NHL Offseason Lookahead – Boston Bruins
The latest on Matt Dumba, Brock Boeser, Darcy Kuemper, Frederik Andersen, Phillip Danault and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman believes Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin will continue trying to build up his depth at center. There’s interest in defenseman Matt Dumba, a good player signed to a good contract.
Friedman suggested the Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames could be among the suitors. The Jets can’t offer up a center but perhaps the Wild might be interested in a skilled winger. Same goes for the Canucks though Friedman isn’t convinced they’d move winger Brock Boeser. He feels the Flames could do it.
He also noted Guerin’s predecessor pursued Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander. However, the Leafs weren’t inclined to move him then and Friedman isn’t convinced that’s changed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s media speculation suggesting Patrik Laine or Nikolaj Ehlers could be available, but I don’t see the Jets parting with either guy for Dumba. Boeser told The Province he doesn’t want to be traded and doesn’t expect to be. Boeser-for-Dumba seems reasonable, but it wouldn’t address the Wild’s need for a first-line center unless they flip Boeser to another team for a center.
If the Flames are willing to move Sean Monahan, a Dumba-for-Monahan swap would work, but that would leave the Flames in need of a first-line center. Nylander can play center but he’s at his best on the wing. Guerin may be willing to take a chance on Marcus Johansson as a center but I don’t think he’s going to take any chances with his first-line center spot.
Friedman believes players who’ve been paid their bonuses and have low actual salaries for 2020-21 will be attractive trade targets. They include Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan, and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, though he has an additional year remaining on his contract. Friedman also said Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has reached out twice to Andersen to say teams are interested in him, but he’s not actively shopping him and isn’t interested in any offer he doesn’t consider an improvement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit Dubas for being upfront with Andersen about the trade chatter. If he doesn’t get offered a better goaltender, Andersen won’t be going anywhere. Stepan or Subban could interest clubs looking to reach the cap floor. Both have seen their stock tumble over the last couple of years so there might not be much interest in either guy.
Friedman speculates Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito is going to be asked about Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau. He doesn’t see Barkov going anywhere but expects Zito will move one of the big tickets on his blueline to create flexibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Ekblad gets moved. Keith Yandle ($6.35 million through 2022-23) has a full no-movement clause while Anton Stralman ($5.5 million through 2021-22) carries a 16-team no-trade list. The most likely candidate is Mike Matheson ($4.875 million through 2025-26). He lacks no-trade protection and has popped up in this season’s rumor mill.
The Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are among the clubs asking about Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The Boston Bruins, Flames and Oilers have inquired about Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson while the Colorado Avalanche asked about Niklas Hjalmarsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of speculation about the status of those Coyotes in recent weeks, especially given recent reports of the club’s money troubles. However, they’ve hired an experienced executive in Bill Armstrong as their new GM. Depending on what ownership wants, I feel he’s the right guy to navigate this situation.
Coyotes insider Craig Morgan recently cast doubt on the idea of the Coyotes trading Kuemper for draft picks and prospects. If they shop Ekman-Larsson and he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause, Morgan suggested the Boston Bruins as a destination if they lose Torey Krug to free agency next month. He thinks cost-controlled young players like defenseman Brandon Carlo and winger Jake DeBrusk could be attractive to the Coyotes.
Speaking of the Oilers’ rumored interest in Kuemper, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples feels they could stick with Mikko Koskinen. Jim Matheson feels the Oilers would be better off acquiring a 1-A like Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk or a promising young goalie like the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev, though he’s probably out of reach.
Friedman claims Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault’s name is “out there” and there’s definitely interest, but rival general managers aren’t sure what Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s name may be out there but Friedman doesn’t say if he’s being actively shopped or if clubs are calling to make inquiries. I think the Habs would be foolish to part with Danault and I’m not the only one who shares that view.
