The latest on the Rangers, Red Wings, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a strong postseason by Tony DeAngelo could increase his value when he negotiates his new contract and in the trade market. The Rangers defenseman is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the season’s end.
New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo (NHL Images).
Brooks feels the only path for a long-term deal for the young blueliner is moving him to the left side of the Rangers’ blueline. Trading DeAngelo would leave the Blueshirts scrambling to find an affordable veteran third-pairing, right-shot rearguard via free agency.
A strong playoff tournament by third-line center Filip Chytil could affect how the Rangers management approach contract talks with second-line center Ryan Strome, who’s also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Brooks would be shocked if they give Strome a long-term deal, especially when they’ll have to pay Mika Zibanejad $10 million annually to keep him off the UFA market in 2022. It would also keep Chytil relegated to the third line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $67 million tied up in 15 players for next season, with DeAngelo, Strome, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev among their notable free agents. It could be a tight squeeze fitting them within their cap payroll unless they shed a salary, which explains in part the speculation suggesting they could buy out the final season of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports acquiring a goaltender is among this off-season’s top priorities for Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. He’s skeptical the rebuilding Wings can entice any of this summer’s notable UFA goalies unless they overpay.
Khan suggests Yzerman go shopping via the trade market. Possible options include Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues, or Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan suggests bringing one of them in as long-term or stop-gap measures. Yzerman could prefer the long term.
Murray, Jarry, and Georgiev are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. The Wings GM could swing a deal acquiring one of them after they’re signed to a new contract.
Allen is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Assuming Yzerman was interested, he could seek assurances Allen would re-sign before trying to acquire him.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Hailey Salvian recently examined which Ottawa Senators’ free agents are staying or going. She doesn’t see them keeping Craig Anderson, Mikkel Boedker, Scott Sabourin or Matthew Peca, and feels it’s 50-50 UFAs Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki are re-signed.
Discussions continue over a 24-team tournament format, several cities pushing to become playoff hubs, Canada-USA border closure an issue, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
24-TEAM PLAYOFF FORMAT
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there is concern within the NHL and the NHL Players Association return-to-play committee over the fairness of returning with a 24-team tournament that would determine a 16-team post-season. Under that format, the Montreal Canadiens (a non-playoff team under normal standards) would face a good playoff club like the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Should they be at an equal position starting at the play-in of the 24-team format?”, asked Dreger, adding this must be resolved before the two sides sign off on this scenario.
Pierre LeBrun reported constant dialogue among the return-to-play committee since Saturday. “The hope is for resolution over the next 7-10 days but no guarantee,” said LeBrun.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports multiple sources are claiming the remarkable reputation of Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price among his peers raised concern over the unfairness of facing him in a best-of-three series. He claims there’s growing support for a best-of-five opening-round would temper the impact of a hot goalie in a short series.
Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some fans and pundits consider Price past his prime, but the Canadiens goaltender remains highly respected among his peers. He’s probably not the only reason players and general managers aren’t keen for a best-of-three opening-round format, but he’s a good example of the concerns raised about the fairness of the 24-team tournament.
NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos wonders if a 24-team playoff format could become the norm following this season. Expanding the postseason would generate more money for the owners, especially since revenue could be lower next season because of the pandemic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expanding the playoff format was being bandied about by several pundits before the pandemic. If the proposed 24-team tournament proves popular with fans this summer, the league could consider implementing that format permanently.
CANADA-USA BORDER CLOSURE AND NHL NEUTRAL-SITE HUB CITIES.
THE SCORE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly remains optimistic about the league’s plans to resume play despite the recent 30-day extension of the border closure between Canada and the United States to non-essential travel. “I remain hopeful that today’s announcement will not materially impact our return to play planning,” said Daly. Non-essential travel is considered tourism, recreation, and entertainment.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the league and the PA aren’t concerned about the border closure extension. They don’t anticipate playing games until mid-to-late July at the earliest. The league’s Phase 2 plan involves players participating in small group workouts on a voluntary basis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Because the NHL is considered a business, I daresay they’ll receive an exemption from the Canadian government.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Alberta premier Jason Kenney believes Edmonton would be the safest place on the continent for the NHL to play. He points to the low number of COVID-19 cases in the city and the province, as well as the highest per-capita testing in North America. Kenney also touted the Oilers’ state-of-the-art arena and the local facilities to accommodate the players. “All of the services are right there to be safely integrated in a protected zone that would keep the players and staff insulated. So I think we have a very strong pitch to make.”
NBC SPORTS: California governor Gavin Newsom said pro sports could return in his state by the first week of June without fans.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild are interested in St. Paul becoming a host city when the league returns to action.
