NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2018

Latest on Jacob Trouba’s future with the Winnipeg Jets plus an update on some of the remaining UFAs in your NHL rumor mill. 

Could the Winnipeg Jets trade Jacob Trouba at the end of his new one-year contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

ARE TROUBA’S DAYS IN WINNIPEG DRAWING TO A CLOSE?

NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck took note of the one-year, $5.5-million contract awarded to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba by an arbitrator on Sunday. With Trouba two years away from eligibility for unrestricted free agency and once against due to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, Billeck wonders if the blueliner’s time in Winnipeg might be coming to an end.

Speculation over the inability between Trouba and the Jets to work out a long-term deal has prompted speculation the defenseman is angling to depart Winnipeg. There was a significant gap between the two sides prior to his arbitration hearing, with the Trouba camp seeking $7 million and the Jets’ $4 million.

Trading him this summer is an option but Billeck doesn’t consider it the best one if the Jets are serious about making a run for the Stanley Cup in 2018-19. If the Jets trade Trouba, he speculates the asking price could be “a comparable rostered defenseman or a very highly-touted prospect rearguard.”

Billeck expects there will be several potential suitors if Trouba hits the trade block “but pinning down who and what is involved is anyone’s guess.”  He proposes the New York Islanders (who have Manitoba native Ryan Pulock on their blueline) or the Detroit Red Wings as possible options, though acknowledges that’s just pure speculation on his part.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre notes the Jets will likely face a salary-cap crunch next summer. Trouba, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Joe Morrow and Laurent Brossoit will be restricted free agents while Blake Wheeler, Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot will be UFAs. Among McIntyre’s suggests options to address this issue could be trading Trouba, which “would not only be best for both sides, but a necessity from Winnipeg’s perspective.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could surprise us by trading Trouba this summer but I doubt he’ll go that route. He’ll keep his current roster intact to make another serious run for the Cup this coming season. Next summer, however, is another matter. Cap Friendly indicates the Jets currently have over $43 million invested in just nine players. Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million for 2019-20, they’ll have $40 million to work with.

Sounds like a lot but perhaps half of that will be eaten up in new contracts for Wheeler and Laine, while the others will be due significant raises. Should Trouba have a career year, he’ll be able to justify pushing for over $7 million per season.

While a lot can happen between now and next summer, trading Trouba next June, perhaps during the NHL Draft weekend, could be their best option to ensure sufficient cap room to maintain the bulk of their roster. He’ll attract considerable interest in the trade market. 

UFA UPDATE

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the remaining top-10 NHL UFAs. Among the notable updates is a July 13 report claiming the Chicago Blackhawks contacted former Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Luca Sbisa. There’s also surprise former Dallas Stars blueliner Dan Hamhuis hasn’t been signed by anyone yet.

Buffalo’s WKBW’s Matt Bove suggests the Sabres should consider adding veteran rearguard Brooks Orpik to an affordable one-year deal to bring in some experience and leadership. He could also be used as a trade chip near next February’s trade deadline.

A report out of Russia has Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley trying to woo forward Mike Cammalleri. The agent for defenseman Alexei Emelin recently said his client had spoken with several teams but declined to say if the Montreal Canadiens were among them. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These players have now fallen into the off-season limbo that occurs after the opening two weeks of the free-agent market. When most of the best players are signed up, teams become more budget conscious, meaning those players still available in the UFA market could be forced to wait for weeks before getting new contracts. General managers are also currently focused for the next two weeks upon dealing with players slated for arbitration hearings.

Some of these players, such as Hamhuis and Sbisa, could get new contracts before the start of training camp in September. The others, however, could be forced to accept professional tryout offers, contract proposals from KHL or European teams or retirement. 

 











Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

A week into the 2018 NHL free-agent market, not much talent remains for teams attempting to bolster their lineups. Here’s a brief look at the notable names still available as of July 7, 2018.

Left wing Patrick Maroon is the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

Patrick Maroon. The best remaining scorer in the bunch. A big-bodied (6’3”, 225 lbs) left winger coming off back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in his services.

