NHL Offseason Lookahead – St. Louis Blues
The latest on the Leafs, Canucks and Blues in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports the Maple Leafs haven’t been actively shopping goaltender Frederik Andersen, but it behooves general manager Kyle Dubas to listen to offers. A high number of goalies potentially available via the trade and free-agent markets could affect Dubas’ final decision on Andersen. Koshan expects Andersen will still be a Leaf when next season opens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So do I unless Dubas can find a replacement who’s as good or better than Andersen.
Michael Traikos believes the Leafs shouldn’t waste their time pursuing an expensive defenseman such as St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo. Instead, he suggests signing a more affordable physical option like Mark Borowiecki, who’s heading to the free-agent market after several seasons with the Ottawa Senators. While Borowiecki isn’t the right-shot blueliner the Leafs seek, he would add a much-needed element of toughness to their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Dubas can’t find that top-pairing right-side rearguard, he might be forced to consider one or two affordable depth alternatives. Someone like Borowiecki could be among those options depending on how much cap space Dubas can free up.
SPORTSNET: Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen and Vancouver’s Troy Stecher are among Luke Fox’s list of 15 intriguing blueline trade targets for the Leafs.
Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Carolina’s Brett Pesce, Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson, Columbus’ David Savard and Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin are also on Fox’s list. The remainder includes Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Chicago’s Connor Murphy, Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar and Edmonton’s Adam Larsson and Matt Benning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt Ekblad, Dumba, Parayko and Pesce are available. Ristolainen was rumored to be on the trade block a year ago but Sabres coach Ralph Krueger loves his game so he’s probably off the market. Manson’s a possibility but the Ducks will want a good scoring forward (preferably a center) in return. Ditto the Wild with Brodin and the Blue Jackets with Savard.
The Coyotes could try to move Hjalmarsson in a cost-cutting deal provided he waives his no-movement clause. The asking price for Ekholm could also be a scoring forward. Stecher is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and could hit the trade block if the Canucks can’t afford to re-sign him.
Larsson, Benning and Murphy have surfaced in offseason trade chatter. The Panthers could cut some payroll but I think they want to re-sign Weegar.
Rory Boylen, meanwhile, wondered if Dubas might flip his recently-acquired first-round pick (15th overall) to upgrade the defense corps, seek out further salary-slicing deals that would involve moving a mid-level contract like Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million), Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million) and Pierre Engvall ($1.2 million), or explore options for Andersen’s replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I won’t be surprised if Dubas flips that first-rounder in a deal for a top-four defenseman. They want to win right now and already have enough youth on the roster.
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports Tyler Toffoli’s willingness to re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks creates another salary-cap headache for GM Jim Benning. Toffoli, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9, along with goaltender Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Chris Tanev. Toffoli earned an annual average value of $4.6 million on his current contract and his next deal could be worth between $5-$6 million annually.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Tanev also wants to re-sign with the Canucks. Unless the club can free up some salary-cap space, keeping the 30-year-old defenseman won’t be easy. Benning remains hopeful of re-signing the long-time Canucks blueliner. Johnston urges caution, pointing out a decade of wear-and-tear have taken a tool upon Tanev’s performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston points out the Canucks have $15 million in cap space. Unless Benning can shed a salary or two, there won’t be enough room to re-sign Markstrom, Toffoli and Tanev. Even then, Tanev would be the odd man out. The combined cost of re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli could be at least $11 million.
Toffoli won’t lack for suitors if he hits the open market. In a recent mailbag segment, The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz suggests he’d be a good target for the San Jose Sharks.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford reported a source claimed the St. Louis Blues offered Alex Pietrangelo a five-year deal worth close to $7 million than $8 million annually. It’s believed the 30-year-old defenseman isn’t happy with the offers he’s received.
It’s believed Pietrangelo could settle for something between $8-$9 million. Rutherford expects negotiations to continue, but sources say if Pietrangelo’s wife wasn’t from St. Louis and they hadn’t started their family there he might’ve already told the Blues he’s moving on.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Pietrangelo won’t come down from his asking price the Blues must shed more salary to re-sign him or bid him farewell. Plenty of time remains until the free-agent market opens on Oct. 9 to hammer out an agreement.
