NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.

It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.

Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.

Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.

UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.

We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”

Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.

An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 18, 2021

Recaps of Wednesday’s action, including Connor McDavid tallying his 500th career point, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid collected two assists to pick up his 500th career NHL point as the Edmonton Oilers edged the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. McDavid accomplished the feat in his 369th NHL game, tying Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the eighth fastest player to reach that milestone. Leon Draisaitl scored twice for the Oilers, who’ve won four of their last five.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

Earlier in the day, the Jets placed center Pierre-Luc Dubois on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Dubois could return to action on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 14th goal as his club nipped the Ottawa Senators 2-1. Matthews also extended his points streak to 14 games. Alex Kerfoot tallied the game-winner in the third period. Brady Tkachuk replied for the Senators. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced defenseman Rasmus Sandin is out indefinitely with an injured foot.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice (including the game-winner in overtime) and collected an assist in the Florida Panthers 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers overcame a 2-0 deficit but Vincent Trocheck tied the game for the Hurricanes to force the extra frame.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Huberdeau (20 points) sits among the NHL’s top-10 scorers. He’s among the key factors behind the Panthers’ strong performance this season.

Chicago Blackhawks rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen made 29 shots for his first career NHL shutout to blank the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Philipp Kurashev and Alex DeBrincat scored for the Blackhawks in their third straight victory.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have 22 points and sit in second place behind the Panthers in the Central Division. Neither club was expected to be in those positions when the season began. The Panthers were coming off an offseason of numerous roster changes while the Blackhawks began the season without an established starting goalie and three key players (Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Brent Seabrook) sidelined by illness and injuries.

Brock Boeser had a goal and two assists as the Vancouver Canucks rolled to a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Braden Holtby made 35 saves while J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Ongoing power outages related to recent winter storms in Texas have forced the postponement of tonight’s game between the Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a broken thumb suffered during Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Sidelined winger Artemi Panarin and defenseman K’Andre Miller are expected to return to action tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: For the first time since Feb. 1 the Buffalo Sabres no longer have players on the COVID-19 protocol list. Casey Mittelstadt became the ninth Sabre to come off the list yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The number of players on the list has steadily declined in recent days. Eighteen players were still on the list yesterday, seven of those members of the Philadelphia Flyers.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

Could the struggling Predators become sellers at the trade deadline? Is Marc-Andre Fleury available? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PREDATORS TO BECOME SELLERS?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators could soon become sellers in the trade market if they don’t gain ground in the playoff chase. Players on one-year contracts slated to become unrestricted free agents such as Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula would be obvious trade candidates.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images).

LeBrun also believes they could entertain offers for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old defenseman is signed through 2021-22, lacks no-trade protection and carries an affordable $3.75 million annual average value. His skills as a top-four blueliner and playoff experience could make him enticing to a contender.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman also weighed in on the possibility of the Predators becoming sellers. He believes Granlund and Haula will draw attention along with forward Nick Cousins, who has two years left on his contract. The Predators have made centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen available in the past but money is tight among NHL teams this year.

Friedman also said Granlund is the player he guessed the Toronto Maple Leafs would consider if they pursue a top-six forward this season. He claimed they had an interest in the winger during the offseason but couldn’t make the money work.

THE ATHLETIC: Ekholm, Granlund, Haula, Cousins and Brad Richardson are on Adam Vingan’s list of potential Predators who could be moved by the trade deadline. He anticipates the asking price for those players will be draft picks and prospects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are rapidly approaching the tipping point in this season. General manager David Poile could start peddling players if the club hasn’t climbed back into the playoff chase by the end of this month.

Never say never when it comes to trading an expensive underperforming player lacking no-trade protection like Duchene or Johansen. Nevertheless, I doubt Poile will find any takers for either guy unless he absorbs a big chunk of their respective annual average value. That’s something Poile usually isn’t keen to do. I don’t think he’ll want to add to his current $2.041 million in dead cap space.

Ekholm, Granlund and Haula will draw the most interest. Cousins and Richardson would be affordable pickups for contenders seeking to shore up their fourth-line depth for the postseason.

The Leafs’ interest in Granlund is interesting. He’s reached the 60-point plateau twice but his production suffered after the Preds acquired him from the Minnesota Wild. Maybe playing him among the Leafs’ top-six will help him rediscover his offense.

