NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

Five players who could use a change of scenery, more Victor Mete trade speculation and some suggested changes for the Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD USE A TRADE

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott, the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, the Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen need fresh starts on new teams.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn is among several players who could use a change of scenery (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Larkin but there are various reasons why these players might not be moved this season, if at all.

The Flames are reportedly reluctant to move Bennett because of his value as a proven playoff performer. Larkin also noted if they move him they’ll have to protect someone else in this summer’s expansion draft.

Dermott’s having trouble earning a full-time spot this season on Toronto’s blueline. Larkin points out he’s in nearly every Leafs rumor and would be perfect trade bait to add another forward. The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel suggested a Dermott-for-Sam Bennett swap if they can make the dollars work.

Dunn is probably the most likely on this list to get traded. Larkin feels it’s only a matter of time until he’s moved. The Blues reportedly seek a first- or second-round pick in return. There are several clubs that could use him but finding the right fit is the sticking point. The Blues at this point don’t seem in a hurry to trade him.

Mantha’s a big, fast forward with good offensive skills but his inconsistency and injury history hurt his trade value. So does his $5.7 million annual average value.

Virtanen has come up a lot of late in trade rumors but reports out of Vancouver suggest there’s not much of a market for him. He’s brought that on himself with his poor play. Maybe he’ll finally reach his full potential on a different team but there doesn’t appear to be a general manager out there willing to take a chance on him.

MORE METE SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston lists the Red Wings, Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres as clubs that could show interest in Victor Mete. The agent for the Montreal Canadiens defenseman recently went public with a trade request for his client, angering Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

Mete’s been a frequent healthy scratch as he’s become the odd man out on the Canadiens’ blueline. However, they haven’t sent him to their taxi squad because another club could scoop him up off waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Flames with Bennett, the Canadiens aren’t rushing to ship out Mete. They’d prefer hanging onto him as insurance in case injuries strike their defense corps.

Steven Ellis of SI.com/The Hockey News believes Mete would be a good value pickup for teams seeking blueline depth. Those clubs listed by Johnston could be potential destinations for the 22-year-old rearguard whenever Bergevin decides to honor his trade request. However, that move probably won’t happen until the offseason unless one of those clubs makes an irresistible pitch before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

LATEST ON THE PREDATORS

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked what the struggling Nashville Predators should do to avoid sliding into years of becoming a bad team with bloated contracts.

Vingan believes the Predators should become sellers by the April trade deadline if they’re still out of the playoff running by then. He advocates moving players on one-year contracts (Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Brad Richardson) for draft picks. They should also consider moving defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who has one year remaining on his cap-friendly contract.

The next step is trying to unload Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen in this summer’s Seattle expansion draft. He suggested using some of the draft capital acquired at the trade deadline and/or throw in a player to sweeten the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan acknowledged all of this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I agree with his take. The Predators have been trending downward since winning the President’s Trophy in 2017-18. They’re near the bottom of the Central Division and the overall standings. It’s time for GM David Poile to acknowledge the obvious that his roster needs at least a significant retooling.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 6, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, the league faces criticism as it looks at rapid testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Third-period goals 27 seconds apart by Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly lifted the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1. James van Riemsdyk was the lone scorer for the Flyers, who played without goaltender Carter Hart (back spasms, day-to-day) and defenseman Philippe Myers, who has an upper-body injury. Forward Oskar Lindblom left the game in the third period following a hit from Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton.

The Detroit Red Wings’ winless skid stretched to eight games (0-6-2) after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barclay Goodrow tallied twice for the Lightning, including the game-winner.

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov (NHL Images).

Second-period goals by Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe gave the Florida Panthers a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Panthers extended their points streak to eight games (6-0-2) as they’re the only team that hasn’t lost in regulation. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 34 saves.

The Vegas Golden Knights scored five straight goals in the opening 27 minutes to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Nicolas Hague each collected three points for the Golden Knights, who were playing their first game since their schedule was paused on Jan. 26 by COVID-19.

