New Jersey Devils defenseman Ryan Graves (NHL Images)
Portzline suggested the Boston Bruins’ Dmitry Orlov, New Jersey Devils’ Ryan Graves, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brian Dumoulin or Dmitri Kulikov, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ian Cole or even perhaps Gavrikov as potential free-agent targets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Portzline listed his pros and cons of each defenseman. In my opinion, Orlov or Graves would be the best options. Gavrikov, too, if he doesn’t find any lucrative offers via free agency. Cole, Dumoulin and Kulikov are aging with the latter two hampered by injuries in recent years.
On Sept. 10, the Kings signed Anderson, 23, to an eight-year contract with an average annual cap hit of $4.125 million. A month later, the Sabres inked the 23-year-old Samuelsson to a seven-year deal with an AAV of $4.285 million.
Maxwell believes these two are examples of how defensive blueliners have evolved over the past decade into better all-around rearguards. He noted that teams often failed to recognize the value of such defensemen until later in their careers.
There is risk involved for the Sabres and Kings investing in Samuelsson and Anderson based on their limited NHL careers thus far. However, they’re confident in their evaluations of both players that they’re willing to invest long-term in them on affordable contracts during their playing prime.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granted, this isn’t a trade or free-agent rumor but I think Maxwell’s on to something here. Eyebrows were raised briefly when Anderson and Samuelsson signed those contracts but they’ve since been forgotten as the focus shifted to other free-agent stories over the course of the season.
There is always a risk involved for a team to invest long-term dollars in any promising player who hasn’t yet reached their projected potential. If it works, however, the Sabres and Kings will each have a very good defensive blueliner on a cost-effective contract until they reach their early-30s.
Other general managers could attempt similar moves with comparable defensemen during this summer. It could be worth following York’s contract negotiations with the Flyers to see if they do the same thing.
Could the Senators attempt to bring back Erik Karlsson or are there better trade options for them with the Canadiens or Penguins? Should the Leafs target Karlsson or are there better alternatives to address their defense? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
COULD THE SENATORS TRY TO REACQUIRE ERIK KARLSSON?
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculating the Sharks may have had conversations with the Ottawa Senators regarding Erik Karlsson. In 2018, the Senators traded Karlsson to the Sharks, who signed him to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $11.5 million.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).
Karlsson has never lost his affection for the city of Ottawa and he and his family still maintain a home there. With the 32-year-old defenseman enjoying the best start of his career, Sharks general manager Mike Grier earlier this week indicated he was willing to entertain offers for the blueliner.
Peng points out that trading Karlsson will be difficult given how few teams can afford his contract, which also contains a full no-movement clause. He also noted that Friedman doubted the Senators could afford to do so even if the Sharks agreed to retain 50 percent of Karlsson’s cap hit. That’s because they still want to re-sign winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Artem Zub.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grier’s comments combined with Senators GM Pierre Dorion telling reporters he’s still actively shopping for a defenseman prompted some folks to suggest a reunion with Karlsson. If the Sens had more long-term cap space perhaps there would be a possibility, assuming that Karlsson would waive his NMC to return to Ottawa.
The Senators have $21.7 million of cap space for 2023-24 if the cap only rises by $1 million as originally projected with just 10 players under contract. DeBrincat, Zub and Shane Pinto will eat up a big chunk of that cap room as well as pending UFA goaltender Cam Talbot if they attempt to re-sign him. If not, replacing Talbot could also prove to be expensive.
There is also the question of the Sharks’ asking price. They’re not going to just give Karlsson away, especially if they have to retain a portion of his cap hit to facilitate a trade. They’ll want a decent return, perhaps in the form of a package containing a first-round pick, a high-end prospect and a promising young player like Pinto or Jake Sanderson. And if it becomes a three-team trade to spread the cap hit around, that third team will also want a sweetener.
ARE THERE OTHER BLUELINE TRADE OPTIONS FOR THE SENATORS?
TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean wondered why the Senators didn’t attempt to sign David Savard in 2021 when he became an unrestricted free agent. He felt the 32-year-old rearguard would’ve been a perfect complement for Thomas Chabot.
Savard is currently signed with the Montreal Canadiens through 2024-25 with an AAV of $3.5 million. Jean wondered if Dorion might put in a call to Habs GM Kent Hughes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, I suppose, but I don’t see that call taking place. If Dorion wasn’t interested in Savard in 2021, he’s probably not interested now.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently wondered if the Penguins and Senators could become trade partners. In addition to needing defensemen, the Senators could use some help at center with Josh Norris sidelined until at least January with a shoulder injury.
