NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2022

A look at some more possible trade candidates if the Islanders sign Nazem Kadri plus some recent speculation on the Leafs’ Alex Kerfoot in today’s NHL rumor mill.

POTENTIAL ISLANDERS TRADE CANDIDATES IF THEY SIGN KADRI

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks acknowledged recent rumors linking Nazem Kadri to the New York Islanders. While he believes the free-agent center would make them a better club, he pointed out he’ll soon turn 32, is seeking a long-term contract, and plays at a position where the Isles are pretty much set with Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson.

New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (NHL Images).

Given the Islanders’ limited salary-cap space, Brooks believes they’ll have to make a cost-cutting trade to accommodate Kadri’s contract. He believes center Jean-Gabriel Pageau would make the most sense on paper given his $5 million annual salary-cap hit.

However, Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello gave up a lot to acquire and sign Pageau, who plays a reliable two-way game. The Isles would have to move out a player for pennies on the dollar if the rest of the league believes Lamoriello is in a bind to clear cap space.

Brooks also suggested Josh Bailey or Anthony Beauvillier if the Isles don’t shop Pageau. With Bailey just seven games away from his 1,000th career contest, it’s hard to know whether that’ll factor into any deal. Beauvillier is seven years younger than Kadri and moving him means sacrificing youth from the roster. Dealing either one would also mean sacrificing depth on the wing.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner reports some Islanders fans were worried about Oliver Wahlstrom being a trade candidate after he made a minor change to his Instagram bio. However, sources tell him the 22-year-old winger isn’t a player the Islanders want to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello or Kadri could bring this situation to an end by simply issuing a statement denying the speculation. Their silence stokes rumors that they’ve already got an agreement in place and will officially announce it once the Isles clear sufficient salary-cap space.

This isn’t the first time Lamoriello’s done this sort of thing. He held off announcing the signings of Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri, Ilya Sorokin, Casey Cizikas and Anthony Beauvillier until days before training camp opened last September. Parise and Palmieri were both unrestricted free agents at the time but they also kept quiet.

I daresay there would be lots of interest in Wahlstrom. Trading him, however, wouldn’t resolve the Islanders’ need to clear salary-cap space for Kadri unless they’re peddling more than one player to do so. Even then, it wouldn’t make much sense to give up on a promising winger after just two seasons just to dump some salary. My guess is Bailey or Beauvillier get shopped.

LATEST ON KERFOOT

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle recently wondered if the Toronto Maple Leafs addition of free agent Calle Jarnkrok might make Alex Kerfoot expendable. Jarnkrok signed a four-year contract with an average annual value of $2.1 million. Kerfoot, meanwhile, earns $3.5 million this season and is slated to become a UFA next summer.

Mirtle feels Jarnkrok would be a downgrade from Kerfoot. He’s three years older and his stats suffered following stints last season with the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames. Kerfoot may be the better player but he could have value in the trade market.

The Leafs could prefer moving defenseman Justin Holl instead. However, they might not want to do that until they’ve got more clarity on Rasmus Sandin’s contract situation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Mirtle points out, something’s got to give for the Leafs given their salary cap limitations. Jarnkrok’s addition could make Kerfoot the odd man out. Then again, it could be Holl once they get Sandin signed.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2022

The speculation linking Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Canadiens won’t go away. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs face a cost-cutting trade. Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST DUBOIS SPECULATION

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy suggests that Pierre-Luc Dubois accepting a one-year, $6 million qualifying offer with the Winnipeg Jets creases the skids for a potential trade to the Montreal Canadiens.

Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).

Dubois, 24, will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights again next summer. Murphy felt his new contract sets up what the center’s qualifying offer will be for 2023-24. It would also allow the Canadiens to sign him to an eight-year contract if they can acquire him before the 2023 free-agent market opens next July.

A source told Murphy that Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson, is doing everything he can to make a trade to Montreal happen.

TVA SPORTS: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes’ recent trade activity has Canadiens fans expecting another deal, perhaps one that brings Dubois to Montreal.

Within a 10-day period earlier this month, Hughes shipped Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders for the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, flipped that pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for center Kirby Dach, and traded Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Mike Matheson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets don’t have to move Dubois this summer. However, they risk having the uncertainty over his future becoming an unwelcome distraction at a time when they’re trying to rebound from a disappointing performance last season.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is said to be listening to offers for Dubois. However, he’s also set a high asking price. He won’t waiver after seeing what the Calgary Flames got from the Florida Panthers for Matthew Tkachuk.

