Latest on Noah Hanifin, Tobias Enstrom, David Desharnais and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Calgary Flames defenseman and restricted free agent Noah Hanifin said he’s “super close” to signing a long-term deal with his new club, perhaps as long as five years. The Flames acquired Hanifin during the 2018 NHL Draft weekend in a multi-player trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Defenseman Noah Hanifin is reportedly close to a new contract with the Calgary Flames (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hanifin is coming off an entry-level contract. If he’s shooting for a five-year deal, my guess is he’ll get in the neighborhood of $5.25 million per season.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Former Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom is returning home to Sweden, signing a contract with Modo. Enstrom, 33, spent 11 seasons in the NHL, starting with the Atlanta Thrashers and moving with the club to Winnipeg in 2011.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson got an extra day with the Stanley Cup and used that opportunity to take the trophy to Humboldt, Saskatchewan. The town’s junior team, the Broncos, was involved in a bus crash in April that killed 16 people, including 10 players.
“I just wanted to do what I could and help out as much as I could,” Stephenson told reporters Friday. “There’s a lot of talk about it just kind of going in the playoffs that if we were to win the Cup, that this is something that I wanted to do.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A touching gesture by Stephenson, which will hopefully help that still-grieving community heal.
CBS SPORTS: Former NHL forward David Desharnais has changed KHL teams, signing with Avangard Omsk.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings apparently will no longer use “Hockeytown” in its center ice logo. The Wing had copyrighted “Hockeytown” in the 1990s as the club went on a 25-year playoff streak that included four Stanley Cup championships.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The “Hockeytown” era was among the most impressive in NHL history but that time has now passed. The Wings are no longer the dominant franchise they once were. Maybe if they return to those lofty heights in the future, “Hockeytown” will return.
NBC SPORTS: Arizona has become one of the fastest-growing hockey markets among states with NHL franchises in them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s one reason why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t want to give up on that market. If the Coyotes can finallly get their act together and ice a consistently competitive team, they could build interest in the sport even more.
Another update on Max Pacioretty, the latest on Canucks d-man Ben Hutton and proposed PTO targets for the Devils in your NHL Rumor Mill.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton believes the recent Jeff Skinner trade between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes should lower expectations of a big return if the Montreal Canadiens move Max Pacioretty.
The Hurricanes shipped the 26-year-old Skinner, a three-time 30-goal scorer who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent next July, to the Sabres last week in exchange for a prospect forward (Cliff Pu) and three draft picks, none of which were first-round selections. That could set the stage for an equally underwhelming return for Pacioretty, a 29-year-old left wing who’s also a former 30-goal scorer eligible next summer for UFA status.
The recent Jeff Skinner trade could affect the trade value of Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s assumed the Canadiens seek a young scoring forward, preferably a center, in return for Pacioretty. They reportedly had a deal in place with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2018 NHL Draft but it apparently fell apart over lack of an agreement on a contract extension. Since then, there’s no indication Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is any closer to dealing Pacioretty, though he reportedly wants to do so before the start of 2018-19.
Still, Bergevin faces slightly better odds of finding a decent return for his captain. Pacioretty’s lack of no-trade protection gives the Canadiens GM more trade options than the Hurricanes had with Skinner, whose full no-movement clause significantly hampered where they could trade him.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports there is no truth to rumors Pacioretty would skip training camp next month until the Canadiens trade him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever dreamed up that rumor should give their head a shake. Pacioretty is entering his contract year and intends to seek a big raise next summer. Staging a holdout to force a trade not only wouldn’t make any sense but would also be out of character on his part.
NO TAKERS FOR HUTTON
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent piece examining the stock of several Vancouver Canucks players, JD Burke believes no other player on the club needs a change of scenery more than defenseman Ben Hutton. It’s apparent the blueliner has fallen out of favor with coach Travis Green and his stock has declined.
Burke said the Canucks have tried trading Hutton for a while but can’t find any takers. He does point out Hutton’s performance wasn’t as bad as it seemed, noting he and Chris Tanev had solid shutdown numbers where paired together. He adds the Canucks did a better job controlling the puck in 5-on-5 situations with Hutton on the ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like rival GMs aren’t impressed with Hutton’s shutdown and possession stats. Otherwise, the Canucks probably would’ve found a club willing to take him off their hands.
TRYOUT OPTIONS FOR THE DEVILS
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan suggests right wings Kris Versteeg, Tommy Wingels and Nick Shore, defensemen Toby Enstrom, Brandon Davidson, Alexei Emelin and Jakub Jerabek, center Logan Shaw and left wings Daniel Winnik and Scott Hartnell as professional tryout offer (PTO) options for the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if the Devils invite any of these guys to training camp. I daresay several of those players could also become PTO candidates with other clubs The exception could be Hartnell, who’s reportedly contemplating retirement.
Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?
LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.
Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).
Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.
He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki.
SPORTSNET’S LIST OF NOTABLE REMAINING UFAs.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future.
The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play.
A week into the 2018 NHL free-agent market, not much talent remains for teams attempting to bolster their lineups. Here’s a brief look at the notable names still available as of July 7, 2018.
Left wing Patrick Maroon is the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).
Patrick Maroon. The best remaining scorer in the bunch. A big-bodied (6’3”, 225 lbs) left winger coming off back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in his services.
Kari Lehtonen. The 34-year-old Lehtonen posted a respectable 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season in a backup role with the Dallas Stars. He could be a mentor for a rising young starter.
Dan Hamhuis. Though Hamhuis’ best days are behind him, the 35-year-old defenseman still tallied 24 points while skating over 20 minutes per game with the Stars. He could be a solid depth addition for a playoff contender.
Toby Enstrom. Injuries have frequently sidelined the 33-year-old Enstrom, hampering his effectiveness as a puck-moving blueliner. His experience, however, could be helpful to a rebuilding club.
Brooks Orpik. The shutdown blueliner helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup this spring. Traded to Colorado and bought out, the Capitals are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.
Steve Mason. The 30-year-old struggled with injury and inconsistency as the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season. Those factors could hurt Mason’s efforts to land with another NHL club.
Luca Sbisa. Missed all but 30 games to injury last season but was solid in the playoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sbisa could be a good depth addition to a blueline in need of a physical rearguard.
Antoine Vermette. The 35-year-old’s 20-goal, 40-point seasons are well in the past. However, he could provide depth for clubs in need of a veteran checking-line center.
Alexei Emelin. A physical defenseman, Emelin could provide some experienced grit as a third-pairing blueliner.
Ondrej Pavelec. The 30-year-old netminder sported a decent .910 save percentage serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy with the New York Rangers.
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).
Despite being ousted in the 2018 Western Conference Final, the Winnipeg Jets appear to have a bright future. However, they also face some significant offseason decisions. Check out the latest in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Re-signing restricted free agents such as goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and defensemen Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, as well as inking young winger Patrik Laine to a contract extension, are among Emily Kaplan’s offseason keys for the Winnipeg Jets.
Center Paul Stastny hasn’t rule out re-signing with the Winnipeg Jets, but it remains to be seen if they can afford to keep him (Photo via NHL Images)
Hellebucyk had a stellar season, becoming a finalist for the 2018 Vezina Trophy. Laine, who can be signed to an extension on July 1, could exceed Mark Scheifele’s $6.125 million annual average value. Trouba and Morrissey should be invaluable pieces of their blueline for years.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff likely also wants to retain RFAs such as Joel Armia, Adam Lowry, Joe Morrow and Brandon Tanev. He could also face some tough decisions regarding pending unrestricted free agents Paul Stastny and Toby Enstrom.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien noted the Jets will be challenged in the coming years by their Central Division rivals. They must continue to cultivate what O’Brien calls their “robust bounty of talented players.”
Re-signing Hellebuyck and Trouba this summer will be expensive, as will Laine and rookie Kyle Connor by next summer. Captain Blake Wheeler is also a year away from UFA status and could seek a significant raise, though he’ll be 33 when his next contract kicks in. O’Brien also wonders if Cheveldayoff might try moving backup goalie Steve Mason and his $4.1-million cap hit.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jason Bell reports center Paul Stastny, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is open to returning with the Jets. “There is always a possibility. I have no regrets,” said Stastny. “Probably the best decision I ever made was this one. It made the game that much more fun again.” The Jets gave up a first-round pick and a prospect to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline to acquire Stastny, who waived his no-trade clause to go to Winnipeg.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders if there’s any way the Jets can retain Stastny. If he wants to return, Cheveldayoff could find it difficult coming up with sufficient salary-cap room to re-sign him. Stastny could be in high demand in this summer’s UFA market. Unless Cheveldayoff gets creative, Larkin doubts the Jets GM will have enough cap room left to retain Stastny.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In a recent Featurd.io piece, I also explored the difficulty the Jets could face maintaining a contender.
They’ve never before dealt with the difficulty of maintaining a Stanley Cup contender. They’re about to find out how hard it can be. How Cheveldayoff manages this will determine how long the Jets’ championship window remains open. As long as those good young RFAs continue to improve, the Jets could maintain a deep roster for a while. At some point in the near future, however, salary-cap restrictions will be felt.
Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have over $55 million invested in 15 players for 2018-19. Assuming the cap ceiling reaches $80 million as projected, Cheveldayoff will have around $25 million to work with. Most of that, however, will be taken up by re-signing Hellebuyck, Trouba, and Morrissey, as well as most of their depth RFAs. That means bidding farewell to Stastny and Enstrom this summer.
Re-signing Laine, Connor and Wheeler will take big bites of their 2019-20 cap space. Defenseman Tyler Myers, who’s also a UFA next July, could become a cap casualty.