NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

Will the Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom? Could the Predators pursue Taylor Hall? What could the Wild do during the offseason?

WHAT WILL THE CANUCKS DO WITH MARKSTROM?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons mused over what the Vancouver Canucks will do with Jacob Markstrom. The 30-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent this fall. Simmons points out they also have promising Thatcher Demko and must expose a goalie in next year’s expansion draft. He wonders if the Colorado Avalanche might pursue Markstrom if he hits the open market.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports the Canucks have $15 million in salary-cap space for next season to spend on six players to fill out their roster. They’ll have to find an experienced backup for Demko if they part ways with Markstrom. If they re-sign Markstrom, Demko could become a fascinating trade chip.

Johnston also wondered what Canucks general manager Jim Benning will do with Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a fan favorite and a restricted free agent, but he has arbitration rights and struggled with consistency. Benning must also prioritize his other free agents, including UFAs like Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev and RFAs Troy Stecher and Tyler Motte.

Jim Benning could also look at a cost-cutting move or two to free up cap space to re-sign key players. Candidates could include Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle or Sven Baertschi.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Thomas Drance also examined the Canucks’ free agent and salary-cap issues for the offseason. If they can free up cap space, he feels they must bring in a top-four, right-handed defenseman and upgrade their third-line center position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an interesting offseason for the Canucks. How Benning addresses his club’s needs and cap issues will have far-reaching consequences. The goaltending is the priority. Simmons makes a good point about the risk of losing one of them in the expansion draft.

Some might argue passing on Markstrom after watching Demko’s playoff performance, but three outstanding games isn’t a large enough body of work to crown him as their starter going forward. On the other hand, this year’s goalie market is a deep one and they could bring in a quality veteran at a reasonable price to tutor Demko if they part ways with Markstrom.

COULD THE PREDATORS SIGN TAYLOR HALL?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required): Adam Vingan was asked in a recent mailbag segment about Scott Burnside suggesting the Nashville Predators as a destination for Taylor Hall because of his connection with coach John Hynes. The Arizona Coyotes left wing is this summer’s top UFA forward and played well for Hynes during their time with the New Jersey Devils.

Citing Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston suggesting Hall could a stable, winning situation where he fits in well over filling up his bank account, Vingan doesn’t see the Predators meeting that requirement. He cautions against signing an aging player at this stage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Predators GM David Poile making a big splash in this year’s UFA market. His club has $72.2 million tied up in 17 players. Poile will try to shed center Kyle Turris’ $6 million per season cap hit through 2023-24 but that won’t be easy. He could be forced to absorb a big chunk of Turris’ cap hit or buy him out and carry $2 million in annual dead-cap space through 2027-28.

LATEST ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked if the Minnesota Wild will do any contract buyouts. He felt there’s a chance, suggesting if they did so for goalie Devan Dubnyk or center Victor Rask it would be to create roster spots rather than clear cap space. He also felt Alex Stalock would only fetch a mid-round draft pick if placed on the trade block. Russo doesn’t believe GM Bill Guerin will pursue Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom if he becomes available in the free-agent market.

In a second mailbag segment, Russo noted the Wild have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon in next year’s expansion draft because of their no-movement clauses. If they decide to protect just three defensemen, this is the offseason to move Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin unless they intend to move one of them before the 2021 trade deadline. Brodin has a year left on his contract and could be the one to get traded if he proves too expensive to re-sign.

Russo is against trading Brodin to Montreal for Max Domi because he doesn’t feel Domi can address the Wild’s need for a first-line center. Asked if Guerin could pursue Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Russo feels the asking price would be steep. If Monahan is available, the Flames will want a first-line center to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Guerin will be busy in the offseason. He indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending and pointed out his club’s need for a first-line center.

He could move Stalock or Dubnyk and promote promising goalie Kaapa Kahkonen. Russo said he could seek them signing Braden Holtby or Cam Talbot to buy Kahkonen some time if they part ways with Dubnyk, but those two could prove expensive signings, especially Holtby.

