NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2021

Should the Rangers pursue Jack Eichel or Matthew Tkachuk? What the latest speculation on the Flames and Sharks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

RANGERS

ESPN: Emily Kaplan believes the New York Rangers will be mentioned as front-runners for Jack Eichel if the Buffalo Sabres shop their captain in the offseason. His agents are the same ones who represented Rangers general manager Chris Drury during his playing days.

They could find a way to fit Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 into their cap payroll. However, Kaplan feels a bigger priority is figuring out how to re-sign center Mika Zibanejad.

THE ATHLETIC: Rick Carpiniello doesn’t believe it would be worth the cost for the Rangers to acquire a center like Eichel when he’s not much better than Zibanejad right now. Pursuing an upgrade over second-line center Ryan Strome would be a better option. He recommends targeting an “Aleksander Barkov type” – slated for unrestricted free agent status next summer and possibly available at next season’s trade deadline.

Could the New York Rangers pursue Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk in this summer’s trade market? (NHL Images).

Adding a tough forward comparable to the Tkachuk brothers in Calgary and Ottawa or Washington’s Tom Wilson should be the Rangers’ priority. It could mean sacrificing a top-six forward or two to address that need.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk would be a perfect fit for the Rangers. It would take a “massive bounty” to pry Tkachuk away.

Brooks considers Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere and perhaps Ryan Lindgren as untouchable. The Rangers would be reluctant to part with Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller but they’ll have to trade someone they don’t want to sacrifice to land a transformational top-six forward. A package containing a permutation of Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Nils Lundkvist and future first-rounders probably won’t get it done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading for Eichel would be a bold move for the Rangers and one team CEO James Dolan would probably approve. However, his cap hit would be expensive while meeting the Sabres’ asking price could hurt the Rangers’ overall roster depth. It’ll also make it very difficult to re-sign Zibanejad.

Tkachuk would provide that physical boost among the Rangers’ top-six. That being said, the factors that make him attractive to the Blueshirts also make him valuable to the Flames.

Finding a Barkov-type by next year’s trade deadline won’t be easy. Barkov himself could be re-signed by the Panthers this summer following their strong performance this season. Sean Couturier would be the best fit but I don’t see the Philadelphia Flyers parting ways with him.

Patrice Bergeron falls into that category but he’ll turn 36 in July and should finish his career as a Bruin. Nazem Kadri could also fall into that category but the Avs won’t move him if they’re still among the Cup contenders.

FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson includes the status of winger Johnny Gaudreau and defenseman Mark Giordano among the five key questions facing the Flames this offseason.

Some are convinced the 27-year-old Gaudreau could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Trading one of their leading scorers, however, would also force the Flames to go shopping for his replacement.

The Flames could have little choice but to leave Giordano exposed in this summer’s expansion draft. The team captain turns 38 later this year and has a year remaining on his contract. Gilbertson wonders if they should swing a side deal with the Seattle Kraken to convince them to take another player.

GM Brad Treliving will be on the hot seat after seven seasons and five head coaches. However, his future could be tied to recently-hired head coach Darryl Sutter. They both have two years left on their contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’ve been growing calls among Calgary fans and pundits to move Gaudreau. This team needs a shakeup after two disappointing seasons. Trading Gaudreau could be part of that plan unless there are talks afoot about a contract extension. If they trade him they must find someone via trade or free agency to replace his production.

As for Giordano, the Kraken could be reluctant to select an aging defenseman who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. It’ll be interesting to see how the Flames handle this situation.

SHARKS

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reports San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson acknowledged his club’s depth in goal and finding a third-lie center must be addressed. He said he’s willing to explore all options. That could include talks with teams to make players available, either with the Seattle Kraken or other clubs in a different position than the Sharks at the expansion draft.

Kurz speculates the Sharks could buy out the remaining three years of goalie Martin Jones’ contract. That would save the Sharks $3.8 million next season, $3.3 million in 2022-23 and $2.8 million in 2023-24 before getting dinged with $1.67 million annually against their cap over the final three years of the six-year buyout period.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White believes Tomas Hertl’s future with the Sharks should also be among their priorities. The 27-year-old forward is eligible next summer for UFA status. He recommends re-signing him this summer or trading him by the draft. He also feels they should consider exposing high-salaried players such as Jones, Evander Kane and Brent Burns in the hope the Kraken selects one of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a well-deserved reputation as a savvy wheeler-dealer. However, this offseason could be the biggest test of his long career as the Sharks GM. They’ve got too many aging players carrying hefty contracts that could prove too difficult to move without absorbing some salary and/or packaging them with sweeteners (draft picks, prospects) they can’t afford to give up.

