That frustration drove Jakob Chychrun to request a trade, prompting Morgan to ponder if others such as Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse might do the same if the club “follows the same lather, rinse and repeat formula for the next two seasons”.
If the Coyotes stick to that program, Morgan wondered why they would keep a player such as Nick Schmaltz around. The 27-year-old forward won’t be in his prime when the rebuild is over, his trade value has never been higher and his salary significantly increases over the next three seasons.
Morgan mused over whether the Coyotes could get more assets by peddling Schmaltz and 26-year-old goaltender Karel Vejmelka. He also wondered if doing so would upset their other core players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be up to Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong and head coach Andre Tourigny to sell their younger stars like Keller on their program and keep them motivated to be part of it. If those guys lose faith over the next couple of years they could follow Chychrun’s example and ask to be traded.
Schmaltz and Vejmelka are in a different situation given their ages and where they could fit within their rebuild. That would explain why their names surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to the March 3 trade deadline. Armstrong could shop one or both this summer but, as Morgan observed, it comes with the risk of upsetting those younger core players.
I think it’s more likely Schmaltz and Vejmelka get traded than Keller and Crouse. That doesn’t mean that I believe Armstrong is going to trade those two older players this summer. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if they pop up in the trade speculation leading up to the NHL Draft on June 28-29.
HOW WILL THE RED WINGS ADDRESS ITS IMBALANCE BLUELINE?
THE ATHLETIC: Max Bultman wondered how the Detroit Red Wings intend to address their imbalanced blueline. Most of their defense prospects are left-handed shots. He anticipates general manager Steve Yzerman will make one or two additions to the right side of their defense corps.
Free agent options could include the New Jersey Devils’ Damon Severson, the New York Islanders’ Scott Mayfield, Boston Bruins’ Connor Clifton or the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba.
A look at some of this summer’s notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined where things stand with this summer’s top notable NHL unrestricted free agents. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting ones:
Patrick Kane, New York Rangers: He’ll have to take a significant pay cut if he wants to remain with the Rangers beyond this season. New York general manager Chris Drury would also have to make some hard decisions regarding restricted free agents such as K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with $16.8 million in cap space with 13 roster players under contract for 2023-24. In addition to re-signing those key RFAs, the Blueshirts must re-sign or replace backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak. I don’t see Kane on Broadway beyond this season unless Drury parts ways with Chytil and Lafreniere or makes a significant cost-cutting trade elsewhere.
Ryan O’Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs: O’Reilly may be the most coveted center in this summer’s UFA market. He’s quickly fit in with the Maple Leafs but his former club, the St. Louis Blues, hasn’t ruled out bringing him back this summer.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images)
Fox speculates O’Reilly could point to Nazem Kadri’s $7 million average annual value with the Calgary Flames as a comparable. He wondered if the 32-year-old center would take a little less to stay in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly earned $7.5 million annually on his current contract. The Leafs have $9 million in cap space for next season with 14 roster players under contract but they could get another $5.6 million in wiggle room if Jake Muzzin remains on long-term injury reserve.
That might leave enough to re-sign O’Reilly if he’s willing to accept $5 million annually. However, he might not get that opportunity if the Leafs make another first-round playoff exit.
Vladimir Tarasenko, New York Rangers: Given the Rangers’ cap limitations and the RFAs to be re-signed, Fox believes Tarasenko will be hitting the open market on July 1. He anticipates the 31-year-old winger will be among this summer’s most-pursued UFAs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument here.
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: Dumba understands that his tenure with the cap-strapped Minnesota Wild is coming to an end. He was frequently subject to trade rumors with Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa kicking tires. However, Wild GM Bill Guerin refused to move Dumba unless he got a comparable return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba is completing a five-year, $30 million contract. The decline in his performance will affect his free-agent value. He’ll land with another NHL team but I’ll be surprised if he gets a similar contract this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on Bertuzzi’s performance with the Bruins in his first-ever NHL postseason and if the oft-injured winger remains healthy.
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins: The oft-injured goaltender’s future with the Penguins could depend on his performance in the playoffs. He’s never won an NHL postseason series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another first-round exit and Jarry could be heading to the UFA market on July 1 regardless of whether he wants to remain a Penguin.
