Are The Florida Panthers For Real?
The Penguins trade Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers for Mike Matheson, the latest Stanley Cup Final news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
TSN: After a day of uncertainty, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally traded winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson. The Panthers also sent winger Colton Sceviour to the Penguins in the deal.
SPECTOR’ S NOTE: This trade was originally reported on Wednesday but was held up due to Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and insurance concerns regarding his contract. It took a day to get those issues sorted.
The Penguins get younger by taking on the 26-year-old Matheson and 31-year-old Sceviour while the Panthers hope to benefit in the short term by the 33-year-old Hornqvist’s playoff experience and gritty style of play. Matheson struggled over the last two years but the Pens have had success taking on blueliners (like Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley) who improved once they came to Pittsburgh.
Hornqvist has three years left on his contract, Matheson six years and Sceviour one year. The Penguins don’t free up much cap space for 2020-21, swapping Hornqvist’s $5.3 million annual average value for Matheson ($4.875 million) and Sceviour ($1.2 million).
The Penguins might not be done dealing. They have a surplus of eight defensemen under NHL contracts and still have to re-sign goaltender Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. That’s generating speculation one of those blueliners could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal.
NBC SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov’s consistency is among the driving factors in his club’s quest for the Stanley Cup. He’s the playoffs’ leading scorer with 30 points and has had eight multi-point games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov’s performance puts him among the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars face the Lightning tonight in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and Game 5 on Saturday. That could put a considerable burden upon goaltender Anton Khudobin. With Ben Bishop still unfit to play, there are questions over what they’ll do between the pipes during the upcoming back-to-back stretch.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin normally backs up Bishop, but he’s played in most of the Stars’ games in this postseason. Youngster Jake Oettinger appeared in just over 36 minutes in two games, replacing Khudobin for the third period during the Stars 5-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is understandably proud of what the NHL accomplished with its return-to-play plan with two quarantine bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. “It’s been nothing short of remarkable”, he said yesterday.
Bettman praised NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer and his staff of 150 people for their planning and staging of the event, as well as the governments of Alberta and Ontario and the Canadian government, and the collaborative efforts between the league and the NHLPA.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s pride is justified. The league silenced its critics by staging a safe environment for 24 teams in two NHL cities to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. However, he indicated the league’s intent is not to stage next season in a bubble environment. They hope to have fans in the arenas when it is safe to do so.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Curtis Lazar to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $800K.
SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators re-signed forward Yakov Trenin to a two-year, $1.45-million contract.
NHL.COM: The league revealed its offseason protocols for training at team facilities. The plan will be similar to Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.
The teams can open their training facilities if a minimum of five players request it commencing Oct. 15, though they can open them sooner at their discretion following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final. No more than 12 players will be allowed on the ice at one time, though more players may be present in the facility at the same time.
Local public health restrictions will be observed and mandatory testing for COVID-19 is required for players and training staff wishing to use the facility.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) September 24, 2020
Steven Stamkos returns as the Lightning take 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the latest on a potential Patric Hornqvist-for-Mike Matheson trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Steven Stamkos scored in his return to action as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Dallas Stars 5-2 in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Stamkos, who’s been dealing with a core-muscle issue that sidelined him since July, played only five shifts in the first period but scored the Lightning’s second goal, eluding Stars defenseman Esa Lindell and sniping a wrister past Anton Khudobin. He spent the rest of the game on the Lightning bench. In his post-game interview, Stamkos said he’s still working through the issue, adding it was too early to tell if he’ll suit up for Game 4 on Friday.
Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists, becoming the third defenseman in Stanley Cup playoff history to score at least 10 goals in a postseason. Only Paul Coffey (12 goals) and Brian Leetch (11) have more. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ brief return in Game 3 still provided a big lift to his teammates. You could see it by the way they played and their reaction to their captain’s goal. They took control of the game in the second period, scoring three goals and outshooting the Stars 21-4.
Hedman, meanwhile, is making a strong case as the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. In addition to his goal-scoring efforts, he’s been the Lightning’s leader during Stamkos’ absence, playing a strong game at both ends of the rink.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a potential trade in which the Pittsburgh Penguins would send winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson could be falling apart over Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and concerns over whether his contract was covered by insurance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal could still go through if those issues are sorted out, but Friedman sounds skeptical. “One hurdle would be challenging enough…but two? Big problem.” If the deal goes through, the Penguins will have a surplus of left-side defensemen, meaning another trade could be likely.
