NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2021

Updates on Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas while several notable unrestricted free agents could become tryout targets. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek was asked about St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s status in a recent mailbag segment. He doesn’t consider the 29-year-old’s contract as untradeable because this summer’s proved there’s no such thing, pointing to Tyler Johnson, Andrew Ladd and Loui Eriksson getting moved for a price.

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 12: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season on September 12, 2019 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tarasenko has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million. However, Duhatschek points out the winger will earn $9.5 million in actual salary this season, dropping to $5.5 million next season.

Despite Tarasenko’s trade request, Duhatschek speculates the winger will report to the Blues if he’s not moved when training camp opens next week. He feels the two sides will “make nice” and coexist while his salary-cap dollars click off and teams get an opportunity to evaluate his skill level following his third shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the window for moving Tarasenko during the offseason has closed. Concerns over his thrice-repaired shoulder and his contract have made teams leery of meeting what could be an expensive asking price from the Blues. Most teams have also invested most of their cap space into the coming season’s rosters.

As Duhatschek points out, things could change quickly and perhaps Tarasenko gets traded before camp opens. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spends this season with the Blues and gets traded next summer. Teams will have more cap space and a willingness to take on his lower actual salary for 2022-23.

Jeremy Rutherford reports the contract standoff continues between the Blues and restricted free agent Robert Thomas. The 22-year-old forward is coming off his entry-level deal with little leverage except if he signs an offer sheet with a rival club.

The Blues have almost no cap space left for the coming season. If a team signed Thomas for between $2.055 million and $4.11 million and the Blues declined to match, they’d receive a second-round pick as compensation.

Rutherford suggested the Arizona Coyotes as a possibility. General manager Bill Armstrong knows Thomas well, having drafted him when he was the Blues director of amateur scouting. He also has five second-round picks in next year’s draft. So far, however, there’s no indication Armstrong will make that move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Armstrong doesn’t want to cross his former team. Perhaps he’s not that keen on Thomas. Or maybe he intends to use those picks as trade chips for better options between now and next year’s draft.

As for Thomas and the Blues’ cap situation, they’re expected to place sidelined Oskar Sundqvist on long-term injury reserve to start the season. That’ll give them sufficient room to sign Thomas for perhaps $2 million on a one-year deal. They’ll have to shed salary when Sundqvist returns but other ways could be found to accomplish that. Maybe a deal for Tarasenko will have emerged by then.

NOTE: My original note incorrectly stated Bill Armstrong was related to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. I apologize for any confusion my error may have caused. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Right wing James Neal, center Travis Zajac, and defenseman Jason Demers are among Steven Ellis’ list of 10 noteworthy unrestricted free agents who might get the call for professional tryout offers.

The others include right wing Alex Chiasson, defenseman Sami Vatanen, left wing Alex Galchenyuk, center Tyler Ennis, left wing Nikita Gusev, goaltender Devan Dubnyk and blueliner Erik Gustafsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary has taken its toll on the UFA market. Several of those veterans would’ve landed affordable short-term contracts with NHL clubs by now. Some of them could avoid the PTO route by inking one-year deals for under $1 million. Others, however, could find themselves waiting in vain for any type of NHL offer.










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.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

A look at the best players still available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: listed the best available UFAs still available.

The notable goaltenders include Tuukka Rask, wingers Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, centers Casey Cizikas, Travis Zajac, Ryan Donato and Alex Galchenyuk, and defensemen Jason Demers, Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox took a more in-depth look at the top-10 UFA still on the market.

Will Tuukka Rask return with the Boston Bruins this season? (NHL Images)

Rask’s future depends on his recovery from offseason hip surgery. If he does return, he’s indicated it’ll only be with the Boston Bruins. In his absence, the Bruins will start the season with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goalie tandem.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The writing appears on the wall with Ullmark signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the Bruins. If Rask is ready to return later this season, they could go with him and Ullmark as their tandem and demote Swayman as he’s waiver-exempt this season.

Palmieri, Cizikas and Zajac are believed to have handshake agreements with the New York Islanders but those agreements haven’t been officially announced yet. There’s also talk they’ve signed winger Zach Parise, who was bought out last month by the Minnesota Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Consensus among most pundits is Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has most or all of those aforementioned players under contract. It’s believed those deals haven’t been officially announced because he doesn’t want his rival GMs to know how much salary-cap space he actually has left.

