NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.

The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.

Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.

I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.

Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.

Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club. 

Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.

Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.

New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

A look at off-season questions for several teams eliminated during the qualifying round, plus the latest on the Ottawa Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined one big off-season question for each club eliminated during the qualifying round. Among the noteworthy:

What kind of return could Kaspari Kapanen fetch for the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boylen asked what kind of defenseman they’ll add. Given the flat cap and the free-agent pool would be difficult to wade into, Boylen suggested the trade market could be their best option. He wonders if Kaspari Kapanen or Alex Kerfoot become trade bait, and what type of return they might fetch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen or Kerfoot at best could bring a second-pairing right-side defenseman. They won’t bring in a top-pairing guy unless they’re packaged with a first-round pick and/or a top prospect, and they’ll have to target a team in need of shedding salary.

Whoever becomes the Florida Panthers’ next general manager has a lot of work to do. The defense is a problem area, plus they have to decide what to do with free agent wingers Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. Boylen wonders if they’ll be replaced by rookies if ownership decides to cut payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things are a mess with the Panthers. We can’t really get a bead on their intentions until they’ve hired a new GM.

The Winnipeg Jets need more size on their blueline. Boylen wonders if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will try to address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have over $65 million invested in next year’s payroll and all their core players under contract. There’s room to make an addition or two, but a bigger move would require shipping out a notable player as part of the return. However, he could get more cap flexibility if sidelined center Bryan Little is placed on LTIR next season.

Boylen noted Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin was dissatisfied with his goaltending. He mused about whether Guerin will promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen or explore the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s current goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock is under contract for next season. One of them would have to be moved to make room for Kahkonen or someone else. Dubnyk ($4.333 million AAV for 2020-21) has a 19-team list of preferred trade destinations, but his performance this season remains a stumbling block. Stalock’s cap hit ($785K annually through 2021-22) could be the easiest to move. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk rejected rumors suggesting his club might offer up the third- and fifth overall picks to the New York Rangers for the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, calling the notion “nonsensical.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers would probably reject that offer anyway. It could take a significant pitch to pry that pick away from them.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 16, 2020

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Bruins? Could the Rangers be tempted to trade the first-overall pick? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

COULD THE BRUINS AND RASK PART WAYS?

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask to part ways. This comes in the wake of Rask’s decision to return home for family reasons. While the club is supportive of the goalie’s decision, and Dupont is also sympathetic, the pundit points out this isn’t the first time he’s taken a leave of absence for family reasons.

Rask has one season left on his contract, but Dupont feels the Bruins cannot have uncertainty between the pipes, especially in the starter’s position. He notes the Bruins can trade the netminder to one of the 15 teams on the list he was obligated to provide in February. He believes Bruins general manager Don Sweeney “will be working the phones.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every statement coming from the Bruins’ organization supports Rask’s decision and I feel they’ve handled this situation well considering the circumstances His critics will condemn him for bailing on the team. We don’t know the full story but it appears to be something he carefully considered for some time.

I don’t fault Rask for putting his family first. The same goes for anyone else regardless of profession. It’s difficult to focus on a job when you’re worried about your family.

Rask’s decision, however, does raise questions over the goaltender’s future in Boston. Some will suggest a trade, others retirement.

Dupont feels the Bruins GM and coach need to know who they can count on during the good times, bad times, and especially during the playoffs. If that’s the rationale the Bruins use to trade Rask (and that’s a big “if” at this point), it will hurt his value in the trade market. If Rask returns next season, they could keep their goalie tandem intact with Jaroslav Halak for one more season. 

Will the New York Rangers use the first-overall pick to select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

COULD THE RANGERS SHOP THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

ESPN.COM: The New York Rangers won the draft lottery, but Greg Wyshynski notes this year’s top prospect, left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, won’t address their need for a skilled centerman. They’re already well-stocked at the left-wing position with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.

Wyshynski points out the Rangers could land a proven center and help on defense by shopping the first-overall pick. A bidding war could get started among clubs seeking a skilled left-winger. However, just because it’s an option doesn’t make it the best one.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman cites former NHL GM Brian Burke suggesting the Rangers have got to listen if someone is going to come after that pick hard, but he notes those offers usually aren’t good.

Dillman wondered if the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second-overall pick, might contact the Rangers. The presence of No. 2 prospect Quinton Byfield (a center) might entice the Rangers to listen. While the Kings have depth in center prospects and the Blueshirts have a need at that position, it doesn’t mean there’s a fit there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Rangers don’t get some calls about that pick. Maybe from the Kings, perhaps from the Ottawa Senators, possibly from the Montreal Canadiens or another club in dire need of a potential scoring star. However, it’ll take a significant offer to convince them to part with that pick. Ultimately, I expect the Rangers will keep the pick, select Lafreniere, and find other ways to boost their depth at center, either internally or through the trade or free-agent markets. 

