NHL Rumor Mill – October 10, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – October 10, 2022

The Maple Leafs make Wayne Simmonds available in the trade market plus the Jets enter what could be a consequential season. Check out the details in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LEAFS SHOPPING SIMMONDS

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Toronto Maple Leafs are making Wayne Simmonds available in the trade market. The return is not as important as “doing right by the player.” Friedman indicated the 34-year-old winger is in good health and very much hopes to play this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds (NHL Images).

Simmonds is in the final season of a two-year contract with an annual average salary of $900K, though in actual salary he’ll make $1.050 million this season. He also carries a 10-team no-trade list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds was once among the best two-way forwards in the game. However, his performance has been in decline in recent seasons. He lost his job to Zach Aston-Reese, who signed a one-year, $840K contract yesterday with the Leafs.

Simmonds could have value for a club seeking affordable leadership, experience and toughness in their lineup. The Leafs placed him on waivers yesterday but their willingness to trade him indicates they’re expecting he’ll go unclaimed today.

So why would a team trade for Simmonds when they could’ve plucked him off waivers for nothing? Perhaps an interested club sitting high up in the waiver order prefers to save that spot for a better option. Maybe there’s a team that’s also looking to offload a player via trade. There could be a team hoping to squeeze an extra asset from the cap-strapped Leafs to take Simmonds off their hands.

JETS FACING A CONSEQUENTIAL SEASON

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen agreed with a reader that the Winnipeg Jets face a “make-or-break” season. Changes to their roster core could be coming next summer if they miss the playoffs again or make another first-round exit.

Former captain Blake Wheeler, center Mark Scheifele and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck could be part of that roster shakeup. Each is slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2024. Rosen suggested management could try to get ahead of things by trading them, especially if Pierre-Luc Dubois declines to sign a long-term extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is a restricted free agent next summer who will be a year away from UFA eligibility if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal.

I agree with Rosen that it could be time for a major roster shakeup if the Jets stumble again this season. They’ve been slowly declining since reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2018. It could be time to move out some of the veterans and instead build around players like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Dubois if he stays for the long term.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2022

Could the Jets have traded Mark Scheifele if they had signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a long-term contract? Did they attempt to move Blake Wheeler? Find out plus the latest on Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST JETS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Murat Ates reported earlier this week that “there is a chance” the Winnipeg Jets would’ve shopped Mark Scheifele if they could’ve re-signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a long-term contract.

Dubois, 24, was a restricted free agent earlier this summer with arbitration rights. He agreed to accept a one-year, $6 million offer from the Jets.

Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (NHL Images).

Ates observed Scheifele “looked disengaged defensively” and “sounded deeply frustrated” by season’s end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and will be 31 by that point. Dubois is also eligible to become a UFA in 2024.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois became a fixture in the rumor mill for several weeks earlier in the offseason after his agent suggested his client might one day hope to join his hometown Montreal Canadiens. Dubois also attended the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal back in July, sparking speculation suggesting he was going to be traded to the Canadiens but the deal fell through.

Dubois denied all of this in the press conference on July 25 announcing his new one-year contract, stressing that if he wanted out of Winnipeg he would’ve asked for a trade but that thought never crossed his mind. His name hasn’t surfaced in the rumor mill since then but it’s probably only a matter of time if the Jets struggle again this season.

Scheifele downplayed his remarks several weeks following the end of the regular season as did general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Perhaps playing under new head coach Rick Bowness will provide Scheifele with the spark that seemed to be missing last season. Another sub-par effort on his part, however, will bring the trade rumors roaring back.

Meanwhile, Ates said it was his understanding the Jets looked into trading Blake Wheeler. However, his $8.25 million cap hit through 2023-24 proved too cumbersome to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler is another forward worth watching under Bowness’ coaching this season. The 36-year-old Jets captain struggled with consistency last season and is at the stage in his career where a decline in skills is inevitable.

His age as much as his hefty cap hit makes him very tough to move in the trade market. The Jets would have to retain a big chunk of his contract to make him more enticing to rival clubs.

