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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Calgary Flames trade winger Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers (NHL Images).
The Panthers also signed Tkachuk to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $9.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I must confess to being surprised by this move. I didn’t expect the Panthers to give up Huberdeau nor did I believe the Flames would acquire two players slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Nevertheless, I admire the willingness of Panthers general manager Bill Zito and Flames GM Brad Treliving for making what’s become a rarity in today’s salary cap world: a major, honest-to-goodness hockey trade.
Zito is getting an impact player in Tkachuk. The 24-year-old winger is a big, elite, agitating forward entering the prime of his career and is five years younger than Huberdeau. He’s coming off a career-best 42-goal, 104-point performance last season.
The Panthers GM also ensured that he got Tkachuk under contract throughout his playing prime. This deal signals the Panthers’ intention to remain among the league’s best teams for a long time.
Tkachuk’s new contract leaves the Panthers sitting $4 million over the $82.5 million salary cap. Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards indicates they’ll free up $3 million by placing winger Anthony Duclair on long-term injury reserve as he continues to recover from an offseason Achilles tendon injury.
Richards also noted that the Panthers are still sitting over the cap by $1 million. They’ll have to shed another salary to become cap compliant when the 2022-23 season opens in October.
Tkachuk recently informed Treliving that he wasn’t going to sign a long-term deal with Calgary. Having lost Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets via free agency last week, he couldn’t repeat that mistake with Tkachuk.
The Flames GM got a terrific return from the Panthers. Huberdeau, 29, is coming off a career-best 115-point campaign, tying Gaudreau for second overall among last season’s leading scorers. He’s a gifted playmaker who’s tallied 61-or-more points in each of the last five seasons.
Weegar, 28, has blossomed over the past two years into a mobile top-four defenseman. He had 36 points in 54 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and 44 points in 80 contests last season.
The 21-year-old Schwindt made his NHL debut last season in three games with the Panthers. A physical, two-way forward who can play center or wing, he had 40 points in 72 games with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers last season. Treliving also gets himself a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2025. Not a bad haul for Tkachuk.
Treliving isn’t out of the woods yet. He must get Huberdeau and Weegar re-signed or risk suffering the same fate next summer as he did this year with Gaudreau. Still, he’s got enough time and cap space to get something done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine is a skilled scoring forward with an impressive shot. However, his production suffered following a career-best 44-goal performance with the Winnipeg Jets in 2017-18.
Laine was limited to second-line duty during his final seasons with the Jets. He struggled to adjust following his trade in 2021 to the Blue Jackets and had to deal with injuries and the death of his father last season.
Nevertheless, Laine was a point-per-game player last season, tallying 56 points in as many games. He could regain his 40-goal form if he meshes well with the recently-acquired Johnny Gaudreau on the Jackets’ top line.
This is an expensive gamble by the Blues Jacket but it could pay off handsomely. Laine and Gaudreau could form a dangerous one-two scoring punch that accelerates the club’s rebuild, putting them squarely among next season’s playoff contenders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a cost-cutting measure by the Blue Jackets. They were above the $82.5 million salary cap by over $6 million after signing Laine.
This move sheds Bjorkstrand’s $5.4 million, leaving the Jackets roughly $900K over the cap. Another move will be necessary before the start of the season to become cap compliant but that could be accomplished by demoting a player to the minors.
This was a savvy move by Kraken GM Ron Francis. He bolstered his club’s scoring punch and all it cost him was a couple of extra mid-level draft picks.
Bjorkstrand should be a fine acquisition for the Kraken. A skillful scoring forward, the 27-year-old winger tallied a career-best 28 goals and 57 points in 80 games with the Blue Jackets last season. He will bring some much-needed depth among their top-six forwards and is under contract through 2025-26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here given the 24-year-old center’s intention to test the UFA market in 2024. Dubois will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. He remains a prime trade candidate this summer and has been linked to the Montreal Canadiens.
SPORTSNET: Halifax police are opening an investigation into an alleged group sexual assault said to have taken place in 2003 involving members of Canada’s world junior hockey team.
News of the investigation emerged after Hockey Canada revealed in a statement that it learned of the allegations after being contacted by TSN reporter Rick Westhead. The organization contacted Halifax police and informed Sports Canada.
NHL.COM: The league released a statement saying it is looking into the allegations and will respond accordingly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many of the players on that 2003 team went on to NHL careers.
This is the second report of group sexual assault involving members of Canada’s world junior team. The first involved the 2018 squad. The investigation into that has been re-opened after it was revealed Hockey Canada used funding from player registration fees as a slush fund for “uninsured liabilities” such as sexual assault.
The 2018 incident wasn’t a one-off by a bunch of bad apples. This latest report suggests there’s a systemic problem within Hockey Canada that’s gone unchecked for years. Change should and must be made immediately at every level right now to address this cancer within its system.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
First, there was word earlier in the off-season that the restricted free agent was only interested in a new contract taking him up to unrestricted free agent status in 2024. That was followed by Dubois’ agent indicating his client would love to play for the Canadiens one day.
