Latest on the Lightning, Bruins and Islanders in NHL Rumor Roundup
What next for the Lightning after re-signing Mikhail Sergachev? What effect will the end of Johnny Boychuk’s career have upon the Islanders’ cap space? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois remains confident he’ll get restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak under contract after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev yesterday.
Sergachev’s new contract puts the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. BriseBois acknowledged he’ll have to move players to free up sufficient cap space to sign Cirelli and Cernak. “There’s a lot of progress being made,” he said. “We’re working on a bunch of different fronts, there’s a lot of balls up in the air. Nothing has materialized yet.”
Smith believes the Sergachev signing suggests the Lightning GM has a move in place or in the works to clear cap space. Winger Tyler Johnson is the top trade candidate. He’s provided BriseBois with a list of eight or nine preferred trade destinations but Smith said things are quiet on the Johnson front.
Winger Alex Killorn could be another trade candidate. He’s got three years left on his contract with a $4.45 million annual average value and a modified no-trade clause.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also listed Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat as Lightning trade options. They’ll have more trade value than Johnson and Killorn but they’re also better players. He also wonders if they’d consider moving Cirelli or another player with a big contract though neither option seems ideal.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy speculates BriseBois will likely have to package Johnson with another asset to move him and his $5 million AAV off their books.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois didn’t need to rush to sign Sergachev. Perhaps he got wind of another club thinking about signing the young blueliner to an offer sheet. That doesn’t seem to be the case if Sergachev’s comments about wanting to retire in Tampa are anything to go by.
The Lightning GM could indeed have a deal in the works to move Johnson or someone else like Killorn. I doubt he trades Gourde or Palat. He won’t want to take on additional salary in return so a sweetener like a high draft pick and/or top prospect will have to be packaged with Johnson.
It’s been a while since a notable trade was made. The last occurred on Oct. 12 when the Vegas Golden Knights shipped Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. BriseBois could wait until confirmation for the start of this season is finally released by the league.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz looked at what’s ahead for the New York Islanders’ offseason after Johnny Boychuk announced his playing career is over because of an eye injury.
His decision clears the way for the Isles to signed restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal. The Isles have $3.9 million in cap space but can exceed the $81.5 million cap by the equivalent of Boychuk’s $6 million annual average value. It could also provide room for their rumored pending deals with winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.
The end of Boychuk’s career is a further blow to the Islanders defense corps after trading away Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche several weeks ago in a cost-cutting move. Gretz wonders if Isles GM Lou Lamoriello would’ve made that move had he known what would happen to Boychuk.
Bringing back Greene could help their blueline and promising Noah Dobson is waiting in the wings. UFA options include Zdeno Chara, Sami Vatanen, Ben Hutton or Slater Koekkoek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The priority is signing Barzal. As Gretz points out, however, his new contract will bite deeply into that additional cap space.
Lamoriello will try to keep that as low as possible. Gretz suggests $7 million annually for Barzal would be the low end but the Isles GM could try to push that down to $6 million on a short-term deal with the promise of a bigger payday down the road.
He’ll need to keep it at the low end if he’s already got contracts lined up for Martin, Greene and Schneider. Failing that, he’ll have to consider a cost-cutting trade or burying someone like Andrew Ladd in the minors.
An eye injury ends Johnny Boychuk’s playing career, the Lightning re-sign Mikhail Sergachev, the latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEW YORK POST: A gruesome eye injury suffered during the 2019-20 season has prematurely ended the playing career of Johnny Boychuk. The 36-year-old New York Islanders defenseman suffered poor peripheral vision and optic nerve damage from two separate incidents that would make it unsafe to continue his 13-year career.
The Islanders, however, have not announced Boychuk as retired, meaning he’ll likely go on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Isles to exceed their accruable cap space limit by the $6 million annual average value on his contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Boychuk in his future endeavors. He collected 206 points in 725 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and the Islanders, winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
According to Cap Friendly, the Isles have just $3.9 million in salary-cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR will free up sufficient space to sign restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal.
For those of you wondering why Boychuk hasn’t retired outright, it would mean forfeiting the remaining salary on his contract.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning yesterday re-signed Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $4.8 million. The 22-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev has rapidly blossomed into one of the Lightning’s top defensemen whose best seasons are still ahead of him. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of it.
The deal is also structured to pay him more in the final season when league revenue is expected to improve. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll get $2.4 million in actual salary this season, $4.8 million in 2021-22 and $7.2 million in 2022-23. It’ll cost the Lightning big bucks to qualify his rights and re-sign him at the end of this deal.
Sergachev’s new contract also pushes the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. They must also sign center Anthony Cirelli and blueliner Erik Cernak. I’ll have more about their possible moves to become cap compliant in today’s Rumor Mill.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman haven’t spoken since last Thursday. He believes that speaks to how the players feel about the league’s requests for increases to the salary deferral/escrow rates. LeBrun thinks there’s still time to salvage this but next week could be crucial.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun could be referring to starting the season by the proposed date of Jan. 1. I think the time’s run out for that. However, there’s an ongoing belief among the punditry that the two sides will work something out to start up the season by late January or early February.
THE SCORE: Team Canada is halting its World Junior selection camp and entering a 14-day quarantine period after two players tested positive for COVID-19. Workouts and meetings will be conducted via video call while scrimmages for the weekend are canceled. The 2021 World Junior Championship is slated to begin on Christmas Day in a bubble environment in Edmonton similar to that used by the NHL for the 2020 playoffs.
SPORTSNET: A memorial fund for the late Joey Moss raised nearly $1 million through a 50/50 raffle. Moss, the long-time dressing room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, passed away in October at age 57.
