NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2019

Details of several anticipated free-agent signings leaked, Zaitsev-for-Ceci trade expected today, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

Matt Duchene will reportedly sign with the Nashville Predators today (Photo via NHL Images).

The NHL’s free-agent period begins at 12:01 PM ET today. However, details leaked last night regarding new contracts for several noteworthy unrestricted free agents. Here’s a summary of what was reported:

Matt Duchene is expected to sign a seven-year, $56-million contract with the Nashville Predators

Joe Pavelski will sign a three-year, $21-million deal with the Dallas Stars. They’ve also signed Corey Perry to a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a base salary of $1.5 million.

Mats Zuccarello is heading to the Minnesota Wild. His contract is expected to be for five years and worth $6 million annually. 

Richard Panik is joining the Washington Capitals on a four-year deal believed to be worth over $2.5 million per season. 

Cam Talbot returns to Alberta with the Calgary Flames. The former Edmonton Oilers goaltender will sign a one-year, $2.75-million deal. 

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev has waived his no-trade clause, setting the stage to ship him to the Ottawa Senators for blueliner Cody Ceci. Winger Connor Brown will also be heading to Ottawa. Other players and/or draft picks will also be part of this swap. The trade is expected to be finalized later today after the Leafs pay Zaitsev his $3 million signing bonus. 

**UPDATE** As per Cap Friendly:

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas deserves kudos for finding a taker for Zaitsev and his $4.5 million AAV through 2023-24. No surprise, however, that he had to include a sweetener (Brown) in the deal.

Ceci, 25, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was qualified at $4.6 million for 2019-20. He was said to be seeking a five-year deal worth between $5 – $5.5 million per season. It remains to be seen if the Leafs will pay that much, take him to arbitration, or flip him to another club. I think he’s marginally better than Zaitsev but maybe his performance will improve with the Leafs. If the Leafs re-sign Ceci, they’ll still need replacements for Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey. Both are unrestricted free agents.

Zaitsev could also benefit from a change of scenery. Senators head coach D.J. Smith reportedly vouched for the blueliner, having worked with him when Smith was an assistant coach with the Leafs. Getting the versatile Brown in the deal is a nice boost to the Senators forward depth. 

In other Leafs and Senators news, Toronto plans to sign winger Kenny Agostino to a two-year, one-way contract. The Senators, meanwhile, hired former St. Louis Blues coach David Payne as an assistant coach. 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 30, 2019

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 30, 2019

The Leafs have a tentative deal to send Nikita Zaitsev to the Senators. Check out the details, plus the latest on Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Sebastian Aho, and more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

ZAITSEV FOR CECI?

TSN: Bob McKenzie reported the Toronto Maple Leafs could have a tentative deal in place shipping Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators for Cody Ceci. This trade won’t be finalized until July 1 when the Leafs pay Zaitsev his $3-million signing bonus.

The Toronto Maple Leafs strike a tentative deal to send Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).

McKenzie adds there could be other pieces in this deal. The Leafs could include a “sweetener” like a player (Connor Brown?) or a draft pick. Zaitsev, 27, has five years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.5 million. Ceci, 25, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan adds Zaitsev has agreed to waive his modified no-trade clause, which kicks in tomorrow, to go to Ottawa. Senators head coach D.J. Smith, a former Leafs assistant coach, got involved to help facilitate the deal.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports this move is an indication Ceci and the Senators aren’t on the same page in contract talks. It’s believed Ceci, who earned $4.5 million on a one-year contract this season, seeks a five- or six-year deal worth between $5 – $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, the Leafs will honor Zaitsev’s trade request and move out his troublesome contract. On the other hand, they’ll have to re-sign Ceci, who’ll cost more for longer than Zaitsev. It’s interesting that Smith got involved to make this happen. He seems to see more in Zaitsev’s game than the blueliner’s critics. 

Ceci’s faced considerable criticism from Senators fans for his defensive miscues. However, maybe a move to Toronto could benefit his play. The Leafs could flip Ceci to another club. Given their blueline needs, however, I think they’ll try to keep him.

If Ceci’s seeking up to $5.5 million annually, it could complicate the Leafs’ efforts to re-sign Mitch Marner. It’ll also hinder efforts to land a suitable replacement for Jake Gardiner and perhaps Ron Hainsey. 

LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE AND PANARIN

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater recently reported a source close to Artemi Panarin said the Colorado Avalanche continued to have serious interest in the 27-year-old left winger. The source also claimed the club met with Panarin personally this week. Dater acknowledged Panarin’s trips this week to the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to regular reader “Shawn” for the link. It’s worth noting Dater wrote this before the Avalanche acquired Andre Burakovsky on Friday from Washington. While he doesn’t think that move takes them out of the running for Panarin, “the optics aren’t good.” He also noted the Avs are among the suitors for winger Joonas Donskoi. If so, I think that takes them further out of the Panarin sweepstakes. 

UPDATE ON THE PREDATORS AND DUCHENE

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Montreal Canadiens could still have a shot at signing Matt Duchene. While it’s assumed Duchene will land with the Nashville Predators, Friedman said more than one source indicates that’s not locked in. Whatever happens, Friedman suspects the Predators will make a major move via trade or free agency. He also linked the Predators to Anders Lee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last weekend’s trade of P.K. Subban to New Jersey was done to free up cap space to add a scoring forward. If the Predators miss out on Duchene I can see them pursuing someone like Lee. I don’t think they’re in the bidding for Panarin as he’d be way out of their price range. 

HURRICANES PLAYING HARDBALL WITH AHO?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon intends to play hardball with Sebastian Aho. The 21-year-old center is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Hurricanes, to Brooks’ knowledge, haven’t indicated that they wouldn’t match an offer sheet for Aho. The pundit suggests it would be interesting to find out if they would.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s John Shannon recently reported the Hurricanes are talking an eight-year deal for Aho worth $6 million per season. Of course, that could simply be their opening bid. Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said he didn’t think the two sides were that far apart. He also expressed confidence a deal will be reached before training camp in September.

Waddell also indicated he’s not concerned about Aho receiving an offer sheet. I can see the two sides agreeing to a long-term deal worth around $8 million per season. Given Aho’s upside, he’ll be worth more than that in a few years. 

UPDATE ON PAVELSKI

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Ali Thanawalla cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting Joe Pavelski has initiated contract talks with the Dallas Stars. He met with the club earlier in the week. He also noted The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported Pavelski decided not to meet with the Minnesota Wild. Meanwhile, Russo’s colleague Aaron Portzline reported the Columbus Blue Jackets were among the clubs Pavelski politely declined to visit this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, Pavelski is making the Stars his top destination when the UFA market opens tomorrow. Of course, another club could swoop in at the last minute with a better offer. Stay tuned.

As for the Wild, The Athletic’s Michael Russo cites sources claiming they’re “aggressively pursuing” winger Mats Zuccarello. They’re prepared to offer him a long-term contract. Russo speculates it could be a five-year deal worth up to $6 million per season. I like Zuccarello but that’s too much for too long for a winger who turns 32 in September. 

RISTOLAINEN TRADE RUMORS PERSIST

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington believes the Sabres’ recent acquisition of defenseman Colin Miller means Rasmus Ristolainen will be traded soon. He cites Sabres GM Jason Botterill speaking of the options it gives his club on the blueline and “flexibility within their lineup”.

Ristolainen’s been the subject of trade speculation for weeks. While Botterill attempted to downplay the rumors, Harrington noted the Sabres GM also didn’t deny them. He points out the Sabres need for offense, suggesting Ristolainen would be the best trade chip to address that requirement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t rule out a Ristolainen trade this summer. However, as TSN’s Darren Dreger observed, a team must “step up” in a big way or the Sabres won’t part with him. In other words, it’ll take a top-six forward to pry Ristolainen away from the Sabres. 

 

 










NHL Rumor Mill – June 19, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – June 19, 2019

Latest on Nikolaj Ehlers, Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cody Ceci, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

ZAITSEV, EHLERS RISE ON TSN TRADE BAIT LIST

TSN: With Jacob Trouba traded to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel in limbo, Frank Seravalli updated his trade-bait list. Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev tops the list. Despite the five years at $4.5 million remaining on Zaitsev’s contract, Seravalli claims there’s no shortage of teams expressing interest in the 27-year-old blueliner. “Cost certainty is a valuable commodity in the salary cap world,” he said. The Vancouver Canucks are among the clubs linked to Zaitsev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cost certainty is a valuable commodity only if you’re getting your money’s worth out of that player. Zaitsev’s decline over the past two seasons could turn his contract into a potential salary-cap headache. 

