A look at the biggest concerns facing the Blues, Senators, Bruins and Canadiens in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Limited scoring and defensive lapses are threatening to sink the St. Louis Blues’ season. If things don’t improve soon, GM Doug Armstrong could face deciding whether to attempt a season-saving trade or commence a rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeremy Rutherford followed up by exploring Armstrong’s options. He could replace head coach Craig Berube, trade pending UFAs Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, or start a rebuild.
St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).
Rutherford believes Tarasenko and O’Reilly would draw plenty of interest in the trade market. However, it’s probably too early in the season to move them. If Armstrong decides to shop one or both, it’ll like be near the March 3 trade deadline.
A lack of consistency among the Ottawa Senators’ defensemen remains an issue. The recent injury to Artem Zub magnified the problem. They’ll have to do something soon lest it threatens to derail their season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have some cap space (less than $4 million) plus plenty of promising young assets to use as trade bait. They could also dangle unsigned winger Alex Formenton if they can’t get him under contract before the Dec. 1 deadline.
They’ve been linked to Jakob Chychrun but the Arizona Coyotes defenseman remains week-to-week and won’t provide any immediate help. The Coyotes also set a high asking price that no one currently wants to pay.
This is supposed to be the season the Senators finally turn things around. With just four wins in their first 12 games, however, they’re at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and in danger of falling too far behind the pack to catch up. I suspect a trade could be coming sooner rather than later.
The Boston Bruins must clear salary-cap space when sidelined defenseman Charlie McAvoy returns to action. With Mike Reilly and Nick Foligno having cleared waivers, they’ll have to include some assets if they hope to part with either guy. Winger Craig Smith is an unrestricted free agent next summer but he’s been injured and his playing time has been reduced.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reilly seems like the odd man out. He hasn’t requested a trade but already spent a bit of time in the minors to make room for the return of Brad Marchand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported Dadonov’s been held pointless thus far and hasn’t seen much time on the power play this season. That’s because head coach Martin St. Louis is going with the guys he trusts (Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach) to produce.
LeBrun indicated teams he’s spoken with about Dadonov said they want to see how he plays in the coming weeks to see if the Canadiens can create a trade market for him. He got back into the lineup for last night’s win against the Detroit Red Wings but did little to improve his trade value. Perhaps Dadonov will get more chances for playing time as the season goes on.
Montreal Canadiens center Christian Dvorak (NHL Images).
Dadonov and Drouin are both pending unrestricted free agents who are struggling with the Canadiens and might benefit from a change of scenery. Dvorak could be more enticing to other clubs. He carries an affordable $4.45 million average annual value through 2024-25 and his play is improving after a slow start.
D’Amico suggested Dvorak’s strengths as a penalty killer and winning faceoffs could interest the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators apparently had an interest in Dvorak during the offseason and recently lost center Josh Norris to shoulder surgery while Flyers center Sean Couturier is out for at least four months due to back surgery.
Dadonov or Drouin could be a fit with the injury-ravaged Capitals’ forward lines if young Connor McMichael or call-up Sonny Milano fail to stick. The rebuilding Anaheim Ducks could also be a destination for either guy. The Canadiens have the luxury of retaining 50 percent of Dadonov’s or Drouin’s salary to facilitate a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak is the best of this bunch but I think Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes prefers to retain him for the time being. The very things that could make him attractive in the trade market also make him a key player as their second-line center.
Washington Hockey Now’s Sammi Silber acknowledged TSN’s Pierre LeBrun’s recent report of the Canadiens talking trade with the Capitals. However, she doubts they’ll be enticed by Dadonov, Drouin or the equally struggling Mike Hoffman. The Capitals’ recent claim of Nicolas Aube-Kubel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs probably brings any further trade discussion with the Habs to a close for now.
WILL TEAMS COME CALLING FOR A GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOALTENDER?
