NHL Rumor Mill – July 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 14, 2021

Will the Wild pursue Jack Eichel after buying out Parise and Suter? What’s the latest on Gabriel Landeskog and Jake Allen? Are big decisions coming for the Blackhawks, Predators and Panthers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILD TO PURSUE EICHEL?

TSN: Darren Dreger talked about what could be next for the Minnesota Wild following their decision to buy out the contracts of winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. Re-signing restricted free agents Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala are priorities.

Dreger said the Wild would love to add a first-line center. He believes they’ll make a trade offer to the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel. However, general manager Bill Guerin won’t blow their cap space or overpay with trade assets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s buyouts of Parise and Suter give them over $26 million in projected salary-cap space for 2021-22. Nearly half of that could be invested in Kaprizov and Fiala.

They’ll have less room beyond next season when they’ll have between $12.7 million and $14.7 million in dead cap space from 2022-23 to 2024-25. I don’t think Eichel’s a fit in Minnesota unless Guerin convinces the Sabres to absorb a healthy chunk of his $10 million annual cap hit for the next five seasons.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BLACKHAWKS FOLLOWING THE KEITH TRADE?

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined what could be in store for the Chicago Blackhawks after shipping Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week. They could attempt to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, especially after getting younger brother Caleb Jones as part of the return from the Oilers. They also have enough cap space to pursue Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Dougie Hamilton if he hits the open market on July 28.

THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Blackhawks are also open to improving their goaltending. He cited a league source saying they could be in play for Vegas Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. With just one season left on his contract, the Blackhawks can afford his $7 million cap hit for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is believed keen to add a top-pairing right-side defenseman. His preference could be for Jones if the Jackets blueliner is willing to sign a long-term contract extension. If not, that focus could shift to Hamilton.

The Golden Knights are pressed for cap space and probably won’t take back much salary if they decide to move Fleury. He could be had for a draft pick. That depends on whether Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has changed his mind about Fleury finishing his career in Vegas and if the Blackhawks are on Fleury’s list of trade destinations.

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).

COULD AVALANCHE PART WAYS WITH LANDESKOG?

Dreger said the Colorado Avalanche and captain Gabriel Landeskog aren’t even close in their contract talks. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. He pointed out it’s still early in the process.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Landeskog is completing a seven-year deal with an annual cap hit of $5.57 million. He could seek over $7 million on a long-term deal. The Avalanche has over $25 million in cap room but they must also re-sign Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer and Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar. Both are in line for big raises.

Rival clubs will be ready to pounce if Landeskog hits the open market. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly preparing a “full pitch effort” to sign him. They have over $17 million in cap space but could be $7.5 million more if they can trade unhappy right wing Vladimir Tarasenko.

TOUGH DECISIONS AHEAD FOR PREDATORS?

Pierre LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators face some difficult decisions in the upcoming expansion draft. They’ve got five defensemen they really like in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier.

He thinks the Predators have had a discussion about a side deal with the Seattle Kraken. They could also trade a defenseman to another club before the draft. They could opt to protect those five by protecting eight skaters but LeBrun doubts they’ll do that. He also speculated they could expose center Matt Duchene.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the side deal is trying to convince the Kraken to select Duchene. Given his declining production and $8 million annual average value for the next five seasons, they’ll have to toss in a significant sweetener.

LATEST ON THE PANTHERS

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked if the Florida Panthers would ask Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause for either a trade, buyout or exposure in the expansion draft.

Richards hasn’t been able to confirm if the Panthers have approached Yandle about it. He said he’d heard whispers of a handshake agreement between the two sides but nothing’s been substantiated. He thinks Yandle won’t be back with the team one way or another.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports half a dozen teams have contacted the Panthers with a serious interest in pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger. That level of interest could boost the cost of his next contract to $3.5 million per season. LeBrun believes the Seattle Kraken are among the interested parties.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The deadline for teams to ask players to waive their NMCs was yesterday at 5 pm ET. Any players asked to do so have until Friday to reach a decision. We’ll learn by then if Yandle was among them.

Yandle is signed through 2022-23 with an annual cap hit of $6.35 million. His full no-move becomes a modified 12-team no-trade list next summer. Buying him out would could as $2.3 million this season against the Panthers cap but it jumps to $5.3 million in 2022-23 before dropping to $1.2 million per season for the final two years of the buyout.

If Yandle won’t waive his clause for the Kraken (or they don’t take him if he does), the Panthers’ best option is to try to trade him to a team if he’s willing to waive his clause for certain teams. That’ll likely mean taking back a toxic contract or absorbing a chunk of his cap hit to facilitate a deal.

