NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2020

Updated unrestricted free agent rankings and how the current season shutdown could affect the UFA market in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS/TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, and Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug are the top three on Matt Larkin’s and Frank Seravalli’s respective lists of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex PIetrangelo is among this year’s top unrestricted free agents (Photo via NHL Images).

Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby, and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen round out Larkin’s top-10.

Seravalli had Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in fourth place (he was 11th on Larkin’s list), followed by Lehner, Hoffman, Dadonov, Toffoli, Holtby, and Barrie. Vatanen was 12th on his ranking.

Other noteworthy players to appear on both lists include Calgary Flames defensemen T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Erik Gustafsson, Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk, Washington Capitals d-man Brenden Dillon and winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and Florida Panthers forward Erik Haula,

Larkin also included Nashville Predators wingers Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith, Bruins backup goalie Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Zdeno Chara, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, Winnipeg Jets blueliner Dylan DeMelo, Capitals rearguard Radko Gudas, New York Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss, Toronto Maple Leafs center Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks d-man Chris Tanev, Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, and Ottawa Senators defender Mark Borowiecki.

Seravalli’s ranking included Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Justin Braun, Hurricanes blueliner Joel Edmundson, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci, Blues rearguard Marco Scandella and Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think most observers will agree where Pietrangelo, Hall, and Krug sit among this year’s top UFAs. I’m sure there will be considerable disagreement over where the others are ranked.

For example, I think Barrie’s struggles in Toronto this season could send his UFA stock tumbling. Remember, some observers (including yours truly) considered Jake Gardiner among last year’s top-10 free agents, and he wound up waiting until September to get a deal that was well below the $6 million annually he was projected to get.

It’s also safe to say some of these players, such as Chara, Crawford, and Williams, are likely to re-sign with their current clubs.

Seravalli reports the effects of the current league shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty for this year’s free-agent market. One agent expects the players will have a hard time going backward financially, but that’s what’s going to happen because of the pandemic. Should the salary cap remain at $81.5 million next season, many free agents may have to accept significantly less than they expect.

One agent pointed out there won’t be much of a market for top UFA. Only bottom-feeding clubs will have the most money to spend, but they’re usually not attractive destinations for free-agent talent. Seravalli suggests players might accept short-term deals for less money in the hope of trying to cash in later.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players will still try to get the best deals they can, but I concur most won’t find the lucrative offers they would’ve received in a normal year. I agree with Seravalli that many could accept one- or two-year deals for less money and try their luck again in a year or two, or opt for the security of term over dollars.

The UFA market could also be flooded with additional players if the league and the NHLPA agreed to implement compliance buyouts for this off-season as a means of helping cap-strapped clubs hit hard by the shutdown. That could also drive down prices for free-agent talent.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2020

Several Western Conference clubs will face some serious off-season questions. Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon wondered if the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks might shop a defenseman like Josh Manson or Cam Fowler.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If they do, it could be for a young scoring forward. Manson would be the easiest to move. He has a 12-team no-trade list, while Fowler has a four-team trade list.

Dixon expects Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka to continue pursuing a goal scorer, but wondered what’s the next solution? Phil Kessel turned into a disappointment, and they saw marginal improvement when Taylor Hall was acquired in December.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Do they shop more futures? They already traded away their 2020 first-rounder. Do they offer up promising defenseman Jakob Chycrhun despite his long injury history? Chayka’s going to have to get creative.

Could the Calgary Flames shop Johnny Gaudreau this off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Dixon mused about the possibility of the Calgary Flames shopping Johnny Gaudreau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never, but I don’t see this happening. Gaudreau’s numbers were down this season, but the 26-year-old winger is only a year removed from a career-high 99-point performance. Unless Flames GM Brad Treliving is going to rebuild the roster (and I don’t believe that’s his intention), It doesn’t make any sense to trade his best scorer because of one bad year.

The Chicago Blackhawks need goaltenders next season. Even if they re-sign 35-year-old Corey Crawford, Dixon thinks they must add another quality goalie who can play 40 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If, as expected, Crawford is re-signed for another year or two, they could find several good options in this summer’s UFA market. Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss could be available.

Dixon asked if the Colorado Avalanche have Taylor Hall‘s phone number when he hits the open market in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He feels Hall would be a great addition on the Avs’s second line. I agree, but signing Hall will be an expensive undertaking. The Avalanche could easily afford him this year, but he would become their highest-paid player. Assuming they could get him for $8 million annually, that’s too much to invest in a second-line player, especially when Gabriel Landeskog and rising star Cale Makar will be in line for big raises next year.