Kari Lehtonen. The 34-year-old Lehtonen posted a respectable 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season in a backup role with the Dallas Stars. He could be a mentor for a rising young starter.

Dan Hamhuis. Though Hamhuis’ best days are behind him,  the 35-year-old defenseman still tallied 24 points while skating over 20 minutes per game with the Stars. He could be a solid depth addition for a playoff contender.

Toby Enstrom. Injuries have frequently sidelined the 33-year-old Enstrom, hampering his effectiveness as a puck-moving blueliner. His experience, however, could be helpful to a rebuilding club.

Brooks Orpik. The shutdown blueliner helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup this spring. Traded to Colorado and bought out, the Capitals are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.

Steve Mason. The 30-year-old struggled with injury and inconsistency as the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season. Those factors could hurt Mason’s efforts to land with another NHL club.

Luca Sbisa. Missed all but 30 games to injury last season but was solid in the playoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sbisa could be a good depth addition to a blueline in need of a physical rearguard.

Antoine Vermette. The 35-year-old’s 20-goal, 40-point seasons are well in the past. However, he could provide depth for clubs in need of a veteran checking-line center.

Alexei Emelin. A physical defenseman, Emelin could provide some experienced grit as a third-pairing blueliner.

Ondrej Pavelec. The 30-year-old netminder sported a decent .910 save percentage serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy with the New York Rangers.

 











Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

More speculation over Erik Karlsson’s future plus a look at possible offseason moves for the Dallas Stars in your NHL rumor mill.

Erik Karlsson’s future with the Ottawa Senators will remain an ongoing topic of interest in the offseason (Photo via NHL Images)

IS KARLSSON PLAYING HIS FINAL HOME GAME WITH SENATORS?

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren wonders if tonight’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets might be the final home game for Erik Karlsson with the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson has one year remaining on his contract and the Senators hope to re-sign him this summer, but Warren is curious over how much they’re willing to spend. “Eight years and $80 million? Eight years and $90 million? $100 million, anyone?”

If the Senators win the 2018 NHL Draft lottery, it would put them in line to select Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Warren thinks that would generate “a steady stream of trade speculation involving Karlsson” leading up to the opening round of the draft on June 22.

It also remains to be seen if Karlsson wants to be part of a rebuilding club. Warren notes the Senators captain, who has a 10-team list of trade destinations, was “very much in play” leading up to this year’s NHL trade deadline. He and Bobby Ryan were rumored to be heading to a Western Conference team in a package deal by deadline day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson’s going to be part of a steady stream of trade speculation regardless of whether or not the Sens win the draft lottery. It’s believed they were close to shipping Karlsson and Ryan to the Vegas Golden Knights before the deadline but the deal apparently fell through. It’s possible the two clubs could revisit those discussions leading up to the draft. If not, perhaps the Senators will start looking around for potential suitors once the playoffs end in June. 

The earliest the Senators can re-sign Karlsson is July 1. It’s going to cost the Sens a lot of money on a long-term deal to keep him in the fold. He’s indicated he won’t accept a hometown discount. If they’re engaging in a full rebuild, Karlsson and/or the Sens front office could decide it’s time to part ways. 

SOME SUGGESTED OFFSEASON MOVES FOR THE STARS

THE ATHLETIC: With the Dallas Stars’ playoff hopes fading, Sean Shapiro was recently asked about their possible offseason moves in a recent mailbag segment. His checklist includes buying out fading veteran forward Jason Spezza or picking up part of his $7.5-million cap hit on the remaining year of his salary in order to trade him.

Shapiro also feels they need to build up their second line via trades or free agency. While that won’t be easy, he observed the Stars have the cap space to take some of the burden off their top line. He suggested trading for Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone at the draft.

As for the Stars’ unrestricted free agents, Shapiro believes goaltender Kari Lehtonen and defenseman Dan Hamhuis won’t be re-signed. He also felt blueliner Greg Pateryn could be moving on but has a gut feeling Antoine Roussel could be back, though he’s “not sure if there is a contractual number that works for both sides.” Shapiro doesn’t believe the Stars will move their first-round pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars’ late-season collapse could spur more roster changes this summer. It might not include acquiring Stone from Ottawa. During the blizzard of speculation involving the Senators leading up to the trade deadline, his name was rarely mentioned as a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and it’s believed the Sens intend to keep him. Of course, if he does hit the trade block the Stars would probably be interested, However, they’ll have competition from a number of NHL clubs hoping to pry him away from the Sens.

After tallying 50 points in 68 games in 2016-17, Spezza’s managed just 26 points in 75 games this season. He turns 35 in June and the wear and tear of 15 NHL campaigns could be catching up with him. Perhaps he also feels stymied under coach Ken Hitchcock’s system. Whatever the reason, the Stars will have to pick up a big chunk of that cap hit to move him. They could explore that option in late-June and perhaps buy him out by June 30 if there aren’t any takers. As per Cap Friendly, they’ll free up $5 million in cap space if they go the buyout route.  

 











NHL Rumor Mill – March 29, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – March 29, 2018

Updates on the New York Islanders and New York Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.

KEYS TO THE ISLANDERS OFFSEASON

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan recently explored potential offseason moves by the New York Islanders. Re-signing John Tavares, of course, is the priority, though general manager Garth Snow did himself no favors by failing to address the Isles’ porous defense and goaltending this season.

Could the New York Islanders target Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson via free agency this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

Signing a starting goalie should be next on the “to-do’ list, Kaplan suggests St. Louis Blues pending free agent Carter Hutton might serve as a good short-term option until prospects such as Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom are ready for full-time NHL action.

The defense must also be addressed. If Snow is unable or unwilling to spend big on someone such as Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson, Kaplan proposes serviceable veteran free agents such as Ian Cole, Dan Hamhuis or Jack Johnson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have over $47.3 million invested in 14 players. Assuming the cap ceiling reaches $80 million for 2018-19, they’ve have over $32 million in cap room. If they’re willing to spend toward the cap maximum, they’ll have more than enough to re-sign Tavares to a big raise and pursue a starting goalie and perhaps a couple of quality defensemen.

Of course, that’s all easier said than done. There’s not many quality goaltending options available via free agency. Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, Ondrej Pavelec and Antti Niemi are past their prime as starters, Antti Raanta will likely be re-signed by the Arizona Coyotes. Even if he’s available he still hasn’t fully established himself as a reliable starting netminder. The same can be said for Hutton, Jonathan Bernier and Anton Khudobin.

Beyond Carlson, the depth in quality free-agent defensemen significantly declines. Age would be a concern for Hamhuis (35) and Detroit’s Mike Green (32). Johnson (31) struggled at times this season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cole, 29, could provide reliable depth but the Isles would still need a good top-four rearguard.

With two picks in the first and second rounds of the 2018 draft, Snow could perhaps package one from each round in hopes of landing a skilled d-man via the trade market. 

RANGERS “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”, SAYS McKENZIE

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie’s appearance Wednesday on NBCSN discussing possible moves by the New York Rangers, who carry 10 selections in the 2018 NHL Draft, including seven in the first three rounds, with three of those in the opening round.

McKenzie believes they’re “open for business” just as they were leading up to the 2018 NHL trade deadline. He feels Rangers GM Jeff Gorton will consider his options, including perhaps packaging some of those picks to move higher in the draft order. He also believes Gorton could be open to acquiring a good young NHL player – “a really good 21 or 22 or 23 year old” – using those draft picks as currency. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie acknowledged some fans believe if the Rangers are indeed rebuilding they should retain those picks and use them to draft and develop young talent. I don’t think Gorton intends to peddle most of those selections. However, if there’s an opportunity to move, say, a first- and a second-rounder for a young player who can immediately improve the roster, he could seriously consider it. If the Rangers don’t land in the top-three in the opening round of the draft, I can see Gorton using one or two of those picks to move up. 

