Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 31, 2023

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 31, 2023

Are there any goalie options to help the struggling Leafs? Is there interest in Hurricanes winger Michael Bunting? Find out in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined several options facing the Toronto Maple Leafs to address their goaltending with Ilya Samsonov continuing to struggle.

One is to stick with their current netminders and ride Martin Jones in the hope that he stays healthy until Joseph Woll returns healthy and in form sometime in February or hope that something pops up on the waiver wire.

Their second option would be sending Samsonov through waivers to their AHL affiliate and recalling a prospect they don’t want to rush. The third option is to look outside the organization.

Fox noted that Jaroslav Halak remains available in the free-agent market. Middling trade options include Montreal’s Jake Allen, Buffalo’s Eric Comrie, Ottawa’s Anton Forsberg and Calgary’s Dan Vladar. However, the price for those netminders is abnormally high plus the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers are also believed sniffing around the trade market.

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (NHL Images).

According to Fox, the “dream scenario” would be Juuse Saros, who has another season remaining on his contract with the Nashville Predators with a $5 million cap hit. However, the Predators remain in the playoff chase and he’d likely cost more than Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is willing to spend.

Fox suggested the best low-risk option could be New York Rangers’ third-stringer Louis Domingue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Fox’s colleague Elliotte Friedman, it’s believed the Leafs don’t have much enthusiasm to go shopping for a goaltender. They’d prefer to hang on until Woll returns to action. They don’t have a lot they can afford to trade in terms of draft picks and prospects. He said they could consider bringing up promising Dennis Hildeby to play in one game during their upcoming California road trip.

I keep seeing Saros occasionally surface in the rumor mill. Predators GM Barry Trotz made it clear on two occasions earlier this season that he has no intention of moving his 28-year-old starter and plans to open contract extension talks with Saros’ agent in July. He’s not going anywhere this season.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman looked at the teams in the market for goaltenders and the clubs who could be sellers.

The Leafs, Oilers, Hurricanes, Devils and Los Angeles Kings are believed to be among the buyers, with the Kings seeking a depth option.

The Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are among the sellers.

Friedman believes Canadiens GM Kent Hughes has a price and won’t waiver much from it. The Ducks are setting a high ask for John Gibson, especially if salary retention is involved. The Sharks’ Kaapo Kahkonen has been good this season but his experience is an issue.

The Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers could be among the sellers but they’re not there yet. The Red Wings are dealing with injuries while the Panthers could need to move a goalie once Spencer Knight is ready to return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs, Oilers, Hurricanes and Devils need reliable starters but that’s not what’s available in the trade market. The Kings are happy with Cam Talbot but it’s believed they have concerns about backup Pheonix Copley, who was struggling before becoming sidelined by an injury.

The Ducks’ John Gibson is the best of the bunch among available goaltenders. His stats have improved this season and I think there are clubs with a genuine interest in him.

Gibson’s contract is a sticking point. He’s signed through 2026-27 with an average annual value of $6.4 million and a 10-team no-trade clause. With so many clubs pressed for cap space, I don’t think that’s a contract that gets moved during this season.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports teams have expressed an interest in trading for Michael Bunting. The 28-year-old winger is in this first season of a three-year, $13.5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes but is on pace for his lowest goal total since 2020-21.

Friedman said Bunting’s name came up when the Hurricanes were looking to clear some salary-cap space and maybe make a move for a goaltender. He was lower down in their lineup at the time and is seventh or eighth in ice time on the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes could be getting calls about Bunting but that doesn’t mean he’ll be moved. His goal numbers may be down (he’s got eight this season) but he’s tied for third in points (25) with Martin Necas among Hurricanes scorers and has eight points in his last 10 games.

Maybe that’s why teams are interested in acquiring him. Perhaps he could become trade bait if the Hurricanes need to shore up depth elsewhere. He’s also got a 10-team no-trade list which could complicate things.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 22, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – November 22, 2023

The latest on Patrick Kane, the Oilers’ goaltending, and the Wild in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


TSN: Darren Dreger reports Patrick Kane is getting very close to deciding on which NHL team he’ll join this season. The 35-year-old free-agent winger is reportedly mulling over multiple options.

