NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2020

A look at Sportnet’s list of possible contract buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BUYOUT CANDIDATES

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner, Edmonton Oilers winger James Neal and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist top Luke Fox’s list of 14 players who might be considered for contract buyouts.

Will the New York Rangers buy out Henrik Lundqvist? (NHL Images)

Buying out Neal would free up $3.83 million if the Oilers need room to go shopping in the trade or free-agent markets. The Rangers, meanwhile, don’t intend to carry three goalies as they did this season, making Lundqvist a possible buyout candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alzner has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $4.625 million. The Habs have kept him buried in the minors and could afford to do so again for 2020-21. Cap Friendly indicates buying him out would only give them over $666K in cap savings next season, though that increases to $2.66 million in 2021-22.

The first buyout period runs from Sept. 25 to Oct. 8. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks suggests the Rangers could wait until the 24-hour second buyout window following the settlement or award on filings by any one of their arbitration-eligible restricted free agents. That would allow some additional time to determine if there’s a trade partner for Lundqvist once the goalie market carousel slows down.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Olli Maatta, Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and Vancouver Canucks forwards Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi are also on Fox’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks would see substantial savings buying out Maatta, as the annual cap hit over the next four years would be over $680K. I believe the Golden Knights will attempt to trade Fleury if they re-sign Robin Lehner. A buyout could be the option of last resort.

Fox points out an Eriksson buyout wouldn’t provide much cap relief for the Canucks, but they would get $1.7 million in relief by buying out Baertschi. Canucks GM Jim Benning could prefer the trade route for one or both, even if it meant absorbing some salary.

Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris, New York Islanders winger Andrew Ladd, Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader and Florida Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman are other possible buyout candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out Turris has four years at $6 million annually on his contract, Ladd has three years with an AAV of $5.5 million, while Abdelkader has three years at $4.25 million annually remaining on his deal.

Because buyouts are at twice the remaining tenure, their respective teams could be reluctant to go that route. The Isles won’t get much immediate cap relief buying out Ladd. Stralman has two years at $5.5 million annually left. A buyout would provide $3 million in cap savings for next season.

Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo, Anaheim Ducks winger David Backes, and Boston Bruins defenseman John Moore round out Fox’s list. It was subsequently noted the Ducks informed Backes they’ll keep him for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Okposo and Moore each have three years remaining on their contracts. The Sabres have gone the buyout route in the past so we can’t dismiss the possibility they’ll do it again. However, an Okposo buyout would count as $4 million against their cap for next season and $5 million in 2021-22.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2020

Updates on Taylor Hall and Loui Eriksson plus the latest on the Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Matt Layman cites reports indicating winger Taylor Hall had a dinner meeting last week with Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo, his son Alex Jr., and new CEO Xavier Gutierrez. The two sides reportedly re-engaged in contract talks, with Gutierrez taking over discussions.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Hall, 28, is due to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. His agent, Darren Ferris, said the two sides still intend to wait until the season is over to negotiate a contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Coyotes general manager John Chayka was not at that meeting. Perhaps ownership was trying to gauge Hall’s willingness to stay in Arizona beyond this season.

Before COVID-19, it was assumed the Hall camp could seek over $9 million annually on a long-term deal. With the salary cap remaining flat for next season, he could find that type of deal difficult to come by.

Assuming Hall is keen to remain a Coyote, the club must free up considerable cap room to re-sign him. Cap Friendly indicates they have nearly $80 million invested in next season’s payroll. That’s prompted speculation over which Coyotes could become cost-cutting candidates in the off-season, with such notables as Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Alex Goligoski, and Jason Demers among the possibilities.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Loui Eriksson has no intention of retiring and walking away from the two years and $5 million in actual salary remaining on his contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Eriksson’s $6-million annual average value is creating a potential salary-cap headache for the Canucks. Kuzma points out his contract is front-loaded with bonuses that count toward a buyout while demoting him to the minors would leave them with a $4.9 million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Canucks GM Jim Benning can find a trade partner willing to take Eriksson’s contract off his hands, he will have to consider other options to free up cap space 

Eriksson’s full no-trade clause becomes a modified, 15-team no-trade list next season, providing Benning with a little flexibility. With a flat cap, however, Benning might have to absorb part of Eriksson’s cap hit or include a sweetener (high draft pick and/or quality prospect) to make it work.

SPORTSNET: Wayne Scanlan recently examined how the Ottawa Senators can improve their roster in the off-season. With $41.9 million invested in next season’s payroll, they have sufficient cap space to re-sign their key free agents and target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary.

Given the Senators’ commitment to rebuilding with youth, Scanlan expects they’ll let their youngsters develop while making a few judicious UFA signings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators only have nine players under contract for next season. They must spend to fill out the roster and reach the $60.2 million cap minimum.

RFAs such as Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, and Anthony Duclair will be re-signed, along with UFA Mark Borowiecki and perhaps Ron Hainsey. They could also promote a few promising youngsters into their ranks for next season.

The Senators won’t make a big splash in the UFA market. They’ll likely pursue one or two affordable veterans on short-term deals to provide experience and leadership.

I expect the Sens will also attempt to add a good young player via trade. They have 13 picks in this year’s draft, including three first-rounders and four second-rounders. I’ll be surprised if they keep all of them. A couple of those picks could be used as trade bait targeting clubs looking to shed salary.

They could use their cap space to take on a bad contract in exchange for futures but that seems unlikely. Given how much youth they’ve already got in their system and their plethora of picks this year and the three second-rounders they have next year, I think they’re more likely to target a young player who can immediately step into the lineup and contribute.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

A look at the five UFAs with the most to prove in the NHL’s return to play and an update on Loui Eriksson in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby top Matt Teague’s recent list of five unrestricted free agents with the most to prove during the upcoming NHL playoff tournament.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Hall’s struggled with injuries and played with two inconsistent teams since his 93-point Hart Trophy performance in 2017-18. He turns 29 in November and the playoff tournament could represent his best chance to secure a big payday. His performance will go a long way to raise his value under a flat salary cap for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s value on the open market was tagged at over $9 million annually before COVID-19 interrupted the NHL schedule. A weak effort in a quick exit from the playoff tournament will send his value tumbling.

Holtby put up mediocre regular-season stats since 2017-18 but solid performances in the last two postseasons. Turning 31 in September, he has little room for error to prove he’s still a reliable NHL starter. If he’s outplayed by teammate Ilya Samsonov in the playoff tournament, it will hurt his chances for a big raise over his current $6.1 million annual average value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has acknowledged this is probably his final season with the Capitals. He will garner interest on the open market but could find landing a lucrative new deal hard to come by if he has a shaky postseason.

Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, and Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner round out Teague’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled for a while following his trade last season to the Predators, but his performance improved when John Hynes took over as head coach midway through 2019-20. If that trend continues, Granlund could prove himself worthy of at least a short-term deal at the same AAV ($5.75 million) with the Preds or another club.

After several productive years with the Colorado Avalanche, Barrie had a difficult 2019-20 campaign with the Leafs and isn’t expected to be re-signed. A solid effort in the upcoming playoffs could get him a one-year deal with another club for an AAV similar to his current $5.5 million.

Lehner was looking for a big payday last year after winning the Masterton Trophy and finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Instead, he had to settle for a one-year, $5-million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played well for the struggling Hawks, who shipped him to Vegas at the trade deadline. His performance with the Golden Knights sparked speculation they could attempt to re-sign him. If he outplays Marc-Andre Fleury in the tournament, maybe the Golden Knights try shopping Fleury to free up cap space for Lehner.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 13, 2020

Check out the latest on the Canucks and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

A FLAT SALARY CAP WILL SQUEEZE THE CANUCKS

SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million exacerbates the Vancouver Canucks’ already difficult cap payroll issues. They have over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, leaving $16.3 million for another seven or eight players. Their unrestricted free agents include Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Josh Leivo, while Troy Stecher, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, and Tyler Motte are restricted.

The Vancouver Canucks face difficult decisions with free agents such as Jacob Markstrom (Photo via NHL Images).

Unless general manager Jim Benning convinces veteran winger Loui Eriksson to terminate his contract, MacIntyre believes it could be impossible for the Canucks to retain their important players. He suggests at least two-thirds of their cap space could go toward re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli. They could get some cap relief if Micheal Ferland (concussion) starts next season on long-term injury reserve, but he’s in training camp attempting to come back.

The NHL’s financial landscape makes it almost impossible to trade contracts like Eriksson’s or Brandon Sutter’s, but Benning might find a taker for Jordie Benn’s $2 million cap hit. The Canucks could be forced to choose between Markstrom or Toffoli, letting Tanev depart via free agency, make Stecher a UFA by not qualifying his rights, or trading Virtanen. The nuclear option would be trading winger Brock Boeser ($5.875 million annual average value), but MacIntyre is skeptical about that move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Thomas Drance recently suggested the Canucks attempt to re-sign Markstrom and Toffoli to matching $5.5 million AAVs and letting Tanev depart as a free agent. He acknowledged that would only leave over $6 million for the remainder.

It’s been suggested Benning attach a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect in a package deal to Eriksson once his signing bonus is paid out by mid-month to make him enticing in the trade market. That would leave only $5 million in actual salary over the remaining two years of his contract. Finding a club with the cap space to take on that cap hit was going to be difficult under normal circumstances. It will be more challenging now.

Boeser’s name surfaced over the weekend as one of the many options the Canucks were reportedly exploring. Just because Benning and his staff may have kicked that one around doesn’t mean they’re going to go that route. Trading Boeser is probably the last resort. 

They could also buy out the final season of Sutter’s contract. Cap Friendly indicates that would provide them with over $2.33 million in savings for next season.

UPDATE ON THE BRUINS

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney admits facing some difficult decisions with his free agents under a flat salary cap. Pending UFA Torey Krug and RFA Jake DeBrusk could command a combined $10 million to re-sign. The Bruins must also find new contracts for Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, and others.

Sweeney isn’t ruling out negotiating with his free agents during Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. However, he won’t be overly aggressive given the uncertainty over how player contracts will be affected going forward.

Haggerty points out the Bruins will see cap space opening over the next two seasons as David Krejci and Tuukka Rask become unrestricted free agents. For now, however, Sweeney could be forced to choose between Krug or DeBrusk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty also wonders if Krug might be willing to accept less on a short-term deal to stay in Boston and wait out the financial fallout for all pro sports over the next couple of years. It would provide the Bruins ($63.5 million invested in 18 players for ’20-’21) with some invaluable wiggle room. Krug hinted about accepting a hometown discount last fall. He might give it serious consideration if he doesn’t find offers to his liking in the UFA market. 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 4, 2020

Can the Canucks find sufficient cap room to re-sign their key free agents? Could the Canadiens sign Blues defenseman Vince Dunn to an offer sheet? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANUCKS COULD FACE AN OFF-SEASON CAP CRUNCH

VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnson reports the Canucks could face a mean salary-cap crunch next season. Bonuses paid to young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes means their cap hits will increase by $1.7 million. With the cap expected to remain at $81.5 million next season, it leaves the Canucks with just over $15 million in cap space.

Could the Canucks and Loui Eriksson agree to a contract termination? (Photo via NHL Images)

With 16 players on one-way contracts, they must sign at least six players to fill out their roster for 2020-21. Notable free agents include Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Jake Virtanen. Johnston suggested they could get some wiggle room by demoting Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi.

Ben Kuzma considers re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli as priorities. Keeping Tanev could require moving a depth player. His intangibles are hard to measure in salary comparable.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Iain MacIntyre was asked if the Canucks and Eriksson would agree to a contract termination after he receives his $3 million signing bonus on July 1.

The 34-year-old winger has two years remaining on his deal with an annual average value of $6 million, though the actual value of the remaining years totals $5 million. MacIntyre believes there might be a conversation, but doesn’t think Eriksson will walk away from it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could cost the Canucks $6 million annually on a five-year deal to re-sign Markstrom. Toffoli’s had a short window of work with the Canucks since joining them in February but he was a good fit during those few games before the schedule was interrupted by COVID-19. Years of wear-and-tear have taken a toll on Tanev’s game, but the Canucks could retain him on a short-term deal for the right price.

The Canucks won’t be the only cap-strapped club following this season. There are 13 teams with $70-plus million invested in their 2020-21 payrolls. That could affect efforts by Canucks general manager Jim Benning to swing some cost-cutting deals.

Then again, the effect of the pandemic upon NHL revenue could work in Benning’s favor. Some of his free agents could accept one- or two-year deals in hope of getting better terms down the road.

Benning could try to move Eriksson via trade, but if that difficult to do under a rising cap, it could be impossible under a flat one. If the winger proves unwilling to agree to contract termination, he could be waived and demoted.

COULD THE CANADIENS OFFER-SHEET DUNN?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Arpon Basu was asked if he thought the Montreal Canadiens should attempt to sign Vince Dunn to an offer sheet. The St. Louis Blues defenseman is a restricted free agent at season’s end. 

Basu believes the Blues’ limited salary-cap space could make Dunn a tempting offer-sheet target. They would have difficulty attempting to match it if it was rich enough. An offer worth $4.2 million annually would only cost a second-round pick in compensation. While the Blues believe Dunn could help them a great deal, Basu doesn’t think they’re ready to pay him that much since he’s not yet arbitration-eligible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $79 million invested in 20 players and Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo to be re-signed, the Blues are seriously squeezed for cap space. Even if Pietrangelo departs via free agency at season’s end, they’d have a difficult time match a significant offer sheet for Dunn.

Just because a player could sign an offer sheet doesn’t mean he will. Most RFAs prefer re-signing with their current teams. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if the Canadiens or someone else attempts that option with Dunn.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 20, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at several possible buyout candidates plus some recent Blues speculation.

POTENTIAL BUYOUT CANDIDATES

NBC SPORTS: Sean Leahy recently listed Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner, Anaheim Ducks winger David Backes, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris, and Vancouver Canucks winger Loui Eriksson as five prime off-season contract buyout candidates.

Alzner, 31, spent most of the past three seasons buried in the minors. He has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $4.625 million, plus he’s owed a $1.5 million signing bonus this off-season.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (Photo via NHL Images).

Backes, 36, has battled injuries as his ice time and production declined in recent years. A buyout won’t free up much cap room for the Ducks but would open up a roster spot for a younger player.

The emergence of young goalies Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev put the 38-year-old Lundqvist’s future with the Rangers into doubt. He has a year left at an AAV of $8.5 million. The Rangers could try to trade him but Lundqvist would have to waive his no-movement clause.

Turris was a health scratch at times this season. He’s earning $6 million annually for the next four years.

Eriksson is another veteran forward whose production and ice time have dropped. He has two years left with an AAV of $6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have just over $63 million invested in 16 players, with Max Domi and Victor Mete as their notable free agents. Depending on the cost of re-signing those two, the Habs could have sufficient space under a projected $81.5 million cap next season to add to their roster without buying out Alzner. They could retain him for one more season to work with their minor leaguers and buy out his final season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ducks bought out Backes. The years of physical play have caught up with him. Given his concussion history, retirement would be the best option, but that’s not something he seems to be considering.

Most of the speculation about Lundqvist points to a buyout unless he agrees to be traded or they move Georgiev instead.

Turris was frequently mentioned as a buyout candidate, but that’s something Predators GM David Poile could be reluctant to do. He doesn’t like carrying dead cap space but might not have much choice if he can’t move Turris in a cost-cutting trade.

There’s talk of trading Eriksson to a budget team after he’s paid his signing bonus for next season, as his actual salary will be lower than his $6 million AAV. If that’s not possible, the Canucks might have to go the buyout route.

LATEST ON THE BLUES

STLTODAY.COM: In a recent chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas said he doesn’t see them going shopping in the free-agent market even if Alex Pietrangelo departs after this season. General manager Doug Armstrong would only have enough cap space to re-sign RFA defenseman Vince Dunn.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford said he doesn’t see former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk as a possible replacement for Pietrangelo. Currently with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Shattenkirk is 31 and the Blues don’t need him on the right side when they’ve already got Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues (as per Cap Friendly) have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players next season. If Pietrangelo walks they’ll still have to shed some salary to re-sign Dunn. They won’t have enough to jump into the UFA market.