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 2, 2018

Game recaps, the top three stars and top rookie for January 2018 and much more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights set the record for most wins by an NHL team in its inaugural season with a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The game had a measure of controversy. A slash to the mask of Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck by Vegas winger James Neal, leading to a goal by Erik Haula, was somehow not considered goaltender interference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: First, congratulations to the Golden Knights for their record-setting victory. Second, this puzzling decision by league officials is yet another example of the growing confusion this season over what constitutes goaltender interference. It’s an ongoing embarrassment for the league, whose recent directive to address the problem was telling its officials not to “overthink” the issue. In this instance, it doesn’t appear as though they put much thought into it at all. 

Alex Killorn had a four-point performance as the Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Calgary Flames 7-4 (Photo via NHL Images).

Alex Killorn scored twice and set up two others to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 7-4 thumping of the Calgary Flames, handing the latter their sixth straight defeat. Cory Conacher also scored two goals and Matthew Peca had a three-point night for the Lightning.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made 32 saves as his club defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-1. Rask extended his personal points streak to 17-0-2 in his last 19 starts. Earlier in the day, the Bruins announced rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy was cleared to return to practice. McAvoy recently underwent a procedure to address an abnormal heart rhythm.

Playing in his 600th career NHL game, Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson tallied the game winner in overtime to give his club a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their second straight shutout win by blanking the New York Rangers 4-0. Justin Holl became the first defenseman in Leafs history to score a goal in each of his first two games. Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves for the win. Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich left the game and is listed as day-to-day after taking an uncalled elbow to the jaw from Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner.

After being sidelined for 11 games, Filip Forsberg returned to score a goal and add an assist as the Nashville Predators blanked the Los Angeles Kings 5-0. It was the second straight shutout for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

J.T. Compher’s overtime tally gave the Colorado Avalanche a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers, who had overcome a 3-1 deficit to force the extra frame. Earlier in the day, the Avalanche announced center Nathan MacKinnon will be sidelined two-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury.

Nico Hischier potted the game winner latest in the third period as the New Jersey Devils edged the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3. Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas drew attention to himself with a leaping high hit on Devils winger Kyle Palmieri. No word if he’ll received supplemental discipline for the incident. Palmieri would return to the game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Gudas history of questionable hits, he’ll be fortunate if the league passes on this one. It looked like he was imitating Stone Cold Steve Austin doing a Lou Thesz press

Brendan Gaunce scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks picked up their fifth win in eight games with a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Dallas Stars tallied four unanswered goals to beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1. Stars forward Devin Shore had a goal and an assist. Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta was a late scratch as he was involved in a car accident on route to the game. Raanta was shaken up but otherwise unhurt. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this week, Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis become the 106th defenseman in NHL history to play 1,000 games. 

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward turned in a 27-save shutout effort to carry his club to a 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Canes defenseman Brett Pesce tallied his first goal of the season.

Keith Yandle scored a goal and added two assists as the Florida Panthers doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonathan Bernier were the NHL’s three stars for the month of January 2018. New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal was named rookie of the month

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins winger Conor Sheary is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. 

 











Unrestricted Free Agents No Sure Pathway to The Stanley Cup

Unrestricted Free Agents No Sure Pathway to The Stanley Cup

Marian Hossa is among the few expensive UFA signings over the last decade to help a team win a Stanley Cup championship.

Considering how much money NHL teams invested in signing each year’s top unrestricted free agents, one can assume those clubs believe these moves will improve their chances of becoming Stanley Cup contenders. But if the notable UFA deals of the last decade are any indication, such efforts do not guarantee championship glory.

In 2007, the biggest UFA signings saw Scott Gomez and Chris Drury join the New York Rangers, Daniel Briere head to the Philadelphia Flyers, Paul Kariya sign with the St. Louis Blues, Ryan Smyth joining the Colorado Avalanche, Sheldon Souray inking a deal with the Edmonton Oilers and Brian Rafalski move to the Detroit Red Wings.

Of these deals, only the Rafalski signing contributed to a team winning the Stanley Cup. Briere would help the Flyers stage their underdog run to the 2010 Cup Final.

2008’s notable signings included Marian Hossa to Detroit, Markus Naslund and Wade Redden to the Rangers, Rob Blake to the San Jose Sharks, Todd Bertuzzi to the Calgary Flames, Mike Commodore to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Brian Campbell to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Hossa helped the Wings reach the 2009 Cup Final. Campbell played a key role in the Hawks 2010 championship.

