Assessing Five Recent Notable NHL Player Moves
The Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put off contract discussion, Mikael Granlund returns to the Predators, the Lightning sign Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, the Capitals sign Conor Sheary, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The Edmonton Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have agreed to put contract talks on the back-burner. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. There were reports in October that the two sides were making progress on a contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The two sides could resume negotiations at some point during the season. The flattened salary cap for the foreseeable future will affect the value of Nugent-Hopkins and his peers in next summer’s UFA market. He’s earning $6 million per season on his current contract. The longer he goes unsigned, however, the more likely his name could pop up in trade rumors.
TSN: The Nashville Predators signed winger Mikael Granlund to a one-year, $3.75 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m surprised by this signing because of Granlund’s offensive struggles during his previous season and a half with the Predators and reports he was seeking a long-term deal. It was rumored the Preds were interested in winger Mike Hoffman to boost their scoring punch. Both sides evidently decided it would be worthwhile to give it another go.
It’s an affordable deal for the Predators that would leave them with $9 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly) for the coming season. That will provide general manager David Poile with considerable flexibility to put toward another UFA signing or to make trades as needed over the course of the season.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed restricted free agent defenseman Erik Cernak to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $2.95 million. They also signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Jan Rutta to a two-year deal worth $1.3 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: These signings push the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $6.15 million with RFA center Anthony Cirelli still to be signed. The Bolts have until Jan. 13 to become cap compliant. They’re expected to make a cost-cutting trade or two but could get some flexibility if winger Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million AAV) ends up on long-term injury reserve because of a nagging hip ailment.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals signed UFA winger Conor Sheary to a one-year, $735K contract. He’s expected to skate on their third line. The signing leaves the Capitals with $2.2 million in cap space.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland announced his NHL retirement yesterday. He was one of the original Golden Knights selected in the 2017 expansion draft and the club’s unofficial leader. The 38-year-old blueliner also played with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames during his 11 NHL seasons, tallying 127 points in 671 regular-season games. He won the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2018 as the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Engelland in his future endeavors.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports former Toronto Maple Leafs center Frederik Gauthier is considering a professional tryout offer with the Arizona Coyotes. He spent parts of the last five seasons with the Leafs.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins signed UFA forward Jordan Nolan to an AHL contract earlier this month. He could have a shot at cracking the roster in training camp next month. Nolan spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, winning two Stanley Cups. He also played for the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. He spent last season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings intend to name their first captain in three years. Dylan Larkin is considered the front-runner for the captaincy. The role has been vacant since former captain Henrik Zetterberg’s playing career was ended by nagging back injuries in 2018.
NHL.COM: The league and the NHLPA announced its medical protocols and critical dates for the coming season. They also revealed a change to the offside rule (stick tap to Kukla’s Korner) indicating a player’s skate will not have to be in contact with the blue line in order to be on-side.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only change to the previously reported critical dates is the last possible date for awarding the Stanley Cup was changed to July 9 from July 15, though it comes with a note indicating that date could change. The same goes for the May 11th start of the playoffs.
SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals are the first teams to unveil helmet ads on Tuesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ads are on the side of the helmets where the team logos used to be. They’re not garish or create an unnecessary distraction. Based on the photos provided in the link, I daresay the other NHL clubs will follow their lead.
Coyotes announce they will have a limited capacity of fans for home games.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) December 22, 2020
A look at a recent update on the notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently published her updated list of the top remaining unrestricted free agents.
Mike Hoffman remains atop the list, with the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils among possible destinations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports talks have heated up with Hoffman, with as many as six clubs involved. With the dates for training camp and the start of the season now official, Hoffman won’t be the only UFA whose contract discussed will intensify.
Sadler cited Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland earlier this month linking winger Mikael Granlund to the Predators, Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, among other clubs. She doubts there will be a reunion between the Predators and Granlund, who struggled during his brief tenure in Nashville.
Manitoba-born defenseman Travis Hamonic could be a fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers had had some interest in Hamonic. Sadler also notes his former team, the Calgary Flames, could use him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation persists linking Hamonic with the Canucks, but they’ll have to clear some cap space to do it. One way could be placing Micheal Ferland (head trauma) on long-term injury reserve as well as demoting someone like winger Sven Baertschi. The Flyers no longer seem interested while the Flames seem to be going with younger, more affordable blueliners.
Speculation persists of a possible reunion between center Erik Haula and the Vegas Golden Knights. Given their cap constraints, they’ll have to shed a salary to get under the salary cap and to sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent trade chatter about the Golden Knights shopping Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault was based on them cutting cap payroll and perhaps add an affordable forward like Haula.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley denied Pacioretty was being shopped but we haven’t heard any denials about Marchessault’s trade status. I think the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup hopes are better with those two in the lineup. They’ll have to consider other options if they want to bring back Haula.
Other notables on Sadler’s list include center Carl Soderberg, defenseman Sami Vatanen, forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Derick Brassard and Corey Perry and blueliner Zdeno Chara, as well as winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider, plus defenseman Ron Hainsey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed Martin, Greene and Schneider already have deals with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once center Mathew Barzal is re-signed.