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps speculates the Golden Knights could draw interest from clubs in need of goaltending depth. They currently using Logan Thompson and Adin Hill as their goalie tandem while Laurent Brossoit is with their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint after returning from offseason hip surgery.
The Golden Knights currently lack sufficient cap space to bring Brossoit back into the lineup. They could decide to trade him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs recently indicated Murray could return within the next few days while the Blackhawks expect Mrazek back in the lineup soon. The Bruins will likely ride things out with Linus Ullmark and call-up Keith Kinkaid for the time being while Fleury and Gustafsson have improved since their shaky starts in October.
Nevertheless, one of those clubs could express an interest in Brossoit if their injured players suffer a setback or their regular tandems continue to struggle.
Montreal Canadiens winger Evgenii Dadonov (NHL Images)
Washington winger Connor Brown is out six-to-eight months, given the Capitals $3.6 million of cap space to work with. For now, they’re content to explore their internal options to replace Brown, including their recent recall of winger Sonny Milano.
LeBrun reports the Canadiens have also reached out to several other teams looking to create a trade market for their glut of forwards. He mentioned Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Drouin and Mike Hoffman as trade candidates.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Marc Dumont suggested the Canadiens could grease the skids to moving one of those forwards by agreeing to retain 50 percent of their salary-cap hit. That would mean Drouin would only cost the Capitals (or another club) $2.75 million. Dadonov would come in at $2.5 million while Hoffman would be $2.25 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have placed Dadonov on injured reserve for now though earlier reports claimed he was suffering from a non-COVID-related illness. They could demote Juraj Slafkovsky to their AHL affiliate in Laval because he’s waiver-exempt but it appears they’d prefer to keep the promising 18-year-old rookie winger in the lineup.
Dadonov, Drouin or Hoffman could also be placed on waivers and demoted if they go unclaimed, though that would only provide the Habs with $1.125 million in cap relief. The preference for the Habs seems to be getting their entire cap hit off their books. Dadonov and Drouin are eligible for unrestricted free agent status next July while Hoffman is signed through 2023-24.
Dadonov’s and Drouin’s pending UFA status could make them enticing to contenders as rental players, especially at 50 percent salary retention. The rebuilding Canadiens could seek a draft pick or a prospect for either guy or perhaps a young, affordable defenseman.
The problem, however, is Dadonov, Drouin and Hoffman aren’t playing well this season. Maybe their production would improve by joining a playoff contender with a deeper roster but that doesn’t make them any easier to move.
LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION
TSN: Chris Johnston speculated the Toronto Maple Leafs could be in need of a defenseman if Jake Muzzin should become sidelined for the season with a neck injury. That would provide them with additional cap space ($5.625 million) to play with.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes the Leafs should go the trade route if things don’t improve instead of making a coaching change. He acknowledged the difficulty of making moves this early in the season under a flat cap but pointed to the recent moves made by the Vancouver Canucks in acquiring center Jack Studnicka and defenseman Ethan Bear. “Nothing big, but they’re tweaks that could help the team,” he wrote.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun wrote this before the Leafs’ win over the Flyers on Wednesday. Nevertheless, he thinks it’s too early for panic in the Toronto market and anticipates they’ll soon reverse their fortunes.
As for Muzzin, the Leafs are still awaiting clarity on his condition and how long he could be sidelined. If he’s out for the season, however, I think they’ll go shopping for a suitable replacement, preferably by the March trade deadline when the market has improved.
NO TRADES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?
THE ATHLETIC: Following the Pittsburgh Penguins’ loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Josh Yohe wrote that he didn’t expect they’ll be making a big trade anytime soon.
“Who are they going to trade? Who would they be willing to part with that another team would covet,” wrote Yohe. He believes the only solution to their six-game losing skid is for them to start playing better.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After winning three of their first four games and picking up points in each of those contests, the Penguins have been in free fall. Their best players simply haven’t played like it for long stretches. Worse, they’re looking slower than their opponents, which could be the kiss of death in a league that’s trending toward speed and skill.