The Chicago Blackhawks and goalie Corey Crawford initially weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the dollar value of a contract extension. Crawford knew there would be a pay cut but the amount was the issue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis noted Friedman’s inclusion of the Blackhawks among the clubs making inquiries about Kuemper, who has a two-year deal worth $4.5-million annually. Rather than part with assets to acquire Kuemper, Roumeliotis suggests simply paying Crawford a similar contract.
If the Vegas Golden Knights were willing to buy out Marc-Andre Fleury, Friedman wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he doubts Vegas would go that route in this economy.
The latest on the Oilers, Kings, and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined several potential trade targets for the Oilers. He suggested Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper would be an attractive option given his salary-cap hit ($4.5 million) for the next two years and solid save percentages (.920 or higher) over the last three years.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins expects the Oilers focus will be on their goaltending rather than on defense or a third-line center. He notes speculation suggests Darcy Kuemper could be available but feels he’ll go to a goalie-poor club with draft picks to spend like the Calgary Flames. He also considers Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract is too expensive.
Leavins argues for upgrading Mikko Koskinen’s goalie partner rather than seeking a true starter. He points out Koskinen’s save percentage (.917) is similar to Toronto’s Frederik Andersen and comparable to Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom (.919) and Vegas’ Robin Lehner (.921). Re-signing Mike Smith to a one-year, $1-million deal would make sense if Smith accepts playing 20-25 games per year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly reports the Oilers have $70.9 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They seemingly lack the cap room to bring in an established starter, but recent rumors indicate they had talks with the Penguins about Matt Murray but balked at parting with a first-round pick. Maybe Oilers general manager Ken Holland attempts a dollar-for-dollar deal to add a goalie or dumps salary in a separate trade.
Kuemper would be a solid addition if Holland seeks a reliable starter, but I agree with Leavins that he could end up with a club that has the tradeable assets to tempt the Coyotes if they’re looking to rebuild. That would be draft picks, prospects or young NHL-ready players.
If Holland’s going to upgrade Koskinen’s partner he should pass on Smith. There should be better options available in what’s expected to be a flooded goalie market. Dallas’ Anton Khudobin is due to become a UFA but his playoff heroics will price him out of the Oilers’ range. The New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.913) could be an option.
Leavins colleague David Staples looks into whether it would be worthwhile for the Oilers to pursue Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While he considers the Coyotes captain a very good defenseman, his stats indicate he’s not an elite one. He doubts the Oilers can afford Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25-million annual average value plus he could be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to come to Edmonton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication Holland is interested in Ekman-Larsson. I daresay those points raised by Staples ensures the blueliner won’t be coming to Edmonton anytime soon.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also suggested Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk would be an attractive trade option for the Connor McDavid line. DeBrusk is a restricted free agent and could cost around $5 million annually to sign. The Bruins asking price could be prospects and draft picks, though Mitchell suggests the Oilers’ first-round pick might come into play.
Mitchell’s colleague Jonathan Willis believes the Oilers won’t get fair value in any trade involving Jesse Puljujarvi. While some observers suggest swapping the winger for another underachieving young player, Willis believes that could be simply exchanging one problem for another. He suggests they follow the Tampa Bay Lightning’s example with Jonathan Drouin and hope Puljujarvi can build up his value if he returns to the Oilers next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Bruins don’t re-sign Torey Krug they’ll have the cap room to re-sign DeBrusk, though that could go off the rails if the winger seeks more than they’re willing to pay. I think they intend to re-sign DeBrusk and remain patient with him. He’s only 23 and was on pace to exceed 20 goals for the second straight year and 40 points for the third straight year before COVID-19 prematurely ended the regular season.
I agree with Willis’ take on Puljujarvi. Shipping him out for another struggling youngster doesn’t guarantee improvement. Best to bring him back and give him an opportunity to build up his game.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman doesn’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to pursue any big-name talent via free agency. If they do look toward the UFA market it could be for affordable options. Oilers winger Tyler Ennis, Nashville Predators winger Craig Smith, and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon were among Dillman’s suggested targets.
