NHL Rumor Mill – January 4, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 4, 2022

The latest Oilers and Canadiens speculation plus updates on Jakob Chychrun and Ryan Strome in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers’ recent struggles prompted Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman to muse about whether it’s time for the club to make a trade to avoid falling out of postseason contention. Friedman believes missing the playoffs isn’t an option for them this season.

Goaltending is a concern with aging Mike Smith frequently sidelined. Their left-side defense and forward depth are also concerns. Friedman believes there will be sensible moves out there for the Oilers involving teams that aren’t that good looking to make moves that don’t have to involve parting with a first-round pick for a rental player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman believes Oilers general manager Ken Holland must move on from backup goalie Mikko Koskinen, either by recalling Stuart Skinner and giving him more starts or making a trade.

Finding a suitable option in the current trade market, however, is easier said than done. The pickings are very slim right now as clubs that could become sellers aren’t in any hurry to make moves right now.

The Dallas Stars attempted to move struggling Anton Khudobin last month but couldn’t find any takers and would up demoting him to the minors. There’s also no certainty the 35-year-old goalie will waive his no-trade clause to come to Edmonton.

Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (NHL Images).

Speaking of sellers, Marek and Friedman also pondered what moves could be in store for the Montreal Canadiens before the March 21 trade deadline. Defenseman Ben Chiarot is an unrestricted free agent this summer and could fetch a late first-round pick.

They wondered if management will approach Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher to determine if a parting of the ways is best for both sides if a rebuild is a plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of Canadiens executive VP of hockey ops Jeff Gorton and whoever he hires as the new general manager meeting with Price and Gallagher to discuss their futures. Trading either guy, however, probably won’t happen until the offseason.

Both players carry hefty contracts with several years remaining on them. Price has a full no-movement clause while Gallagher carries a six-team no-trade list.

Price has yet to play this season as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery and mental health issues that saw him spend a month in the NHL-NHLPA player assistance program at the start of the season. Gallagher, meanwhile, has had his own injury woes as he struggles through the worst season of his career.


Friedman believes the first big trade of 2022 will involve Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old Arizona Coyotes defenseman carries an affordable $4.6 million annual average value for three more seasons. He is usually the type of player a rebuilding club prefers to retain but he could fetch the Coyotes a significant return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors before Christmas suggested the Coyotes could seek four assets for Chychrun but interested parties weren’t put off by that high asking price. We’ll find out in the coming weeks if Friedman’s prediction comes true.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson will be interested to see what the New York Rangers do with Ryan Strome. The 27-year-old second-line center skates alongside winger Artemi Panarin but is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Matheson notes Strome currently makes $4.5 million annually, which is low for a second-line center. He draws a comparison to former Rangers center Kevin Hayes, who signed a seven-year deal for $7.1 million annually with the Philadelphia Flyers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have reportedly held preliminary contract talks with Strome. If he uses Hayes as a comparable the Blueshirts could balk but that will leave them shopping around for a replacement in the offseason.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2022

Alex Ovechkin becomes the all-time power-play goal leader, the Blues and Wild prepare to meet in the 2022 Winter Classic, plus the latest COVID updates and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of the New Year.


NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin became the NHL’s all-time power-play goal leader as his Washington Capitals defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. The Capitals captain tallied his 275 career power-play goal to pass Dave Andreychuk in what also proved to be the game-winner. Ovechkin added an empty netter to seal the win for the Capitals (47 points), who moved into first place in the overall standings.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 754 career goals, Ovechkin is now just 12 behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the all-time goal list.

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes scored twice, including the winner in overtime, in a 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Hughes finished with three points for the second straight game. Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto each tallied twice for the Oilers (37 points), who moved one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Mika Zibanejad’s shootout goal lifted the New York Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Former Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow scored twice against his former club. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist.

The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their 10th win in their last 12 games by dropping the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. The Golden Knights sit atop the Western Conference with 44 points and three ahead of the Ducks in the Pacific Division. Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 42 saves in a losing cause.


NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild are preparing to meet in the 2022 Winter Classic at Target Field commencing at 7 pm ET today. It’s the first Winter Classic to be staged in Minnesota and could be the coldest outdoor game in league history as temperatures could reach between minus-3 and minus-9 Fahrenheit. The Blues and Wild enter this game jockeying for first place in the Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could prove to be a more competitive game compared to some of the previous Winter Classics. The extreme cold, however, will affect the players’ performance and test the hardiness of the anticipated 40,000 fans in attendance.

COVID-19, meanwhile, continues to affect the regular-season schedule as the league postponed nine more games yesterday, bringing the total of deferred games to 90. Eight of those games were postponed due to current attendance restrictions in some Canadian cities.

SPORTSNET: NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell said the league will try to preserve as many full-capacity home games for Canadian teams as possible. All seven Canadian teams currently have reduced capacity due to recent provincial restrictions introduced to reduce the spread of the COVID Omicron variant.

A number of Canadian home games have been postponed. The league hopes to reschedule those contests as restrictions are eased or lifted over time.

Alberta and British Columbia joined Ontario in reducing its isolation requirements from 10 days to five for fully vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will get players who test positive back sooner than the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens, whose home provinces of Manitoba and Quebec still have mandatory 10-day self-isolation periods.

United States-based teams are also now under the five-day rule after the US Centers for Disease Control reduced their isolation requirements earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Jeff Carter, New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff and St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn were among the latest to enter COVID protocol.

TSN: Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (lower-body injury) is questionable for today’s game against the Florida Panthers.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin has been sidelined with an upper-body injury.

CBS SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian missed yesterday’s game against the Rangers with a lower-body injury.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Patrick Marleau’s wife Christina said the second of the couple’s four sons was nearly kidnapped during a family trip earlier this week. An unnamed couple attempted to coax 11-year-old Brody into coming with them after he returned to the hotel pool to collect the sunglasses he’d left behind. A good samaritan family intervened and alerted hotel security.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thank goodness for the other family stepping in when they did. Christina also said she saw the woman who attempted to lure away Brody and informed him the police had been called, hotel security was watching her and she had to leave. The report didn’t indicate if that woman and her partner were detained.

NHL Rumor Mill – December 31, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – December 31, 2021

How will the Golden Knights clear salary-cap space for Jack Eichel’s return in February? Could the Canadiens trade Brendan Gallagher or Tyler Toffoli before the March trade deadline? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Evgenii Dadonov and Reilly Smith top Owen Krepps’ list of potential cost-cutting Vegas Golden Knights trade candidates to clear salary-cap space for Jack Eichel’s return to action in February.

Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith (NHL Images).

The Golden Knights acquired Eichel in an early-season trade from the Buffalo Sabres. He’s been on long-term injury reserve after recovering from neck surgery last fall and is expected to make his Golden Knights’ debut in late February.

Eichel carries a $10 million annual salary-cap hit. His return would put the Golden Knights over the $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling by $4.6 million.

Krepps considered Dadonov the most likely trade candidate, pointing to his lack of consistency this season. He felt the winger could be of interest to rebuilding clubs like the Ottawa Senators or Detroit Red Wings. Dadonov’s annual cap hit is $5 million through 2022-23 and he carries a modified no-trade clause.

Smith is also earning $5 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. That could make him a trade candidate and he could fetch a good return. However, he’s producing at a better level than Dadonov and could be worthwhile retaining for the playoffs.

Other trade candidates include Brayden McNabb and Mattias Janmark. Krepps also suggests they could get some cap relief if defenseman Alec Martinez remains on LTIR recovering from a facial injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krepps piece was published before Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty was sidelined indefinitely by wrist surgery. As NBC Sports’ James O’Brien points out, Pacioretty’s $7 million cap hit won’t totally cancel out Eichel’s $10 million but it would alleviate much of that potential salary-cap strain if the veteran winger goes on LTIR for the remainder of the season.

