What could be in store this offseason for the Senators? What next for the Flames following their elimination from playoff contention? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE SENATORS IN THE OFFSEASON?
THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes reports Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion yesterday told TSN’s 1200 that his club will be a salary-cap team for 2023-24. He admitted they might have to be creative with some bridge deals and long-term signings.
Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).
The Senators are already carrying a $68.25 million salary cap hit for next season, leaving them with around $15 million available should the salary cap increase to its projected $83.5 million. Alex DeBrincat, Shane Pinto and Erik Brannstrom are restricted free agents this summer.
Dorion confirmed his club will exercise the $9 million qualifying offer for DeBrincat at the end of this season even if there isn’t a contract in place before then. It’s a means to maintain his rights while continuing to negotiate a new deal with his agent. DeBrincat is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility so he’ll have a lot of leverage in contract talks this summer with the Senators.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was never any question of the Senators qualifying DeBrincat’s rights for next season if a contract extension wasn’t in place before the end of June. Given how much they traded to Chicago last summer to acquire the 25-year-old winger, they won’t risk losing him to this summer’s UFA market.
Plenty of time remains for Senators management and the DeBrincat camp to hammer out a long-term deal that keeps him in Ottawa well beyond the end of next season. However, it will be an expensive signing. Perhaps it’ll be a front-loaded deal that keeps the annual average value between $8 million and $9 million on a seven or eight-year contract.
The Senators GM also sounded pleased with Brannstrom’s performance this season, indicating they’ll be bringing the 23-year-old blueliner back. Mendes expects he’ll get a healthy raise over his $900,000 salary for this season but the number of years could be a sticking point. He’ll also have arbitration rights this summer.
Mendes thinks Brannstrom, Pinto and Jake Sanderson could receive bridge contracts. He also noted that Dorion told pending UFA blueliner Travis Hamonic at the trade deadline that he would keep the door open for a contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brannstrom’s raise could be as high as $2.5 million annually. Pinto is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights while Sanderson has a year left on his ELC. Those two won’t have much leverage and will likely have to settle for affordable short-term deals with the promise that they’ll get significant raises down the road.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE FLAMES?
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson looked ahead at the offseason questions facing the Flames following their elimination from playoff contention.
He wondered if general manager Brad Treliving will be signing a contract extension or if someone else will be doing his job this summer. Treliving garnered praise last summer for making the best of a tough situation last summer.
Nevertheless, the Flames struggled on the ice this season. Huberdeau never came close to last season’s career-best of 115 points while Kadri’s production was also down this season.
Gilbertson wondered what the future holds for head coach Darryl Sutter. He’s under contract for two more seasons but couldn’t seem to get the most out of this underachieving roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Huberdeau and Kadri seemed to chafe under Sutter’s demanding ways. Maybe they all need another season to better adjust to each other or perhaps they need a coach that can do a better job of bringing out the best in those two and the rest of the roster.
There will likely be plenty of speculation in the coming weeks over what the Flames’ roster will look like for next season. However, those issues cannot be suitably addressed until we know what the future holds for Treliving and Sutter.
Which teams would be good destinations for Ducks goalie John Gibson? Will the Canadiens delve into this summer’s free-agent market for a scorer? Should the Wild re-sign trade deadline pick-up Marcus Johansson? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST GIBSON SPECULATION
NHL.COM: In his latest mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked if this is the summer when the Anaheim Ducks trade John Gibson and where the 29-year-old goaltender might end up.
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (NHL Images).
Rosen thinks the Ducks are weighing the value of keeping Gibson to help them stabilize their rebuild or trading him for a return that accelerates the process. He pointed out that his $6.4 million annual average value for the next four seasons isn’t an issue for the Ducks as they’re flush with cap space.