Could the Winnipeg Jets ship Nikolaj Ehlers to the Carolina Hurricanes? (Photo via NHL Images)

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers moves up to No. 5 on Seravalli’s list. It’s believed the Jets offered the 23-year-old to the Carolina Hurricanes for one of their right-shot defensemen. Ehlers is a three-time 20-goal scorer. However, he’s “coming off a down year and entering the second season of a seven-year, $42 million deal.”

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said his priority is adding a top-nine forward. Alexander wonders if it could be Ehlers.  Alexander also reports Waddell wants to re-sign pending UFA goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek. However, that’s becoming problematic with the start of the UFA period (July 1) fast approaching.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ right-shot blueliners are Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. All but van Riemsdyk surfaced in this season’s trade-rumor mill. To land Ehlers, they’ll likely have to part with either Faulk, Hamilton, or Pesce. Cap Friendly indicates Faulk has a modified no-trade while Hamilton and Pesce lack no-trade protection. The Hurricanes, however, could be reluctant to break up their blueline.

LIGHTNING, CANUCKS INTERESTED IN RISTOLAINEN?

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois could be interested in Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s only 24 and has three years remaining on his contract with a $5.4-million annual salary-cap hit. “If I’m the Sabres, I don’t get into a serious discussion with Tampa unless Mikhail Sergachev is on the table,” said LeBrun

SN650 VANCOUVER’s Rick Dhaliwal took to Twitter reporting a source claims the Vancouver Canucks “seem to be talking with Buffalo about a defenseman. He’s not sure if it’s Ristolainen or Zach Bogosian. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen’s name frequently popped up in Sabres trade chatter earlier this spring. Should they decide to move him they could seek a top-six forward in return. I don’t believe the Bolts are willing to move Sergachev. Besides, they must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agent center Braydon Point. 

If the Canucks are interested in a Sabres defenseman it’s got to be Ristolainen. The oft-injured Bogosian won’t help their blueline. 

RANGERS NOT DONE DEALING?

LeBrun cited TSN colleague Darren Dreger saying the New York Rangers might not be done dealing after acquiring Jacob Trouba earlier this week. They could be willing to part with a forward like Chris Kreider, Vladislav Namestnikov, Pavel Buchnevich, and Jimmy Vesey. Kreider is a year away from UFA status. He’s also got a modified no-trade clause and his agent has submitted his 11-team no-trade list. LeBrun said the Sabres have been linked to Vesey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if Kreider is shopped by this weekend if a contract extension isn’t worked out with the Rangers by then. As for Vesey, he rejected the Sabres when he signed with the Rangers as a UFA in 2016. He’ll be a UFA next summer and might not be worth the risk for the Sabres. 

MARLEAU WANTS TO RETURN TO THE SHARKS

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: cites Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos claiming Toronto Maple Leafs winger Patrick Marleau wants to return to the San Jose Sharks. However, a reunion won’t be so simple as the Sharks would be reluctant to take on his $6.25 million salary-cap hit next season. Kypreos suggests a third team might have to get involved, one that must reach the salary-cap minimum. They could then buy out Marleau’s contract and he could sign a lesser deal with the Sharks. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau probably doesn’t fit into the Sharks plans. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton are UFAs while restricted free agents Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are due for pay raises. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $66 million invested in 15 players. That’s not enough cap space to re-sign those guys and leave room for Marleau. 

SENATORS SHOPPING CECI?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion has held contract extension talks with RFA defenseman Cody Ceci. However, Dorion is also seriously exploring Ceci’s value in the trade market leading up to this weekend’s NHL Draft. Garrioch notes the return the Pittsburgh Penguins received (Dominik Kahun, fifth-round pick) from Chicago in exchange for blueliner Olli Maatta. If Ceci could fetch something comparable he could be changing clubs this weekend. 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 10, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – April 10, 2019

Latest on the Canadiens, Senators, and Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

CANADIENS

LA PRESSE: Alexis Belanger-Champagne reports Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin doesn’t expect his difficult end to this season will result in a trade this summer. While Drouin acknowledged his late-season offensive struggles, he believes his club has a good group of players and doesn’t anticipate changing sweaters. Drouin said he understood why his playing time was reduced during a crucial game against the Carolina Hurricanes, adding he wants to help the team in any way he could.

