NHL Rumor Mill – January 16, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 16, 2021

Could the Canadiens acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois? Could the Panthers move Aleksander Barkov? Would they shop Keith Yandle to the Bruins? What’s the latest on the Oilers’ goaltending? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE CANADIENS ACQUIRE DUBOIS?

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens’ rumored pursuit of Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois could be a complex and risky endeavor.

Can the Montreal Canadiens afford to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Columbus Blue Jackets? (NHL Images)

He believes Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen would want Nick Suzuki and something else in return. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could counter with Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the centerpiece of a package with a top prospect also included.

In order to take on Dubois’ $5 million annual average value, the Canadiens would have to send a roster player earning more than $3 million (such as Paul Byron) to the Jackets.

Engels suggests it’s possible Bergevin could part with Kotkaniemi. However, he’s not sure the Habs GM would also want to include one of his top prospects in the deal. Bergevin could also be outbid by the Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators or Anaheim Ducks.

The restrictions on travel between Canada and the United States also complicates things. Engels suggests the Canadiens would be without Dubois for 14 days while he completes mandatory self-quarantine before he could join them. They’d also be without the player or players they’d give up in the deal during that period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquiring Dubois would be a tempting option for the Canadiens, but that deal will be expensive. I don’t see Bergevin parting with Suzuki. Kotkaniemi is possible but he’s got plenty of promising upside. Giving up a prospect such as Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhle or Mattias Norlinder could also be tough to swallow.

Even if Bergevin is willing to part with Kotkaniemi and one of his best prospects, making the dollars fit would be difficult. Byron is a former 20-goal scorer but the 31-year-old last hit that mark in 2017-18 and he’s been waylaid by injuries over the last two seasons. The Jackets could also be reluctant to take on a winger who turns 32 in April with two years remaining on his contract.

Bergevin could try to offer up another roster player but he doesn’t have many to spare that would suit the Jackets. Tomas Tatar is a free agent this summer while depth forwards like Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen each earn less than $3 million annually. The Jackets won’t take Jonathan Drouin’s $5.5 million AAV.

Kekalainen is reportedly being patient with Dubois’ situation. Bergevin might be wise to follow the same tactic and see how this season plays out. Perhaps they could revisit this in the offseason. Then again, there might not be any need for the Canadiens to make this deal if Suzuki and Kotkaniemi blossom into stars this season.

UPDATE ON BARKOV AND YANDLE

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Panthers GM Bill Zito told captain Aleksander Barkov there’s no truth to trade rumors suggesting he might be available. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Thursday that Barkov was drawing interest from rival general managers. The report was based on whether the 25-year-old center would re-sign with the Panthers this summer, and if not, would they consider trading him.

“Bill talked to me right away, he told me they aren’t true,” said Barkov. “So it’s all good and I am concentrating on the start of the season. Thank you for mentioning this is my first time being mentioned in trade rumors.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt there were some general managers calling Zito to find out what changes he had in store for the Panthers this season and if Barkov might be part of them. It should be pointed out that Seravalli noted in his report that Zito intends to re-sign his captain.

Maybe that becomes a problem if the Panthers fail to improve this season. For now, I don’t see Barkov going anywhere.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites sources claiming if and when Zito asks Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause, he will do it for the Bruins. Murphy feels the main question is whether the Bruins would want the 34-year-old defenseman and his $6.35 million AAV through 2022-23.

Murphy cites reports indicating Bruins GM Don Sweeney spoke to Zito about what it would take to acquire Yandle but nothing came of it. He feels the Bruins seem determined to stick with their youth movement on defense and wouldn’t want to risk exposing Brandon Carlo or Matt Grzelcyk to this summer’s expansion draft if they acquired Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Yandle’s cap hit was a key reason why those rumored talks didn’t go far. If the Bruins remain interested in bringing Yandle back to his home state it might be best to do so after the expansion draft, and only if the Panthers agree to pick up part of his cap hit.

LATEST ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers’ goaltending situation has gone from bad to worse this week. First, they lost Anton Forsberg to Carolina via waivers on Tuesday. On Friday, Mike Smith was placed on long-term injury reserve, taking him out of the lineup for at least 10 games.

Given the high number of back-to-back games the Oilers face in this shortened season, Staples wonders what GM Ken Holland will do. “Overpay? Patiently wait for some goalie to pop up on the waiver wire?”