As for trade candidates, Pierre-Olivier Joseph was a frequent topic of media trade chatter throughout October. However, the 23-year-old defenseman hasn’t been mentioned much recently in the rumor mill over the past week or so. Regardless, he won’t fetch the type of significant return the Penguins need to shake things up and reverse their fortunes.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin ties an NHL scoring record while the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson sets one for defensemen, the Canucks Elias Pettersson has a five-point night, and much more from a busy night in the NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tied Gordie Howe for the most goals by one player with a single franchise (786) in a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Andrew Copp snapped a 1-1 in the third period and Dylan Larkin sealed the win for the Red Wings (5-3-2) while the Capitals‘ record drops to 5-5-2.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin can take over sole possession of the single-team goals record on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. He is also 16 goals away from overtaking Howe’s 801 career goals for second place on the all-time NHL list. Prior to last night’s game, Ovechkin met with Gordie’s son Mark Howe for the first time. Mark wished the Capitals superstar the best in his pursuit to become the league’s all-time leading scorer.
The San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson became the fastest defenseman in the NHL’s modern era (since 1943-44) to reach 10 goals in a season (13 games) but his club fell 4-3 to the Florida Panthers. Karlsson finished the night with three points for the Sharks as they fell to 3-8-2. Sam Reinhart scored the only goal in the shootout, Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists and Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for the win as the Panthers improved to 6-4-1.
Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson had a goal and four assists while rookie Andrei Kuzmenko netted his first career NHL hat trick to down the Anaheim Ducks 8-5. Bo Horvat had a goal and two assists as the Canucks improved to 3-6-2. Troy Terry had a goal and two assists for the Ducks as they dropped to 3-7-1.
The league-leading Boston Bruins (10-1-0) defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 for their seventh straight win. David Pastrnak scored to extend his points streak to eight games while Hampus Lindholm, Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno each had two points. Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren left the game with an upper-body injury as his club’s record fell to 6-4-2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Bruins announced goaltender Jeremy Swayman and defenseman Derek Forbort are listed as week-to-week with injuries.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson made 42 saves as his club held off the Ottawa Senators 5-4. The Golden Knights improved to 10-2-0 while the Senators (4-6-0) have dropped four straight games. Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights. Senators forwards Claude Giroux and Tim Stutzle each scored twice for the Senators while Brady Tkachuk collected three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Senators goaltender Cam Talbot was activated off injured reserve for this game. He wasn’t expected to play in this contest but he played the final 27 minutes as Anton Forsberg got the hook after giving up five goals on 19 shots.
The Carolina Hurricanes nipped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on shootout goals by Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho to improve their record to 7-2-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 52 shots for the Lightning (6-4-1).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Vasilevskiy stole a point for his teammates as they were dominated by the Hurricanes.
Three unanswered third-period goals by Miles Wood, Ryan Graves and Jesper Bratt lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. The Devils are 8-3-0 and have won five straight, though this one proved costly as goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood left this contest in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Connor McDavid and Tyson Barrie each had two points as the Oilers drop to 7-4-0.
The Dallas Stars boosted their record to 7-3-1 by thumping the Arizona Coyotes 7-2. Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists while Jason Robertson tallied twice for the Stars. Juuso Valimaki and Lawson Crouse replied for the Coyotes, who fall to 3-6-1.
An overtime goal by Kyle Connor gave the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois each had a goal and an assist for the Jets (6-3-1). Samuel Montembeault stopped 33 shots for the Canadiens (5-5-1) while Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield each had two points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson made his season debut as he returned from a back injury. To make room for Edmundson, they placed winger Evgenii Dadonov on injured reserve. Meanwhile, the Jets announced before this game that forward Morgan Barron would miss four-to-five weeks following wrist surgery.