THE TENNESSEAN: The city of Nashville would also like to become a neutral-site host for NHL games this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several factors will go into determining which cities the NHL selects as neutral-site hosts. Ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved will be the priority.
MORE NHL-NHLPA HEADLINES
THE DENVER POST: Tampa Bay Lightning analyst Brian Engblom wonders what will happen if one of the players isn’t comfortable with returning to action and stays home.
“What if it’s a key guy? People are afraid and they have every right to be. If you have one player, and maybe he’s a real key player. What do you do? It’s a free country. That person is allowed to say no. These are unprecedented times. How can you make them do anything? What’s a team going to do? Are they going to fine them? You can’t, in my opinion. This is a person’s choice because of an unreal situation.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a fair point by Engblom. In all the reports about hammering out a return-to-play format, no one has raised what will happen if a player, especially a superstar, decides he doesn’t want to risk contracting COVID-19 and refuses to report. The players are under contract, but these are extraordinary times. If one star refuses to participate, others could follow his example, creating a potential marketing headache for the league and a contractual standoff between the players and their teams.
TSN: The NHLPA’s 31 player representatives agreed to further defer a decision on their Apr. 15 paychecks until the end of May.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the league and the PA have discussed the possibility of extending the current collective bargaining agreement beyond 2021-22. The main issue could be a cap on escrow payments. Brooks said the players “are currently responsible for making up the 2019-20 carryover escrow next year. The players would obviously prefer to extend the payment over multiple seasons.” The anticipated escrow cap offer would be higher than 25 percent.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the current relationship between the league and the PA is the best he’s seen in his career. Much of that harmony involves the return-to-play committee, which includes Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, and special assistant Mathieu Schneider, as well as notable players such as Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Mark Scheifele.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why we’re hearing so much hopeful speculation suggesting a new era of NHL labor peace could emerge from this current situation. Nevertheless, the escrow cap issue could be the major sticking point. Resolving that will smooth a pathway toward a CBA extension.
THE SCORE: The NHL is unhappy over teams signing players to entry-level contracts with “to be determined” start dates. The league made a rule when this season was paused that such contracts couldn’t have a 2019-20 start date, but some clubs hoped to use “TBD” as a potential loophole. The league isn’t allowing contracts with undetermined start dates to be submitted to Central Registry.
OTTAWA SUN: NHL players in the Ottawa area will be allowed to skate at the privately-owned Minto Arena after receiving approval from the Ontario government. Strict conditions will be in place, such as only five players on the ice at a time and maintaining physical distancing in the building at all times.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Goaltender Cory Schneider said he hasn’t given any thought to retirement and intends to complete his contract with the Devils. He split his time this season between the Devils and their AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators winger Mikkel Boedker signed a two-year contract with Lugano of the Swiss league starting next season.
WGR550: The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly close to signing Jesper Olofsson, brother of Sabres winger Victor Olofsson.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes are close to extending their deal with PNC Arena to 2029.
The New Jersey Devils need a goaltending upgrade, the Senators could acquire another forward, and the Leafs need to make room for Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE DEVILS PURSUE COYOTES’ RAANTA?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the New Jersey Devils need a goaltending upgrade as Cory Schneider and MacKenzie Blackwood struggle between the pipes. He wonders if the Arizona Coyotes could be enticed to part with Antti Raanta, who’s recovered from the lower-body injury that sidelined him for most of last season. Raanta has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.25 million and is backing up Darcy Kuemper.
Should the New Jersey Devils pursue a deal for Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks is speculating here. He’s not saying the Devils are pursuing Raanta or that the Coyotes are willing to part with him. Still, it might be worthwhile for Devils general manager Ray Shero to inquire into Raanta’s availability. When he’s healthy he’s outstanding but his injury history is an issue. Coyotes GM John Chayka isn’t under any pressure to move Raanta and could keep his goalie tandem intact for the season.
SENATORS SEEK ANOTHER FORWARD
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion is searching for a forward who can help their roster. Calling up Filip Chlapik means little-used winger Mikkel Boedker’s days in Ottawa are numbered.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boedker could draw some interest from clubs seeking depth at right wing. Cap Friendly indicates he’s carrying an annual salary-cap hit of $4 million. Dorion might have to pick up part of that to move the 29-year-old winger.