Jonathan Drouin expects to be back with the Montreal Canadiens next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Drouin admitted being puzzled by his late-season slump. Teammates like Carey Price supported Drouin, who want to help him improve his consistency. General manager Marc Bergevin praised Drouin’s maturity and expects he’ll take another step forward next season. Drouin finished the season with 53 points. 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports the Canadiens will be looking for a backup goaltender as free agent Antti Niemi won’t be back after struggling through this season. Charlie Lindgren could be an option but he didn’t have a good season with the Habs farm team in Laval. Bergevin could go shopping for a veteran backup if he feels Lindgren isn’t ready. 

Pat Hickey feels it’s unlikely Bergevin can lure free-agent talent to Montreal, citing issues such as “taxes, weather, travel and whether their wives are going to happy.” The Canadiens GM also seems reluctant to go the offer-sheet route as he’s averse to trading away first-round draft picks. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some Canadiens fans were unhappy with Drouin’s performance down the stretch, and he does seem to sulk on the bench sometimes when things aren’t going his way. However, he’s 24 and still has room to improve his consistency and maturity. It certainly sounds like Bergevin isn’t giving up on Drouin so I wouldn’t expect to see the winger getting traded this summer.

Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $64.3 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20 with all their core players under contract. Assuming a salary cap of $83 million, Bergevin will have around $19 million to re-sign his restricted free agents and to pursue a top-four left-side defenseman, an established scoring forward and a backup goalie. I expect he’ll look into the free-agent market and could make an affordable signing or two.

To address his bigger needs, however, he’ll likely have to go the trade route, which he did with success last summer by acquiring Max Domi and Tomas Tatar. Bergevin is reluctant to part with his first-round picks but he’s got two selections in the second round and three in the fifth of this year’s draft plus two in the fourth round in 2020 to draw upon for trade bait.

SENATORS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports changes will continue this summer for the Senators. They are in the market for a new head coach. It’s expected they’ll attempt to re-sign free agents Anthony Duclair and Brian Gibbons but could part ways with Magnus Paajarvi and Oscar Lindberg.

Garrioch expects they’ll attempt to re-sign restricted free agent defenseman Cody Ceci but could trade him if an agreement on a new contract cannot be reached. He also suggested using Ben Harpur as trade bait to bring in a forward.

Garrioch thinks they could backup goalie Anders Nilsson depart via free agency if he seeks more than a one-year contract. He also tweeted yesterday GM Pierre Dorion said they may add a veteran player on July 1. 

THE ATHLETIC: Chris Stevenson believes the Senators would be wise to retain veteran starting goalie Craig Anderson through the final season of his contract. He notes a couple of teams, including the Calgary Flames, had interest in Anderson at the trade deadline, but the return for aging goaltenders hasn’t been good in the trade market. Stevenson feels Anderson’s experience and affordable cap hit for next season makes him worth retaining for next season. 

Stevenson also reported contract talks between the Senators and Ceci have been positive thus far. While Senators fans pointed to Ceci’s poor advanced stats, management likes how he eats up tough minutes against top opposition. Despite the acrimony of last year’s salary arbitration hearing, Ceci wants to stay and the club wants to keep him. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anderson asked to be dealt last June but his age and cap hit didn’t attract much interest. If there are clubs looking at him this summer they’ll likely only give up a low draft pick to get him. With the Senators rebuilding and lacking skilled depth between the pipes, I think they’ll keep him around for next season and test his market value leading up to the trade deadline.

As for Ceci, it certainly sounds as though he could have a long-term future in Ottawa. That isn’t going to please his critics among Sens followers but management values his experience and ability to log big minutes, which will be vital for their rebuilding blueline.

Having shed notable stars like Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, the Senators have over $45 million invested in 14 players for next season. Ceci, Duclair and Colin White are their notable free agents. Assuming it costs around $10 million to re-sign those three, they’ll still have to spend over $5 million to reach what could be a $60 million cap minimum. They won’t be going after any big-name talent but I expect they’ll attempt to bring in one or two quality veterans with leadership experience. 