Judging by Wilson’s comments, he’s mapped out his plans for the offseason and seems confident that he has sufficient options to address his needs. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out what they are and if he can pull it off. His job could depend on it.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2021

Musing over Nick Foligno’s next destination plus a look at some possible offseason moves by the Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline expects Nick Foligno is only a rental player this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, pointing out their limited salary-cap space for next season. He said there was talk before the trade deadline of Foligno becoming the latest player to get moved at the deadline only to turn around in the offseason and sign with the club that traded him.

Could Nick Foligno return to the Columbus Blue Jackets this summer? (NHL Images)

The Minnesota Wild, however, could have an emotional pull for Foligno. His brother Marcus plays for the Wild, who were said to have an interest in Nick before the trade deadline. They could attempt to sign him this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno could return to Columbus, joins his brother in Minnesota or perhaps sign with a Stanley Cup contender. The Wild could be in a better position to offer him a better contract plus they appear closer to becoming a contender than the Blue Jackets right now.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz recently examined potential offseason moves by the San Jose Sharks. It’s possible most of their pending unrestricted free agents, including Patrick Marleau, won’t be back next season.

Marleau’s indicated he’d like to continue his NHL career but it might not make sense for the team or the 41-year-old forward, who still wants to chase the Stanley Cup. He could find it difficult signing with a contender. None were interested in his services at the trade deadline.

Most of the Sharks’ restricted free agents, including Ryan Donato, Noah Gregor, Rudolfs Balcers and Dylan Gambrell, could be re-signed.

Kurz believes it’s difficult to predict if the Sharks will protect all of their core high-salaried players in this summer’s expansion draft or if they’ll try to entice the Seattle Kraken to take one of them (Brent Burns? Evander Kane? Marc-Edouard Vlasic? Martin Jones?) off their current roster.

Don’t expect the Sharks to trade their first-round pick at the 2021 NHL Draft. They could, however, attempt to move up and acquire a second-round pick at the expense of moving down in the lower rounds.

It’ll be difficult for the Sharks to add via free agency with $63.6 million already invested in just nine players for 2021-22. Kurz anticipates they could target an established goaltender who can play No. 1 minutes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NHL season could be Marleau’s last. While he deserves praise for breaking the NHL games-played record, he’s well past his prime. The fact no clubs made inquiries about him at the trade deadline speaks volumes about his value in this summer’s free-agent market.

General manager Doug Wilson could find it difficult enticing the Kraken into selecting one of his overpriced stars. Of those mentioned by Kurz, Vlasic is the only one with a no-movement clause. Kane’s well-documented financial troubles dampen his value as an expansion draft target.

Burns might be appealing if the Kraken wants to inject a bit of star power into their lineup. That’s assuming they’re comfortable with carrying the 36-year-old defenseman’s $8 million cap hit for the next four seasons.










The San Jose Sharks Facing Glum Future

The San Jose Sharks Facing Glum Future

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.

Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.

Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.

The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.

TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt believes the San Jose Sharks shouldn’t be ruled out if Jack Eichel demands a trade. The Buffalo Sabres captain recently expressed his unhappiness over the club’s constant losing. That was soon followed by the team’s ownership purging its front-office staff.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

While Sabres ownership hopes the shake-up quickly turns things around, Witt wonders if Eichel could run out of patience and demand a trade. If so, he pondered the possibility of the Sharks getting into the bidding for the young center’s services.

If Eichel sought a trade, Witt believes the Sabres’ asking price would be astronomical. He cited NHL Network’s Mike Johnson suggesting the package would have to include a current young player, a future first-round pick, and two top prospects.

Witt suggests one shouldn’t dismiss the Sharks as long as Doug Wilson is general manager, pointing to his acquisitions of Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and Evander Kane, among others. He speculates a possible Sharks trade package would include Burns, Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen, and a first, and that might not be enough. Burns’ age (35) and three-team trade list would be sticking points. Witt suggested Timo Meier as another option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Eichel hasn’t asked to be traded. I expect he’ll be suiting up with the Sabres for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, another year or two of mediocrity could test his patience.

