NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.

The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.

Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.

I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.

Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.

Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club. 

Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.

Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.

New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 28, 2020

The latest on the Canadiens, Oilers, and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANADIENS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine Godin examined how the Montreal Canadiens could use their cap space and their stockpile of draft picks and prospects to acquire players who otherwise wouldn’t be available at bargain prices.

Montreal Canadiens winger Max Domi (NHL Images)

They believe the Canadiens don’t have to trade winger Max Domi, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Despite his tepid playoffs, they feel he still has value to the Canadiens as a skilled offensive player. However, that could also make Domi valuable to other clubs. The Canadiens could swap him for another RFA like Detroit’s Anthony Mantha or Columbus’ Josh Anderson, package him with a first-round pick in hopes of landing an impact player or swing a hockey trade by shopping him to a club like the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Jonas Brodin.

Basu and Godin wonder whether the Habs would shop the first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s draft for immediate help. The Habs could also use the flattened salary cap to their advantage by re-signing players like Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to value deals. They could go the free-agent route to fill minor holes in the lineup, such as their backup goaltending.

They also suggested looking at trade targets on cap-strapped teams, pointing to Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn, Dallas’ Stephen Johns, and Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara. Killorn would bolster their forward lines (provided he waives his no-trade clause), while Johns or Nutivaara are right-side defensemen.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey reports Danault could face an uncertain future in Montreal with the rise of promising young centers like Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki. The two-way center was employed in a defensive role during the playoffs but indicated he wouldn’t want to limit himself to that specific part. With what he’s contributed in Montreal, Danault doesn’t expect his role will change, pointing out his offensive and defensive contributions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is expected to be busy in the off-season. He has a lot of assets to draw upon. Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for next season, giving him plenty of room to take on a salaried player or two. He’s also got 14 picks in this year’s draft, including three in the second and fourth rounds and two in the third and fifth rounds He also holds eight picks through rounds three, four, and five of the 2021 draft.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Domi in the offseason. He’s considered the Habs’ most likely trade chip, but that will depend upon how contract discussions go and his value in the trade market.

Danault’s remarks about playing solely a defensive role prompted some fans and pundits to speculate he could be on his way out of Montreal, but I don’t think that’s the case. Reading his full remarks, he indicated he believes his role won’t change. I agree with him. He remains the Habs’ best two-way forward. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played well in the postseason, but they still have limited NHL experience. I think Bergevin will stick with Danault centering one of his top-two lines for next season and see how things unfold.

As Basu and Godin point out, Bergevin must be careful not to overspend. He has a lot of cap space to work with for next season, but Danault, Gallagher, Petry, Armia, and Tartar become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The Habs GM can’t take on so much salary this year that it adversely affects efforts to retain most of those pending UFAs next summer.

RED WINGS

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan recently examined the unrestricted free agent goaltending options for the Detroit Red Wings. Among them are Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan also listed Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott and Edmonton’s Mike Smith, but I don’t believe either guy can help the Wings between the pipes. They need an experienced starter.

With over $47 million invested in 11 players for 2020-21, the Wings have plenty of salary-cap space to go shopping for goalie help in the UFA market. Nevertheless, GM Steve Yzerman will have to sell them on the merits of joining his rebuilding club. Markstrom and Crawford will likely stay with their current clubs. Lehner, too, if Vegas decides to part ways with Marc-Andre Fleury.

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required) Max Bultman recently examined possible ways the Wings could address their second-line center position. He suggested Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot or Colorado’s Tyson Jost as trade options. Nashville’s Kyle Turris could be a free-agent option if the Predators buy out his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bultman’s article appears before the Leafs traded winger Kasperi Kapanen. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas hinted more changes could come but that doesn’t mean Kerfoot could follow Kapanen out the door.

OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited NHL insider Brian Lawton speculating the Oilers could trade two of their top-four defensemen. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, and Ethan Bear currently hold those spots.

Staples doesn’t see Bear going anywhere and thinks Nurse’s leadership, skating, physical play, and even-strength scoring should keep him in Edmonton. He took note of the recent speculation suggesting Larsson could be shopped, and also felt Klefbom could be moved if the right offer (No. 1 goal, top-line forward) came along.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently listed Florida winger Mike Hoffman, Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner, and Boston defenseman Torey Krug among his suggested free-agent targets for the Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers have over $70.4 million committed to 16 players next season. Unless they shed considerable salary, they can’t afford guys like Hoffman, Lehner, or Krug. If GM Ken Holland were to trade Larsson and/or Klefbom in cost-cutting moves, that would free up sufficient cap space for a proven starting goalie or a top-line forward.










NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

What next for the Flames, Capitals and Blue Jackets now that their postseason is over? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLAMES

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered about the future of Johnny Gaudreau following yet another disappointing early playoff exit by the Calgary Flames. The 27-year-old winger’s been the subject of trade speculation throughout this season as he put up his lowest offensive output since his rookie season.

Could the Calgary Flames shop Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason? (NHL Images)

It’s been speculated Gaudreau, a New Jersey native, could be peddled to an East Coast team. There’s also a theory the Flames could trade away “Johnny Hockey” to make room for Arizona Coyotes winger (and Calgary native) Taylor Hall.

With notable coaches such as Bruce Boudreau, Peter Laviolette, and Mike Babcock available, Wyshynski pondered the future of Flames interim bench boss Geoff Ward. He also wondered which of their notable UFAs (goalie Cam Talbot, blueliners T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic) will be back.

CALGARY SUN: Kristen Anderson and Wes Gilbertson wondered if changes could be coming to the Flames’ core forwards like Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Sam Bennett. Gilbertson also mused over whether it’s time for general manager Brad Treliving to test Gaudreau’s trade value or make a change at center by trading Sean Monahan or dropping him to the second line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think a shakeup is coming and it could be Gaudreau on the move. A year ago, I considered that unthinkable. Not now. He seemed off-kilter until midseason and wasn’t much of a force in this postseason. As Gilbertson pointed out, he didn’t have an even-strength goal during the series with the Stars.

Despite Gaudreau’s struggles this season, he’s the Flames’ best trade chip. They aren’t moving Monahan because first-line centers are difficult to find. Spark plug Matthew Tkachuk isn’t going anywhere. I expect they’ll hang onto Bennett. He’s a versatile checking-line forward who elevates his play in the postseason. Backlund could be shopped but won’t fetch as strong a return as Gaudreau.

Dump Gaudreau to sign Hall? Stranger things have happened but Hall did little to raise his UFA stock this season. Maybe he’d regain his 2018 Hart Trophy form in Calgary but he would be an expensive gamble.

CAPITALS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan examined some possible off-season moves by the Washington Capitals. It appears long-time starting goaltender and pending UFA Braden Holtby has played his final game for the Caps. Their blueline could use some help but they have limited salary-cap space. Kaplan also wondered about the fate of head coach Todd Reirden.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Barry Svrluga wondered if the Capitals’ early playoff departure suggests a team in decline or perhaps the interruption of the season by COVID-19 skewed the results. He points out most of their core players are now in their thirties, took note of Holtby’s expected departure and wondered about Reirden’s fate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Replacing the coach is easier than replacing the roster, and there’s some justification for a change behind the Capitals bench after Reirden got schooled in the Isles series by former Washington coach Barry Trotz. The Caps remain a talented team but most of their stars don’t have many good years left. 

Holtby’s departure is a foregone conclusion. His performance declined over the last couple of years. Ilya Samsonov had a promising debut season and will be their starter for the foreseeable future.

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $71.1 million invested in 16 players. There’s a chance they’ll re-sign Brenden Dillon but he could cost over $4 million annually. RFA Jonas Siegenthaler will get an affordable bridge deal coming off his entry-level deal. That won’t leave much to bolster their blueline depth.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports of rumors Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could be preparing for some big off-season moves to bolster his forward lines.

Portzline believes their priority should be adding a top-six center. He feels the Jackets’ GM could draw from his blue-line depth for trade bait, suggesting David Savard as a candidate. RFA winger Josh Anderson could be another. With Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins as bonafide starters, the Jackets could get calls from clubs seeking help in goal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen showed a willingness to make significant moves leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. With his club in dire need of scoring punch, I expect he’ll swing a trade or two to address that need. Several clubs with limited salary-cap space could be looking to shed a high-salaried talent for a more affordable option.

As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $76 million invested in 23 players, with center Pierre-Luc Dubois due for a raise coming off his entry-level contract. He lacks arbitration rights so Kekalainen could ink him to an affordable short-term bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract afterward.

If Kekalainen seeks impact forwards, he’ll have to move salaried players too. He could get $5.85-million in cap flexibility if sidelined forward Brandon Dubinsky starts the season on long-term injury reserve.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

It’s been over a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the postseason but speculation persists over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports Frederik Andersen could face an uncertain future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his stats in elimination games aren’t that good.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).

Nevertheless, Fox doesn’t think there’s a suitable replacement for Andersen in this year’s free-agent market. Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are past their prime. If the Vancouver Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom, Vegas’ Robin Lehner would be the best available free-agent goalie and expensive to sign. Fox doesn’t think Calgary’s Cam Talbot, the NY Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, or Dallas’ Anton Khudobin would be suitable replacements.