THE LEAFS MUST MAKE ROOM FOR HYMAN AND DERMOTT
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski reports the Maple Leafs must make room for the return of sidelined winger Zach Hyman and defenseman Travis Dermott. Trading winger Nic Petan ($775K) could be one option as he’s appeared in just four games this season. Petan and defenseman Kevin Gravel both cleared waivers earlier this month and could be assigned to the Marlies. Fourth-liners Jason Spezza, Dmytro Timashov, and Nick Shore “live with the possibility that they could be moved at any time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Petan would probably attract more interest in the trade market. So what do you think, Leafs fans? Which fourth-liner should be traded or demoted to make room for Hyman and Dermott? Weigh in with your opinions in the comments below.
NHLPA decision to re-open CBA extended to Monday, Evgeny Kuznetsov receives a three-game suspension, Wild re-sign Jared Spurgeon, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL Players Association intends to use a provision in the NHL collective bargaining agreement to extend its deadline to re-open the CBA to Monday, Sept, 16. The provision allows the deadline to be advanced to the next business day if the decision date falls on a Sunday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the PA decides to re-open the CBA, it will expire in one year if the two sides fail to reach agreement on a CBA extension. Optimists will consider this one-day extension as potentially good news, providing the PA and the league an extra day to work out a deal. Whatever decision the players make, Ottawa Senators PA representative Dylan DeMelo claims they will be united behind it.
WASHINGTON POST: Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov received a three-game suspension by the NHL after testing positive for cocaine this spring while representing Russia at the 2019 World Championships. Kuznetsov won’t appeal the suspension.
The NHL suspends Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games after testing positive for cocaine earlier this year (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it’s a slap on the wrist for Kuznetsov but also a warning shot across his bow. A repeat offense will lead to a lengthier suspension.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild yesterday re-signed defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a seven-year, $53-million contract extension. The annual average value is $7.575 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bill Guerin’s first significant signing since taking over as the Wild’s general manager is being widely applauded. Despite his 5’9″, 167-pound frame, Spurgeon is a key part of the Wild defense corps. The 29-year-old logs big minutes and plays well at both ends of the rink.
With the rising salary cap driving up players salaries, this deal for Spurgeon is already a bargain for the Wild. He would’ve received much more in next summer’s free-agent market.
WINNIPEG SUN: Winger Patrik Laine will train with SC Bern in Switzerland as his contract impasse continues with the Jets. Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Ken Wiebe reports Andrew Copp is dealing with a minor injury while Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen “were a bit stiff after they were in a fender bender on Friday.”
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Center Kevin Hayes denied a rumor from back in June claiming he would sign with the Flyers only if they overpaid him. “Someone made up something and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” he said. In June, he signed a seven-year, $50-million contract.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk won’t be ready for the start of the season as he continues to rehab from off-season shoulder surgery.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens blueliners Noah Juulsen (head) and Karl Alzner (groin injury) are listed as day-to-day.
CBC: A U.S. casino is suing Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk “for more than $900,000, saying he tried and failed to pay them with bank drafts over a winter weekend in 2017.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Annnnnd the Melnyk Circus continues in Ottawa. Step right up, folks, and let’s see what mischief the Senators cantankerous owner can ensnare himself into this season.
Boedker will be our at least five days with hip flexor. #Sens
The latest Penguins, Bruins, Senators, Capitals, and Flyers speculation, plus an update on Nikita Zaitsev, in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PENGUINS NOT DONE DEALING?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In the wake of the Penguins trading Olli Maatta to Chicago for Dominik Kahan and a draft pick, Ron Cook believes there’s more work to do. Trading Maatta won’t return them to Stanley Cup contender status or resolve their team chemistry. General manager Jim Rutherford last week said he’d welcome back Phi Kessel. Cook, however, believes Rutherford is still trying to trade the winger.
Patric Hornqvist’s age, concussion history, and his lengthy contract make him difficult to move. Blueliner Kris Letang has as 12-team no-trade list, and Evgeni Malkin has a full no-movement clause. Cook considers Malkin the least likely to be traded but doesn’t rule it out if the right deal can be found.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel recently spiked a deal that would’ve sent him to Minnesota for winger Jason Zucker. If Rutherford wants to move the winger he must convince him to broaden his eight-team trade list. I don’t see Hornqvist, Letang or Malkin going anywhere.
MORE KRUG AND KREJCI TRADE SPECULATION
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty recently suggested defenseman Torey Krug and center David Krejci could become Boston Bruins’ trade bait. Krug, 28, is a year away from unrestricted free agent status and coming off a strong performance this season. Haggerty thinks he’d be the bait the Bruins need to land a top-six power forward but they’ll have to carefully consider that option.
Haggerty also feels Krejci is now at his peak value and could attract interest in the trade market. Moving his $7.25-million annual average value would clear up some potential salary-cap complications.