UPDATE ON JAKE VIRTANEN

YAHOO! SPORTS: Thomas Hall cited Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer reporting the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals are believed to have expressed an interest in signing Jake Virtanen to a professional tryout offer.

Virtanen, 26, spent six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015-16 to 2020-21 until bought out of his contract after he was accused of sexual assault. He spent last season in the KHL and in July was found not guilty in a British Columbia court.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen’s personal issues aside, I wonder why there are NHL teams interested in his services? He was a disappointment as a Canuck and managed just 16 points in 36 games in the KHL.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 8, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – August 8, 2022

Looking ahead at the 2023 free-agent class in your NHL Rumor Mill.

SPORTSNET: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak top Ryan Dixon’s recent listing of the top unrestricted free agents of 2023.

Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, and St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko are next on Dixon’s list. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Tristan Jarry is the notable goaltender in the group.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

Blues center Ryan O’Reilly, New Jersey Devils blueliner Damon Severson, Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin and Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews round out Dixon’s list.

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary also put out a listing of his notable 2023 UFAs with most of the same names as Dixon’s. This was published before Jonathan Huberdeau’s signing with the Flames, which explains why he’s on that list.

Several notables on O’Leary’s list include Canucks center Bo Horvat and forwards Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars, Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings, James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers and Max Pacioretty of the Carolina Hurricanes.

O’Leary’s defensemen include the Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg, the Penguins’ Brian Dumoulin, the New York Islanders Scott Mayfield, Florida Panthers’ Radko Gudas, Washington Capitals Dmitry Orlov and the Flames’ MacKenzie Weegar.

The noteworthy goaltenders include the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov, the Los Angeles Kings Jonathan Quick, the Red Wings’ Alex Nedeljkovic, the Ottawa Senators’ Cam Talbot and the Montreal Canadiens’ Jake Allen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a slow day for trade and free-agent rumors as we endure the dog days of the NHL offseason. So it’s a good time to review these lists and offer up my two cents on which players will hit the open market next summer and which ones won’t.

I don’t see MacKinnon, Pastrnak, O’Reilly, Severson, Larkin, Horvat, Pavelski, Orlov and Weegar being available by next July. They’ll likely sign contract extensions with their current teams.

Jarry, Pacioretty, Bertuzzi, Dumoulin, Mayfield, Nedeljkovic, Talbot and Allen fall into the “maybe” category for me. Much will depend on their respective performances in the coming season, what they’ll seek on their next contracts, and whether their current clubs can afford to sign them.

I anticipate the remainder will become UFAs. There will still be enticing talent available such as Kane, Miller, Dumba, Tarasenko, Klingberg, and Quick for teams to pursue. Toews could sign with another club but I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires. Monahan’s hip surgeries could bring a premature end to his playing career.

O’Leary also published a list of next summer’s notable restricted free agents. His top forwards include the Senators’ Alex DeBrincat and Tim Stutzle, the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, the Winnipeg Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Canadiens’ Cole Caufield, the Stars’ Roope Hintz, the Ducks’ Trevor Zegras, the New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere and the San Jose Sharks’ Timo Meier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All but DeBrincat, Dubois and Meier will be re-signed. The trio will be a year away from UFA status next summer. They could hit the trade block if they’re unwilling to make a long-term commitment with their current clubs.

Notable RFA defensemen include the Rangers’ K’Andre Miller, the Edmonton Oilers’ Evan Bouchard, the Seattle Kraken’s Vince Dunn, the Hurricanes’ Ethan Bear, and the Ducks’ Jamie Drysdale.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All but Bear seem certain to be re-signed by their current teams. He struggled last season with the Hurricanes partly because of the effects of COVID-19. However, a healthy bounce-back performance this season could ensure a longer term for him in Carolina.

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Samsonov, the Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman and the Panthers’ Spencer Knight are the top RFA goalies.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Samsonov has to make a good impression with the Leafs this season or he could be traded or cut loose next summer. Another solid performance by Swayman this season should ensure he receives a contract extension.

