NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2021

The Lightning face some tough decisions this summer, the latest Vladimir Tarasenko speculation and updates on the Flames, Islanders and Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LIGHTNING FACE DIFFICULT OFFSEASON DECISIONS

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports the Tampa Bay Lightning could face some tough decisions this summer to become salary-cap compliant for next season. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million cap by $3.5 million.

The Lightning has several players (Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde) with market value. Sources say all of them will receive interest so moving one of them wouldn’t be a salary dump.

General manager Julien BriseBois said he’s had discussions with the Seattle Kraken about a side deal. He doesn’t intend to ask any of his players with no-movement clauses to waive them for the upcoming expansion draft.

BriseBois has no plans to buy out anyone. That includes Tyler Johnson, who won’t be easy to move with three years left on his contract and an annual average value of $5 million. He also admitted it’s possible forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow depart via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning has 17 players under contract for next season. They could be looking at trying to clear over $10 million to leave enough wiggle room under the cap to fill out the rest of their lineup and still leave room for other moves if necessary during next season.

They’ll have to shed even more if they want to keep Coleman, Goodrow and fellow UFA David Savard. That doesn’t seem likely. Rumor has it the Bruins will push hard to sign Goodrow when the free-agent market opens.

Could the Tampa Bay Lightning ask Steven Stamkos to waive his NMC to accept a trade? (NHL Images)

Smith’s colleague Pierre LeBrun wondered if BriseBois might approach captain Steven Stamkos about waiving his no-movement clause for a trade. There was talk last fall Stamkos’ camp was approached but the answer was no. LeBrun thinks there could be another conversation about it but I don’t think Stamkos wants to consider it. He took less than market value to stay with the Lightning and could be determined to stay put for the duration.

BriseBois could attempt to find more cap flexibility by acquiring a player or two on permanent long-term injury reserve. That’s what he did last December by shipping Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to the Ottawa Senators for the contracts of Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson.

LATEST TARASENKO SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers are believed on the list of trade destinations Vladimir Tarasenko provided to the St. Louis Blues.

The Lightning are believed to be Tarasenko’s top preference but they’re already well over the salary cap for next season. The Rangers are an option but GM Chris Drury might want to move Chris Kreider in the deal. That could prove difficult, in part because of the winger’s no-movement clause.

Rutherford thinks the Islanders could also be a possible landing spot. However, they might not be willing to part with defenseman Noah Dobson. The Bruins could be unwilling to give up a first-round pick while the Flyers might not give up prospect Morgan Frost. There’s also speculation about a one-for-one swap with the Capitals for Evgeny Kuznetsov but he’s had off-ice issues and carries a $7.8 million cap hit for four more seasons.

It’s believed the Blues have an interest in Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk. However, the Flames aren’t on Tarasenko’s list. The Flames aren’t looking to move Tkachuk this summer but Rutherford speculates they might be forced to next summer if he doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of interesting stuff here. The Rangers’ focus could be more on Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. The Islanders have limited cap space and are trying to free up room to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin. Not saying they couldn’t use a scorer like Tarasenko but they’ll have to make room by perhaps moving out a forward such as Jordan Eberle.

The Golden Knights are more interested in shoring up their depth at center. The Bruins’ focus is on improving the left side of their blueline and re-signing Taylor Hall and perhaps Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. The Flyers are focused on adding a top-pairing right-side defenseman such as Columbus’ Seth Jones or Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton.

It’ll take quite a display of salary-cap gymnastics by the Lightning to squeeze Tarasenko into their limited payroll for next season. Kuznetsov’s personal baggage and cap hit screams “buyer, beware!” The Panthers could use a reliable right-side scorer but GM Bill Zito might prefer the Blues retain some salary in a Tarasenko deal.

I’m not suggesting Tarasenko won’t be traded. However, his injury history and $7.5 million AAV for the next two seasons make it tough to find a suitable deal.

UPDATES ON THE FLAMES, ISLANDERS AND FLYERS

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis reports Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving quashed a recent rumor suggesting winger Matthew Tkachuk wanted out of Calgary. “There’s nothing to it,” said Treliving. He’s also touched base with other clubs to gauge interest in several of his players coming off disappointing seasons.

Contract extension talks have begun between Treliving and the agent for Johnny Gaudreau. The winger’s limited no-trade clause kicks in on July 28, prompting some to suggest he’d have to be moved before then if a new deal cannot be reached.

Team captain Mark Giordano appears a prime candidate to be snapped up by the Seattle Kraken in next week’s expansion draft. The Flames could leave him unprotected. Discussions between Giordano and Treliving on the subject are continuing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giordano, 37, has a year remaining on his contract. He could be exposed if Treliving opts to protect just three defensemen as expected. Perhaps Treliving is working on a side deal with the Kraken to have them pass over Giordano for someone else on the Flames’ unprotected list.

DAILY FACEOFF: Cam Lewis cited The Athletic’s Arthur Staple recently reporting two league sources said the New York Islanders are shopping Nick Leddy. They’re hoping to get something for the 30-year-old defenseman rather than lose him in next week’s expansion draft to the Kraken for nothing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy still has some value as a second-pairing defenseman. His cap hit ($5.5 million), however, could make it difficult to find a suitable trade partner.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is willing to trade his first-round pick (13th overall) in this year’s draft if it’ll fetch a player who can help the club over the long term.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2021

Reaction to rumors linking Jack Eichel to the Coyotes, plus the latest on the Flames and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARE THE COYOTES INTERESTED IN EICHEL?

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan said a report earlier this week claiming the Arizona Coyotes were a “serious contender” to acquire Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel appears to be inaccurate. His understanding is the Coyotes aren’t interested in trading for Eichel and he doesn’t think they’ve even talked to anyone about the Sabres star.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Morgan acknowledged the Coyotes could use Eichel, noting they haven’t had a legitimate first-line center in 20 years. However, they forfeited their first-round pick in this year’s draft, which would be a crucial part of the Sabres’ asking price.

The Coyotes cannot afford to give away any more first-round picks. Concerns about Eichel’s neck injury, leadership and his willingness to be in Arizona would also be worrying issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the Los Angeles Kings could be the front-runners if the Sabres put Eichel on the trade block. They’ve got the cap space, plenty of draft picks, and considerable depth in prospects and promising roster players to make a competitive bid if general manager Rob Blake is so inclined.

The Rangers would be next but their proximity to Buffalo would make trading Eichel to New York a sticky issue for Sabres management. Their preference could be moving him as far away as possible.

UPDATE ON THE FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson reports Flames general manager Brad Treliving acknowledged his club must make changes following this season’s disappointing performance. Whether he’ll be sticking around to make those changes remains to be seen. While Treliving is said to have two years left on his contract, he indicated he hasn’t heard from team ownership yet about his own job security.

Gilbertson also reported captain Mark Giordano could be left exposed in this year’s expansion draft, where he’d be a tempting target to be plucked away by the Seattle Kraken. Giordano said he wants to remain with the only NHL club he’s ever played for. However, the Flames can’t risk leaving younger defensemen like Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin or Chris Tanev exposed.

Daniel Austin reports winger Johnny Gaudreau is willing to discuss a contract extension. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Gaudreau said he loves the city and loves playing there. Austin considers the winger to be their best trade chip and re-signing him won’t be easy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Big decisions are coming for the Flames this summer, starting with whether Treliving remains as the general manager. If he does, he’ll likely be working more closely with head coach (and former Flames GM) Darryl Sutter on addressing their roster needs.

The Flames’ best option with Giordano is exposing him in the draft but cutting a side deal with the Kraken so they’ll take someone else from their protected list. Otherwise, they’ll have to hope Kraken GM Ron Francis will be put off by Giordano’s age (37) and the single year left on his contract.

Gaudreau’s been the whipping boy for fans and pundits for the Flames’ recent struggles. Nevertheless, I think he’s sincere about wanting to sign an extension. He’s going to seek a hefty raise over his current $6.75 million annual average value.

Given the decline in Gaudreau’s production over the last two seasons, the Flames must decide if he’s worth that kind of long-term investment. If not, they could shop him this summer. for the best possible return.

LATEST ON THE RED WINGS

THE ATHLETIC: Max Bultman reported Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman believes his club must add more scoring and shore up the depth on the left side of his blue line.

Bultman speculates Yzerman could turn to free agency or trades to address those issues, especially for a left-shot defenseman. He also noted the Wings GM would consider trading draft picks and prospects for a 26-or-young scorer who would fit in with the club’s current young forwards.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Marc Staal is open to returning with the Wings next season. The 34-year-old defenseman is an unrestricted free agent this summer, completing a six-year, $34.2 million contract. He’s also open to playing with brother Eric (who’s also a pending UFA with the Canadiens) or Jordan in Carolina.

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Jonathan Bernier is also interested in returning with the Wings. Like Staal, the 32-year-old netminder is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Look no further than Jakub Vrana for the type of young forward Yzerman would like to add to his roster. He acquired Vrana from the Washington Capitals (along with two draft picks and veteran winger Richard Panik) in exchange for Anthony Mantha at last month’s trade deadline. Yzerman didn’t give up draft picks and prospects in that deal but he would to in order to land another comparable young scorer.

If Staal and Bernier are willing to accept affordable short-term deals then there’s probably a place for both with the Wings. However, that will depend on what moves Yzerman has in store during the summer. Both could be replaced by younger options via trades or free agency.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 20, 2021

Are big offseason moves in store for the Flames and Kings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE FLAMES?

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently looked at some key offseason questions facing the Calgary Flames following a disappointing season. He wondered if Brad Treliving will return as general manager. While Treliving isn’t afraid to make big decisions, the Flames under his watch have proven incapable of winning when it matters most.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Francis feels they need an overhaul more than a roster teardown. That could involve winger Johnny Gaudreau, who is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. They cannot afford to lose him for next to nothing the way they did when they gave away Jarome Iginla.

The Flames won’t have any limitations on trading Gaudreau until July 28, when his modified no-trade clause kicks in. It won’t be easy trading him in a flat-cap era when his stock has declined.

Francis wondered if the Flames will leave defenseman Mark Giordano exposed in the expansion draft. He also downplayed the possibility of acquiring Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres, pointing out the Flames lack sufficient depth in star players and top prospects to make a competitive pitch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Changes are coming for the Flames. They have to. They cannot return with the same roster and expect better results.

They could replace Treliving though I suspect if they were thinking of doing so it would’ve happened by now. He’s got two more years left on his contract. They could give him at least one more year to dig his way out of this mess.

Whoever sits in the GM’s chair this summer will have to make one or two moves to shake things up. Moving Gaudreau seems the most obvious move but only if there’s a decent return to be had this summer. Otherwise, it might be best to keep him for next season and see if his trade value improves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, Flames fans, feel free to offer up your views in the comments section below.

LATEST ON THE KINGS

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Helene Elliott believes Kings GM Rob Blake is on the clock to transform his club into a playoff team. He’s under pressure to use his $20 million in salary-cap space and the young talent he’s accumulated and turn the Kings into a Stanley Cup contender.

Team captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty last week expressed their hope that Blake will add impact players this summer. Elliott feels he has several paths toward doing so, either via free agency, leveraging assets in trades, or targeting cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary.

Blake acknowledged Doughty’s comments, adding that making the playoffs next season is a must. He also said this season provided a better understanding of where certain holes in the roster may be and the progression of some of their younger players.

THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman believes adding one or two top-six wingers for Kopitar’s line should be among the Kings’ priorities this summer. They should target clubs that risk losing a quality player to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Given their prospect depth, Dillman proposed they consider shopping their first-round pick if it remains at eighth overall following the draft lottery.

They could also use some help on the left side of their defense. She suggested checking into the availability of Nashville Predators blueliner Mattias Ekholm or the Carolina Hurricanes’ Jake Bean. Perhaps Vegas Golden Knights pending UFA Alec Martinez might be willing to return to the Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake is sitting in a good position to make a couple of significant additions. The Kings GM has five picks in the first three rounds in this year’s draft plus plenty of promising prospects to draw upon for trade bait. He can also put his cap space to good use in the trade and/or free-agent market.

The trade market could include forwards like Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and defensemen such as Ekholm, Bean or St. Louis’ Vince Dunn. Free agency could feature Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston’s Taylor Hall, Colorado’s Brandon Saad and Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman.

Finding the right players, however, will be the challenge. The nightmare is wasting assets and valuable long-term cap space on players who fail to move the needle.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2021

Should the Rangers pursue Jack Eichel or Matthew Tkachuk? What the latest speculation on the Flames and Sharks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

RANGERS

ESPN: Emily Kaplan believes the New York Rangers will be mentioned as front-runners for Jack Eichel if the Buffalo Sabres shop their captain in the offseason. His agents are the same ones who represented Rangers general manager Chris Drury during his playing days.

They could find a way to fit Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 into their cap payroll. However, Kaplan feels a bigger priority is figuring out how to re-sign center Mika Zibanejad.

THE ATHLETIC: Rick Carpiniello doesn’t believe it would be worth the cost for the Rangers to acquire a center like Eichel when he’s not much better than Zibanejad right now. Pursuing an upgrade over second-line center Ryan Strome would be a better option. He recommends targeting an “Aleksander Barkov type” – slated for unrestricted free agent status next summer and possibly available at next season’s trade deadline.

Could the New York Rangers pursue Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk in this summer’s trade market? (NHL Images).

Adding a tough forward comparable to the Tkachuk brothers in Calgary and Ottawa or Washington’s Tom Wilson should be the Rangers’ priority. It could mean sacrificing a top-six forward or two to address that need.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk would be a perfect fit for the Rangers. It would take a “massive bounty” to pry Tkachuk away.

Brooks considers Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere and perhaps Ryan Lindgren as untouchable. The Rangers would be reluctant to part with Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller but they’ll have to trade someone they don’t want to sacrifice to land a transformational top-six forward. A package containing a permutation of Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Nils Lundkvist and future first-rounders probably won’t get it done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading for Eichel would be a bold move for the Rangers and one team CEO James Dolan would probably approve. However, his cap hit would be expensive while meeting the Sabres’ asking price could hurt the Rangers’ overall roster depth. It’ll also make it very difficult to re-sign Zibanejad.

Tkachuk would provide that physical boost among the Rangers’ top-six. That being said, the factors that make him attractive to the Blueshirts also make him valuable to the Flames.

Finding a Barkov-type by next year’s trade deadline won’t be easy. Barkov himself could be re-signed by the Panthers this summer following their strong performance this season. Sean Couturier would be the best fit but I don’t see the Philadelphia Flyers parting ways with him.

Patrice Bergeron falls into that category but he’ll turn 36 in July and should finish his career as a Bruin. Nazem Kadri could also fall into that category but the Avs won’t move him if they’re still among the Cup contenders.

FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson includes the status of winger Johnny Gaudreau and defenseman Mark Giordano among the five key questions facing the Flames this offseason.

Some are convinced the 27-year-old Gaudreau could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Trading one of their leading scorers, however, would also force the Flames to go shopping for his replacement.

The Flames could have little choice but to leave Giordano exposed in this summer’s expansion draft. The team captain turns 38 later this year and has a year remaining on his contract. Gilbertson wonders if they should swing a side deal with the Seattle Kraken to convince them to take another player.

GM Brad Treliving will be on the hot seat after seven seasons and five head coaches. However, his future could be tied to recently-hired head coach Darryl Sutter. They both have two years left on their contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’ve been growing calls among Calgary fans and pundits to move Gaudreau. This team needs a shakeup after two disappointing seasons. Trading Gaudreau could be part of that plan unless there are talks afoot about a contract extension. If they trade him they must find someone via trade or free agency to replace his production.

As for Giordano, the Kraken could be reluctant to select an aging defenseman who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. It’ll be interesting to see how the Flames handle this situation.

SHARKS

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reports San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson acknowledged his club’s depth in goal and finding a third-lie center must be addressed. He said he’s willing to explore all options. That could include talks with teams to make players available, either with the Seattle Kraken or other clubs in a different position than the Sharks at the expansion draft.

Kurz speculates the Sharks could buy out the remaining three years of goalie Martin Jones’ contract. That would save the Sharks $3.8 million next season, $3.3 million in 2022-23 and $2.8 million in 2023-24 before getting dinged with $1.67 million annually against their cap over the final three years of the six-year buyout period.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White believes Tomas Hertl’s future with the Sharks should also be among their priorities. The 27-year-old forward is eligible next summer for UFA status. He recommends re-signing him this summer or trading him by the draft. He also feels they should consider exposing high-salaried players such as Jones, Evander Kane and Brent Burns in the hope the Kraken selects one of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a well-deserved reputation as a savvy wheeler-dealer. However, this offseason could be the biggest test of his long career as the Sharks GM. They’ve got too many aging players carrying hefty contracts that could prove too difficult to move without absorbing some salary and/or packaging them with sweeteners (draft picks, prospects) they can’t afford to give up.

Judging by Wilson’s comments, he’s mapped out his plans for the offseason and seems confident that he has sufficient options to address his needs. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out what they are and if he can pull it off. His job could depend on it.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 10, 2021

The Flames stay alive in the North Division playoff chase, John Tortorella parts ways with the Blue Jackets, Rick Tocchet leaves the Coyotes, plus the latest suspensions and fines in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames kept their playoff hopes alive by thumping the Ottawa Senators 6-1. Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each had a goal and two assists as the Flames (49 points) moved to within eight points of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Scotia North Division.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary holds two games in hand over Montreal, who have two games remaining in their schedule. However, the Canadiens need just one point to clinch.

A two-goal performance by Alex DeBrincat gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. DeBrincat has 31 goals and 54 points in 51 games.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen released a statement yesterday indicating John Tortorella won’t be returning as head coach. The decision was a mutual one. Tortorella’s contract expires after this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline leaked this story yesterday hours before Kekalainen made it official. Tortorella departs the Jackets as the most successful coach in franchise history, winning the second of his Jack Adams Awards for his efforts in turning the Jackets into a playoff club in 2016-17. They reached the playoffs four times during his six seasons behind their bench, winning their first-ever playoff series in 2019. I’ll have more about the Jackets in the Rumors section.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes and Rick Tocchet mutually agreed to part ways. Tocchet was their head coach for four seasons, during which the club underwent a change of ownership in 2019 and a change in management last when GM John Chayka suddenly departed on the eve of the postseason.  His contract was expiring after this season. The Coyotes reached the playoffs last season, upsetting the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round before falling in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche.

SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon received a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct during Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers. Brandon Montour of the Panthers was fined $5,000.00 for spearing Maroon while teammate MacKenzie Weegar was fined $5,000.00 for high-sticking Maroon’s teammate Mathieu Joseph.

The NHL’s department of player safety fined Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson $1,000.00 for a dangerous trip on Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares on Saturday.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill: the Flames face some big offseason decisions, it might be time for the Sharks to consider trading Timo Meier or Kevin Labanc and Nikita Zadorov’s uncertain future with the Blackhawks.

TSN: Salim Valji examined the seven-year tenure of Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving and the big decisions he faces in the offseason. He pointed out the perception of the Flames as a flawed team has grown, suggesting it’ll take more than a handful of transactions to turn this disappointing club into a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Winger Johnny Gaudreau’s no-trade clause kicks in after this season and he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Team captain Mark Giordano could be exposed in the expansion draft. Under-performing winger Matthew Tkachuk will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights requiring a $9 million qualifying offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving took responsibility for the Flames’ discouraging performance this season but that’s cold comfort for their fans. There could be growing calls for a new GM but Valji points out Treliving has two years remaining on his contract.

Gaudreau’s future could be Treliving’s biggest decision. The 27-year-old winger is a whipping boy for the Flames’ woes as his production has declined over the last two years. He could be their best trade chip but interested parties will want to know if Gaudreau will sign a contract extension before committing to a trade. He’d have more value if he’s under contract beyond next season.

Exposing Giordano in the expansion draft is a calculated risk. The Seattle Kraken could select him but could prefer another option given his age (37) and UFA eligibility next summer.

Tkachuk disappointed this season but the Flames could be reluctant to part ways with the pesky 23-year-old winger. He’d attract plenty of interest in the trade market but some teams will balk at that hefty qualifying offer.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz points out it’s not just the San Jose Sharks’ veterans who are playing poorly of late but also their younger players. Most concerning is Timo Meier (24) and Kevin Labanc (25) aren’t performing to the level expected of players with their contracts.

Kurz wonders if it might be time to trade one or both but that won’t be easy. While they lack no-trade protection, Labanc has a $4.725 million cap hit for the next three seasons while Meier’s is $6 million annually for the next two.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their trade value at this point would also be affected by their play this season. Factor in those cap hits and getting a worthwhile return for either guy this summer seems unlikely.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope suggested the Blackhawks’ signing physical defenseman Riley Stillman to a three-year contract extension casts more doubt over Nikita Zadorov’s future in Chicago. He speculates Zadorov’s RFA rights could be traded in the offseason.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman listened to offers for Zadorov at the trade deadline but set a high asking price. He might have to lower it to move the blueliner this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stillman’s $1.35 million annual average value and age (23) makes him a younger, more affordable option for the Blackhawks than the 26-year-old Zadorov, who’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights. He’s also got arbitration rights this summer, making him perhaps more difficult to move this summer.