NHL Rumor Mill – June 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 21, 2021

The latest on Dougie Hamilton, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reported Saturday it sounds like there’s a lot of conversations between agent J.P. Barry (who represents Dougie Hamilton) and other NHL clubs. The 28-year-old Carolina Hurricanes defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hamilton and his agent have been granted permission by the Hurricanes to speak with other teams on a deal that could work into a sign-and-trade situation. However, Johnston gets the feeling this won’t be resolved quickly, suggesting it could take several weeks, perhaps close to the July 28 start date of free agency.

Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs should at least consider attempting to acquire Hamilton. Doing so, however, could mean trading away Morgan Rielly to free up sufficient salary-cap space to sign Hamilton to a long-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Next month’s NHL expansion draft (July 21) is probably a big reason why a possible sign-and-trade scenario for Hamilton would take weeks. The acquiring club would have to include him on their player protection list.

If the Leafs aren’t trading any of their high-priced forwards, trading Rielly seems the most logical way to clear cap space to sign Hamilton. Slated to become a UFA next summer, Rielly will seek a big raise over his current $5 million annual cap hit.

That might not be the best move on the Leafs part. They would get deeper on the right side of their blueline by signing Hamilton, but moving out Rielly leaves a big gap on the left side.


AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan confirms reports indicating the Arizona Coyotes will explore trade options for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 29-year-old defenseman is also more open to that possibility compared to last fall when he was willing to waive his no-movement clause for only the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.

Ekman-Larsson has six more seasons left on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.25 million. Morgan points out the blueliner’s performance has declined over the past several seasons. A change of scenery might do him good after years of losing in Arizona and carrying the burden of the captaincy.

Morgan indicated Ekman-Larsson has not provided the Coyotes with a list of preferred trade destinations. However, the plan is for the club to seek whatever trade option are available and present them to the defenseman’s camp to see what ones are acceptable. The Coyotes could look for comparable contracts that other clubs are trying to move. Perhaps some of those could have a little less term. They could also retain part of his salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Ekman-Larsson’s contract wouldn’t be easy under normal circumstances. It could be more difficult under a flattened salary cap this summer.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Coyotes can work something out. Retaining part of his salary could be more enticing for other clubs, but it still means the Coyotes would be carrying that portion for six more years.


PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski suggested Rasmus Ristolainen as a possible trade target for the Pittsburgh Penguins to add a physical defenseman to their blueline. The 26-year-old rearguard impressed Kingerski with his play against the Penguins this season, especially on Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

Kingerski speculates offering up a second-round draft pick, plus more, could get it done, or perhaps a team could get away with a solid prospect. The New Jersey Devils are also said to be interested in Ristolainen, who wouldn’t object to getting traded.

The Penguins would need to clear some cap space for Ristolainen’s $5.4 million cap hit. However, they could get some relief from the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins management made it clear during the season and after the playoffs that they’re looking to add more size and grit to their lineup. Ristolainen could help but they could also have other options in mind.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 18, 2021

The latest Leafs speculation plus updates on Dougie Hamilton and Seth Jones in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle no longer feels optimistic about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ chances of re-signing Zach Hyman. The 29-year-old left-winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman (NHL Images).

Multiple sources claim they don’t believe there have been any substantial contract discussions between the Leafs and the Hyman camp for some time. Talk around the league is the winger could command up to $6 million annually on a long-term deal, with the Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson (seven years, $38.5 million) cited as a comparable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out the possibility of the Leafs re-signing Hyman for perhaps a bit of a hometown discount. He could find it difficult to land a big-money deal with the salary cap remaining around $81.5 million. Nevertheless, many NHL general managers tend to succumb to auction fever in the free-agent market. Someone could tempt Hyman away from the Leafs with a significant offer.

OTTAWA SUN: Joel Colomby recently expressed the hope that Hyman would accept a hometown discount to stay with the Leafs and give them that essential grit they need on their top line. With Nick Foligno expected to return to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Colomby believes they must find someone to replace him. “Is that Evander Kane’s name we’re hearing in trade rumors?”, he asked.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To my knowledge, Colomby’s the only one hearing Kane’s name in trade rumors. The 29-year-old winger was their most productive player, finishing the season with a team-leading 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games.

