The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Dumba and MacKenzie Weeger in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON BYFUGLIEN AND DUMBA
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo considers it the notion of Dustin Byfuglien signing with the Minnesota Wild a long shot. The 35-year-old defenseman has shown no interest in returning to action after missing last season and terminating his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images).
Talk of Byfuglien joining the Wild was sparked in part by speculation they were on the verge of trading Matt Dumba. However, Russo reports the Dumba trade talk has quieted while the Wild’s cap space has shrunk to $1.775 million.
Russo feels if Wild general manager Bill Guerin attempted to trade the blueliner now he won’t get a first- or second-line center in return. Teams aren’t moving those types of players right now, Dumba’s coming off a down year and the expansion draft is slated for next summer. Guerin isn’t in any rush to trade the rearguard, who’s got three years remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly also indicates Dumba carries an annual average value of $6 million, which is now tough to move with only seven teams carrying over $6.9 million in cap space. As for Byfuglien, Russo also noted his agent remains hopeful his client might one day decide to sign with the Wild. For now, however, the big blueliner doesn’t seem keen to return to NHL action.
UPDATE ON WEEGAR
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked about the trade speculation regarding MacKenzie Weegar. Richards said the Florida Panthers were working to sign the restricted free agent defenseman to a four-year contract before his arbitration hearing on Nov. 7. He acknowledged the Panthers are listening to offers but teams thinking they can get him for nothing will be disappointed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards expects Weegar will return on the top defense pairing alongside Aaron Ekblad. The blueliner’s hearing would be the last one in this year’s arbitration schedule.
Updates on Alex Pietrangelo, Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien plus the latest on the Hurricanes and Sharks in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat with Blues fans, Tom Timmermann said he’s leaning toward Alex Pietrangelo re-signing with the club. He feels the defenseman’s recent comments suggest he wants to stay in St. Louis and is trying to get the Blues to increase their offer. Timmermann believes eight years at $8 million annually is the starting point, but Pietrangelo wants more. He’s unsure if $9 million annually is possible under the current economic conditions in the free-agent market.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).
If Pietrangelo re-signs, Timmermann suggests Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen as the likely players to become cost-cutting casualties, but moving them won’t be easy. He feels teams would be more interested in winger Jaden Schwartz. Moving Schwartz in the offseason would fetch a better return than moving him at next season’s trade deadline.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin lists the Blues atop his list of five potential destinations for Pietrangelo. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers are also on his list.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun believes the Blues would be open to a sign-and-trade scenario if it appears they cannot repair negotiations. The incentive for interested teams is it would allow them to get Pietrangelo under contract for eight years instead of seven at potentially a lower annual average value, while the Blues could get a tangible asset in return instead of losing him for nothing to the free-agent market.
LeBrun doubts teams will part with a first-round pick to get Pietrangelo. Interested parties would also have to be able to negotiate a contract with the blueliner’s agent. He also lists the Leafs, Golden Knights, Flames and Panthers on his list of possible suitors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sign-and-trade deals rarely occur because they’re difficult to pull off. Sticking points include the losing team’s asking price and how much of a raise the player seeks on his new contract. We can’t rule out the possibility of a sign-and-trade but I think it’s a long shot.
As for those interested clubs, the Leafs and Golden Knights have limited cap space so they’ll have to shed salary to make this work. The Golden Knights must also decide whether to re-sign goaltender Robin Lehner and what to do with Marc-Andre Fleury if they get Lehner under contract.
The Flames have the cap space but LeBrun points out they must also address their goaltending and perhaps add a winger. The Panthers are said to be cutting payroll but they must bolster their blueline depth. Whether Pietrangelo would be interested in signing with them is another matter.
LAINE AND BYFUGLIEN
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman acknowledged the recent trade speculation swirling about Patrik Laine. He doesn’t think the 22-year-old Winnipeg Jets winger has requested a trade. Friedman feels the Jets are just looking at this situation to see if using Laine would address their need for a No. 2 center or a right-hand shot defenseman.
Friedman also said it’s unlikely former Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will play next season. Teams have contacted his agent, including the Minnesota Wild because of his ties to the state. Friedman feels the Wild would have the best chance but his agent said it’s doubtful Byfuglien will play again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Could Laine get traded? Sure. Will he? That’s not a certainty. As talented as the young winger is and as much upside as he still has, it could be difficult for the Jets to find a return of equal value. It doesn’t hurt for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to explore his options, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to trade Laine
As I mentioned yesterday, Laine’s contract status could be a factor. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer who’ll seek a considerable raise over his current annual cap hit of $6.75 million. Whether the Jets can afford that could determine his future in Winnipeg.
Byfuglien may have reached the point where his body can’t handle the wear-and-tear of a long NHL season. He’s 35, coming off ankle surgery and was hampered by nagging injuries during his last two seasons. Perhaps he’s decided he’s had enough.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Sara Civian recently listed goaltending trade and free-agent options for the Carolina Hurricanes. Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray were among her suggested trade targets, while her free-agent choices included Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, and Washington’s Braden Holtby.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock reports the Hurricanes are leaving the door open for winger Justin Williams if he’s willing to return, but they’re also progressing ahead as if their former captain will retire.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have plenty of options if they seek to upgrade their goaltending. The question is, will they? Affordability works in favor of their current tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, who earn a combined $6.525 million next season.