Staples noted some Oilers’ observers are suggesting a trade for someone like Arizona’s Antti Raanta or Toronto’s Michael Hutchinson. Others suggest signing UFA Jimmy Howard.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were taking a risk bringing back the 38-year-old Smith for another season. If anything happens to Mikko Koskinen they will be well and truly screwed. There simply aren’t many palatable options available right now. Holland might not have much choice but to be patient and hope a decent netminder becomes available soon.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 15, 2021

Teams are making inquiries about the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov while the club tries to figure out what to do with Keith Yandle, plus the latest on Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BARKOV AND YANDLE

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports being told there are “a number of teams” making inquiries about Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov in recent weeks. Panthers general manager Bill Zito said he has no intention of trading the 25-year-old center and hopes to re-sign him. However, rival clubs are skeptical that Barkov will re-sign when his contract expires in 2022.

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov (NHL Images)

Barkov’s camp wants to win in Florida and is willing to give Zito the time needed to get the right pieces in order to do that. However, Seravalli believes Barkov’s situation will be worth watching in the coming months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barkov is perhaps the NHL’s most overlooked star. He’s among the league’s best two-way forwards and one of the most disciplined players, winning the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2018-19.

Nevertheless, most fans and pundits around the league don’t seem to realize just how good he really is. Panthers fans won’t like me saying this, but he’d garner far more recognition and plaudits if he played on a better team in a bigger hockey market.

I don’t doubt Barkov’s sincerity about wanting to win with the Panthers. However, they’ve been a sad-sack organization through most of his tenure. He could consider testing the UFA market if the Panthers are still spinning their wheels by the end of next season.

Speaking of the Panthers, Pierre LeBrun reports Keith Yandle’s agent believes Zito is trying to put pressure on his client to convince him to waive his no-movement clause. Zito, however, said he hasn’t asked the 34-year-old defenseman to waive that clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zito is wasting little time trying to shake things up since taking over as Panthers GM in September. LeBrun’s colleague Travis Yost indicated moving the puck-moving blueliner won’t be easy because of his declining play and $6.3 million annual average value.

Nevertheless, Yost doesn’t dismiss the possibility of Yandle getting traded to a club with blue-line issues provided the Panthers retain some of his annual average value. I don’t dismiss that possibility but Yandle’s age and the remaining term of his contract (through 2022-23) are significant sticking points.

LATEST ON DUBOIS

Former Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos took to Twitter yesterday saying the Montreal Canadiens are Dubois’ destination of choice. He claims the Jackets’ asking price is focused around “Nick Suzuki/plus.” Kypreos also said Habs defenseman Alexander Romanov “has been deemed untouchable.”

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH’s Brian Hedger replied to Kypreos with a tweet saying he’s heard “Kotkaniemi/Mete and something else” was what he heard from asking around.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards believes the Panthers should be in the mix if the Columbus Blue Jackets intend to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois. He feels Zito is a big fan of Dubois, suggesting he’d make a good fit centering the Panthers’ second line with Barkov on the top line. Richards doubts a package of draft picks and prospects will pry Dubois from the Jackets, adding it will be costly to land him.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty wonders if the Bruins could get into the bidding for Dubois. Jack Studnicka and Urho Vaakanainen are their best assets but Haggerty feels it will cost much more to get a deal done. He’s not holding his breath expecting to see Dubois in a Bruins jersey. Meanwhile, Haggerty’s colleague Jimmy Murphy reports the Panthers and New Jersey Devils are among those interested in the Jackets’ center.

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes Dubois would address the Senators’ need for a legitimate first-line center, something they haven’t had since Jason Spezza was traded away in 2014. He thinks it would take a significant offer to acquire Dubois, suggesting anyone other than Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot or Tim Stuetzle should be in play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella’s recent comments about Dubois wanting out isn’t making GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s job any easier. LeBrun said other clubs are saying Kekalainen wants to be patient with this situation, but it’s apparent there’s plenty of interest in the 22-year-old center.