Some in the Montreal media suggested swapping Domi for Brodin or Dumba. I think Guerin shares Russo’s opinion of the Habs’ center. Domi could be a good second-line center but he’s not the proven No.1 the Wild need. Guerin also sought to tamp down the expectations of Wild fans calling for him to pursue a first-line center, pointing out teams typically don’t part with that type of player.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

A look at off-season questions for several teams eliminated during the qualifying round, plus the latest on the Ottawa Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined one big off-season question for each club eliminated during the qualifying round. Among the noteworthy:

What kind of return could Kaspari Kapanen fetch for the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boylen asked what kind of defenseman they’ll add. Given the flat cap and the free-agent pool would be difficult to wade into, Boylen suggested the trade market could be their best option. He wonders if Kaspari Kapanen or Alex Kerfoot become trade bait, and what type of return they might fetch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen or Kerfoot at best could bring a second-pairing right-side defenseman. They won’t bring in a top-pairing guy unless they’re packaged with a first-round pick and/or a top prospect, and they’ll have to target a team in need of shedding salary.

Whoever becomes the Florida Panthers’ next general manager has a lot of work to do. The defense is a problem area, plus they have to decide what to do with free agent wingers Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. Boylen wonders if they’ll be replaced by rookies if ownership decides to cut payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things are a mess with the Panthers. We can’t really get a bead on their intentions until they’ve hired a new GM.

The Winnipeg Jets need more size on their blueline. Boylen wonders if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will try to address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have over $65 million invested in next year’s payroll and all their core players under contract. There’s room to make an addition or two, but a bigger move would require shipping out a notable player as part of the return. However, he could get more cap flexibility if sidelined center Bryan Little is placed on LTIR next season.

Boylen noted Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin was dissatisfied with his goaltending. He mused about whether Guerin will promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen or explore the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s current goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock is under contract for next season. One of them would have to be moved to make room for Kahkonen or someone else. Dubnyk ($4.333 million AAV for 2020-21) has a 19-team list of preferred trade destinations, but his performance this season remains a stumbling block. Stalock’s cap hit ($785K annually through 2021-22) could be the easiest to move. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk rejected rumors suggesting his club might offer up the third- and fifth overall picks to the New York Rangers for the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, calling the notion “nonsensical.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers would probably reject that offer anyway. It could take a significant pitch to pry that pick away from them.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 15, 2020

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

PENGUINS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi report rival team executives believe Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford could explore trading Kris Letang, despite Rutherford saying he wanted to keep the blueliner among his core players. One executive claimed Letang still has value in the trade market.

Could the Pittsburgh Penguins explore trade possibilities for Kris Letang (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang’s age (33), annual average salary ($7.25 million through 2021-22), and injury history are significant sticking points. While he has an 18-team trade list, his no-movement clause means he cannot be demoted to the minors. With two-thirds of the teams facing a cap crunch for 2020-21, moving Letang seems a remote possibility.

They also reported the Penguins’ decision to release assistant coach Sergei Gonchar isn’t a sign of renewed strain between head coach Mike Sullivan and Evgeni Malkin, who is close to Gonchar. Despite occasional disputes, management believes Malkin respects Sullivan. They also said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby let it be known last year that he doesn’t want Malkin traded unless the center asks to be moved. Malkin has indicated he wants to finish his career with the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin’s name is always brought up by somebody in the rumor mill as a trade option whenever the Penguins fall short of expectations. Yohe and Rossi remind us he’s got a full no-movement clause, giving him full control over his NHL future for the remainder of his contract, which expires in 2022. Malkin’s not going anywhere unless he wants out, and he isn’t interested in that option.

Yohe also believes Matt Murray could be on his way out, suggesting he needs a change of scenery. He anticipates Rutherford will find a way to move center Nick Bjugstad, who has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.1 million. He also doesn’t rule out Jared McCann and Zach Aston-Reese becoming trade candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Rutherford sheds salary, the Penguins cannot afford to re-sign Murray and fellow RFA goaltender Tristan Jarry. I think Murray hits the trade block following the postseason.

Yohe doesn’t expect pending unrestricted free agents like Justin Schultz, Patrick Marleau, and Conor Sheary will be back.

WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently raised several questions about possible offseason moves by the Minnesota Wild.

One was whether Wild GM Bill Guerin would bundle some assets, including either Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, to acquire a first-line center, or attempt to sign one via free agency. Russo also wondered if Guerin might shop one of his goalies, acquire one via trade or free agency, and/or promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba would have better trade value, and might even fetch a first-line center in a one-for-one swap. That move, however, would address one problem but create another, as Dumba is (in my opinion) their best defenseman. Guerin will have to look to the trade market as this year’s UFA market is thin on quality centers. 

As for their goalies, Russo pointed out adding one could mean buying out Devan Dubnyk, a move that could suggest Kahkonen’s not the goalie of the future. Dubnyk’s only got one year left on his contract. It might be worthwhile standing pat between the pipes and see how next season unfolds. They’ll have a better idea of Kahkonen’s readiness and can let Dubnyk walk via free agency.

Russo wondered if Guerin might revisit his failed trade-deadline attempt to ship Zach Parise to the New York Islanders. He also mused about buying out Dubnyk or Victor Rask if they can’t trade them, and if they’ll find a way to move expensive winger Mats Zuccarello, who also carries a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The attempted Parise deal was done before COVID-19 derailed the schedule and flattened the salary cap. I don’t see that trade happening, especially with the Isles’ limited cap space. Buying out Dubnyk and Rask creates around $4 million in dead cap space next season, over $2.1 million in 2021-22, and $1.33 million for each of the following two seasons.

The Wild are likely stuck with Zuccarello for a while unless he’s willing to waive his NMC and they’re willing to either pick up part of his $6 million AAV or bundle him with a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2020

Check out the latest on the Maple Leafs and the Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons doesn’t believe Kyle Dubas should be fired, but feels the Maple Leafs general manager could be looking for work in a year if he hasn’t reversed the club’s fortunes by then.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com)

Simmons feels Dubas has to strengthen the Leafs after turning over almost half the roster last summer, weakening their depth in the process. The top of the roster wasn’t productive enough, the bottom of the roster not good enough, and the team defense was taken advantage of physically during puck battles.

Simmons called on Dubas to make bold changes via trades or free agency. He wondered if the Leafs GM will come back with goaltender Frederik Andersen next season or look for someone like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, who Dubas knows from their days with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. He also noted there are desperate teams with salary-cap issues, roster issues, disappointed owners, or those like Pittsburgh and Nashville that have somehow lost their way.

TORONTO STAR: Dave Feschuk also wondered what Dubas has in store for the Leafs. He notes that fans and pundits are calling on the Leafs GM to trade William Nylander, or Mitch Marner, or Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson. While Dubas could stubbornly stick to his plan, Feschuk suggests he needs to adjust it, pointing out the Leafs had this season’s sixth-worst goals-against per game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bloom is definitely off the Dubas rose. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to improve the Leafs this off-season.

Dubas isn’t afraid to make bold moves (signing Tavares and acquiring Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, and Cody Ceci). The problem is those decisions failed to address the Leafs’ glaring weaknesses. He must get it right this off-season or the calls for his dismissal will grow.

The Leafs GM has limited salary-cap space to work with, carrying over $76.9 million invested in 17 players. He and his capologist were able to free up sufficient cap space last summer to re-sign Marner, but they’ll have to get more creative this year to address the club’s issues. Fixing those problems could mean moving one of the Leafs’ top forwards, or one or two of their more affordable secondary scorers.

WILD

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin knows his club is a long way from being a Stanley Cup contender. “There definitely have to be changes,” he said. “We haven’t had success here. Things need to get better. That’s just the way it is.”

Guerin indicated he’ll attempt to land a true first-line center, indicating that will likely come via free agency or the draft. “Teams don’t trade No. 1 centers. They just don’t,” he said. The Wild GM also indicated he was unhappy with his goaltending this season and didn’t rule out looking outside the organization for help.