Dillman also pointed out the Kings carry over $19 million in salary-cap space, putting them in a good position to acquire a player from a cap-strapped club who can provide immediate help if they’re willing to part with draft picks and prospects. Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and fellow Coyotes blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson could be available. The St. Louis Blues could look to move winger Jaden Schwartz to clear cap room to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap it was expected Kings GM Rob Blake would wait until next summer before getting into the UFA market as the 2021 pool of free-agent talent is deeper than this year’s. We don’t know if the current economic landscape has changed his mind.
Dillman isn’t saying Blake will pursue a big-name player via trades or free agency. She’s simply looking at possible moves if the Kings GM were inclined to get involved. Blake could make a move or two but I’ll be surprised if he makes a big splash in this year’s trade or free-agent markets. He could stick with his plan of rebuilding with youth but I see him adding a reasonable price veteran or two.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan wonders if the Washington Capitals need to trade a defenseman. If they re-sign Brenden Dillon they’ll be overloaded with left-shot blueliners as they’ll also have Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny and Jonas Siegenthaler, as well as prospects Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. He speculates that could leave one of them expendable.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lot will depend upon whether Dillon re-signs. Even then, there’s no rush to ship out one of those blueliners. If they do I suspect it would be Kempny or Siegenthaler.
Golden Knights reportedly talking contract with Robin Lehner, plus the latest on the Bruins and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
REPORT: GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOLD CONTRACT TALKS WITH LEHNER
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jesse Granger believes the Vegas Golden Knights intend to sign goaltender Robin Lehner to a long-term contract extension. He cites sources suggesting discussions between management and the Lehner camp might have already begun. Lehner, 29, is due to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.
With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season, the Golden Knights only have $6.375 million in cap space. $3-$4 million of that could be taken up re-signing restricted free agents Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins. Granger estimates it could take a five-year deal at $5 million annually, possibly more, to keep Lehner in the fold.
Re-signing Lehner could mean parting ways with Marc-Andre Fleury, who has two years and $14 million remaining on his contract. Granger feels Fleury’s relationship with management has soured since Lehner’s acquisition at the February trade deadline. They could retain part of his cap hit to trade him, though he carries a 10-team no-trade list. They could also buy out the remainder of Fleury’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what transpires, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Lehner is re-signed and Fleury traded or bought out. That’s been percolating in the rumor mill for some time, especially when Lehner got the bulk of the starts in the playoffs. It went to a full boil last month after Fleury’s agent tweeted an image of his client with a sword through his back and coach Peter DeBoer’s name on the blade.
Lehner or Fleury could draw the attention of the Colorado Avalanche. The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers suggested the Avs could pursue either goalie if they become available.
LATEST ON THE BRUINS
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins general manager Don Sweeney intends to explore ways to improve his club between now and the start of the free-agent market on Oct. 9.
The toughest decision could be deciding whether to re-sign Torey Krug. Haggerty believes the Bruins would love to keep the 29-year-old pending UFA defenseman, but he doesn’t feel they’re in a good enough salary-cap place to do so.
Haggerty speculates Sweeney could look to within to bolster his lineup by promoting Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka into full-time roles next season. Making room for those two could mean moving out a winger like Jake DeBrusk. He’s a restricted free agent due for a significant raise but also an inconsistent scorer who managed just two points in 10 playoff games last month.
Haggerty wondered if Sweeney might consider shopping David Krejci. The 34-year-old center has one year left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.25 million who can be dealt to half the teams in the league based on the no-trade language in his contract.
Sweeney also said the Bruins have no reservations about goaltender Tuukka Rask after he opted out of the playoffs for family reasons. Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak both have a year left on their contracts and it appears the Bruins plan on continuing next season with their current goalie tandem. Sweeney pointed out Rask is up for the Vezina Trophy this year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Krug seeks over $7 million annually, he’s probably played his final game with the Bruins. He’s indicated he’s not taking a hometown discount or a one-year deal. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy reports Sweeney said the two sides “haven’t found a landing spot yet.”