Keep an eye on Driedger. He could be traded before the expansion draft next Wednesday.

COULD THE CANADIENS SHOP ALLEN?

TVA SPORTS: cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculating the Montreal Canadiens could be tempted to trade Jake Allen rather than risk losing him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. He’s starting a two-year, $5.75 million contract. The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres are two clubs whose goalie issues have been well-documented.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on whether Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin can convince his Kraken counterpart to pass over Allen for another unprotected Hab. Failing that, maybe Bergevin can swing a deal with a club seeking reliable goalie depth before the expansion draft.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 4, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 4, 2021

More proposed destinations for Seth Jones plus the latest on the Predators and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PROPOSED DESTINATIONS FOR SETH JONES

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston listed the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs as possible destinations for Seth Jones. The 26-year-old defenseman recently informed the Columbus Blue Jackets of his intention to test next summer’s free-agent market.

Speculation persists over possible destinations for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (NHL Images).

The Kings are considered early favorites, given their extra second and third-round picks and impressive depth in young forwards and prospects to offer up as trade bait. The Blackhawks also have extra picks and depth in prospects plus they hold the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Johnston suggests the Oilers could feel pressure to add a defenseman if Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie depart this summer via free agency. Lacking extra draft picks, GM Ken Holland might have to part with one of his young players. The Flyers, meanwhile, would have to move a few bodies to free up cap space.

The Canadiens have extra picks and several players coming off the books this summer. Johnston suggests Jones would be an ideal replacement for Shea Weber if the Habs could find a way to move his $7.75 million annual cap hit. The Red Wings have the draft capitals to do it with 12 picks in this year’s draft, seven of those in the first three rounds.

As for the Leafs, the comments of GM Kyle Dubas and winger Mitch Marner suggest he’s not going anywhere. Nevertheless, Johnston wondered if he’d be off the table for a defenseman like Jones.

OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito could shoot for a reunion with Jones. Zito was the Blue Jackets former assistant GM before taking the full-time gig with the Panthers.

Brennan, however, thinks the Colorado Avalanche could make a pitch for Jones. They’re bound to lose a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. He also believes the Leafs will have to get creative to land Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The team with the depth in draft picks, prospects and young players plus the cap space to ink Jones to a long-term extension is the most likely to pry him away from the Jackets in this summer’s trade market. The Kings and Blackhawks seem to be the favorites but that depends on their willingness to meet what’s bound to be an expensive asking price by the Jackets.

One of those other teams mentioned by Johnston and Brennan could surprise us with some intricate wheeling-and-dealing. The key remains the willingness of Jones to sign an extension with the acquiring club. If he’s noncommittal that will narrow the field of potential suitors, making it difficult for the Jackets to get a significant return.

LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina made several bold predictions regarding possible offseason moves by the Nashville Predators. He thinks aging goalie Pekka Rinne could be brought back for one more season, Matt Duchene and/or Ryan Johansen could be left exposed in the expansion draft. Juuse Saros and Mikael Granlund will be re-signed while Viktor Arvidsson could be traded to make room for a young winger.

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes it’s time for the Predators to shake up their core. He also suggests they consider trading the oft-injured Arvidsson. While Arvidsson’s contract isn’t prohibitive, the $8 million annually being earned by Duchene and Johansen could leave the Predators eating part of their salary or adding a draft pick in the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Arvidsson would be easier if he were healthier, but if he were healthier, the Predators would have little reason to move him. His $4.25 million AAV isn’t expensive but he’s signed through 2023-24. It could be difficult finding suitors with the salary cap remaining flat for next season.

Moving Duchene and Johansen will be very difficult given their contracts and poor performance. GM David Poile could attempt to get a third team involved to broker a deal but that could still mean he’ll still have to absorb part of their salaries to make it work.

I doubt the Kraken will select Duchene or Johansen if they’re exposed in the draft. It would take a significant sweetener to convince them. Even then, I think they’d balk at paying out $8 million annually for a player with several seasons remaining on his contract.

WILL THE CANUCKS ADD A FORWARD VIA FREE AGENCY?

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston recently examined possible free-agent forward targets for the Vancouver Canucks. They have holes to fill at center and right wing but a tight budget could hamper efforts to address those needs.

Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg would be an interesting option but he’s not going to be cheap coming off a 17-goal season. The same goes for Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman, who tallied 14 goals. More affordable options could include Vegas’ Tomas Nosek, Chicago’s Vinnie Hinostroza or Carolina’s Steven Lorentz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Canucks GM Jim Benning can find a way to shed some burdensome contracts, he’ll have to go to the bargain bin this summer.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2021

Are offseason changes coming for the Predators? Has Evgeny Kuznetsov played his final game with the Capitals? Are the Senators interested in Flyers captain Claude Giroux? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PREDATORS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan believes it’s time for the Nashville Predators to start incorporating more young players into their lineup. She also anticipates they’ll prioritize re-signing defenseman Mattias Ekholm if he seeks a long-term extension before his contract expires next summer.

Could the Nashville Predators attempt to trade Matt Duchene this summer? (NHL Images).

Free-agent goaltender Pekka Rinne won’t be back as Juuse Saros has taken over the starter’s job. Kaplan proposed trying to entice the Seattle Kraken into selecting Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene in this summer’s expansion draft.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Rexrode believes the Predators must figure out where they are and how to get to the next level. Assuming long-time general manager David Poile isn’t asked to leave or doesn’t step down, he’ll have to figure out what to do with Johansen, Duchene and pending free agent Mikael Granlund.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Attempting to unload overpaid underachievers Johansen and Duchene won’t be easy. Both have several seasons remaining on their respective contracts with each carrying an $8 million annual average value. They lack no-trade protection but those contracts will be tough to move with the salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million next season.

Poile will have to get creative to find a way to move one or both. Getting the Kraken to select one of them will mean offering up a sweetener in the form of a draft pick, a top prospect or a good young player. That still might not be enough to get it done. Maybe Poile finds a club will to be a third-party broker by taking on part of the cap hit in return for a pick or prospect.

HAS KUZNETSOV PLAYED HIS FINAL GAME WITH THE CAPITALS?

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir reported Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan addressed the recent trade rumors about Evgeny Kuznetsov during his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday. “We’re always open to trading people if it makes sense,” he said. “If it’s going to make our team better, we’re open to it. “

SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacLellan also said they need Kuznetsov to play at his highest ability. If that wasn’t possible, they wouldn’t be a good team and they’ll have to make some other decisions.

The Capitals GM could entertain trade offers for Kuznetsov this summer. Then again, this could be his public way of reminding the center that his tenure in Washington is in jeopardy unless he cleans up his act on and off the ice.

Kuznetsov’s play has declined over the last couple of years. He received a three-game suspension by the league in 2019 for “inappropriate conduct” less than a month following a four-year ban from international competition following a positive test for cocaine. He tested positive twice this year for COVID-19 and was benched for one game earlier this month after he and goalie Ilya Samsonov missed a team function.

Those factors could impede MacLellan’s efforts to trade Kuznetsov. So could his $7.8 million annual average value over the remaining four years of his contract and his 15-team no-trade clause.

ARE THE SENATORS INTERESTED IN GIROUX?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports there’s speculation among Senators followers over Claude Giroux’s future with the Philadelphia Flyers. He becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Garrioch considers it doubtful he’ll be traded because of his no-move clause and his desire to stay in Philadelphia.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That speculation linking Giroux to the Senators wasn’t generated by media sources. The Athletic’s Ian Mendes recently observed the “Giroux-to-Ottawa” talk that appeared among Senators fans on social media in recent weeks. The Flyers captain spends his offseasons in the Ottawa area but Mendes doubted that would be a factor in his future plans. If Giroux and the Flyers part company, the 33-year-old center will likely want to join a Stanley Cup contender.

Garrioch believes there are other possibilities in the trade and free-agent markets if the Senators decide to bring in an experienced center. His list included Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames, Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

He also mentioned Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel but doesn’t believe that move makes much sense for the Senators. He also dismissed Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov because of his hefty contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 30, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 30, 2021

Another look at how this summer expansion draft could affect several teams in the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently looked at several teams that could be faced with a tough loss or an interesting decision to make in this summer’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark previously did a feature examining six clubs that could make side deals with the Seattle Kraken to protect key players. Boylen is examining nine teams.

