NHL Rumor Mill – September 20, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 20, 2023

As training camps open, check out the latest on William Nylander, Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Brett Pesce and Shane Pinto in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


TSN: Chris Johnston said he doesn’t think there’s been a whole lot of progress between the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander over a contract extension. There is some hope that discussions might pick up now that the 27-year-old winger is back in North America after spending the offseason in Sweden.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes Nylander will play this season with the Leafs whether he’s signed or not.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not much different from what was reported throughout the offseason. This has the potential to become a long-running story for the Leafs and Nylander through 2023-24.


TSN: Darren Dreger reported there’ve been contract discussions between the Winnipeg Jets and pending unrestricted free agents Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele. However, those talks are now on the back burner as training camp begins.

Dreger said Scheifele hasn’t asked for a trade nor has he said he wouldn’t sign an extension. For now, however, the 30-year-old center intends to park things and focus on the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the first real piece of news regarding Scheifele, who kept silent about his intentions throughout the offseason. He evidently learned his lesson after innocuous comments he made following the 2021-22 season about needing to look out for himself and his future blew up in the media.

Like Nylander with the Leafs, questions about the future of Hellebuyck and Scheifele in Winnipeg will hang over the Jets season.


TSN: Pierre LeBrun indicated there’s a “tangible gap” in contract talks between the Anaheim Ducks and agent Pat Brisson, who represents Trevor Zegras. The 22-year-old restricted free agent is the face of the Ducks and their offensive star. It’s believed the two sides are willing to agree to a three-year deal but they’re far apart on the average annual value.

Meanwhile, LeBrun said there’s no sign of progress in contract talks between the Ducks and Jamie Drysdale. The defenseman’s agent, Dave Gagner, is in Anaheim conducting negotiations with Ducks management.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes Zegras and Drysdale could end up with bridge contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having those negotiations dragging on into training camp and preseason could see those two key players miss a portion of their preparation before the start of the season under new head coach Greg Cronin. That could lead to a slow start for the rebuilding Ducks.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman noted that many of the Calgary Flames players who departed frustrated following last season’s disappointing performance have returned with more positive mindsets. It doesn’t mean contract negotiations will be easy but everyone seems to be feeling better.

Friedman thinks Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund will be the first pending UFAs that the Flames attempt to re-sign. He noted that the Colorado Avalanche looked into acquiring Backlund before adding Ross Colton and Ryan Johansen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big reason why those players are feeling better is the departure of head coach Darryl Sutter. Hiring Craig Conroy to replace Brad Treliving after the latter stepped down as general manager was another factor. The affable Conroy has been working tirelessly throughout the offseason to keep as many of his pending UFAs in the fold.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman said the Carolina Hurricanes gave some permission to teams to speak to UFA-to-be Brett Pesce. However, that’s now ended as the club is all in to win the Stanley Cup this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pesce could be shopped later in the season if the Hurricanes stumble or there’s a need to address a significant roster weakness. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays out this season in Carolina and tests the UFA market in July.


TSN: LeBrun also talks about the ongoing contract talks between the Ottawa Senators and RFA center Shane Pinto. The Senators are pressed for salary-cap space but talks remain very positive. He believes a deal could be done at any time if the Senators can come up with the money for Pinto.

Dreger said teams like the Philadelphia Flyers have inquired about Pinto. However, they’ve been told by the Senators that they’re not trading him.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Flyers offered to take on an additional contract from the Senators in a potential trade for Pinto. However, he’s not convinced they want to jettison the young center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators hold the hammer in negotiations with the Pinto camp. It sounds like they’re trying to find a way to free up the cap space needed to sign him. However, they could be getting squeezed by clubs seeking a sweetener in the deal.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2023

Are the Flames facing a no-win scenario with Elias Lindholm? What’s the latest on Shane Pinto’s contract talks with the Senators? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Julian McKenzie believes the Calgary Flames could be facing a no-win situation with Elias Lindholm. While the 28-year-old center has said he’s open to a contract extension, he could have the Flames over a barrel.

If the Flames try to trade Lindholm now, only five clubs (Detroit, Nashville, Buffalo, Chicago and Anaheim) have the cap space to take on his $4.85 million cap hit for this season. Clubs like Colorado, Pittsburgh and St. Louis have already added centers this summer, further shrinking the number of possible trade partners.

Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (NHL Images).

Clubs in need of a center like Lindholm, such as the Boston Bruins, could be content to wait until next summer. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, they’ll have the cap room to sign him.

McKenzie believes the summer window to trade Lindholm has closed. The next best opportunity could be the March 8 trade deadline if the Flames are out of contention by then. However, general manager Craig Conroy could face a dilemma if his club is in the playoff chase by that point.