Knight’s situation, however, could be tricky. On the one hand, I expect the Panthers want to re-sign him. On the other, they’ve got Sergei Bobrovsky eating up valuable cap space and playing time. The Panthers can afford to re-sign Knight but maybe he’ll be open to an offer sheet. His situation will be worth monitoring.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 26, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 26, 2022

Pierre-Luc Dubois addresses the recent offseason speculation swirling around him plus a look at the Penguins blue line in today’s NHL rumor mill.

DUBOIS ADDRESSES OFFSEASON SPECULATION

WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck reports Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois spoke to reporters yesterday via Zoom conference call to address recent rumors claiming he wanted out of Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

If I wanted out I would have asked for a trade,” said Dubois. “I didn’t ask for a trade. Not for one second. It didn’t cross my mind for one second to ask for a trade.”

Dubois also explained the reason why he attended the first round of the 2022 Draft in Montreal earlier this month. Rumor had it he was there in anticipation of a trade to the Canadiens. Dubois said he only lives 15 minutes away from the Bell Centre and was there at the invitation of his bank to a reception they were holding at one of the arena’s suites.

Regarding comments his agent, Pat Brisson, made about Dubois one day hoping to play for the Canadiens, he felt those remarks were blown out of proportion and taken out of context. “I just thought it was overblown, the reaction, and I think some people just ran with the two seconds that they liked or didn’t want to hear.”

As for his decision to accept the Jets’ one-year qualifying offer, Dubois said his next NHL contract could be his last before he retires. He wants to take his time to consider all factors before signing a long-term deal.

Dubois understands his non-committal answers about his future won’t quell the speculation. He knows he’ll face the same questions next summer when he’s once again a restricted free agent. Nevertheless, he intends to face them at that time and put his current focus on the Jets’ upcoming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers remain skeptical about Dubois’ comments, suggesting that he’s in damage-control mode trying to downplay his agent’s remarks about skating for the Canadiens one day.

The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan points out that Dubois’ RFA status next summer and UFA eligibility in 2024 won’t stop the speculation linking him to the Habs. He observed the club is pressed for cap space this summer. However, they could have room next summer if general manager Kent Hughes is interested in pursuing Dubois. He could also attempt to sign Calgary Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau if he tests the UFA market next summer.

COULD THE PENGUINS MOVE ANOTHER DEFENSEMAN?

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Mike DeFabo recently observed the Penguins still have nine defensemen after swapping John Marino for Ty Smith and Mike Matheson for Jeff Petry. Asked if trading another defenseman was in the cards, GM Ron Hextall replied, “not necessarily.”

Nevertheless, DeFabo speculates on how Hextall could address the issue. Much will depend on how young blueliners like Smith and Pierre-Olivier Joseph perform in the upcoming season. One of them could get traded at some point in the season.

Other options include moving Marcus Pettersson in a cost-cutting move, shopping Brian Dumoulin before his contract expires at the end of the coming season, or giving a depth blueliner such as Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Friedman a chance with another team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall might not be done tinkering with his defense corps. However, his recent acquisition of Petry and Smith could be the only moves he makes with his blueline for the offseason. He could wait until training camp or preseason or perhaps into the early weeks of the coming season to evaluate his defensemen before deciding if other moves are required.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 25, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 25, 2022

Check out the latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kaapo Kakko in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE LATEST ON DUBOIS

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Pierre-Luc Dubois’ desire to one day play for the Montreal Canadiens is hardly new. “Twice now he’s gone into a summer wanting (expecting?) an offer sheet from the Canadiens to help expedite his path to his preferred city,” he writes.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

Portzline pointed out Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen traded defensemen Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara the night before free agency two summers ago. He suggests Kekalainen made those moves to clear cap space to thwart any attempt by the Canadiens to sign Dubois to an offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So Dubois’ desire to join the Canadiens apparently goes back to his days with the Blue Jackets. It was rumored in January 2021 that former Habs GM Marc Bergevin attempted to acquire Dubois before the Jackets shipped him to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Dubois-to-Montreal trade chatter has been ongoing for weeks during this offseason. There were reports the Canadiens and Jets discussed a trade that was rumored to go down at the draft in Montreal earlier this month. However, that deal failed to materialize.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks recently joked about the possibility of Dubois and Jonathan Huberdeau being on the Canadiens’ first line in 2024-25. Huberdeau is a year away from UFA and was recently traded by the Florida Panthers to the Calgary Flames.