Things have been rather quiet for the San Jose Sharks in recent weeks. I believe they have no intention of moving Kane. If they were, his bankruptcy proceedings could dampen his value. That’s assuming the Leafs are among the three teams on his list of preferred trade destinations. If that wasn’t a showstopper, his $7 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 probably would be.


THE ATHLETIC: Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers cited a source claiming the Chicago Blackhawks are going to explore adding either Dougie Hamilton or Seth Jones to their defense corps this summer. However, they don’t intend to leverage their future to add either blueliner.

The Blackhawks won’t be interested should Hamilton seek a deal comparable to the $8.8 million annually on a seven-year deal Alex Pietrangelo signed last October with the Vegas Golden Knights. They would, however, consider discussions for a lower cap number.

As for Jones, it depends on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ asking price. One league source believes it could be a first-round pick, a second-rounder, and a high-quality prospect. Another felt Kirby Dach would have to be part of any offer from the Blackhawks.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater believes the Avalanche should pursue Jones if he wants to come to Colorado. He speculates the cost could be either Nazem Kadri, Tyson Jost or JT Compher, a first-round pick and a prospect such as Connor Timmins or Justin Barron. He wouldn’t give up Bo Byram though the Blue Jackets are sure to ask for him.

OTTAWA SUN: Joel Colomby reported there are rumors of the Maple Leafs having talks with the Blue Jackets about Jones. He believes the Leafs could fit him within their well-publicized salary-cap constraints by having the Jacket retain salary on the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw on permanent long-term injury reserve status, the Blackhawks will have sufficient cap space to pursue a top-two defenseman like Hamilton or Jones. Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen. Jones could end up costing them more in terms of a new contract plus the sizable return to the Blue Jackets. With Hamilton, it’s just the contract to be sorted out.

It’ll be interesting to see what Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has in store for his club following their disappointing playoff exit. He’s got to re-sign or replace pending UFAs like Philipp Grubauer and Gabriel Landeskog, plus Cale Makar is due a hefty raise coming off his entry-level deal. Sakic will have to shed salary if he pursues Jones.

The question of return will also be an issue for the Leafs. They don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft to include in a trade offer. There’s also the long-term cost of Jones’ next contract, which could exceed $8 million annually starting in 2022-23. Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have over $51 million tied up in just six players for ’22-’23. They can’t take on Jones without shedding one of those contracts.

Random Thoughts On The NHL – June 16, 2021

Random Thoughts On The NHL – June 16, 2021

Some folks believe the Tampa Bay Lightning circumvented the salary-cap system when Nikita Kucherov returned to the lineup in time for the playoffs after missing the regular season recovering from hip surgery.

The Lightning were facing a big salary-cap crunch approaching the start of this season. They were sitting above the $81.5 million ceiling and had to be cap compliant when the season began in mid-January. They unsuccessfully attempted to move a fading Tyler Johnson and his $5-million cap hit via trade or waivers. Speculation suggested they’d have to part with someone like Alex Killorn or perhaps convince Ondrej Palat to waive his no-trade clause.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images)

Kucherov underwent hip surgery on Dec. 29 with a recovery period of four to five months. By placing him on long-term injury reserve, the Lightning garnered $9.5 million in cap relief. Not only did they not have to make a cost-cutting trade, but they also had sufficient wiggle room to take on defenseman David Savard at the trade deadline.

Because the salary cap only applies during the regular season, Kucherov’s return when the playoffs began raised some eyebrows. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton seemed to stoke that fire following his club’s second-round elimination by the Lightning, claiming they were beaten by a team sitting $18 million over the cap.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois pointed out Kucherov’s status was investigated by the league and no wrongdoing was found. Kucherov, meanwhile, said he had to have the surgery and took the necessary time to recover. He also said he didn’t make the rules regarding LTIR.

Yes, the Lightning circumvented the salary cap, but only because they’re allowed to do so under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Long-term injury reserve allow cap-strapped teams the flexibility to replace players who could miss a significant portion of the regular season.