Re-signing Lindholm will also be expensive. Despite turning 29 in December, he’ll be able to command a contract similar to Bo Horvat’s eight-year deal ($8.5 million average annual value) with the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports over the summer suggest Conroy is keen is re-sign Lindholm. He might be hesitant about investing between $8.5 million and $9 million annually for eight seasons on a player who’ll turn 30 in the first season of that new contract. However, with the salary cap projected to leap to over $92 million by 2025-26, it’s a gamble that Conroy could take to keep Lindholm in the fold.

That’s assuming, of course, that Lindholm wants to stay. While he recently said what Conroy and Flames fans undoubtedly wanted to hear about a contract extension, he could be taking a wait-and-see approach for this season.

If the Flames rebound well from last season’s disappointing performance, Lindholm could be swayed into re-signing. But if they struggle again, he could feel that his chances of playing for a Stanley Cup contender and earning big money are better elsewhere. On the other hand, that scenario would make it easier for Conroy to justify moving Lindholm at the trade deadline.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators still have to get Shane Pinto under contract before training camp opens on Thursday. Last Thursday, general manager Pierre Dorion said the club is working hard at signing the 22-year-old restricted free-agent center.

Pinto doesn’t have much leverage plus he’s ineligible to receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Garrioch indicates that a couple of teams have reached out to the young center’s agent to find out what type of term and salary he’s seeking.

It’s believed those clubs were told to contact Dorion if they’re interested in making a deal. Garrioch claimed the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers have been “kicking tires” but it’s highly unlikely the Senators trade Pinto, who’s expected to fill a key role on their third line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ limited salary-cap space is why there’s talk of the Senators potentially trading Pinto. They have just $900K available but a raise for Pinto coming off his entry-level contract will cost more than that. Garrioch believes he’s seeking more than the two-year, $4.2 million contract signed this summer by Morgan Frost with the Flyers.

Dorion could free up some cap space by trading a lower-salaried player. He could also go the waiver/demotion route.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2023

The latest on the Bruins’ rumored interest in the Flames’ Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin and the Jets’ Mark Scheifele plus speculation about Rasmus Dahlin’s contract talks with the Sabres in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins’ pursuits of Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm and Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele will have to wait to wait. He cites the high cost of acquiring either center and the Bruins being pressed against the $83.5 million salary cap as factors working against them.

Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (NHL Images).

Shinzawa points to what the New York Islanders gave up to the Vancouver Canucks (a first-round pick in 2023, prospect Aatu Raty and winger Anthony Beauvillier) to acquire Bo Horvat in January.

Assuming that sets the market, the Bruins lack a first-round pick in 2024 plus the prospects they have in Raty’s category are few and far between and needed by the Bruins. It would also mean parting with Jake DeBrusk, who the Bruins consider a top-line winger.

The Flames or Jets could retain some salary to help either player fit within the Bruins’ limited cap space. However, Shinzawa believes that would add premiums to the trade cost.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy noted the Bruins had been linked to the Flames in the off-season rumor mill. Sources confirmed to Murphy that Boston general manager Don Sweeney had conducted his due diligence on the trade cost of Lindholm as well as Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Like Shinzawa, Murphy noted the Bruins being squeezed for cap space and their limited number of tradeable assets makes acquiring Lindholm or Hanifin unlikely. He also pointed out that both players told the Calgary media earlier this week that they remain open to signing contract extensions with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff recently indicated that he has no plans to trade Scheifele right now. He said he’s been in contact with the 30-year-old center and intends to speak with him when training camp opens next week. It appears Scheifele will be starting the season with the Jets.

Lindholm, Hanifin and Scheifele could become available later in the season if they haven’t signed new contracts by the March 8 trade deadline and the Flames and Jets are out of playoff contention by then. However, the Bruins will only have less than $2 million in projected trade deadline cap space. They’ll still have difficulty outbidding other interested clubs that possess more cap room and trade capital.

Shinzawa suggests the Bruins would stand a better chance of landing Lindholm or Scheifele in next summer’s free-agent market if they don’t re-sign with their current clubs. Even with paying goaltender Jeremy Swayman a raise, he believes they’ll have sufficient cap room to chase one of those centers. The same goes for Hanifin if he hits the open market next July.


BUFFALO HOCKEY NOW: Michael Augello recently noted the Sabres seemed on the verge of signing defenseman Rasmus Dahlin to a contract extension. However, those talks seemed to hit a snag following the Ottawa Senators signing blueliner Jake Sanderson to an eight-year, $64.4 million deal.

It was rumored the Sabres were hoping to lock down the 23-year-old Dahlin to an eight-year deal with an average annual value in excess of $10 million. According to Andrew Peters, co-host of WGR 550’s The Instigators, the Dahlin camp seeks a five-year contract.