Shootout goals by Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc lifted the San Jose Sharks over the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Sharks overcame a 3-1 deficit on third-period goals by Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Brent Burns but Max Comtois tied it for the Ducks.

HEADLINES

TSN: The NHL and NHLPA are investigating rapid testing for players and team staff on game days to flatten the COVID-19 curve after five teams had their schedules paused and games postponed over the past two weeks. A total of 26 games have been postponed, 17 in February alone.

The Buffalo Sabres were among those teams. They were reportedly furious that they were apparently forced to play games last weekend against a New Jersey Devils team that was going through an outbreak of COVID-19. Five Sabres players have since wound up on the NHL’s COVID protocol list while Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive. The Sabres had no players on the protocol list prior to the series against the Devils.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports Eric County executive Mark Poloncarz believes the NHL should have taken greater action to ensure the safety of the Sabres and Devils and everyone around them. “It seemed they were more interested in playing a game,” he said.

League commissioner Bill Daly said there were no concerns expressed regarding last Sunday’s games between the Sabres and Devils. An NHLPA representative said league and union medical advisors determined the game could go on based on the information available to them at the time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league announced on Thursday they were taking steps to reduce player-to-player transmission of the coronavirus, including removing the glass behind the benches to increase airflow, increasing the distance between players in dressing rooms, and limiting the time spent at the arena by players and coaches.

The recent postponements and reschedulings aren’t surprising. There’s a greater risk of exposure and transmissions because the players aren’t under the strict quarantine conditions they played under during the 2020 playoffs. Doing more to limit transmission at the arena is one thing but there’s little the league can do to prevent players from exposure when they have greater access to the general public away from the rink.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins defenseman John Marino returned to practice yesterday after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Sidelined blueliners Kris Letang and Mike Matheson also skated yesterday.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (leg injury) will not play today against the Vancouver Canucks.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov required stitches after being struck in the face with a puck during practice on Friday. Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Romanov will travel with the club for today’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames forward Derek Ryan has been referred to a specialist after injuring a finger during Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

NEWSDAY: The New York Rangers promoted Chris Drury to associate general manager.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is returning to the Carolina Hurricanes as a special advisor to the general manager.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2021

The latest on Tony DeAngelo, Sam Bennett, Victor Mete, Travis Dermott, Vince Dunn and Brett Connolly in today’s NHL rumor mill.

GROWING INTEREST IN DEANGELO

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the New York Rangers have told Tony DeAngelo to wait at home as they work on trading the 25-year-old defenseman. Dreger said there’s “a ton of interest in him all of a sudden,” with a source claiming the blueliner could be moved within the next few days.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Rangers are willing to absorb part of DeAngelo’s annual salary-cap hit to facilitate a trade. Friedman believes it won’t be easy to move the blueliner as any acquiring team knows there will be heat.

The Blueshirts aren’t looking at terminating his contract as it would be unlikely to do so without the player’s agreement. If they decide to buy him out at season’s end it’ll be at one-third the remaining value as he doesn’t turn 26 until October.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes it might be in DeAngelo’s best interests to enter an anger management program before returning to play given his history of outbursts. He also believes the defenseman’s social media activity could also be a red flag for any organization looking at him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dreger’s report merely confirms my belief that there is always an NHL general manager somewhere willing to give players with maturity or personality issues a chance provided they have a talent that can address a roster weakness.

DeAngelo’s defensive game leaves much to be desired but his offensive skills make him valuable to a team lacking blueline production. The Rangers’ willingness to eat part of his $4.8 million AAV improves his trade value. Now it comes down to what the Blueshirts want in return and how much salary they’re willing to absorb to get this deal done.

FLAMES IN NO RUSH TO MOVE BENNETT

Calgary Flames are in no rush to move Sam Bennett (NHL Images).

TSN: Dreger also reports the Calgary Flames aren’t in any rush to trade forward Sam Bennett after his agent surprised them over the weekend by saying his client would prefer a change of scenery. It has to be a deal that works for the Flames. General manager Brad Treliving is willing to hang onto him as a potentially impactful player for Calgary.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Flames coach Geoff Ward dismissed any talk of Bennett being unhappy with his playing time. Ward indicated he spoke with Bennett before the start of the season to give him the choice of where he wanted to play in the lineup. He started at center and after a couple of games asked to be moved to the wing.