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs: Fox wondered if the Leafs acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly would make re-signing Bunting less of a priority. He also noted that Leafs GM Kyle Dubas would want to see playoff improvement from his free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas might not be in any position to decide Bunting’s future or those of the Leafs’ other free agents if they fail to at least get past the opening round of the 2023 playoffs.
TRADE SPECULATION CONTINUES TO DOG KARLSSON AND MEIER
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Max Miller cites TSN’s Pierre LeBrun suggesting Erik Karlsson might not be a member of the Sharks by next season. Appearing on the Got Yer Back podcast, LeBrun felt if the 32-year-old defenseman gets traded it’ll be in June when teams have more salary cap flexibility.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).
Miller also noted LeBrun recently interviewed Karlsson, who carries an $11.5 million salary cap hit through 2026-27 with a full no-movement clause. The blueliner said he and his family are happy in San Jose but he still wants to play for a winner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun’s not the only pundit who thinks a Karlsson trade won’t happen until the offseason. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen said the same thing during a recent mailbag segment. I’ve also said that a summer deal seems more likely than an in-season one because of his hefty cap hit and his no-movement clause.
Meanwhile, Sheng Peng cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying the Sharks could let teams talk to Timo Meier’s agent about a contract extension if they get a trade proposal they like. Friedman believes the 26-year-old winger could be moved by the March 3 trade deadline, citing the aggressiveness of Sharks management and their willingness to do business.
Meier is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. He’ll be a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility and will cost the Sharks $10 million to qualify his rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A trade proposal they like is something that will help them immediately as well as in the long term. A good young NHL player and a high-end prospect likely have to be part of the offer for Meier.
The Sharks could move Meier by the trade deadline but they aren’t under pressure to do so. They can afford to wait until the summer if they don’t get any offers they like by March 3.
POTENTIAL SUITORS FOR HORVAT
SPORTSNET: During Friday’s “32 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman said he believed interest in Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat intensified this week. He also indicated that the Canucks haven’t given interested clubs permission to speak with Horvat’s agent about a new contract. The 27-year-old center is eligible for UFA status on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Horvat carries a reasonable $5.5 million cap hit. Nevertheless, clubs like the Bruins, Devils and Lightning could find it difficult to acquire him because of their limited cap space. The Hurricanes could be interested now that Max Pacioretty is done for the season, giving them $7 million of LTIR cap space if needed to make an addition or two at the trade deadline.
UPDATE ON DUMBA
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports the Minnesota Wild’s decision to scratch Matt Dumba for the second straight game is sparking speculation that a trade could be in the works, among other theories. However, the club insists they’re not working on moving the 28-year-old defenseman.
Smith writes the decision to scratch Dumba remains performance-based. He also indicates that there’s no guarantee the blueliner will be moved by the March 3 trade deadline, claiming there hasn’t been a lot of interest. Most teams are capped out, Dumba has struggled at times this season and there are other notable blueliners in this season’s trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Senators reportedly scouted Dumba earlier this month. However, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch believes the blueliner’s recent scratch from the lineup isn’t a good sign. He also noted that Senators general manager Pierre Dorion took in the recent game between the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars, pointing out the Kings could be willing to move one of their right-shot defensemen.
LATEST ON THE RED WINGS AND PANTHERS
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen looked at which Red Wings could be on the move if GM Steve Yzerman becomes a seller at the trade deadline. Tyler Bertuzzi seems the most likely trade candidate if the pending UFA isn’t signed by March 3. However, Allen doesn’t expect center Dylan Larkin to be moved even if he remains unsigned by the deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Larkin’s contract talks break down completely I’ll be surprised if the Wings trade their captain. I believe there remains a genuine desire on both sides to hammer out an agreement before July 1.
As for the rest, they won’t all be traded. Nevertheless, I can see Bertuzzi and Nedeljkovic getting shopped.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito still believes his struggling club has a shot at reaching the playoffs. At the moment, the Panthers are in no man’s land as they’re neither buyers nor sellers at this point. The next six weeks will determine which direction they go.
The Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon and the Penguins’ Jake Guentzel reach scoring milestones, Canucks fans voice support for embattled coach Bruce Boudreau and Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty is sidelined again. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche picked up their fourth straight win by downing the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Nathan MacKinnon collected two assists and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche (24-17-3), who moved ahead of the Calgary Flames into the final Western Conference wild-card berth. Both clubs have 51 points but the Avs hold three more wins and two games in hand over the Flames. Elias Pettersson replied for the Canucks (18-24-3), who’ve now lost six of their last seven contests.
Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacKinnon reached the 50-point mark for the eighth consecutive season.
Meanwhile, Vancouver fans supported embattled Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau by serenading him with cries of “Bruce, there it is!” Another fan unfurled a sign that read, “We Stand With Bruce”.
There’s been intensifying rumors over the last two weeks suggesting Boudreau could be replaced by TNT hockey analyst and former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet. The Canucks’ front office (specifically, president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin) has the power to make coaching changes if they wish.
Boudreau was already in the job when they took over and he isn’t the guy they want behind the bench. The problem, however, is they’re just letting him twist in the wind.
Everyone knows, Boudreau included, that he’s going to be replaced by Tocchet. If they don’t want him, they should’ve replaced him with an interim coach until they brought in his permanent replacement.
Their shabby treatment of Boudreau reflects poorly on the franchise and deepens the frustration among their fans over the club’s direction under team owner Francesco Aquilini.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel scored two goals and collected an assist in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Tristan Jarry made 44 saves in his first start for the Penguins since Jan. 2 following an injury as the Penguins (23-15-7, 53 points) hold a two-point lead over the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Brady Tkachuk replied for the Senators, who dropped to 20-22-3 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guentzel reached the 20-goal, 40-point plateau for the sixth straight season. Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry also returned to action for the first time since Dec. 10. Meanwhile, winger Kasperi Kapanen missed this game with a lower-body injury and is listed as week-to-week.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Bad news for Carolina Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty as an MRI revealed he tore his right Achilles tendon for the second time since August. The 33-year-old winger made his season debut on Jan. 5 and appeared in five games with the Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This injury not only ends Pacioretty’s season but could potentially derail his career. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Hurricanes could pursue a potential replacement before the March 3 trade deadline.
TSN: The Minnesota Wild will scratch defenseman Matt Dumba for Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers. He was also scratched from Thursday’s contest with the Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba’s been the subject of growing trade speculation. I’ll have more later today in my NHL Rumor Mill update.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Oft-injured Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi suffered a lower-body injury during their 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. He’s not expected to be out of the lineup for long.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson was fined $5,000.00 for interference on Florida Panthers center Eric Staal during their game on Thursday.
Speaking of the Canadiens, former Hab P.K. Subban helped raise $6.3 million for Montreal’s Children’s Hospital. The original goal was to raise $10 million by 2022 but fundraising was slowed by the pandemic. Subban said he’ll extend the pledge to 2025 to reach the $10 million goal and he hopes to continue his partnership with the hospital for the long term.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers have assigned goaltender Spencer Knight to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte for a conditioning stint.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Kraken will take to the ice for their warmups before Saturday’s game against the Avalanche wearing jerseys to honor the Year of the Rabbit.
DEFECTOR: Vox Media yesterday announced layoffs that will shut down all but six of their SB Nation NHL websites as well as most of their MLS websites. 130 employees will be affected.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will affect a number of sites such as Blueshirt Banter, Broad Street Hockey, Copper and Blue, Davy Jones Locker Room, Die By The Blade, Five for Howling, Hockey Wilderness, Japers Rink, Knights on Ice, Nucks Misconduct, On The Forecheck, Pension Plan Puppets, Raw Charge, Second City Hockey, The Cannon and Winging It in Motown.
Many of those sites began as blogs between 15 and 20 years ago. I followed most of them for years and got to know some of the good folks who wrote for them, showcasing their work for several years with my Hockey Blog Beat.
Those blogs/websites provided an invaluable hockey community for fans and aspiring writers to share their views on their favorite teams and on the NHL in general. I know how painful it is to be laid off so I really feel for those who worked so hard to contribute to and maintain those sites. It’s such a shame to see them cast aside like this. Here’s hoping those sites can live on in some form.
Are the Rangers pursuing Timo Meier or Vladislav Gavrikov? What’s going on with Matt Dumba and Jake Muzzin? Are the Canucks close to replacing coach Bruce Boudreau? What’s the latest on the Predators? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ARE THE RANGERS EYEING MEIER OR GAVRIKOV?
