such notables as Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss potentially available. Trade options could include Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, or maybe Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bolstering the goaltending should be the Oilers’ priority. Koskinen cannot be relied upon to carry the bulk of the starts and Smith is clearly past his prime and must be replaced.

Kuemper would be the best trade option if available, carrying a reasonable $4.5 million annual average value over the next two seasons. Korpisalo would be even more affordable ($2.8 million AAV for two years) but has a limited body of work as a starter.

The Penguins are trying to cut costs by shopping Murray. The asking price won’t be expensive but his new contract will be, perhaps over $6 million annually. Factor in his injury history and inconsistent play over the last two years, and the Oilers would be wise to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the Oilers will move one of their defensemen to free up cap space for other moves. Matheson’s colleague David Staples suggested shopping veteran defenseman Kris Russell to free up some cap space. He’s got a year left on his contract with a $4 million AAV and a 15-team no-trade list for 2020-21, but his actual salary will be $1.5 million once the Oilers pay his $1 million signing bonus for next season.

WILL THE BLUE JACKETS SHOP FOR A CENTER?

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger reports the 2020 playoffs showed the Blue Jackets need an upgrade at center, specifically on the second line. He indicates there’s a “glaring void” between first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois and third-liner Boone Jenner.

Hedger lists free agency, the trade market and developing from within as the ways general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can address this issue.

The free-agent market is bleak, with Nashville’s Mikael Granlund topping the list with 30 points this season. Kekalainen will explore the trade market as they can draw upon their blueline depth, young forwards, and a pair of goalies in their mid-20s who performed well this season for trade bait. Hedger suggested the Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a trade target, though he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Options from within could include Alexander Wennberg or Alexandre Texier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The UFA market is very thin for center. Granlund, Carl Soderberg, Tyler Ennis, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula are the best of the bunch. Thornton, Spezza, Koivu and Soderberg are past their prime, Granlund and Ennis are used more as wingers while Haula’s been hampered by injuries in recent years.They could try Wennberg and Texier, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Wennberg is inconsistent while Texier is used mostly on the wing.

The trade market is their best option to address that need, but I don’t think the Oilers intend to part with Nugent-Hopkins. He’s a key versatile part of their forward lines, able to play second-line center or skate at left wing on Connor McDavid’s line.

HOW WILL THE BLACKHAWKS CUT SALARY?

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Charlie Roumeliotis recently examined how the Blackhawks can free up salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Drake Caggiula and unrestricted free agent goalie Corey Crawford.

The Blackhawks can free up $5.56 million if they buy out Olli Maatta and Zack Smith. A more ideal solution would be moving one or both via trade, but that would involve packaging them with sweeteners.

Trading Brandon Saad would shed $6 million. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become a UFA next summer. However, Roumeliotis argues that move would subtract a top-six forward merely to shed salary. Given the current economic climate, he doubts a rival club would take on that full cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buying out Maatta and Smith could also leave the Blackhawks with over $1.7 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons, followed by two more seasons of $680K annually. Nevertheless, that could become their best option to re-sign their key players.

I doubt Smith will have any more trade value. Maatta’s performance in this year’s playoffs might make him enticing for clubs seeking a puck-moving defenseman.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2020

The Stars and Golden Knights will meet in the Western Conference Final. Check out the game recaps plus the recent notable news in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars advanced to the Western Conference Final by edging the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in Game 7 of their second-round series. Stars winger Joel Kiviranta completed his first-ever NHL hat trick with the game-winner at 7:24 of overtime. Alexander Radulov scored twice for the Stars while defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Joel Klingberg each collected two assists and Anton Khudobin made 40 saves. Vladislav Namestnikov tallied twice for the Avalanche while Nathan MacKinnon was shut out for the first time in this series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a very entertaining game that see-sawed back and forth between the two clubs. The story of the game, of course, was Kiviranta, a rookie with just one goal in 11 regular-season contests before his heroics as a replacement for the sidelined Andrew Cogliano in Game 7. Sometimes, the playoffs give us the unlikeliest of heroes.