Fox notes the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins appear open for goalie trades, but he’s not sure what they have to offer would be an improvement over Andersen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $76 million invested in 17 players, the Leafs lack sufficient cap space to chase expensive UFA talent without shedding some salary first. I agree with Fox’s assessment of this year’s crop of free-agent goalies.

What might be available in the trade market isn’t that tantalizing. The Wild could shop an aging Devan Dubnyk or career backup Alex Stalock. The Rangers could peddle Henrik Lundqvist (provided he waives his no-movement clause) but he’s also past his best-before date. Alexandar Georgiev is another Rangers’ option but he hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter. Recent speculation tied Penguins starter Matt Murray to the Leafs, but he’s struggled with injuries and consistency since backstopping the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

I anticipate the Leafs will stick with Andersen for next season and see how things unfold. It’ll give them time to assess next season’s trade market and see if there are better options among next year’s free agents.

TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked about the possibility of the Leafs trading winger William Nylander. McGran feels Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t want to go that route, but the coming salary-cap crunch could leave him little choice. He considers Nylander their most tradeable commodity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take some nifty salary-cap gymnastics for Dubas and his capologist to address his club’s need to bolster the defense without parting with a significant asset. Nylander could be the best option to land that elusive top-pairing, right-side rearguard.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports the Penguins are looking to shore up their roster and have asked questions about Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To which the answer should be, we’re not moving him unless you offer up a good, young, right-side defenseman or skilled two-way center.

Simmons also proposed how the Leafs could sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if the St. Louis Blues captain tests the free-agent market.

I take Cody Ceci’s $4.5 million — he’s a free agent — and add it with Tyson Barrie’s $2.5 million. Both should be leaving. Now you take $3 million from either Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson and you’ve got $10 million to play with in a soft free-agent class, considering the economics of all of professional sport.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have $76.9 million invested in 17 players next season, leaving roughly $4.5 million in cap space. That’s with Ceci and Barrie off the books. Dumping Kerfoot, Kapanen, or Johnsson would give the Leafs around $7.5 million to spend in the free-agent market.

Assuming Pietrangelo is willing to accept a modest pay bump from his current $6.5 million annual average value to come to Toronto (and honestly, why would he?), the Leafs would have no money left to re-sign other players (like Travis Dermott, Ilya Mikheyev, and perhaps Kyle Clifford) and fill out the rest of the roster.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

A look at the five UFAs with the most to prove in the NHL’s return to play and an update on Loui Eriksson in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby top Matt Teague’s recent list of five unrestricted free agents with the most to prove during the upcoming NHL playoff tournament.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Hall’s struggled with injuries and played with two inconsistent teams since his 93-point Hart Trophy performance in 2017-18. He turns 29 in November and the playoff tournament could represent his best chance to secure a big payday. His performance will go a long way to raise his value under a flat salary cap for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s value on the open market was tagged at over $9 million annually before COVID-19 interrupted the NHL schedule. A weak effort in a quick exit from the playoff tournament will send his value tumbling.

Holtby put up mediocre regular-season stats since 2017-18 but solid performances in the last two postseasons. Turning 31 in September, he has little room for error to prove he’s still a reliable NHL starter. If he’s outplayed by teammate Ilya Samsonov in the playoff tournament, it will hurt his chances for a big raise over his current $6.1 million annual average value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has acknowledged this is probably his final season with the Capitals. He will garner interest on the open market but could find landing a lucrative new deal hard to come by if he has a shaky postseason.

Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, and Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner round out Teague’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled for a while following his trade last season to the Predators, but his performance improved when John Hynes took over as head coach midway through 2019-20. If that trend continues, Granlund could prove himself worthy of at least a short-term deal at the same AAV ($5.75 million) with the Preds or another club.

After several productive years with the Colorado Avalanche, Barrie had a difficult 2019-20 campaign with the Leafs and isn’t expected to be re-signed. A solid effort in the upcoming playoffs could get him a one-year deal with another club for an AAV similar to his current $5.5 million.

Lehner was looking for a big payday last year after winning the Masterton Trophy and finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Instead, he had to settle for a one-year, $5-million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played well for the struggling Hawks, who shipped him to Vegas at the trade deadline. His performance with the Golden Knights sparked speculation they could attempt to re-sign him. If he outplays Marc-Andre Fleury in the tournament, maybe the Golden Knights try shopping Fleury to free up cap space for Lehner.