Friedman also expects the Flames to move cautiously on Bennett, in part because of his playoff performance. It’s also possible any frustration between player and organization could pass over time. The Flames have tested his value in the trade market but held onto him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bennett still hasn’t spoken about his agent’s remarks while the official word from management and teammates is this won’t be a distraction. This could settle down over the course of the season but it could resurface if Bennett’s play suffers or the Flames struggle to stay in the playoff chase.

UPDATES ON METE , DERMOTT AND DUNN

SPORTSNET: Friedman reports the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the clubs showing interest in Montreal Canadiens defenseman Victor Mete. He points out the Canadiens’ limited cap space means it would have to be a dollar-in, dollar-out deal but they do like Mete. He also added the Penguins were poking around Toronto for Maple Leafs blueliner Travis Dermott.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance looked at whether players such as Mete, Dermott, Bennett or St. Louis Blues defenseman Victor Dunn might make sense as trade targets for the struggling Vancouver Canucks.

Drance doesn’t believe Bennett would resolve the Canucks’ long-term need for an established third-line center. He feels Mete would be a poor fit because the Canucks have a surplus of puck-moving left-shot defensemen.

The Blues’ asking price for Dunn (first-round pick) is expensive plus he couldn’t join the Canucks until after a two-week quarantine period due to Canadian border restrictions. Dermott might not be an ideal fit but he’d be more reasonably priced than Dunn and would join the team more quickly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drance offers up a more detailed analysis than my synopsis but I concur with his take. There really isn’t much available that would provide an immediate, affordable improvement to the Canucks’ roster. That doesn’t mean management won’t stop looking but the pickings appear slim right now.

Regarding Dermott, Drance’s colleague Jame Mirtle feels the Leafs will handle the blueliner the same way the Canadiens are handling Mete. They’re leery of moving him because they want to ensure they have sufficient depth over the course of the season. Dermott also won’t fetch a return that provides a swift upgrade to the lineup.

LATEST ON CONNOLLY

Friedman suggests keeping an eye on Florida Panthers winger Brett Connolly, who was a healthy scratch in their last two games. He speculates a contender could show interest in the 28-year-old.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows Connolly is in the second year of a four-year deal with an annual average value of $3.5 million. Teams could be reluctant to take on that cap hit given how tight payrolls are this season.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 29, 2021

Check out the latest on the Penguins and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?

TSN: Darren Dreger wonders what other changes could be in store for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they search for a new general manager after Jim Rutherford stepped down earlier this week.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images)

If the Penguins miss the playoffs or don’t do well in the postseason there could be potential for a seismic shift. Dreger feels the organization owes it to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to have a conversation over the direction of the club under new management. He wonders if they will want to chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere or retire as Penguins. “But, imagine if those names were in play at some point in the near future?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins’ attitude remains “win now” but that could change if things go sideways this season. Of the three, Malkin and Letang could face the more uncertain futures with the organization. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2022 while Crosby’s under contract until the end of 2024-25.

If there’s a change in direction after this season the new GM will have to discuss it with Crosby, Malkin and Letang to determine where those three fit into the club’s long-term plans. Crosby and Malkin have full no-movement clauses while Letang has an 18-team trade list.

They’re obviously not going anywhere during this season but this situation could be worth watching this summer.

Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun reports 20 different candidates have reached out to the Penguins to indicate interest in their vacant GM position. They include Jason Botterill, Chris Drury, Ron Hextall, Mark Hunter, Tom Fitzgerald, Peter Chiarelli, Scott Mellanby, Mike Gillis, Laurence Gilman, John Ferguson Jr and Mike Futa. Interim GM Patrik Allvin will also be under consideration.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille also looked at some possible candidates to replace Rutherford. Among his suggestions are old friends of team owner Mario Lemieux such as agent Pat Brisson, NHL analyst Pierre McGuire and Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.

