NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2020

Check out the latest on the Leafs, Oilers, and Devils in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE LEAFS PURSUE BONINO?

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked if pursing a third-line center was a priority for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. Fox believes acquiring a top-four, right-shot defenseman remains Dubas’ priority, but feels improving the depth at center should be next.

The reader proposed pursuing Nashville Predators center Nick Bonino. Fox believes he’d be a wonderful addition but doubts the Predators will part with him. He instead suggested some short-term UFA options like Joe Thornton, Derick Brassard, Nate Thompson, Brad Richardson, or Greg McKegg.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators GM David Poile still considers his club a contender. I don’t see him moving Bonino.

Cap Friendly indicates the Predators have over $72 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They could use some cap relief if they hope to re-sign UFAs like Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith, but Poile could consider other cost-cutting options (hello there, Kyle Turris).

The Leafs, meanwhile, have over $76.9 million tied up in 16 players. That’s not much room to pursue a top-four defenseman and a third-line center. They’ll have to shop one or two salaried players to address those needs.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (Photo via NHL Images).

One reader proposed the Leafs swap Morgan Rielly and William Nylander to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones and Josh Anderson. Fox loves the idea of such a blockbuster deal but noted how NHL teams love their talent too much to make such transactions. He also pointed out Jones and Rielly are massively popular in their respective markets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If you’re gonna dream, dream big. Thanks to the salary cap, true blockbuster trades are increasingly rare.

OILERS COULD KEEP 2020 THIRD-ROUND PICK

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the NHL deciding the regular season is over could mean the Oilers won’t have to part with their conditional 2020 third-round pick to the Calgary Flames. It was part of the deal that saw the Oilers ship winger Milan Lucic to Edmonton in exchange for winger James Neal.

Under the conditions of the trade, the Oilers’ pick would’ve belonged to the Flames if Neal scored 21 goals this season. He had 19 when the schedule was paused. Oilers GM Ken Holland said he hasn’t been officially told that’s the case.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis said the league still hasn’t addressed how it will sort out this season’s conditional trades. He suggested three possible approaches. One, the season is interpreted as having ended at 71 games, meaning the Oilers keep their pick. Two, the league prorate results over 82 games, meaning Neal could be credited with 22 goals and the Flames get the pick. The third is a compromise in which the Flames get some lesser draft compensation from the Oilers.

SUGGESTED BLUELINE TRADE TARGETS FOR THE DEVILS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked about realistic blueline trade targets for the New Jersey Devils.

Masisak ruled out pursuing young defensemen on potentially cap-strapped teams like Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev and St. Louis’ Vince Dunn as he expects they’ll be re-signed by their respective clubs. Older, short-term options could be available, such as Chicago’s Olli Maatta or Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.

He also noted the Buffalo Sabres have too many blueliners, suggesting Colin Miller as a target. He also wondered if the Minnesota Wild might part with Jonas Brodin. Even some potential free agent bargains like Cody Ceci or Joel Edmundson might be worthwhile for the right term and price.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak believes the Devils’ priority could be adding a defenseman or two after trading away Sami Vatanen and Andy Greene in February. Who they target, however, depends upon who’s sitting in the GM’s chair following this season. Will interim GM Tom Fitzgerald remains on the job, or will they hire someone else?










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 16, 2020

The NHL could be shut down until May, the latest on the potential effect upon the salary cap, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the cancellation or postponement of all events consisting of at least 50 people for eight weeks throughout the United States. That would mean the NHL is unlikely to return to action until mid-May at the earliest.

NHL arenas could remain dark until mid-May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the league still intends on finishing the regular season and staging a full playoff schedule, the Stanley Cup wouldn’t be awarded until probably late July or early August.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes the Summer Olympics (July 24 – Aug. 9) could be the “drop-dead” period when resuming the NHL season no longer makes sense. He doubts the league wants the Stanley Cup Final going up against the Olympics. He also feels the NHL won’t drag out a decision if it gets a strong sense it cannot continue the season.

Citing multiple sources, LeBrun feels the league and the NHL Players Association won’t let teams fall into salary-cap hell by allowing the cap to drop by millions of dollars for 2020-21. In this exceptional circumstance, both sides can agree to an artificial cap that makes sense for all sides.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I and others (including LeBrun) have pointed out, the league and the PA agreed to an artificial cap for 2013-14 after coming out of the 2012-13 lockout, keeping it at the ’11-’12 level ($64.3 million). I expect they’ll at least maintain it at this season’s level ($81.5 million) if necessary.

