NHL Rumor Mill – April 6, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – April 6, 2018

Another week, another series of speculation over the future of John Tavares. Check out the latest on the Islanders captain, along with updates on the Canucks, in your NHL rumor mill.

As the regular season winds down, New York Islanders captain John Tavares remains a hot topic in the free-agent rumor mill. (Photo via NHL Images)


FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussing the contract situation of New York Islanders captain John Tavares during his recent “31 Thoughts” podcast. Regarding the possibility of the Islanders re-signing Tavares, he thinks it’s going to be more about how the organization works than how much his next contract might be. “You get into a dicey area because it’s always tough. Do you ask your player, ‘Okay, are you happy with the organization? If you’re not happy with the organization, what changes would you like to make?’ That’s a tough spot for a player to be,” said Friedman.

Asked if the Montreal Canadiens could land Tavares via free agency, Friedman believes the friendship between Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson could get them a seat at the table. If teams in states with no state tax (Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars) get into the bidding, the Canadiens will have to make a huge offer to counter that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Tavares decides to play the market, I don’t doubt the Canadiens will be interested. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $62 million invested in 21 players for 2018-19 and all their core players under contract. With the cap ceiling projected to rise to $80 million (or possibly higher), the Habs will have plenty of room to make a big offer for Tavares.

The Golden Knights have even more cap room, with only $47.4 committed to 18 players. Given the reports claiming they were close to acquiring Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan from the Ottawa Senators before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, GM George McPhee seems willing to make bold moves to improve his club. I wouldn’t be surprising if they pursue Tavares on the open market. 

The Panthers, Lightning and Stars have the “no state tax” advantage, but I don’t see them getting into the bidding for Tavares. The Panthers have Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck centering their top-two lines and the Lightning have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson. The Stars, meanwhile, face re-signing first-line center Tyler Seguin to a big raise (perhaps over $10 million annually) before his eligibility next year for UFA status. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks plays, “What if John Tavares signs with the Rangers?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We go now to Islanders fans everywhere:



SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman speculates the Vancouver Canucks could be aggressive in this summer’s free-agent market. With the Sedins retiring, the Canucks will have around $20 million in cap space for 2018-19. Friedman points out the Canucks were reportedly very interested in center Mikael Backlund before he re-signed with the Calgary Flames.

With the Canucks rebuilding, he suggests they could offer up short-term, bigger-money contracts to some of this summer’s available UFAs. He also wonders if they might contact the Chicago Blackhawks or Ottawa Senators offering to take on some or all of Marian Hossa’s or Bobby Ryan’s cap hit if they agree to make it worth their while.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what the Canucks intend to do with that extra cap room. They don’t have any expensive free agents to re-sign. Their notable restricted free agents include Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher and Derick Pouliot. Assuming it costs $10 million to keep all of them in the fold, they’ll still have plenty of room to bring in a couple of good veteran players via trade or free agency.

I don’t see them going after big-ticket UFAs such as John Tavares, Washington’s John Carlson, San Jose’s Evander Kane or Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk. Perhaps they’ll look at veterans such as Vegas’ James Neal and David Perron or Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny, or maybe they try to bring back Thomas Vanek, who had terrific chemistry with rookie Brock Boeser before he was shipped to Columbus before the trade deadline. 


NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2018

Updates on John Carlson and Ilya Kovalchuk plus the latest Chicago Blackhawks speculation in your NHL rumor mill.

There’s not much free-agent buzz over Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson. (Photo via NHL Images)


FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Pierre LeBrun’s appearance Monday on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 discussing this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. While acknowledging the growing speculation regarding Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsyk and New York Islanders center John Tavares, he was surprised Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson isn’t attracting much attention.

LeBrun noted there was considerably more buzz last year at this time surrounding blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. Carlson, on the other hand, is putting together a strong performance this season and LeBrun doesn’t know if the Capitals can afford to re-sign him. He feels Carlson, a top-four rearguard with a right-handed shot, could become the best defenseman to hit the open market since Ryan Suter back in 2012.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nichols points out one reason behind all the Shattenkirk buzz last year was largely due to his being a fixture in the trade-rumor mill prior to be dealt by the St. Louis Blues to the Washington Capitals. Another was the New York and Toronto media kept up a steady drumbeat linking Shattenkirk to the Rangers before and after last year’s trade deadline.