It’s possible that a trade could shake out during this season that Kekalainen finds too good to pass up. I believe that deal must include a scoring forward, preferably a center. However, I still believe a deal of that magnitude takes place in the offseason. Despite the flattened salary cap, there will be clubs with the cap space this summer to take on Dubois’ $5 million AAV for next season and to pay him a big raise beyond that.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 15, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid had a hat trick and Leon Draisaitl had four assists to lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored twice for the Oilers and added an assist while Mikko Koskinen made 38 saves for the win. The Oilers peppered Canucks netminder Thatcher Demko with 46 shots.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins seemed determined to make amends for their unproductive efforts in the Oilers’ 5-3 loss to the Canucks the night before. They were the best players on the ice in this game.

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as his club edged the Calgary Flames 4-3. Kyle Connor had a goal and two assists for the Jets. Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm replied for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine doesn’t appear to be troubled by the trade rumors dogging him since last fall. If this game is any indication, the 22-year-old sniper could have one of the best seasons of his career.

The New York Islanders spoiled the NHL debut of Alexis Lafreniere by blanking the New York Rangers 4-0. Anders Lee scored twice while Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves for the shutout. Rangers center Mika Zibanejad played over 19 minutes after recovering from COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lafreniere, the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, saw 15:21 of ice time with one shot on goal and a two-minute hooking penalty that led to Lee’s second goal. Overall, the Rangers played poorly in this contest as the Isles took an early 3-0 lead and never looked back.

Peter Laviolette picked up his first win as head coach of the Washington Capitals as his club hung on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6-4. T.J. Oshie had a three-point night (one goal, two assists), Alex Ovechkin collected two assists while Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson each had a goal and an assist. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in his debut with the Sabres while teammate Eric Staal left the game in the third period after he was hit in the head by the Capitals’ Nic Dowd. Staal is listed as day-to-day.

Brad Marchand opened the scoring and ended it with a shootout goal as the Boston Bruins nipped the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Devils center Jack Hughes collected two assists while teammate Mackenzie Blackwood made 35 saves.

Filip Forsberg snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period as the Nashville Predators went on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1. Juuse Saros kicked out 29 shots for the Predators.

Mark Stone scored a goal and set up another in his first game as Vegas Golden Knights captain, leading them to a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Alex Pietrangelo had a team-leading 25:40 of ice time and collected an assist in his debut with the Golden Knights. Max Comtois scored twice for the Ducks.

A shootout goal by Logan Couture gave the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes. The Sharks had a 3-1 lead in the third but the Coyotes rallied to tie it on goals by Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel. Tomas Hertl scored twice for the Sharks and picked up an assist while teammate Evander Kane had a goal and two assists.

Kirill Kaprizov made an impressive NHL debut with two assists and a breakaway overtime goal to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar each had two points for the Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaprizov was the star of the game as he seemed to have little difficulty adjusting to the NHL pace. He’s among the top rookies for watch in this season’s race for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

The Carolina Hurricanes opened their season by shutting out the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel and Andrei Svechnikov were the goal scorers while Petr Mrazek made 14 saves for the shutout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ margin of victory would’ve been larger if not for a 40-save performance by Wings goalie Thomas Greiss, who got little help from his teammates in this contest.

IN OTHER NOTABLE NEWS…

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks placed Jonathan Toews (illness) and Kirby Dach (wrist surgery) on long-term injury reserve and placed defenseman Brent Seabrook (back) on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews going on LTIR indicates his mysterious illness will keep him out of the lineup much longer than anticipated.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues forward Sammy Blais received a two-way suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews on Wednesday. Toews left the game but returned and afterward said he suffered no lingering effects from the hit.

TSN: The Carolina Hurricanes placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers yesterday just two days after claiming him from the Edmonton Oilers.

CBS SPORTS: The Sharks placed defenseman Radim Simek (undisclosed) on injured reserve.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 14, 2021

Updates on Pierre-Luc Dubois and Keith Yandle in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: John Lane reports Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella confirmed Pierre-Luc Dubois’ trade request. “Yeah, he wants out,” said Tortorella, commending the 22-year-old center for his honesty but wishing he’d be more transparent about his reasons.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

Tortorella indicated Dubois had a good training camp but he intends to keep the center on a short leash this season. “He needs to continue to do the things to help this team and be the best teammate he can be, or I’m not sure where it goes,” he said. “It’s a situation, and we’ll go to it day by day.”