Guerin will meet with pending UFA Mikko Koivu and intends to get started on contract extension talks with players such as Kevin Fiala. Jonas Brodin, Marcus Foligno, and Joel Eriksson Ek. He also said contract buyouts are a last resort, but Mizutani speculates Victor Rask could be a buyout candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin took his time evaluating his roster until midseason when he traded Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh and replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach with Dean Evason. He’ll start putting a bigger stamp on this team through the offseason.

Several good goalies are available in this summer’s UFA market, but Guerin might stick with his current netminders next season to buy time for promising Kaapo Kahkonen. The current tandem (Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock) are under contract for next season, meaning one of them will have to be moved to acquire another netminder.

There aren’t any No.1 centers available in this year’s UFA market. Guerin could draft a promising center this year but that prospect won’t address that need next season. If he can’t find help in the trade market, he could try the offer sheet route. With over $65 million invested in 17 players, that’s probably not a wise course of action.

Rask has an annual average value of $4 million through 2021-22. Mizutani pointed out a buyout will leave the Wild with over $1.33 million in dead cap space through 2023-24.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

The latest on the Sharks and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHICH UFAS WILL THE SHARKS RE-SIGN?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently examined which San Jose Sharks’ unrestricted free agents could be re-signed and those who have likely played their final games in teal.

Will the San Jose Sharks bring back Joe Thornton for one more season? (Photo via NHL Images)

He feels it would make sense to bring back Joe Thornton if the long-time Sharks center accepts a $1 million or less salary to provide the club with salary-cap flexibility. He’s leaning toward Thorton’s return but doesn’t consider it a certainty.

Kurz wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks re-signed Melker Karlsson but could also see him move on to another club. Having traded away a penalty killer in Barclay Goodrow, it might be worthwhile to re-sign Karlsson if he accepts a pay cut.

Backup goalie Aaron Dell won’t be back unless the Sharks can trade starter Martin Jones, but his contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Stefan Noesen will likely get an affordable one- or two-year deal. Unless the Sharks trade Brent Burns, Kurz expects the Sharks will part ways with Tim Heed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve singled out the more notable of the Sharks’ UFAs. I can see Thornton, Karlsson, and Noesen being re-signed if they’re willing to accept cost-effective deals.

Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. General manager Doug Wilson indicated he believes his club can make a quick turnaround from this season’s disappointing performance. To do so, he’ll need those aforementioned free agents to accept affordable one-year contracts or watch them depart via free agency.

UPDATE ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently reported the league’s proposed roster expansion to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders would allow the Minnesota Wild to use Kaapo Kahkonen in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock are the Wild’s current goalie tandem. However, coach Dean Evason isn’t ruling out the possibility of the AHL goalie of the year becoming their starter in the tournament if he plays well in training camp. “Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward,” said Evason.

Russo suggested it also makes sense for Wild general manager Bill Guerin to play Kahkonen to determine if the 23-year-old netminder is ready to become their No. 1 or No. 2 goalie next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s goaltending situation could get interesting in the off-season if Kahkonen outplays Dubnyk and Stalock in the proposed return-to-play tournament. Dubnyk has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of over $4.33 million and a 19-team trade list. Stalock has two years left at a cheap AAV of $785K. Should Kahkonen prove himself NHL-ready, Guerin could be tempted to use Dubnyk or Stalock as trade bait to address other roster needs.

Russo also reported Marcus Foligno hopes to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno’s become an effective third-line forward for the Wild. He carries a $2.875-million annual average value on his current contract. The Wild have over $39 million invested in just seven players for 2021-22, leaving plenty of space to re-sign Foligno if they choose.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 26, 2020

The NHL releases its detailed next phase for its return-to-play protocol. Check out the highlights and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: released a 21-page memorandum yesterday detailing Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol. THE SCORE’s John Matisz took to Twitter outlining the highlights:

NHL releases a detailed protocol for the second phase of its return-to-play plan.

Players can train in small groups of no more than six in the facility voluntarily. The training is non-contact and the players cannot skate or train in another facility. Players will be encouraged to shower at home.