LATEST ON THE PANTHERS

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards noted whoever becomes the Florida Panthers new GM will have decisions to make regarding unrestricted free agents such as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.

Richards suggests the flat salary cap could work to the Panthers’ advantage if they want to re-sign a couple of their UFAs without breaking the bank. Dadonov and Hoffman seem to enjoy living in Florida and playing for the Panthers, but they might have to accept short-term deals if they hope to stay. However, their production could make them cost-prohibitive if the Panthers decide to cut payroll.

Improving the defense should be the Panthers’ priority. Richards notes blueliner Mike Matheson has six years left on his contract at $4.8 million per season and was scratched from the final two games of the postseason. If they’re willing to give up on Matheson’s potential it might not be easy to move his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of a state tax also works in the Panthers’ favor if they hope to re-sign Dadonov and Hoffman. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with those two as they approach free agency. They could test the market and then return to the Panthers if there’s nothing to their liking. That’ll depend, of course, on who takes over the GM’s chair between now and then.

Matheson frequently surfaced in this year’s rumor mill. The Panthers could be stuck with him as the decline of his play over the last couple of seasons could hurt his value in the trade market. Still, I can see the next GM calling around to see if there’s a club willing to take a chance on him.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

A look at possible off-season targets for the Sharks and the cost to the Red Wings of trying to move Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen to the Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will be looking to add depth to his roster in the off-season. He’s expressed interest in acquiring a forward.

Could the San Jose Sharks attempt to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pashelka listed Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli as potential targets.

Dadonov and Toffoli are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Schwartz has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $5.35 million, Kapanen is earning $3.2 million per season through 2020-21, and Johnson is signed through 2023-24 worth $5 million annually.

Pashelka wonders if the Panthers will be willing to pay out another big salary to re-sign Dadonov when they’ve already got $60 million invested in 13 players for next season. The Lightning might consider moving Johnson to free up cap space. If he’s unavailable, perhaps Alex Killorn could be a worthwhile target.

The Leafs would likely want an affordable, right-shot defenseman in return for Kapanen. It might take a third team getting involved for the Sharks to land him. The Blues also need to shed some salary. They might prefer shopping center Tyler Bozak or goalie Jake Allen, but Schwartz would draw more interest. If the Canucks fail to re-sign Toffoli, perhaps he’d consider returning to a California-based club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pashelka also noted the Sharks have cap issues of their own, with 15 players under contract and roughly $14.9 million available next season. Adding Dadonov or Toffoli would take a big bite out of that cap room, forcing Wilson to make a salary-dumping deal. Probably better off to look at the trade market.

Kapanen carries the most affordable contract, but the asking price could be a sticking point. Johnson has a full no-trade clause and could be unwilling to waive it, whereas Killorn has a 16-team no-trade and might be amenable to moving to San Jose. The Blues could move Schwartz if push came to shove, but I see them shopping Allen and perhaps someone else.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James examined the cost to the Red Wings of trying to tempt the Seattle Kraken into acquiring Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen next summer by packaging either player with a draft pick or prospect.

She believes it doesn’t make sense for the Wings if it means including a top prospect or a first-round pick. It also wouldn’t make sense for the Kraken to take on Abdelkader’s annual cap hit ($4.25 million through 2022-23) or Nielsen’s ($5.25 million through 2021-22) for a third- or fourth-round selection or a middling prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Wings could be stuck with both players beyond next season. Perhaps GM Steve Yzerman can find a budget team looking to reach the cap floor, but those teams would also want something decent in the package deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2020

The latest on Taylor Hall, Semyon Varlamov, Mikael Granlund, Evgeni Malkin, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman believes the Arizona Coyotes offered Taylor Hall a five-year contract worth an annual average value of $7.25 million. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

Friedman doesn’t think that’s their final offer. He also feels situation means as much to Hall as anything. He noted rumors are linking the Coyotes to former Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli but doesn’t see that happening while re-signing Hall is an option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s market value before the pandemic was considered between $9 – $10 million annually. The Coyotes’ offer could reflect the new economic landscape even if it is an opening pitch. Assuming they’re willing to pay much more, Hall must believe the Coyotes are poised to become a perennial playoff club before agreeing to sign. He’s appeared in only one post-season round during his career.

Chiarelli traded Hall to New Jersey in 2016. That move didn’t sit well at the time with the winger.