If the Ducks decide to shop Gibson this summer, Rosen believes he has value in the trade market. The Pittsburgh Penguins could use him as a replacement for pending free agent Tristan Jarry while the Buffalo Sabres need an upgrade between the pipes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have $19.4 million in projected cap space with 15 roster players under contract for 2023-24. They have sufficient cap room to take on Gibson, who could be open for a return to his hometown. The Pens could ask the Ducks to retain some salary or take back a salaried player as part of the deal.
The Sabres can easily afford Gibson’s cap hit with over $19 million in projected space and 20 players under contract, including their core talent. The Ducks could ask them to include a promising young roster player or one of their top prospects as part of the return.
WILL THE CANADIENS PURSUE A SCORER THIS SUMMER?
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Marc Dumont was asked if he sees the Canadiens dipping into this summer’s UFA pool. He doubts they’ll make a big splash but thinks they’ll try to add a scorer as they did with Denis Gurianov.
Dumont suggests a winger such as Ottawa’s Alex DeBrincat or Carolina’s Max Pacioretty would fit the bill, though the former would be more expensive than the latter. He knows things ended poorly for Pacioretty in Montreal but that was with different teammates. Dumont believes he’d be worth bringing back on a reasonable contract if he’s healthy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect the Canadiens to pursue any expensive veteran talent via free agency this summer. The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan cited general manager Kent Hughes telling TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan Rishaug that they’re not going to sign a 28 or 29-year-old to speed up their rebuild. His preference is to trade for good, young players like last summer’s acquisition of Kirby Dach.
If Pacioretty makes a full recovery from his torn Achilles I don’t see him returning to Montreal even if Hughes was open to signing a veteran UFA scorer. The 34-year-old winger will likely want to join a contender.
SHOULD THE WILD RE-SIGN JOHANSSON?
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo observed the Minnesota Wild’s recent acquisition of Marcus Johansson has improved Matt Boldy’s performance. In their recent five games since Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined by an injury, Boldy has five goals and nine points while Johansson has two goals and seven points. The Wild were 3-1-1 during that stretch.
Russo believes the Wild should look at re-signing the 32-year-old Johansson if he and Boldy maintain that solid offensive chemistry together. The winger said he enjoys playing in Minnesota and hopes he can make a home there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have $11.4 million in projected cap space for 2023-24 with 14 players under contract and restricted free agents Filip Gustavsson and Calen Addison to re-sign. Johanson is on a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Perhaps a one-year deal with a slump bump to $1.5 million will interest him.
Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrincat is a restricted free agent his summer with arbitration rights who’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. His average annual value is $6.4 million but his actual salary this season is $9 million, which is what it’ll cost the Senators to qualify his rights.
The Senators gave up three draft picks (including their 2022 first-rounder) to acquire DeBrincat last summer. General manager Pierre Dorion indicated last month that they’ll see how things go over the remainder of the season. Teams had called about DeBrincat before the March 3 trade deadline but Dorion had no interest in moving the 25-year-old left winger.
It’s believed Senators’ management wants to wait until the new ownership is in place before opening contract discussions with DeBrincat. I think Dorion wants to re-sign him before the June 30th deadline for qualifying offers but his hands are tied until the new owner takes over. If that hasn’t been sorted out before that deadline, Dorion might not have much choice but to qualify DeBrincat for next season and work on an extension beyond 2023-24.
Speaking of the sale of the Senators…
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports six potential suitors for the Senators will be in town this week to get a first-hand look at the city and the team’s operation. Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are expected to attend Monday’s game between the Senators and Florida Panthers at Canadian Tire Centre and meet with Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe along with officials from the National Capital Commission.
The six interested parties are believed to be Markham-based developer The Remington Group, billionaire Michael Andlauer, Toronto-based Harlo Capital, Los Angeles-based producer Neko Sparks, developer Rocco Tullio and Graeme Rouston, the owner of The Hockey News.