The Golden Knights could still be forced to move Dadonov or Smith if Pacioretty and Martinez return before Eichel’s debut or soon afterward. While Krepps believes Dadonov is the more likely trade candidate, I think it’s Smith who ends up moving despite his value to the Golden Knights.

Dadonov’s inconsistency, the extra year on his contract and his 10-team no-trade list would make him harder to move than the productive Smith, who lacks no-trade protection. I doubt the Senators are interested in bringing Dadonov back. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are jockeying for a wild-card berth and could prefer Smith over Dadonov if they’re in the market for a scoring winger.

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels made three bold predictions for the Montreal Canadiens in 2022. He doesn’t believe they’ll trade winger Brendan Gallagher before the March 21 trade deadline but felt winger Tyler Toffoli could be on the move by then.

Engels points out Gallagher is in the first year of a six-year, $39 million contract with a no-movement clause and partial no-trade clause. He considers the idea of retaining some of his salary and recouping good value in a trade to be farfetched. Engels also believes Gallagher would be of more worth to the Canadiens as their captain leading a crop of new up-and-coming players.

Toffoli, on the other hand, has an affordable $4.25 million annual cap hit and lacks no-trade protection. Despite his recent hand injury, he’s the type of player postseason contenders could be interested in as the deadline approaches.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that Engels is merely making “bold predictions” here and isn’t citing sources indicating what the Canadiens intend to do with Gallagher and Toffoli. They still haven’t chosen a new general manager yet and we don’t know what they and Jeff Gorton (their new executive VP of hockey operations) intend to do at the trade deadline.

Nevertheless, I concur with Engels that Toffoli would be more likely to move before the trade deadline than Gallagher if the Canadiens intend to commence a full roster rebuild.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.

Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.

Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.


NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.

Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.

Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.


MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.

NHL Rumor Mill – December 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – December 17, 2021

The latest Canadiens speculation and an update on Evander Kane in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Marc Antoine Godin spoke with several NHL scouts regarding the potential trade value of several notable Montreal Canadiens players.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

Several clubs could have an interest in goaltender Carey Price but his hefty contract and no-movement clause make him difficult to trade. It could be worthwhile testing Jake Allen’s trade value if Price returns from offseason knee surgery later this season as they already have Sam Montembault and Cayden Primeau as backups. Allen could fetch a first-round pick.

Jeff Petry could draw some interest from clubs seeking a second-pairing defenseman and could bring in perhaps a couple of draft picks. His $6.25 million annual salary cap hit and no-trade clause are stumbling blocks.

Ben Chiarot is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 30-year-old defenseman could be worth a first-round pick if he remains healthy.

Left winger Brendan Gallagher is another who would draw interest but whose expensive contract and no-trade clause could make him difficult to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Godin touched on several other Canadiens (including Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Toffoli) but I’m focusing on those who’ve surfaced most frequently in the rumor mill. The piece is also behind a paywall so you’ll need a subscription to read the entire thing. I’ve also encapsulated the takes on the aforementioned as Godin and the scouts he spoke with go into great detail over each player’s potential value.

Changes will be coming for the Canadiens, most likely starting around the time of the March 21 trade deadline. Pending UFAs like Chiarot, Brett Kulak, Mathieu Perreault, Cedric Paquette and Chris Wideman will be shopped. I wouldn’t be surprised if a restricted free agent with arbitration rights like Artturi Lehkonen ends up on the trade block if they’re unwilling to sign a long-term deal.

The biggest changes could occur in the offseason. One or two could involve an expensive core player such as Price, Petry or Gallagher. Maybe one or two players with a year or two left on their contracts, such as Drouin or Toffoli, get peddled this summer. We’ll just have to wait and see what executive VP of hockey ops Jeff Gorten and his new general manager have in store.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen observed several NHL clubs sent scouts to follow scandal-plagued San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane as he works on his conditioning and timing with their AHL affiliate.

A Red Wings scout was in attendance at one of Kane’s AHL games but there’s no confirmation he was there to follow the 30-year-old winger. Allan doesn’t believe Kane is the type of player the Wings need given his age and expensive contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s well-documented off-ice issues and reputation for being a dressing-room hasn’t dissuaded some clubs from considering the possibility of adding him to their roster. He’s a reliable scorer who plays with a physical edge.