FLYERS 

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: John Boruk reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher will be in the market for a second-line center, a top-four defenseman, and a backup goaltender. Fletcher considers this summer’s UFA market to be “Ok, not elite”. The top potential UFA include ” defensemen Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers, and Anton Stralman, and forwards Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner and Kevin Hayes.” 

Fletcher also said he’s never extended an offer sheet to another club’s restricted free agent and Boruk doubts he’ll do so this summer. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who has one year left on his contract with a $5-million cap hit, would appear a likely candidate for a contract buyout. However, Fletcher said he’s not a big fan of contract buyouts. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have over $47 million tied up in 13 players. Fletcher has more than enough to re-sign restricted free agents Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim and still have enough to make a big splash in the free agent or trade pools this summer. It’s assumed Cam Talbot will return as a backup and mentor for rookie Carter Hart. Fletcher could eye Karlsson or Duchene in the free-agent market. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 1, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – March 1, 2019

Latest on the Senators, Oilers, and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

UPDATES ON DUCHENE AND CECI

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports colleague Marc Savard feels the Ottawa Senators “have a legitimate chance” of bringing back center Matt Duchene via free agency. Friedman also noted the Montreal Canadiens expressed interest in Duchene before the trade deadline but balked at the asking price. He wondered if the Habs will revisit their interest this summer. 

Could Matt Duchene return to the Ottawa Senators this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duchene reportedly enjoyed living and playing in the Ottawa area so I suppose we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of his return via free agency. However, he’s going to be the best forward available in the UFA market and will be seeking top dollar on a long-term contract. I don’t think the Senators are willing to spend that much.

The Canadiens will have plenty of cap space but they’ve got one promising center on their roster in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and a couple more (Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling) in their pipeline. I think the Habs priority is landing a top-pairing left-side defenseman. 

Friedman also wonders if the Senators, who’ll need to spend this summer to reach next season’s salary-cap minimum, will re-sign defenseman Cody Ceci. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and a year away from eligibility for unrestricted free agent status. Friedman doubts the Senators will invest in Ceci long-term but they’ll also want to avoid another trade-deadline drama. He also speculates the Senators could use their cap space to target clubs looking to shed salary.

OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan also ponders Ceci’s future with the Senators. He notes they’ll have to match the blueliner’s salary to qualify his rights. While they may not want to do that, they might have to in order to get to the salary-cap floor. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think this is Ceci’s last season in Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will probably try to trade him before July 1 to avoid another arbitration hearing this summer. They can come up with other ways of reaching the cap floor for 2019-20. 

UPDATE ON THE OILERS

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman said he believes the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t want to trade winger Connor Brown for a playoff rental and discussed a possible Brown-for-Matt Benning deal with the Edmonton Oilers. He heard multiple denials regarding a rumor claiming the Oilers discussed trading defenseman Adam Larsson to Toronto. He also wonders if the Oilers might try to package winger Jesse Puljujarvi this summer with a contract they want to move. 

Friedman also said he heard the Nashville Predators looked at Oilers winger Zack Kassian before acquiring Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils in early-February. The Pittsburgh Penguins may have also had some interest in Kassian. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last weekend, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the Oilers were trying to package Puljujarvi with fading left wing Milan Lucic. With Puljujarvi undergoing season-ending hip surgery, the Oilers probably won’t find many takers for him this summer. I can’t see anyone wanting a Puljujarvi-Lucic package. There may have been some interest in Kassian, who has a year remaining on his contract, but the Oilers apparently weren’t shopping him. 

KINGS SET HIGH PRICE FOR TOFFOLI

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Los Angeles Kings set a high asking price for winger Tyler Toffoli at the trade deadline. It’s believed they sought a first-round pick and a good prospect “at least”. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Other than shipping defenseman Oscar Fantenberg to Calgary, Curtis Zupke reports Kings GM Rob Blake said he wasn’t close to making any other deals on deadline day. Zupke feels the Kings could make their major moves this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is signed through 2019-20 and becomes eligible for UFA status next July. Friedman said the Kings hope he’ll regain his 30-goal form. If he does I expect they’ll re-sign him before next July. He’s 26 and could still play a key role in their rebuilding process. Of course, that could change if someone’s willing to meet Blake’s asking price. 