A team with limited salary cap space can exceed the cap by the equivalent of the injured player’s salary to bring in a replacement, provided they are cap compliant when the sidelined player is medically cleared to return to action.

This isn’t the first time an NHL team has gone this route. In February 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks placed superstar winger Patrick Kane on LTIR with a broken collarbone. Kane missed the remainder of the regular season, allowing the Blackhawks to use the cap relief to bring in Antoine Vermette, Kimmo Timonen and Andrew Desjardins. Kane returned for the start of the playoffs, and the Blackhawks subsequently won the Stanley Cup.

That issue was discussed during a meeting of NHL general managers in March 2016. The league had the opportunity to close that loophole with the NHLPA during last year’s CBA extension negotiations but nothing came of it.

Either there wasn’t sufficient time to hammer out a suitable change to the LTIR rule or both sides saw little reason to change it.


The New York Post’s Larry Brooks pointed to the Lightning’s cap payroll (and that of the Vegas Golden Knights) as proof the hard salary cap is a myth because those teams play in places without state taxes. That means they’re able to sign players for less than what they would’ve sought from teams in taxed states and provinces.

Brooks also praised the management of the Lightning and Golden Knights for managing their cap payrolls better than other clubs in non-tax states like the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, and Florida Panthers.

Despite that advantage, the Lightning and Golden Knights will soon discover how difficult it is to maintain a Stanley Cup contender under the salary-cap system.

If not for Kucherov going on LTIR to start this season, the Lightning would’ve lost a key player like Alex Killorn. They’re sitting above the cap by over $5 million for next season, and while they’ll likely try to swing a deal with the Seattle Kraken to get them to take Tyler Johnson and his $5 million, they’ll still have to shed salary to find sufficient cap space to fill out the rest of their roster. They’ll likely lose David Savard and wingers Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow to this summer’s free-agent market.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, have over $2.4 million in cap room with top-three defenseman Alec Martinez slated to become an unrestricted free agent. They’ll have to pare that down if they hope to clear more room to re-sign him.

Even if their respective managements can minimize the damage and remain Cup contenders next season, the long-range outlook isn’t good.

Golden Knights veterans Marc-Andre Fleury and Reilly Smith are UFAs in 2022 while promising defenseman Zach Whitecloud is a restricted free agent. It’s worse for the Lightning, with over $70 million invested in 12 players in 2022-23. Brayden Point becomes a restricted free agent next summer while Ondrej Palat is due for UFA status.


Pierre-Luc Dubois had a disappointing performance with the Winnipeg Jets following his trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets in January. The expectation is he’ll bounce back next season and regain his solid two-way form.

But what happens if he doesn’t? He will become a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights whose actual salary for 2021-22 is $6.65 million. The Jets will have to spend that much to just qualify his rights.

That would leave general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff facing a tough decision. Attempt to re-sign Dubois or try to trade him. Considering he gave up Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets to get the 22-year-old center, either choice could provide fodder for Cheveldayoff’s critics.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 16, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 16, 2021

The latest on Jack Eichel, Dougie Hamilton, Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman said he’s asked around to see if the Buffalo Sabres gave other clubs permission to speak with Jack Eichel but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He added the club and its captain are negotiating the next step in his recovery from a herniated disk in his neck. Sources indicate if the Sabres shop Eichel or Sam Reinhart that we shouldn’t be surprised if they end up with another high pick in the first round of this year’s draft.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski predicted the Sabres will grant permission for interested clubs to speak to Eichel. That will be necessary because of the treatment Eichel requires to treat his injury. If a rival club is willing to allow him to undergo the surgery he seeks and offers the right trade package, Lysowki believes the Sabres will make the deal sooner rather than later.

THE ATHLETIC/BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins will pass on Eichel because of his neck injury. “A $10 million player has to be a sure thing,” he wrote. Joe Haggerty dismissed any talk of the Bruins acquiring Eichel as “fantasy stuff.”