The Sharks are said to be willing to retain part of his salary to facilitate a trade. I’m with the camp that believes it could take a three-team deal to spread his $7 million cap hit around to get it done. We’ll see if there’s any serious interest in him in the coming weeks.

NHL Rumor Mill – December 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – December 13, 2021

Analysis of a list of suggested Canadiens trade candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TVA SPORTS: asked their NHL analysts for their picks of which players the Montreal Canadiens could move before the March 21 trade deadline and those they keep.

Renaud Lavoie believes the Canadiens should shop goaltender Jake Allen and retain Brendan Gallagher.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Allen is among the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Canadiens. He’s signed through 2022-23 with an affordable $2.875 million cap hit. Clubs seeking experienced depth between the pipes could have an interest in Allen. However, I doubt the Habs would consider moving him until Carey Price returns to action. Even then, his affordable contract and reliability as Price’s backup make it likely that they’ll hang onto him.

Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (NHL Images).

Teams love Gallagher’s work ethic and feisty style but they won’t be enamored of his $6.5 million cap hit through 2026-27. The Habs would have to pick up a healthy chunk of his annual average value to move him. His six-team no-trade list could also be a bit of a sticking point. Moving Gallagher seems like something that would occur in the offseason than at the trade deadline when teams have more salary-cap space to work with.

Patrick Lalime suggests shopping Jonathan Drouin and retaining Nick Suzuki.

Drouin has had consistency issues but he could flourish on a deeper club. He’s got a $5.5 million cap hit but only one season left on his deal plus a three-team no-trade list. It could be worth exploring the trade market to gauge his value.

Suzuki’s not going anywhere unless he demands a trade. The Canadiens signed the 22-year-old to an eight-year deal that kicks in next season at an annual cap hit of $7.875 million. He remains a key part of the Canadiens’ future despite the recent management change.

Felix Seguin proposed peddling Joel Armia and retaining Artturi Lehkonen.

Armia has three more seasons at $3.5 million annually on his contract. He’s affordable but his streaky play could hurt his trade value. .

Lehkonen is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer who will also be a year away from UFA eligibility. The Canadiens could try to move him at the trade deadline if he’s only seeking a one-year deal. However, they can afford to wait until the summer or next season’s trade deadline.

Louis Jean recommended trading Carey Price and retaining head coach Dominique Ducharme.

Price won’t be going anywhere at the trade deadline. He’s still rehabbing his way back from offseason knee surgery. His $10.5 million cap hit through 2025-26 and full no-movement clause makes it very difficult to move him during the season.

Trading Price might have to wait until the offseason and could require the Habs retaining half of his cap hit. They might also need to get a third team involved willing to pick up half of the remainder for a sweetener like a draft pick to facilitate shipping him to any interested club.

Jean believes Ducharme deserves another chance after having little time to prepare last season and a shortened offseason heading into 2021-22. Canadien executive VP of hockey ops Jeff Gorton said Ducharme would remain as head coach for the rest of the season. Whether he’s still behind the bench next season isn’t a certainty.

Guillaume Latendresse believes Jeff Petry should be moved and Ryan Poehling retained.

Petry has had a horrible season but the 34-year-old defenseman reached 40 points last season for the fourth straight year. He carries a $6.25 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 and a 15-team no-trade clause. Still, there could be a playoff contender willing to bet on Petry regaining his form on a better blueline.

Poehling had difficulty cracking the Canadiens roster in the past but the 22-year-old has shown potential this season. He’s signed through 2022-23 at a very affordable $750K. He’ll be staying put.

Maxime Lapierre felt they should trade Ben Chiarot and hang onto Alexander Romanov.

Chiarot is slated to become a UFA next summer. There’s talk he could fetch a first-round pick. That makes him their most likely trade candidate.

Romanov is only 21 and still has plenty of potential as a top-four defenseman. His future remains in Montreal.