UPDATE ON FLEURY

SPORTSNET: Friedman doesn’t believe Marc-Andre Fleury is available. The Vegas Golden Knights netminder is playing very well. “In a year when some teams can’t make it work even with four goalies, why would you move him?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should put to rest the recent speculation about Fleury’s trade status. He’s playing very well while Robin Lehner remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Golden Knights are all-in for a championship run this season. They won’t weaken their goaltending depth by trading Fleury.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the names of Vancouver Canucks forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette are in the trade market. There is interest in Virtanen, who has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $2.55 million. He only had under seven minutes of ice time in a recent game against the Calgary Flames, which caught the attention of some clubs who had expressed some interest in him. Dreger also said the Canucks would like a young forward in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the decline in Virtanen’s performance the Canucks will be lucky to get a decent draft pick or prospect in return. No one’s parting with a young player for him unless it’s one whose play has also declined.










Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 14, 2021

Recaps from Saturday’s action, the Senators send Paquette and Galchenyuk to the Hurricanes for Dzingel, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Brady Tkachuk scored in the dying seconds of the third period to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Winnipeg Jets 2-1. Evgenii Dadonov scored the game-tying in the second period. Mark Scheifele tallied for the Jets. The Senators snapped a four-game losing skid.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Earlier in the day, the Senators traded forwards Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for winger Ryan Dzingel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Paquette was the prize for the Hurricanes as they sought to add more grit and playoff experience to their forward lines. He’d won a Stanley Cup last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning before they shipped him to the Senators in an offseason cost-cutting move.

The Senators hope to boost their anemic scoring punch by reacquiring Dzingel, whose best seasons were in Ottawa before he was traded in 2019 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He signed later that year with the Hurricanes but struggled to regain his scoring touch. The 28-year-old winger is in the final year of his contract so the Sens won’t be on the hook for long if he doesn’t pan out.

Galchenyuk is now on his sixth team since 2017-18. His production has steadily deteriorated and was a frequent healthy scratch with the Sens this season.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they downed the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a shootout goal by Vincent Trocheck. The Stars have dropped their last five games.

The San Jose Sharks dropped their belated home opener 3-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights. Chandler Stephenson tallied a goal and collected an assist for the Golden Knights. The Sharks also lost defensemen Erik Karlsson (lower body) and Radim Simek (upper body) to injuries.

Third-period goals by Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau carried the New York Islanders to a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins, snapping the latter’s 10-game points streak. Pageau had two goals for the Isles, including a short-handed tally.

Tyler Johnson scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning netted four first-period goals on route to a 6-1 drubbing of the Florida Panthers. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves for the Lightning, who also announced Anthony Cirelli was listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered during Thursday’s game against the Panthers.

Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher tallied the tie-breaker as his club edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 to end the latter’s four-game win streak. Habs goaltender Carey Price made 21 saves. Leafs center Auston Matthews picked up an assist to extend his points streak to 12 games.

The St. Louis Blues nipped the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 on an overtime goal by Mike Hoffman. The Coyotes played without forward Johan Larsson as he’s serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Blues forward Zach Sanford in their previous match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the sixth straight game between the two clubs due to schedule changes brought on by COVID-19. They’ve each won three games with the final contest in this unexpected best-of-seven slated for Monday.

Alex DeBrincat’s overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrick Kane collected two assists including one on the game-winner. Patrik Laine and Cam Atkinson replied for the Jackets.

The Detroit Red Wings doubled up the Nashville Predators 4-2. Wings forward Luke Glendening had a goal and two assists. The Predators pulled goalie Pekka Rinne after he gave up three goals on 21 shots.

Third-period goals by Tyler Myers and Brandon Sutter gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. The win ended a six-game losing skid by the Canucks. Jacob Markstrom made 43 saves for the Flames. Before the games, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted his “full confidence” in general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. “Progression is not always a straight line,” tweeted Aquilini. “There is no easy fix, only patience, commitment and hard work.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will buy some time for Benning and Green but we’ll see if they still have Aquilini’s confidence by season’s end if the Canucks miss the playoffs.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DENVER POST: Nathan MacKinnon has fully recovered from his lower-body injury and will be ready to suit up when the Colorado Avalanche face the Vegas Golden Knights today. It’ll be the Avs’ first game since their schedule was postponed by COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago.

NEW YORK POST: Former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo took responsibility for the mistakes in his on-ice play during an interview with Larry Brooks on Friday. He also claimed he’s been misportrayed in the media. “I’m not a racist, I’m not an extremist and I’m not an insurrectionist”, said DeAngelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo remains sidelined by the Rangers as they attempt to trade him to another NHL club.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins have made requests to the governor and the state of Pennsylvania seeking permission to open their arena to spectators at 25 percent capacity.

TORONTO STAR: Long-time hockey writer Frank Orr passed away Saturday at age 84. Winner of numerous sportswriting honors, Orr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. He rose to fame during the 1960s and 1970s with his NHL coverage, particularly the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also mentored countless sportswriters, many of whom still cover the NHL today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Orr’s family, friends and colleagues.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 12, 2021

Could Sidney Crosby one day be traded to the Avalanche? Did the Penguins attempt to reacquire Marc-Andre Fleury? What are some possible trade destinations for Sam Bennett? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WOULD CROSBY BE A GOOD FIT WITH THE AVALANCHE?