Could Boston Bruins center David Krejci become a cost-cutting trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have a projected $14.3 million in salary-cap space. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are coming off entry-level contracts. Their new deals could eat up most of that cap room. They could buy out David Backes but would see only $333K in cap savings for 2019-20.
Krejci’s no-movement clause reverts to a modified no-trade on July 1. That could make him easier to shop. But after coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup this season, GM Don Sweeney could be reluctant to move Krug or Krejci.
“ZAITSEV-TO-EDMONTON” MEDIA CHATTER CONTINUES
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples observes conflicting speculation out of Toronto linking Maple Leafs blueliner Nikita Zaitsev to the Oilers. He notes TSN’s Darren Dreger last week suggesting the Oilers and Vancouver Canucks could have interest in Zaitsev, a third-pairing rearguard earning second-pairing dollars ($4.5 million annually). Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman countered he’s heard the Oilers aren’t going down that route.
However, The Athletic’s James Mirtle considers Edmonton the top destination. He wondered if packaging Zaitsev with Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would bring Adam Larsson to Toronto.
Staples doesn’t believe the Oilers would agree to that deal. “However you slice it, Edmonton can’t afford to have another big contract from a player who isn’t a top performer, not with Milan Lucic already on the books and Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell and Mikko Koskinen all iffy propositions.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Staples on this one. There’s a better chance of Lucic getting traded to Vancouver for Loui Eriksson than a package of Zaitsev and Kapanen or Johnsson going to Edmonton for Larsson. And I think Lucic-for-Eriksson is a long shot.
CAPITALS CAP CONUNDRUM
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien points out the Washington Capitals’ limited salary-cap space following their re-signing of Carl Hagelin yesterday. They now have around $10.7 million in projected salary-cap room. Their restricted free agents include Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky while Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Brooks Orpik are unrestricted.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith-Pelly isn’t expected to be re-signed. NBC Sports Washington’s J.J.Regan believes their acquisition last week of Radko Gudas spells the end of Orpik’s tenure with the Capitals.
Vrana’s going to be re-signed and I think they want to keep Connolly if he’ll agree to accept less than market value. Burakovsky’s frequently come up in trade rumors this season and could be moved if things get tight cap-wise.
FLYERS SEEK A BACKUP GOALTENDER
COURIER-POST ONLINE: Dave Isaac reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has spoken with some teams regarding a potential trade for a backup goalie. Fletcher suggests that search could go into the upcoming free-agency period. It doesn’t sound like pending UFAs Brian Elliott and Cam Talbot will be back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trade options could including James Reimer of the Florida Panthers and Garret Sparks of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both are reportedly being shopped by their respective clubs.
UPDATE ON THE SENATORS
OTTAWA SUN: Given the Senators’ blueline depth, Bruce Garrioch wouldn’t be surprised if they put defenseman Ben Harpur on the trade block. His size and affordable $725K one-way contract could make him an attractive option. The Senators also wouldn’t mind moving veteran winger Mikkel Boedker. He has a year left on his contract with a $4-million cap hit. They’re also expected to qualify the rights of restricted free agents Cody Ceci, Colin White, and Anthony Duclair.
Latest on Carey Price, Nate Schmidt, Mikkel Boedker and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: With defenseman Shea Weber sidelined until January and the Canadiens still carrying a pop-gun offense, goaltender Carey Price must be at his best if they’re to have any hope of reaching the playoffs next spring.
A bounce-back performance by goaltender Carey Price is crucial to the Montreal Canadiens’ playoff hopes in 2018-19. (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price had the worst performance of his career last season, in part because of the Canadiens’ weaknesses as well as injury and chronic fatigue syndrome. In the past, he’s been able to bounce back from a lousy season. If he can do it again in 2018-19, the Habs might have a shot at reaching the postseason, though he probably won’t have enough left to carry them beyond the opening round.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Ed Graney believes the 20-game suspension received by Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt illustrates how laughable the NHL’s drug-testing program is compared to other pro sports leagues. He cites in part the lack of transparency on both sides over the process and the substance used.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless one of the league’s biggest stars ends up in a situation similar to Schmidt’s, I doubt we’ll see any clarity over the league’s drug-testing policies.
OTTAWA SUN: Winger Mikkel Boedker is looking forward to playing for a Canadian team for the first time in his NHL career. Boedker, who previously played with the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, was acquired by the Senators from the Sharks in a trade this past June. Despite the Senators’ struggles last season, Boedker believes they’re “about to turn the ship around.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boedker has considerable play-making skills but his production tends to be inconsistent. A career year on his part could help the Senators rebound this season.
THE ATHLETIC: Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo hopes to improve his confidence entering his third NHL season. After a promising rookie campaign his play slipped a bit last season.