In Carlson’s case, he and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan have been largely quiet over the status of the defenseman’s contract status. As per Cap Friendly, the Capitals have over $63 million invested in 15 players for 2018-19. Carlsson could command over $7 million per season, pushing the Caps payroll to over $70 million.

However, there are projections the salary-cap ceiling to rise to over $80 million for next season, giving Washington some much-needed cap room to retain Carlson and re-sign or replace their other free agents. It’s possible they could free up an additional $3 million by buying out the final season of Brooks Orpik’s contract


THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers looked at what areas the Chicago Blackhawks could try to address in the offseason. While they could add another experienced forward, Powers feels there’s sufficient depth up front if everyone plays to their potential. Defense, however, is another matter. He notes many believe the Hawks must go out and get a top-four defenseman. If starting goaltender Corey Crawford (concussion symptoms) remains questionable to return to action next season, Bowman could also explore the goalie market.

Their salary-cap payroll could be an issue, as their cap hit would be around $75 million if they assembled a roster of returning players. Powers suggests trading away the contract of sidelined winger Marian Hossa. Failing that, they’ll have to place him on long-term injured reserve again. He expects general manager Stan Bowman will make some trades this summer, perhaps to improve the blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Bowman’s priority will be trying to improve the defense corps. With over $69 million invested in 19 players for next season, it won’t be easy to add to the roster, though a possible cap increase to $82 million will certainly help them.

Trading Hossa’s contract, however, will require a sweetener, like a first-round pick or a top prospect. If sufficient cap room can be found I believe Bowman will use it to bring in a top-four rearguard. Of course, if Crawford’s future remains questionable, the priority becomes finding a decent starting goaltender. 


NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk “becomes an unrestricted free agent upon turning 35 on April 15 and does not have to wait until the pre-July 1 interview period to talk with NHL suitors. Kovalchuk can negotiate with clubs and reach an agreement in principle but cannot sign a contract until July 1.”


NHL Rumor Mill – March 5, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – March 5, 2018

Latest on the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.

This season is likely James van Riemsdyk’s last with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo via NHL Images)


TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran said he expects this season will be the last for forwards (and pending free agents) James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak with the Maple Leafs. He pointed out the Leafs’ salary structure will soon be very different with Auston Matthews at the top and everyone else fitting under his salary. Regarding van Riemsdyk, he noted his scoring is elite but “The rest of his game is not.”

McGran suggested Ilya Kovalchuk as a possible, more affordable replacement this summer for JvR,  He also noted San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is a UFA and highly regarded by Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Leafs risk losing van Riemsdyk and Bozak for nothing this summer to free agency, the feeling is they’re being considered as “own rentals” for the upcoming playoffs. Any chance of re-signing JvR was blown out of the water by last summer’s signing of Patrick Marleau. If this is Lou Lamoriello’s final season as general manager as recent speculation suggests, the Leafs might not play contract hardball with Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, meaning all three will be in line for substantial raises. That will affect any potential additions this summer via free agency.

Thornton might be available but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility he signs a one-year, bonus-laden deal with the Sharks. Kovalchuk’s preference is supposedly New York-area clubs (except for New Jersey, as that ship has probably sailed) but perhaps he’ll consider Toronto as a destination. However, it remains to be seen if the Leafs would be interested in him. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out. 


THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers recently observed the Chicago Blackhawks could have the salary-cap space to make a splash via trade or free agency this summer. He noted speculation they could attempt to ship out some salary, as center Artem Anisimov’s no-movement clause shifts this summer to a modified no-trade.

They could once again put Marian Hossa’s $5.275-million on long-term injured reserve again this year. Powers suggested they perhaps attempt to package his rights with a draft pick or prospect to a rebuilding club with the cap space to carry that deal. As Hossa’s unlikely to play again, he probably won’t mind waiving his no-movement clause.