The Stars will meet the Vegas Golden Knights in the Conference Final as the latter blanked the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in Game 7 of their second-round series. The Golden Knights netted three unanswered third-period goals by Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, and Paul Stastny, the latter two into an empty net as the Canucks went with an extra attacker in the dying minutes. Robin Lehner made 14 saves for the shutout while Vancouver netminder Thatcher Demko kicked out 33.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Through the first two periods it appeared Demko was going to steal this game as he did the previous two. Despite his best efforts, however, his teammates couldn’t muster any offense against a deep, talented Golden Knights club. Demko was dejected following the game but he had nothing to hang his head over. If not for his play, the Canucks wouldn’t have overcome a 3-1 series deficit.

The Golden Knights and Stars won’t have to wait long to face each other. Game 1 of the Western Conference Final begins at 8 pm ET on Sunday, Sept. 6.

NOTABLE HEADLINES

NOTE: We experienced some publishing problems from Wed, Sept. 2 to Fri, Sept. 4 that prevented us from publishing each day’s noteworthy headlines. Here’s a collection of the most interesting news during that period.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak was hampered by a lower-body injury. It seemed to be related to his conditioning level following a month-long quarantine odyssey that prevented him from participating in Phase 3 training with his teammates.

TSN: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara indicated he’s committed to returning to the club next season. It would be the 23rd campaign of the 43-year-old blueliner’s NHL career.

SUN-SENTINEL: The Florida Panthers formally introduced Bill Zito as their new general manager.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins name former Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden as a new assistant coach. It’s his second stint as a Pens assistant coach.

NHL.COM: St. Louis Blues assistant coach Marc Savard is stepping down and returning to Ontario to be with his family.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t be renewing the expired contract of assistant coach Paul MacLean.

THE SCORE: The NHL is launching a series of initiatives to combat racism and foster inclusion and diversity training within the league.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

Could the Coyotes make some big changes? Are the Hurricanes interested in Frederik Andersen? What’s the latest on Alex Pietrangelo, Jonas Brodin, and Phillip Danault? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Arizona Coyotes’ goal will be to cut payroll and rebuild. They face a tight salary cap for 2020-21 but then it eases. With no picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft and no first- or third-rounder for 2021, they could try to restock that.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images)

Friedman suggests there could be a market for goaltender Darcy Kuemper and they would like to test defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s trade value. Ekman-Larsson has seven years left on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause, but he could be open to waiving it depending on the destination. They also have four defensemen (Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Jordan Oesterle and Niklas Hjalmarsson) with a year remaining on their contracts. Friedman claims Hjalmarsson remains much-loved around the league.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan considers Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes’ most marketable assets if they decide to rebuild. Kuemper has two years left on his contract ($4.5 million AAV) and lacks no-trade protection. Chychrun has five years left ($4.6 million AAV) with a modified no-trade in the final two years. He also considered those other blueliners on one-year deals as tradeable assets, though he thinks they could retain Oesterle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because those names are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be moved in the off-season. The Coyotes still haven’t decided on a full-time general manager and it remains to be seen if they’ll make any drastic moves. Nevertheless, their situation will be worth monitoring.

Friedman said team owner Alex Muerelo’s casino business is getting hammered by COVID-19, resulting in business layoffs and players complaining of late per diem payments. If the goal is to cut payroll and rebuild with affordable players, veterans like Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson could be on the move. It will also mean they won’t be re-signing Taylor Hall, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on Nov. 1.

Friedman reports the Carolina Hurricanes have an interest in Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen. However, the Leafs aren’t keen to make a change just for the sake of doing so. Friedman feels if they make that move it’ll be for an upgrade, suggesting they could wait to see how this year’s goaltending free-agent market shakes out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Leafs could pursue someone like Vegas’ Robin Lehner if he hits the open market. Or maybe they make a trade for someone like Darcy Kuemper and then peddle Andersen to the Hurricanes. If they go the UFA route they’ll be paying more than Andersen’s $5 million AAV. The Canes would also have to dump either Petr Mrazek or James Reimer as both have a year left on their contracts.

Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman doesn’t think William Nylander is going anywhere without a legitimate top-four right-hand shot defenseman coming in return.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think they’d prefer that defenseman to be a top-two right-side guy. It would take someone like Nylander to fetch that type of return, especially with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner considered untouchable.

Friedman also mentioned Alex Pietrangelo met last week with St. Louis Blues management to discuss a new contract. He feels the Blues captain wants to stay in St. Louis but cited a couple of sources suggesting it hasn’t been easy for Pietrangelo to see teammates like Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Brayden Schenn get contract extensions while his talks stalled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have $79.4 million invested in 21 players, with defenseman Vince Dunn also to be re-signed. The additions of Faulk and Scandella were likely insurance in case Pietrangelo departs via free agency. If the Blues hope to re-sign him, they must shed two or three contracts to make it work. There’s plenty of time for both sides to get a deal done. The tip-off will be how quickly Blues GM Doug Armstrong sheds salary once the playoffs are over.

The Montreal Canadiens are getting asked about their plans for Phillip Danault, who’s a year away from UFA status. His comments following the Habs’ playoff elimination about his future being a bit unclear drew attention.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s role as solely a defensive center against the Penguins and Flyers and the rise of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi is stoking speculation about his future in Montreal.

As for his comments, Danault said he wasn’t ready to be solely a defensive forward, adding he enjoyed producing offensively and his role as a two-way forward. He acknowledged his role for next season would determine if he re-signs with Montreal. However, he also indicated that by what he’s proven in the last few years, his role shouldn’t change in Montreal.

The Canadiens could move him if they feel Suzuki and Kotkaniemi are now ready as full-time centers on the top two lines. However, I think they prefer keeping Danault around in case one or both struggle to adjust over the course of a long season. 

One of the Minnesota Wild’s priorities is figuring out the cost of extending Jonas Brodin. The 27-year-old defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Michael Russo suggested the blueliner could also be used to acquire a starting goaltender like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray or to acquire a center. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets could consider moving a goalie for some scoring. Friedman notes Joonas Korpisalo and Matiss Kivlenieks aren’t exempt from next year’s expansion draft. Meanwhile, he reports the Pittsburgh Penguins is testing the trade market on third-line center Jared McCann.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2020

Penguins GM says there’s a “very, very good chance” he’ll trade Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry, plus the latest on the Blue Jackets and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

** UPDATE** LEAFS TO TRADE KAPANEN TO PENGUINS

TSN’s Darren Dreger and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Toronto Maple Leafs are working on a trade that would sent winger Kasperi Kapanen back to the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the details are announced, I’ll have an analysis of the deal in the News section.

MURRAY OR JARRY ON THE MOVE?

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman cited The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reporting Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford admits his club likely cannot afford to retain Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents with arbitration rights following this season.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

We know that there’s a very, very good chance that we’re going to have to move one of them,” said Rutherford. He also indicated he’s spoken with other NHL general managers, though he hasn’t reached the point where serious trade discussions have started. “There is already interest,” he said. “And it looks like we’re going to have to move one of them.”

Wegman reports the Penguins will have $12.4 million in salary-cap space this off-season. They also have six RFAs in addition to Murray and Jarry to re-sign, as well as decisions to be reached regarding UFAs Conor Sheary, Patrick Marleau, and Justin Schultz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yohe listed the Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Edmonton Oilers as possible trade partners.

Wild GM Bill Guerin indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending following his club’s qualifying-round elimination by the Vancouver Canucks. Cap Friendly indicates he’s got $65.7 million invested in 17 players next season, but he’ll have to find a trade partner for Devan Dubnyk ($4.33 million annual average value through 2020-21, 19-team trade list) or dump the more affordable Alex Stalock ($785K through 2020-21).