Dixon wondered where the Dallas Stars will find some young forwards. It could cost them futures to land a scorer in his prime.

He’s also curious how much it’ll cost the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before he becomes a UFA next summer. He also expects them to shop around for a goalie, as it may be asking too much to bank on 38-year-old Mike Smith.

Can the Los Angeles Kings trade Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless they absorb half their salary or take on a toxic contract in return, the answer is no. Both are 35 and carrying annual salary-cap hits exceeding $5 million annually through 2021-22.

Does it make sense for the Minnesota Wild to trade defenseman Matt Dumba?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No, it doesn’t. Dumba is 25 and signed through 2022-23. This was a down season stats-wise, but he was also coming off a serious pectoral muscle injury last season. Sometimes it takes time to fully recover from that type of injury. GM Bill Guerin could keep an open ear for reasonable trade offers, but I think he’ll hang onto Dumba.

Can the San Jose Sharks find a starting goalie? Dixon advocates pursuing a UFA netminder like Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, or Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good idea, but the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players, with $5.75 million annually being paid to current starting goalie Martin Jones, who has a three-team trade list. Unless they can find a way to move out Jones or slash another salary, they could be forced to consider more affordable short-term options.

Will Alex Pietrangelo re-sign with the St. Louis Blues?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe he will, but the Blues will have to shed some salary to accommodate his raise to between $8 million and $9 million annually.

Can the Vancouver Canucks keep Jacob Markstrom?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, but like the Blues, they’ll have to shed a salary to fit in his new contract. Maybe this is the year they find a taker for Loui Eriksson or buy out the remainder of his contract.

Is Robin Lehner the Vegas Golden Knights’ long-term goalie?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, Lehner is younger than starter Marc-Andre Fleury, put up better numbers over the last two seasons, and is in his playing prime. On the other hand, Fleury is a proven performer and remains the face of the Golden Knights. Had Lehner come in and took over the starter’s job from Fleury over the remainder of this season, perhaps he could make the case as their long-term goalie. Re-signing him would force the cap-strapped Golden Knights to dump a salary or two.

Dixon wondered if the Winnipeg Jets might move a forward to bolster their blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule it out, but the anticipated termination of Dustin Byfuglien’s contract ($7.6 million AAV) could provide sufficient wiggle room to find more affordable depth options for next season.

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks


NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2020

The NHL schedule may be paused, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over potential off-season moves. Check out the latest on the Blues and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.


STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat, Tom Timmermann was asked if St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong should pay between $8.5 million to $9 million annually over six years to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo. Timmermann feels it’s worthwhile if he keeps the Blues’ Stanley Cup window open. He also wondered how many teams (Vegas? Tampa Bay?) might get into bidding for Pietrangelo if he hits the open market.

Can the St. Louis Blues afford to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo under a flat salary cap? (Photo via NHL Images)

In another live chat, Jim Thomas was asked about Alexander Steen‘s future with the Blues. He feels Steen remains a valuable third- or fourth-line forward, but his annual cap hit ($5.75 million through 2020-21) could be a problem for a club pressed for cap space. Thomas doubts the veteran forward has much trade value at this stage in his career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo could command over $9 million annually on the open market. If the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, however, it will hamper his efforts to attract expensive bids from rival clubs. It might work in the Blues favor but it’ll still be expensive, perhaps between $8 million and $8.5 million per season.

With over $73 million committed to 17 players, re-signing Pietrangelo will eat up their remaining cap space. They’ll have to consider cost-cutting options. Shopping Steen is one, but I concur with Thomas regarding his trade value. He must also waive his no-trade clause. A contract buyout is another, though that will come with some penalty.

If a flat cap raises a potential hardship for certain teams, perhaps the league and the NHLPA will consider a one-year amnesty buyout for each club. It would clear a salary without any penalty, though that player would have to be replaced in the lineup.


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently weighed in on the potential impact of the paused season upon the Blackhawks’ summer free-agency plans. Even if the league resumes action and finished the 2019-20 season, it will affect next season’s salary-cap numbers, which are tied to this season’s hockey-related revenue.

