SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was heartbreaking news. My sincere condolences to Cave’s family, friends, and family. By all accounts, he was an upstanding young man with a strong work ethic. It’s so sad when a young life is ended before it has truly begun.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning’s chances to atone for the dissatisfying end to their otherwise dominant 2018-19 campaign could be slipping away if this season is canceled because of the coronavirus.
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said it would be a huge disappointment. “For what our team has done this year, and how we’ve set ourselves up, the additions that we’ve made, where we were at that point in the season with just a handful of games left and trying to gear up for a long playoff run and a successful playoff run, you just hope and you pray that there’s some scenario out there where we can somehow finish.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s easy to say they’ll get another shot next season, but the Lightning might not be the same club by then. Limited salary-cap space means they’ll have to shed a player or two (Alex Killorn, perhaps?) in order to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Unrestricted free agents like Patrick Maroon and Kevin Shattenkirk probably won’t be back. Those moves could adversely affect their overall chemistry and depth.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings center Dylan Larkin and his family donated 50,000 vinyl powder-free and nitrile gloves to the Detroit Medical Center and St Joseph Mercy Medical Group.
BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller encountered some setbacks during his rehab of his twice-broken kneecap. An unrestricted free agent at the end of his season, his future with the Bruins is in doubt.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin has signed a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL. He explained the Canucks didn’t want to re-sign him but hopes to return to the NHL in two-years time.
The latest on the Leafs, Jets, and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LEAFS GM ACKNOWLEDGES DEFENSE IS A LONG-TERM NEED
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun the reason he didn’t adjust his roster at the trade deadline was in part because he didn’t see an opportunity to solve his club’s long-term needs on defense. Dubas received calls about defenseman Tyson Barrie, but Bob McKenzie reported the Leafs GM sought a right-handed blueliner as part of the return. Barrie remained with the Leafs and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas could’ve resolved that issue much sooner if he hadn’t handcuffed himself by signing center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77-million contract. Even if next season’s salary cap jumps to $88 million, he still has over $77 million tied up in 16 players. That won’t leave much wiggle room to suitably address that need and fill out the rest of the roster.
Could a higher-than-expected salary cap for next season make it easier for the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign Alex Pietrangelo if he test the UFA market?
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo has come up as a possible target for the Leafs if he tests this summer’s market, but they can’t afford what’s likely to be at least a $9-million annual average value to sign him without first shedding considerable salary in the process. Sami Vatanen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Schultz, Travis Hamonic, and Justin Braun would be more affordable, but it would still lead to a cap crunch.
Dubas could be forced to shop a forward to address that long-term blueline need. Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot often surfaced in this season’s rumor mill as trade candidates.
COULD THE JETS BECOME FREE-AGENT SPENDERS THIS SUMMER?
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes the projected rise of the salary cap to between $84 million and $88 million will allow Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to go shopping for talent this summer. The rise in the cap and the potential termination of Dustin Byfuglien‘s contract ($7.6 million AAV) could leave the Jets with $22 million to fill nine roster spaces. Four of those could be filled by re-signing Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, and Sami Niku.
McIntyre recommends re-signing Dylan DeMelo and Nathan Beaulieu. He also proposes scouring the free-agent market for blueline depth, suggesting Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Carolina’s Joel Edmundson, and Washington’s Brenden Dillon as options. McIntyre acknowledged that it could be mitigated if Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg are ready for full-time duty next season. There could also be a need for depth at center and a new backup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff could make a splash or two via free agency, but that’s not a certainty. The Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen points out the Jets GM usually isn’t a big spender in the off-season, preferring more cost-effective options. Maybe he changes his mind this summer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he remains a bargain hunter.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: Rick Dhaliwal recently sorted through the Vancouver Canucks’ free-agent scenarios for this summer. While they’d like to re-sign pending UFAs like Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, and Chris Tanev, their limited salary-cap space could hamper those efforts. They have over $63 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Given Markstrom’s value as their starting goalie and Toffoli’s contributions to their forward lines, Tanev could be the odd man out unless they shed salary to retain him.
