NHL Rumor Mill – February 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 23, 2021

Analysis of a list of early potential trade-rental candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the potential trade-rental candidates among this year’s NHL cellar-dwelling teams. He considers the pickings slim for those pending unrestricted free agents who could become available at the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

The notable names on the Buffalo Sabres include Taylor Hall, Eric Staal and Brandon Montour. Bobby Ryan and Marc Staal are among the Detroit Red Wings’ pending UFAs. Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Pekka Rinne are the noteworthy Nashville Predators while the Ottawa Senators’ list includes Derek Stepan and Ryan Dzingel.

Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

Hall is the standout in this group and Fox is skeptical he’ll sign an extension with the struggling Sabres. He feels Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams must move Hall if he hasn’t re-signed by Apr. 11.

Eric Staal must submit a 10-team no-trade list. Centers are always in demand and he carries a reasonable $3.25 million salary-cap hit. Brother Marc, meanwhile, could help clubs in need of a dependable, stay-at-home defenseman.

Fox feels Stepan and Haula could help a contender seeking a third-line center. Montour, a right-handed shot, is only 26 and should still have better days ahead.

Granlund could be more successful playing sheltered minutes on a good team’s third line than trying to produce on a bad team’s top line. If the Toronto Maple Leafs were willing to take a chance on Alex Galchenyuk then someone should be willing to take a chance on Dzingel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Fox’s assessment of the limited trade options available for contenders seeking quality playoff rental options. Nevertheless, I’d like to add a few points.

Fox published this list of pending UFAs prior to Friedman’s report last Saturday listing Rinne among the Predators’ three untouchables along with Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. It sounds like Nashville GM David Poile wants the 38-year-old to finish his NHL career with the only team he’s ever played for. His age, $5 million cap hit and declining performance would significantly hurt his trade value even if he was available.

Ryan could be an affordable gamble for a club seeking an experienced depth forward. He’s on a $1 million contract and has nine points in 19 games with the rebuilding Red Wings. He turns 34 next month and his best years are behind him. However, a playoff contender could gamble on him rising to the occasion the way Corey Perry did for the Dallas Stars in last year’s postseason.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last week linked Granlund with the Leafs, noting they tried to sign him last fall but couldn’t make the dollars fit. Perhaps they’ll try to acquire him if they still want to add a top-six forward before the deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.

It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.

Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.

Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.

UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.

We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”

Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.

An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible. 










NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

Could the struggling Predators become sellers at the trade deadline? Is Marc-Andre Fleury available? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PREDATORS TO BECOME SELLERS?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators could soon become sellers in the trade market if they don’t gain ground in the playoff chase. Players on one-year contracts slated to become unrestricted free agents such as Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula would be obvious trade candidates.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images).

LeBrun also believes they could entertain offers for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old defenseman is signed through 2021-22, lacks no-trade protection and carries an affordable $3.75 million annual average value. His skills as a top-four blueliner and playoff experience could make him enticing to a contender.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman also weighed in on the possibility of the Predators becoming sellers. He believes Granlund and Haula will draw attention along with forward Nick Cousins, who has two years left on his contract. The Predators have made centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen available in the past but money is tight among NHL teams this year.

Friedman also said Granlund is the player he guessed the Toronto Maple Leafs would consider if they pursue a top-six forward this season. He claimed they had an interest in the winger during the offseason but couldn’t make the money work.

THE ATHLETIC: Ekholm, Granlund, Haula, Cousins and Brad Richardson are on Adam Vingan’s list of potential Predators who could be moved by the trade deadline. He anticipates the asking price for those players will be draft picks and prospects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are rapidly approaching the tipping point in this season. General manager David Poile could start peddling players if the club hasn’t climbed back into the playoff chase by the end of this month.

Never say never when it comes to trading an expensive underperforming player lacking no-trade protection like Duchene or Johansen. Nevertheless, I doubt Poile will find any takers for either guy unless he absorbs a big chunk of their respective annual average value. That’s something Poile usually isn’t keen to do. I don’t think he’ll want to add to his current $2.041 million in dead cap space.

Ekholm, Granlund and Haula will draw the most interest. Cousins and Richardson would be affordable pickups for contenders seeking to shore up their fourth-line depth for the postseason.