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple cited Daily Faceoff reporting the New York Rangers have taken a long look at Timo Meier. The San Jose Sharks winger is a restricted free agent in July who is due a $10 million qualifying offer and seems likely to be moved before the March 3 trade deadline.
San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier (NHL Images)
According to Staple, the Sharks would want a young center as part of the package along with one of the two first-round picks the Rangers hold in this year’s draft. However, he pointed out the Blueshirts have a lot of roster holes to fill and limited cap space to do so beyond this season. Meier could get at least $8.5 million annually on his next contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s going to be an expensive acquisition for pretty much every playoff contender this season in terms of return and contract beyond this season. A club could acquire him as a rental player and then shop his rights in the offseason. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if a Meier trade occurs in the offseason.
UPDATE ON DUMBA
TSN: Darren Dreger took note of the Minnesota Wild scratching Matt Dumba from Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricane. He pointed out the 28-year-old defenseman hasn’t played well of late and believes head coach Dean Evason is trying to send a message. Despite Dumba’s recent play, Dreger said Dumba continues to draw interest in the trade market but he has to get his game back on track.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild general manager Bill Guerin isn’t in any rush to move the struggling Dumba. The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported Guerin’s received trade calls about the blueliner but he’s not about to move him unless he feels the Wild are getting better. Dumba, meanwhile, said Guerin has been upfront with him that he could be moved by the trade deadline.
LATEST CANUCKS SPECULATION
TSN: Chris Johnston reports hockey analyst and former NHL coach Rick Tocchet said he doesn’t have a contract with the Vancouver Canucks. However, Johnston expects that’ll change soon as it sounds like negotiations have started on a deal for Tocchet plus a couple of additions to his coaching staff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I hate how the Canucks are handling this situation. Management is obviously unhappy over Bruce Boudreau’s coaching and they’re entitled to that. However, they’re leaving Boudreau twisting in the wind while it appears they’re very actively courting his replacement. If they don’t want him, they should fire him and install one of the assistant coaches as interim bench boss until his full-time replacement is found.
I don’t fault Tocchet and I believe Boudreau is handling this well despite the circumstances. Nevertheless, this isn’t a good look for the Canucks’ front office. Of course, the case can be made that nobody will care if Tocchet can reverse their fortunes but that doesn’t excuse their shabby treatment of Boudreau.
LEAFS EXPECT CLARITY SOON ON MUZZIN’S STATUS
TSN: Chris Johnston reports it doesn’t sound like there’s been any development on whether sidelined defenseman Jake Muzzin will return to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup this season. They expect to get clarity on his injury status soon as it’ll determine how much longer he’ll remain on long-term injury reserve. If he’s out for the season they could use the cap relief to perhaps acquire someone at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muzzin has been out since Oct. 19 with a cervical spine injury and will be re-evaluated in February. He’s signed through 2023-24 with an average annual value of $5.625 million.
WILL THE PREDATORS MAKE ANY DEADLINE DEAL?
THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina recently speculated over the Nashville Predators’ plans for the March 3 trade deadline. He expects they’ll remain in the playoff race so they’ll either buy or stand pat. “Outside of Mattias Ekholm, who wants no part of moving his family, the Predators don’t have much to offer trade-wise,” writes Skrbina.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm recently surfaced in the rumor mill as a trade candidate. He lacks no-trade protection but he’s also in the first season of a four-year contract with an average annual value of $6.25 million. That salary is almost as effective as a no-trade clause given the high number of cap-strapped teams around the league this season.
The Hurricanes are linked to Bo Horvat and the Bruins to Luke Schenn, more speculation about the Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois joining the Canadiens plus the latest on the Blue Jackets, Wild and Sabres in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
The Canucks are said to be seeking a young center as part of a multi-asset return for Horvat. That’s too steep for Carolina at this point, who won’t part with Martin Necas. LeBrun pointed out that the Hurricanes usually don’t spend high on rental players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes need a reliable second-line center if they hope to win the Stanley Cup this season. They have other options to choose from to address that need if the Canucks’ asking price for Horvat remains high. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, St. Louis’ Ryan O’Reilly, and Montreal’s Sean Monahan could also be available.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss cited LeBrun’s recent column in The Athletic reporting the Bruins have called the Canucks to inquire about Luke Schenn. Like Horvat, the 33-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun suggested the Bruins’ interest in Schenn may be exploratory at this point. He carries an affordable $850K cap hit and has considerable playoff experience as a shutdown blueliner, which would make him enticing for a cap-strapped club like the Bruins.