The Flames could be in the market if Cam Talbot departs via free agency. The Sabres need an experienced starter but we don’t know the intentions of new GM Kevyn Adams. The budget-conscious Hurricanes could stick with their affordable tandem of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek for another year. The Oilers definitely need help between the pipes, but their limited cap space ($70.4 million invested in 16 players) means they’ll have to shed salary to add a new goalie.

UPDATE ON THE BLUE JACKETS

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace weighed in on the Blues Jackets offseason needs. He feels they need another top-six center or an impact scorer like the departed Artemi Panarin. He wondered if they’ll draw from their blueline and/or goaltending depth, or shop RFA winger Josh Anderson, or use some prospects as assets to upgrade the offense.

Arace also makes the point that the Jackets must convince defenseman Seth Jones that they’re capable of going deep into the playoffs so he doesn’t depart via free agency in 2022. They must also manage their salary cap accordingly to make Jones one of the league’s highest-paid blueliners.

NHL.COM: Craig Merz reports Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to rebuild from within rather than through the free-agent market. “I don’t believe in the (free agent) signings to be the answer or recipe for success,” said Kekalainen. “We’ve done a good job building through drafting and having some depth.”

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox believes Josh Anderson will be used as a trade chip. He points out the Jackets are flush with middle-six wingers and Anderson’s game could be attractive to other clubs. His recovery timeline from shoulder surgery is Sept. 2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have $76.2 million invested in 23 players for next season, with Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois slated for raises as restricted free agents. Kekalainen recently indicated Brandon Dubinsky’s chronic wrist injury could keep the forward on long-term injury reserve next season, freeing up $5.85 million if necessary.

Kekalainen will have to go shopping in the trade market if he won’t go the UFA route for scoring punch. Anderson seems the most likely to go as his name’s been in the rumor mill for months, but his shoulder injury could dampen his trade value. The Jackets GM could peddle a blueliner like David Savard or Ryan Murray, but they won’t fetch a scoring forward. Goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins played well this season, but their inexperience could also hurt their trade value.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson reports Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau acknowledged hearing the calls for his trade from frustrated fans and pundits. However, he insists he wants to stay in Calgary, calling it his “second home.”  Meanwhile, pending UFA goaltender Cam Talbot indicated he’s “very open” to re-signing with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames GM Brad Treliving defended Gaudreau and told Talbot during the pause in the schedule he’s interested in talking contract with him. However, Treliving also acknowledged there will have to be some changes following yet another early playoff exit. Whether those involve Gaudreau or Talbot remain to be seen, but we can expect both players will feature prominently in the Flames rumor mill in the coming weeks.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 23, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 23, 2020

The latest Flames speculation plus updates on Taylor Hall, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Alex Pietrangelo in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE FLAMES?

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis believes Johnny Gaudreau has likely played his final game with the Calgary Flames, pointing to what he called the winger’s “annual disappearance” during the playoffs. He feels Gaudreau’s style of game doesn’t mesh with post-season hockey as teams collapse their defense and intensity ramps up.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images)

Gaudreau has two years left on his contract. Francis feels it won’t be easy to move him now, citing his playoff performances and his $6.75 million annual average value under a flattened salary cap. He suggested center Sean Monahan would have to be included to sweeten the deal. However, he feels general manager Brad Treliving prefers to keep Monahan and finding another winger to play alongside him.

Waiting another year to move Gaudreau when his limited no-trade clause kicks in will only hamper efforts to deal him. Francis feels now is the time.

Francis also thinks Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund are less likely to move, while Sam Bennett’s rising stock should keep him in Calgary.