Others could include Dean Lombardi, Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, NHL analyst Kevin Weekes, and Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins won’t lack for suitable candidates. I don’t see Bergevin getting hired unless he quits the Canadiens or is fired by team owner Geoff Molson. The New Jersey Devils could be reluctant to part with current GM Tom Fitzgerald.

McGuire always comes up as a GM candidate but seems to get courtesy interviews before being passed over. He hasn’t been in a management position in over a quarter-century. Brisson seems happy in his role as one of the most powerful player agents in hockey.

CANUCKS IN THE MARKET FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports he’s sure the Vancouver Canucks are looking around for help on their blueline but there are no guarantees they’re getting it. He indicated defensemen such as the Montreal Canadiens’ Victor Mete, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott and the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn could be available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks stumbled out of the gate in part because of their porous defense but recently swept their three-game series with the struggling Ottawa Senators. That could buy management a bit of breathing room while they evaluate their defensive game.

We don’t know what the Canadiens’ asking price for Mete could be. The Leafs are said to be looking for some depth at forward while the Blues’ asking price for Dunn is reportedly a first-round pick or as high a draft pick as they can get for him.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2021

Are the Flyers looking at Keith Yandle or Danny DeKeyser? Should the Leafs use Travis Dermott as a trade chip for a forward? Should the Avalanche upgrade their goaltending? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLYERS LINKED TO YANDLE, DEKEYSER

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports there’s been some trade chatter regarding Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Florida Panthers blueliner Keith Yandle since last fall’s NHL Draft.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

Gostisbehere is a South Florida native while Yandle surfaced in recent trade speculation. An NHL source told Murphy this rumor has “more than legs” to it, suggesting the Flyers could “eat some money there” and would be better with Yandle.

Murphy said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher could be active in the trade market sooner rather than later. He also said the Flyers are scouting Detroit Red Wings rearguard Danny DeKeyser.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have stumbled out of the gate this season. They’ve struggled defensively, giving up 35.5 shots-against per game with a bloated 3.50 goals-against per game and a sickly penalty-kill percentage of 63.6. Having Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier and top-four defenseman Philippe Myers sidelined by injuries doesn’t help.

Gostisbehere’s been a fixture in the trade rumor mill for some time so it wouldn’t be shocking if the Flyers traded him this season. However, I don’t see Yandle or DeKeyser as a fit with the Flyers.

Yandle, 34, is a skilled puck-moving blueliner but he’s not renowned for his defensive play. He carries an annual average value of $6.35 million through 2022-23 with a full no-movement clause. The 31-year-old DeKeyser, meanwhile, missed most of last season recovering from back surgery. His annual cap hit is $5 million through next season with a 10-team no-trade list.

SHOULD THE LEAFS DERMOTT FOR A FORWARD?

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel acknowledged Saturday’s report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to improve their forward depth with Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson sidelined by injuries.

Siegel wondered if the Leafs might draw upon their apparent surplus of defensemen. He suggested Travis Dermott as the likely trade candidate citing his limited ice time this season.

That could be a risky move, as Dermott could be worth retaining in case injuries strike the defense corps. Trading him would also leave the Leafs having to expose another defenseman at this summer’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could keep an eye on the waiver wire at this point rather than make a trade. Nevertheless, they could consider making a trade if the concern over the forward depth adversely affects their performance. Dermott does seem the most likely trade chip if they intend to deal from their roster.

SHOULD THE AVALANCHE UPGRADE BETWEEN THE PIPES?

THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers recently suggested the Colorado Avalanche’s goaltending remains shaky entering this season. He feels it hasn’t improved over last season. Pavel Francouz is sidelined, forcing them to go with inexperienced backups for starter Philipp Grubauer. He feels the Avalanche might have to shop around for help if Francouz’s absence is longer than expected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a situation worth monitoring. Francouz missed his third straight game on Sunday. As long as Grubauer remains healthy they’ll likely wait for Francouz to heal up and return. However, they could be forced into the trade market if Grubauer struggles or gets hurt.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 24, 2020

Highlights from Friday’s general managers’ meeting, the latest notable free-agent signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reported the draft lottery and free agency dominated Friday’s virtual meeting of NHL general managers.