TSN: Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion confirmed his club won’t be re-signing long-time goaltender Craig Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in the 39-year-old Anderson’s performance over the past two years made this inevitable. Nevertheless, it’s the end of an era between the pipes for the Senators. Anderson is their all-time leader in wins, losses, and games-played, and played a big role in their surprising run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Jake Evans to a two-year contract extension. The first year is a two-way deal paying him $750K at the NHL level. He’ll earn $800K in the second year.
TORONTO STAR: The Canada Revenue Agency alleges former Maple Leafs Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker participated in a scheme to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The duo claimed millions in business losses related to foreign currency trading during their years with the Leafs, but the CRA alleges it was a sham to claim the losses to lower their taxable income. Corson and Tucker deny the allegations.
Some potential destinations for Alex Pietrangelo plus the latest on the Penguins and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD LEAFS, GOLDEN KNIGHTS OR FLAMES TARGET PIETRANGELO?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun wonders if the St. Louis Blues will consider trading Alex Pietrangelo’s rights if they don’t re-sign the pending free-agent defenseman before Oct. 9. The acquiring team could sign him to an eight-year deal, lowering the annual average value, Pietrangelo would get more money under that scenario, while the Blues could get a good asset in return. LeBrun suggests the Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Calgary Flames as possible destinations if Pietrangelo hits the open market.
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski acknowledged the Leafs need for a top-shelf blueliner like Pietrangelo, but finding the cap space to sign him will be challenging for general manager Kyle Dubas. They have over $6 million in cap space and would have to shed salary to make it work.
Zwolinski suggests Alexander Kerfoot and Andreas Johnsson as trade candidates, and also felt William Nylander would have to be considered. The risks of acquiring another high-priced player would be high under a flattened salary cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Leafs will inquire if Pietrangelo becomes available. As per Cap Friendly, they’ve already handcuffed themselves with over $40.4 million tied up in just four players: Nylander ($6.9 million), Mitch Marner ($10.8 million), John Tavares ($11 million) and Auston Matthews ($11.8 million). Adding Pietrangelo could push that figure to almost $50 million, leaving little room to bolster their depth as needed throughout the rest of the roster. Unless they’re moving out Nylander, they should consider more affordable blueline options.
I don’t see the Golden Knights in the market for Pietrangelo. They have $76.5 million tied up in 18 players. If they re-sign Robin Lehner, they’ll have to shed salary by moving out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury or someone else, leaving little room for a big-ticket defenseman.
With $64.5 million committed to 14 players, the Flames have the cap space to sign Pietrangelo, but that move could push them to $73 million invested in 15 players. That won’t leave much to find a possible replacement for Cam Talbot if he’s not re-signed, let alone fill out the rest of the roster.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe report multiple league sources claim Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has received several inquiries about winger Bryan Rust. Rutherford isn’t shopping Rust and prefers keeping the top-six winger, but wouldn’t rule out trading him if the return was significant, such as at least an NHL-ready player and a top-six prospect.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Rust remains a Penguin.
They also cite multiple sources claiming Rutherford is attempting to clear enough salary-cap space to sign Chris Tanev if the Vancouver Canucks defenseman hit the open market on Oct. 9. The Penguins GM isn’t concerned about Tanev’s age (30) and is willing to offer a five-year contract concurrent to the final five years of brother (and Penguins forward) Brandon Tanev. Chris is said to be seeking a raise over the $4.45-million AAV of his current contract. A Penguins source claims they’d prefer keeping the AAV to $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s not a good idea. Tanev’s performance has declined over the last couple of years as the wear-and-tear of his style of play are taking a toll on his body. A short-term deal (two years) might be worth the gamble, but five years at $5 million per is too risky. Meanwhile, TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Canucks have yet to make Tanev a contract offer.
Rossi and Yohe also report the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin’s camp have expressed interest in a three-year contract extension allowing Malkin to retire as a Penguin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: But…but…Malkin’s supposed to be unhappy as second fiddle to Crosby. No, wait, he’s getting traded to the Kings. Or was it he’s retiring and returning to Russia at the end of his current contract? Dammit, it’s difficult keeping these Malkin rumors straight!
The Pens aren’t against acquiring a third-line center but are content to keep recently re-signed Jared McCann in that role. It doesn’t appear they’ve approached Patric Hornqvist about waiving his no-trade clause.
BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS FOR THE CAPITALS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Tarik El-Bashir lists the New York Islanders Thomas Greiss, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and Calgary’s Cam Talbot as free-agent backup goalie options for the Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Braden Holtby’s expected departure via free agency, the Capitals will need an experienced backup for promising Ilya Samsonov. Greiss, Khudobin and Talbot would be fine choices, though Khudobin’s playoff heroics could put him outside the Caps’ price range. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got $72.6 million invested in 17 players.