The Colorado Avalanche needs Erik Johnson to waive his no-movement clause. If he does, they’ll have to decide if they’ll protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defensemen. Under the former, they could lose a forward like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Tyson Jost or Valeri Nichushkin. Under the latter, Ryan Graves could be left unprotected. If Johnson doesn’t waive his clause, they’ll have to go the eight skaters option, leaving the Seattle Kraken the choice of Graves or one of those forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Ryan S.Clark reported Johnson is expected to waive his NMC. The Kraken will likely pass on him given his age (33), injury history and his $6 million annual average value through 2022-23. He also reported the Avs are willing to trade one of their forwards for something decent in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken

The status of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom and how general manager Ken Holland handles pending unrestricted free agents like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie could affect the Edmonton Oilers’ plans. If Klefbom is healthy and Larsson or Barrie is re-signed before the draft, the Oilers could lose a defenseman like Ethan Bear. Caleb Jones could be protected only if the UFA blueliners aren’t re-signed and Klefbom is exposed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom’s status remains uncertain. Holland could wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign Larsson and/or Barrie. That depends, of course, on whether the Kraken have interest in either blueliner during their exclusive free-agent interview window from July 18-21.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images)

Five members of the Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin) have no-movement clauses. If none of them waive their clauses, the Wild could be forced to make a side deal with the Kraken or risk losing defenseman Matt Dumba if they protect just three defensemen or risk losing a forward by protecting eight skaters. If they’re faced with leaving Dumba unprotected they could attempt to trade him before the protected lists are due.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clark reported Wild management could have discussions with those five players about waiving their NMCs. Having Parise, Suter and Zuccarello waive would be the best scenario. They’re aging players carrying hefty salary-cap hits for at least three more seasons who likely won’t be enticing to the Kraken.

If Dumba becomes the odd man out, I expect they’ll try to trade him rather than lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. Boylen also suggested they could make a side deal with the Kraken by sending them a player to ensure they take someone other than Dumba in the draft.

The Kraken could make a push for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton if he’s left unsigned and unprotected. If he’s re-signed, he’ll have to be protected and that would leave blueliner Jake Bean available. The Kraken could also have a shot at goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic if pending UFA Petr Mrazek is re-signed before the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculated the Hurricanes could hold off on signing Hamilton in order to protect Bean, leaving Brady Skjei exposed. They could do the same with Mrazek to protect Nedeljkovic. There’s a chance Hamilton or Mrazek could sign with the Kraken but their priority could be staying in Carolina.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could be left exposed if they protect Torey Krug, Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk. If they go the eight-skaters route, they risk losing a forward like Jaden Schwartz, David Perron or Robert Thomas. Dunn was a fixture in the rumor mill this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn could be traded to another club or the Blues could try to work out a side deal sending the Kraken another player to ensure Dunn isn’t selected in the expansion draft.

The Nashville Predators are expected to protect eight skaters to ensure defensemen Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro aren’t available. Forwards Luke Kunin or Mikael Granlund (if signed before the draft) could be protected. Boylen wonders if Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene could be exposed, though the Kraken probably won’t take one of those high-priced forwards without a sufficient sweetener.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take quite an offer to convince Kraken GM Ron Francis to take on Johansen or Duchene. Both are underachieving forwards carrying $8 million cap hits for several more years.

Travis Dermott is expected to be the odd man out for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, contract negotiations with pending UFA winger Zach Hyman could affect which players they end up protecting. If Hyman is re-signed, they’ll have to protect seven forwards, leaving an extra defenseman exposed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under that scenario they’ll protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie, leaving Justin Holl exposed. They could take the chance on Hyman re-signing after the expansion draft to protect four blueliners and leave Dermott exposed. If they sign Hyman, they could try to work out a deal with the Kraken to ensure Holl isn’t taken.

Boylen expects Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic will waive his no-movement clause to allow the club to protect a younger forward like Dillon Dube or Glenn Gawdin. He also wondered if the Kraken would take defenseman Mark Giordano if left exposed. The 38-year-old Flames captain has a year remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen observed that big changes could be coming to the Flames roster following this season. Those, however, could occur following the expansion draft. As for Giordano, the Kraken could prefer players who fit into their long-term plans.

The Dallas Stars could go the eight-skater option to protect four defensemen if Jamie Oleksiak is re-signed. That could leave a forward such as Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov or Joe Pavelski exposed. Boylen feels it could be easier for the Stars if Oleksiak isn’t protected or a side deal is worked out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wait until after the draft to re-sign Oleksiak and take the chance that the Kraken will pass on him or else talk trade to ensure he’s not taken in the draft if they opt to protect seven forwards and three blueliners.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 22, 2021

What could the future hold for Predators forward Matt Duchene and defenseman Mattias Ekholm? Could Tyler Bozak re-sign with the Blues? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes Matt Duchene must prove his worth as the Nashville Predators jockey to hang onto the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. Recently returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a lower-body injury, the 30-year-old winger has not held up his end of his $8 million per season deal.

Nashville Predators forward Matt Duchene (NHL Images).

