NHL Rumor Mill – December 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 5, 2020

Questions about Vladimir Tarasenko’s future with the St. Louis Blues and possible moves by the New Jersey Devils in today’s NHL rumor mill.

STLTODAY.COM: In his weekly live chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas was asked if the St. Louis Blues might expose high-salaried veterans like Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron in next year’s expansion draft or risk losing younger, cheaper players. Thomas doesn’t see that happening. He pointed out Perron is playing better in terms of production than he ever has, plus they’d hate to make the wrong decision with Tarasenko and see him regain his form with the Kraken.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

 THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford was asked if the Blues might try to trade the injury-prone Tarasenko. Given the winger’s three shoulder surgeries, Rutherford doubted the Blues would get a good return. He felt there’s a better chance of Tarasenko helping the club upon his return from his latest surgery than a team offering a player or players who can contribute.

Rutherford was also asked if the Blues might make any more moves. While general manager Doug Armstrong hasn’t ruled out another signing, Rutherford would be surprised if it happened.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko’s recent shoulder injuries seem to have some Blues fans concerned about his performance over the remaining three years of his contract. Cap Friendly indicates signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $7.5 million, which could prove costly for the Blues if he cannot regain his 30-goal form.

Trading Taranseko won’t be easy if the Blues decide one day to part with him. In addition to his injury history and annual cap hit, the 28-year-old winger also has a full no-trade clause. That wouldn’t prevent him from being exposed in next year’s expansion draft but I’ll be shocked if Armstrong left him unprotected.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked if the New Jersey Devils might attempt to acquire players from cap-strapped clubs, or pursue free agent Mike Hoffman on a one-year contract, or if they’d go the offer-sheet route.

Masisak noted the Devils have over $17 million in salary-cap space, though new contracts for restricted free agents Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt could whittle that down to around $10 million. He feels Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn could be a good fit but isn’t sure if Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald will want to tie up too much future cap space given the current economic uncertainty.

Signing a UFA like Hoffman, Mikael Granlund or Anthony Duclair to a short-term deal is possible. However, those players could be reluctant to join a team that isn’t a clear contender and risk getting moved at the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fitzgerald could make a move to further boost his roster before the season begins (next month?). I don’t expect a blockbuster move but perhaps he can get into the bidding for one of those UFA forwards on a cost-effective deal. Those players could be reluctant to join a non-contender on a short-term deal. With so few teams carrying sufficient cap space, however, they might not have much choice if Fitzgerald shows interest in one of them.










NHL Free Agents Still Playing The Waiting Game

NHL Free Agents Still Playing The Waiting Game

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Updates on the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently updated the status of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. She noted the UFA market is at a standstill given the uncertainty over the season.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

Mike Hoffman still tops the list of available talent. Sadler noted the Nashville Predators were believed to have an interest in the winger. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could use more scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Jackets and Devils have the cap space to sign Hoffman to the one-year deal he’s seeking worth between $5.5 million and $6 million. If they are interested in him, however, they’re likely playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price. Once we know when (if?) the season will begin, perhaps he’ll sign with one of them.

Sadler believes teams that fail to sign Hoffman could turn their focus toward winger Mikael Granlund. The annual average value on his previous contract was $5.75 million but he’ll have to accept less than that now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will likely have to accept a lot less given the current economic situation and the decline in his production over the last two seasons. He could be looking at offers of $2.5 million on a one-year deal.

Travis Hamonic’s Manitoba roots, combined with the Jets’ need for blueline depth, makes Winnipeg a potential match. Sadler also suggested the Calgary Flames could use him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are above the salary cap by over $697K but could have the wiggle room to add Hamonic (if they wish) by placing Bryan Little and his $5.29 million cap hit on LTIR. I don’t think we’ll see a reunion between Hamonic and the Flames unless he agrees to a substantial pay cut.

Sadler pointed out winger Anthony Duclair is currently training in Arizona with such notables as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Matt Dumba and Jonathan Toews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might help Duclair’s value if he’s training with some of the league’s top stars. As Sadler points out, he appears determined to be at his best for the coming season.

Noting Ilya Kovalchuk’s brief but successful stint with the Canadiens, Sadler wonders if a return to Montreal is possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship sailed when the Habs acquired Josh Anderson and signed Tyler Toffoli last month.

The Vancouver Canucks could still be searching for a defenseman. Sadler suggested Sami Vatanen as a possible fit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are over the cap by $1.5 million but could get some relief if Micheal Ferland’s post-concussion issues put him on LTIR. His annual average value is $3.5 million, giving the Canucks some room to add Vatanen or another defenseman at an affordable price.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 24, 2020

What’s next for the Bruins after signing Jake DeBrusk? What’s the latest on Matt Dumba’s trade status? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: D.J. Bean praised Bruins general manager Don Sweeney for signing winger Jake DeBrusk to an affordable short-term bridge contract yesterday. The move also leaves Sweeney with “somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.7 million”, enough to bring in a left-side defenseman or another left winger, though they’ll have to shed some salary to address both issues.

With Jake DeBrusk signed, will the Boston Bruins bring back Zdeno Chara? (NHL Images)

Bean suggests there’s enough to bring back Zdeno Chara for next season in perhaps a third-pairing role. However, they’ll have to bid Chara adieu if they decide to sign unrestricted free agent winger Mike Hoffman.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty took note of my recent Bleacher Report piece listing the Bruins fourth among my top-five destinations for Hoffman. I pointed out the Bruins’ limited cap space puts them at a disadvantage with the three teams ahead of them in my ranking.

Haggerty speculates Hoffman could be waiting for the right team to make some cost-cutting moves to free up sufficient cap space to sign him. That could bode well for a club like the Bruins.

In a recent mailbag segment, Haggerty suggests Anthony Duclair as an affordable alternative if they can’t sign Hoffman.

He also said acquiring Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larson wouldn’t be an idiotic decision. He praised Ekman-Larsson’s offensive abilities while suggesting his size wouldn’t make him a defensive zone liability like the smaller former Bruin Torey Krug.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have $2.9 million in cap space. Unless they shed salary they can’t afford to bring back Chara and add a third-line left winger or a second-line right wing.

Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. If he won’t budge from that asking price, the Bruins can’t sign him without making a cost-cutting trade.

Haggerty’s suggestion about Hoffman waiting for the right team to clear some cap space to sign him is a reasonable one, but I don’t think that helps the Bruins. I don’t see who they can move that would free up sufficient cap room without weakening the roster elsewhere.

The same goes for acquiring Ekman-Larsson. While he could agree to waive his no-movement clause before next year’s trade deadline if the Coyotes approached him again about going to Boston, I don’t see how the Bruins could free up sufficient room to take on his $8.25 million cap hit. They’ll want the Coyotes to pick up a healthy chunk but I don’t see them agreeing to that. The only reason they explored trading Ekman-Larsson was to get his full cap hit off their books.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin reiterated he’s not shopping Matt Dumba. The 26-year-old defenseman was the subject of trade speculation in recent months, but Guerin said he’s prepared to start the season with Dumba, praising his energy and competitiveness.

There was talk Dumba could be available after the Wild signed Jonas Brodin to a seven-year contract extension. The club might not be able to protect Dumba in next year’s expansion draft with Brodin, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon under contract for five more seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brodin, Suter and Spurgeon all have full no-movement clauses meaning they must be protected by the Wild in the expansion draft unless they consent to waive those clauses. Dumba lacks that protection. Guerin could decide to protect those four defensemen but it would mean leaving an extra forward exposed.

Guerin saying he’s happy to start the season with Dumba doesn’t full slam the door on the speculation over the blueliner’s future in Minnesota. Assuming there’s a 2020-21 season, don’t be surprised if he resurfaces in the rumor mill if the Wild are struggling before next year’s trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

A look at some predicted destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently predicted destinations for the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

Would Mike Hoffman be a good fit with the Los Angeles Kings? (NHL Images)

Wegman last month predicted the Los Angeles Kings as a destination for winger Mike Hoffman, considering him a good fit alongside Anze Kopitar on their top line. He suggested a four-year deal worth $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: With Cap Friendly indicating the Kings have $13.6 million in cap space, they can easily afford Hoffman. However, I doubt general manager Rob Blake would bring a 30-year-old winger to a rebuilding roster on a multi-year deal.

Hoffman is reportedly willing to consider a one-year deal for between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. Maybe Blake would be interested in a one-year contract if he can get Hoffman at a lower rate and then flip him for futures at the trade deadline.

Wegman also suggested Anthony Duclair for the Kings. While his defensive game leaves something to be desire, his abilities could prove useful in offensive-zone starts and on the power play for a club that struggled to score last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 25-year-old Duclair could be a better fit with the younger Kings and much more affordable than Hoffman. His defensive play and streaky scoring, however, are areas of concern here.

Erik Haula could address the San Jose Sharks’ lack of bottom-six depth at center. He wouldn’t be overly expensive for the Sharks, who have $2.3 million in cap space. While injuries hampered him over the last two seasons, he tallied 29 goals and 26 assists in his last full campaign in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula could be a good, affordable short-term investment as a third-line center in San Jose. Given his injury history and age (29), the Sharks probably wouldn’t invest beyond one year.

The Florida Panthers could use an experienced winger like Mikael Granlund to provide much-needed secondary scoring. He’s coming off a down performance last season with the Nashville Predators but averaged 63 points per campaign in the three previous seasons. He’d be guaranteed second-line minutes with the Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Panthers could be trying to bring back Hoffman. Nevertheless, Granlund’s low production last season and the current economic situation would work in their favor here. A one-year deal for between $3.5 – $4 million might get it done.

Wegman suggests Andreas Athanasiou as a middle-six forward option for the Nashville Predators. The speedy 26-year-old winger didn’t play well last season with Detroit and Edmonton but he tallied 30 goals with the Red Wings in 2018-19.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think the Predators are playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping to land him for a lower price. If that’s not possible, maybe they’ll take a chance on Athanasiou or Duclair on a low-cost one-year contract.

Manitoba native Travis Hamonic could be a perfect fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The 30-year-old defenseman would play close to home and help improve the Jets’ porous blueline. While they’re listed as not having any cap space, they could get some wiggle room by placing center Bryan Little ($5.29 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic and the Jets could be waiting to see how things shake out with Little before reaching an agreement. Then again, maybe the Jets have no interest in him.

Wegman suggests Sami Vatanen could be the best veteran free-agent defense option available to the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn’t bring in a suitable replacement for recently retired Matt Niskanen. The 29-year-old Vatanen has played 21 minutes per game in recent years and would give the Flyers a third right-handed shot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could surprise us, but I get the impression Erik Gustafsson will be his only UFA signing this year.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

The latest Bruins speculation plus some free-agent options available to the Blue Jackets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DJ Bean examined what’s left for the Bruins to do during this offseason. They must sign winger Jake DeBrusk, determine if defenseman Zdeno Chara will return and fill a need for depth among their middle-six forwards.

Will Zdeno Chara return to the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Given the Bruins’ limited salary-cap space ($7.35 million per PuckPedia) and DeBrusk’s streaky scoring, Bean believes the 22-year-old restricted free agent should receive a short-term deal worth somewhere in the range of $4 million annually.

Nothing much has happened with Chara, but if the unrestricted free agent wanted to leave, Bean thinks he would’ve done so by now. He feels the Bruins could use him as a third-pairing, left-side defenseman.

Bean believes the Bruins need additional left-wing depth. Possible options could include Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Erik Haula or Andreas Athanasiou. He doubts they have sufficient cap space for Hoffman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Bruins intend to sign DeBrusk on that short-term deal suggested by Bean. It’ll likely happen by the time training camp opens, which could be around mid-December if the NHL begins its 2020-21 schedule on Jan. 1.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the schedule forward for ’20-’21 looks like before deciding if he’ll return for another season. I concur with Bean that if the 43-year-old rearguard was signing with another club he would’ve done so by now, though we can’t rule out the possibility he’d get a better offer elsewhere. Nevertheless, I believe his preference is playing for the Bruins.

The Bruins could go the free-agent route to address their need for another left winger. Unless they make a cost-cutting trade, however, they can’t afford Hoffman. They might have to go into the bargain bin.

They could also go the trade route to address that need. Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty reports prospect defenseman Urho Vaakanainen could be a trade candidate.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger examined the free-agent options available to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen if he wants to bring in additional depth.

The Jackets could use a short-term replacement for Gustav Nyquist, who’s sidelined for five months recovering from shoulder surgery. Options include Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and former Blue Jackets Derick Brassard and Anthony Duclair. However, Hedger believes Kekalainen could instead look at promoting a promising young player.

Hedger feels the Jackets’ blueline depth took a bit of a hit when Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara were traded in cost-cutting deals. He suggests Sami Vatanen would be a good fit on the right side of the third pairing.

Kekalainen might need an experienced goalie if he decides to trade Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo for additional cap space. Options could include Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets popgun offense was a concern before Nyquist was sidelined. Kekalainen could go the UFA route or promote from within, but I’ve also read reports suggesting he could instead target a cap-strapped rival in the trade market.

Kekalainen could look to within his system to address his need on the third pairing but I wouldn’t rule out making an affordable short-term free-agent signing. Vatanen might be the best option but might not be cost-effective.

If Kekalainen trades Merzlikins or Korpisalo I believe he’ll promote Matiss Kivlenieks rather than add an aging UFA netminder.