Rutherford acknowledged the trade chatter about Vince Dunn, but he believes the Blues want to keep him. He’s a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, giving the club control over his contract. Barring a holdout, they could re-sign him for next season between $2.5 – $3 million. Maybe they trade him if they cannot re-sign him beyond 2020-21.
Rutherford also expects the Blues will do everything they can to re-sign winger Jaden Schwartz, but if Pietrangelo re-signs, he could become a cap casualty. He’s got a year left on his contract with an AAV of $5.35 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford also touched on the possibility of the Blues getting $7.5 million in cap relief next season if Vladimir Tarasenko is on long-term injury reserve throughout the season. He’s projected for reevaluation of his surgically-repaired shoulder in December or January, but could be sidelined longer. Right now, there’s no certainty he’ll be out for the entire season.
Check out the latest on the Devils and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Corey Masisak recently examined how next season’s flat salary cap of $81.5 million could benefit the New Jersey Devils. He observed they’ll have over $27 million in cap space and lots of roster holes to fill.
Part of that will be taken up re-signing restricted free agents such as goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, defenseman Mirco Mueller, and forward Jesper Bratt. They could also promote two or three players like Nick Merkley, Janne Kuokkanen, and Ty Smith.
Assuming around $14 million of remaining cap space following re-signings of key players and promotions, general manager Tom Fitzgerald will have sufficient flexibility to bring in some skilled veterans via trades and free agency.
Among his suggested Eastern targets were Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson, and Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Western options could include St. Louis Blues defensemen Vince Dunn, Minnesota Wild blueliner Jonas Brodin, and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In an ordinary year, I’d make the case that a rebuilding club like the Devils might not be a desirable destination for free agents or players with no-trade clauses. However, it could be a different story under the new economic landscape.
Players that otherwise wouldn’t be available via trade could become expendable for teams trying to shed salary, while free agents seeking lucrative contracts could find the Devils more appealing. Perhaps one or two of those on Masisak’s list will be sporting Devils jerseys next season.
That depends, of course, on how much Devils ownership is willing to invest next season. Just because they’ll have lots of cap room doesn’t mean they’re going to spend to the cap.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked about the odds of the Los Angeles Kings signing a restricted free agent such as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to an offer sheet. She considers those odds virtually nil, as that rarely-used tactic seldom pans out. The Kings have other plans and ideas for rebuilding their roster.
Asked if the Kings might take on a bad contract for assets from a cap-strapped club, Dillman pointed out they’ve never been aggressive in complex deals like those. She also noted that’s not something GM Rob Blake has pursued in the past. She also doesn’t seek the Kings making a big splash in this year’s UFA market, though they could look at some bargain signings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake and the rest of the Kings’ front office have put their focus on rebuilding with youth, primarily from within their system. Their prospect depth is considered among the best in the league right now. Blake could keep his powder dry for next summer’s UFA market when there could be better options available.
Can the Canucks find sufficient cap room to re-sign their key free agents? Could the Canadiens sign Blues defenseman Vince Dunn to an offer sheet? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CANUCKS COULD FACE AN OFF-SEASON CAP CRUNCH
VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnson reports the Canucks could face a mean salary-cap crunch next season. Bonuses paid to young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes means their cap hits will increase by $1.7 million. With the cap expected to remain at $81.5 million next season, it leaves the Canucks with just over $15 million in cap space.
With 16 players on one-way contracts, they must sign at least six players to fill out their roster for 2020-21. Notable free agents include Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Jake Virtanen. Johnston suggested they could get some wiggle room by demoting Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi.
Ben Kuzma considers re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli as priorities. Keeping Tanev could require moving a depth player. His intangibles are hard to measure in salary comparable.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Iain MacIntyre was asked if the Canucks and Eriksson would agree to a contract termination after he receives his $3 million signing bonus on July 1.
