NHL Rumor Mill – February 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – February 8, 2020

Are the Avalanche pursuing Jets winger Kyle Connor? Could the Leafs use a loophole to free up salary-cap space for the trade deadline? What’s the latest on Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Ilya Kovalchuk? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARE THE AVALANCHE INTERESTED IN KYLE CONNOR?

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre cites a “well-connected source” claiming teams are calling the Jets about winger Kyle Connor. The Jets need a top-tier defenseman, and McIntyre notes it takes talent to land talent. He said Colorado Avalanche prospect defenseman Bo Byram is the main name linked to Connor, along with a couple other small pieces. The Avs already have a potential franchise blueliner in Cale Makar, and their window of opportunity to win the Cup is wide open.

Could the Winnipeg Jets move Kyle Connor for a top-two defenseman? (Photo via NHL Images)

McIntyre doubts the Jets will move Connor, who leads them with 25 goals on the season. he also doesn’t think they’re actively shopping the 23-year-old winger. Still, he suggests trading “a highly coveted asset for a major piece to help in the present might make some sense.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I supposed the Avalanche could have interest in Connor. Heck, who wouldn’t? However, they’ve already got a top-line left winger in Gabriel Landeskog, while Valeri Nichushkin is showing promise in the second-line role. They’ve also been linked to guys like Chris Kreider and Tyler Toffoli, who would be more affordable acquisitions than Connor. Most of the trade chatter regarding the Avs of late concerns their goaltending.

Byram is a promising young defenseman who could one day blossom into a top-pairing player, but he’s yet to play a single NHL game. He’s not the top-two rearguard the Jets desperately need right away. Unless the Avs are offering up Makar (and they aren’t), or Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has decided to start rebuilding rather than push for a playoff spot, I don’t see Connor heading to Colorado – or anywhere else – anytime soon.

COULD A LOOPHOLE PROVIDE CAP RELIEF FOR THE LEAFS?

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports on the possibility of the Toronto Maple Leafs using the “Patrick Kane loophole” to free up around $9 million in salary-cap space at the trade deadline. He took note of recent comments by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas suggesting any trade-deadline activity on his part could depend upon how long defenseman Morgan Rielly remains sidelined with a broken foot.

If Rielly, Cody Ceci, and Ilya Mikheyev remain on long-term injured reserve for the rest of the regular season. the Leafs can use the savings to acquire players at the trade deadline. The trio could return for the playoffs without the Leafs shedding salary because there’s no salary cap in the postseason.

It would be similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks did in 2015 with winger Patrick Kane. With Kane placed on LTIR from mid-February to the end of the regular-season schedule, they used the cap savings to Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette, who helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup later that spring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing in the CBA that prevents teams from employing this tactic. If a player has suffered an injury serious enough to sideline them until the playoffs, a team is allowed to place him on LTIR and use the cap savings to their advantage before the trade deadline.

The Leafs aren’t the only club that can go this route. The St. Louis Blues, for example, currently have winger Vladimir Taranseko (shoulder surgery) on LTIR. He’s not expected to return until the playoffs, ensuring they’ll have over $5 million in deadline cap space to bolster their roster if they choose.

LATEST ON THORTON AND MARLEAU

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt recently cited NBC Sports hockey analyst Keith Jones weighing in on possible moves by the San Jose Sharks. He believes there’s a likelihood Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau get traded soon, suggesting Tampa Bay as a good destination for Thornton. He also felt Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon will be on the move before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, with the Leafs and Florida Panthers as potential suitors.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz recently suggested the Lightning, Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins as potential landing spots for Thornton. He felt the Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, and Washington Capitals could use Marleau’s services.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton’s no-movement clause makes him the most difficult to move, though he’d probably draw more interest. I think GM Doug Wilson will leave it up to Thornton and Marleau to decide if they’re willing to move to a contender for the remainder of the season.

UPDATES ON THE CANADIENS

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers have varying degrees of interest in Montreal Canadiens winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Engels also speculates the Florida Panthers could come calling if they swap winger Mike Hoffman for a defenseman. He believes the Canadiens won’t accept less than a second-round pick or a conditional third that could turn into a second-rounder.