Dhaliwal also wondered if the Canucks will attempt to trade winger Loui Eriksson, bury him in the minors, attempt a mutual contract termination or buy out the remaining two years of his contract. Eriksson will be paid a $3 million bonus on July 1, after which he’ll only be owed $5 million in actual salary over the remainder of his deal. A rival club could be willing to take on Eriksson if the Canucks take on another bad contract or give up a draft pick.
Nikolay Goldobin could also be shopped this summer. Dhaliwal claims the Ottawa Senators showed some interest in the 24-year-old winger before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal’s report came out before the recent news the cap could rise as high as $88 million next season. That will make it easier for the Canucks to re-sign those key UFAs, but they must ensure they don’t eat up too much cap space going forward when Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will be due for big raises next summer.
Trading Eriksson actually could be easier because of the higher salary cap. A budget-minded club like the Ottawa Senators looking to hit the cap minimum ($65 million?) could be amenable if the Canucks include a draft pick or a decent prospect.
An update on NHL CBA talks, the latest on Connor McDavid, the Kings re-sign Adrian Kempe, the latest PTOs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: NHL Player Association executive director Donald Fehr said the players haven’t decided if they’ll exercise their early opt-out of the collective bargaining agreement by the Sept. 15 deadline. The PA executive board and other players met in Chicago yesterday for an update on current negotiations with the NHL. No decisions were reached regarding the CBA. Talks with the league continue on Friday.
Fehr said discussions remain pleasant and cordial. “It doesn’t mean there haven’t been disagreements and significant disagreements, but it’s so far at least free from rancor,” he said. “That’s a big improvement.” The PA and the league haven’t discussed a possible extension of the Sept. 15 deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fehr’s statement was essentially status quo. He’s not going to tip the PA’s hand while negotiations with the league are ongoing but also won’t say anything that could put those talks in jeopardy.
Escrow payments likely remain among the “significant disagreements” Fehr was alluding to. Indeed, it’s the biggest, perhaps the only, impediment toward a new agreement or an extension of the current one.
As for extending the PA’s opt-out deadline, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that won’t fly with the league as both sides would have to agree. If so, Sept. 15 remains the next significant milestone.
No certainly Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will be ready for the start of the season (Photo via NHL Images).
THE SCORE: Player agent Jeff Jackson can’t say if client Connor McDavid will be fully recovered from a knee injury by the start of the Edmonton Oilers’ season on Oct. 2. The Oilers captain suffered the injury during the final game of the 2018-19 season. Jackson said McDavid hasn’t had any setbacks and is working toward getting ready for the start of training camp next week.
WINNIPEG SUN:Josh Morrissey confirmed contract-extension talks have begun with the Jets. The defenseman is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer. “I’d love to get something done. I’d love to play here throughout my career,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After the recent departure of Jacob Trouba, Morrissey’s remarks will be music to the ears of Jets fans.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings re-signed center Adrian Kempe to a three-year contract with an annual average value of $2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise Kempe got a bridge deal. After a promising 37-point rookie campaign in 2017-18, Kempe managed just 28 points last season. Cap Friendly indicates the Kings now have over $74.7 million invested in 23 players for 2019-20.
VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks inked restricted free agent winger Nikolay Goldobin to a one-year, $900K contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is probably Goldobin’s last chance to prove himself as a reliable NHL regular with the Canucks. Another inconsistent effort could turn him into a waiver or trade candidate.
TSN: The Calgary Flames signed forwards Devante Smith-Pelly, Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo, and Alexandre Grenier to professional tryout offers. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers have brought back forward Troy Brouwer on a PTO.
STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Winger Drew Stafford will attend Minnesota Wild training camp on a professional tryout offer.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano and Colorado Avalanche forward A.J. Greer pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to an assault charge stemming from an incident in New York on July 7. Both will be permitted to skip their next court date next month because of their respective travel schedules.