Anthony Duclair, Ilya Kovalchuk and Melker Karlsson also appeared on Sadler’s list. Since its publication last week, Duclair signed with the Florida Panthers, Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with a KHL team while Karlsson is under contract with a Swedish team for the rest of this season.
How will the Capitals replace Henrik Lundqvist? Will the Blues go the free-agent route to replace retired Alexander Steen? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir wonders how the Washington Capitals will replace Henrik Lundqvist as a heart condition has sidelined the 38-year-old goaltender for this season.
Among the options is signing an unrestricted free agent. Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard are available. It’s believed Miller prefers to remain out west with his family but El-Bashir wonders if he’d be tempted by the opportunity to play for a contender during a shortened season.
The Capitals could go the trade route or bring in Vitek Vanecek or Pheonix Copley to back up Ilya Samsonov.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen believes the Capitals’ limited cap space makes it difficult to trade for a goaltender. In addition to Miller and Howard, he listed Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider as UFA options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller prefers staying in California and could sign a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. If that’s not possible, maybe he’d consider joining the Capitals.
Anderson is 39 and it appears his NHL days are over. Schneider is believed to have an agreement with the New York Islanders to be officially announced once they’ve signed Mathew Barzal.
Howard is keen for a bounce-back season following a poor 2019-20 performance with the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. He could be the Capitals’ best bet if they cannot find a suitable replacement for Lundqvist via trade or from within.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports Alexander Steen’s retirement due to a back injury will provide the St. Louis Blues with salary-cap flexibility. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.2 million but will get some wiggle room by placing Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit for this season on long-term injury reserve. They will use part of it to sign restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn, who might cost approximately $2.5 million.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the Blues could also use that cap relief to add a scoring winger. His suggested free-agent options include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also suggested Hoffman, Granlund and Athanasiou, as well as forward Erik Haula as UFA targets for the Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues could get additional cap relief by placing sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR. However, he’s expected to return later this season, prompting Rutherford to speculate they probably won’t “borrow” from his $7.5 million cap hit.
Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. Maybe he’d accept a lower price to play for a contender but I think he’ll try to stick to his guns. Granlund, Athanasiou and Haula could be more affordable options.
Check out some recent speculation on the Red Wings, Bruins and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.
KUKLA’S KORNER: cites The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan listing several players the Red Wings could be interested in before the start of this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde and Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty are Kulfan’s suggested trade options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Red Wings’ trading Dmytro Timashov to the New York Islanders yesterday, general manager Steve Yzerman could make another addition to his roster before the season begins.
A swap between the Wings and Lightning has potential. The Lightning must shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The Wings have plenty of cap space and general manager Steve Yzerman knows Killorn, Johnson and Gourde from his days as Lightning GM.
Killorn, however, has a modified no-trade list while Johnson and Gourde have full no-trade protection. If the Wings aren’t on their lists of preferred destinations they won’t be going to Detroit.
Pacioretty, meanwhile, has a 10-team no-trade list which could include the Wings. Besides, Yzerman might not be keen to invest in a 32-year-old winger carrying a $7 million annual average value for the next three seasons.
Unrestricted free agent targets could include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene and former Red Wing Andreas Athanasiou.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman is willing to accept a one-year contract worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. I don’t think Yzerman will go that high for him. Granlund or Duclair might be affordable options, with Granlund perhaps the better choice depending on his asking price.
Vatanen could be a good addition to the Wings’ defense corps on a reasonable short-term contract. Greene is believed to have a deal with the Islanders that will be made official once they get Mathew Barzal under contract. I doubt Yzerman will bring Athanasiou back to Detroit given his disappointing performance during his contract year.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Haggerty was asked about the possibility of the Bruins bringing in a player on a professional tryout offer during training camp. He suggested former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner as one option. UFA like Anthony Duclair and Mikael Granlund could become PTO candidates but Haggerty feels they’ll eventually sign guaranteed contracts rather than tryouts for training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll likely be aging veterans like Alzner, Ron Hainsey, goaltenders such as Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson, and forwards like Justin Abdelkader and Michael Grabner could end up signing professional tryout options with the Bruins and other clubs.
Asked if the Bruins are done making moves, Haggerty speculates a trade is more likely than a free-agent signing. If they go the trade route, it’ll be for a top-four defenseman to plug the gap on the left side of their blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty noted the Bruins’ efforts to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson before the blueliner’s Oct. 9 deadline brought that attempt to an end. GM Don Sweeney could attempt a trade for a left-side defender but it probably won’t be a move for someone like Ekman-Larsson at this stage.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined what could be a crucial season for the Calgary Flames. With two years remaining on the contracts of winger Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano, he feels the Flames are reaching a pivotal moment.
Another disappointing playoff performance could put pressure on general manager Brad Treliving to shake things up. Nevertheless, O’Brien feels blowing things up could make things worse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The majority of Flames fans (and some Calgary pundits) were calling for change over the summer when the club was bounced from the first round of the 2020 playoffs. Defensemen T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic departed via free agency but general manager Brad Treliving ignored the cries for Gaudreau to be shopped following a disappointing postseason effort.
The Flames will face increased pressure this season to shake their recent reputation as a playoff underachiever. Another early exit could prompt a shakeup of the roster core.