It’s the same tactic Lamoriello took during the last offseason with Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Those deals weren’t officially announced until just before the start of last season.

That’s fueled speculation the Isles GM is working on a trade. It could be for a winger like St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko or a left-side, top-four defenseman to replace Nick Leddy, who was traded to Detroit last month.

Chara is spending the offseason in his native Slovakia with his family. His agent said his client is working out hard and keeping all his options open. During his season-ending Zoom call, however, the big defenseman seemed uncertain about returning for a 24th NHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara had a decent season with the Washington Capitals but it was obvious the 44-year-old blueliner was slowing down. If he does return it would be on an affordable one-year deal and in a third-pairing role.

Fox indicated the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t fully closed the door on bringing back Galchenyuk. He also said the Montreal Canadiens were said to have some level of interest in a reunion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think there’s a fit for Galchenyuk with either club. Both have limited cap space and have already invested in other low-cost options.










NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out

NHL ProteauType: Leafs’ Collapse Another Sign Andersen May Be On His Way Out

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 16, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, the Leafs acquire Alex Galchenyuk, three stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Darcy Kuemper made 24 saves for the shutout while Clayton Keller scored the only goal as the Arizona Coyotes blanked the St. Louis Blues 1-0. The Coyotes took four of the seven games in this series. Blues defenseman Torey Krug left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

The New York Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored and Josh Bailey collected two assists for the Islanders while Victor Olofsson tallied for Buffalo. It was the Sabres’ first game since their schedule was paused after Jan. 31 due to COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The long layoff adversely affected the Sabres’ performance in this contest. They had nine shot attempts in the third period but none of them reached the net.

Ottawa Senators winger Evgenii Dadonov (NHL Images).

Evgenii Dadonov scored the tying and winning goals as the Ottawa Senators roared back from a 5-1 deficit to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs while teammate Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist in his return after missing 10 games to a rib injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators deserve credit for not giving up after falling behind by four goals. However, the Leafs were their own worst enemies as complacency seemed to set in after they took that big lead.

Speaking of the Leafs, they acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Egor Korshkov and David Warsofsky.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Galchenyuk is on the move just two days after being acquired by the Hurricanes from the Senators. He’s now on his seventh team since 2018 and is expected to join the Leafs’ farm club because he already cleared waivers before the trade went down. He also doesn’t have to quarantine because he was still in Ottawa preparing to head to Carolina when this deal went down.

The Leafs were in the market for a depth forward. Acquiring Galchenyuk is an affordable move to bring in some additional experience.

And speaking of the Hurricanes, they tallied six unanswered goals to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-3. Teuvo Teravainen scored twice and set up two others, Brock McGinn had a goal and three assists, Jordan Staal netted two goals and James Reimer made 37 saves for the win.

The Florida Panthers held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4, handing the latter their first home loss of the season. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Anton Stralman each had a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Alexander Volkov tallied twice for the Lightning.

Dominik Kubalik scored twice, including the winner in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Wings overcame a two-goal deficit to force the extra frame.

The Winnipeg Jets downed the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 as Blake Wheeler tallied the winning goal in the third period. Jets center Mark Scheifele had a goal and two assists. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson each scored twice for the Oilers as they overcame 4-2 and 5-3 deficits.

Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime goal lifted the Calgary Flames to a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead until Brock Boeser force overtime with a shorthanded goal late in the third period.

San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture had a goal and an assist to lead his club over the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.

HEADLINES

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 14.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars postponed their game last night against the Nashville Predators at the request of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson as a severe winter storm left hundreds of thousands of Dallas residents without power.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers canceled practice on Monday at the request of the NHL as a measure of caution. The club has seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list. They are still scheduled to practice today. They’ve been shut down for a week now.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defensemen Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril are still nursing injuries and are questionable for Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin believes prospect forward Cole Caufield will turn pro at the conclusion of his college season with the University of Wisconsin. It’s uncertain if Caufield will play any games with the Canadiens this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield’s offensive exploits in college play and in the 2021 World Juniors have generated plenty of anticipation among Habs fans. Time will tell if he can successfully make the jump into the NHL.

THE ATLANTIC: NHL Hall-of-Fame goaltender Ken Dryden believes oversized upper-body goaltending equipment has changed the game and not for the better. He feels expanding the net is a viable solution.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dryden makes a compelling case. He points to golf-club technology making championship courses longer, how a lighter soccer ball now makes it possible for players to curve or drop shots around a goaltender, and how the three-point shot eventually improved scoring in basketball.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

More Penguins speculation, two of the players involved in yesterday’s Hurricanes-Senators trade shouldn’t get too comfortable, and an update on Derek Stepan in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

MORE PENGUINS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi recently examined the big decisions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins following their hiring of Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations.

Sources close to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin confirm both players endorsed the Burke-Hextall partnership. Team co-owner Mario Lemieux has long expressed to confidants and previous GMs that he wants both players to retire as Penguins.

Malkin’s contract expires at the end of next season. The Penguins can open contract extension talks this summer. Rossi noted Malkin stated in September 2019 his preference to signing a three-year extension to finish his career in Pittsburgh. He believes the Penguins will keep Malkin as that was the understanding when Burke and Hextall signed on.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits outside of Pittsburgh wondered about Malkin’s future (and Crosby’s) under the Penguins’ new management. It appears neither he nor Crosby will be going anywhere based on Rossi’s report. The situation could change but if ownership wants Malkin and Crosby to retire as Penguins then that’s what’s going to happen.

Kris Letang’s contract also expires at the end of next season. Rossi reports Lemieux is believed to prefer retaining the veteran defenseman. However, Burke and Hextall weren’t told Letang couldn’t be traded, only that any trade “must be done the right way for respect for all he’s done.”

Rossi also cited sources saying former GM Jim Rutherford placed calls to many teams to gauge interest in Letang. However, a deal to move him was never in place and wasn’t the reason behind Rutherford’s decision to step down. It remains to be seen if Letang wants to re-sign or what the Penguins might get in return if they trade him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred trade destinations. It’s difficult to say what his value could be but given his age (34) and UFA status next summer they might not find many takers in the trade market.

The logjam on the left side of the Penguins’ blueline could become Hextall’s priority to address before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. Rossi speculates either Mike Matheson or Juuso Riikola will have to go.

Parting with Matheson could require Hextall to package the blueliner with a draft pick, prospect or a player off the current roster. The Penguins cannot afford to carry an extra defenseman with Matheson’s contract ($4.875 million AAV through 2025-26).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson lacks no-trade protection this season but his modified no-trade (eight-team no-trade list) goes into effect next season. Moving him this season is preferable but his cap hit and poor play make him a tough sell.

COULD GALCHENYUK AND DZINGEL BE ON THE MOVE AGAIN?

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports anyone involved in yesterday’s trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senator shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new locations.

Johnston doesn’t consider it out of the question that Alex Galchenyuk’s stay with the Hurricanes will be short given he’s bounced around a lot in recent years and could be on the move again in the near future. Meanwhile, the Senators have a decision to make with Ryan Dzingel. He’s in the final year of his contract and could be flipped for a draft pick at the Apr. 12 trade deadline if they decide not to keep him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cedric Paquette was the centerpiece of that deal. The Hurricanes intend to keep him for the playoffs given his gritty style of play and postseason experience. Galchenyuk saw limited action with the Senators while Dzingel wasn’t playing up to expectations with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes could flip Galchenyuk to another club at some point before the trade deadline. Dzingel could also be moved if he fails to regain the scoring touch he had during his previous tenure with the Sens.

UPDATE ON STEPAN

SPORTSNET: Wayne Scanlan reported Friday center Derek Stepan could be among the first Senators moved before the trade deadline. He’s among several players eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer who could be useful pieces for a contending team.

Scanlan reported the team and the player seem to regret the trade that brought him to Ottawa. The veteran center is missing his family in Arizona but GM Pierre Dorion insisted Stepan hasn’t requested a trade. Nevertheless, Scanlan feels it’s clear Stepan is hoping the Senators can move him closer to home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid performance by Stepan in the coming weeks could improve his trade value. His annual average value is $6.5 million but he’s earning just $2 million in actual salary after being paid a $3 million signing bonus by the Arizona Coyotes before his acquisition by the Senators. Still, the Sens might have to pick up part of his AAV to make him attractive to cap-strapped contenders.