THE SCORE: NBC Sports has removed Pierre McGuire from its No. 1 broadcast team, relegating him to the second game of their doubleheaders. McGuire will be replaced by Brian Boucher.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McGuire has attracted criticism for his coverage in recent years. The Score observed he was “essentially forced to apologize for a series of awkward on-air exchanges with fellow analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield in January.”
THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and former NHLers Tim Thomas and Brian Gionta are among this year’s inductees into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The taciturn Thomas was part of the conference call with reporters following the announcement, marking his first public statement since his retirement in 2014. He alluded to a “state of nervousness” since his retirement, adding he doesn’t like traveling and prefers to keep his personal life to himself.
Latest on the Wild, Stars, Rangers, and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW WILD GM GUERIN FACES IMPORTANT DECISIONS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: With Bill Guerin the Minnesota Wild’s new general manager, Jared Clinton believes his first order of business is determining which direction to take the franchise. He could continue to build around the veteran core or use the opportunity to at least undertake a roster reset. He points out the Wild are thin on prospect depth.
Does Jason Zucker fit into the plans of the Minnesota Wild’s new general manager? (Photo via NHL Images)
Clinton feels Guerin must also decide if Jason Zucker has a future with the Wild. Earlier this year, the 27-year-old winger was nearly traded twice by Guerin’s predecessor. Trading him, however, would hurt their top-six forward depth.
Clinton advocates shopping defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status. He feels Matt Dumba is a ready-made replacement for Spurgeon, who could fetch a significant return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Guerin has in store for the Wild. A roster rebuild could be in the cards. Guerin could take this season to evaluate the Wild’s performance before deciding if a significant shakeup is necessary. If an overhaul is required, Zucker and Spurgeon could be his best trade chips.
HONKA IN LIMBO WITH THE STARS
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro recently reported defenseman Julius Honka doesn’t know if he’ll be playing with the Dallas Stars this season. A restricted free agent, he skated in just 29 games last season and was a frequent healthy scratch.
Stars GM Jim Nill discussed trading the former first-round pick (2014) during this year’s NHL draft. He’s since constructed a blueline that will be almost impossible for Honka to crack.
Shapiro believes Honka could thrive in a third-pairing role with another NHL club. He would also be affordable, costing perhaps less than $1 million annually to sign. However, he remains in limbo until the top unsigned RFAs are signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Honka, 23, could be a cost-effective one-year gamble for a club looking for blueline depth. That being said, he could be waiting a while before someone comes calling with an offer.
UPDATE ON THE RANGERS’ REMAINING RFAS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reported Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux face limited options in their contract standoffs with the Rangers. If they don’t accept the club’s qualifying offers (one-year, $874K), they could either withhold their services or attempt to attract an offer sheet from a rival club. The two aren’t in prime position to cash in that way but the compensation return for players of their pay grade is light and the Blueshirts have limited salary-cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With both coming off entry-level deals lacking arbitration rights, DeAngelo and Lemieux have little leverage here. A rival club could try signing them to an offer sheet but I don’t consider that likely. The Rangers could attempt to trade one or both if they don’t re-sign. Ultimately, I expect both will accept their qualifying offers.
LATEST ON GOLDOBIN
VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin is expected to sign a short-term contract extension. He has no leverage, arbitration rights, or even a guaranteed roster spot because of the Canucks glut of wingers. GM Jim Benning expects to get something done soon.
Kuzma suggests they’re “either dangling yet another motivational carrot in front of Goldobin or perhaps they’re pondering a sign-and-trade scenario to free up cap space and a roster spot.” Once winger Antoine Roussel returns in December from knee surgery, Goldobin could be placed on waivers.
Blues take 2-1 series lead over the Stars, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrick Maroon’s tie-breaker late in the third period gave the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Blues lead the series two games to one. The Stars rallied three times to tie the game before Maroon’s game-winner, which had a bit of controversy as Stars goalie Ben Bishop was bumped seconds before the Blues winger scored. Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Bozak each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis.
