NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2023
NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2023
What next for the Oilers after their postseason elimination? Which clubs might become trade destinations for Connor Hellebuyck? Who could the Avalanche target for their second-line center position? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE OILERS?
ESPN.COM: Ryan S. Clark looked at the Edmonton Oilers’ offseason priorities now that they’re eliminated from the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs.
They have less than $3 million in salary-cap space with defenseman Evan Bouchard due for a new contract. He became a top-pairing option skating alongside trade-deadline acquisition Mattias Ekholm and quarterbacked the league’s top power play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton media is still doing their playoff postmortems so there hasn’t been much from them yet regarding the Oilers’ potential offseason plans. I daresay we’ll be hearing more about that in the coming days.
Bouchard came to life when paired with Ekholm. He’s coming off his entry-level contract so Oilers general manager Ken Holland could use his leverage to force the young defenseman into accepting an affordable short-term bridge deal with the promise of a bigger pay raise down the road. That’ll depend, of course, on how much salary Holland can free up this summer.
Forwards Klim Kostin and Ryan McLeod are also slated to become restricted free agents this summer. Meanwhile, trade deadline pickups Nick Bjugstad, Mattias Janmark and Derek Ryan are slated to become unrestricted free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kostin and McLeod should be affordable re-signings. However, they also have arbitration rights which could complicate things. Bjugstad, Janmark and Ryan shouldn’t be expensive to retain but there isn’t sufficient cap space to keep them all unless they accept pay cuts. Maybe one of them gets re-signed while the others hit the open market.
The Oilers’ cap space has occasionally surfaced in the rumor mill as pundits speculated over which players could become cost-cutting candidates. Kailer Yamamoto ($3.1 million through next season), Warren Foegele ($2.75 million), Cody Ceci ($3.25 million through 2024-25) and Brett Kulak ($2.75 million through 2025-26) have come up as trade options. We could find out in the next several weeks whether any of them hit the trade block.
SUGGESTED TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR HELLEBUYCK
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks speculated that Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will likely be available this summer. The soon-to-be 30-year-old netminder is a year away from UFA status and unlikely to sign an extension after seven seasons with the Jets.
There could be a bidding war for Hellebuyck. He thinks the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings could be interested.
Brooks believes the New Jersey Devils’ priority should be acquiring a franchise goalie such as Hellebuyck. He proposed offering up winger Jesper Bratt in a package that also draws on depth within their system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils can absorb Hellebuyck’s $6.1 million salary for next season and still have plenty of cap space to re-sign Timo Meier to a hefty raise, especially if they follow Brooks’ advice and peddle Bratt.
Hellebuyck lacks no-trade protection so there’s no problem for the Jets to send him to New Jersey if they get a tempting offer from the Devils. However, the question then becomes whether he wants to stick around beyond next season or test the market where he’s sure to get a lucrative long-term deal worth far more than his current contract.
Bratt as the centerpiece of a package offer could interest the Jets. However, he’s also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights coming off back-to-back 73-point performances with the Devils. The 24-year-old winger is also a year away from UFA eligibility and will seek a big raise over the $5.45 million he earned this summer. That could prove too much of a headache for the Jets to take on.
SOME PROPOSED SECOND-LINE CENTER TARGETS FOR THE AVALANCHE
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Evan Rawal was asked if he sees any potential trade targets that might work to solve the Avalanche’s second-line center issue.
Rawal mentioned Philadelphia’s Kevin Hayes, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz, Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele, Anaheim’s Adam Henrique and Columbus’ Jack Roslovic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rawal looked at the pros and cons of each center. I’ll just throw in my two cents here.
Hayes and Kuznetsov carry average annual values exceeding $7 million. Unless their clubs are willing to retain some salary, they won’t fit for the cap-strapped Avalanche. Scheifele at $6.125 million for next season is also a tight squeeze.
Schmaltz ($5.85 million) is younger and more affordable but his injury history is a red flag. Dubois, meanwhile is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. He’ll probably become too expensive for the Avs in both return and salary.
Henrique ($5.85 million) is 33 and his best seasons are behind him. Roslovic, 26, carries an affordable $4 million but his production is inconsistent and there are concerns over his defensive game.
Lindholm ($4.8 million) could be the best fit cap-wise if he’s available. However, that could change depending on who the Flames hire as their new general manager and head coach.