There was a lengthy discussion about tweaking the draft lottery for the second time in six years after the Detroit Red Wings, which had the worst record last season, slid to fourth overall in the 2020 Draft Lottery. There was also talk about reintroducing an interview period of 48 to 72 hours for unrestricted free agents leading up to the start of the annual free-agent period. Such changes, however, would have to be negotiated with the NHL Players’ Association.

Seravalli also reported the NHL’s target date for opening the 2020-21 season remains Jan. 1, 2021. Whenever the puck drops, it will likely be in a unique setting. The planning for that, however, must wait until the joint NHL-NHLPA committee begins its return-to-play meetings.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also reported Jan. 1 remains the target date for opening next season but there are no guarantees on that. There’s no decision yet on how many games will be played or how far into the summer the schedule could go.

There was talk about opening the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, but that won’t happen in part because of the limited sponsorship opportunities in a federal park. However, the league is still considering starting the season in a unique location.

The draft lottery discussions focused on increasing the odds for teams that finish the lowest in the standings. The Red Wings were clearly upset about ending up with the fourth-overall selection in a season where it was clear they weren’t tanking. While there’s support for the Wings’ position, the league is asking for specific proposals.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reported NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said planning for next season will be more challenging than this summer’s return-to-play postseason.

One of the major obstacles is the Canadian government’s 14-day quarantine period for international travelers. However, there could be some flexibility there as the government is considering a pilot program to test international travelers as a means of relaxing the quarantine rule if they agree to a second test within a week.

If successful, Daly said that would make it “very, very helpful” in the league’s plans for next season. Otherwise, there’s talk the league could begin next season with four hub cities or an all-Canadian division, though Daly said he’s not committed to a specific format right now.

Russo reports the league is continuing to gather information (particularly financial) from its teams to determine what’s feasible for 31 owners who will have minimal revenue if there are no fans in attendance next season. He also suggests it’s possible the NHL could conceivably start next season at a later date if there’s a chance of getting fans in the stands at some point in late winter or early spring.

While the league still hopes for a full 82-game schedule, Russo speculates a shortened season of 48 to 60 games seems likely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL is going to take its time to get this right. We’ll learn more details about what next season will look like in the coming weeks once the joint NHL-NHLPA committee begins their return-to-play meetings.

Based on recent media speculation, my guess is they’ll start up sometime in February aiming at 60 games played in hub cities under modified quarantine conditions. That would mean training camp begins in early-to-mid January, though the seven teams that didn’t make the cut in the 2020 return-to-play plan will have a longer training camp.

Next season could begin without fans in attendance in regional hubs. Should the pandemic fade, teams could return to playing in their home arenas and gradually allow in fans under local health and safety guidelines with season-ticket holders the priority. The playoffs will likely stretch into mid-July, ending before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics open on July 23.

The draft lottery and free-agent interview periods are secondary issues that can wait to be addressed after next season is underway. The priority will be staging as many games as is safely possible in as many arenas as possible with fans in the stands to generate revenue and ease the clubs’ financial burdens.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed defenseman Travis Dermott to a one-year contract worth $874,125.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are over the $81.5 million cap by $1.049 million with restricted free agent Joey Anderson still to sign. However, GM Kyle Dubas has suggested they could garner cap relief next season by shuttling players to the minors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and winger Tyler Bertuzzi are reportedly just over $1 million apart in contract negotiations. Bertuzzi seeks $4.25 million while the Wings countered with $3.15 million. His arbitration hearing is slated for Sunday.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed free-agent defenseman Nikita Nesterov to a one-year, $700K contract. Nesterov played three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens from 2014-15 to 2016-17 before spending the past three seasons with KHL club CSKA Moscow.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed Marco Rossi to an entry-level contract. Rossi was their first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators hired Todd Richards as an assistant coach. Richards spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning.