NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Morgan Rielly, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Eric Staal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports it’s difficult to pinpoint a timeline when the Buffalo Sabres could trade Jack Eichel. His new agent, Pat Brisson is on good terms with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and there are ongoing discussions between the two.

Eichel and the Sabres remain at an impasse over which medical procedure he’ll undergo to repair the herniated disc in his neck. It’s possible Eichel gets traded to a club willing to allow him to undergo the disc replacement surgery he favors but there’s no guarantee and no sign a trade is close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As they say in the Army: “SITREP: no change.” This will probably drag on for months and perhaps cost Eichel the entire season until a suitable trade partner is found. Even then, his $10 million annual cap hit over the next five seasons plus the Sabres’ expensive asking price could make any interested club leery of taking that gamble.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly’s camp quietly engaged in preliminary contract discussions over the summer. LeBrun doubts anything will be settled quickly. A lot of it has to do with what next summer’s market will be for unrestricted free-agent defensemen after Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this summer worth $9 million-plus per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculates Rielly negotiations could drag on into next June. They could eventually reach a point where they decide to shelf those talks until the offseason. I think Rielly and his representatives saw those hefty offseason signings and believe they can get the same.

Some Leafs fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season. I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline.

Dreger believes it’s all about the term and less about money in the Vancouver Canucks’ negotiations with restricted free agent defenseman Quinn Hughes. With training camp underway and Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov under contract, Hughes and teammate Elias Pettersson are hoping to find common ground soon with Canucks management.

Negotiations are also ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Dreger feels the main hurdles here are structure and protection. He wonders if a shorter-term deal might become an option if talks drag closer to the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No real change here from reports earlier in the week. Nevertheless, they could be signed at any time. We began this week with six notable RFAs and are now down to those three.

LeBrun reports unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal is committed to playing another NHL season but has yet to find a new club. His preference is to find a good fit with an American club.










Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Cap Friendly shows slim pickings for talent three weeks after the NHL annual free-agent market opened on July 28. As usual, most of the top players were quickly signed within hours of the market opening, with the remainder snapped up over the next several days.

Several recognizable names remain but almost all are now past their playing prime. With training camps set to open in a little over a month, those still available could end up accepting cheap one-year deals or professional tryout offers in hope of landing a contract.

Still, for teams seeking experienced depth at bargain-bin prices, several noteworthy options remain obtainable.

Tuukka Rask is among several notable players still available in the 2021 NHL free-agent market (NHL Images).

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask is sidelined until the New Year recovering from off-season hip surgery. It’s believed he’s only interested in returning with the Boston Bruins, who could keep a spot open for him. The former Vezina Trophy winner could be worth pursuing later this season if he and the Bruins part ways before the trade deadline.

Devan Dubnyk is still waiting for a contract. The 35-year-old struggled as a backup last season with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Still, he could be worth the gamble on a PTO for teams with a young starter seeking an experienced mentor.

Henrik Lundqvist hinted he’d be up to a comeback if he receives medical clearance. Heart surgery sidelined him for all of last season. The 39-year-old “King Henrik” is no longer an elite netminder but could be a worthwhile backup if he gets a clean bill of health.

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara had a good performance last season as a third-pairing defensemen with the Washington Capitals. The 44-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is training in Slovakia and hasn’t made any decisions about this season. He’d bring plenty of experience and leadership to any blueline if he decides to return for one more year.

Jason Demers could be a worthwhile addition for teams seeking an experienced third-pairing right-shot defender. The same goes for Sami Vatanen though his long injury history hurts his value.

Erik Gustafsson’s puck-moving abilities could be useful for teams looking for a power-play specialist on the blue line. Erik Gudbranson’s toughness and leadership keep earning him work despite the decline in his defensive game.

Forwards

Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Casey Cizikas are still available but speculation suggests they’ve already been signed by the New York Islanders. It’s believed Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want his rivals to know how much cap space he’s actually got left as rumors persist he’s shopping for a top-six forward.

Assuming those four are off the market, well-known but fading forwards such as Patrick Marleau, Eric Staal, Bobby Ryan and James Neal are available. Other noteworthy forwards among the 30-plus gang include Tyler Bozak, Artem Anisimov, Tyler Ennis, and Alex Chiasson.

Alex Galchenyuk heads the list of younger options in the mid-to-late twenties. There was talk the Toronto Maple Leafs could bring the 27-year-old forward back but it appears he’ll be seeking work elsewhere. Ryan Donato, Dominik Kahun, Riley Sheahan and Jimmy Vesey round out this group.