Patrick Maroon’s game-winner lifted the St. Louis Blues to a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of their second-round series (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things got a bit wild offensively in the third period, with four goals (two by each team) being scored in just over five minutes in the latter half of the third period.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2 of their series against the New York Islanders. The Hurricanes have recalled goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (shoulder injury) is sidelined indefinitely while right winger Saku Maenalanen (hand injury) is out for the remainder of this series. They join forwards Jordan Martinook, Micheal Ferland and rookie Andrei Svechnikov (all listed as day-to-day) on the sidelines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes hold a 2-0 series lead over the Islanders but their depleted depth will take its toll unless some of those injured players return soon.
NEW YORK POST: Speaking of the Islanders, they could turn to Michael Dal Colle if Cal Clutterbuck (lower-body injury) is unable to play Game 3 against the Hurricanes tomorrow night.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Sidelined San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski has been helped coach Pete DeBoer “by giving a player’s perspective on games and also with line combinations for their series against the Colorado Avalanche.” Pavelski (head injury) has been out since Game 7 of their first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights and there’s no timetable for his return.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak was skating with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at practice yesterday.
VANCOUVER SUN: Player agent Sergey Isakov denied reports out of Russia claiming client Nikolay Goldobin has signed with a KHL team. Isakov claims Goldobin, a restricted free agent, intends to re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks.
Will James Neal return with the Flames next season? Could the Capitals shop Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky this summer? Should the Canucks pursue Jason Zucker or try to trade Brandon Sutter this summer? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE FLAMES MOVE NEAL AND TRADE BRODIE?
CALGARY SUN: Despite the calls from Flames followers for the club to rid themselves of veteran winger James Neal, Wes Gilbertson recently reported there’s “little doubt” he’ll return with the club next season. He doesn’t believe Flames ownership will approve a contract buyout stretching through 2026-17 burning up nearly $2 million in annual salary-cap space. He also doesn’t see a market for a winger carrying an AAV of $5.75-million through 2022-23. Neal, meanwhile, wants to be a top-six forward and intends to train this summer toward returning to his 20-goal-per-season form.
Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to trade or buy out James Neal’s contract this summer (Photo via NHL Images)
During a roundtable with Sun writers Danny Austin and Kristen Anderson on the Flames season and offseason plans, Gilbertson agreed with Anderson that GM Brad Treliving is unlikely to make sweeping roster changes. He believes Treliving must find a second-line right winger, suggesting perhaps revisiting the trade for Jason Zucker with the Minnesota Wild that fell through at the trade deadline. He also agreed with Austin that defenseman T.J. Brodie could be traded this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have over $69 million invested in 20 players, with RFAs Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to re-sign and goaltenders Mike Smith and David Rittich to re-sign or replace. Tkachuk’s next contract alone could absorb around $9 million of their salary-cap space. If they’re looking to shed salary, Brodie rather than Neal is a more likely trade candidate.
Neal lacks no-trade protection but the sharp decline in his production this season combined with the remaining years and the cap hit of his contract makes him a tough sell. He’ll likely return with the Flames next season.
If Treliving intends to acquire Zucker ($5.5 million AAV) or another right winger, that move will have to be as close to a dollar-for-dollar swap as possible or doing a separate deal to shed the cap space necessary to take on that incoming winger’s contract. Those moves could involve Brodie or Michael Frolik, who was reportedly offered up to the Wild (along with a draft pick) for Zucker.
WILL THE CAPITALS TRADE NISKANEN AND BURAKOVSKY THIS SUMMER?
THE WASHINGTON POST: In the wake of the Washington Capitals first-round playoff elimination, Isabelle Khurshudyan recently examined potential offseason moves in store for the roster. She points out the bonuses owed to Brooks Orpik, Jakub Vrana, and Jonas Siegenthaler ($1.15 million total) will count against next season’s salary-cap payroll.