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy wondered if the Seattle Kraken could use the prospect they select with the second-overall pick in this year’s draft as part of a package offer for Eichel. One NHL executive said he was told Kraken general manager Ron Francis checked in on the Sabres captain.

THE ATHLETIC: Rick Carpiniello reports hearing the New York Rangers are not likely, or much less likely now, to get into the bidding for Eichel.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s neck injury will determine the number of teams with interest in the Sabres captain. Some could be willing to take a chance on him having surgery on his herniated disk, a procedure that’s never been performed before on an NHL player. However, I think most general managers share Shinzawa’s opinion. If you’re going to invest assets and cap space acquiring an expensive talent like Eichel, you better be sure he’ll be 100 percent healthy.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Philadelphia Flyers might not aggressively pursue Dougie Hamilton. The 27-year-old Carolina Hurricanes defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. The Hurricanes are allowing Hamilton to speak with other teams.

Friedman indicated the Flyers’ interests in addressing their blueline needs appear to be elsewhere, speculating they could target Columbus’ Seth Jones or Minnesota’s Matt Dumba. He also suggested the Seattle Kraken and New Jersey Devils could make sense for Hamilton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi believes it would cost the Flyers “multiple high draft picks and either Travis Sanheim or Phil Myers for starters” to acquire Hamilton, and only if they can get him to sign a long-term contract extension. He feels the Flyers would have difficulty fitting him under the cap unless Jakub Voracek headed the other way.

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall speculates the Flyers could consider more affordable options if they can’t land Hamilton or Jones. He pointed out they had an interest in Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak before tumbling out of playoff contention by the trade deadline. Hall also mentioned Vegas’ Alec Martinez and Pittsburgh’s Cody Ceci as other UFA options.


SPORTSNET: Friedman said the Florida Panthers are expected to be aggressively pursuing improvement this offseason. He’s curious if they ask the Columbus Blue Jackets about Patrik Laine. He and Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov have a good relationship.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on whether the Jackets are going for a full-scale rebuild. A shake-up is probably coming after Seth Jones indicated his intent to test next summer’s free-agent market but it could be a retooling rather than a teardown.

I don’t see the Panthers being keen to take on the potential headache of Laine’s contract negotiations. It will cost $7.5 million to qualify his rights.

The Jackets could decide not to qualify him and let him depart as an unrestricted free agent. However, that would leave them with little to show for shipping Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg.

He cited Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News reporting the New Jersey Devils had an interest in Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He wonders if they might also consider Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere if the Flyers included a sweetener in the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lysowski pointed out the Devils have the assets in picks and prospects to make a bid for Ristolainen, who indicated last month he’d be open to a trade. The issue here is he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Devils could acquire him and see how next season plays out or they could insist on him signing a contract extension first.

A scout suggested to Friedman that interest in Anaheim Ducks center Adam Henrique could pick up following his solid play for Canada at this year’s World Championships.

Friedman doesn’t put much stock into recent rumors suggesting Jared Bednar could lose his job as Colorado Avalanche head coach. Despite the club’s disappointing playoff exit, the team still believes in Bednar.

The San Jose Sharks have given pending UFA forward Kurtis Gabriel permission to speak with other teams.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2021

A look at possible destinations for Dougie Hamilton plus the latest Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin examined some potential destinations for Dougie Hamilton if the 27-year-old defenseman departs the Carolina Hurricanes via free agency.

The Carolina Hurricanes will allow Dougie Hamilton to speak with other teams (NHL Images).

Larkin cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting yesterday the Hurricanes will allow Hamilton to speak with other teams before the free-agent market opens on July 28. Friedman suggested that could set the stage for a sign-and-trade but didn’t rule out the blueliner returning to the Hurricanes if he doesn’t receive better offers elsewhere.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets could be aggressive suitors given their need for a top-four right-side defenseman. Other possibilities include the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The latter would have to be willing to swap left-side defender Morgan Rielly for a righty like Hamilton.