The Sharks could come calling if Eichel hits the trade block. If Wilson could land a superstar in his mid-twenties I expect he’d do it, especially if he’s looking for a young star to build around quickly. I doubt the Sabres would be interested in Burns, but they could ask for Meier.

Of course, this is all spitballing. It’s a quiet time for pundits covering the non-playoff clubs and they’re going to spend some time speculating over what moves those teams could make. As long as the Sabres continue to flounder among the league’s worst teams, the more speculation will grow over Eichel’s future in Buffalo and the more media musings over where he could go.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked about what type of contract Sam Reinhart might get from the Sabres. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Rosen suggests St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz as a comparable. While Schwartz is three years older, his rate of production during his early years was similar to Reinhart.

He signed a five-year, $26.75 million deal in 2016, with the annual average value ($5.35 million) representing 7.3 percent of the Blues’ cap hit at the time of the signing. A similar percentage for Reinhart would be about $6 million, though Rosen suggests there could be some wiggle room to be between $6-$7 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the recent front-office changes, I don’t see the Sabres passing on re-signing Reinhart. It could be something between four and six years worth around $6.5 million annually.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2020

Some suggestions to help the Sharks regain their playoff contender status and Travis Dermott’s future with the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SUGGESTED MOVE TO IMPROVE THE SHARKS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz last week proposed a nine-step plan for turning the San Jose Sharks back into a playoff contender next season.

Among his suggestions was finding a suitable backup goaltender to pair with starter Martin Jones. Assuming Jones isn’t traded or bought out, Kurz doesn’t believe they should bring back Aaron Dell, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He advocates signing a free-agent goalie on a one- or two-year deal to allow time for Alexei Melnichuk’s development. Former Shark Thomas Greiss could be available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greiss has solid numbers as a career backup and could be open to a return to San Jose. He could provide help offset Jones’ inconsistent streaks. 

Should the San Jose Sharks attempt to trade Brent Burns in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Kurz also recommends Sharks general manager Doug Wilson trade Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Burns has a three-team trade list while Vlasic has a full no-movement clause. Kurz feels there’s reason to believe Vlasic would accept a trade to his native Montreal or perhaps Toronto, which could be in the market for a left-shot defenseman. Burns, however, could be the more likely trade candidate as his contract provides a little more trade flexibility and he’d have more value than Vlasic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading either guy isn’t impossible, but there remain several major stumbling blocks. Both are in their thirties (Burns is 35, Vlasic 33) and their best seasons are behind them. They also carry long-term contracts with hefty annual salary-cap hits ($8 million for Burns, $7 million for Vlasic) that will be difficult for most clubs (like Toronto) to absorb. As Kurz noted, if they won’t waive their trade clauses, Wilson’s hands will be tied. At this point, I don’t either guy agreeing to a trade.

Kurz also advocated Wilson trade two of Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen, and Dylan Gambrell. With the freed-up salary cap space from this move and moving Burns or Vlasic, he suggested signing a forward who can score, such as Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikael Granlund, or Florida’s Evgenii Dadonov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights while Sorensen and Gambrell are signed through next season at a combined $2.2 million. Coming off a career-high 56-point performance, Labanc bet on himself and lost last summer by agreeing to a one-year, $1-million contract. With only 33 points in 70 games this season, arbitration still won’t provide him much leverage to land a lucrative long-term deal. He could become a trade candidate if the contract talks bog down.

If Wilson can trade Burns or Vlasic, he’ll free up cap space to sign a scoring forward. Considering the obstacles in trading either blueliner, it will be quite a challenge to pull that off.

DOES LEHTONEN’S SIGNING SPELL THE END OF DERMOTT AS A LEAF?

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked if the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent signing of defenseman Mikko Lehtonen spells danger for Travis Dermott’s future as a Leaf.

Fox noted Leafs GM Kyle Dubas indicating the club needs to figure out where Lehtonen slots in on the blueline. He’s a left-shot rearguard who can play either side. While he likes playing on the right side, his strengths appear on the left.

While Dubas could trade Dermott, Fox feels the smart move is to re-sign him to a reasonable bridge deal. He’s coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. Dermott will be an affordable re-signing and has a couple of NHL seasons under his belt. If Lehtonen struggles to adjust to the NHL pace, it’ll be worthwhile to have Dermott around.