NHL Rumor Mill (Post Trade Deadline Edition) – February 26, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill (Post Trade Deadline Edition) – February 26, 2019

With the 2019 Trade Deadline now history, find out what the future holds for the Canadiens, Islanders, Panthers, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

COULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE DUCHENE THIS SUMMER? 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t prepared to pay the high prices asked of the top rental players in this year’s trade market. He was rumored to be interested in Matt Duchene, who was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Noting Duchene is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Cowan suggests Bergevin could take another run at him – or someone else – without giving up anyone from his roster or moving a first-round pick or one of his top prospects. The Canadiens’ improved performance this season could make them an attractive destination for free agents like Duchene. 

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports Bergevin was trying to upgrade his depth at center and on defense before the deadline. However, he balked at the asking prices, which included rookie center Jesperi Kotkaniemi and top prospects like Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, and Alex Romanov. “If I would’ve done what I was asked for, you would probably have called me an idiot,” Bergevin said.

Could the Montreal Canadiens pursue Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene via free agency in July? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are exceeding expectations this season. By standing pat, Bergevin did the right thing. He’s keeping his focus on the long-term future.

With $62 million invested in 15 players next season and his core players under contract, Bergevin has the cap room to make a significant move or two via free agency like Duchene, though such players will be very expensive to sign.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempts to weaponize that cap room by targeting teams with limited cap room looking to shed salary before next season. That doesn’t mean taking on overpaid underachievers or fading veterans but looking at promising young players on reasonable contracts. 

ISLANDERS REPORTEDLY PURSUED DUCHENE

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arthur Staple reports the New York Islanders are thought to have made an offer for Matt Duchene before the Senators traded him to the Blue Jackets involving their 2019 first-round pick and young forward Anthony Beauvillier. Staple also feels the Islanders could have a keen interest in Blue Jackets left winger Artemi Panarin if he hits the free-agent market this summer.

NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes the Islanders turn their focus toward forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, who are all on expiring contracts. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are also doing much better than expected this season and didn’t have to make a big move at the deadline. They have over $47 million invested in 14 players for 2019-20, giving them plenty of room to re-sign their key UFAs (which also includes goalie Robin Lehner) and still pursue a top potential free agent like Panarin or Duchene this summer. I expect they’ll re-sign Lee and Lehner for sure but I’m not so certain Eberle and Nelson fit into their long-term plans. 

PANTHERS EXPECTED TO BE ACTIVE IN SUMMER’S TRADE/UFA MARKETS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): George Richards reports Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon made “a substantial offer” to the Ottawa Senators for Mark Stone, who was subsequently traded to the Vegas Golden Knights yesterday. Tallon indicated he’s willing to re-sign pending UFAs Riley Sheahan and Troy Brouwer. Richards notes Tallon has plenty of draft picks and salary-cap space to be active in this summer’s trade and free-agent markets. They could be seeking a top-end forward, defenseman and a premier goaltender. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors were rampant leading up to the deadline suggesting Tallon was very keen to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Don’t be surprised if he’s among the suitors for both this summer via free agency. 

SENATORS

OTTAWA SUN: In the wake of trading Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will make decisions in the offseason to add some veterans but much of the roster will be made up of youth. 

Don Brennan reports Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is happy to land promising defenseman Erik Brannstrom in the trade that sent Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights. Brennan notes Dorion is thrilled about the state of his team and its future but believes the Sens GM is in the dark or in denial over the unhappy mood of the fan base. Brennan also wonders how long the Senators will have defenseman Cody Ceci, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators are well-stocked with draft picks, especially in the 2020 NHL Draft. As Brennan pointed out, however, they have a mixed record with their recent draft history, which includes busts like Jakub Klepis, Brian Lee, Jim O’Brien, Jared Cowen, and Curtis Lazar.

They’ll have plenty of salary-cap space for 2019-20, with $44 million invested in 13 players and a cap minimum expected to rise to over $60 million. However, their status as a rebuilding club with a cantankerous owner won’t make them a destination of choice for the top UFA talent or even for second-tier free agents.

As for Ceci, I think the Senators will try to trade him, probably in the week leading up to the NHL Draft in June. He frequently surfaced this season as a trade candidate and I expect we’ll see his name pop up again.