Kingerski suggested Brian Dumoulin and Jeff Carter as short-term options for the Senators since both are slated to become UFAs next summer. Other options could include center Teddy Blueger and defensemen such as Mark Friedman or Ty Smith.
In return, Kingerski suggested the Senators part with Alex Formenton. The Sens have until Dec. 1 to sign the RFA winger or he’ll become ineligible to play in the NHL this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators could be on Dumoulin’s 10-team no-trade list and I don’t see Carter agreeing to waive his no-movement clause to go to Ottawa. If Dorion were interested in the Penguins’ defensemen I believe he’d prefer Marcus Pettersson or Pierre-Olivier Joseph than Friedman or Smith.
LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION
TORONTO STAR: Nick Kypreos proposed a way for the Maple Leafs to acquire Erik Karlsson. “Could the Leafs get the Sharks to take (Jake) Muzzin’s contract back, retain salary, and build a deal around top prospect Matthews Knies?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why would the Sharks want Muzzin’s contract? He’s earning a $5.6 million AAV through 2024-25 with a full no-trade clause this season. They could agree to that if the Leafs are taking Karlsson’s full cap hit through 2026-27 off their books, assuming Muzzin agrees to be shipped to the Sharks.
I’m assuming the “retain salary” bit refers to the Sharks’ absorbing part of Karlsson’s $11.5 million AAV. However, if they’re taking on Muzzin’s contract, why would they retain any part of Karlsson’s cap hit? Sorry, I don’t see that happening.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli lists six trade options for the Leafs to replace Muzzin by using his placement on long-term injured reserve to acquire a defenseman.
The Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg tops Seravalli’s list, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Vladislav Gavrikov and the Los Angeles Kings’ Matt Roy. The Seattle Kraken’s Carson Soucy and the Washington Capitals’ Nick Jensen or Dmitry Orlov round out the list. He also suggested keeping an eye on the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those defensemen likely won’t be available until close to the March 3 trade deadline.
Klingberg isn’t a shutdown blueliner like Muzzin so I don’t see him as a good fit for the Leafs. Gavrikov could be a better option but I think the Jackets intend to re-sign him.
Seravalli points out the Kings have a surplus of defensemen and Roy has another year on his contract. However, they could be reluctant to part with him given his adaptability and ability to play big minutes. Seravalli also admitted Soucy might not be available yet given the Kraken have exceeded expectations thus far this season. I agree that he could be an intriguing option if the Kraken are out of playoff contention by March and looking to sell.
The Capitals could go into sell mode if they’re out of a playoff berth before the March trade deadline. However, I see them improving as their injury-ravaged roster gets healthier, which could put Jensen or Orlov out of reach. As for Dumba, his status could depend on where the Wild are in the standings as March approaches.
Pierre-Luc Dubois addresses the recent offseason speculation swirling around him plus a look at the Penguins blue line in today’s NHL rumor mill.
DUBOIS ADDRESSES OFFSEASON SPECULATION
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck reports Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois spoke to reporters yesterday via Zoom conference call to address recent rumors claiming he wanted out of Winnipeg.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
“If I wanted out I would have asked for a trade,” said Dubois. “I didn’t ask for a trade. Not for one second. It didn’t cross my mind for one second to ask for a trade.”
Dubois also explained the reason why he attended the first round of the 2022 Draft in Montreal earlier this month. Rumor had it he was there in anticipation of a trade to the Canadiens. Dubois said he only lives 15 minutes away from the Bell Centre and was there at the invitation of his bank to a reception they were holding at one of the arena’s suites.
Regarding comments his agent, Pat Brisson, made about Dubois one day hoping to play for the Canadiens, he felt those remarks were blown out of proportion and taken out of context. “I just thought it was overblown, the reaction, and I think some people just ran with the two seconds that they liked or didn’t want to hear.”
As for his decision to accept the Jets’ one-year qualifying offer, Dubois said his next NHL contract could be his last before he retires. He wants to take his time to consider all factors before signing a long-term deal.
Dubois understands his non-committal answers about his future won’t quell the speculation. He knows he’ll face the same questions next summer when he’s once again a restricted free agent. Nevertheless, he intends to face them at that time and put his current focus on the Jets’ upcoming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers remain skeptical about Dubois’ comments, suggesting that he’s in damage-control mode trying to downplay his agent’s remarks about skating for the Canadiens one day.
The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan points out that Dubois’ RFA status next summer and UFA eligibility in 2024 won’t stop the speculation linking him to the Habs. He observed the club is pressed for cap space this summer. However, they could have room next summer if general manager Kent Hughes is interested in pursuing Dubois. He could also attempt to sign Calgary Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau if he tests the UFA market next summer.