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline suggests big changes could be coming to the Blue Jackets after this season. In addition to Dubois’ trade request, Tortorella is in the final year of his contract, as is team captain Nick Foligno. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen also has to decide whether Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins is their starting goalie as both are slated for UFA status in 2022.

Portzline believes Kekalainen has shown no urgency to move Dubois but wonders how long this can fester before he’s forced to act. The center is under contract through 2021-22. Dubois could be with the Jackets throughout this season unless they fall out of playoff contention and receive a tempting trade offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets were among the clubs with interest in Dubois. Kekalainen will set a significant asking price, perhaps seeking a scoring forward (preferably a center) in return. The Jackets GM isn’t known for hasty trades and will wait until the offseason if necessary for the right return.

The fates of Tortorella, Foligno and their goaltenders will be determined by the club’s performance this season. Missing the playoffs or another early postseason exit could bring about a shake-up.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders what’s next for Keith Yandle now that the Florida Panthers are trying to ease the 34-year-old defenseman out of their lineup. His no-movement clause prevents them from placing him on their taxi squad unless he agrees to waive it. They could start the season by making him a healthy scratch, ending his 866-game Ironman streak.

Yandle’s declining performance could hurt his trade value. Larkin suggests the Panthers might have to absorb part of his $6.35 million annual average value (through 2022-23) to make him enticing in the trade market, provided he agrees to waive his NMC. Larkin reports a source said Yandle hasn’t been the initiator on any plans to waive his clause.

Larkin suggested the Boston Bruins as a potential fit. The New York Islanders could be another but they lack sufficient cap space to find room for Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see any club having an interest in Yandle at this point in his career. He has too much tenure on his contract even if the Panthers agreed to pick up a healthy chunk of his annual cap hit. Never say never, of course, because we’ve seen instances in the past where seemingly untradeable players get moved. Still, the Panthers could be forced to wait until the offseason to make that happen.










Three NHL Teams That Will Surprise…And Three That Will Disappoint

Three NHL Teams That Will Surprise…And Three That Will Disappoint

 










NHL Rumor Mill – January 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 12, 2021

Some noteworthy pending unrestricted free agents to watch this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently looked at several high-profile pending UFAs to watch during this upcoming season.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

LeBrun reported Alex Ovechkin didn’t seem too concerned about his contract situation with the Washington Capitals when training camp opened last week. The long-time Capitals superstar noted there’s plenty of time to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin sounds like he wants to stay with the Capitals and they want to keep their franchise player. The question, of course, is how much and for how long.

LeBrun noted contract talks between the two sides were shelved during the summer. His colleague Frank Seravalli last week indicated Ovechkin’s pre-pandemic asking price was $12.5 million annually.

Taylor Hall surprised the NHL world last fall by signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Playing alongside Sabres superstar Jack Eichel this season could boost his value as he seeks a long-term deal this summer. LeBrun thinks Hall could stick with the Sabres if he and Eichel develop solid chemistry and the club improves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Sabres with $45.6 million invested in 10 players for 2021-22. They’ll have plenty of room to keep Hall in the fold. However, that depends on how much he’ll seek on his next contract and how well the Sabres perform this season.

LeBrun wondered what the future holds for Tuukka Rask with the Boston Bruins. While the goaltender’s agent said his client is happy living and playing in Boston, offseason rumors had Bruins general manager Don Sweeney taking calls about Rask.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sweeney may have been listening to calls on Rask but that doesn’t mean he was keen to move him. The Bruins don’t have anyone in their system to replace Rask after this season.

They could seek a replacement via free agency but the options could be limited to Toronto’s Frederik Andersen, Nashville’s aging Pekka Rinne, San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk, Arizona’s injury-prone Antti Raanta and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer. Unless the Bruins find a better choice via the trade market, they could have little choice but to sign Rask, especially if he plays well this season.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Dougie Hamilton’s representatives have had preliminary contract discussions. LeBrun speculates the Hamilton camp could seek something comparable to Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo’s $8.8 million annual average value. The Hurricanes could counter with some similar to St. Louis’ Torey Krug’s $6.5 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton was considered a contender for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman until suffering a season-ending leg injury last January. If an agreement isn’t reached between the two sides soon, a healthy, Norris-worthy performance by Hamilton this season could push his asking price into Pietrangelo’s range or higher.