It’s rumored Cheveldayoff sought Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield as part of the return from the Canadiens. Both are believed to be off-limits in trade discussions. There’s also talk suggesting Hughes could part with center Christian Dvorak but it’ll take more than him as the centerpiece of a deal to pry Dubois away from the Jets.

Limited salary-cap space is also an issue for the Canadiens. They’re pressed against the $82.5 million cap and continue to await clarity over Carey Price’s recovery from complications arising from last summer’s knee surgery.

Hughes, however, isn’t under any pressure here to acquire Dubois. He was in the middle of rebuilding the roster long before the reports emerged of the center’s desire to one day play for the Canadiens. The Canadiens GM can afford to wait until next summer to try again or kick this down the road to 2024 and attempt to sign Dubois as an unrestricted free agent.

MAPLE LEAFS FACING A TRADE

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle believes the Toronto Maple Leafs need to make a trade after their recent free-agent signings of Calle Jarnkrok and Pierre Engvall. Sitting a projected $1.4 million over the $82.5 million cap, they must make room to re-sign restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Sandin.

Signing Sandin would also create a logjam on the blueline. Mirtle doesn’t see Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie or Timothy Liljegren going anywhere.

Mirtle examines whether the Leafs will consider moving Sandin or fellow blueliner. He also suggested forward Alex Kerfoot as the only other cost-cutting candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Holl is the more likely trade candidate. What do you think, Leafs fans? Sandin, Holl or Kerfoot? Or is there a better trade option? Weigh in with your thoughts.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 5, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – July 5, 2022

Could Claude Giroux sign with the Oilers? What’s the latest on the Leafs and Senators? Check it out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS INTERESTED IN GIROUX?

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports there remains mutual interest between Claude Giroux and the Florida Panthers. With the July 13 start of the free-agent market fast approaching, there are other clubs that could pursue the 34-year-old forward.

Florida Panthers forward Claude Giroux (NHL Images).

The Edmonton Oilers could be among Giroux’s suitors if he hits the open market next Thursday. There were internal discussions over whether to pursue him if they’re unable to bring back Evander Kane. Giroux can play center or wing and the idea of his skating alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl is an appealing option.

LeBrun also mentions the Ottawa Senators as a possibility. He wonders if the appeal of playing for a Cup contender might be more alluring for Giroux.

NHL WATCHER: cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondering if the Toronto Maple Leafs would give the Giroux camp a call to inquire into what it would take to sign him. Friedman pointed out that Giroux is building a new home in Ottawa and made it clear at the March trade deadline that he prefers playing in the East.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that there is no longer an interview process for pending unrestricted free agents to speak with clubs interested in signing them. The Oilers, Senators, Leafs or any team other than the Panthers must wait until the market opens at noon ET on July 13 to speak to Giroux and his representatives.

The Oilers could end up seeking other options to replace Kane if Giroux prefers staying in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think the Leafs can afford him unless he’s willing to accept a significant pay cut. Besides, they have other priorities as we’ll soon see.

Giroux’s been linked to the Senators for months because of the hometown ties. However, they’re still several years from Stanley Cup contention. Giroux wants to win now so there might not be a fit there.

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the Maple Leafs must find a way to move goaltender Petr Mrazek and his $3.8 million annual average value through 2023-24. As of today, they can’t afford to sign any of the free-agent goalies (including their own Jack Campbell) who could make a significant difference.

Koshan dismissed the notion of shipping out William Nylander given his value to the Leafs. He suggested forward Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million cap hit) or defenseman Justin Holl ($2.1 million) as trade candidates.

Maple Leafs management must also figure out a way to replace the 21 goals and energetic play of departing winger Ilya Mikheyev. They could attempt to shop his rights heading into the upcoming NHL Draft. Re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Sandin is their blueline priority. Once that’s completed, general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t expected to add to his defense corps as he’ll have seven rearguards under contract.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs are among the clubs with an interest in Marc-Andre Fleury. The Minnesota Wild is interested in bringing back the 37-year-old netminder for another season. He also thinks the Colorado Avalanche could be a good fit for Fleury if Darcy Kuemper heads to free agency next week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Leafs with just $6.4 million in cap space with 18 players under contract for 2022-23. Shedding Mrazek’s contract is a must but it could cost them a quality prospect or draft pick to get it done. Even then, Dubas still might have to shed another contract to free up sufficient room to re-sign or replace Campbell, re-sign Sandin and fill out the rest of the roster.