Luke Fox feels there’s a financial incentive for contenders to pursue Gaudreau. Once the winger collects his $3.5 million bonus check for 2020-21 from the Flames, an acquiring club could get him for two seasons to a total of $10 million in actual salary. That could be a good deal for teams seeking scoring depth under a flattened salary cap.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Brian Costello suggested Gaudreau could be a difference-maker for clubs trying to reach the playoffs. He listed the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and Columbus Blue Jackets as possible Eastern options. He also noted there’s speculation Gaudreau would prefer signing with an Eastern club when he becomes a UFA in 2022.

Costello said it’s no big secret the Flames would like to pursue Calgary native Taylor Hall via free agency at season’s end. He feels Gaudreau could fetch the Flames a decent return. He also wondered about Monahan’s fate, noting the chemistry between the two forwards isn’t working anymore. He thinks Gaudreau and Monahan will be former Flames by the end of this year.

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson noted some observes feel the Philadelphia Flyers would love to land Gaudreau, a native of Carneys Point, NJ. “Really? Last we checked, the Flyers have a pretty good thing going,” said Gilbertson.

TSN: Frank Seravalli acknowledged plenty of fingers are being pointed at Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. This postseason proved the Flames are Matthew Tkachuk’s team now, as they sagged without him after the winger was sidelined early in their first-round series against the Dallas Stars. Rather than blow up the roster, however, Seravalli suggests finding a better supporting cast for Tkachuk to take the heat off Gaudreau and Monahan.

Seravalli believes the Flames’ priority should be improving their goaltending. This could be the summer to make a splash. Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and Vegas’ Robin Lehner could become free agents, while Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray could also become available.

The fate of their blueline needs to be addressed. T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic are among those slated for UFA status. Seravalli also wondered about the fate of interim head coach Geoff Ward. If general manager Brad Treliving opts to start fresh, it would be his fifth coaching hire in seven years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It certainly seems likely that Gaudreau could be on the move during the off-season. Despite his postseason struggles, his regular-season production would be attractive to teams seeking scoring punch to reach the playoffs.

The Devils could be the best fit. They have the cap space and need an established winger alongside center Nico Hischier. The Sabres also have cap space but also have Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson at left wing and a greater need for a second-line center.

The Panthers have Jonathan Huberdeau as their first-line left-winger. They could reportedly cut costs in the offseason. The Blue Jackets could use Gaudreau but he and demanding head coach John Tortorella are as different as chalk and cheese.

Treliving could move Monahan but finding a suitable first-line center to replace him would be very difficult. If the Flames GM is interested in pursuing Hall, he’ll want Monahan there as his first-line center.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’S SATURDAY HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall will make finding a stable, winning situation his priority if he hits the open market at season’s end. He feels the 28-year-old Hall would prefer “a winning place to land” over one that could fill up his bank account the most. The winger’s only been in the playoff twice during his 10-year NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t mean Hall won’t be looking for a good contract. He’ll still want to get paid market value or as close to it as possible. Nevertheless, playing for a contender could mean more to him right now.

Speaking of the Coyotes, Elliotte Friedman suggested the future of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be worth following in the off-season. The 29-year-old defenseman has seven years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause. However, Friedman suggests it’ll come down to what ownership and new management wants to do going forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Right now, we don’t know if the Coyotes intend to trade Ekman-Larsson. He has full control over his fate. If he doesn’t want to waive his NMC, that could be the end of it.

However, if ownership makes the case that they’d like to move on without him, it could be a powerful incentive to waive it. Clubs lacking a top-two, left-side defenseman would be interested, but he’d still determine where he’d go.

Friedman also reported plenty of time remains for the St. Louis Blues and team captain Alex Pietrangelo to hammer out a new contract. There are still seven weeks until the UFA market opens on Nov. 1. It’s believed Pietrangelo wants to stay in St. Louis. Last October, Friedman reported the Blues wanted to sign him to a long-term deal below $9 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could affect how much the Blues can afford to invest in Pietrangelo. Nevertheless, the two sides seem keen to get a deal done. I’ll be surprised if he hits the open market in November.