Latest on Erik Karlsson, John Carlson, Milan Lucic, Jeff Skinner and many more in your NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights might revisit their interest in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. “They’ve got a ton of cap room, a boatload of flexibility and players from all over the league asking their agents about going there. It’s a destination.” The Golden Knights attempted to acquire Karlsson at the February trade deadline. One of the hang-ups was Vegas didn’t want to include promising Cody Glass. Friedman also suggests they could look at Washington’s John Carlson if he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Could the Vegas Golden Knights pursue Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson via free agency? (Photo via NHL Images)
Friedman also speculates the Golden Knights could prefer re-signing pending UFAs James Neal and David Perron to salaries within the range of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith ($5-million annual cap hit) and Tomas Tatar’s $5.3 million. Same for restricted free agent William Karlsson. He thinks Perron could be kept on a short-term deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently speculated the Golden Knights could be aggressive in the trade and free-agent markets, with Karlsson and Carlson as possible targets. He also notes it’s too soon to say the Capitals could lose Carlson to free agency, though he will be expensive to re-sign, suggesting the Arizona Coyotes’ offer to Oliver Ekman-Larsson (believed to be eight years at $8.25-million annually) as a comparable. I think the Capitals will re-sign him, as his departure would leave a huge hole on their blueline.
As for Karlsson and Tavares, if they’re available, the Golden Knights could pursue them. No guarantee they’ll get either guy but I think they could be serious suitors.
The Golden Knights could probably get Perron re-signed on a short-term contract for around $5 million. There were reports earlier this season that Neal sought over $6 million per season. That could prove too expensive for a soon-to-be 31-year-old winger whose best seasons are in the past.
Rumors claiming Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic requested a trade aren’t true, but Friedman believes Lucic and the club are working together to gauge interest around the league. Moving his big contract won’t be easy but the Oilers seem confident they can find a fit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples weighed in on this, pointing out if the Oilers move Lucic before July 1 they won’t have to pay his $3.5-million bonus for 2018-19. He also suggests perhaps Lucic would drop his no-movement protection with his new team. While the Montreal Canadiens attempted to sign Lucic two years ago, Staples speculates he might prefer playing in a bigger, warmer market.
Regardless of where Lucic could end up, the decline in his stats this season is cause for concern. I think the Oilers could end up either retaining part of his annual cap hit or taking back a toxic contract to make this work. Failing that, they’ll have to include a heck of a sweetener to convince another club to take on Lucic’s full contract.
The Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers could have interest in Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner. Friedman also thinks a swap of Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling back to Chicago for Marian Hossa’s rights, with the Hurricanes retaining part of Darling’s salary, makes sense only to him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner has a no-movement clause but perhaps he’ll waive it to go to a player contender. The Panthers just missed the cut last season. The addition of Skinner could put them over the hump.
Darling for Hossa is a creative scenario but I don’t think the Hurricanes will go that route unless they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up for Darling. And no, re-signing Cam Ward isn’t the appropriate option here.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blackhawks try to trade the all-but-retired Hossa’s rights to free up cap room. They’ll likely have to include a young player or draft pick in the deal.
Friedman believes “Montreal is a stealth destination for unrestricted free-agent-to-be Jack Johnson.” He also muses over the possibility of a “sign-and-trade” scenario for Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At this point in Johnson’s career, he should be considered a stopgap measure. The Canadiens should try to find more suitable options via trade or free agency. If they are interested in Johnson, he should only get a one-year contract for under $3 million.
Friedman said Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman is “very much in play”. He speculates the Senators could try to recoup some draft picks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Senators trade Hoffman, that might push center Matt Duchene toward free agency next year. He and Hoffman established good chemistry as linemates this season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have shown “legit interest” in Arizona Coyotes winger Max Domi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: But do the Coyotes have legit interest in trading Domi? For the right offer, probably, but is that offer coming from the Penguins? Time will tell.
The trade market for Washington Capitals backup Philipp Grubauer begins with the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Braden Holtby firmly entrenched as the Capitals’ starting goalie, promising Ilya Samsonov waiting in the wings and with a big chunk of their cap space likely to be taken up re-signing John Carlson, the Capitals could trade Grubauer, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes the Islanders could make a pitch for Grubauer. However, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks thinks they could instead go after Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, rather than part with a first-round pick for Grubauer.
While Howard is a year away from UFA status, the Wings don’t have anyone in their system ready yet to take over as their starting goalie. Unless they find a suitable replacement for Howard via trade or free agency, I doubt they’ll send him to the Isles or anyone else.
After being scratched from Game 5 of the Winnipeg Jets second-round series against Nashville, defenseman Toby Enstrom informed Jets management he won’t be returning. Enstrom will become a UFA on July 1.
The Toronto Maple Leafs seek a third-line center, while the Tampa Bay Lightning need a right-shot defenseman.
Friedman’s also curious about what the New York Rangers will do with Vladislav Namestnikov, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Chicago Blackhawks forwards Anthony Duclair and Tomas Jurco could be available, as well as Minnesota Wild forward Tyler Ennis.
The Buffalo Sabres won’t be trading the first-overall pick and the Carolina Hurricanes are likely to hang onto the second overall. Meanwhile, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is keeping everyone guessing over what he’ll do with the third overall pick. The Habs need centers and defensemen, and Bergevin could trade down to get what he wants if he wishes.
Friedman isn’t sure about the Ottawa Senators and Arizona Coyotes moving their first-round picks (fourth and fifth overall) and doesn’t think the Detroit Red Wings will move the sixth overall selection. Teams that could be willing to move include ” Vancouver (at seven), Edmonton (at 10) and possibly the Islanders (11 and/or 12).