Check out the latest Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: In his March 31 mailbag, Marc Dumont was asked if Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin will be playing in the NHL next season. He doesn’t see the Habs re-signing the pending UFA winger but thinks he could land with another club as a free agent based on his recent surge of production.
Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin struggled through injuries and high expectations in Montreal. With the Canadiens rebuilding with promising youngsters, I agree that the 27-year-old winger will be better off moving on to another organization.
He’ll likely have to settle for a significant pay cut on a one-year “show-me” contract. Nevertheless, I think there will be teams in need of playmaking skills willing to take the chance on him.
One reader wondered what the Canadiens could do to move up in this year’s draft into the second-overall position as whoever wins the first-overall pick won’t be trading it. Dumont doesn’t see any of the clubs ahead of the Habs in the draft order agreeing to move down unless they get a very enticing offer, such as prospect Lane Hutson or the first-rounder they received from the Florida Panthers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the Canadiens don’t rise in the draft lottery, general manager Kent Hughes could make inquiries with the teams ahead of him in the order. However, I agree that it will cost a lot to do so and I don’t see the Canadiens parting with someone like Hutson to do so.
Hughes could be willing to move the Panthers’ pick as that’s now likely to be middle of the pack. I wouldn’t be shocked if he used that to land an established young NHL player as he did to get Kirby Dach last summer. Dumont’s colleague Marco D’Amico suggested using that pick in a package deal for Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Dumont was asked which of the following players – Joel Edmundson, Mike Hoffman, Joel Armia or Brendan Gallagher – would be on the Canadiens roster on opening night next season. He believes all four could be back for various reasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: D’Amico suggested otherwise regarding Edmundson. He claimed the Canadiens tried to move the veteran defenseman at the trade deadline but his health worried a few prospective teams and prices tanked once he returned to action. He noted the Canadiens have too much depth on the left side of their blueline.
Those are good points but Hughes could decide to hang onto Edmundson for at least the start of next season in the hope that his trade value improves. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a trade this summer for the right price.
A look at some of the notable players in this summer’s unrestricted free agent rankings in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli last week released his list of this summer’s top 50 unrestricted free agents. He assesses it as one of the weakest overall free-agent classes. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy players.
Topping his list is Michael Bunting due to the 27-year-old winger putting together two solid seasons (44 goals and 109 points) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seravalli believes Bunting could garner interest similar to what former Leaf Zach Hyman received two years ago.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bunting’s placement did surprise me considering more notable stars like Patrick Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are also slated for UFA eligibility this summer. However, Servalli has a point since Bunting is in his prime while the other three are now in their 30s and their best seasons are behind them.
Bunting is completing a two-year, $1.9 million contract. He could get a contract comparable to Hyman’s seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
Seravalli had another surprise on his list as Damon Severson sat in second place. He believes the 28-year-old New Jersey Devils defenseman will be a hot commodity “as a steady, right-shooting defenseman who can chew up minutes.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t help but compare Severson to John Klingberg. He was expected to draw plenty of interest in last year’s UFA market but had to settle for a one-year, $7 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks.
Severson tumbled down the Devils’ defense chart this season behind Dougie Hamilton and John Marino. He could suffer the same fate as Klingberg this summer, especially if the NHL and NHLPA cannot reach an agreement to raise next season’s salary cap by more than the projected $1 million.
Speaking of the New York Rangers’ Patrick Kane and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ryan O’Reilly, Seravalli has them third and fourth respectively on his list.
The 34-year-old Rangers winger could have hip surgery this summer plus he’ll have a limited market of suitable destinations. O’Reilly, meanwhile, missed considerable playing time this season to injuries. He’s also rumored to be interested in returning to the St. Louis Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect both players to take pay cuts to end up where they want. It’s hard to say what destinations Kane could have in mind but I don’t believe the Rangers can afford to re-sign him unless he accepts a big drop in pay. O’Reilly must agree to accept less if he hopes to return to the Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s rumored Orlov sought a seven-year deal worth well over $6 million annually from the Washington Capitals which is why they traded him to Boston before the March 3 deadline. He’s not going to get that from the cap-strapped Bruins. He also turns 32 in July which will make teams leery about making a long-term investment in him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn is 33 and has played a lot of hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2013-14 with 132 playoff games under his belt along with 762 regular-season contests. Playoff clubs will be very interested in him but he’s not getting a long-term deal. Taranseko is 31 but his history of shoulder injuries could limit the number of suitors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Compher turns 28 on April 8 and is enjoying a career-best 50-point campaign skating on the Avalanche’s second line. He’s currently earning $3.5 million annually on a four-year contract and could seek over $5 million per season on a longer-term deal from the Avalanche. That will bite deeply into their limited cap space. If they can’t pay it, another team happily will via free agency.
