NHL Rumor Mill – January 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 12, 2021

Some noteworthy pending unrestricted free agents to watch this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently looked at several high-profile pending UFAs to watch during this upcoming season.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

LeBrun reported Alex Ovechkin didn’t seem too concerned about his contract situation with the Washington Capitals when training camp opened last week. The long-time Capitals superstar noted there’s plenty of time to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin sounds like he wants to stay with the Capitals and they want to keep their franchise player. The question, of course, is how much and for how long.

LeBrun noted contract talks between the two sides were shelved during the summer. His colleague Frank Seravalli last week indicated Ovechkin’s pre-pandemic asking price was $12.5 million annually.

Taylor Hall surprised the NHL world last fall by signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Playing alongside Sabres superstar Jack Eichel this season could boost his value as he seeks a long-term deal this summer. LeBrun thinks Hall could stick with the Sabres if he and Eichel develop solid chemistry and the club improves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Sabres with $45.6 million invested in 10 players for 2021-22. They’ll have plenty of room to keep Hall in the fold. However, that depends on how much he’ll seek on his next contract and how well the Sabres perform this season.

LeBrun wondered what the future holds for Tuukka Rask with the Boston Bruins. While the goaltender’s agent said his client is happy living and playing in Boston, offseason rumors had Bruins general manager Don Sweeney taking calls about Rask.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sweeney may have been listening to calls on Rask but that doesn’t mean he was keen to move him. The Bruins don’t have anyone in their system to replace Rask after this season.

They could seek a replacement via free agency but the options could be limited to Toronto’s Frederik Andersen, Nashville’s aging Pekka Rinne, San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk, Arizona’s injury-prone Antti Raanta and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer. Unless the Bruins find a better choice via the trade market, they could have little choice but to sign Rask, especially if he plays well this season.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Dougie Hamilton’s representatives have had preliminary contract discussions. LeBrun speculates the Hamilton camp could seek something comparable to Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo’s $8.8 million annual average value. The Hurricanes could counter with some similar to St. Louis’ Torey Krug’s $6.5 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton was considered a contender for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman until suffering a season-ending leg injury last January. If an agreement isn’t reached between the two sides soon, a healthy, Norris-worthy performance by Hamilton this season could push his asking price into Pietrangelo’s range or higher.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 28, 2020

A look at some bold predictions for 2021 in the NHL Rumor Mill.

SPORTSNET: Over the weekend, Luke Fox made some bold NHL predictions for 2021. Some of them involved possible trades and free-agent moves.

Will Alex Ovechkin re-sign with the Washington Capitals? (NHL Images)

Fox believes Alex Ovechkin will reach a four-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, perhaps accepting a slight pay cut to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals fail to reach an agreement on a new contract before his current deal expires next summer.

Taylor Hall “explodes offensively” skating alongside Jack Eichel this season with the Buffalo Sabres. However, Fox predicts Hall will chase his Stanley Cup dreams elsewhere as the Sabres’ poor goaltending turns them once again into an also-ran.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I disagree with that prediction. However, that could change if the Sabres actually reach the playoffs.

Fox expects the Winnipeg Jets will trade Patrik Laine at some point in 2021. He’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and the Jets don’t have enough dollars to keep Laine in the fold.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been plenty of Laine trade speculation since early September, with his agent at one point suggesting it would be mutually beneficial for both sides if the young sniper was moved. If that comes to pass, the issue for Jets management is finding a suitable return. They could use a proven right-side, top-pairing defenseman.

Fox suggests the Ottawa Senators should expose recently-acquired goalie Matt Murray in next summer’s expansion draft and protect emerging netminder Filip Gustavsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My guess is they’ll expose Marcus Hogberg in the draft unless Murray plays poorly this season.

Dougie Hamilton could be leaving the Carolina Hurricanes via trade or in next summer’s UFA market. He’s due for a significant raise but there’s no indication the two sides are close to agreement on an extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon Hamilton’s asking price and where the Hurricanes are in the standings by the April 12 trade deadline.

Tyson Barrie could be reinvigorated with the Edmonton Oilers and earn a contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out Adam Larsson comes off the Oilers’ books next summer, freeing up sufficient cap space for Barrie. A solid performance could keep him in Edmonton beyond this season.

Fox also predicts Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault could get squeezed out by young centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, forcing him to seek work elsewhere via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out that possibility. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played very well during last summer’s playoffs. If those performances carry over into this season, Danault could see third-line duty with the Habs. He doesn’t see himself in that role and I doubt he’d be willing to accept it on a permanent basis to stay in Montreal.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could expand his list of preferred trade destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boston and Vancouver were the only clubs on Ekman-Larsson’s preferred trade destination list. The Coyotes couldn’t swing a deal before his deadline of Oct.9. The Coyotes captain maintains he loves living and playing in Arizona. We’ll see if management tries again to shop him following this season.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

An update on Mathew Barzal and some recent Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s efforts to re-sign Mathew Barzal got easier with defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s playing career coming to an end. Boychuk will be placed on long-term injury reserve for the final two years of his contract, giving the Isles $6 million in potential salary-cap relief per season.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

That cap flexibility will be placed toward signing Barzal. The 23-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Gross doubts he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Industry expectations suggest he’ll sign a two- or three-year bridge deal from the Islanders worth an annual average value of around $7 million.

The Islanders still have to announce its deals with unrestricted free agents Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Gross expects Schneider will most likely try to resurrect his career with the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $3.9 million in cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR allows them to exceed the cap by the equivalent of his $6 million AAV. Lamoriello could be waiting to find out when the season will begin before finalizing the Barzal contract and formally announcing the deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider.

An offer sheet for Barzal is possible but unlikely given the few teams with sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant offer. Lamoriello informed his rivals he would match any offer. I don’t see any of them trying to call his bluff.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined potential trade options for the Buffalo Sabres if they once again find themselves outside the playoff picture during 2020-21.

Winger Taylor Hall could be a valuable trade chip if the Sabres are out of contention by the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause in his one-year contract but could approve a deal if the Sabres sink in the standings. Veteran center Eric Staal is also under contract for the coming season. His affordable $3.25 million cap hit could make him enticing in the trade market.

If things go south for the Sabres, O’Brien wondered if this could be the season they trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He also doesn’t rule out moving winger Sam Reinhart but considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are a contender this season those players won’t be going anywhere even at the risk of losing Hall to free agency next summer. Another disappointing performance, however, will see them become sellers at the trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

A look at next year’s unrestricted free agent class in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently previewed the NHL’s 2021 unrestricted free agent class.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

The notable forwards include Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Montreal Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Boston Bruins center David Krejci, and Avalanche winger Brandon Saad.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s already signaled his intent to re-sign with the Capitals. Unless Getzlaf feels he’d like one more shot at a Stanley Cup run, I can see him staying with the Ducks on a short-term deal. The Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are discussing a long-term contract extension. I doubt the Avalanche part ways with Landeskog and I don’t see the Blues letting Schwartz depart after losing Alex Pietrangelo to free agency this year.

Hall could stay with the Sabres if he develops strong chemistry with Jack Eichel and the club significantly improves. Otherwise, he’ll test the market again. Tatar’s inconsistency means the coming season is likely his last in Montreal. The Bruins could let Krejci go unless he accepts a significant pay cut. Saad could be a one-year rental unless the Avs fail to re-sign Landeskog.

Noteworthy defensemen on O’Leary’s list include the Carolina Hurricanes’ Dougie Hamilton, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard, the Oilers’ Adam Larsson, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four could end up hitting the market next summer. Cap constraints could make it difficult for Hamilton, Larsson and Martinez to remain with their current clubs. Savard will turn 31 next October and the Jackets could be reluctant to invest too much in him for too long.

The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, the Blues’ Jordan Binnington, and the Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer are among next year’s best UFA goaltenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Bruins re-signing Rask to a short-term deal provided he doesn’t opt for retirement at the end of 2020-21. Andersen is likely a goner after next season.

The Blues parted ways with Jake Allen this year by trading him to the Montreal Canadiens. Things will really have to go sideways for them to let Binnington walk next summer. Grubauer’s future in Colorado could depend upon his performance in the coming season, especially during the playoffs.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

Could the Flyers or Blues attempt to sign Mike Hoffman? What’s the deal behind the Sabres’ recent short-term RFA signings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall noted a recent report by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicating a “dozen or so” teams have expressed an interest in Mike Hoffman. However, a source told Hall the Flyers aren’t among the clubs pursuing the unrestricted free-agent winger.

Free-agent winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).

Hall notes Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher likes his club’s prospects on the wing and he still has defenseman Philippe Myers to re-sign. They’re also hoping for a better performance by veteran winger James van Riemsdyk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have $4.8 million in cap space, which will shrink after Myers is signed. Unless they make a cost-cutting move to clear room for Hoffman, don’t expect to see him suit up for the Flyers in 2020-21.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong wouldn’t rule out adding a player like Hoffman. However, such a move would have to make sense dollar-wise for the Blues.

Rutherford noted the Blues already sit $1.2 million above the $81.5 million salary cap with restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn to be signed. They can put sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen (combined AAV of $13.25 million) on long-term injury reserve next season to exceed the cap by that amount, but they must also be cap compliant when those players are ready to return to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It doesn’t look like the Blues will be among Hoffman’s suitors. Rutherford reported Armstrong wants to give more playing time to forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. The Blues GM also remains confident Tarasenko will return at some point in 2020-21.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Buffalo Sabres signing Sam Reinhart, Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour to one-year contracts, as well as their acquisition of Eric Staal, who has a year left on his contract.

O’Brien considers those “prove it” moves in which the players will have to justify longer deals through their performance in 2020-21. He also points out the flexibility it gives the Sabres at the 2021 trade deadline.

If the Sabres are non-contenders by then, they could peddle Hall to wherever he’s willing to accept getting dealt to. O’Brien also doesn’t rule out the possibility of shopping Reinhart by inflating his value, trading him before they have to pay up, and coming out on the better side of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres could use the same approach with Staal and Montour. Of course, that depends on how next season shakes out. If the Sabres are contenders, they won’t be sellers even at the risk of losing Hall, Staal and Montour to next year’s UFA market.










Taylor Hall Signs With The Sabres

Taylor Hall Signs With The Sabres

TSN’s Darren Dreger and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman report Taylor Hall has signed a one-year, $8-million contract with the Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres sign Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Well, I didn’t see this coming, and I don’t think many other folks had the Sabres on their list of destinations for Hall via free agency. It’s certainly a bold one by rookie Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams.

The question, of course, is why? Hall was the best forward available in this year’s free-agent class and was expected to sign with a playoff club (preferably a Cup contender), something the Sabres haven’t been for some time.

Steve Dangle has perhaps the best theory: “Hall’s coming off a down year to go light it up with Jack Eichel while nobody has any money so he can cash in afterward.”

Skating alongside Eichel, one of the league’s elite centers, should boost Hall’s numbers back toward the 90-point range of his Hart Trophy performance in 2017-18. If the Sabres don’t improve, he can test the market next year when there could be more teams (including playoff clubs) with the cap space willing to pay him a lucrative long-term deal.

If Hall and Eichel mesh well together and the Sabres reach the postseason, perhaps an agreement can be worked out that pays him big bucks to stay in Buffalo for several years.