In 2009, Hossa moved on to Chicago while Marian Gaborik joined the Rangers, Martin Havlat headed to the Minnesota Wild, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta went to the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Komisarek left the Habs for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Alexei Kovalev inked a deal with the Ottawa Senators.

Only the Hossa deal panned out. He played a significant part in the Blackhawks’ Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

It was a shallow pool of notable UFA talent in 2010. Sergei Gonchar went to Ottawa, Paul Martin moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Tanguay went to Calgary, Antti Niemi to San Jose and Dan Hamhuis joined the Vancouver Canucks. 

Hamhuis was an important part of the Canucks blueline for several years. He also helped them reach the 2011 Cup Final.

Brad Richards headlined the 2011 UFA class, signing a long-term deal with the Rangers. Other notables included Jaromir Jagr returning to the NHL with the Flyers, Erik Cole head to Montreal, Ed Jovanovski to the Florida Panthers, Mike Smith to the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes, Simon Gagne to the Los Angeles Kings and J.S. Gigeure join the Avalanche.

Richards helped the Rangers advance to the 2014 Cup Final. He was later bought out by the Rangers, signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent and helped them win the Cup in 2015.

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signing with Minnesota were the biggest UFA moves of 2012. Others included Ray Whitney going to the Coyotes, Jason Garrison to Vancouver, Jiri Hudler heading to Calgary, Matt Carle joining the Tampa Bay Lightning and Alexander Semin signing with the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Following a lockout shortened season, the summer of 2013 saw Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss go to Detroit, Jarome Iginla to the Boston Bruins, Nathan Horton to Columbus, David Clarkson to Toronto and Valtteri Filppula to Tampa Bay 

The summer of 2014 saw Ignila on the move again, this time to Colorado. Paul Statsny went to St. Louis, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik joined the Washington Capitals, Dan Boyle went to the Rangers, Thomas Vanek to Minnesota, Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen signed with Florida, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin headed to the New York Islanders and Anton Stralman signed with the Lightning.

Stralman played a key role in Lightning’s march to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2015, the notable signings included Mike Green to Detroit, Justin Williams to Washington, Andrej Sekera to Edmonton, Alex Semin to Montreal and Joel Ward to San Jose. Ward helped the Sharks reach the 2016 Cup Final.

Last summer saw Milan Lucic sign with Edmonton, Eric Staal head to Minnesota, Loui Eriksson sign with Vancouver, David Backes moving to Boston, Troy Brouwer going to Calgary, Andrew Ladd join the Islanders, Frans Nielsen land with Detroit and Kyle Okposo shuffle off to the Buffalo Sabres.

So far none of those moves pushed their respective clubs any closer to championship contention, though some of these deal could pan out over time.

As we can see, very few notable UFAs played a significant role in helping their new clubs reach the Stanley Cup Final. If that trend continues, this summer’s big signings – Kevin Shattenkirk to the Rangers, Patrick Marleau to Toronto, Alexander Radulov to Dallas, Karl Alzner to Montreal – could become costly moves that fail to push those teams any closer to a championship.

The argument can be made that the salary-cap era has drained the UFA market of any significant talent. Teams tend to re-sign their best players, leaving mostly second-tier talent available in the free-agent pool. However, that was usually the case before the advent of the cap.

But as I noted in May 2014, teams from that era rarely had success landing talent that carried them to championships. The Dallas Stars’ signings of goaltender Ed Belfour (1997) and Brett Hull (1998) and the Red Wings’ additions of Hull and Luc Robitaille in 2001 are the only notable examples from that period.

The UFA market does have some value for clubs seeking depth in talent. Over the years, teams have added players that improved their rosters to various degress. Championship teams also benefited from free agency, usually through the addition of affordable depth players.

Free agency can help an NHL club build a contender, but it’s never been a sure path to a championship. In today’s salary-cap world, pursuing expensive, often overhyped veterans can do more harm than good, tying up invaluable salary-cap space necessary for retaining homegrown talent.