We’ll learn by next summer whether Huberdeau will remain with the Flames. As for Dubois, he might have to wait until his UFA eligibility in 2024 to sign with the Canadiens. The Jets have justifiably set a high asking price in the trade market. His desire to go to Montreal will also dampen interest from other clubs.

WHY NO OFFER SHEET FOR KAKKO?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports there is no indication Kaapo Kakko and his agent have solicited interest from other clubs to tender the New York Rangers winger an offer sheet.

That’s good news for the Rangers that no one is trying to take advantage of their cap limitations by attempting to sign away Kakko. However, Brooks wonders why no other club believes the 21-year-old winger is worth the approximately $4 million a year it could take to sign him away from the Blueshirts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks suggests the reasons could be rival general managers could be sticking to business as usual with their unwillingness to go the offer sheet route, or perhaps Kakko’s intent to stay in New York. Perhaps the simple answer is other general managers looked at Kakko’s limited body of work and decided he’s not worth it.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2022

The speculation linking Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Canadiens won’t go away. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs face a cost-cutting trade. Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST DUBOIS SPECULATION

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy suggests that Pierre-Luc Dubois accepting a one-year, $6 million qualifying offer with the Winnipeg Jets creases the skids for a potential trade to the Montreal Canadiens.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

Dubois, 24, will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights again next summer. Murphy felt his new contract sets up what the center’s qualifying offer will be for 2023-24. It would also allow the Canadiens to sign him to an eight-year contract if they can acquire him before the 2023 free-agent market opens next July.

A source told Murphy that Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson, is doing everything he can to make a trade to Montreal happen.

TVA SPORTS: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes’ recent trade activity has Canadiens fans expecting another deal, perhaps one that brings Dubois to Montreal.

Within a 10-day period earlier this month, Hughes shipped Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders for the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, flipped that pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for center Kirby Dach, and traded Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Mike Matheson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets don’t have to move Dubois this summer. However, they risk having the uncertainty over his future becoming an unwelcome distraction at a time when they’re trying to rebound from a disappointing performance last season.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is said to be listening to offers for Dubois. However, he’s also set a high asking price. He won’t waiver after seeing what the Calgary Flames got from the Florida Panthers for Matthew Tkachuk.

It’s rumored Cheveldayoff sought Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield as part of the return from the Canadiens. Both are believed to be off-limits in trade discussions. There’s also talk suggesting Hughes could part with center Christian Dvorak but it’ll take more than him as the centerpiece of a deal to pry Dubois away from the Jets.

Limited salary-cap space is also an issue for the Canadiens. They’re pressed against the $82.5 million cap and continue to await clarity over Carey Price’s recovery from complications arising from last summer’s knee surgery.

Hughes, however, isn’t under any pressure here to acquire Dubois. He was in the middle of rebuilding the roster long before the reports emerged of the center’s desire to one day play for the Canadiens. The Canadiens GM can afford to wait until next summer to try again or kick this down the road to 2024 and attempt to sign Dubois as an unrestricted free agent.

MAPLE LEAFS FACING A TRADE

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle believes the Toronto Maple Leafs need to make a trade after their recent free-agent signings of Calle Jarnkrok and Pierre Engvall. Sitting a projected $1.4 million over the $82.5 million cap, they must make room to re-sign restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Sandin.

Signing Sandin would also create a logjam on the blueline. Mirtle doesn’t see Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie or Timothy Liljegren going anywhere.

Mirtle examines whether the Leafs will consider moving Sandin or fellow blueliner. He also suggested forward Alex Kerfoot as the only other cost-cutting candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Holl is the more likely trade candidate. What do you think, Leafs fans? Sandin, Holl or Kerfoot? Or is there a better trade option? Weigh in with your thoughts.