Larkin included the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings under the category of too soon in their rebuild for the soon-to-be 28-year-old Hamilton. He also proposed the possibility of a hockey trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones or the New Jersey Devils for P.K. Subban if half of his salary was retained.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Larkin’s take on the Blackhawks, Flyers and Jets among the aggressive suitors. If it’s a sign-and-trade scenario, there would be some salary heading to the Hurricanes in the deal. The Flyers might have to shed more with Cap Friendly showing them carrying $69.2 million invested in 17 players. They could get that if the Seattle Kraken select James van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft.

The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples is skeptical of the Oilers’ pursuing Hamilton because they have bigger needs than an offensive right-side blueliner, especially if Evan Bouchard is ready for full-time promotion. The Leafs could shake things up and a Rielly-for-Hamilton trade would certainly do that. However, Hamilton’s new contract for next season will be more expensive than Rielly’s $5 million. The Leafs can’t pull this off if they’re unwilling to move one of their high-salaried forwards.

I’ll be surprised if Hamilton ends up with the Wings or Kings. As Larkin points out, he might not be keen to join a rebuilding club at this stage in his career. The same applies to the Blue Jackets and Devils.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reported contract talks between the Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins agent, Rick Valette. He speculates general manager Ken Holland could be open to more term in exchange for a more affordable annual average value. Leavins suggests something beyond six years would be risky for the Oilers as that would take him up to age 35 or 36 when his skills would be in decline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons suggested the Oilers let Nugent-Hopkins walk and pursue a more affordable center like Montreal’s Phillip Danault. Holland might have to go that route if he can’t get Nugent-Hopkins signed to a contract that fits within his budget. Nevertheless, the fact talks are resumed suggests the Oilers GM would prefer keeping him in the fold.

Leavins also speculates the Oilers could be interested in Toronto’s Zach Hyman if he goes to market but they’ll face competition from many suitors. Other options could include Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn if the Lightning needs to shed salary, Boston’s Jake DeBrusk or perhaps Taylor Hall if he doesn’t re-sign with the Bruins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The most realistic of that bunch for the Oilers would be DeBrusk given his affordable $3.675 million contract. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list and the Oilers could be on it.

I may be wrong but I can see Hyman accepting less than market value to stay in his hometown of Toronto. He’s got a good gig with the Leafs so why screw that up? Sure, Hall could return to Edmonton but that doesn’t mean a reunion with the Oilers will happen. I see him staying with the Bruins.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2021

The Golden Knights defeat the Canadiens in the opening game of their semifinal series, the Rangers hire Gerard Gallant as head coach, the Hurricanes allow Dougie Hamilton to speak with other clubs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for his 90th career playoff win in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their semifinal series. Defensemen provided the bulk of the scoring for Vegas with Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nick Holden tallying three of their four goals. Cole Caufield replied for Montreal with his first career playoff tally. Game 2 goes Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights withstood a good start by Montreal, scored the opening goal, and took control of the game in the second period. Canadiens goalie Carey Price played well and made some big saves, but three of the four goals against him resulted from the Golden Knights’ moving him side-to-side with their quick puck movement. The Habs successfully killed four penalties but that disrupted their game plan, which the Golden Knights exploited to their advantage.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have hired Gerard Gallant as their new head coach. The 2018 Jack Adams Award winner recently guided Canada to a gold medal at the World Championships in Latvia.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant has a proven body of work as an NHL head coach. He’s taking over a Rangers club laden with good young talent and a promising future.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Carolina Hurricanes have granted permission to Dougie Hamilton to speak with other clubs. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. This could set the stage for a potential sign-and-trade scenario, though it also allows Hamilton the opportunity to return to the Hurricanes if he doesn’t receive better offers on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman observes, this is an interesting maneuver by Hamilton and the Hurricanes. Prior to the extension of the CBA last year, pending UFAs were allowed several weeks to speak with interested clubs before the free-agent market opened. That’s no longer the case. It’ll be interesting to see if others teams will follow this example. I’ll have more on Hamilton’s situation in today’s Rumor Mill.

NHL.COM: Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is this year’s winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom is almost fully recovered from the lower-body injury suffered during their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he may have to wait to get back into the lineup as Travis Zajac has done a good job in his stead.