NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 7, 2020

Alexis Lafreniere tops the first-round selections in the 2020 Draft, the NHL and NHLPA target Jan. 1 as the start date for the 2020-21 season, the Capitals re-sign Brenden Dillon, the latest contract buyouts and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

Alexis Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft (NHL.com).

  NHL.COM: The New York Rangers selected Alexis Lafreniere with the first-overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft last night. The Los Angeles Kings selected Quinton Byfield with the second-overall pick while the Ottawa Senators selected Tim Stuetzle with the third-overall selection. Rounds two through seven will be held today starting at 11:30 am ET. (Stick tap to NBC Sports for the list below):

1. New York Rangers – Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
3. Ottawa Senators (from SJS) – Tim Stuetzle, C/LW, Mannheim (DEL)
4. Detroit Red Wings – Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
5. Ottawa Senators – Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks – Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
7. New Jersey Devils – Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgardens (SHL)
8. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
9. Minnesota Wild – Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
10. Winnipeg Jets – Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw (OHL)
11. Nashville Predators – Yaroslav Askarov, G, St. Petersburg (VHL)
12. Florida Panthers – Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (SM-liiga)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR) – Seth Jarvis, C, Portland (WHL)
14. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Holloway, C/LW, Wisconsin (NCAA)
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT) – Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)
16. Montreal Canadiens – Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
17. Chicago Blackhawks – Lukas Reichel, LW, Eisbaren Berlin (DEL)
18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ) – Dawson Mercer, C/RW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
19. New York Rangers (from CGY) – Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
20. New Jersey Devils (from VAN via TB) – Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets – Yegor Chinakhov, RW, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
22. Washington Capitals (from CGY via NYR via CAR) – Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
23. Philadelphia Flyers – Tyson Foerster, RW, Barrie (OHL)
24. Calgary Flames (from WSH) – Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
25. Colorado Avalanche – Justin Barron, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
26. St. Louis Blues – Jake Neighbours, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS) – Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI) – Ridly Greig, C, Brandon (WHL)
29. Vegas Golden Knights – Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL)
30. Dallas Stars – Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
31. San Jose Sharks (from TB) – Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)

The NHL and NHLPA issued a joint statement targeting Jan. 1, 2021 for the start of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be great if the league and PA can safely start next season on New Year’s Day. Whether they can is another matter. COVID-19 will ultimately decide if that start date can be met. The priority is the safety of everyone involved in the games.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals re-signed defenseman Brenden Dillon to a four-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good, affordable signing by the Capitals. They acquired Dillon before the trade deadline and he quickly fit in well on their blueline.

THE SCORE: Speaking of the Capitals, defenseman Michal Kempny will be sidelined six-to-eight months following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kempny will likely go on long-term injury reserve for 2020-21. It would give the Capitals $2.5 million in wiggle room if necessary to make other moves.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens placed defenseman Karl Alzner on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the remaining two years of his contract. It will count as $3.9 million for 2020-21 against their cap hit, dropping to $1.9 million in 2021-22, and $833K per season for the final two years of the buyout

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs could’ve waited another year to buy out Alzner when it wouldn’t have counted as long against their cap. It’s believed they did this to allow the veteran blueliner an opportunity to try and sign with another NHL club.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings placed forward Justin Abdelkader on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final three years of his contract. It’ll count as $1.8 million against their cap in 2020-21, $2.3 million annually for the next two seasons, and $1.05 million for the final three years of the buyout.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers general manager Ken Holland decided not to tender qualifying offers to Andreas Athanasiou and Matt Benning. Both players will become unrestricted free agents on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland is catching flak from Oilers supporters because he gave up two second-round picks as part of the return to the Detroit Red Wings last February for Athanasiou. The Oilers GM was hoping the speedy winger could regain his 30-goal form but he managed just two points in 13 games in Edmonton. The cost of qualifying his rights was $3 million, which would’ve been too expensive for the cap-strapped Oilers.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks re-signed winger Zack MacEwen to a two-year contract worth $825K per season.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

The latest on the Oilers, Kings, and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill

OILERS

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.

KINGS

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.

CAPITALS

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.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

Alex Ovechkin, Brenden Dillon, and the Capitals postpone contract talks until after the playoffs, plus the latest on the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said contract extension discussions with Alex Ovechkin are on hold until after the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Given the uncertainty that’s unfolded this year in the NHL, MacLellan indicated both sides want to see how everything pans out.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Ovechkin, 34, has one year remaining on his contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a rumor, of course, but Ovechkin’s contract status could generate interest following this season. The longer he goes without an extension, the more speculation about his future with the Capitals.

Ovechkin’s current contract counts as over $9.538 million annually against the Capitals’ salary-cap payroll. In actual salary, he’s earning $10 million per season.

Despite his age, Ovechkin remains among the NHL’s elite players, winning the Richard Trophy for the ninth time as the league’s leading goal scorer (shared this season with Boston’s David Pastrnak). He’s among the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.

Ovechkin’s also the greatest player in Capitals history, the man who led them to their first Stanley Cup. He’s the face of that franchise. Re-signing him, however, could get interesting. 

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $57 million invested in 13 players to 2021-22, though that figure will rise depending on who they re-sign or add to their roster this season and for how long. Winger Jakub Vrana and goaltender Ilya Samsonov will be restricted free agents next year and due for pay raises. Finding sufficient space for Ovechkin’s new contract, as well as Vrana’s and Samsonov’s, and having enough to fill out the rest of the roster could be challenging. 

I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals don’t work something out. It’ll be fascinating to see how much term and dollars he gets to stay in Washington and the effect the Capitals’ payroll under what could be a flat cap for ’21-’22.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan reports MacLellan also indicated contract negotiations for this year’s pending free agents are on hold until the playoffs are over. That includes defenseman Brenden Dillon, a pending UFA who joined the Capitals from the San Jose Sharks near the February trade deadline. Dillon has expressed interest in re-signing with the Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Radko Gudas are UFAs at the end of this season, while Travis Boyd and Jonas Siegenthaler are restricted free agents. With over $71.1 million invested in 16 players, there’s not a lot of wiggle room there.

Holtby, Kovalchuk, and Gudas are expected to depart via free agency. Boyd and Siegenthaler should be affordable re-signings. Depending on Dillon’s asking price, they might be able to squeeze him into their payroll.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl expressed his belief the Buffalo Sabres’ No.1 job is to find a center for high-prices winger Jeff Skinner.

He doesn’t expect the Sabres will pinch pennies with their roster. However, he acknowledged an off-season comment by team co-owner Kim Pegula where she noted the club had spent toward the cap for years with little to show for it.

Vogl also believes the Sabres must improve their goaltending. He’d be concerned if they should pass up a netminder who’s available for a reasonable price.

Defenseman Brandon Montour could become a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and the Sabres have sufficient right-side blueline depth.

Whether the Sabres plunge into this year’s UFA pool depends on the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given their recent front-office purge, it’s difficult to determine what’s in store for the Sabres under rookie general manager Kevyn Adams. I agree with Vogl regarding their needs, but Adams and company could see things differently. The earliest indications should come in the days following the Stanley Cup Final and leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft.

If the Pegulas get frugal with their payroll, we can expect a younger roster supplemented by cheap, short-term additions via the trade and UFA market. However, that probably won’t sit well with captain Jack Eichel. The Sabres must commit to winning or risk alienating their franchise player.










NHL Free Agent Flat Cap Fallout – Metropolitan Division

NHL Free Agent Flat Cap Fallout – Metropolitan Division

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 10, 2020

How much would it cost to acquire Sabres captain Jack Eichel? How will a flat salary cap affect the Capitals? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE SABRES

WGR550: Joe DiBiase weighs in on the cost for interested clubs to acquire Jack Eichel. He was inspired by the recent musings from some fans and pundits over what it would take to acquire the Buffalo Sabres captain.

What would it cost to acquire Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel? (Photo via NHL Images)

DiBiase dismisses the recent talk of Eichel supposedly being frustrated with the Sabres as speculation. He believes there’s “no way in hell” the 23-year-old superstar is getting traded now. Nevertheless, he decides to show why it will be difficult for rival clubs to pry away Eichel from the Sabres.

DiBiase believes the asking price to be a young No. 1 center and something of significance. He quickly dismissed 19 of the 31 NHL clubs as lacking the necessary components to make that trade.

For the rest, here is what DiBiases believes are fair asking prices:

Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, and a first-round pick.

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Jost.

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov.

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin and Miro Heiskanen.

Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid.

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov, Spencer Knight, and a first-round pick.

New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and two first-round picks.

New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, and two first-round picks.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, Rasmus Sandin.

Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.

Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Far-fetched? Outrageous? Completely unlikely to happen? You bet, but those returns make more sense than most of the Eichel trade scenarios floating around in cyberspace. Google “Eichel Trade Rumor” to see what I mean. Some folks seem to think they can get the Sabres’ captain for a package of draft picks, prospects, and cast-offs.