TSN: LeBrun also reports it’s business as usual for college free agents hoping to sign NHL contracts. Colleague Mark Masters, meanwhile, interviewed two experts in the field of athletic performance over how the players can remain in shape during their period of self-quarantine.

Speaking of business as usual, the Anaheim Ducks yesterday placed forward Kiefer Sherwood on waivers.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the league wants its players to remain in the cities where they play for their protection and to make it easier to assess the overall health of the NHL community.

All five of Toronto’s professional sports teams combined to create a special assistance fund for event staff affected by the suspension of all major sports in the city.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens announced a support plan to assist game-day employees dealing with income loss during the pause to the NHL season.

WINNIPEG SUN: Following considerable public backlash, Jets chairman Mark Chipman announced the club would compensate part-time arena employees full pay for missed events.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames also reversed course under public pressure and will compensate their part-time and hourly employees.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Flames ownership was shamed into action after it was reported their players were donating to a fundraising page to assist those employees. The Ottawa Senators are reportedly the only Canadian team yet to announce any support plan for their employees.

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Nick Bonino took to social media to urge the city’s citizens to stay away from large gatherings to prevent spreading the coronavirus. “There is no excuse,” he wrote. “We have a chance to lock down our cities now, close restaurants and bars, or, if safe, only offer takeout/delivery, anything to slow the spread.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Swedish Ice Hockey Association canceled the remainder of its season.

THE SCORE: The KHL is defending its decision to continue its playoffs despite one of its best teams (Jokerit) dropping out over coronavirus concerns. “The (COVID-19) pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, and in this regard, KHL is in consultation with clubs and all relevant authorities to diligently manage the impact of this matter.”

DEADSPIN: Now that quarantines are going into effect, Jesse Spector is revisiting old video games like NES Hockey.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2020

Check out the latest on the Bruins, Oilers, and Sharks, plus an update on Robin Lehner in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST BRUINS TRADE BUZZ

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Jacob Camenker cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting the Boston Bruins could pursue Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli. “I’ll tell you this, I do think Boston if they wanted to, could do a deal for Toffoli almost at any time. I think they know they’ve got that in their hip pocket,” Friedman said. He added the question was whether they’d do that deal or wait for New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider to become available. Friedman said he’s been told the Rangers are starting to think more about keeping Kreider.

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri checks all the boxes for the Bruins. If Palmieri’s available in the trade market, one NHL assistant general manager suggested the Bruins could make a pitch similar to the one that landed Charlie Coyle last year from the Minnesota Wild. Shinzawa proposed offering up winger Anders Bjork and perhaps a prospect like Axel Andersson for Palmieri, who’s signed through 2020-21.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports league sources confirmed the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have talked trade. One source mentioned Bruins defenseman John Moore as a possible trade target for the Hawks, who are in the market for a third-pairing rearguard.

Murphy also claims Bruins GM Don Sweeney has an interest in Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad and Rangers winger Chris Kreider. With only $1.7 million in salary-cap space, Sweeney must shed some salary to make room for a top-six winger. Moore has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $2.7 million.

Are the Boston Bruins close to acquiring LA Kings winger Tyler Toffoli? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After falling just short of winning the Stanley Cup last spring, the Bruins are all-in this season. Sweeney’s not reluctant to make significant moves before the trade deadline, acquiring Coyle and Marcus Johansson last year and Rick Nash in 2018.

Be it Toffoli, Kreider, Saad, or somebody else, I believe the Bruins GM will pursue a top-six winger before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Anders Bjork could be packaged with a prospect or draft pick to acquire that winger. Given the Bruins’ limited salary-cap space, Sweeney must dump some salary and perhaps get a trade partner to pick up part of the salary of the player he’s pursuing to get a deal done.

WILL THE OILERS BOLSTER THEIR ROSTER BEFORE THE TRADE DEADLINE?

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes the Edmonton Oilers must add a top-six winger to avoid wasting another MVP season from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. While the Oilers hold a playoff position in the Western Conference, they’re not that far ahead of the ninth-place Vancouver Canucks. He suggests pursuing Ottawa Senators winger Anthony Duclair, who has 21 goals and 32 points in 43 games this season.

EDMONTON JOURNAL’s Jim Matheson recently tweeted Oilers GM Ken Holland will help his players out at the trade deadline by going after a third-line center. He wondered if Holland might look at Nashville’s Nick Bonino if the Preds fail to gain ground in the standings, but only if they pick up part of his $4.1-million AAV through next season.

Matheson also speculated Holland could look at Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou. He doesn’t believe Holland will trade his first-round pick in this year’s draft but feels the second-rounder and a defense prospect could be in play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t dismiss the possibility of the Senators parting ways with Duclair, but he’s a restricted free agent this summer and they’re under no pressure to move him before the trade deadline. If he keeps playing well, the Sens could be keen to re-sign him.

Predators GM David Poile made a coaching change in hopes of getting his team back into the playoff chase. If they keep spinning their wheels, however, a roster shakeup could be in order, and that could include shopping Bonino before the trade deadline.

Not sure how interested Holland would be to acquire Athanasiou. The young forward staged an ill-advised contract standoff with Holland in 2017 but subsequently re-signed a two-year deal with no fuss. The 25-year-old is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

Holland also has winger Jesse Puljujarvi as a trade chip. He recently told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun he wouldn’t rule out moving Puljujarvi for a playoff rental, depending on who that player was. However, I still think Holland intends to use the winger to seek a more long-term return.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE SHARKS?

THE ATHLETIC: With San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture sidelined for several weeks with a fractured ankle, Kevin Kurz examined how his absence will affect the Sharks lineup. He also suggested it could make GM Doug Wilson’s trade-deadline plans less complicated. The problem is Wilson doesn’t have much to sell as most of his key assets have various forms of no-trade protection. He believes defenseman Brendan Dillon is a goner and forward Melker Karlsson could also be on the way out.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton also weighed in on the struggling Sharks’ woes without Couture. In addition to Dillon and Karlsson likely hitting the trade block, Clinton suggested shopping defenseman Tim Heed and goalie Aaron Dell. He also recommended asking Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau if they want an opportunity to chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere. Clinton acknowledged whatever returns the Sharks get for those players won’t include first- or second-round picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring a significant second-half turnaround, the Sharks aren’t going to reach the playoffs. They’re currently eight points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

Wilson won’t get much back for those suggested trade bait, but whatever he gets will be better than nothing at all. He gambled everything on this roster, even giving up a first-round pick in this year’s draft for Erik Karlsson. Wilson must restock his prospect pipeline and look toward the summer in hopes of finding some affordable NHL talent via trades or free agency.

NO HOMETOWN DISCOUNT FOR LEHNER

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Jimmy Greenfield reports Robin Lehner made it clear he’s not accepting another discount on his next contract. The 28-year-old goaltender said he enjoys being a Blackhawks and hopes to remain part of their future. However, he’s also accepted contract discounts throughout his NHL career.

“I’m not a guy that wants to be overpaid either. I want to gain some respect that I think I deserve, and we’ll see if that happens or not,” he said. Lehner knows the market is wide-open for goaltenders this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, if the Blackhawks won’t pony up a lucrative long-term deal worth considerably more than the $5 million he’s earning this season, there are plenty of other NHL clubs willing to do so this summer.

They could include the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, or Ottawa Senators. The Vancouver Canucks could also come calling if they can’t get Jacob Markstrom re-signed, as well as the Edmonton Oilers if they’re not sold on Mikko Koskinen as their starter.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – January 7, 2020

Are more moves coming for the Predators after firing their head coach? What’s the latest on the Rangers, Penguins, and Jets? Find out in today’s edition of the NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PREDATORS?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton reports speculation abounds over who will replace Peter Laviolette as the Nashville Predators head coach. The Predators last night announced Laviolette had been relieved of his duties.

Former San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer and former New Jersey Devils bench boss John Hynes are being suggested as his potential replacement. Clinton cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying the Predators indicate their coach for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins remains to be announced.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators announced former Devils coach John Hynes has been hired as Laviolette’s replacement. 

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski also reports DeBoer and Hynes are being mentioned as possible candidates for the Predators’ vacant coaching position. He  suggested former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, though he needs an image rehab following accusations of mental abuse by some former players.

Will Nashville Predators GM David Poile make a move or two before the trade deadline? (Photo via NHL Images)

Wyshynski also expects Predators general manager David Poile to be active by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. He points out Poile has already indicated the Preds are “open for business.” They have five picks in the first three round of the 2020 NHL Draft and could have upward of $8 million in cap space by the deadline.

THE ATHLETIC: Before Laviolette’s firing, Adam Vingan listed Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, Nick Bonino, and Kyle Turris as possible trade candidates if Poile becomes a seller. Of the four, Bonino could have the most trade value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators’ performance under Laviolette’s replacement over the next four weeks will determine if Poile becomes a buyer or a seller. That coaching change might not help if the Preds don’t get better goaltending from Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, who have a combined 3.27 goals-against per game.

