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.
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.
HELLEBUYCK AND SCHEIFELE
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.
ZEGRAS AND DRYSDALE
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.
LINDHOLM AND BACKLUND
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.