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.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – December 6, 2021

A look at several potential trade targets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

DAILY FACEOFF: Columbus Blue Jackets backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk and St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko topped Frank Seravalli’s list of 15 trade targets that are in play or will be in the months leading up to the March 21 trade deadline.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

Korpisalo could welcome an opportunity to play elsewhere. Teams have contacted the Jackets about him within the last couple of weeks. DeBrusk made a trade request over a week ago but his attention to detail and effort level had his trade value seemingly at an all-time low. Tarasenko still hopes the Blues will honor the trade request he made this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Jackets could try to move him now that Elvis Merzlikins is their starter and Danill Tarasov showing promise as his potential backup.

As many as a dozen teams were reportedly interested in DeBrusk. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Bruins won’t move him until they find a defenseman or forward of equal value in return. Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual cap hit through 2022-23 ($9.5 million in actual salary this season) will likely ensure he remains in St. Louis this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl is fourth on Seravalli’s list as the Leafs will need to shed some salary when sidelined goalie Petr Mrazek is ready to return to the lineup. New York Rangers winger Vitali Kravtsov is fifth on the list. Seravalli observed the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens were among the interested parties. With former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton now in control with the Canadiens, he wondered if Gorton might make a pitch for Kravtsov, who he drafted in 2018.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holl’s been on the trade block for over a month but the Leafs didn’t seem in a rush to move him. Perhaps we’ll see some movement here once Mrazek is ready to return. Kravtsov is currently on load to KHL club Chelyabinsk and cannot return to the NHL until the KHL season is over. Interested clubs can still acquire his rights.

Florida Panthers winger Patric Hornqvist, Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller, Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome, Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust check in at numbers six through 10 on Seravalli’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hornqvist has slipped down to the Panthers’ fourth line but I think they’ll still want his experience and gritty style for the playoffs. With the Canucks firing general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green, I don’t think they’re going to make any sweeping roster changes for the time being.

Strome’s been on the trade block for some time but there hasn’t been much interest in the 24-year-old forward. I agree with Seravalli that Smith seems the most likely to become a cost-cutting trade candidate when Jack Eichel is ready to join the Golden Knights in February. I also concur with his take that the Penguins could shop a pending UFA like Rust if they’re out of playoff contention by the trade deadline.

Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell, San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl, Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel, Chicago Blackhawks forward Henrik Borgstrom and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane fill spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is the only one in this group that seems certain to be dealt before the trade deadline. He’s keen to move on to a playoff contender to earn himself a new contract after this season and the Coyotes are said to be trying to find a new home for him. Given Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit, interested clubs could wait until closer to the trade deadline.

Rakell is also a pending UFA but there’s less certainty he’ll be traded given the Ducks’ improvement this season and their recent management change. Hertl is willing to talk contract with Sharks management. As Seravalli pointed out, they’ve got an aging, expensive core and Hertl is in line for a significant raise on his next deal. This could go either way.

Borgstrom was a promising young forward who didn’t reach expectations with the Florida Panthers and is seeing third-line minutes with the Blackhawks. There might not be many takers if he’s available.

Kane is now with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate after serving a 21-game suspension for using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. His other off-ice troubles have also been well-documented. The Sharks are trying to trade him and there were rumors of an Eastern Conference club having an interest in him. His $7 million annual cap hit, however, could also make moving him a difficult task.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2021

The latest on Filip Forsberg and a suggestion for the Penguins to target a Leafs defenseman in the trade market in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked if the Nashville Predators have held any contract talks with Filip Forsberg. His agent, J.P. Barry, told Vingan those discussions have not started but anticipated they could begin at some point in the season.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Forsberg is in the final season of a six-year, $36-million contract. Vingan speculates Barry could push for his client to become the Predators’ highest-paid forward, exceeding the $8 million annually earned by Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.

Another reader wondered if Forsberg’s latest injury (upper body, week-to-week) could affect those talks. The 27-year-old winger had already missed a total of 56 games over the previous four seasons to injury. While Forsberg isn’t a reckless player, his latest injury is a reminder of how risky it is for the Predators to sign him to a contract extension.

Vingan suggested Predators general manager David Poile tread carefully in negotiations. He also suggested an argument could be made for Poile to shop Forsberg before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Poile has indicated his preference to signing Forsberg but I doubt he wants to repeat the mistakes he made with Johansen and Duchene. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Predators GM shops Forsberg if a contract extension isn’t ready before the March 21 trade deadline. Despite his recent history of injuries, Forsberg would draw considerable interest from playoff contenders if he becomes available in March.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski suggested the Penguins target Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl in order to shore up a blueline that has been depleted at times already this season by injuries and COVID-19. Young rearguard Pierre-Olivier Joseph still doesn’t appear while there are questions if Juuso Riikola will reach NHL regular status.

Recent reports out of Toronto indicate the Leafs are shopping a right-side defenseman. While the 29-year-old Holl won’t light up the scoreboard, the 6’4”, 210-pounder is a physical blueliner who can clear traffic around the Penguins net and block shots. He also carries an affordable $2 million cap hit through 2022-23.