If the cap remains at $81.5 million, it’ll leave the Blackhawks only $8 million to re-sign Corey Crawford, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Drake Caggiula. It also won’t leave enough to fill out the rest of the roster, including the backup goaltender position. Pope believes Kubalik’s 30-goal rookie season and Crawford’s stellar campaign will boost their stock.

Pope suggested buying out defenseman Olli Maatta and center Zack Smith would free up an additional $5.5 million, but they would have to be replaced on the roster. It’s possible oft-concussed winger Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million annual average value) could end up on long-term injury reserve.

Speaking of Kubalik, Pope thinks the Blackhawks could go two routes re-signing the 24-year-old rookie winger. They could offer up a three- or four-year deal for between $3 million – $4 million annually, or do a one-year bridge deal for less money. The latter option, however, runs the risk of Kubalik commanding more money next summer if he has a strong sophomore performance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $73 million tied up in 17 players. They must shed salary to re-sign or replace Crawford, Kubalik, Strome, Caggiula and others. 

If the league and the PA don’t allow amnesty buyouts if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Blackhawks will have to look at cost-cutting trades or normal buyouts. That could spark more Brandon Saad trade rumors. He’s got a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million. 

What Are Stan Bowman’s NHL Off-Season Plans For The Chicago Blackhawks

What Are Stan Bowman’s NHL Off-Season Plans For The Chicago Blackhawks


NHL Rumor Mill – March 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 11, 2020

Were the Coyotes planning to sign Auston Matthews to an offer sheet last summer? Should the Canadiens target Corey Crawford or Anthony Mantha this summer? Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.


ARIZONA SPORTS: Matt Layman cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman telling the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast his belief that the Arizona Coyotes intended to sign Auston Matthews from the Toronto Maple Leafs to an offer sheet last summer. Friedman claimed Leafs management believed the Coyotes would’ve offer-sheeted Matthews to a maximum seven-year deal if he hadn’t re-signed by July 1. Matthews agreed to a five-year, $58.170-million contract with the Leafs last February.

Were the Arizona Coyotes planning to sign Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews to an offer sheet last summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

“And I’ve looked at it, and people around the league have told me they believe that to be the case,” said Friedman. “Nobody has said to me that’s false. I think the Leafs believed it, I think the Coyotes were going to do it and I think the league knew it. So the attitude is moving.” 

Matthews was raised in Arizona and developed his love of hockey following the Coyotes. Layman noted getting Matthews wasn’t meant to be for the Coyotes, “at least for now”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews isn’t going anywhere in the short term. However, Friedman’s remarks could plant a seed of doubt over his long-term future in Toronto that becomes a nagging issue over the final two years of his current contract. 

Matthews also lacks no-trade protection until the final season of his deal. Matthews makes his off-season home in Arizona, which could spark speculation that he’d welcome a trade there if things go sour with the Leafs.


TVA SPORTS: Felix Seguin suggests Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford could make an excellent backup for the Montreal Canadiens if he hits the open market this summer. While Crawford’s best seasons are behind him, he can still deliver excellent performances. A Montreal native, Crawford has always played well against the hometown Canadiens. He would also be reunited with goalie coach Stephane Waite.

Seguin acknowledged several issues must be addressed, such as whether Crawford wants to stay in Chicago, if he’s willing to accept a backup role, and the term and dollars he’d want on his next contract. Nevertheless, his skills and experience would make him a fine backup for Carey Price, while allowing time for the development of promising Cayden Primeau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $63 million invested in 16 players, the Canadiens could have over $21 million available if the cap rises to $84 million in 2020-21. That would allow sufficient space to re-sign Max Domi and Victor Mete while leaving enough to sign a UFA like Crawford. However, I think the Blackhawks will make re-signing him a priority, especially after parting ways with Robin Lehner at the trade deadline. Crawford could also be unwilling to play second fiddle to anyone.

TVA SPORTS: wondered if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin would consider signing Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha to an offer sheet this summer. A Longueuil native, Mantha will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Bergevin signed Sebastian Aho last summer to an offer sheet, which was quickly matched by the Carolina Hurricanes. In a recent interview, he didn’t rule out going the offer-sheet route again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 6’5″, 235-pound Mantha possesses terrific offensive skils and skates well for a big player. Unfortunately, he’s been frequently sidelined by injuries throughout his NHL career. Bergevin could find better offer-sheet targets, such as the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal or Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois.