NHL Trade Roundup: Lots of Big Names Moving After Busy Week of Dealing
The Nashville Predators traded Nick Bonino and the 37th and 70th picks in the 2020 NHL Draft to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Luke Kunin and the 101st pick in this year’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild general manager Bill Guerin acquires another center in Bonino, who plays a two-way game and netted 18 goals and 35 points in 67 games last season. He joins Marcus Johansson and Nick Bjugstad among Guerin’s recent acquisitions though none of them can be considered a first-line center. The Wild GM seems to be going for quantity over quality, though we can’t rule out the possibility he’ll swing a trade for a first-line pivot at some point.
The Predators, meanwhile, shed the 32-year-old Bonino’s $4.1 million salary-cap hit for Kunin, a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract. The 22-year-old Kunin is younger, can play center or wing whose offensive stats (15 goals, 31 points in 65 games) were comparable to Bonino. He’ll likely be an affordable re-signing for the Preds on a two-year bridge deal.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.