The 34-year-old winger has two years remaining on his deal with an annual average value of $6 million, though the actual value of the remaining years totals $5 million. MacIntyre believes there might be a conversation, but doesn’t think Eriksson will walk away from it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could cost the Canucks $6 million annually on a five-year deal to re-sign Markstrom. Toffoli’s had a short window of work with the Canucks since joining them in February but he was a good fit during those few games before the schedule was interrupted by COVID-19. Years of wear-and-tear have taken a toll on Tanev’s game, but the Canucks could retain him on a short-term deal for the right price.
The Canucks won’t be the only cap-strapped club following this season. There are 13 teams with $70-plus million invested in their 2020-21 payrolls. That could affect efforts by Canucks general manager Jim Benning to swing some cost-cutting deals.
Then again, the effect of the pandemic upon NHL revenue could work in Benning’s favor. Some of his free agents could accept one- or two-year deals in hope of getting better terms down the road.
Benning could try to move Eriksson via trade, but if that difficult to do under a rising cap, it could be impossible under a flat one. If the winger proves unwilling to agree to contract termination, he could be waived and demoted.
COULD THE CANADIENS OFFER-SHEET DUNN?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Arpon Basu was asked if he thought the Montreal Canadiens should attempt to sign Vince Dunn to an offer sheet. The St. Louis Blues defenseman is a restricted free agent at season’s end.
Basu believes the Blues’ limited salary-cap space could make Dunn a tempting offer-sheet target. They would have difficulty attempting to match it if it was rich enough. An offer worth $4.2 million annually would only cost a second-round pick in compensation. While the Blues believe Dunn could help them a great deal, Basu doesn’t think they’re ready to pay him that much since he’s not yet arbitration-eligible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $79 million invested in 20 players and Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo to be re-signed, the Blues are seriously squeezed for cap space. Even if Pietrangelo departs via free agency at season’s end, they’d have a difficult time match a significant offer sheet for Dunn.
Just because a player could sign an offer sheet doesn’t mean he will. Most RFAs prefer re-signing with their current teams. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if the Canadiens or someone else attempts that option with Dunn.
Check out the latest on the Devils and Stars plus an update on Jesse Puljujarvi in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
DEVILS DEFENSE SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC (Subscription required) In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak speculated Andy Greene could return to the New Jersey Devils if they see a veteran defenseman to mentor their young blueliners. He also doubts they’ll pursue this summer’s top UFAs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greene spent nearly 14 full seasons with the Devils before he was shipped last February to the New York Islanders. If he’s still available later in the off-season perhaps he’d be willing to return to New Jersey on a one-year, bonus-laden deal.
Turning to the trade market, Masisak looked at several defensemen that could be on the Devils’ off-season radar. His list of good options included Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Buffalo’s Colin Miller, Columbus’ David Savard, St. Louis’ Vince Dunn, and Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak published a long list of options, but I wanted to focus on the notables.
I believe it’ll cost the Devils a scoring forward to acquire Manson, Miller, or Savard because their respective clubs need secondary scoring. Dunn and Sergachev made his list largely because of the cap constraints faced by their respective teams. However, it’s assumed the Blues and Lightning will make cost-cutting moves to free up salary-cap space to re-sign those two.
UPDATE ON PULJUJARVI
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins believes Jesse Puljujarvi will sign a one-year contract extension with Karpat of the Finnish Professional League. He expects that deal will include an NHL opt-out clause.
Puljujarvi spent this season in Finland after requesting a trade from the Edmonton Oilers. While the young winger hasn’t ruled out returning to the Oilers, Leavins wondered if his recent change of heart was to rehabilitate his trade value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt it’ll make Puljujarvi more attractive in the trade market. The Oilers reportedly listened to trade offers but didn’t get anything worthwhile.
Most teams consider the former fourth-overall pick to be at best a third-line winger. They’re unwilling to part with a first-rounder or a good young player to get him. Puljujarvi will likely have to return to the Oilers if he hopes to salvage his NHL career and boost his trade value.