The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) also suggested DeBrusk could be a trade chip. However, he felt defenseman Brandon Carlo was more likely to move because he didn’t play up to his capabilities in the playoffs. However, if Krug departs I doubt they’ll trade away Carlo.
As for Krejci, his age, cap hit and modified no-trade make him difficult to move under the current economic conditions. He could be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still suiting up with the Bruins next season.
UPDATE ON THE PENGUINS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Josh Yohe reports sources around the league have spoken with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford regarding defenseman Kris Letang. However, this isn’t uncommon and there’s no indication Letang is being actively shopped.
Yohe also reports all indications suggest the Pittsburgh Penguins will trade goaltender Matt Murray. Rutherford had little interest in moving goalie Tristan Jarry. The Penguins GM is willing to move center Jared McCann and perhaps Nick Bjugstad, though Rutherford isn’t opposed to keeping him. He also doesn’t sound interested in moving defenseman Jack Johnson.
TSN: Darren Dreger isn’t sure the speculation about Letang is legit, pointing out his agent said his client doesn’t expect to be moved. Dreger acknowledged the 33-year-old defenseman might still be traded, but it’s not his expectation. Other Penguins who could hit the trade block include Johnson, Patric Hornqvist, and Zach Aston-Reese.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation yesterday claiming Letang was expecting a trade, but now his agent says otherwise. Damage control, perhaps? Or merely some confusion emerging from multiple sources on Letang’s status. Whatever it is, it seems likely Rutherford was talking to other clubs about the veteran blueliner but doesn’t appear close to considering a trade.
No one’s surprised Murray is the most likely of their two goalies to move. He’ll be more expensive for the Penguins to re-sign plus he’s also struggled with injuries and consistency over the past two years.
Hornqvist has a $5.3-million AAV through 2022-23 but his full no-trade clause becomes an eight-team no-trade list at the end of this season. He’s 33 and his style of play frequently leaves him banged-up but his experience and gritty style around the net could be enticing to other clubs.
McCann could also draw some interest. Bjugstad’s been hampered by injuries the past two years, appearing in 64 games last season and just 13 this season. That will put a damper on his trade value.
Check out the latest on the Canucks and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
A FLAT SALARY CAP WILL SQUEEZE THE CANUCKS
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million exacerbates the Vancouver Canucks’ already difficult cap payroll issues. They have over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, leaving $16.3 million for another seven or eight players. Their unrestricted free agents include Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Josh Leivo, while Troy Stecher, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, and Tyler Motte are restricted.
Unless general manager Jim Benning convinces veteran winger Loui Eriksson to terminate his contract, MacIntyre believes it could be impossible for the Canucks to retain their important players. He suggests at least two-thirds of their cap space could go toward re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli. They could get some cap relief if Micheal Ferland (concussion) starts next season on long-term injury reserve, but he’s in training camp attempting to come back.
The NHL’s financial landscape makes it almost impossible to trade contracts like Eriksson’s or Brandon Sutter’s, but Benning might find a taker for Jordie Benn’s $2 million cap hit. The Canucks could be forced to choose between Markstrom or Toffoli, letting Tanev depart via free agency, make Stecher a UFA by not qualifying his rights, or trading Virtanen. The nuclear option would be trading winger Brock Boeser ($5.875 million annual average value), but MacIntyre is skeptical about that move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Thomas Drance recently suggested the Canucks attempt to re-sign Markstrom and Toffoli to matching $5.5 million AAVs and letting Tanev depart as a free agent. He acknowledged that would only leave over $6 million for the remainder.
It’s been suggested Benning attach a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect in a package deal to Eriksson once his signing bonus is paid out by mid-month to make him enticing in the trade market. That would leave only $5 million in actual salary over the remaining two years of his contract. Finding a club with the cap space to take on that cap hit was going to be difficult under normal circumstances. It will be more challenging now.
Boeser’s name surfaced over the weekend as one of the many options the Canucks were reportedly exploring. Just because Benning and his staff may have kicked that one around doesn’t mean they’re going to go that route. Trading Boeser is probably the last resort.
They could also buy out the final season of Sutter’s contract. Cap Friendly indicates that would provide them with over $2.33 million in savings for next season.
UPDATE ON THE BRUINS
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney admits facing some difficult decisions with his free agents under a flat salary cap. Pending UFA Torey Krug and RFA Jake DeBrusk could command a combined $10 million to re-sign. The Bruins must also find new contracts for Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, and others.
Sweeney isn’t ruling out negotiating with his free agents during Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. However, he won’t be overly aggressive given the uncertainty over how player contracts will be affected going forward.
Haggerty points out the Bruins will see cap space opening over the next two seasons as David Krejci and Tuukka Rask become unrestricted free agents. For now, however, Sweeney could be forced to choose between Krug or DeBrusk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty also wonders if Krug might be willing to accept less on a short-term deal to stay in Boston and wait out the financial fallout for all pro sports over the next couple of years. It would provide the Bruins ($63.5 million invested in 18 players for ’20-’21) with some invaluable wiggle room. Krug hinted about accepting a hometown discount last fall. He might give it serious consideration if he doesn’t find offers to his liking in the UFA market.
Check out the latest on the Golden Knights, Bruins, and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ GOALTENDING
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports the salary cap remaining frozen at $81.5 million for next season makes it tougher for the Vegas Golden Knights to re-sign Robin Lehner. Acquired at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
The Golden Knights have over $74.6 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Lehner will be seeking security after spending the past three seasons on one-year contracts. He could command around $6 million annually on the open market.
If Lehner departs, the Golden Knights must find a backup goalie for Marc-Andre Fleury. It could be recently re-signed Oscar Dansk, an affordable free agent, or perhaps trading for a promising netminder like the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jesse Granger last week suggested the Golden Knights pursue goalies in the trade market who could be left exposed by their current clubs in next summer’s NHL expansion draft. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Antti Raanta, and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen were among his proposed targets.
Andersen won’t be available next season but Murray and Raanta could be. Murray is a restricted free agent so his next contract will take up a big chunk of the Golden Knights’ payroll, meaning they’ll have to send salary the other way. Same goes for Raanta, but the Coyotes wouldn’t want salary back if they’re moving him to clear cap room to re-sign Taylor Hall.
The Golden Knights might prefer more affordable options. Trading for a young, affordable goalie like Georgiev might be the best move.
NO HOMETOWN DISCOUNT FOR DEBRUSK?
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the agent for Jake DeBrusk brushed aside talk of his client accepting a hometown discount. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent who’s average 20 goals and 40 points in each of his first three NHL campaigns.
DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, said they’re not considering taking less than market value at this stage. He also pointed to his client’s performance in big games during the playoffs, noting he’s been a top-six winger almost from the moment he first stepped on NHL ice.
During an appearance on NBC Sports Boston Zoom last week, Edmonton Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer suggested DeBrusk was worth between $5.5 million and $6 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. That gives Bruins management leverage to ink him to an affordable bridge deal if necessary. Much will depend on whether they can re-sign defenseman Torey Krug and the cost of keeping him off the UFA market at season’s end.
LATEST SABRES SPECULATION
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked about Brandon Montour‘s future with the Sabres. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent who could cost $5 million annually to re-sign. Given their abundance of right-shot defensemen and their need for help on their forward line, Lysowski feels Montour has enough value to fetch a good return via trade.
Asked about whether Rasmus Ristolainen might be traded, Lysowski noted the coaching staff spoke highly of the blueliner. With head coach Ralph Krueger considering Ristolainen a core player, he probably won’t be moved.
Lysowski also doesn’t see the Sabres shopping their first-round pick (eighth overall) in this year’s draft. He also suggests they sign a UFA goalie to a short-term contract and attempt to find a team that will take the final year of Carter Hutton’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montour frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors because of his difficulties in adjusting to Krueger’s defensive system. He was acquired by now-former general manager Jason Botterill, so I don’t think new GM Kevyn Adams would have any qualms about shopping him for a second-line scoring forward.