Dubois reportedly attended the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal anticipating a trade but Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sought a hefty return. The latest twist saw the 24-year-old center opting against salary arbitration, leaving him open to offer sheets from rival clubs. The Jets, meanwhile, didn’t file for club-elected arbitration.
It’s possible Dubois accepts his one-year, $6 million qualifying offer from the Jets by Friday’s deadline. He could reject it and attempt to negotiate a better deal.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy speculates Dubois could stage a contract holdout. It could put more pressure on Cheveldayoff to work out a trade with Canadiens GM Kent Hughes.
Murphy’s colleague Marco D’Amico assumed the Jets asked the Canadiens for Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield as part of the return for Dubois. That would be a no-go for the Canadiens, but he wondered if recently-acquired center Kirby Dach might be a trade chip that entices the Jets.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd doesn’t see the Canadiens parting with Suzuki, Caufield or a promising prospect such as Kaiden Guhle. He believes if Hughes was really interested in Dubois he wouldn’t have gone through so much trouble to acquire Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friesen recommends that Cheveldayoff put his best offer on the table and let Dubois accept it by the December deadline or sit out the season. The only leverage Dubois has now is to withhold his services but that’s not going to help his trade value or reputation.
Cheveldayoff doesn’t seem interested in trading Dubois this summer unless he gets an irresistible offer. It’s assumed he’ll sign the center to a one-year contract and spend the coming season trying to convince him to ink a long-term deal next summer.
Dubois will once again become an RFA with arbitration rights at season’s end but will also be a year away from UFA eligibility. If he remains uninterested in staying with the Jets, that’s when Cheveldayoff will likely put more emphasis on moving him.
It’s possible Dubois gets an offer sheet from another club but don’t look for one from the Canadiens. They’re bumping against the $82.5 million cap ceiling and face ongoing uncertainty over the status of Carey Price for the coming season.
UPDATES ON WHEELER AND GIRARD
WINNIPEG SUN: Speaking of the Jets, Friesen’s colleague Scott Billeck reports their best opportunity to trade captain Blake Wheeler’s contract was prior to free agency opening last Wednesday.
Management, however, was stubborn and insisted on interested parties picking up Wheeler’s full $8.25 million cap hit over the two years remaining on his contract. As a result, the market for the 35-year-old winger has cooled.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Wheeler’s not going anywhere unless Cheveldayoff can find someone to take that full cap hit off the Jets’ hands. Good luck with that now that most teams have used up their cap space in the free-agent market.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner took note of the Colorado Avalanche’s efforts to bring back free-agent center Nazem Kadri. Because of their limited salary-cap space, Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater suggested Samuel Girard could be a cost-cutting trade candidate. The 24-year-old defenseman is signed through 2026-27 with an average annual value of $5 million.
Rosner suggested the Islanders attempt to acquire Girard. Dater believes the Avs’ asking price would be a first-round pick but Rosner believes they’re not in a position to get too picky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dater has since tweeted that he doubted Girard gets traded pointing to his value to the Avs. After subsequently speaking with three sources, he now believes there’s a lesser chance of Kadri returning to Colorado.
A look at some potential offer-sheet candidates but recent speculation on Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
POTENTIAL OFFER SHEET CANDIDATES
RDS.CA:Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk could be a top candidate to receive an offer sheet. The Flames have the cap space ($18.45 million) to match any offer. However, the 25-year-old Tkachuk’s future in Calgary remains uncertain and it’s unclear if he’d want to sign a long-term extension with the Flames. A bid of $10.5 million for one season would cost four first-round picks as compensation to the Flames.
Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames could let Tkachuk go if a rival club made that bid and use those four first-rounders to put toward retooling their roster. The winger didn’t file for salary arbitration, making him eligible to receive an offer sheet.
That one-year offer sheet could also backfire on the team successfully signing Tkachuk away from the Flames. He could decide to test next summer’s unrestricted free agent market, leaving them without their first-round picks in the next four drafts. If a team is going to go for it, they’d better be sure that they can lock him up beyond 2022-23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both players are key parts of the Stars’ future and they don’t want to lose either guy. The club can afford to match for one but not both unless they’re willing to shed salary before the start of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois’ reported desire to test the UFA market in 2024 has sparked speculation that the Jets could trade him for the right return. He’s been tied to the Montreal Canadiens as his agent recently admitted his client would one day like to play for them.
Some observers wonder if the Habs will go the offer sheet route if efforts to acquire Dubois via trade fall through. With just $1.2 million in cap room and ongoing uncertainty over whether Carey Price ($10.5 million AAV) will play next season, they don’t appear to be in a position to make a competitive bid.