Engels also weighs in on recent trade speculation regarding Max Domi, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. The two sides haven’t talked contract in a while, but that doesn’t mean discussions won’t resume soon. Domi’s versatility and willingness to stay in Montreal could give him leverage.

Rumors linked the Flames, Oilers, and Pittsburgh Penguins to Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar. While Engels believes the Penguins have the assets and the biggest incentive to land the 28-year-old Tatar, it’ll take a lot to pry him away from the Canadiens.

The Carolina Hurricanes have scouted the Habs. They need blueline depth and could have Brett Kulak or Marco Scandella in their sights.

Engels also thinks the New York Islanders could have interest in Canadiens fourth-line center Nate Thompson, while Winnipeg could be a destination for Dale Weise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon where the Canadiens are in the standings as the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaches. If they haven’t gained ground, Kovalchuk, Thompson, Weise, Scandella, and Kulak could hit the trade block.

Despite some uncertainty over Domi’s contract situation, I don’t see him going anywhere at the deadline. The same goes for Tatar, who’s thriving in Montreal and loves playing there. He’s signed through next season, so there’s no urgency to peddle him now.

LATEST ON THE ISLANDERS AND LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple recently speculated the New York Islanders could use their trade deadline salary-cap space (over $16 million) to take on a bad contract from a rival club to pick up an extra asset before deadline day. The Leafs, Golden Knights, Coyotes, and Blues could be cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary to make other moves.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith wonders if recent injuries to defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta push the Tampa Bay Lightning into the trade market. That could depend upon how long those two are sidelined. They could attempt to resolve the issue internally.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2020

Another milestone for Marc-Andre Fleury, hat-trick performances by James Neal, Zach Werenski, and Kyle Connor, Jake Guentzel sidelined for months, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 455th career victory as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. He moves into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time wins list. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Golden Knights, who move atop the Pacific Division standings with 50 points.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury moves into sixth place on the NHL’s all-time wins list (Photo via NHL Images).

A hat trick by James Neal and a four-point effort by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped the Edmonton Oilers hold off the New York Rangers 7-5. The Oilers ran up a 6-0 lead before the Rangers made it interesting with four third-period goals. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin picked up four points. The Oilers (46 points) hold a one-point lead over the Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski tallied his first career hat trick and Elvis Merzlikins picked up his first career NHL victory in a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, spoiling former Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s return to Columbus. Earlier in the day, the Jackets announced goalie Joonas Korpisalo will be sidelined four-to-six weeks following surgery on his right knee.

Kyle Connor’s second career hat trick carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 7-4 win over the slumping Colorado Avalanche. Mark Scheifele collected four points while Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Jack Roslovic each had three-point performances. Nathan MacKinnon tallied twice for the Avs, who’s lost five of their last six games. Jets center Mathieu Perreault returned to the lineup following a six-game absence with a concussion.

Alex Killorn scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6-4. Killorn and Tyler Johnson each finished with three points, as did the Sabres’ Conor Sheary. With 46 points, the Lightning move into third place in the Atlantic Division.

Patrick Kane scored twice and set up two others as the Chicago Blackhawks doused the Calgary Flames 5-3. Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner had a 41-save performance.

The St. Louis Blues’ eight-game win streak ended in a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Antti Raanta made 38 stops while Phil Kessel netted the game-winner. Earlier in the day, the Coyotes placed defenseman Aaron Ness on waivers.

The New Jersey Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit to upset the Boston Bruins 3-2 on a shootout goal by Damon Severson. Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 42 saves in a losing cause, but the Bruins did pick up a point to extend their streak to eight games.

New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov kicked out 38 shots (18 in the third period) as his club edged the Washington Capitals 4-3. Casey Cizikas scored twice for the Isles while Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied two goals for the Capitals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their seventh win in their last eight contests by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander each had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Leafs re-signed defenseman Justin Holl to a three-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $2 million.

The Montreal Canadiens dropped their third straight game, falling 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. They also lost winger Brendan Gallagher to a possible concussion after being accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Ben Chiarot. Hurricanes forwards Erik Haula and Teuvo Teravainen each had two points.The Habs have fallen to 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.