Nevertheless, DeFabo speculates on how Hextall could address the issue. Much will depend on how young blueliners like Smith and Pierre-Olivier Joseph perform in the upcoming season. One of them could get traded at some point in the season.
Other options include moving Marcus Pettersson in a cost-cutting move, shopping Brian Dumoulin before his contract expires at the end of the coming season, or giving a depth blueliner such as Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Friedman a chance with another team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall might not be done tinkering with his defense corps. However, his recent acquisition of Petry and Smith could be the only moves he makes with his blueline for the offseason. He could wait until training camp or preseason or perhaps into the early weeks of the coming season to evaluate his defensemen before deciding if other moves are required.
John Klingberg’s hope to re-sign with the Stars plus some recent Penguins speculation in today’s NHL rumor roundup.
WILL KLINGBERG & THE STARS REACH AN AGREEMENT ON AN EXTENSION?
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks reported John Klingberg and Stars general manager Jim Nill have left the door open for his return with the club. The 29-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg (NHL Images).
On Tuesday, Klingberg said he’s always wanted to stay in Dallas and his side is trying to come up with ways to get it done. Nill said both sides know where they sit and he intends to remain in touch.
DeFranks observed both sides have been at an impasse this season, prompting Klingberg to publicly express his frustration in January and sparking trade speculation. The Stars are burdened by expensive, long-term contracts for aging stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. They don’t want to get locked into another deal with a long term and a high cap hit. Klingberg, however, seeks the security of a long-term deal.
Last November, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reported Klingberg was believed to be seeking between $7.75 million and $8.5 million. Unless he’s willing to accept a four-year deal worth around $6 million per season, he’ll likely hit the open market on July 13.
The Stars also have other contracts to sort out. Goaltender Jake Oettinger and winger Jason Robertson are due for significant raises coming off their entry-level deals. Winger Denis Gurianov is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. They’ll also need a reliable backup for Oettinger with Braden Holtby and Scott Wedgewood due for UFA status this summer.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
TRIBLIVE.COM: Chris Adamski wondered if the Pittsburgh Penguins will bring back Kaspari Kapanen after he struggled throughout this season. The 25-year-old winger is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights.
Adamski also reportsRickard Rakell would be interested in returning with the Penguins. The 29-year-old winger is due to become a UFA in July. He didn’t wow anyone statistically during his brief period with the Penguins following a late-season trade from the Anaheim Ducks. However, he showed enough to suggest he could be a top-six winger capable of establishing chemistry with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen was a speedy, promising (if inconsistent) winger during his two full seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He showed some potential in 2020-21 with 30 points in 40 games but managed just 32 points in 79 games this season. The Penguins could try to trade him as he doesn’t seem a good fit in head coach Mike Sullivan’s system.
The Penguins’ management could have an interest in bringing back Rakell. However, that’s going to depend upon what he’s seeking on his next contract and what happens with franchise stars Malkin and Kris Letang, who are also eligible for UFA status this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zucker, Pettersson and Matheson have frequently surfaced in the Penguins’ rumor mill as cost-cutting candidates. Zucker’s injury history and $5.5 million cap hit will make him tough to move. Pettersson’s inconsistent play and $4.025 million cap hit are also problematic. Matheson’s play improved this season but the four years at $4.875 million per season could be a sticking point.
Injuries have also become an issue for Dumoulin. Marino was seen as a promising top-four defenseman but his stock seemed to tumble this season. Blueger and McGinn each earn less than $3 million.
The Avalanche take a 2-0 series lead over the Predators while the Panthers, Rangers and Stars even their respective series at a game apiece. Check out the details and other news in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Cale Makar lifted the Colorado Avalanche over the Nashville Predators 2-1 to give them a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series. Nathan MacKinnon opened the scoring for the Avalanche while Yakov Trenin replied for Nashville. Predators goalie Connor Ingram made 49 saves.
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If not for Ingram this could’ve been another blowout loss for the Predators. They must get their offense going as the series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 or risk getting swept by the powerful Avalanche.
The Florida Panthers evened their first-round series with the Washington Capitals at a game apiece with a 5-1 victory. They got three unanswered second-period goals by Mason Marchment, Anton Lundell and Carter Verhaeghe while Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves for the win. Capitals netminder Vitek Vanecek got the hook after giving up five goals on 19 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The suffocating defense that worked so well for the Capitals in Game 1 vanished in this contest. They also missed rugged winger Tom Wilson as he was sidelined by a lower-body injury. All five Panthers’ goals came at even strength. This series shifts to Washington for the next two games.