New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin made 32 stops while Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Noah Dobson each had two points to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-2. The Islanders (7-4-0) have won five straight games while the slumping Blues (3-6-0) have lost six straight.
The Seattle Kraken got a 22-save shutout from Martin Jones and two goals from Alex Wennberg to tame the Minnesota Wild 4-0. The Kraken’s record is now 6-4-2 while the Wild fall to 5-5-1. Kraken rookie Shane Wright played a season-high 13:45 and saw some power-play time but was held scoreless.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wright’s playing time has become the focus of criticism among pundits around the league. However, the 18-year-old center said he’s on board with the Kraken’s plans for his development and remains keen to stick with the club this season.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews tallied in overtime to lift his club past the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. It was Toews’ seventh goal of the season. Arvid Soderblom kicked out 32 shots for his first NHL victory as the Blackhawks improve to 5-4-2. Blake Lizotte scored for the 6-6-1 Kings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews missed all of the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season due to chronic immune response syndrome and netted a career-worst 37 points in 71 games last season. The Blackhawks captain leads his club in goals and sits among the league leaders in that category.
The Nashville Predators (4-6-1) picked up just their second win in the past nine games by dousing the Calgary Flames 4-1. Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene each had two points while Kevin Lankinen got the win by stopping 29 shots. Blake Coleman had the only goal for the Flames (5-4-0), who’ve now lost three straight games.
How will the Canadiens address their surplus of forwards? What’s the latest on the Senators’ contract talks with Alex Formenton? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu reports the Montreal Canadiens will face a delicate balancing act of managing their surplus of forwards this season. They’re currently carrying 15 forwards but will have to move one of them once defenseman Joel Edmundson returns from injury.
The Canadiens could send rookie Juraj Slafkovsky to their AHL affiliate as he’s exempt from waivers. However, the 18-year-old winger’s performance thus far doesn’t merit demotion.
Montreal Canadiens winger Evgenii Dadonov (NHL Images)
Basu believes they don’t want to put affordable forward Michael Pezzetta on waivers because he’d likely be claimed by another club. He speculates it could instead be a veteran such as Jonathan Drouin, Evgenii Dadonov or Mike Hoffman who could get waived and demoted.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan believes Dadonov could become the odd man out among the Canadiens forwards. He suggested a trade would be best for the 33-year-old winger as he clearly doesn’t have a future in Montreal.
Dadonov was a healthy scratch during their 7-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and didn’t practice or play with the club against Minnesota on Tuesday. Cowan points out the Russian winger has no points in eight games and carries a cap hit of $5 million for this season, though he’ll earn $6.5 million in actual salary.
TVA SPORTS: Marc-Andre Perreault reports Dadonov’s absence was due to a non-COVID-related illness.
Perreault also spoke with Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes during last night’s game against the Wild. Hughes told him Dadonov’s agent called him on Friday to discuss his client’s situation, something he understood as a former agent himself. Perreault reported Dadonov met with Hughes on Saturday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dadonov hasn’t really done much this season to earn more playing time with the Canadiens. As Cowan pointed out, his performance combined with his contract makes him tough to move at this stage of the season. The Habs will have to retain part of his cap hit if they want to do that right now.
Slafkovsky has made steady improvement thus far but the Canadiens will soon have to reach a decision with the 18-year-old winger. He’s played seven games and can only play two more before the Canadiens can send him down to Laval if they want to push the start of his entry-level contract ahead to next season. That would be the easiest way to address the issue but Basu doesn’t believe that would be the right decision.
They could put Dadonov, Drouin or Hoffman on waivers and demote one of them, though that means they’ll only get $1.125 million in cap relief by doing so. Those three have been disappointing thus far with a grand total of four points between them. Finding a taker for one of them in the trade market is a daunting challenge.
UPDATE ON FORMENTON’S CONTRACT TALKS WITH THE SENATORS
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there hasn’t been much progress in contract talks between the Ottawa Senators and Alex Formenton. He claimed the Senators “have reasons for slow-playing this situation”. However, they have until Dec. 1 to sign Formenton or else he becomes unavailable to play the remainder of this season.