A look at TSN’s list of 10 contracts potentially on the move in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel, St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak, and Edmonton Oilers winger Andreas Athanasiou top Frank Seravalli’s list of 10 contracts potentially on the move in the offseason, based on the financial or salary-cap implications facing each club.
Kessel is owed just $5.95 million in total real dollars through 2021-22. Despite the drop in his production this season, a re-energized Kessel could be helpful to a Cup contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel’s $5-million signing bonus for 2020-21 has already been paid out, which explains why his actual salary will be so low. His full cap hit is $8 million but the Coyotes are only carrying $6.8 million because the Toronto Maple Leafs are picking up $1.2 million in retained salary as the condition for trading him to Pittsburgh in 2015.
That might make Kessel enticing for clubs seeking experienced scoring depth on right wing. However, he has a reputation as a high-maintenance player, which could hurt his trade value almost as much as this season’s sudden decline in his production.
Bozak could be a trade candidate in a retained salary transaction if the Blues decide to shed salary to re-sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli’s list was published before last night’s report indicating contract talks between the Blues and Pietrangelo had broken off. While they still could attempt to move Bozak to give them some additional wiggle room, there won’t be as much urgency to do so if Pietrangelo departs.
Seravalli reports the Oilers are trying to trade Athanasiou before he’s due a $3 million qualifying offer on Oct. 7. However, teams think GM Ken Holland could let him walk, which would hurt Athanasiou’s trade value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples believes Holland is in a bind given he parted with two second-round draft picks to acquire Athanasiou. He’s not worth $3 million, and Staples thinks Holland believes he can find a better winger than Athanasiou at a lower price. If so, he might have to let him walk and try to replace those two draft picks via the trade market.
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher and center Brandon Sutter, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist, and Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop fill spots four through seven on Seravalli’s list.
Stecher is a restricted free agent who could become a UFA if the Canucks opt not to qualify his rights. The Canucks would like to keep him but their pipeline of promising blueliners and salary-cap constraints could rule out a long-term commitment. Sutter, meanwhile, could be easier to move than Loui Eriksson if the Canucks are willing to retain a bit of his $4.375-million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could re-sign Stecher if they part ways with pending UFA blueliner Chris Tanev. Given GM Jim Benning’s failed efforts last year to move Eriksson, I agree that Sutter could become a trade candidate. He carries a 15-team no-trade clause, which will hamper those efforts.
Seravalli considers Hornqvist the odd man out for the Penguins as a third-line winger with a $5.3 million AAV, but noted the remaining three years on his contract could be an issue. He feels they might have to retain salary to make that work.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. I don’t see many clubs interested in picking up that full cap hit for the next three years. Another sticking point is Hornqvist’s full no-trade clause for 2020-21, though perhaps he might waive it for the right team.
Seravalli wonders where Bishop fits into the Stars’ plans, pointing out he seems to be injured when it matters most. He thinks they could find a taker for Bishop as he’s owed just $8 million in real cash over the remaining three years of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That low actual salary could be enticing, but Bishop’s injury history also screams, “Buyer beware!” He also has a 10-team no-trade list, plus a no-movement clause over the remainder of his contract, meaning he’d have to be protected in next year’s expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson, Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky round out Seravalli’s list.
Johnson could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal, though he has a full no-trade clause. Saad could also be a cost-cutting casualty as the Blackhawks need to re-sign Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome plus find a starting goalie. A chronic wrist injury has likely ended Dubinsky’s career but his $5.85-million cap hit for next season could be attractive for clubs looking to use long-term injury reserve to manipulate their salary cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson’s NTC could rule him out as a trade candidate. Most of the speculation surrounding the Lightning suggests it could be Alex Killorn (who has a modified no-trade) who could be on the moves.
Saad has a year remaining on his contract and a 10-team no-trade list. He’d be attractive to rival clubs seeking a top-six winger, but The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus said in a recent mailbag segment he’s not convinced the Blackhawks could trade him. He felt they could find extra cap room by trading or buying out Olli Maatta and Zack Smith.
The Jackets could indeed attempt to move Dubinsky’s contract to a club either looking to use LTIR to go over the cap to add another player or by a budget club looking to reach the cap floor. He’s got a 10-team no-trade list but that shouldn’t be an issue if his playing days are over.
Golden Knights reportedly talking contract with Robin Lehner, plus the latest on the Bruins and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.
REPORT: GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOLD CONTRACT TALKS WITH LEHNER
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jesse Granger believes the Vegas Golden Knights intend to sign goaltender Robin Lehner to a long-term contract extension. He cites sources suggesting discussions between management and the Lehner camp might have already begun. Lehner, 29, is due to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.