As many as eight clubs were initially involved as Kane and his agent Pat Brisson were involved in several face-to-face interviews, including a Zoom call with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brisson is expected to circle back to clubs to tell them they’re out, though that hasn’t happened yet.

Free agent winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

It was expected that Kane might reach a decision this week. With American Thanksgiving coming up, it might take place by next week.

NHL NETWORK (via NHL WATCHER): Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres are the leading candidates for Kane’s services. He claimed he keep hearing about Eastern clubs linked to Kane as there may be a concern about travel in the Western Conference.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli said he’s spoken to teams that are wondering if the Panthers might be the front-runner for Kane. They could be the best option for him to win a fourth Stanley Cup this season, especially with defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour returning from injury. Seravalli speculates they could be a multi-year destination for Kane if they can free up cap space down the line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been reported that Panthers general manager Bill Zito has aggressively pursued Kane since the summer. They currently have around 630K in cap space so someone will have to be traded or demoted to free up a roster spot and cap room for him.


SPORTSNET (via NHL WATCHER): Appearing on the latest episode of The Jeff Marek Show, Elliotte Friedman said the Edmonton Oilers could make a really bad trade for a goaltender if they wanted to. However, they don’t want to do that as they’re trying to keep an eye on the big picture at some level.

Friedman believed someone like the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson could make a difference for the Oilers. However, he’s not going to fix everything that ails the club.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the representatives for free-agent goaltender Jaroslav Halak have spoken with the Oilers. The 38-year-old is back in Boston contemplating his next move after being released from his PTO contract by the Carolina Hurricanes. LeBrun believes the reason Halak was released was due to his unwillingness to have a conditioning stint in the AHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers are backed into a corner with their goaltending and everyone knows it. They would have to overpay to bring in an experienced netminder who might not have much success between the pipes given the Oilers’ sloppy defensive game.

Signing a free agent like Halak would be a more affordable option. However, there’s no guarantee of improvement given his age and the fact he hasn’t played since April.


TSN: Chris Johnston reports Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason is not in any imminent danger of losing his job despite his club’s sputtering start to this season. He believes that’s mainly because the best fix is for the Wild’s best players to pull them through this difficult stretch.

Johnston cited the low production thus far from Wild stars like Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy and Marcus Foligno. He believes the heated meeting that general manager Bill Guerin had with the players last week was to send the message that it’s up to them to get themselves out of this situation.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo and Joe Smith believe Guerin may have robbed himself of potentially valuable trade-deadline chips by re-signing Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Mats Zuccarello to multi-year contract extensions.

If the Wild fail to improve, Guerin will have little or no flexibility near the trade deadline. They won’t have many players on expiring contracts to flog for draft picks and prospects.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2023

An update on the Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce, concerns over the Kings’ goaltending and a suggestion about a recent Vezina Trophy winner as a trade option for the Lightning in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


CAROLINA HOCKEY NOW: Bryant Baucom recently cited The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta claiming the Hurricanes management hoped to get Brett Pesce signed to a contract extension worth between $4 million and $5 million annually during the offseason.

Pesce, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Pagnotta claimed the blueliner wants to stay in Carolina and management still hopes to get him under contract.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (NHL Images).

With the salary cap set to rise significantly for next season, Baucom suggested there’s a chance to extend a more reasonable offer to Pesce. He felt that the blueliner would likely seek something around the $7 million range. If Pesce is re-signed, it would likely mean the end of Brady Skjei’s tenure with the Hurricanes

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have over $32 million in projected cap space for 2024-25 but just nine active roster players under contract. Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis are restricted free agents in line for healthy raises as well next season. Management must also re-sign or replace pending UFAs such as Teuvo Teravainen, Antti Raanta and Jordan Martinook.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli suggested that goaltending could be an early-season issue for the Los Angeles Kings. Their tandem of Cam Talbot and Pheonix Copley struggled through the club’s first two games with Talbot giving up four goals in a 5-2 loss to Colorado and Copley allowing five in a 6-5 shootout loss to Carolina.

Seravalli acknowledged Copley’s record last season (24-6-3) was “pretty damn good” but his underlying numbers were not. The oft-injured Talbot, meanwhile, was not very good last season with the Ottawa Senators even when healthy.

Kings GM Rob Blake will likely be patient but Seravalli speculates he could start seeking help between the pipes if Talbot and Copley fail to improve.

Montreal’s Cayden Primeau, Philadelphia’s Felix Sandstrom or Samuel Ersson could be trade or waiver options. Calgary’s Dan Vladar could be available for a second-round draft pick or perhaps they could look into signing free agent Jaroslav Halak.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot was solid in the Kings’ 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, finishing with 27 saves and a .963 save percentage. A few more games like that could alleviate that concern about their goaltending. Nevertheless, this situation could be worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: With Tampa Bay Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy sidelined until early December, Stan Fischler recently suggested the possibility of the Boston Bruins offering up Linus Ullmark to the Bolts. He noted the Bruins have been grooming backup Jeremy Swayman as their future starter. However, sources informed Fischler that Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has no plans to trade for a goalie.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins have no intention of trading Ullmark this season as they prefer to keep their award-winning goalie tandem intact. Besides, he carries a 16-team no-trade clause this season along with a $5 million cap hit that would be tough to move at this stage in the season.

Even if Ullmark was available, the Lightning couldn’t afford to acquire him. Yes, they have $7.7 million in cap space with Vasilevskiy on LTIR but they must become cap-compliant when he’s ready to return to action. Besides, the Bruins’ asking price would likely be too expensive for the Bolts, who don’t have much trade capital in terms of draft picks and prospects.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 29, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 29, 2023

How will the Lightning replace sidelined starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Andrei Vasilevskiy’s absence leaves the Tampa Bay Lightning between a rock and a hard place. The 29-year-old goaltender will be sidelined for eight to ten weeks following surgery this week to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.

LeBrun believes Lightning management is considering every option to replace Vasilevskiy given the limited experience (35 games) of backup Jonas Johansson. However, their salary-cap limitations will affect what they can do. They’re already pressed against the $83.5 million salary cap and want to ensure they’re in the best shape cap-wise when Vasilevskiy returns.

Vasilevskiy carries an average annual value of $9.5 million. He’s eligible to go on long-term injury reserve but the Lightning must ensure they have sufficient cap space when he returns to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Lightning are prepared to go with Johansson and Matt Tompkins as their tandem. However, general manager Julien BriseBois reportedly didn’t rule out considering his options for replacing Vasilevskiy. Finding a suitable one that fits within their cap limitations could be challenging.

The most obvious option is via free agency where Jaroslav Halak and former Lightning backup Brian Elliott remain available. The Bolts could also wait until other clubs put their No. 3 goalies on waivers for the purpose of sending them to the minors. LeBrun mentioned Toronto’s Martin Jones, Pittsburgh’s Magnus Hellberg and Florida’s Anthony Stolarz as possibilities.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Halak, Elliott and Jones have starter experience though they’re now past their prime in that department. However, they would only have to fill that role with the Bolts until Vasilevskiy’s return. Stolarz put up decent numbers with the Ducks while Hellberg had mixed results in his 23 NHL games.

DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin also mentioned Elliott and Halak as free-agent options. He also pointed out that the Vancouver Canucks placed Spencer Martin on waivers yesterday. Trade options could include Buffalo’s Eric Comrie and Calgary’s Dan Vladar.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman also mentioned Elliott, Halak, Stolarz, Jones and Martin among his 10 suggested goalie options. The others included Montreal’s Sam Montembeault or Cayden Primeau, Detroit’s Alex Lyon, Anaheim’s Alex Stalock and the New York Rangers’ Louis Domingue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin carries a bargain-basement $762,500 cap hit but he struggled last season backstopping a porous Canucks defense. Comrie could be available if the Sabres stick with Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as their tandem. He also had his difficulties last season behind a shaky Sabres blueline.