Speaking of Fleury, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen wondered if he’d sign with the New Jersey Devils. I’m not ruling out a return with the Wild, though the opportunity to play with the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche could be tempting if they come calling on July 13.

UPDATE ON THE SENATORS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion is still open to shopping his first-round pick (seventh overall) in the upcoming draft. He’s in the market for a winger to skate alongside Tim Stuetzle or a top-four, right-shot defenseman.

The Senators made a serious pitch for Kevin Fiala before the Wild traded him last week to the Los Angeles Kings. They had no issue with the $7.9 million salary-cap hit of his new contract but balked at the seven-year term.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat is the most mentioned name in the rumor mill. He’d be a good fit with any team but it has to be determined if he’ll sign a contract extension before going down that road. Other trade options include Vancouver’s J.T. Miller and Conor Garland, Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi, and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler or Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The Senators could also look at signing Claude Giroux via free agency next week. A blueline option could be Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman Jakob Chychrun.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ status as a rebuilding club could make it difficult for Dorion to acquire most of those players listed by Garrioch. The best option could be Puljujarvi, who won’t cost their first-rounder to acquire. He could benefit from a change of scenery after struggling with the Oilers and might fit in well with the Senators’ young forwards.

Chychrun lacks no-trade protection until 2023-24 and is under contract through 2024-25. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be very interested in the Senators’ pick but his asking price is said to be quite high, including a top prospect and a good young NHL player. That could prove too rich for the Senators.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 28, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 28, 2022

Check out the latest Oilers and Leafs speculation plus an update on Ethan Bear in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE OILERS

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked which goaltender Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland might target in this summer’s free-agent market. He believes he’ll choose a cheaper, less proven goalie than an expensive free-agent question mark.

Spector said sources tell him Marc-Andre Fleury chooses not to play in Edmonton. He anticipates the Oilers’ free-agent targets will be St. Louis’ Ville Husso and Toronto’s Jack Campbell. He envisions a tandem of Campbell and Stuart Skinner.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (NHL Images).

Asked which players could be cost-cutting trade candidates, Skinner listed Zack Kassian ($3.2 million), Warren Foegele ($2.75 million) and Tyson Barrie ($4.5 million). He also included restricted free agent Jesse Puljujarvi depending on his pay raise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers face considerable uncertainty between the pipes for next season. Mikko Koskinen is off to Switzerland while aging Mike Smith could be considering retirement. Even if Smith returns to complete the final season of his contract, they still need a more reliable starter.

Campbell and Husso have shown promise as starters but question marks hover over both. Campbell struggled over the second half of last season with the Maple Leafs, which was his first full campaign as a starter. Husso had a solid regular season with the Blues when Jordan Binnington struggled but gave way to Binnington in the playoffs.

Of those cost-cutting trade candidates, Barrie could attract the most attention. He’s a skilled puck-moving defenseman who could draw interest in the trade market. VancouverHockeyNow’s Rob Simpson believes he’d be a good addition to the Canucks.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LEAFS AFTER RE-SIGNING LILJEGREN?

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas still has to deal with restricted free agents Rasmus Sandin, Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase after re-signing Timothy Liljegren on Monday.

Koshan wonders how the Liljegren signing affects Justin Holl’s future with the Leafs. While he carries an affordable $2 million cap hit for next season, re-signing Sandin is a priority. He also anticipates trade-deadline pickup Ilya Lyubushkin will hit the open market on July 13.

With less than $7 million in cap space, Dubas must figure out his goaltending. He also needs to bolster his defense and forward lines.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen what Dubas has in store to find the cap space to address those needs. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Holl gets traded (despite his 10-team no-trade list) in a cost-cutting deal to free up space for Sandin’s new contract.

UPDATE ON ETHAN BEAR

CANUCKS ARMY: Lachlan Irvine cites CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal reporting the Vancouver Canucks have had early discussions with Ethan Bear. The restricted free agent defenseman was given permission by the Carolina Hurricanes to speak with other clubs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal said it’s too early to tell how far those talks go between the Canucks and Bear. He could fit their need for younger, affordable talent, especially on their blueline.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2022

What’s facing the Oilers in the offseason and a look at whether the Blackhawks should take Petr Mrazek off the Leafs’ hands in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE OILERS?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis believes the warning signs were there for the Edmonton Oilers’ collapse in the Western Conference Finals. Captain Connor McDavid couldn’t do it all while fellow superstar Leon Draisaitl played that series hampered by a leg injury.

Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane (NHL.com).

Goaltending was inconsistent as 40-year-old starter Mike Smith was brilliant in some games and struggled in others. They also didn’t get much secondary scoring against the Avalanche. Ellis wondered who else apart from McDavid and Draisaitl would’ve scored for the Oilers in this postseason if they hadn’t signed Evander Kane at midseason.

Ellis believes general manager Ken Holland must take a serious look at his roster and decide what he wants them to look like. They’ll need a goaltender with Mikko Koskinen expected to depart as an unrestricted free agent and there aren’t many options in the UFA market. Kane’s situation will be an interesting one as he’s also slated for UFA status while the defense corps needs help.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski also wondered what the Oilers will do with Kane. He meshed well with McDavid but do they sign him to a much higher cap number on a long-term contract? Forwards Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi are restricted free agents while defensemen Brett Kulak and Kris Russell are UFAs.

Wyshynski pondered what they’ll do about Smith. “He’s under contract for one more season and turns 41 in March. What do they do? What can they do?”

Until the Oilers improve the supporting cast, Wyshynski doesn’t expect much of a change in the club’s fortunes. McDavid and Draisaitl are good enough to carry this team into the playoffs and make them competitive but they need help to become a true contender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ struggled to eliminate the underdog Los Angeles Kings in a tight-checking first-round series, blew away one of the best teams in the league in the Calgary Flames, only to have their flaws exposed by a very deep and talented Avalanche club.

It would be a mistake for Holland to point to this season’s playoffs as proof that the Oilers need only minor adjustments to become a Stanley Cup contender. McDavid and Draisaitl are outstanding players but, as has been mentioned, they can’t do it all themselves.

Cap Friendly shows the Oilers with $7.1 million in cap space for 2022-23 with 15 players under contract. They’ll get $4.167 million in cap relief if necessary by placing the permanently sidelined Oscar Klefbom on long-term injury reserve.

Holland will have to get creative to find enough cap room. Even if they could get Kane signed to a discount, he’d take up a big chunk of those remaining cap dollars, leaving little to add a goaltender or address those blueline needs.

SHOULD THE BLACKHAWKS ACQUIRE MRAZEK FROM THE LEAFS?

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel and Scott Powers believe it might be a good idea for the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maples Leafs to discuss a trade involving Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek.

The Leafs need to shed salary and moving Mrazek’s $3.8 million would enable them to upgrade the roster, including signing or replacing pending UFA netminder Jack Campbell. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are in full rebuild mode and would seek creative ways to utilize their cap space if it’ll help them in the long term.

Powers believes the Blackhawks would want a draft pick or prospect bundled with Mrazek. Seigel suggested the Leafs could add a second-round pick with a B-level prospect or maybe add Justin Holl to the deal to free up more cap room.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Siegel and Powers are spitballing here. We have no indication whether the Blackhawks would be interested in discussing any deal with the Leafs, let alone if Mrazek would be part of it.

Still, as they point out, the Hawks are rebuilding and Mrazek could at least provide some depth in their crease for a couple of seasons while whatever else is packaged in the return could turn into long-term assets. This proposal also gives us some idea of what it might take for the Leafs to find a club willing to take Mrazek off their hands.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 16, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 16, 2022

The offseason questions facing the Penguins and Stars plus the latest on the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS AND STARS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the Pittsburgh Penguins face some big decisions regarding Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust. They are slated to become unrestricted free agents in July and there’s little chance all three will return. Wyshynski predicts only Letang will be back.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Other pending UFAs include Rickard Rakell, Evan Rodrigues and Casey DeSmith. Their restricted free agents include Kasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel wonders if the Penguins will let Malkin and/or Letang to depart via free agency and what effect that might have on captain Sidney Crosby. He also mused over whether they’ll invest a long-term commitment in the 30-year-old Rust, who missed two chunks of this season to injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap space will determine which UFAs return next season. Cap Friendly indicates they have $54.1 million invested in 15 players for 2022-23. Re-signing Malkin and Letang will eat up a big chunk of their available cap dollars. Rust is due for a significant raise over his current $3.5 million.