Players must be tested for COVID-9 two days before reporting to their facilities. Players and staff must self-monitor temperature and symptoms daily. Anyone developing symptoms will be isolated. All players and staff must immediately notify the club medical staff if they suspect coming in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Equipment must be thoroughly cleaned between each player’s usage.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports individuals traveling to their team’s cities by commercial air or rail must self-quarantine for 14 days immediately following their arrival. The same rule applies to those arriving from high-risk areas and those landing in areas where local authorities continue to impose a quarantine period for any travelers.

Teams will provide accommodation for those players (such as AHL players) who don’t maintain a residence in their club cities.

Fitness testing by the clubs is not permitted during this phase.

Non-essential personnel (media members, agents, massage therapists, etc) will not be permitted to enter the facilities. Player’s family members also won’t be permitted.

Johnston also reported players must undergo a pre-participation medical examination before they can begin skating. They also won’t be allowed to access saunas, hot tubs, or steam baths. Where possible, the team will assign a different athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and equipment manager to each group of six.

Teams that fail to comply with the Phase 2 guidelines could face fines, loss of draft choices, or ineligibility to participate in the 24-team tournament.

TSN: Face coverings (cloth or surgical) will be worn at all times – except when exercising – when entering or leaving the club facility and inside the facility where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Coaches cannot be involved in on-ice training but can watch from the stands.

Players who live in NHL markets other than where they play will be permitted to use the facilities in that city, depending on availability, so they don’t have to travel back to their team’s home city for Phase 2.

While the league views this document as comprehensive, it acknowledged it cannot mitigate all risks. “A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome,” the 22-page memo continued. “COVID-19 generally affects older age groups and those with previously existing medical conditions, more so than younger, and otherwise healthy, individuals.

“We recognize that players and personnel have family and household members who may fall into these vulnerable categories.”

Pierre LeBrun also noted the memo indicates the league is targeting a date in early June to transition to Phase 2. It has yet to be determined how long Phase 2 will last.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports if all goes well in negotiations between the league and the NHL Players’ Association and governing health officials, training camps (Phase 3) could begin by late June. That could put the league in position to resume play by the second or third week of July, with the Stanley Cup champion crowned in mid-to-late September.

The league and the PA are expected to resume negotiations today on an agreement covering all outstanding issues related to returning to action this summer.

THE SCORE: cites Minnesota Wild player rep Devan Dubnyk telling The Athletic’s Michael Russo the agreement on a 24-team tournament doesn’t mean hockey’s back. “We still have a long way to go,” he said.

Dubnyk indicated the two sides still must address the logistics of staging that tournament. The length of isolation away from families remains a concern for the players, as well as the quality and cost of accommodation, food and travel in the host cities, and the effect upon the league’s finances.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve cited the highlights of the league’s Phase 2 memorandum. The comprehensive document isn’t perfect, and I don’t doubt issues could arise that aren’t covered in the memo that will require immediate action. But as The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell observed, the attention to detail is impressive. This wasn’t something just slapped together within a few days.

How this phase unfolds will determine when the training-camp phase can begin. While NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said a few positive COVID-19 cases aren’t enough to derail the process, it will remain a concern for the players and the staff. A significant spike in cases could derail Phase 2, jeopardizing the planned 24-team tournament.

IN OTHER NEWS…

WGR 550: cited TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reporting the NHL Draft Lottery could be held on June 26. A date for the 2020 Draft has yet to be determined.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie took to Twitter indicating there are more questions than answers regarding the draft. “When will it be? How many teams? What format? Odds? For now, a lot more questions than answers. Not even the GMs who are in the lottery, or hope to be, seem to have many, if any, firm details on it.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lottery will likely be held in late-June, but I think the league will wait and see how things pan out with its tournament plan before announcing the date and the details for the draft.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes player rep Jordan Martinook confirmed his clubs was one of the two that voted against the 24-team format. The Tampa Bay Lightning was the other.

Martinook said he and his teammates had concerns the extra play-in round would lengthen the playoffs and their odds of winning the Stanley Cup. “It wasn’t like we didn’t want to play or anything,” he said. “It was just this particular option maybe didn’t benefit us. It’s just kind of the stance we took.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the standings when the season was paused, the Hurricanes held the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.