MORE SPECULATION TYING DUBOIS TO THE CANADIENS
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels wondered if Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois’ next game in Montreal following Tuesday’s game will be with the Canadiens. The 25-year-old center is a restricted free agent this summer. Engels suggests the possibility of him suiting up with the Habs remains a possibility as long as he remains noncommittal about a long-term deal with the Jets.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
The Canadiens attempted to acquire Dubois from Columbus before he was shipped to Winnipeg in 2021. Last summer, his agent created waves when he mentioned that Montreal was a city his client might like to play in one day.
On Monday, Dubois told the Montreal media he was relaunching his takeover of Vincent Lecavalier’s charity to help underprivileged children in Rimouski, where the Jets forward grew up. He indicated that playing for the Canadiens one day wasn’t what he was thinking about when he started this philanthropic effort.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois once again downplayed the notion of joining the Canadiens. Meanwhile, Jets coach Rick Bowness sang his praises and said he’d do all he could to convince the center to stay in Winnipeg.
The Jets hoped to sign Dubois last summer to a long-term deal but he preferred a one-year extension. If he opts for a similar deal this summer, they could put him on the trade block as he’ll be a year away from UFA eligibility. Whether the rebuilding Canadiens would meet the expensive asking price to acquire him from the Jets is another matter.
UPDATE ON THE BLUE JACKETS
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger recently reported that Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen could receive plenty of phone calls leading up to the March 3 trade deadline.
TSN: LeBrun reported the Blue Jackets will seek more than a first-round pick for Vladislav Gavrikov. He pointed out that they got a first- and a third-rounder for David Savard at the 2021 trade deadline. LeBrun also indicated the Blue Jackets still hope to re-sign Gavrikov.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams can ask about Laine but I don’t see the Jackets moving him. Roslovic, however, is another story. He’s had a disappointing performance this season and has a year remaining on his contract with a $4 million cap hit. Perhaps they’d consider shipping him elsewhere for the right offer.
WILL THE WILD BECOME BUYERS AT THE TRADE DEADLINE?
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports the Minnesota Wild’s re-signing Matt Boldy to a seven-year, $49 million contract extension leaves them with just $9 million remaining of their $83 million salary-cap payroll for 2023-24. Goaltender Filip Gustavsson, defenseman Calen Addison and center Sam Steel are among their notable restricted free agents while their noteworthy UFAs include Matt Dumba and Frederick Gaudreau.
According to Smith, Dumba is playing his final season with the Wild. He also suggested winger Jordan Greenway could become a cost-cutting casualty if the club decides to shed some salary to re-sign other players for next season. Smith wondered if Addison might price himself out of Minnesota.
For this season, the Wild have the cap space to make additions at the trade deadline. GM Bill Guerin said how aggressive he’ll be in the trade market will depend on the club’s performance.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports a source informed him that the Penguins have had trade discussions with the Wild. The focus of those talks wasn’t readily available.
Kingerski suggested the Wild could help the Penguins free up some salary-cap room. Given the Pens’ depth in right-side defensemen, he doesn’t see them being interested in Dumba. The Wild could use some help at center plus they need left-side defensemen that can provide mobility and offense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have a projected $16.5 million in trade deadline cap space. I expect Guerin will be a buyer if his club is still in the thick of the playoff race.
With that much cap room heading toward March 3, it will be his best opportunity to add one or two rental players to bolster his club’s Stanley Cup hopes. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to move a depth player under contract for next season to provide himself with some much-needed cap room for 2023-24.
SABRES SHOPPING HINOSTROZA
THE ATHLETIC: Matthew Fairburn reports the Buffalo Sabres have been calling around trying to move winger Vinnie Hinostroza. He’s been scratched in 19 of the last 21 games. The Sabres are hoping to move him and his $1.7 million salary to free up a roster spot.