The Detroit Red Wings snapped a six-game losing skid by blanking the San Jose Sharks 2-0. Jonathan Bernier made 34 saves for the shutout while Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek were the goal scorers.

A four-goal first period powered the Los Angeles Kings over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves while Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe each collected two points.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel will be sidelined four-to-six months following surgery on his right shoulder after Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was fined $5,000.00 and Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau $2,500.00 for their late-game scrum.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guentzel’s absence is a big blow to the injury-ravaged Penguins. With 20 goals and 43 points in 39 games, he had been selected to participate in the 2020 All-Star Game later this month in St. Louis. His lengthy absence could provide an opportunity for struggling Penguins winger Alex Galchenyuk, who was the subject of frequent trade speculation in recent weeks.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 29, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 29, 2019

The Avalanche re-sign Mikko Rantanen and the Jets ink Kyle Connor. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed winger Mikko Rantanen to a six-year, $55.5-million contract. Cap Friendly indicates the annual average value is $9.25 million. 

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets re-signed winger Kyle Connor to a seven-year, $50-million deal with an AAV of $7.14 million

The Colorado Avalanche re-signed winger Mikko Rantanen to a six-year deal (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: And with that, the last two notable restricted free agents are finally under contract. Both players missed training camp and preseason action but are expected to rejoin their respective clubs as the curtain rises this week on the 2019-20 regular season. It’ll be interesting to see what effect their absences will have upon their early-season performance.

As for the contracts, they’re worthwhile long-term deals for the two sides. Both players get long-term security. Rantanen becomes the highest-paid player on the Avalanche on a front-loaded deal paying him $12 million annually this season and next in real salary ($34 million over the first three seasons) while Connor becomes the second-highest paid forward on the Jets. 

The Avs and Jets each get an important young player under a contract that could turn out to be a long-term bargain. Rantanen is coming off back-to-back 80-point performances while the two-way Connor netted 30-plus goals in each of the last two seasons. The 22-year-olds are core players entering their playing prime with their best seasons still to come. What looks expensive today could look cost-effective in a few years. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust suffered undisclosed injuries blocking shots in last night’s preseason loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Coach Mike Sullivan said both were being evaluated and more info could be available today. Speaking of the Sabres, Connor Sheary missed the game with a lower-body injury and remains day-to-day. 

VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks winger Brock Boeser and defenseman Oscar Fantenberg skated in practice with their teammates yesterday. Both have been sidelined by concussions since Monday. 

WASHINGTON POST: Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny (hamstring) remains doubtful for the club’s season opener on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL’s David Schoen reports Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch is week-to-week with an upper-body injury while Cody Eakin is day-to-day. 

THE SCORE: The Calgary Flames released Devante Smith-Pelly from his professional tryout offer. 

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs placed blueliners Ben Harpur and Jordan Schmaltz on waivers for the purpose of sending them to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. 










Are Protracted NHL RFA Negotiations The New Normal?

Are Protracted NHL RFA Negotiations The New Normal?

 










Jets Re-Sign Patrick Laine

Jets Re-Sign Patrick Laine

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Winnipeg Jets have agreed to a two-year, $13.5-million contract with Patrik Laine. The 21-year-old winger’s annual average value is $6.75 million.

Winnipeg Jets re-sign left winger Patrik Laine to a two-year bridge contract (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After months of speculation over Laine’s status with the Jets, his contract situation is finally resolved. The Jets were said to be offering $6.5 million and the Laine camp around $7 million. He reportedly wanted a short-term bridge deal, thus putting him in position for a more lucrative contract while he’s still early in his playing prime. 

It’s still a substantial raise for Laine, who’s tallied 30-or-more goals in each of his first three NHL campaigns, including a career-high 44 goals in 2017-18. If not for the decrease in his production last season, he might’ve received more on this contract. 

Despite his scoring prowess, Laine’s drawn criticism for his streaky production and indifferent defensive play. He didn’t help matters this summer by appearing lukewarm about his future in Winnipeg and apparent grumbling over his second-line role.

Nevertheless, Laine remains a valuable part of the Jets’ offensive attack. Given his obvious offensive abilities, he should reach the 40-goal mark again.