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater cites NHL insider Darren Dreger telling TSN radio yesterday he wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby asked to be traded to a Stanley Cup contender or a club on the rise.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).

Dreger made that suggestion on the premise of the Penguins either missing the playoffs or if Crosby feels they aren’t a Cup contender anymore. He proposed the Penguins captain might do this as a way for the club to secure pieces for their future in return for sending him to “the Colorado Avalanche the New York Rangers whatever the team is,” with Dreger saying Colorado “makes a lot of sense to me, by the way”.

Sending Crosby to the Avalanche would unite him with hometown buddy Nathan MacKinnon. Dater acknowledged that would give the Avs the benefit of Crosby as their No. 2 center while still in his playing prime for the next two or three years. However, he wouldn’t part with Bo Byram or prospect Alex Newhook along with two or three first-round picks plus a roster player to get him.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski also weighed in on the possibility of Crosby being traded. He noted there was a hot rumor soon after Jim Rutherford stepped down as general manager that Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux and Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin (a good friend of Lemieux from their playing days) discussed the possibility of dealing Crosby to Montreal before Lemieux “snapped out of it”. He said a Penguins team source vigorously shot down that rumor.

Kingerski considers Crosby trade chatter as “mostly ridiculous”. However, Dreger’s scenario in which the Penguins captain accepts a trade if the return brings pieces that will benefit their future “doesn’t sound insane in that context.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The notion of Crosby getting traded sounds silly. Nevertheless, we all know the old chestnut that (say it with me) “if Wayne Gretzky can be traded anybody can be traded.”

Most observers believe new Penguins GM Ron Hextall and new president of hockey operations Brian Burke will meet at some point with Crosby and the club’s ownership to discuss the team’s future and his place within it. All reports thus far suggest Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle want to build around their aging core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. That could be the game plan for the remainder of this season and next regardless of how this season shakes out.

The notion of Crosby wanting out after all these years seems absurd. For all we know, Sid’s a Penguin for life no matter what. The more pressing issue is addressing the futures of Malkin and Letang. Both players are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Assuming Crosby doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, or if he feels the Penguins’ championship window has slammed shut, he will want to sit down with the front office and discuss potential trade options.

Teams will be interested in Crosby, but fitting him into their roster will be costly in terms of absorbing his annual $8.7 million cap hit and the return. The Penguins will want quality draft picks, top prospects and one or two good young NHL players in return.

The Avalanche, Rangers and Canadiens could all meet the return needs. However, they’d have to ship out considerable salary to make room for Crosby’s cap hit. The Penguins have limited space themselves so they’ll be reluctant to absorb any portion of his salary.

PENGUINS ATTEMPTED TO REACQUIRE FLEURY

Kingerski also cited insider Bob McKenzie telling NBC Sports the rumors last summer of the Penguins attempting to reacquire Marc-Andre Fleury was true. Rutherford and Penguin assistant GM Patrik Allvin both tried to bring the 35-year-old goalie back home. However, the Vegas Golden Knights lacked the cap space to absorb part of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if the Penguins might try again in the offseason. Fleury has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $7 million. He also has a 10-team no-trade list but perhaps he’d waive it to return to the city where he had his best seasons.

POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR BENNETT

THE ATHLETIC: Hailey Salvian recently examined several possible trade destinations for Sam Bennett. The Calgary Flames forward is reportedly interested in a change of scenery though trade chatter involving him has cooled of late.

Salvian noted the reports out of New York suggesting a swap of Bennett for Tony DeAngelo. She also cited two Sportsnet reports claiming the Flames have no interest in the troubled Rangers defenseman. She feels the Blueshirts could still be a viable trade option if they offered up a less controversial return.

Other options include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild. Salvian questions if the Leafs have the right piece they’d be willing to send to Calgary to make the trade work. She cites colleague Thomas Drance’s recent assessment suggesting Bennett would be the long-term solution to the Canucks’ third-line center position.

Michael Russo, The Athletic’s Wild beat reporter, believes the Wild could be a good fit provided the Flames are willing to take back a significant contract in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see how DeAngelo would be a good fit with the Flames but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks insisted they had some interest. However, he also recently noted the market for DeAngelo has dried up so a Bennett-for-DeAngelo swap seems unlikely now.

The Leafs are pressed for cap space so they can’t afford Bennett’s $2.55 million cap hit unless they move out some salary. I don’t think the Wild would have the type of return the Flames would seek, specifically a versatile third-line forward to replace Bennett.