Khurshudyan speculates the addition of defenseman Nick Jensen in February could make veteran blueliner Matt Niskanen a salary-cap casualty. Trading Niskanen, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $5.75-million annual salary-cap hit, would create flexibility this summer and next.
The Capitals must also decide what to do with winger Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who was also the subject of frequent trade speculation. Fellow RFAs Dmitrij Jaskin and Chandler Stephenson also face uncertain futures. Of their unrestricted free agents, Orpik and Devante Smith-Pelly are least likely to return. The Capitals probably want to re-sign forwards Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin but probably can’t afford to keep both. With 22 goals and 46 points, Connolly has more upside.
Khurshudyan considers re-signing Vrana the priority, using Vegas Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch ($4.75-million annual average value) as a “conservative comparable,” speculating his representatives could push for a bridge deal as a hedge that his production will continue to climb, ensuring a bigger future payday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $72.6 million already invested in 17 players for 2019-20. Deduct that $1.15 million bonus overage from the projected $83 million salary cap for next season and they’ll have around $9 million to work with. Even if Vrana’s camp wants a bridge deal, he’s going to get a significant raise coming off his entry-level contract, perhaps around $4 million. Connolly made $1.5 million annually on his current contract and will likely seek around $4 million. That won’t leave much to fill in the rest of the lineup.
Somebody must be moved in a cost-cutting deal. Niskanen had a modified no-trade clause listing 10 teams he cannot be traded to, leaving a 20-team marketplace. Given his experience, puck-moving skills, ability to log big minutes and the market for right-shooting defensemen, the Capitals should be able to find a suitable destination for him and probably won’t have to absorb any of his salary-cap hit. However, they can’t afford to take any salary back so they’ll likely look at draft picks and prospects in return.
Burakovsky’s days with the Capitals appear in doubt. GM Brian MacLellan resisted the temptation to move the 24-year-old winger this season in hopes he’d improve. While he did play better down the stretch, I don’t think he did enough to ensure a long-term future there. They could decide not to qualify Burakovsky’s rights in hopes of signing him at a lower salary but I think they’ll see what he might fetch in the trade market.
Orpik hasn’t made a decision about his future yet but there’s already speculation he might retire. Hagelin said he’d like to return but they might not have enough cap space to keep him.
RECENT CANUCKS TRADE SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: During a mailbag segment earlier this month, JD Burke was asked about possible trade targets for the Canucks. He suggested making a pitch for Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker. Pointing to the near-deal that would’ve sent Zucker to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline for Michael Frolik and a draft pick, he proposes the Canucks offer up Jake Virtanen. He also believes they should target the Edmonton Oilers, assuming they’ll once again screw up their GM search.
Asked which team the Canucks could trade center Brandon Sutter to this summer, he doubts there’s much of a market for the 30-year-old center, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $4.35-million AAV and also carries a no-trade clause. He speculates the Edmonton Oilers might be interested, depending on who becomes their next GM. He also wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets would be willing to swap Alexander Wennberg’s contract (signed through 2022-23, $4.9 million AAV) for Sutter’s, or if the New York Islanders might be interested.
VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston recently listed Sutter, Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Loui Eriksson, and Ben Hutton as potential Canucks trade candidates. Goldobin’s a restricted free agent who said he wants to stay in Vancouver but Johnston wondered if he’ll get the chance. Eriksson carries a $6 million AAV and was employed on the fourth line this season. He also carries a 15-team no-trade list but could be appealing to budget clubs looking to become cap compliant.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pundits and fans can make suggestions over what moves the Canucks should attempt to make but GM Jim Benning probably has other ideas. If Zucker’s available, the Wild could attempt to drive up his value by getting teams into a bidding war for his services. If so, forget about prying him out of Minnesota with Virtanen.
There could be a market for Sutter or Eriksson among cost-conscious clubs looking to reach the cap minimum. However, those teams will also want a sweetener included in the deal, like a decent draft pick or a good prospect.
The Canucks might not have to worry about re-signing Goldobin. He’s reportedly considering signing with a KHL team this summer.