Augello speculates Dahlin and his agent Craig Oster are using the same playoff as Auston Matthews, who recently inked a four-year extension that will enable him to become a UFA at age 30. A five-year deal would make Dahlin eligible for UFA status at age 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dahlin would be well within his playing prime by that point. As Auguello points out, that would put him in line for a significantly higher payday on a long-term contract with the Sabres or another club via free agency.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2023

Check out the latest on the Flames and the Blues in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson reports Flames general manager Craig Conroy isn’t panicking over having six key players eligible for unrestricted free-agent status next summer. He said he’s been talking to those players (Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov) during the summer and those discussions will continue.

Lindholm didn’t have much to say to reporters yesterday regarding his contract talks when the Flames gathered for their annual charity golf tournament. “I’ve made it pretty clear that I want to stay,” said the 28-year-old center. “That’s about it”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daniel Austin also reported on Lindholm’s contract situation. It’s understood that the Flames have made a big-money, long-term offer to the two-way center to keep him in Calgary. He also indicated that Conroy doesn’t want to risk losing Lindholm to free agency like his predecessor did with Johnny Gaudreau.

Earlier in the week, Gilbertson suggested it could take over $9 million annually to keep Lindholm in the fold. However, he thinks the lack of progress in getting a deal done is due to the center taking what appears to be a wait-and-see approach regarding the coming season.

Gilbertson believes Conroy doesn’t want to trade Lindholm but doesn’t doubt that he’s gauged the interest of his fellow NHL general managers to see what type of package they’d be willing to offer. Trading him, however, would also leave a huge hole at center for the Flames that will be difficult to fill internally.

Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (NHL Images).

TSN’s Salim Nadim Valji believes Lindholm sounded more open and optimistic about his future in Calgary than he did a couple of months ago. Time will tell if that’s the case as this season unfolds.

Hanifin also provided some clarity on his situation following a summer of reports claiming he didn’t want to sign a contract extension. The 26-year-old defenseman told reporters he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the Flames but is putting his focus on the coming season and will see how things go from there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valji reported that Hanifin told management he would wait and see how the season went but he hadn’t shut the door on an extension. He also informed them during the summer that he needed time to digest the disappointment of last season.

Conroy stressed that none of those six pending UFAs have asked to be traded or told him that they didn’t want to be in Calgary. He considered it understandable that they want time to evaluate the club’s performance this season following last year’s disappointing outcome.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, a bounce-back performance by the Flames followed by a strong postseason effort could sway most of those core UFAs to re-sign. Another discouraging season like 2022-23 could lead to Conroy peddling some of them by the March 8 trade deadline.


THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford was asked if there was any substance to rumors of the St. Louis Blues being interested in William Nylander and offering up Colton Parayko for the Toronto Maple Leafs winger.

Rutherford dismissed that rumor as well as another reader’s suggested offer for Nylander with Torey Krug as the centerpiece of the return to the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Rutherford observed, Nylander is a two-time 40-goal scorer who nearly had 90 points last season. The Leafs wouldn’t accept Krug even if he was healthy. He also believes any possibility of a Nylander-for-Parayko swap died out a long time ago. Parayko isn’t on the same level of talent as the Leafs winger.

Rutherford was also asked if the Blues might attempt to move a veteran defenseman such as Krug, Parayko, Justin Faulk or Nick Leddy at some point this season. He didn’t rule out the possibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As we saw with Krug earlier this summer when he nixed a trade to Philadelphia, the respective no-trade/no-movement clauses of those blueliners will make them difficult to shop.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2023

The latest on the Flames plus speculation about the Kings goaltending in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


CALGARY SUN: Daniel Austin and Wes Gilbertson looked at the notable storylines facing the Flames this season.

Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (NHL Images).

They’re divided on Elias Lindholm’s future. Gilbertson believes the 28-year-old center will sign “a max term, big-bucks contract”. Austin, however, isn’t so sure, suggesting the Flames peddle Lindholm by the trade deadline if he’s not re-signed by then.

Gilbertson also wonders what the future holds for Mikael Backlund. Like Lindholm, the 34-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Austin thinks defenseman Chris Tanev would be the type of defenseman that playoff contenders would be interested in at the trade deadline.

Both pundits believe the Flames need to address their three-goalie logjam. They agree that promising Dustin Wolf has nothing left to prove at the AHL level and must get in some NHL games. Daniel Vladar could be on the move once another club has an injury between the pipes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be an interesting season for the Flames. Lindholm has said he’s open to staying in Calgary and management wants to keep him. However, he could opt to wait and see how this season shakes out before committing to an extension. That could affect what happens with Backlund.

Like Lindholm, Backlund and Tanev, Noah Hanifin is also due to become a UFA next summer. The 26-year-old defenseman reportedly informed management that he’s not interested in a contract extension.

So far, there’s no indication the Flames are close to moving Hanifin. They could start the season with the blueliner as a self-rental for this season or shop him at the trade deadline if they’re out of contention by then.