Eichel is a great player on a bad team. He’d be even greater on a good one. And no, your favorite club won’t be able to take advantage of the Sabres’ dysfunctional front office to steal away their captain. Unless Eichel forces the issue, and there’s no indication he’s going to anytime soon, they have no intention of trading their franchise player.

CAPITALS FACE A CAP CRUNCH

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: JJ Regan examines what a flat cap of $81.5 million means for the Washington Capitals over the next two seasons. They have 11 forwards, four defensemen, and one goalie under contract for 2020-21, with a little less than $10.4 million in cap space remaining.

Their unrestricted free agents include goaltender Braden Holtby, defensemen Brenden Dillon and Radko Gudas, while winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Jonas Siegenthaler and Travis Boyd are their restricted free agents.

Does this ensure the end of Holtby’s time in Washington? Does the team wait on a long-term extension for Ovechkin to get a better idea of where the salary cap may be in a few years? Can the team afford to keep any of its UFAs? Does the team leave (TJ) Oshie exposed to Seattle in the expansion draft?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby was expected to depart via free agency even when the salary cap was projected to rise to between $84-$88 million. Gudas and Kovalchuk aren’t expected back. Re-signing Dillon could eat up between $4-$5 million annually. That won’t leave much to fill out the rest of the roster.

They could wait on an extension for Ovechkin until they see how things look beyond next season. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $57 million invested in 13 players, with Jakub Vrana and Ilya Samsonov also to re-sign. They could be forced to leave Oshie or another comparable salary exposed in next year’s expansion draft to free up sufficient space for Ovechkin, Vrana, and Samsonov.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2020

What next for the Sabres after their management purge? What are the Capitals’ off-season trade targets? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BIG DECISIONS FACE THE SABRES’ NEW GM

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders if the Buffalo Sabres replacing Jason Botterill as general manager with Kevyn Adams will be enough to fix the struggling club.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (Photo via NHL Images).

He feels Adams will have “lots of runway” to re-sign key restricted free agents Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, and Linus Ullmark. He’ll also have plenty of time to fill out the roster for next season. The Sabres currently have 10 players (four forwards, five defensemen, and a goalie) under contract for 2020-21.

Adams could dramatically reshape the Sabres for next season. Larkin, however, wonders how much agency he’ll have to do so.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also weighed in on the key decisions facing Adams. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen could be their most notable trade candidate. He’s frequently come up in trade rumors for some time, leading O’Brien to wonder if Botterill sought too much for the blueliner or was his market value really that cold. He suggests the Sabres might be better off cutting their losses with Ristolainen even at a discount rate.

O’Brien also wondered if Adams will stick with the goalie tandem of Ullmark and Carter Hutton or plunge into a pretty promising UFA market. He could then attempt to trade Hutton or send him to the minors.

The Sabres have lots of salary-cap room next season. Adams could attempt to go big in the UFA market by targeting St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo or Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall. However, O’Brien notes the Sabres have been burned before with expensive UFA signings. He also suggested perhaps targeting a cap-strapped team, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Pegulas apparently slashed their management and scouting staffs in part to cut costs. Perhaps that mindset also extends to next season’s salary-cap payroll.

Cap Friendly indicates they have over $47 million invested in next season’s roster. That will obviously rise as they re-sign RFAs like Reinhart, Olofsson, and Ullmark, and perhaps Brandon Montour or a UFA like Wayne Simmonds. Nevertheless, they must still spend to get over the $60 million cap floor and ice a competitive roster.

Adams could surprise us by chasing one or two big-name UFAs, but I think he’ll make modest dips into that pool. I can see him trying to pry away a decent player or two from clubs looking to shed salary. Perhaps he dangles Ristolainen to a team that’s deep in scoring forwards but in need of blueline depth.

CAPITALS OFF-SEASON NEEDS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Tarik El-Bashir was asked about any possible off-season trade candidates or targets for the Washington Capitals.

El-Bashir said he doesn’t get the sense that Capitals management is eager to move anyone under contract for next season. As for possible options to address next season, he believes they’ll need a veteran top-four defenseman and doesn’t rule out re-signing Brenden Dillon. They’ll also need a third-line left wing to replace Ilya Kovalchuk and a proven goalie to back up Ilya Samsonov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are several quality backups potentially available in this summer’s free-agent market. The notables include Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, and Cam Talbot.