Dreger said some believe a trade is more likely. He also suggested, “Europe, long term, could be an option as well”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Formenton is a 23-year-old winger who completed his entry-level contract last season. He’s a restricted free agent lacking arbitration rights who showed promise last season with 18 goals and 32 points in 79 games.
It’s been radio silence from the Senators and Formenton’s camp on this situation. That’s sparked speculation that he could be one of the players involved in the sexual assault allegations leveled against members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior team. Formenton didn’t attend training camp and hasn’t made any statements or conducted any interviews.
Whatever the reason behind the stalemate, the clock is ticking regarding his playing status in the NHL for this season.
What’s the latest on J.T. Miller? Are the Canucks looking at adding a forward via free agency? Will Evgenii Dadonov become a trade chip at the 2023 deadline for the Canadiens? Are the Bruins shopping Craig Smith? Find out in this edition of the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
SEKERES AND PRICE: CHEK-TV’s Rick Dhaliwal believes Nazem Kadri’s new contract with the Calgary Flames should be great news for Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller and his agent. Kadri signed a seven-year deal last week with the Flames worth an average annual value of $7 million. Miller, 29, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (NHL Images).
Dhaliwal believes Kadri did Miller a favor. He pointed out Miller is young and suggests he’s comparable to New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad ($8.5 million AAV). He thinks there’s no way the Canucks center will accept seven years at $7 million annually, especially if he has another 99-point performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller might not reach the heights of 99 points again. However, if he stays healthy this coming season and at least reaches 80 points, he’ll be in the range of Zibanejad money. If he exceeds 90 points again, he could get $9 million annually on his next contract.
This season could be Miller’s last in Vancouver. He and Canucks management have said they’d like to get a deal done but both sides have also suggested that it might not happen.
CANUCKS ARMY: Mike Gould also cited Dhaliwal reporting the Canucks have an interest in unrestricted free agents Evan Rodrigues and Calvin de Haan.
Dhaliwal pointed out Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin knows Rodrigues and his agent well from their days with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also suggested that concerns over Tucker Poolman’s health (concussion symptoms) could be behind their interest in de Haan.
CANADIENS COULD SHOP DADONOV AT THE 2023 TRADE DEADLINE
Following the acquisition, Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes didn’t rule out the possibility of trading Dadonov if the right offer came along. The winger carries a $5 million cap hit for the coming season and is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
D’Amico believes putting Dadonov in situations where he can use his offensive skills at even strength and on the power-play could benefit the Canadiens’ young forwards. It would also boost his trade value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dadonov could fit so well on the rebuilding Canadiens that the two sides agree to an affordable short-term deal. However, I agree with D’Amico that he’s likely to become a valuable trade chip for them later this season, fetching perhaps a second-round pick from a playoff contender.
BRUINS SHOPPING CRAIG SMITH?
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently cited an informed NHL source claiming Bruins forward Craig Smith has been on the trade market since the offseason started. He also said they had recent in-depth trade discussions with another club, to the point where the Bruins got a trade offer for the 32-year-old winger.
The Bruins sit $2.2 million above the $82.5 million salary cap. They need to shed some salary but GM Don Sweeney could also achieve that by placing a sidelined player such as Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand or Matt Grzelcyk on long-term injury reserve to start the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word on which club is the interested party though I’ve read someone suggesting the Nashville Predators want to bring Smith back. He’s slated to become a UFA next summer and carries a $3.1 million cap hit.
Sweeney doesn’t have to move Smith or anyone else right now. He’s allowed to be over the cap by 10 percent during the offseason. Placing McAvoy or Marchand on LTIR to start the season will also temporarily address that cap issue but he’ll have to dump some salary to become cap compliant when the sidelined player comes off LTIR.