I don’t see the Canadiens parting ways with Montembeault as he’s likely to be their starter this season. Given Primeau’s inexperience, I doubt the Lightning will have much interest in him.

Lyon is affordable ($900K) and helped carry the Florida Panthers into the 2023 playoffs. However, consistency is an issue. The same goes for Stalock ($800K) and Domingue ($775K).

The Calgary Flames could attempt to trade Vladar as they want to make room for promising Dustin Wolf. However, he’s in the first season of a two-year contract with an AAV of $2.2 million. He could prove too expensive for the cap-strapped Lightning.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Max Miller suggested San Jose Sharks netminder Kaapo Kahkonen. He pointed out that the 27-year-old Finnish goalie was linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Erik Karlsson trade in August.

Kahkonen carries a $2.75 million cap hit for this season. The Lightning will be able to fit him under the cap with Vasilevskiy going on LTIR.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts need to be cap-compliant when Vasilevskiy is ready to return. Kahkonen’s cap hit could become a significant burden. However, there might be a way for them to pull off a deal for a goalie like Kahkonen or Vladar…

PUCKPEDIA: Suggested the Lightning waive and demote Philippe Myers and Logan Brown to the minors, trade for Vladar and submit an opening-night roster with Brent Seabrook on LTIR and 20 healthy players, which is $22,000 away from optimal LTIR.

They could then put Vasilevskiy on LTIR and call up extra players. When he’s ready to come off LTIR, they could demote Johansson and have a 21-man roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois is known for getting creative to free up cap space for the Lightning. It could take that type of salary cap gymnastics to address this issue. We’ll find out in due course what he’s got in mind.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2023

What’s the latest on Ducks goalie John Gibson? Do Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk have long-term futures with the Bruins? Are the Senators any closer to re-signing Shane Pinto? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Levine recently noted that John Gibson’s future with the Anaheim Ducks was a hot topic during the offseason. There were conflicting reports about his desire to remain with the rebuilding club.

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (NHL Images).

Levine noted that Gibson doesn’t really fit the timeline for the Ducks so it would make sense to cut ties at some point. So far, however, there’s no indication that’s going to happen anytime soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gibson’s contract remains a significant obstacle in the path to a trade. He carries an average annual cap hit of $6.4 million through 2026-27 plus a 10-team no-trade clause.

In a season where a flattened salary cap means most teams lack the room to take on his contract, a Gibson trade might have to wait until next summer. The salary cap is expected to rise by at least $4 million for 2024-25, making it potentially easier to swing a deal with a contender.


THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa noted that Jake DeBrusk is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He believes the 26-year-old winger’s performance this season as a top-six forward will determine if his future remains with the Boston Bruins.

Like DeBrusk, defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is also eligible next summer for UFA status. Shinzawa noted he’s a good defender who uses his feet, stick and hockey sense. He’s also a sheltered five-on-five blueliner who doesn’t kill penalties and is unlikely to see much power-play time. He wondered if Grzelcyk would be re-signed or traded.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think DeBrusk is more likely to be re-signed than Grzelcyk. Both have frequently been mentioned as trade candidates in recent years. However, the chatter around DeBrusk died down during his solid performance last season.

What say you, Bruins fans? Do you prefer one or the other? Should both be re-signed or traded? Let us know in the comments below.


OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the clock is ticking for the Senators and restricted free agent Shane Pinto to reach an agreement on a new contract. Training camp opens with team medicals on Wednesday but there’s no sign the two sides have bridged the gap in negotiations.