With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season, the Golden Knights only have $6.375 million in cap space. $3-$4 million of that could be taken up re-signing restricted free agents Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins. Granger estimates it could take a five-year deal at $5 million annually, possibly more, to keep Lehner in the fold.
Re-signing Lehner could mean parting ways with Marc-Andre Fleury, who has two years and $14 million remaining on his contract. Granger feels Fleury’s relationship with management has soured since Lehner’s acquisition at the February trade deadline. They could retain part of his cap hit to trade him, though he carries a 10-team no-trade list. They could also buy out the remainder of Fleury’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what transpires, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Lehner is re-signed and Fleury traded or bought out. That’s been percolating in the rumor mill for some time, especially when Lehner got the bulk of the starts in the playoffs. It went to a full boil last month after Fleury’s agent tweeted an image of his client with a sword through his back and coach Peter DeBoer’s name on the blade.
Lehner or Fleury could draw the attention of the Colorado Avalanche. The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers suggested the Avs could pursue either goalie if they become available.
LATEST ON THE BRUINS
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins general manager Don Sweeney intends to explore ways to improve his club between now and the start of the free-agent market on Oct. 9.
The toughest decision could be deciding whether to re-sign Torey Krug. Haggerty believes the Bruins would love to keep the 29-year-old pending UFA defenseman, but he doesn’t feel they’re in a good enough salary-cap place to do so.
Haggerty speculates Sweeney could look to within to bolster his lineup by promoting Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka into full-time roles next season. Making room for those two could mean moving out a winger like Jake DeBrusk. He’s a restricted free agent due for a significant raise but also an inconsistent scorer who managed just two points in 10 playoff games last month.
Haggerty wondered if Sweeney might consider shopping David Krejci. The 34-year-old center has one year left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.25 million who can be dealt to half the teams in the league based on the no-trade language in his contract.
Sweeney also said the Bruins have no reservations about goaltender Tuukka Rask after he opted out of the playoffs for family reasons. Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak both have a year left on their contracts and it appears the Bruins plan on continuing next season with their current goalie tandem. Sweeney pointed out Rask is up for the Vezina Trophy this year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Krug seeks over $7 million annually, he’s probably played his final game with the Bruins. He’s indicated he’s not taking a hometown discount or a one-year deal. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy reports Sweeney said the two sides “haven’t found a landing spot yet.”
The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) also suggested DeBrusk could be a trade chip. However, he felt defenseman Brandon Carlo was more likely to move because he didn’t play up to his capabilities in the playoffs. However, if Krug departs I doubt they’ll trade away Carlo.
As for Krejci, his age, cap hit and modified no-trade make him difficult to move under the current economic conditions. He could be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still suiting up with the Bruins next season.
UPDATE ON THE PENGUINS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Josh Yohe reports sources around the league have spoken with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford regarding defenseman Kris Letang. However, this isn’t uncommon and there’s no indication Letang is being actively shopped.
Yohe also reports all indications suggest the Pittsburgh Penguins will trade goaltender Matt Murray. Rutherford had little interest in moving goalie Tristan Jarry. The Penguins GM is willing to move center Jared McCann and perhaps Nick Bjugstad, though Rutherford isn’t opposed to keeping him. He also doesn’t sound interested in moving defenseman Jack Johnson.
TSN: Darren Dreger isn’t sure the speculation about Letang is legit, pointing out his agent said his client doesn’t expect to be moved. Dreger acknowledged the 33-year-old defenseman might still be traded, but it’s not his expectation. Other Penguins who could hit the trade block include Johnson, Patric Hornqvist, and Zach Aston-Reese.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation yesterday claiming Letang was expecting a trade, but now his agent says otherwise. Damage control, perhaps? Or merely some confusion emerging from multiple sources on Letang’s status. Whatever it is, it seems likely Rutherford was talking to other clubs about the veteran blueliner but doesn’t appear close to considering a trade.
No one’s surprised Murray is the most likely of their two goalies to move. He’ll be more expensive for the Penguins to re-sign plus he’s also struggled with injuries and consistency over the past two years.
Hornqvist has a $5.3-million AAV through 2022-23 but his full no-trade clause becomes an eight-team no-trade list at the end of this season. He’s 33 and his style of play frequently leaves him banged-up but his experience and gritty style around the net could be enticing to other clubs.
McCann could also draw some interest. Bjugstad’s been hampered by injuries the past two years, appearing in 64 games last season and just 13 this season. That will put a damper on his trade value.