NHL Players Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 4
Check out the latest on the Kings and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT COULD THE KINGS DO IN THE OFF-SEASON?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his postmortem on the Los Angeles’ Kings 2019-20 season, Matt Larkin observed they’ll have around $20 million in salary-cap space if the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season. With all their impact players under contract, Larkin wondered if general manager Rob Blake will chase a major unrestricted free agent. Noting it’s still too early for the club to become a contender, Larkin believes Blake could remain conservative for another year.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Kings might re-sign Trevor Lewis to a contract extension in the off-season. She doesn’t think so, pointing out the 33-year-old center was reportedly available at this year’s trade deadline. She suspects there haven’t been any contract discussions lately.
Dillman was also asked if Jeff Carter might be traded. She doubts it, pointing out the 35-year-old center recently underwent core-muscle surgery. She said there wasn’t a trade scenario before Carter’s surgery, but if there was, this would change the equation.
Asked which player she felt might be a good target for the Kings in the 2022 UFA market, Dillman cited Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. She cautioned, however, that most pending free agents tend to re-sign with their teams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Blake is likely to wait another year before attempting to make a big splash in the UFA pool. However, I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll attempt to pry away a good young player from a cap-strapped rival.
With over $69 million invested in 16 players (as per Cap Friendly) for next season, the Kings also have sufficient cap space to make that kind of addition. Blake has some tradeable assets if the opportunity arises to land a promising NHL talent. The Kings have seven picks in rounds two through four of this year’s draft and six in the same rounds next season.
LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked what he thought the Pittsburgh Penguins will do about their goaltending situation. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both restricted free agents with arbitration rights and the Penguins can’t afford to keep both.
Yohe speculates Murray could hit the trade block. He’ll command the most money, which could be a problem for the Penguins if the salary cap declines next season. To keep both goalies would mean trading Kris Letang or a couple of other important players.
Asked which two players won’t be on the roster next season, Yohe thinks Nick Bjugstad and Patrick Marleau are the most likely candidates. Bjugstad’s injury history, however, will make him hard to trade. Marleau, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t ruled out re-signing Murray and Jarry, but it will require some salary and roster juggling to pull it off. Even if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Penguins have over $68 million committed to 15 players in 2020-21. New contracts for both goalies will eat up a big chunk of that cap room.
The Masterton Trophy nominees are revealed, updates on the league’s return-to-play plan, and the latest on John Tavares, Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) yesterday released the 2019-20 nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Miller, G
Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland, F
Boston Bruins: Kevan Miller, D
Buffalo Sabres: Curtis Lazar, F
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano, D
Carolina Hurricanes: James Reimer, G
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, G
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves, D
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nathan Gerbe, F
Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns, D
Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri, F
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, F
Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari, F
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, G
Minnesota Wild: Alex Stalock, G
Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber, D
Nashville Predators: Jarred Tinordi, D
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac, F
New York Islanders: Thomas Hickey, D
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, G
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan, F
Philadelphia Flyers: Oskar Lindblom, F
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin, F
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton, F
St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester, D
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn, F
Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman, F
Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom, G
Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore, D
Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny, D
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Letestu, F
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the nominees. The winner of the Masterton Trophy will be announced at the 2020 NHL Awards following this season at a date to be announced.
LATEST ON THE RETURN-TO-PLAY PLAN
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL and NHL Players Association will continue discussions in the coming weeks regarding the protocols, details, testing, and more for staging Phase 3 and 4 of the league’s return-to-play plan. Phase 3 is the training camp portion and Phase 4 the 24-team playoff tournament. The PA executive board representing the 31 teams is expected to vote on one big package rather than separate votes for each phase.
Darren Dreger reports the players are awaiting the specifics for Phase 3, including details on the two hub cities, restrictions, family matters, and more. The league and the PA acknowledge nothing will be perfect and some sacrifices will have to be made to get the sport back on its feet.
Regarding the collective bargaining agreement, LeBrun said those involved are holding out hope for an extension before play resumes. A lot of work still has to be done. Escrow and the salary cap are important issues for the players. Dreger noted they’re also interested in returning to the Olympics as early as 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the league and the PA will get the details for the return-to-play plan sorted out by no later than early July. Whether either Phase takes place without a hitch is another issue. A second wave of COVID-19 could derail those plans.
Most fans will be thrilled if a CBA extension beyond 2022 can be hammered out before play resumes. Nevertheless, the priority is completing this season and crowning a Stanley Cup champion. The CBA takes a backseat to that right now.
REUTERS: Canada and the United States are expected to extend their border ban on non-essential travel to late July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the government of Canada provides exemptions for NHL players and staff, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver will be out of the running as one of the two host cities for the 24-team tournament. Other Canadian teams participating in the playoff tournament could emulate the Calgary Flames’ plans to stage training camps next month in the United States.
TORONTO SUN: John Tavares, Ilya Mikheyev, Jack Muzzin, and Jack Campbell were among the Maple Leafs taking part in small-group workouts yesterday at the Leafs’ training facility. Mitch Marner and Cody Ceci are expected to join them soon.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Shea Weber intends to continue training at his off-season home in Kelowna, BC until a full training camp is on the horizon.
IN OTHER NEWS…
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings center Jeff Carter underwent successful surgery last week to repair a core muscle injury. He’s expected to fully recover before the start of next season.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the New Jersey Devils put their search for a new head coach on pause for the time being. They reportedly spoke with 8-10 coaches and narrowed the list to four, including current interim bench boss Alain Nasreddine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pilut, 24, is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Perhaps he’s trying to garner a measure of leverage in negotiations with the Sabres.