Portzline believes the Blue Jackets could have “a dramatically different look at center ice next season” even if Laine returns to the wing. Checking-line center Dmitry Voronkov is expected to make the jump to the NHL after spending his development years in Russia. Portzline also noted they’re hopeful of landing one of the franchise centers at the top of this summer’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets are currently at the bottom of the NHL standings, giving them the best odds of winning this year’s draft lottery if they’re still in that position by season’s end.
Connor Bedard of the WHL’s Regina Pats is the top prize and could be ready to make the jump right away into the NHL. Other promising options include the University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli and versatile Swedish Hockey League forward Leo Carlsson.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
Fox felt Dubois’ future in Winnipeg would’ve been the subject of more speculation by the trade deadline had the Jets not been enjoying a bounce-back performance this season. Head coach Rick Bowness recently praised Dubois’ performance while expressing the hope that he’ll sign a long-term extension this summer with the Jets.
Dubois’ kept quiet on the matter. Fox believes he could get an average annual salary of $9 million on a long-term pact.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Dubois trade rumors died down after he signed his current one-year, $6 million deal last summer. However, the speculation never fully went away.
Given his strong performance this season, you can bet those rumors will ramp up again in the offseason unless he puts pen to paper and signs a lengthy extension with the Jets.
Timo Meier, New Jersey Devils: It’ll cost the Devils $10 million to qualify the 26-year-old winger’s right unless the two sides agree to a new contract before June 30. Fox indicates that Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald is making a long-term extension for Meier a priority, pointing out that the Devils have sufficient cap space next season to extend him.
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils: Fox also observed that the 24-year-old winger is about to make the Devils pay after agreeing to a one-year, $5.45 million contract last summer. Like Dubois and Meier, he’s a year away from UFA eligibility. After tallying a career-high 73 points in 2021-22, he had 60 points in 68 games this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Devils have $35.6 million in cap space for 2023-24 with 11 players under contract. There’s enough to re-sign Meier and Bratt though it could eat up over $18 million combined. Fitzgerald must also decide if he’s willing to pay Meier and Bratt each more than Jack Hughes’ $8 million AAV. If he’s not, things could get very interesting in New Jersey this summer.
Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa Senators: Fox believes the 26-year-old winger holds all the leverage in contract negotiations with the Senators this summer. His AAV is $6.4 million but in actual salary, he’s earned $9 million this season. He’s also a year away from UFA eligibility. Contract talks will begin following the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox also noted that Senators GM Pierre Dorion is happy with DeBrincat’s performance this season. Nevertheless, the winger’s name surfaced occasionally in the rumor mill.
Considering the high price that Dorion paid to pry DeBrincat away from the Chicago Blackhawks last summer, a long-term extension worth around $9 million annually seems likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those players rarely (if ever) appear regularly in media trade chatter during this season. There’s a chance that contract negotiation for some of them could become more contentious than expected. Nevertheless, I expect those in this group will all be re-signed by their current clubs before training camps open in September.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE Parayko, Krug and Faulk are each earning an average annual value of $6.5 million. Krug and Faulk are signed through 2026-27 and Parayko to 2029-30. Leddy’s AAV is $4 million through 2025-26.
I don’t doubt that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is willing to entertain offers for those four. As Dreger pointed out, however, they all have full no-trade clauses. It’s possible they could be moved but the potential destinations will be limited. Their cap hits could also prove difficult for most clubs to absorb unless Armstrong retains a portion, which I don’t see him doing for contracts with that much term remaining on them.
WILL THE PREDATORS BECOME TRADE DEADLINE SELLERS?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators could become sellers by the March 3 trade deadline if they don’t soon get on a winning streak to salvage their playoff hopes. He believes GM David Poile could be willing to listen to offers on a lot of his players, including Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Mattias Ekholm or Mikael Granlund.