Garrioch noted that there’s been talk the Senators might trade Pinto. However, he claims that’s not at the forefront of any discussions right now as the two sides continue to try and reach common ground. It’s believed the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers have inquired about the 22-year-old center’s availability.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As previously noted, Pinto cannot receive an offer sheet from a rival club because he didn’t accrue a sufficient number of games to become a Group 2 RFA. He already lacks arbitration rights so he has little leverage except to withhold his services until he gets a new contract. Garrioch believes his camp is seeking a two-year deal worth over $2.1 million per season.


THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont recently reported that there’s been buzz around the league that the Columbus Blue Jackets could sign Jaroslav Halak to a professional tryout offer. The 38-year-old goaltender needs just five wins to reach the 300-win milestone for his NHL career.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2023

The top remaining unrestricted free agents, Sharks speculation that has nothing to do with Erik Karlsson, and the latest on the Oilers in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


DAILY FACEOFF: Patrick Kane and Matt Dumba sit first and second on Frank Seravalli’s list of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane won’t be entertaining contract offers until he’s recovered from his recent hip surgery. That’s expected to be sometime in early December. Dumba, meanwhile, is the top defenseman in the market and has been linked to the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.

Forwards Max Comtois, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Toews sit in positions three through five on the listing.

Former Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comtois recently said that he’s received calls from interested clubs but no contract offers yet. He indicated that the Montreal Canadiens have not contacted him. There’s been no rumors of late linking Tatar to any NHL club but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t received any calls.

Toews, meanwhile, has been silent except for releasing a statement in response to the recent death of Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. The agency that represents him did not have his name on their list of clients who are free agents this summer, fuelling speculation that he’s mulling retirement.

Forward Pius Suter, winger Noah Gregor, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, center Paul Stastny and winger Phil Kessel rounded out the top 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Suter said he doesn’t intend on returning to his native Switzerland and hopes to sign an NHL contract. Kessel, 35, has indicated he wants to continue his NHL career. So does the 38-year-old Halak. No word on Stastny or Gregor.


SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those of you who are weary of all the speculation about Erik Karlsson, here’s the latest on the San Jose Sharks that has nothing to do with the 33-year-old defenseman. Enjoy!

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng observed that Sharks general manager Mike Grier has been pursuing devalued assets this summer that still appear to possess real upside. He’s acquired goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and wingers Anthony Duclair and Filip Zadina and made a failed attempt at signing Vladimir Tarasenko.

Peng listed defenseman Matt Dumba, winger Tomas Tatar and winger Max Comtois as three free agents that he believes Grier should target.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks have over $5 million in projected cap space for 2023-24. They will have more if they somehow manage to trade a certain expensive Norris Trophy-winning defenseman this summer. That will give Grier more room to perhaps add a free agent or two such as those listed by Peng.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Max Miller wondered if the Sharks might consider trading Alexander Barabanov. The 29-year-old winger has been a good player, netting 93 points in 147 games. However, he could become the odd man out among their top-six forwards with the additions of Duclair and Zadina and with promising William Eklund expected to crack the lineup this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller suggested that Barabanov, who is slated to become a UFA next July, could be an enticing target for playoff contenders at the March trade deadline. He carries an affordable $2.5 million cap hit but his 10-team no-trade clause could affect the number of possible trade partners for the Sharks.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reported on Sunday that he’d heard the Oilers were closing in on new contracts with defenseman Evan Bouchard and center Ryan McLeod. The latter has an arbitration hearing on Aug. 4.

Leavins believes the goalposts have been slightly moved in terms of what it might cost to sign them. That leads him to conclude that the Oilers might have to go the professional tryout offer (PTO) route to add a center or two rather than signing UFAs. He also doesn’t rule out an in-season trade, suggesting Washington’s Nic Dowd and Montreal’s Jake Evans as possible trade options.

Robert Tychowski, meanwhile, believes the Oilers have dodged a “potential grenade” of an offer sheet for Bouchard. If it was going to happen, he thinks it would’ve by now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed regarding the Bouchard offer sheet. There aren’t many teams with the cap space to pull it off. It also remains a rarely-used tactic that most general managers tend to avoid.