THE SCORE: Former NHL player Brandon Bochenski was elected mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota yesterday.
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the one question facing each non-playoff club
SPORTSNET: Josh Beneteau recently looked at the most important question facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs.
Kicking off with the Detroit Red Wings, Beneteau wondered how many of their free agents will be brought back. RFAs Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are the priorities. UFAs like Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson won’t be back, while RFAs Brendan Perlini and Adam Erne aren’t expected to return. Some, like Robby Fabbri and Alex Biega, probably earned themselves contract extensions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi, Mantha, Fabbri, and Biega will be back with the Wings next season.
Looking at the Ottawa Senators’ 13 potential picks in the 2020 draft, Beneteau wondered what general manager Pierre Dorion will do with all of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion will likely use most of those picks in the draft, but I expect he’ll use a few as trade bait, perhaps targeting a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary. He’ll probably consider that option if he can land a young, affordable NHL-ready player who can help the Sens’ rebuild.
Beneteau wondered if this is the end of an era for the current San Jose Sharks roster. GM Doug Wilson seems intent for now on keeping the group intact and trying to figure out what went wrong this season. Nevertheless, he has a history of making blockbuster moves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We certainly can’t rule out the possibility of Wilson surprising us with a big move or two. Trying to move one or two of his veteran core, however, will be difficult. All of them carry expensive contracts with varying degrees of no-trade protection.
Turning to the Los Angeles Kings, Beneteau noted they shipped out Tyler Toffoli before the trade deadline and wondered if long-time Kings like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick will return. Beneteau acknowledged the trio are declining and have at least two years remaining on their contracts with annual cap hits of $5.2-million or more. Moving one of them, however, could fetch some sort of future asset while opening a spot for a younger player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings could be forced to pick up part of the salary-cap hit to move Brown, Carter, or Quick. Otherwise, they might have to include a good young asset in the deal, which this rebuilding club will be unwilling to part with.
Looking at the Anaheim Ducks’ anemic offense, Beneteau wonders who’s going to score next season. He speculates they could move one of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft to land a scoring forward through the draft or via trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay teams will be more interested in the Ducks’ pick than the one they got from the Boston Bruins. I don’t see GM Bob Murray moving his pick, especially if the Ducks win the draft lottery.
With the New Jersey Devils still undecided over whether to retain interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine, Beneteau wonders who’s going to make the roster decisions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the unusually long off-season facing the Devils, they have plenty of time to address that issue. They reportedly interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, while Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens are said to be among their coaching candidates.
Beneteau closes by wondering which players will be part of the solution for the Buffalo Sabres. He thinks upgrades in goal and on the forward lines are coming and won’t rule out big trades involving defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and RFA winger Sam Reinhart.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger expressed support for Ristolainen. It appears they’re also keen to keep Reinhart in the fold. Then again, we can’t rule out the possibility of one or both being moved before next season.
Another look at this year’s non-playoff clubs in the Sunday NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: John Matisz recently examined the most important business facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs. Here’s a look at some of his notable observations.
Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray could face some soul-searching over whether to open contract extension talks with long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. He would attract considerable interest among playoff contenders before the 2021 NHL trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf has an annual average value of $8.25 million with a full no-movement clause for next season. If he and the Ducks fail to reach agreement on a new contract, it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll agree to waive that movement clause.
With several veterans carrying expensive contracts, Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill needs to sign RFA winger Sam Reinhart and goalie Linus Ullmark to reasonable contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could be easier said than done. Both players have arbitration rights. Coming off a bridge contract, Reinhart could be seeking a lucrative long-term deal.
The rebuilding Detroit Red Wings need depth throughout their roster. Acquiring a decent goaltender should be the priority for GM Steve Yzerman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This year’s UFA goalie market includes Washington’s Braden Holtby and Vegas’ Robin Lehner. Both, however, could prefer signing with contenders. Other options could include Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, or the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss. The Wings, however, could be forced to overpay.
The Los Angeles Kings have 21 picks in the next two drafts, including five second-rounders. Matisz wondered if packaging one or two picks with Jeff Carter at the 2020 draft might net the Kings a young, established NHL player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could depend on how much of a market there is for Carter. He’s a proven performer but age seems to have caught up with the 35-year-old center. He’s also got two more seasons with an annual average value of $5.275 million, though in actual salary he’s earning $2 million annually. The Kings might have to absorb part of that cap hit.
The New Jersey Devils’ biggest decisions are deciding whether they’ll remove the interim labels from GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine or hire full-time replacements. They’ve interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis and former NHL coaches Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once they’ve sorted their management and coaching positions, the Devils can focus on addressing their roster issues.
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion could be busy in the off-season. Among his 13 players on expiring contracts are Craig Anderson and Anthony Duclair.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 39-year-old Anderson could be brought back cheaply on a one-year deal, but it remains to be seen if he’s keen to spend another season with the rebuilding Senators or if Dorion wants him back. Duclair is a streaky scorer with arbitration rights, but he could end up having to accept a one-year “show-me” deal.
San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson will have to get creative to shore up his goaltending. Martin Jones is no longer an effective starting goalie but he’s got four more years left on his contract with an AAV of $5.275 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21, Wilson could try to move one of his high-salaried veterans for younger talent. However, they also carry various no-trade/no-movement clauses. He could look for a short-term free-agent bargain like Khudobin or former Shark Greiss.