Of those three, Letang could be the most vital given his value as a puck-moving defenseman. Malkin’s injury history and at times erratic performance in recent years could make him a risky investment unless he’s willing to accept a substantial pay cut.

It might be possible to sign Letang and Rust. However, that will still eat up a lot of cap space, especially if Letang insists on at least maintaining his current $7.25 million annual average value.

The Penguins could bring back DeSmith if they don’t see any suitable backup options in the free-agent market. I expect they’ll re-sign Heinen but Kapanen seems a likely trade candidate given his struggles during his tenure in Pittsburgh.

ESPN.COM: Kristen Shilton believes the Dallas Stars’ offseason priority is signing restricted free agent forward Jason Robertson, who’s coming off his entry-level contract. Having tallied 79 points this season, the 22-year-old sophomore is a star in the making. Goaltender Jake Oettinger is also completing his ELC and looks to be their starter going forward. They’ll have to determine who becomes his backup if Braden Holtby departs via free agency.

Shilton also wonders whether pending UFA John Klingberg stays or goes. General manager Jim Nill didn’t move him at the trade deadline given his value on their blueline and now the two sides must see if they can reach an agreement on a new contract. Nill must also address his roster’s scoring depth issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill could attempt to lock up Robertson and Oettinger on long-term deals with affordable annual average salaries. Their agents, however, could seek bigger bucks on shorter terms to bring their clients up to their UFA eligibility.

It seemed Klingberg and the Stars were about to part ways in January after he publicly expressed his unhappiness over the pace of his contract negotiations. However, both sides seem to have resolved that rift at least for the remainder of the season.

There was speculation earlier this season that the 29-year-old Klingberg sought a long-term deal worth between $7.75 million and $8.5 million annually. That, however, could prove too expensive for Nill’s liking but we’ll see how things go between now and the start of the free-agent market on July 13.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan doesn’t believe the Maple Leafs should make major changes in the front office, behind the bench or on the roster despite another first-round playoff exit. He points to their 115-point regular season, as well as pushing the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning to the limit in that opening-round series as justification for giving them another chance.

General manager Kyle Dubas will have around $8 million in salary-cap space to work with unless he moves some players. Koshan suggested Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl as trade candidates. Dubas must also find a way to shed backup goalie Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million cap hit.

Re-signing pending UFA goaltender Jack Campbell is the priority, followed by defenseman Mark Giordano if he’s affordable. There doesn’t seem much chance of bringing back Ilya Mikheyev. If Jason Spezza’s playing career is over, Koshan recommends hiring him for an off-ice role.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Mike Stephens also believes Holl could be shopped this summer. It remains to be seen if they can afford to sign Giordano and pending UFA forward Colin Blackwell. It remains to be seen if the aging Spezza fits into their on-ice plans. Stephens suggests there’s a real possibility Mrazek returns with the Leafs this fall while Campbell ends up signing elsewhere.

THE SCORE: John Matisz believes Mrazek, Kerfoot, Jake Muzzin and Pierre Engvall are four Leafs worth monitoring during the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could surprise us by making major changes this summer. Like most observers, however, I don’t see that happening following the season they had.

Re-signing Campbell is their priority because they’ll have a difficult time finding a suitable replacement via this summer’s trade or free agent markets. Doing so, however, will eat up a big chunk of that $8 million in cap space, leaving little for the rest of the roster.

Moving out Mrazek, Kerfoot, Muzzin and Holl would clear over $14.9 million from the Leafs’ books. However, that’s easier said than done. Kerfoot ($3.5 million) would be the easiest to move as his cap hit and two-way skills would be enticing in the trade market. Holl ($2 million) might draw some interest from teams seeking affordable blueline depth.

Mrazek’s injury history and inconsistency are a tough sell. Muzzin’s age (33), injury history, cap hit ($5.625 million) and no-trade clause are significant sticking points.