STARS COULD TRY TO RE-SIGN KHUDOBIN.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Sean Shapiro said he believes the Stars will do everything they can to re-sign goaltender Anton Khudobin. They know they won’t make the playoffs next season without a competent backup for Ben Bishop.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $62 million invested in 15 players (stick tap to Cap Friendly), the Stars have sufficient cap space to re-sign Khudobin.
They must also re-sign RFAs Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, and Radek Faksa. Hintz and Gurianov lack arbitration rights, giving Stars management sufficient leverage to re-sign both to affordable bridge deals.
Assuming Khudobin isn’t seeking a significant raise over his current $2.5 million, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stuck around in Dallas for at least another year.
Check out the recent Blues speculation plus the latest on Max Domi in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE BLUES
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas was asked about the possibility of team captain Alex Pietrangelo accepting a one-year bridge deal with the Blues in hopes of securing a better deal next season if NHL revenues improve.
Thomas didn’t dismiss the possibility but pointed out it could take longer for league revenue to improve in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He also indicated other clubs possess sufficient salary-cap space under a flat cap to take a run at signing Pietrangelo in the off-season.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford was asked about the possibility of compliance buyouts of Alexander Steen or Tyler Bozak to free up salary-cap space to re-sign Pietrangelo. He doubts that’s an option, citing there’s a belief the league has no plans to implement compliance buyouts in the off-season. The Blues would have to go the normal buyout route, which won’t free up sufficient cap room for Pietrangelo’s new deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo’s status is going to dominate the rumor mill as we get closer to whenever this season officially comes to an end. The Blues have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players, with Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn as their notable free agents.
Pietrangelo will be an expensive re-signing. Assuming he accepts a “hometown discount” of between $7.5 million to $8 million on a one-year deal, general manager Doug Armstrong must shed salary to accommodate his new contract. If contract buyouts aren’t on the table, they’ll have to shed two or three players to find sufficient room for Pietrangelo and Dunn. That won’t be easy and could weaken their depth elsewhere in the lineup.
Last fall’s acquisition of Justin Faulk and the recent re-signing of Marco Scandella suggests Armstrong is preparing for Pietrangelo’s departure. Nevertheless, I’m not ruling out the possibility the Blues GM will find a way to keep his captain in the fold.
Rutherford was also asked if Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could become expendable given the left-side defensemen (such as Scott Perunovich) coming up in their system. He was also asked if Dunn could become targeted for an offer sheet.
Rutherford doesn’t consider Dunn expendable, citing his skating ability, top-four potential, youth (23), defensive skills, and affordability. He doesn’t reject the possibility of an offer sheet. However, he pointed out a flat cap for next season means teams will have less money to spend, making an offer sheet less likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Pietrangelo walks, re-signing Dunn is a no-brainer. Armstrong will still have to cut some salary elsewhere, but nowhere near as much as he would for Pietrangelo. If the captain is re-signed, finding sufficient room for Dunn’s new contract could be challenging.
UPDATE ON DOMI
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels recently acknowledged recent rumors suggesting Max Domi could be a trade candidate. Nevertheless, he feels there are plenty of reasons why the Montreal Canadiens will retain the 25-year-old forward.
The trade rumblings about Domi arose from his restricted free agent status (with arbitration rights) and the decline in his production this season. Engels said he never heard from anyone that the Canadiens were considering trading him.
Engels cited Domi’s love of playing in Montreal, his speed and offensive skills, and what he could do in the playoffs. With the NHL considering a return to play with a 24-team format, the Canadiens could get a chance to evaluate Domi under playoff conditions this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even without the possibility of the Canadiens being in a 24-team playoff format this summer, I still feel the Canadiens will re-sign Domi. While his stats are down this season, he’s not the only Hab to struggle a bit this season.
Much of that trade chatter seemed to come from some in the Montreal media dreaming of Domi being used as a trade chip to acquire a top-pairing, left-side defenseman. If the league returns with that enlarged postseason format and Domi performs well, I expect he and the Canadiens will work out a new contract later this summer.