Friedman wondered if the Edmonton Oilers can find room to squeeze Andreas Athanasiou into their tight cap space. The winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. Athanasiou’s performance in the upcoming tournament could determine his number.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is earning $3 million AAV on his current contract. Even if the winger plays well, Oilers GM Ken Holland could try to convince him to accept a one-year deal for the same AAV with the promise of a better deal after next season.

New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss is a UFA at season’s end while Semyon Varlamov still has term on his contract. If Greiss outplays Varlamov in the upcoming tournament, Friedman wonders if the Isles might attempt to re-sign him to a friendlier deal and try to trade Varlamov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but Varlamov is seen as a mentor for promising young Ilya Sorokin, who recently signed an entry-level deal with the Isles. Despite their cap constraints, I think the Isles intend to go with Varlamov and Sorokin as their tandem next season.

Friedman wondered if Mikael Granlund can ramp up his value in the upcoming tournament. The Nashville Predators winger is a UFA at season’s end and is a talented player during a time of fiscal tightness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled after joining the Predators in a trade with Minnesota late last season. However, his play improved once John Hynes took over as head coach in January. A solid performance in the playoff tournament could bolster his free-agent value.

The Florida Panthers are expected to cut payroll next season. Friedman notes wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are due to become unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their tournament play could determine whether they get re-signed by the Panthers. Even then, they might only attempt to keep one of them. How much they’re seeking on their next contracts will also be a factor.

Friedman will also be watching the goaltending situations in Pittsburgh and Calgary. Penguins goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents. GM Jim Rutherford hinted there are ways to move around some money to re-sign both goalies. Meanwhile, the play of Flames netminders David Rittich and Cam Talbot will determine whether management tries something bold between the pipes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford has proven he can make moves to free up sufficient cap room to acquire or retain key players and keep his Penguins among the Stanley Cup contenders. It’ll be interesting to see what he does under a flat cap this time around.

Rittich has yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Talbot is a UFA at the end of this season and could seek a starter’s role elsewhere if the Flames remain committed to Rittich.

Rutherford was also asked if there will be any trade rumors involving Evgeni Malkin this summer. “Only if somebody makes them up,” he replied.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ok, folks, let’s see your best Malkin trade rumor in the comments section. They can’t be any worse than some we’ve seen over the years.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2020

Some suggested free-agent targets for the Sharks plus a rumor linking Peter Chiarelli to the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE SHARKS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently listed several potential free agents that he could see the San Jose Sharks pursuing in the off-season.

Goaltending targets could include the New York Islanders Thomas Greiss, the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin, or the Calgary Flames’ Cam Talbot. Of the three, Talbot could be more affordable.

Could the San Jose Sharks pursue Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli in the free-agent market? (Photo via NHL Images)

Forward options include Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, and Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund. The Washington Capitals’ Radko Gudas and Winnipeg Jets’ Dylan DeMelo were among his defense targets.

Finding the right fit won’t be easy. With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, the Sharks have over $66 million invested in their payroll for 2020-21. Nevertheless, Kurz doesn’t expect them to sit idly by in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltending depth could be the priority given starter Martin Jones’ struggles and backup Aaron Dell’s expected departure via free agency. Talbot might be the cheapest option on Kurz’s list but he could also be looking for a starter’s job. If he can’t find that role, he could be amenable to another short-term backup role.

While the changing economic landscape could affect this year’s free-agent market, I doubt the Sharks could afford Toffoli or Dadonov. Granlund is a possibility as his stock declined following his trade to the Predators last year, though his play improved when John Hynes took over as head coach in January. Gudas or DeMelo could be more affordable options to shore up the blueline depth.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has a well-earned reputation for making bold moves. He could surprise us this summer, though it’ll mean shedding some salary if he intends to make a splash in the UFA market.

CHIARELLI TO THE COYOTES?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites colleague Jim Matheson and The Athletic’s Scott Burnside reporting speculation linking former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to the Arizona Coyotes as a possible replacement for now-former GM John Chayka.

Staples points out such a move would reunite Chiarelli with winger Taylor Hall, who was traded by Chiarelli to the New Jersey Devils in 2016. The only way he sees the Coyotes bringing in Chiarelli is if they have no chance of keeping Hall off the free-agent market in the off-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, Chiarelli won a Stanley Cup in 2011 as GM of the Bruins. On the other hand, his tenure with the Oilers was considered disastrous.

The Coyotes must choose Chayka’s replacement very carefully. This is a team dogged for years by ownership instability and mismanagement. They’ve been building in recent years toward playoff contention with promising young talent. Putting the wrong person in the GM’s chair could send them spiraling again, raising questions about their long-term future in Arizona at risk.