If Poile becomes a seller, pending UFAs Granlund and Smith are the most likely to be moved. Bonino has one year remaining on his contract with an annual average salary of $4.1 million. Turris’s $6-million annual average value through 2023-24 makes him almost untradeable, unless Poile agrees to pick up a healthy chunk of his cap hit.

WHAT’S BEHIND THE RANGERS’ THREE-GOALIE SYSTEM?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders why the Rangers called up goaltender Igor Shesterkin when they already have Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. It’s unclear if the move was motivated by concern over Shesterkin possibly exercising the out-clause in his contract to return to the KHL, or to play with a European club. Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere, while Georgiev’s waiver exemption expired on Dec. 20.

Brooks reports there’s no indication the Rangers have a trade in the works for Georgiev or that teams are calling with interest in Lundqvist, who has no intention of waiving his no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could be concerned Shesterkin might head overseas if he didn’t see NHL action this season. If he plays well, it could stoke speculation over Georgiev’s future in New York. If he plays poorly, the Blueshirts can justify returning him to the minors for the rest of the season.

PENGUINS STILL SEEKING A WINGER

TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh reports the Pittsburgh Penguins intend to find a way to replace sidelined winger Jake Guentzel. They have the opportunity to clear his $6-million salary-cap hit by potentially placing him on long-term injury reserve. GM Jim Rutherford said he’s received some calls, but he’s been offered depth forwards rather than a top-six winger.

Rutherford indicated he doesn’t need to address his left-side depth because of the versatility of his wingers. “If a better right winger comes along than a left-winger that makes sense in a deal, I don’t feel the pressure that we have to have a left-hand shot,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will certainly broaden the range of potential trade targets for the Penguins in the coming weeks. Once they get back their other sidelined forwards, such as Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad, Rutherford will be able to better evaluate his needs at forward.

JETS’ NIKU DOWNPLAYS TRADE REPORT

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Jets defenseman Sami Niku downplayed a report out of his native Finland claiming he’s unhappy with his place in the club’s organization. He had an early-season clash with Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy and spent some time with their AHL affiliate. That left him reportedly considering a trade request or heading for the KHL.

Niku acknowledged the dispute with Huddy but claimed it was a miscommunication and apologized to Huddy. He also insisted he doesn’t want to play in the KHL. Jets coach Paul Maurice attributed Niku’s demotion to injuries.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 30, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 30, 2019

Big nights for Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, the Stars rally back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Wild, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

A four-point performance by Alex Ovechkin carried the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo via NHL Images).

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, and added two assists to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ovechkin moved ahead of Luc Robitaille into 12th spot on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list with his 669th career goal. Nicklas Backstrom collected three helpers and John Carlson scored twice for the Capitals. Auston Matthews had a three-point effort for the Leafs, who also lost defenseman Jake Muzzin to a leg injury following a first-period collision with Capitals winger Tom Wilson.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists as his club crushed the Philadelphia Flyers 7-1. Dominik Kahun and Dominik Simon also each had a goal and two assists. The Penguins welcomes back winger Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Brian Dumoulin off injured reserve.

The Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Minnesota Wild 6-3. Stars winger Alexander Radulov led the way with a hat trick and an assist while Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist. Wild winger Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch.

Nick Bonino tallied a natural hat trick and Pekka Rinne picked up his second straight shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner made 48 saves in defeat while teammate Brent Seabrook was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seabrook wasn’t pleased about it. I’ll have more on his situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

The Boston Bruins extended their winning streak to four games by beating the San Jose Sharks 5-1, handing the latter their third straight loss. David Pastrnak scored to extend his points streak to 10 games while Brad Marchand picked up an assist to extend his points streak to 11 games. Bruins center David Krejci returned to action after a five-game absence, tallying a goal and an assist.

Cam Fowler set a franchise record for most goals by an Anaheim Ducks defenseman in a 7-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Fowler surpassed Scott Niedermayer with his 61st career goal. Carter Rowney scored twice, Josh Mahura collected three assists, and John Gibson made 36 saves for the Ducks. Nikolaj Ehlers had three points in a losing cause. The Jets played without winger Patrik Laine, who’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The New York Rangers upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Filip Chytil scored the game-winner in his season debut, Ryan Strome had a two-point performance, and goalie Alexandar Georgiev kicked out 29 shots. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and forwards Pat Maroon and Anthony Cirelli left the game with injuries and are considered day-to-day.