NHL WATCHER: cited Elliotte Friedman’s recent appearance on The Jeff Marek Show where he said he doesn’t think the Predators will move Ekholm or Alexandre Carrier. Instead, he speculated it could be Dante Fabbro “or something else”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The good news is those players all lack no-trade protection. The bad news is that all but Fabbro and Carrier have two years or more remaining on their respective contracts with annual salary-cap hits between $5 million and $8 million per season. Good luck peddling them before the March 3 trade deadline with so many teams carrying limited cap space. I doubt Poile is willing to retain salary on any of them.
Fabbro and Carrier would draw more interest given their more affordable cap hits. They’re both due to become restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer which could also make them enticing for clubs seeking more than a rental defenseman.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Montreal Canadiens could have difficulty drumming up interest in their trade candidates. Sean Monahan and Joel Edmundson are considered to have the most value but their respective injury histories have teams wary about acquiring them. There’s very little interest in Jonathan Drouin while winger Evgeni Dadonov’s improved play of late might draw attention as a secondary trade target.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens got a first-round pick from the Flames last summer for taking Monahan off their hands so he’s already provided them with draft capital going forward. They also got value for Dadonov by acquiring him from the Vegas Golden Knights last summer as it enabled them to shed the entirety of the remainder of Shea Weber’s contract.
Edmundson is under contract through 2023-24 so the Canadiens can try again in the offseason or next season. There was talk of re-signing Sean Monahan before he was sidelined in December. If they can’t move him now, they could sign him to an affordable one-year deal and try again to peddle him if there’s real interest.
As for Drouin, his plethora of injuries and inconsistency torpedoed his trade value. Nevertheless, the Toronto Star’s Nick Kypreos wondered if the Colorado Avalanche might look into reuniting Drouin with his old Halifax Mooseheads teammate Nathan MacKinnon. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.
UPDATE ON THE SENATORS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion dismissed speculation suggesting he might trade winger Alex DeBrincat. He said the 26-year-old winger won’t be traded. “No chance,” said Dorion, adding the club still hopes to re-sign the pending restricted free agent before the end of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators gave up a lot to acquire DeBrincat last summer. Yes, it will be expensive to re-sign him but they’ll get it done, especially with new ownership soon to take over.
SPORTSNET: Jeff Marek noted the Arizona Coyotes announced last night that they were keeping Jakob Chychrun out of the lineup for “trade-related reasons”. He said the 24-year-old defenseman won’t be heading to the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (NHL Images).
While the Los Angeles Kings tossed cold water on the notion that they were acquiring Chychrun, Marek noted that they were honoring former captain Dustin Brown last night in a pregame ceremony “so let’s see where this goes”. He added there was no guarantee Chychrun would be traded that night as the Coyotes don’t play again until Monday, Feb. 13.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Other insiders also weighed in with conflicting reports over potential destinations for Chychrun.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported there is “lots of smoke” connecting the Coyotes defenseman to the Kings “but no confirmed fire yet.” Meanwhile, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch tweeted the Leafs and Oilers are among the teams that stepped up efforts to acquire Chychrun.
After months of speculation stretching back to last season, it appears Chychrun is finally going to be traded. We should learn where by no later than Monday evening before the Coyotes’ game with the Predators.
LATEST SHARKS SPECULATION
TSN: Chris Johnston tweeted that the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks have re-engaged in trade talks regarding Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson. There are considerable financial hurdles to overcome but it’s the second time this season the two clubs have discussed this.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Karlsson would have to become about a $6.5 million to $7 million player for the Oilers. His current average annual cap hit is $11.5 million for the next four years.
The Oilers need the Sharks to retain $4.5 million to $5 million annually to make this work. Friedman said nobody knows if the Sharks are willing to do that. Karlsson would also have to agree to waive his no-movement clause to go to Edmonton. If this doesn’t pan out, Friedman speculates they could look at Coyotes blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks are already carrying $2.72 million of dead cap space for this season and the next two from last summer’s trade of Brent Burns to the Carolina Hurricanes. Retaining $5 million of Karlsson’s contract is $7.72 million against their cap for the next two years for two players no longer on their roster, followed by two more years at $5 million per season.