Staal, meanwhile, will be 35 in September and is completing a 10-year, $60 million contract. Seravalli said talks remain cordial with the Hurricanes and he’d like to stay in Carolina but the longer he goes unsigned the greater the chance he tests the market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, I can see the Penguins looking at other options for their starting goaltender position. On the other, they might have little choice but to re-sign Jarry if no suitable replacements can be found. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if they part ways with him in favor of acquiring someone else via trade or free agency.
Carolina Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty (No. 11) and Washington Capitals winger Connor Brown (No. 50) both missed most of this season to injuries. However, Seravalli pointed out that they both have more than 400 career NHL games and missed 100 days this season to injury. That makes them eligible to sign contracts for the league minimum salary that includes performance bonuses that don’t have to accrue on next season’s salary cap. If they achieve those bonuses, they can be pushed ahead to 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli explained that’s why he has Pacioretty ranked so high on his list as he’s still among the league’s elite snipers when healthy. Given that he’s torn his Achilles’ tendon twice within a year, however, we cannot be certain if the 34-year-old left winger is still capable of regaining his usual level of productivity. Still, he’d be an affordable gamble if he’s willing to accept that low-cost one-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of this group, the 28-year-old Bertuzzi will likely draw the most interest based on his physical style of play. As Seravalli observed, his injury history will affect the length of the contract and the annual salary.
Recaps of Friday’s games, more information on the Flyers’ recent management change, the Lightning induct Phil Esposito, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier into its Hall of Fame, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the fifth team to reach the 90-point mark by downing the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2. Zach Aston-Reese scored two goals while John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Calle Jarnkrok each had two points as the Leafs improved to 41-18-9 and sit second in the Atlantic Division with 91 points. The 44-15-8 Hurricanes (96 points) have dropped three of their last four and remain one point up on the New Jersey Devils for the lead in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs forward Noel Acciari left the game in the first period after being struck in the jaw after a collision with Hurricanes winger Jesse Puljujarvi.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Owen Tippett (NHL Images)
Philadelphia Flyers winger Owen Tippett tallied his first NHL hat trick in a 5-2 upset of the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart made 36 saves for the 25-32-11 Flyers. Victor Olofsson scored both goals for the Sabres (33-29-6) as they remain six points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 72 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are fading down the stretch, losing eight of their last 10 games. With 14 games remaining in their schedule and holding two games in hand over the Islanders, they cannot afford to lose more ground in the standings if they want to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
The St. Louis Blues got two goals from Sammy Blais to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2. Joel Hofer stopped 32 shots in his first NHL game this season to pick up his second career win for the 30-33-5 Blues. The Capitals dropped to 33-30-7 (73 points) and sit five points back of the Islanders.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Harrington scored two goals in a 7-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ducks improved to 23-36-10 on the season. Patrik Laine had a goal and an assist for the 21-40-7 Blue Jackets.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Marcus Hayes reports sources indicated Flyers CEO Dave Scott did not consult the “Three Wise Men” – Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren and Bill Barber – when he made the decision to fire Chuck Fletcher as general manager and hire Daniel Briere as interim GM.
Clarke, Holmgren and Barber are former Flyers players who went on to roles in management and coaching with the club for years before becoming senior advisors to the team. One league source said they wouldn’t have approved of Briere’s hiring.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics of the Flyers’ front office such as Hayes claim the franchise has been hampered in recent years by Clarke, Holmgren and Barber, accusing them of favoring people “who see the game through the same mottled, last-century lenses as they still see it.”
Clarke, Holmgren and Barber played key roles for the Flyers on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office, turning them into Stanley Cup champions in the 1970s and contenders from the 1980s through 2010. They are no longer in management and coaching roles but still wielded considerable influence over who was employed in those roles.
However, the Flyers are poised to miss the playoffs for the seventh time since 2012-13. It’s been apparent for some time that this club is struggling to adjust to a changing game that favors speed and skill.
Hiring Briere without first consulting Clarke, Holmgren and Barber signals what could be other significant changes in the Flyers’ front office. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the coming months.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki was fined $2,500.00 by the NHL department of player safety for cross-checking Florida Panthers forward Anton Lundell on Thursday.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Canadiens, head coach Martin St. Louis revealed winger Jonathan Drouin missed a team meeting on Friday morning and will not be allowed to play in Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of St. Louis and the Lightning, the club honored him, Vincent Lecavalier and Phil Esposito as its first inductees into its Hall of Fame. Esposito was the Lightning’s founder in 1992 while St. Louis and Lecavalier became the team’s first stars, leading the Bolts to its first Stanley Cup in 2004.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Esposito, St. Louis and Lecavalier for their well-deserved honors.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings prized defenseman Simon Edvinsson will play his first NHL game today against the Colorado Avalanche.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed top goalie prospect Devon Levi to a three-year entry-level contract.