Could the Ducks trade Ryan Getzlaf? How will the Islanders free up cap space for Mathew Barzal? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray has been working the phones trying to get cap compliant for 2020-21 and leave some wiggle room during the season. The Ducks are above the $81.5 million salary cap by nearly $930K.
Wingers Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg have come up in the rumor mill, but Murphy wonders if the Ducks would consider moving Ryan Getzlaf. A source told Murphy that three teams looked into the availability of the long-time Ducks captain. The 35-year-old center is entering the final season of his contract with an $8.25 million cap hit and a full no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible and Murray could be considering all his options. However, the Ducks GM might not have to go the trade route to become cap compliant.
Center Ryan Kesler could remain on long-term injury reserve if he’s still sidelined by a nagging hip injury. That would enable the Ducks to exceed the cap limited by the equivalent of his $6.875 million annual average value for 2020-21.
Trading a veteran like Getzlaf (if he agrees), Rakell or Silfverberg is an option. However, that could be based more on their performance in the coming season and where the Ducks are in the standings leading up to the 2021 trade deadline.
Murphy also reported the New York Islanders only have around $3 million in salary-cap space and must find more in order to sign first-line center Mathew Barzal. Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello was reportedly attempting to trade defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy but couldn’t find any takers in part because of their salaries.
Murphy wondered if Lamoriello might try moving a forward instead. A source suggested Josh Bailey as an option. He’s owed $5 million annually for the next three seasons but could be a fit on a young club with salary cap room like Detroit or Ottawa.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello would probably find more takers for Bailey than for Boychuk or Leddy. The 31-year-old winger is a versatile two-way forward who can skate on either wing and netted 40-plus points in five of the last six seasons. He played a key role in their run to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final with 20 points in 22 games.
Those traits, however, also make Bailey a valuable member of the Islanders. I think the Isles GM will instead consider other trade options.
How will the Islanders find cap space to sign Mathew Barzal? How will the Blue Jackets replace sidelined Gustav Nyquist? Check out the latest in the NHL rumor mill.
ISLES MUST SHED SALARY TO SIGN BARZAL
NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker reports the Islanders have around $3.9 million in salary-cap space with center Mathew Barzal still to sign. General manager Lou Lamoriello will also find it challenging to bring back unrestricted free agents Matt Martin and Andy Greene and to add goaltender Cory Schneider.
Pulock filing for arbitration provides the Isles with a second buyout window that opens for 24 hours on Friday. However, they can only buy out a player earning an annual average value of over $4 million, ruling out Leo Komarov and Thomas Hickey as options.
Lamoriello could attempt another cost-cutting trade. It’ll be difficult to find takers for Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) or Andrew Ladd ($5 million AAV) in this economic climate.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin indicates buying out Boychuk or Ladd won’t provide much immediate relief. The way their salaries are structured, a Boychuk buyout would give the Isles $833K in savings for 2020-21 while Ladd’s would be over $666K.
Larkin wondered if Lamoriello could place a player like Ladd on long-term injury reserve. Failing that, he’ll have to dump another salary via trade.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple also weighed in on the Islanders’ options. He indicates Martin, Greene and Schneider already have agreed-upon deals with the club but they’re being kept off the books for now in case Barzal signs an offer sheet.
Lamoriello could take a drastic step like buying out Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey or Nick Leddy but Staple doubts he’ll go that far. He also doubts Barzal will get $10 million annually from the Isles unless Lamoriello can find a taker for Boychuk and at least one other contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple believes Lamoriello will have to get creative given how the trade market has dried up and the complications of going the LTIR route. He has a well-earned reputation for creativity when it comes to finding wiggle room under the cap, but this situation will still be a significant challenge.
Leddy has surfaced as a trade candidate. He’s under 30, doesn’t have a long injury history like Boychuk and Ladd, lacks no-trade protection and carries an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. With Devon Toews shipped to Colorado last month in a cost-cutting deal, it’s unlikely Lamoriello parts with Leddy now.
He could try to move Komarov ($3 million AAV through 2021-22, seven-team no-trade list) and Hickey ($2.5 million AAV, lacks no-trade protection. Both could be easier to move than Boychuk and Ladd, though it will still be challenging drumming up interest for either guy.
HOW WILL THE JACKETS REPLACE NYQUIST?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets might pursue Mike Hoffman now that winger Gustav Nyquist is sidelined five-to-six months following shoulder surgery. Losing Nyquist is a big blow for the low-scoring Jackets, who still haven’t suitably replaced the offense lost when Artemi Panarin departed via free agency to the New York Rangers last year.
Larkin acknowledged adding Hoffman won’t make the Jackets a Stanley Cup contender, but it would provide a much-needed injection of offense. He’s the type of player who can score given the opportunity at five-on-five or on the power play, which he’ll certainly get with the Jackets.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t a big fan of free agency. Instead, he’s expected to continue to play the waiting game with the handful of cap-strapped NHL clubs in the hope one of them will be willing to trade away a quality player on the cheap.
Portzline also examined internal options for the Jackets. They could slide Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner into left wing on the second line. Nyquist’s absence could also create an opportunity for rookie Liam Foudy to skate on the third line with Mikko Koivu and either Foligno or Jenner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets still have to sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois. With over $12 million in cap space, however, they’ve got sufficient room to do that and to find a suitable short-term replacement for Nyquist.
Hoffman is the best choice in the UFA market. He’d prefer a long-term contract but recent reports indicated he’d accept a one-year deal worth $6 million. That’s probably too rich for Kekalainen’s blood. He could be keeping an eye on the Lightning to see if he can land Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn.
As with his efforts to sign Dubois, Kekalainen can afford to remain patient. He might not move on finding Nyquist’s replacement until training camp, which could be at least two months away.