The Leafs’ interest in Granlund is interesting. He’s reached the 60-point plateau twice but his production suffered after the Preds acquired him from the Minnesota Wild. Maybe playing him among the Leafs’ top-six will help him rediscover his offense.

UPDATE ON FLEURY

SPORTSNET: Friedman doesn’t believe Marc-Andre Fleury is available. The Vegas Golden Knights netminder is playing very well. “In a year when some teams can’t make it work even with four goalies, why would you move him?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should put to rest the recent speculation about Fleury’s trade status. He’s playing very well while Robin Lehner remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Golden Knights are all-in for a championship run this season. They won’t weaken their goaltending depth by trading Fleury.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the names of Vancouver Canucks forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette are in the trade market. There is interest in Virtanen, who has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $2.55 million. He only had under seven minutes of ice time in a recent game against the Calgary Flames, which caught the attention of some clubs who had expressed some interest in him. Dreger also said the Canucks would like a young forward in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the decline in Virtanen’s performance the Canucks will be lucky to get a decent draft pick or prospect in return. No one’s parting with a young player for him unless it’s one whose play has also declined.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

Five players who could use a change of scenery, more Victor Mete trade speculation and some suggested changes for the Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD USE A TRADE

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott, the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, the Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen need fresh starts on new teams.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn is among several players who could use a change of scenery (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Larkin but there are various reasons why these players might not be moved this season, if at all.

The Flames are reportedly reluctant to move Bennett because of his value as a proven playoff performer. Larkin also noted if they move him they’ll have to protect someone else in this summer’s expansion draft.

Dermott’s having trouble earning a full-time spot this season on Toronto’s blueline. Larkin points out he’s in nearly every Leafs rumor and would be perfect trade bait to add another forward. The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel suggested a Dermott-for-Sam Bennett swap if they can make the dollars work.

Dunn is probably the most likely on this list to get traded. Larkin feels it’s only a matter of time until he’s moved. The Blues reportedly seek a first- or second-round pick in return. There are several clubs that could use him but finding the right fit is the sticking point. The Blues at this point don’t seem in a hurry to trade him.

Mantha’s a big, fast forward with good offensive skills but his inconsistency and injury history hurt his trade value. So does his $5.7 million annual average value.

Virtanen has come up a lot of late in trade rumors but reports out of Vancouver suggest there’s not much of a market for him. He’s brought that on himself with his poor play. Maybe he’ll finally reach his full potential on a different team but there doesn’t appear to be a general manager out there willing to take a chance on him.

MORE METE SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston lists the Red Wings, Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres as clubs that could show interest in Victor Mete. The agent for the Montreal Canadiens defenseman recently went public with a trade request for his client, angering Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

Mete’s been a frequent healthy scratch as he’s become the odd man out on the Canadiens’ blueline. However, they haven’t sent him to their taxi squad because another club could scoop him up off waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Flames with Bennett, the Canadiens aren’t rushing to ship out Mete. They’d prefer hanging onto him as insurance in case injuries strike their defense corps.

Steven Ellis of SI.com/The Hockey News believes Mete would be a good value pickup for teams seeking blueline depth. Those clubs listed by Johnston could be potential destinations for the 22-year-old rearguard whenever Bergevin decides to honor his trade request. However, that move probably won’t happen until the offseason unless one of those clubs makes an irresistible pitch before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

LATEST ON THE PREDATORS

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked what the struggling Nashville Predators should do to avoid sliding into years of becoming a bad team with bloated contracts.

Vingan believes the Predators should become sellers by the April trade deadline if they’re still out of the playoff running by then. He advocates moving players on one-year contracts (Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Brad Richardson) for draft picks. They should also consider moving defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who has one year remaining on his cap-friendly contract.

The next step is trying to unload Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen in this summer’s Seattle expansion draft. He suggested using some of the draft capital acquired at the trade deadline and/or throw in a player to sweeten the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan acknowledged all of this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I agree with his take. The Predators have been trending downward since winning the President’s Trophy in 2017-18. They’re near the bottom of the Central Division and the overall standings. It’s time for GM David Poile to acknowledge the obvious that his roster needs at least a significant retooling.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

The 2020-21 schedule is released, Nikita Kucherov sidelined for the season, plus a roundup of the latest notable signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league released the schedule for the 2020-21 season. It begins on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2020 Stanley Cup championship banner before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.

The other four games see the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, and the St. Louis Blues tangling with the Colorado Avalanche.

The league also announced the postponement of the 2021 Stadium Series slated for Feb. 20, 2021, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hip surgery will sideline Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All timings for those games have yet to be announced. Those will likely be revealed after the locations for the Canadian games are determined.

TSN reported last night the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams released a letter calling for increased testing of players, staff and close contacts as well as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. The other option is reinstating a bubble model similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the league and the NHLPA aren’t keen to implement.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has hip surgery scheduled for next week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season. The club hopes to have him back in time for the 2021 playoffs beginning in May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a big blow to the Lightning’s scoring punch but they will receive $9.5 million in salary cap relief by placing the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner on long-term injury reserve. That should free up sufficient cap space to sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a cost-cutting deal. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

The Lightning also signed forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov to short-term, one-way contracts. Joseph inked a two-year deal worth $1.475 million while Volkov inked a one-year, $700K deal.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable deal for the Devils. Blackwood will be their starting goaltender entering this season. A solid performance on his part over the course of this deal will ensure more lucrative terms on his next contract.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators signed forward Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing comes on the heels of the Predators bringing back winger Mikael Granlund. It’s a good, cost-effective depth addition. Haula has an injury history but when healthy is a speedy, versatile two-way forward with a decent scoring touch who can skate on the wing or at center.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Goaltender Ryan Miller is returning for another season with the Anaheim Ducks, inking a one-year contract worth $1 million. He’s served as their backup netminder for the past three seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Miller and his family live in the Anaheim area and he doesn’t want to relocate at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens added more experienced depth to their forward links by signing winger Michael Frolik to a one-year, $750K contract.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Casey Mittelstadt to a one-year contract worth just over $874K.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers inked goaltender Sam Montembault to a one-year, two-way deal.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach suffered an apparent injury to his right wrist during Canada’s 1-0 win over Russia in a tune-up game for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Dach left the game, underwent X-rays and is undergoing other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander recently underwent knee surgery and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six months.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks hired Jason King as their new assistant coach and Chris Higgins as their new skills and development coach.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

How will the Capitals replace Henrik Lundqvist? Will the Blues go the free-agent route to replace retired Alexander Steen? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir wonders how the Washington Capitals will replace Henrik Lundqvist as a heart condition has sidelined the 38-year-old goaltender for this season.

Could Ryan Miller be an option for the Washington Capitals to replace Henrik Lundqvist? (NHL Images).

Among the options is signing an unrestricted free agent. Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard are available. It’s believed Miller prefers to remain out west with his family but El-Bashir wonders if he’d be tempted by the opportunity to play for a contender during a shortened season.

The Capitals could go the trade route or bring in Vitek Vanecek or Pheonix Copley to back up Ilya Samsonov.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen believes the Capitals’ limited cap space makes it difficult to trade for a goaltender. In addition to Miller and Howard, he listed Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider as UFA options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller prefers staying in California and could sign a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. If that’s not possible, maybe he’d consider joining the Capitals.

Anderson is 39 and it appears his NHL days are over. Schneider is believed to have an agreement with the New York Islanders to be officially announced once they’ve signed Mathew Barzal.

Howard is keen for a bounce-back season following a poor 2019-20 performance with the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. He could be the Capitals’ best bet if they cannot find a suitable replacement for Lundqvist via trade or from within.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports Alexander Steen’s retirement due to a back injury will provide the St. Louis Blues with salary-cap flexibility. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.2 million but will get some wiggle room by placing Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit for this season on long-term injury reserve. They will use part of it to sign restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn, who might cost approximately $2.5 million.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the Blues could also use that cap relief to add a scoring winger. His suggested free-agent options include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also suggested Hoffman, Granlund and Athanasiou, as well as forward Erik Haula as UFA targets for the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues could get additional cap relief by placing sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR. However, he’s expected to return later this season, prompting Rutherford to speculate they probably won’t “borrow” from his $7.5 million cap hit.

Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. Maybe he’d accept a lower price to play for a contender but I think he’ll try to stick to his guns. Granlund, Athanasiou and Haula could be more affordable options.