The cap-strapped Penguins would have to get creative to acquire Holl but he’d be an immediate upgrade. Kingerski recommended the Penguins offer up goaltender Louis Domingue in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kingerski also proposed the Penguins look at the Buffalo Sabres’ Mark Pysyk but he could be harder to acquire as he’s earning second-pairing minutes. Meanwhile, Holl has been a healthy scratch for the past five games.

It remains to be seen if there’s a deal to be had between the Penguins and Leafs regarding Holl. He shouldn’t cost that much to acquire but there doesn’t appear to be much interest in him thus far. The Leafs are also rumored to be willing to entertain offers for Travis Dermott.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – November 6, 2021

The Leafs are shopping a defenseman but have yet to open contract talks with Jack Campbell, while trade chatter grows about Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. Check it out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox cited Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos reporting the Toronto Maple Leafs have let the rest of the league know Travis Dermott or Justin Holl are available for the right price. Fox speculates that price is either “an upper-mid-round draft pick” or “perhaps a rugged d-man with less term on his contract.”

The cap-strapped Leafs have no space to add a salaried player, they hold just three draft picks in the 2022 draft, and management must clear cap space for the short and long term. Holl is signed through next season with a $2 million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade list while Dermott is earning $1.5 million annually through 2022-23.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see which one gets moved. Holl, 29, is more expensive and his no-trade complicates efforts to move him. He’s struggled this season but played well over the previous two campaigns. The 24-year-old Dermott is younger, more affordable and he lacks no-trade protection but he’s had consistency issues and been relegated to mostly third-pairing duty.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos reports agent Kurt Overhardt, who represents Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell, denied reports contract extension talks are underway with his client. “Whoever said we’re talking is full of crap,” said Overhardt.

Traikos believes the Leafs have already waited too long to ink Campbell to an extension, believing it should’ve taken place during the summer. As the 29-year-old goaltender’s value rises, Traikos believes he could be playing elsewhere next season the longer it takes the two sides to start contract talks.

Campbell is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. His current annual cap hit is $1.65 million but Traikos believes the Leafs will be lucky to get him for twice that amount if his strong play continues throughout this season. He pointed to Philipp Grubauer getting a long-term deal worth $5.9 million annually from the Seattle Kraken and Cal Petersen earning $5 million annually on a three-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have little choice but to sign Campbell for probably between $5.5 million and $6 million annually. They’ve got no one in their system capable of challenging him for the starter’s job, there aren’t better options in the trade market and Cap Friendly shows few suitable long-term alternatives via next summer’s free-agent market.

That explains in part why they’re looking to move one of their defensemen. They must free up cap space before next season to absorb Campbell’s new contract.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported trade chatter was increasing about Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo. He said there were whispers around the league claiming Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was fielding calls for the 27-year-old netminder.

Portzline spoke with three NHL front-office sources about potential destinations for Korpisalo. They suggested the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens as likely possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo is a UFA relegated to backup duty behind Elvis Merzlikins. He could be on the move at some point before the March 21 trade deadline.

The Coyotes seem like a prime landing spot given their struggles this season but they could be reluctant to acquire someone who could bolt via free agency next summer. . The Sabres are getting surprisingly good goaltending from 40-year-old Craig Anderson and backup Dustin Tokarski but that could change as the season goes along.

Sloppy defensive play and inconsistent offense are the Canadiens’ biggest problems this season. I doubt they’ll pursue Korpisalo with Carey Price set to return to the lineup in the coming weeks and Jake Allen doing a decent job between the pipes in his absence.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2021

Are the Oilers interested in Duncan Keith? What’s the status of Oilers’ blueliners Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie and Oscar Klefbom? Could July become a busy month for Leafs GM Kyle Dubas? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins believes the Oilers are front-runners for Duncan Keith after reports emerged indicated the Chicago Blackhawks were exploring a trade for the 37-year-old defenseman.

Are the Edmonton Oilers interested in Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith? (NHL Images)

Leavins suggests they need a solid, reliable blueliner in case sidelined Oscar Klefbom misses next season. He thinks there’s mutual interest between the Oilers and Keith’s camp. The longtime Blackhawks rearguard apparently wants to be traded to a club close to his offseason home in Penticton, BC to be near his son.

Despite the decline in Keith’s performance in recent years, Leavins feels he has enough left to slot in behind Darnell Nurse on the right side. He also carries a reasonable $5.538 million annual average value for two more seasons.

The Blackhawks’ asking price, however, could be a sticking point. If they won’t retain part of Keith’s cap hit, he wondered if they’d take back a contract they can buy out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leavins colleague David Staples believes Keith’s cap hit is a steep price for the Oilers to pay for an aging defenseman on his last NHL legs unless the Blackhawks take a contract like James Neal or Mikko Koskinen in return.

Neal has two years left on his deal at $5.75 million per season. Koskinen might be preferable with one year at $4.5 million remaining on his deal, provided Chicago’s on his list of agreeable trade destinations.

That’s assuming, of course, the Blackhawks would buy out that contract. As Leavins observed, they’re shopping for a top-level defenseman. While they’ll have nearly $11 million in long-term injury reserve cap space to draw upon if necessary, they still must manage their dollars carefully.

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman expects the Oilers could reach an agreement on a new contract with Adam Larsson perhaps as soon as next week. He cited Larsson’s agent J.P. Barry saying they’re making progress toward a deal. Talks are expected to resume next week.

A new contract for Larsson means Tyson Barrie’s tenure in Edmonton will end after just one season despite the uncertainty over Klefbom’s status.

Klefbom missed all of last season to a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. His agent doesn’t expect clarity as to the status of his recovery until the fall. He could be left exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were happy with Barrie’s performance but GM Ken Holland has made re-signing Larsson the priority. Barrie seeks a long-term deal and that’s something the Oilers can’t afford.

Recent speculation suggested the Philadelphia Flyers were closely watching Larsson’s contract negotiations. They’ll have to shift their focus elsewhere if the Oilers get the 29-year-old shutdown defenseman under contract before July 28.

BUSY MONTH AHEAD FOR LEAFS GM DUBAS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan expected Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas faces the busiest month for shaping next season’s roster. If Dubas won’t part with an expensive forward like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander, he’ll have to follow the same plan as last offseason to address his roster depth issues.

Koshan expects pending UFA winger Zach Hyman will be too expensive to re-sign unless Dubas can clear some cap space. There’s interest in re-signing defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie Frederik Andersen. Koshan also advocated bringing back a healthy Nick Foligno for the right price.

The Leafs will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. Center Alex Kerfoot or a defenseman like Travis Dermott or Justin Holl could be joining the Kraken.

Given the Leafs’ limited cap space, Dubas could end up signing some veterans to one-year contracts as he did in last year’s UFA market. He could make a big splash in the trade market, perhaps for a winger like Arizona’s Conor Garland. Koshan doesn’t think it makes sense to peddle blueliner Morgan Rielly a year out from his UFA eligibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas has been creative over the past couple of years in attempting to address his roster needs with limited cap room. He could, as Koshan suggested, sign some veterans to affordable one-year contracts again. Perhaps he’ll acquire a player on permanent LTIR to get some extra wiggle room for other additions. Maybe he swings a side deal with the Kraken. He could pull off a one-for-one swap of players with comparable contracts.

Whether those moves pan out remains to be seen. They won’t make the Leafs a club that can go deep into the playoffs if the past two offseasons are any indication. As long as Dubas keeps his “Big Four” forwards and doesn’t shop Rielly, the limited cap room will hinder his efforts.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 3, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 3, 2021

The Lightning edged the Red Wings, Connor McDavid closes in on 100 points, three former Blue Jackets talk about their time with the club, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Sunday’s only game. Blake Coleman had a goal and an assist while goaltender Christopher Gibson picked up his first NHL win since 2017-18. The Lightning are tied with the Florida Panthers with 73 points but hold second place in the Discover Central Division with a game in hand.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images)

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is just 13 points away from reaching 100 points with seven games left in the club’s regular-season schedule. McDavid, however, isn’t concerned about whether he’ll reach that number by season’s end.

Personally, it’s a number,” said McDavid. “Obviously, it’d be kind of different to be able to do it in a shortened season, but I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to keep playing my game, and if I get there, I get there. And if not, whatever.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given McDavid’s low-key personality, we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s downplaying this. It’s a milestone for this season that he’d probably like to reach but he’s not going to lose sleep over it if he doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would put a nice exclamation point on this NHL season if he can do it.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline interviewed three former members of the Columbus Blue Jackets over their experiences. The city and the club are getting a worrying reputation as a place no one wants to play for after several high-profile players departed via free agency and trades.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting piece about the team and of the city as a hockey town. The players were mostly positive about their time with the Jackets. However, they felt the club’s hardball approach to contract negotiations with restricted free agents contributed to the recent departures of several former teammates.

Speaking of the Jackets, they signed 2020 first-round pick Yegor Chinakhov to a three-year entry-level contract.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars face some questions as their playoff math for this season becomes more difficult. They must decide if it’s worthwhile for Tyler Seguin to return to the lineup after missing the entire season thus far recovering from offseason hip surgery. Meanwhile, Roope Hintz is battling a lower-body injury that could require surgery when this season is over.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl will miss tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens after taking a puck to the mouth during Saturday’s win over the Vancouver Canucks.

NEW YORK POST: It appears the Rangers and Islanders played their final game at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles will be moving to their new arena at Belmont Park next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be the final game unless the Rangers somehow manage to overtake the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division. With the Bruins (66 points) sitting eight points ahead with two games in hand, I don’t like the Blueshirts’ chances.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators’ 3-2 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday officially eliminated them from playoff contention.