No buyouts coming for the Sharks, per a league source. Really, the only candidate they had for a buyout was Martin Jones. Expect him back next season with another goalie TBD.
TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.
The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.
Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.
I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.
Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.
Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club.
Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.
Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.
New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.
A look at TSN’s listing of this year’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, and Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug top Frank Seravalli’s listing of this year’s top-50 unrestricted free agents.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there. Media consensus has those three in exactly those three positions among the top-50.
Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom (fourth) and Vegas’ Robin Lehner (sixth) ranked above Washington’s Braden Holtby (12th) among this year’s top UFA goalies.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has a Vezina Trophy (2016) and a Stanley Cup (2018) on his resume, but his inconsistent play over the past two seasons sent his stock tumbling. A strong performance in the upcoming playoff tournament, however, could send him rising on this list.
Former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien ranked fifth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If this was two years ago, I’d have no issue with Byfuglien ranking this high. But the 35-year-old blueliner missed all of this season over a dispute with the Jets regarding the severity of an ankle injury, which ultimately required surgery. We don’t know if he’s keen to return to the NHL following the mutual agreement to terminate his contract in April. Until we get an indication from the Byfuglien camp that he wants to resume his playing career, he should be at the bottom of this list.
Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Vancouver Canucks’ versatile forward Tyler Toffoli, and Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Tyson Barrie round out the top ten.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d rank Toffoli over Hoffman and Dadonov because of his two-way skills, Stanley Cup experience, plus he’s younger than those two. I’d put Holtby over Barrie, who had a rough season with the Leafs and should be ranked much lower than 10th.
Among the surprises was Florida Panthers oft-injured center Erik Haula ranked 11th, aging Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk at 23rd, and Leafs blueliner Cody Ceci at 24th.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula shouldn’t be ranked that high. He hasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery in 2018. Kovalchuk enjoyed a bounce-back performance during a two-month tenure with the Montreal Canadiens, but there’s no certainty the 36-year-old can sustain that effort over a full season. Ceci’s stock was in decline before he was dealt to the Leafs last summer and tumbled further this season.
Defensemen dominate this list. Along with Pietrangelo, Krug, Barrie, and Ceci, the list includes Calgary’s T.J. Brodie (13th) and Travis Hamonic (20th), Carolina’s Sami Vatanen (14th), Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk (15th), Vancouver’s Chris Tanev (17th), Philadelphia’s Justin Braun (19th), and Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz (29th).
Seravalli believes many UFAs could be on edge as this will be a free-agent period like no other thanks to the interruption of the season by COVID-19 and the effect upon league revenue and the salary cap. Players on non-playoff clubs, like Buffalo’s Wayne Simmonds and Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki, could be sidelined for seven months, potentially affecting their future earnings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This year’s UFA class could have difficulty finding lucrative long-term contracts if the salary cap is frozen at $81.5 million for next season. Thirteen teams have payrolls already exceeding $70 million for next season, with a handful of others sitting with payrolls over $65 million.
Some of those notable free agents could end up accepting short-term deals, perhaps for less than market value, in hope of landing more lucrative offers when (if?) revenue rebounds over the next couple of years.
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (Photo via NHL Images).
Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Carolina’s Sami Vatanen, and Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo complete the top 10.
Other notables include Pittsburgh Justin Schultz, Washington’s Radko Gudas, and Edmonton’s Mike Green.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No question Pietrangelo and Krug top the bill among this year’s class of UFA blueliners. Both will be among this summer’s most-prized free agents.
The Blues’ limited salary-cap space could see Pietrangelo depart if they cannot free up sufficient room to re-sign him. The Bruins could have an easier time keeping Krug in the fold, but they might also have to shed some salary to do it.
I wouldn’t place Byfuglien that high on the list. While his talent is undeniable, there’s no indication he intends to continue his playing career after his contract was mutually terminated following a season-long absence over a dispute regarding the seriousness of his ankle injury. His recent injury history and age (35) could also make clubs leery of pursuing him if the salary cap remains flat next season.
Had Schultz been healthier, I think he would’ve ranked higher on the list. That could work to the advantage of interested clubs. He might have to accept a one-year “show-me” deal for perhaps less than the $5.5 million annual average value on his current deal. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the others on this list fare on the open market under a flat cap.
SHOULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE JOSH ANDERSON?
SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked if the Montreal Canadiens should target Josh Anderson if the Columbus Blue Jackets’ winger becomes available in the trade market. While Engels admires Anderson’s size and speed, he’s concerned about giving up assets for a winger coming off a serious shoulder injury who’s a year away from UFA status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree. Anderson would provide some valuable size and physicality up front for the Habs, but those factors Engels noted raise red flags. Better to shop around for healthier options in the trade market.