The Flames could start the season with Wolf and Vladar jockeying for playing time behind starting goalie Jacob Markstrom. At some point this season, however, I think Vladar will be traded to make room for Wolf.


THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek wondered if oft-injured goaltender Cam Talbot would regain his form after signing a one-year, $1 million contract this summer with the Los Angeles Kings. He’ll be reunited with coach Todd McLellan, with whom he’d had his best NHL season (42 wins) in 2016-17 with the Edmonton Oilers.

If the 36-year-old Talbot struggles, Duhatschek speculated that they’ll do what they did at the 2023 trade deadline and acquire a rental goalie. He wondered what Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck’s status would be by then.

Duhatschek also pondered if the Anaheim Ducks would be willing to move on from John Gibson. He believes the days of divisional rivals being off-limits in the trade market are long gone.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve seen some predictions suggesting the Kings could become Stanley Cup contenders this season. However, their goaltending remains their Achilles’ heel if the aging, banged-up Talbot has another injury-hampered performance.

I’m still not sure how keen the Ducks would be to move Gibson to the Kings, who could also be on his 10-team no-trade list. We can’t dismiss that possibility but I think their focus would be on Hellebuyck if the Jets goalie becomes available near the March 8 trade deadline.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2023

Could the Penguins reunite with Phil Kessel? What’s the latest on Elias Lindholm’s contract talks with the Flames? Could the Bruins pursue Senators center Shane Pinto? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dave Molinari recently noted a segment of Penguins fans would love to see the club reunite with Phil Kessel. The winger played a key role in the club’s back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.

Now 35, Kessel is an unrestricted free agent after winning his third Cup last season with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s let it be known that he’s willing to play a secondary role with whatever NHL team signs him even if it means jeopardizing his consecutive games-played record.

Former Vegas Golden Knights winger Phil Kessel (NHL Images).

Molinari doesn’t see the Penguins pursuing Kessel. He pointed out that general manager Kyle Dubas has been reconstructing the club’s third and fourth lines. Kessel’s game doesn’t fit a checking-line role. The winger also had a strained relationship with head coach Mike Sullivan during his tenure with the Penguins.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Nick Horwat suggested that Kessel could provide a bump to the Penguins’ offense and become a trigger man on their power play. Like Molinari, however, he observed that Kessel’s style of game doesn’t match those of the two-way or defensive-minded forwards brought in by Dubas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bringing back Kessel for a last hurrah in Pittsburgh would make a nice story. As Molinari and Horwat pointed out, however, his style of game wouldn’t fit on their Penguins’ checking lines. A reunion might be possible near the trade deadline if one of their top-six forwards becomes injured but even that seems remote at best.


NHL NETWORK (Stick tap to NHL Watcher): Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed what type of contract Elias Lindholm could receive if he and the Calgary Flames reach an agreement on an extension.

Friedman initially felt Bo Horvat’s contract with the New York Islanders would be comparable. Horvat is starting an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The number for Lindholm, however, could be higher. Friedman heard it could be closer to $8.75 million annually or $9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a substantial raise for Lindholm. The 28-year-old center’s AAV for this season is $4.85 million. His production fell to 22 goals and 64 points in 80 games last season following his career-high 42-goal, 82-point performance in 2021-22 when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were still with the Flames.

While that decline can be blamed on the departures of Gaudreau and Tkachuk last summer, the style of game the Flames played last season under head coach Darryl Sutter also likely played a part. With Sutter no longer behind the bench, Lindholm’s production and that of his teammates could improve this season.

Lindholm will be 29 when his new contract goes into effect next summer. He could prove to be an expensive risk for the Flames or any other club. Lindholm is currently among the league’s best two-way centers but his performance will inevitably decline over the course of an eight-year deal.


BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports a trusted NHL source claims teams are inquiring about the cost of Shane Pinto in the trade market. The 22-year-old Ottawa Senators center is a restricted free agent and it’s believed there is a wide gap in negotiations between the Pinto camp and Senators management.

The Senators are up against the salary cap this season. Murphy’s source claims the Senators would be willing to entertain trade offers because they believe prospect center Ridly Grieg is every bit as good or better than Pinto.

Murphy wondered if the Boston Bruins could get into the Pinto sweepstakes. The asking price could be high as the Senators would want prospects who could crack the roster this season. “That’s probably Fabian Lysell and Johnny Beecher,” said Murphy’s source.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication thus far out of Ottawa claiming the Senators are dangling Pinto in the trade market or listening to offers. Recent reports claim the two sides continue to work on a new contract.

That could change if Pinto isn’t re-signed when training camp opens on Sept. 21. If the Senators make him available, the Bruins’ depleted prospect pool would make it difficult for them to outbid other clubs.