Laine’s signing brings the number of top unsigned RFAs down to two: teammate Kyle Connor and Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen. With Laine under contract, one wonders how much the Jets will invest in Connor, who’s reportedly interested in a long-term deal.  Laine’s deal eats up half of their roughly $15 million in salary-cap space, though they theoretically have more if Dustin Byfuglien ($7.6 million salary-cap hit) remains suspended or decides to retire.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 26, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – September 26, 2019

The latest on Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Mikko Rantanen, Jonathan Drouin, and Jake Virtanen, plus updates on the Wild and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON LAINE, CONNOR, AND RANTANEN

TSN: During last night’s “Insider Trading” segment, the panel discussed the contract status of Winnipeg Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen.

Are the Winnipeg Jets any closer to re-signing Patrik Laine (pictured) and Kyle Connor? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun believes the Jets recently offered Laine a two-year bridge deal worth $6 million annually but feels the Laine camp seeks north of $7 million per season. The Avalanche, meanwhile, are focused on a long-term deal for Rantanen. LeBrun thinks the two sides could reach an agreement on a seven-year deal worth $9 million per season, speculating it could be signed within the next couple of days.

Bob McKenzie believes the Jets and Connor are talking about a six-year deal. However, they don’t appear close to a deal at this time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These players could sign new contracts before the regular season opens on Oct. 2. Still, negotiations could drag on into the start of the season. Jets coach Paul Maurice is preparing for the upcoming schedule without Laine and Connor on the roster. Even if these three are signed soon, it’s going to take some time before they’re up to speed with their teammates.

WILD AND PENGUINS IN THE TRADE MARKET

Darren Dreger reports Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin wants to acquire a first- or second-line center. He points out the Wild can draw upon their abundance of wingers, prospects and draft picks for trade bait. Dreger also notes Guerin understands it won’t be easy to address that need.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jason Zucker was nearly traded twice by Guerin’s predecessor but it appears the Wild winger is off the market. Cap Friendly indicates the Wild have all but one of their picks (no third-rounder) in the 2020 draft and all their picks in the 2021 and 2022 drafts.

Dreger believes Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford will move a defenseman. Veteran Jack Johnson’s been the subject of trade speculation but his contract is tough to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson has an affordable salary-cap hit ($3.25 million) but his contract runs through 2022-23. With the 32-year-old defenseman in decline, it’ll take a significant sweetener to convince another club to take on that contract.

JOSI AND PIETRANGELO

LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators are willing to go to $8.5 million per season on a long-term deal to re-sign Roman Josi. The 29-year-old Predators defenseman and captain is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. LeBrun speculates the Josi camp would prefer something over $9 million. He believes they’ll get it done though it’s interesting it hasn’t happened yet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have over $60 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21. Josi would be their most important signing. Most of their other free agents, apart from Josi and Mikael Granlund, could be affordable to retain or replace. Josi’s new deal, however, would take a big bite out of their cap space.

McKenzie also noted St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is in the same boat. It’s expected Blues GM Doug Armstrong will meet with the rearguard’s representatives when the Blues visit Toronto early in the regular season. The recent addition of Justin Faulk could provide the Blues with a bit of leverage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted Jay Bouwmeester comes off the Blues’ books at the end of this season. He suggested they could give Pietrangelo a $3 million raise over his current $6.5 million AAV.

Gordon believes Armstrong is committed to re-signing Pietrangelo and center Brayden Schenn but can probably keep only one. He feels Pietrangelo could be easier to retain. “If Kevin Hayes can get a seven-year, $50 million deal in Philadelphia, what could Schenn fetch in the open market?”

ARE THE CANADIENS SHOPPING DROUIN?

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports an “Eastern Conference executive” texted him claiming Jonathan Drouin’s name is out there in the trade market. The 24-year-old Montreal Canadiens forward has had what Engels called two mostly disappointing seasons and hasn’t looked good in preseason play. At this point, Engels feels the Canadiens would be selling low, so much so they might have to hang onto Drouin and hope he turns things around soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was listening to offers but it remains to be seen if he’s actively shopping Drouin. Bear in mind that preseason play isn’t necessarily an accurate forecast of a player’s regular-season performance. I agree Drouin’s trade value will suffer if his inconsistency persists this season.