If the Sharks are going to do that they had better get one hell of a return for Karlsson. I don’t see how the cap-strapped Oilers can pull it off. Sure, they can part with a first-round pick as well as a prospect or two such as Dylan Holloway or Xavier Bourgault plus a promising defenseman like Philip Broberg.
However, they’re also a cap-strapped club. Oilers general manager Ken Holland said last week that he was looking at “dollar-in, dollar-out” deals. Unless he’s looking at making a three-team deal that spreads the remainder of Karlsson’s cap hit around, he’ll have to move a player carrying an AAV of $6.5 million to $7 million. He’s not moving Leon Draisaitl ($8.5 million AAV) or Darnell Nurse ($9.25 million). Even if he wanted to, they both have no-trade protection.
So who goes? We may never know if the Sharks and Oilers can’t get the math to work. If they can, it could be a move that addresses one issue for the Oilers (a puck-moving defenseman) but creates another by weakening their forward depth.
Meanwhile, the return for the Sharks could make it difficult to justify carrying a big chunk of dead cap space for four years. Even with the salary cap projected to significantly rise after next season, that’s still a lot of money being paid out to former players.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reported the Sharks haven’t given permission yet to Timo Meier’s agent to speak directly to other teams about a contract extension. He expects that will happen “closer to trade offers being firmed up”. LeBrun tweeted that the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes remain “very much interested in Meier” depending on a contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights and is also eligible next summer for unrestricted free agent eligibility. His current annual cap hit is $6 million but his actual salary is $10 million, which is what it will cost the Sharks (or another club) to qualify his rights unless he agrees to a new contract.
I think we’re more likely to see Meier traded before Karlsson. The expectation is he’ll be moved well before the March 3 trade deadline. Perhaps it could happen at some point this week but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens the following week. Those clubs interested in Meier will want time to negotiate with his agent.
Those “surprise teams” could be those out of playoff contention with salary-cap space to take on what is expected to be a lucrative new contract for Meier. Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings will be among those suitors.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng recently examined the trade value of Kevin Labanc. The 27-year-old Sharks winger had 25 points in 45 games leading up to Feb. 8 but Peng doubts his trade value is very high.
Labanc has a year remaining on his contract but his $4.725 million cap hit is considered too rich to make up for his inconsistent play and one-dimensional game. Peng doubts the Sharks will retain part of his salary this season to move him but didn’t rule it out in the offseason once they’ve gained clarity on Erik Karlsson’s trade situation.
THE LATEST “32 THOUGHTS” TRADE TIDBITS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there “appears to be a path” for the Senators to trade defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. He’s assuming it’s a west coast team based on rumblings he’s heard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zaitsev is signed through next season with an average annual value of $4.5 million and a 10-team no-trade list. That “west coast team” could be the Vancouver Canucks as they’re in need of experienced blueline depth.
Friedman also said the Senators have been asked about Alex DeBrincat but they’re not trading the 25-year-old winger “at this deadline.” They want to wait for the club’s new ownership to take over before they attack contract talks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like San Jose’s Timo Meier, DeBrincat is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. He carries an annual cap hit of $6.4 million but his actual salary is $9 million, which is what it’ll cost the Senators to qualify his rights.
Jeff Marek believes Senators forward Austin Watson could be available at the trade deadline. He also speculates the Edmonton Oilers could place winger Jesse Puljujarvi on waivers by Tuesday to make room for Kailer Yamamoto as he returns from injury. That’s assuming the Oilers haven’t traded Puljujarvi by then.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi, 27, had a 30-goal performance last season but injuries have limited him to just 7 points in 20 games this season. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old van Riemsdyk has 21 points in 34 games with the Flyers and netted 24 goals last season.
Friedman also believes New York Rangers winger Vitaly Kravtsov could be available.