Andrei Svechnikov scored twice, including a lacrosse-style goal, as the Carolina Hurricanes edge the Calgary Flames 2-1. Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek made 28 saves for the win. Earlier in the day, Flames winger Tobias Rieder cleared waivers but remained in the lineup.

The Detroit Red Wings snapped an eight-game winless skid by upsetting the Edmonton Oilers 3-1. Dylan Larkin had a two-point outing and netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Head coach Jared Bednar believes the winger will miss some significant time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s two-thirds of the Avalanche’s first line out of the lineup. Landeskog joins Mikko Rantanen (leg injury) on injured reserve. It’ll be a big test for the Avs, who sit atop the Western Conference standings.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils winger Nikita Gusev will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s matchup against the Lightning.

NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Mark Pavelich was deemed unfit to stand trial for an alleged assault of a neighbor in August. The judge suspended the trial, ruling Pavelich “lacks the ability to rationally consult with counsel, is incapable of understanding the proceedings, and is incapable of participating in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency.”










NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2019

Updates on Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris, David Backes and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

WILL THE LEAFS RE-SIGN BARRIE?

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently reported Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie seeks $8-million annually on his next contract. Earlier this month, the Leafs acquired the 27-year-old Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche. He’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status and ranks sixth in scoring among NHL defensemen over the past two seasons.

Can the Leafs afford to re-sign Tyson Barrie after this season? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Avalanche weren’t going to pay Barrie $8 million per season. Fox speculates the Leafs might, depending upon how well their overhauled blueline corps performs in 2019-20. Morgan Rielly is the only Leafs defenseman under contract beyond this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon Barrie’s performance. So will their cap space for 2020-21. According to Cap Friendly, the Leafs have over $55.3 million invested in just 12 players. They still have to re-sign Mitch Marner this summer.

Assuming Marner’s next contract is worth between $8.5 million – $10.5 million, the Leafs could have between $63 million to $65 million wrapped up in 13 players. Depending upon how much the cap rises for 2020-21, they won’t have much left to re-sign Barrie and flesh out the rest of the lineup.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas did a fine job this summer shedding burdensome contracts while addressing his roster’s weaknesses. Time will tell if he can successfully walk that salary-cap tightrope again next summer. 

LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan recently reported the Nashville Predators appear willing to retain Kyle Turris this season. The 29-year-old center struggled in 2018-19 but Predators GM David Poile hopes he’ll bounce back. The Preds addition of Matt Duchene via free agency sparked speculation over Turris’ future in Nashville. If he struggles again his trade value will decline, especially with his $6-million per season contract.

Vingan noted Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman floated the notion of the Montreal Canadiens pursuing Turris before free agency. The Habs had interest in Duchene and made a failed attempt to sign Carolina’s Sebastian Aho. Vingan’s colleague Marc Dumont believed the Predators would either have to pick up half of Turris’ salary-cap hit or take back defenseman Karl Alzner. 

In a recent mailbag segment, Vingan was asked about the likelihood of Turris or Nick Bonino getting moved before the start of the season. He won’t be surprised if they’re still with the club on opening night. Given the Preds’ limited salary-cap space, however, he can see one of them being part of a cost-cutting trade. He felt Bonino was a more likely trade candidate. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have over $5 million in cap space with Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi still to re-sign. They should have enough to get both under contract but, as Granger points out, they won’t have much wiggle room for other moves.

The Canadiens have over $4.8 million in cap space. The Predators will have to absorb half of Turris’ cap hit to make him enticing. Even then, I doubt he’s on GM Marc Bergevin’s radar. At $4.1 million annually through 2020-21, Bonino is more affordable than Turris but his cap hit could still be a stumbling block. 

DEVILS INTERESTED IN BACKES?

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites “a league source with knowledge of the situation” claiming the New Jersey Devils could have interest in Boston Bruins forward David Backes. The 35-year-old has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million.

The Bruins have around $8 million in salary-cap space and must re-sign restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Shedding Backes’ contract via trade would free up more cap room. The Bruins might have to include a sweetener, such as their first-round pick in 2020, which GM Don Sweeney is reluctant to move. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Murphy notes the Devils have the cap space ($19.8 million) to comfortably absorb Backes’ cap hit. However, they’ll want something worthwhile included in the deal. Otherwise, the Devils could ask the Bruins to pick up part of Backes’ cap hit.