New York Rangers forwards Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and two assists to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2, squaring their opening-round series at one game apiece. Igor Shesterkin kicked out 39 shots for the win. Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist for the Penguins as this series heads to Pittsburgh for the next two contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins need more from their secondary scorers. Almost all their goals in this series have come from the Crosby line. Meanwhile, Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin missed Game 2 with a lower-body injury. Rangers winger Barclay Goodrow and defenseman Ryan Lindgren were also sidelined by injuries. Goodrow (lower body) is listed as week-to-week.
The Dallas Stars got a 29-save shutout from Jake Oettinger to blank the Calgary Flames 2-0, tying their first-round series 1-1. Joe Pavelski and Michael Raffl were the goal scorers. Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Stars thanks to young Oettinger’s goaltending. He’s tied with Markstrom for the best goals-against average (0.50) thus far among postseason netminders.
TSN: Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was fined $5,000.00 for slashing Carolina Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov in Game 2 of the first-round series on Wednesday. Marchand’s teammate Derek Forbort also received a $5,000.00 fine for high-sticking Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Bruins, defenseman Hampus Lindholm has been ruled out of Game 3 on Friday. The club also confirmed Jeremy Swayman will get the start in that game.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Speaking of the Hurricanes, goaltender Antti Raanta skated with his teammates today but his status for Game 3 is uncertain. He left Game 2 after being shaken up in a collision with Bruins winger David Pastrnak.
THE SCORE: Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour believes the Bruins are deliberately targeting his goaltenders. “It can’t get any more obvious,” he told reporters following Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL headquarters could issue a warning to both clubs about running goalies. Brind’Amour could also get a call about his comments.
NHL.COM: Center Shane Wright of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs is the No. 1 prospect among North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of this year’s top prospects. Left winger Jural Slafkovsky of TPS in Finland is the top European skater.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils confirmed Lindy Ruff will return next season as head coach. The announcement comes a day after they announced they were parting ways with assistant coaches Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine.
PHILLY.COM: The Flyers have added Sami Kapanen and Kyle Shero to their scouting department.
The Canucks beat the Senators, the Predators edge the Blackhawks, Jim Rutherford steps down as Penguins GM, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-1 thanks to a 42-save performance by goaltender Thatcher Demko. J.T. Miller and Tyler Motte each scored twice as the Canucks broke a 1-1 tie with a three-goal outburst in the second period. The Senators also lost defenseman Christian Wolanin to a lower-body injury.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were outshot 23-7 in the first period. The outcome of this game would’ve been very different if not for Demko.
Matt Duchene scored the deciding goal in a shootout as the Nashville Predators nipped the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1. Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen kicked out 41 shots. Earlier in the day, Lucas Wallmark became the third Hawks player added to their COVID-19 list this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawk are without Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist yet they’ve managed to pick up at least one point in their last five games. Lankinen’s been a major factor in that streak, going 2-0-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jim Rutherford stunned the hockey world yesterday by announcing he was stepping down as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Assistant GM Patrik Allvin has taken over from Rutherford on an interim basis as the club begins its search for a permanent replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under Rutherford, the Penguins became the first team to win consecutive Stanley Cups (2016 and 2017) since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. A savvy wheeler-dealer, he was never afraid to make bold moves to bolster his roster as he saw fit.
Rutherford and the Penguins denied his decision was health-related or that he was retiring from the game. Nevertheless, some pundits found the timing of this move surprising and curious. It comes just seven games into this season when he has just months remaining on his contract, sparking some speculation perhaps it was less amicable than we’re being led to believe.
Shortly before Rutherford’s announcement, the Penguins revealed they signed free-agent defenseman Yannick Weber to a one-year, $700K contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A rash of injuries has walloped the Penguins defense corps, with Brian Dumoulin the latest to be sidelined. That made them the subject of recent trade chatter. The Weber signing is an inexpensive short-term move to add some veteran depth.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Golden Knights placed defenseman Brayden McNabb on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks yesterday announced they’ll be returning to SAP Center in San Jose on Feb. 13 for their scheduled home game against the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks have been playing home games in Arizona this season because of restrictions against team sports in Santa Clara County. That restriction was recently amended after the state of California lifted its’ stay-at-home order.
The Sharks also pulled off a rare three-team trade yesterday. They shipped defenseman Trevor Carrick to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Jack Kopacka, then sent Kopacka and a seventh-round pick in 2022 to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Christian Jaros.
THE SCORE: cites a report in Sports Business Journal indicating the NHL has borrowed $1 billion US to divide among its 31 teams to address revenue shortfalls occurring from COVID-19 restrictions.