Will the Canadiens shop Joel Edmundson and Mike Hoffman in the offseason? What’s next for the Blues following a busy month of trade activity? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan recently speculated the Canadiens could trade Joel Edmundson this summer if the 29-year-old defenseman stays healthy and plays well over the remainder of this season.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edmundson has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable $3.5 million average annual value. Despite his injury history, the veteran blueliner remained a subject of interest in the trade market leading up to last Friday’s deadline. A solid finish to this season could help his value in this summer’s trade market.
TVA SPORTS: Louis Robitaille raised the possibility of the Canadiens trading Mike Hoffman this summer to the Arizona Coyotes. He also suggested Jonathan Drouin might earn himself a cheap new contract with the Canadiens if he keeps playing well down the stretch.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Robitalle thinks Hoffman could help the rebuilding Coyotes turn the corner. Whether they share that view, however, is another matter.
As for Drouin, I think his time with the Habs is over regardless of his play over the rest of the season. The Habs are bringing in younger talent and I don’t see room for Drouin on their roster going forward.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Marco D’Amico speculated the Canadiens might be able to sign Sean Monahan to a one-year, bonus-laden contract. Such deals are usually reserved for young players on entry-level contracts or players over 35 years of age. However, the CBA stipulates a player with over 400 or more games played who spent 100 or more days on injured reserve or long-term injured reserve during the final season of their contract is also eligible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some media chatter prior to Monahan’s injury in December that the Canadiens could sign him to a contract extension. They could go that one-year route with him for next season but that will depend on his health status. There’s talk his foot injury may have aggravated a surgically repaired hip.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE BLUES?
STLTODAY.COM: Following Friday’s trade deadline, Jim Thomas and Matthew DeFranks reported St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes most of his roster is set for next season.
“I don’t feel comfortable that this is the summer to get out in the free-agent market,” Armstrong told reporters. If he does make forays into the market, he’d prefer signing players to one-year contracts to let them prove their long-term value to the retooling Blues. He’s also looking at promoting some players from within the club’s system.
There were rumors leading up to the trade deadline that the Blues would need to trade a defenseman to create more salary-cap flexibility. Colton Parayko’s name surfaced as a trade candidate. Armstrong declined to get into any specific player but defended Parayko.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know for certain if Armstrong was shopping Parayko. It may have been a case of interested clubs expressing interest in the 29-year-old Blues defenseman and Armstrong listening to offers but not hearing anything he liked. Then again, Parayko’s $6.5 million annual cap hit through 2029-30 and his full no-movement clause makes him difficult to trade.
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.
Recaps of Wednesday games, the Rangers once again top Forbes’ annual franchise value rankings, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Second-period goals by Shane Pinto, Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk enabled the Ottawa Senators to hold off the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Alex DeBrincat assisted on all three Senators’ goals as they’ve won seven of their last 10 games and improved to 13-14-2. Kirby Dach and Christian Dvorak replied for the Canadiens, who sit at 14-13-2.
Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators learned earlier in the day that center Tim Stutzle will be sidelined for at least a week by a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, winger Alex Formenton will play this season in Switzerland after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract with the Senators by the Dec. 1 deadline. He is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of this season.
As for the Canadiens, Jonathan Drouin returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
The Vancouver Canucks blew a 2-0 lead, rallied to tie the game at 3 and went on to defeat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on a shootout goal by Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat scored his 21st goal of the season while Spencer Martin kicked out 35 shots for the Canucks, who’ve won four of their last five and risen to 13-13-3. Dillon Dube collected two assists for the 13-11-6 Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canucks winger Brock Boeser missed this game with a non-COVID-related illness.
Minnesota Wild center Frederick Gaudreau scored twice in a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Wild winger Mats Zuccarello scored to extend his points streak to eight games for the 16-11-4 Wild. The Wings (13-10-6) dropped their fourth straight game and lost defenseman Filip Hronek to an upper-body injury after a thunderous hit by Wild winger Ryan Reaves.
FORBES: The New York Rangers top Forbes’ annual ranking of NHL franchises for the eighth straight year.
The Rangers are valued at $2.2 billion, up 10 percent from last season. The Toronto Maple Leafs ($2 billion), Montreal Canadiens ($1.85 billion), Chicago Blackhawks ($1.5 billion) and Boston Bruins ($1.4 billion) round out the top five as 14 teams are valued at $1 billion or higher.
Sitting at the bottom of the list is the Arizona Coyotes ($450 million), with the Florida Panthers ($550 million), Buffalo Sabres ($610 million), Columbus Blue Jackets ($620 million), and Carolina Hurricanes ($640 million) round out the bottom five. The Winnipeg Jets are the lowest-valued Canadian franchise at $650 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The oft-injured Zucker was off to a good start to this season with 20 points in 27 games before his latest mishap.
CBS SPORTS: The Anaheim Ducks moved goaltender Anthony Stolarz (lower body) to injury reserve.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Former Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will be enshrined in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame. Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe Trophy during the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup championship. He also helped Sweden win gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2006 IIHF World Championship. Zetterberg retired in 2018 due to a back injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved honor for one of Sweden’s greatest players.