Vingan believes Duchene must earn his keep or risk emboldening critics who feel he’s more of a hindrance than a help to the Predators. Trying to move the winger’s hefty contract this summer could prove difficult. He suggested leaving Duchene exposed in this summer’s expansion draft but admitted convincing the Seattle Kraken to select him will take some work.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duchene’s been a big disappointment for the Predators. He managed 42 points in 66 games last season but only nine points in 26 games this season.

It could take tempting the Kraken with a high draft pick or a top prospect. Even then, the idea of carrying an overpaid 30-something underachiever for five seasons probably won’t be appealing to Seattle general manager Ron Francis.

THE TENNESSEAN: Gentry Estes reports Mattias Ekholm is happy to still be with the Nashville Predators following weeks of speculation leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline. The 30-year-old defenseman was at one point atop TSN’s trade-bait list until the Predators surged in the standings.

No one knows how close Predators GM David Poile came to moving Ekholm. Reports claimed the asking price was a first-round pick, a top prospect and another asset. Poile has suggested Ekholm, who has a year remaining on his contract, isn’t going anywhere, indicating a desire to re-sign the blueliner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm’s strong play was a key factor behind the Predators’ rise over the past month into playoff contention. Depending on how much he wants and for how long, a contract extension could be worked out during the offseason. If he’s not resigned, don’t be surprised if his name pops up in next season’s rumor mill.

STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas recently reported Tyler Bozak would like to re-sign with the St. Louis Blues. The 35-year-old center is due to become an unrestricted free agent this season. He’s completing a three-year, $15 million contract and was sidelined 21 games this season by concussion issues.

Bozak’s played well centering the Blues’ third line since returning from injury. Whether they can afford to keep him with the salary cap remaining flat is another matter. If they do re-sign him it’ll be a short-term deal for less than his current $5 million annual cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bozak will have to accept a significant pay cut to stay in St. Louis for another season. Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $63.3 million invested in 15 players next season. Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman are also pending UFAs while Vince Dunn, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford are restricted free agents.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill: the Jack Eichel trade speculation resurfaces, questions about Sam Reinhart’s future in Buffalo, and wondering whether the Predators will expose Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen in this summer’s expansion draft.

LATEST EICHEL AND REINHART SPECULATION

WGR 550: Appearing on “The Instigators”, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger speculated Jack Eichel might not be playing with the Buffalo Sabres next season. He’s heard the Los Angeles Kings have an interest in Eichel and thinks the 24-year-old could be a good fit there. However, he also believes the Sabres will hang onto their captain if they don’t get the return they want.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl recently noted Sam Reinhart’s stock was high before the trade deadline. He claimed there’s interest in the 25-year-old Sabres winger. Reinhart is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer coming off a one-year, $5.2 million contract and is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Vogl envisioned several possible scenarios for Reinhart, such as the Sabres trading him during the 2021 NHL Draft, re-signing him for a year to see if the club improves and shopping him as a rental next season if they don’t, or signing him to a long-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is going to be a decisive summer for the Sabres, one that finally puts them on the right track toward building a playoff contender or keeps them mired in an already decade-long streak of mediocrity. It’ll come down to whatever decisions general manager Kevyn Adams makes with Eichel and Reinhart.

Eichel lacks no-trade protection this summer, giving Adams the flexibility to trade him to any NHL club. He’s also under contract for the next five seasons with a whopping $10 million annual average salary.

A lot of teams will be interested in Eichel but few can afford the cost in dollars and tradeable assets (first-round draft picks, top prospects, promising young players) to pry him away from the Sabres. The Kings could be one of those few if GM Rob Blake hopes to accelerate his club’s rebuilding program.

Reinhart would be a much more affordable asset if Adams puts him on the trade block but the Sabres GM could seek at least a first-round pick and a top prospect or promising young player in return. An acquiring club must also negotiate a new contract for him if the Sabres haven’t re-signed him first.

WILL PREDATORS LEAVE DUCHENE AND JOHANSEN UNPROTECTED?

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan and Ryan S. Clark recently wondered if the Nashville Predators might leave forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen unprotected in this summer’s expansion draft. Both carry $8 million annual salary-cap hits but struggled to live up to contract expectations. The Seattle Kraken would need to be incentivized to take one of them. Others clubs will also attempt to expose high-salaries players in the hope the Kraken will take them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan and Clark point out Kraken GM Ron Francis will have leverage in this situation. They suggest the Predators would have to add a sweetener like a draft pick and/or a prospect and possibly some salary retention to make Duchene or Johansen palatable to the Predators.