The Blue Jackets’ signing of Johnny Gaudreau last week left them with just over $2 million in cap space. Management indicated its intent to continue negotiations with Laine, who opted not to file for arbitration. However, he could prove a tempting option if a club is willing to pony up a hefty deal for over $9 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would explain why Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard ($5 million annual average value) has surfaced in trade rumors of late. Islanders winger Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 million) was a fixture in the rumor mill last season but I haven’t seen his name being mentioned with their efforts to clear cap room for Kadri.
Speaking of the Islanders, Friedman believes they’re not done making moves. “They’ve been way too quiet,” he said.
Friedman also cast some doubt on reports suggesting the Calgary Flames could make Kadri a mega-offer. He thinks the two sides have talked but believes the Flames are trying to be careful in the aftermath of Johnny Gaudreau’s departure to Columbus via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve noted before, Kadri rejected a trade to Calgary by the Toronto Maple Leafs three years ago. Perhaps he feels differently now, especially if the Flames are willing to make a significant offer. That doesn’t seem to be the case based on Friedman’s assessment.
Jeff Marek believes the Detroit Red Wings could be the final destination for John Klingberg. However, he doesn’t think the Wings want to sign the 29-year-old free-agent defenseman to a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klingberg is the other remaining notable in this summer’s UFA market. There was speculation also tying him to the Seattle Kraken. Like the Wings, they have the cap space to sign him. I doubt he will get between $7.75 million and $8.5 million per season that Marek had him seeking from the Dallas Stars last fall.
Friedman reported the Edmonton Oilers were trying to move Jesse Puljujarvi for a draft pick. He indicated that it’s difficult right now because the clubs with an interest in him have little or no cap space and didn’t want to make that deal.
According to Friedman, the New York Rangers were talking to the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues. He asked them at the draft about their conversations with the Blues and they said they had nothing going on with St. Louis. Nevertheless, Friedman said he’d heard they were talking for a while.
24 players apply for salary arbitration plus the latest on Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nazem Kadri and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHLPA.COM: 24 NHL players filed for salary arbitration by the 5 pm ET deadline on July 17:
Mason Appleton (Winnipeg Jets)
Ethan Bear (Carolina Hurricanes)
Jesper Bratt (New Jersey Devils)
Lawson Crouse (Arizona Coyotes)
Morgan Geekie (Seattle Kraken)
Mathieu Joseph (Ottawa Senators)
Kaapo Kahkonen (San Jose Sharks)
Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Keegan Kolesar (Vegas Golden Knights)
Oliver Kylington (Calgary Flames)
Maxime Lajoie (Carolina Hurricanes)
Steven Lorentz (San Jose Sharks)
Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks)
Zack MacEwen (Philadelphia Flyers)
Niko Mikkola (St. Louis Blues)*
Andrew Mangiapane (Calgary Flames)
Matthew Phillips (Calgary Flames)
Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton Oilers)
Tyce Thompson (New Jersey Devils)
Yakov Trenin (Nashville Predators)
Vitek Vanecek (New Jersey Devils)
Jake Walman (Detroit Red Wings)
Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton Oilers)
Pavel Zacha (Boston Bruins)
*Signed after filing
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).
The deadline for club-elected arbitration filing is July 18 at 5 pm ET. Arbitration hearings begin on July 27 through August 11.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that this is usually a tactic designed to set a deadline to complete contract negotiations. In most cases, the player and his team reach an agreement on a new contract before the date of his arbitration hearing. Mikkola agreed to a one-year, $1.9 million contract with the Blues shortly after filing. The notables on this list include Bratt, Mangiapane, Kapanen, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto.
TSN: Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk and Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois were among the notable restricted free agents who didn’t file for salary arbitration. Another is Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Patrik Laine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline believes Laine’s decision not to file for arbitration suggests contract discussions with the Blue Jackets remain amicable. The same could apply to Tkachuk and Dubois with their respective clubs. It also leaves the door open for those players to accept their one-year qualifying offers before the July 22 deadline for doing so.
THE ATHLETIC’s Peter Baugh recently tweeted that a league source told him multiple teams are trying to clear salary-cap space in an attempt to sign Nazem Kadri. The 31-year-old free-agent center wants to play for a contender and has ruled out those who are not.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains why Kadri remains available nearly a week into this season’s free-agent period. Perhaps he’ll sign a new contract at some point this week.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: A source tells Jimmy Murphy that the Bruins’ contract extension talks with David Pastrnak could take longer than expected. The feeling is both sides are in wait-and-see mode. The Bruins are still dealing with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and could need to make a cost-cutting trade to make it all work. Meanwhile, the Pastrnak camp could be watching to see where things are headed with the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s also how much Pastrnak’s new contract will cost the Bruins. The 26-year-old winger is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility and is earning $6.6 million on his current contract. It could cost them $10 million annually on an eight-year deal to keep him in the fold.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed restricted free agent winger Pierre Engvall to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed UFA forward Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
The Florida Panthers inked UFA defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, two-way contract.
CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Vancouver Canucks have granted permission to goaltender Michael DiPietro’s agent to speak with other teams regarding a trade.