Noting the Hawks biggest need is defense, he speculated they could pursue a top blueliner but such a move could cost them some young assets. They must also be mindful of contracts down the road for youngsters such as Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Powers suggested the Blackhawks, with the right moves this summer, “may be able to restore their seat near the head of the NHL table.” Such moves, however, could prove to be short-term fixes that ultimately hurts them over the long haul.

Management must proceed carefully here. A wiser course of action could be trying to shed more salary and invest in younger players. Granted, moving some of those high-salaried players won’t be easy. But wherever there’s a chance to do so, they must seriously consider it. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 5, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 5, 2017

The 2017-18 NHL season has begun. Check out the latest notable news in your morning coffee headlines.

EDMONTON SUN: Connor McDavid tallied a hat trick as the Edmonton Oilers blanked the Calgary Flames 3-0.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid is wasting little time picking up from where he left off from last season’s MVP performance. As for the Flames, the good news was goalie Mike Smith gave up only two goals on 44 shots. The bad news is their vaunted defense didn’t play well against McDavid and company. 

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Wayne Simmonds also netted three goals to lead the Flyers to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

STLTODAY.COM: Alex Pietrangelo scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the St. Louis Blues spoiled the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Cup banner night with a 5-4 win. 

TORONTO SUN: Patrick Marleau scored twice while Auston Matthews and James van Riemsdyk had three-point performances to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 7-2 beat down of the Winnipeg Jets. 

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets yesterday announced the signing of winger Nikolaj Ehlers to a seven-year, $42-million contract extension. His new deal begins in 2018-19 and is worth an annual average value of $6 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets wasted little time locking up the skilled 21-year-old Ehlers, who followed up a promising 38-point NHL debut in 2015-16 with a 25-goal, 64-point effort last season. He finished third among Jets scorers in assists and points and fourth in goals. A highly-skilled winger, Ehlers is a valuable part of the Jets’ offense. Given his upside, this contract could look like a bargain in a few years. 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks officially placed sidelined winger Marian Hossa (skin condition) on long-term injury reserve yesterday and signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-year, $1-million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise on either count. Franson was on a professional tryout offer with the Hawks but it was widely assumed he would make the roster. 

ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER: Wednesday was a busy day for the Anaheim Ducks. They signed defenseman Josh Manson to a four-year, $16.4 million contract extension and placed veterans Ryan Miller (upper-body injury) and Patrick Eaves (lower body) on injured reserve. Manson will earn $3.25 million in 2018-19, $4.25 million in 2019-20 and $4.45 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed forward Daniel Winnik to a one-year, $660K contract. Winnik attended Wild training camp on a tryout offer. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals yesterday signed winger Alex Chiasson to a one-year, $660K contract. Chiasson attended Capitals training camp on a PTO. 

TSN: The Vegas Golden Knights inked free agent forward Brandon Pirri to a one-year, two-way deal worth $650K at the NHL level. 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens traded defenseman Zach Redmond to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for gritty winger Nicolas Deslauriers. The latter will report to the Habs’ AHL affiliate in Laval. 

CBS SPORTS: The Canadiens also shipped forward Andreas Martinsen to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchanged for forward Kyle Baun.

TSN: Former NHL forward Jiri Hudler is accused of creating an outburst during a recent flight to Prague. He is alleged to have “in which he threatened flight attendants, demanded cocaine and tried to urinate in a food cart.” Hudler denies the allegations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wowsers! Sounds like a scene from a Hunter S. Thompson story. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2017

Sabres signed Jack Eichel, Penguins & Canucks swing a trade and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Jack Eichel to an eight-year, $80-million contract extension. The new deal begins in 2018-19 and is worth an annual average value of $10 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here, as it was rumored for months Eichel would get a long-term deal worth around $10 million annually. The second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, the 20-year-old center is considered the Sabres’ franchise player. 

Yes, it’s an expensive extension for a young player still on his entry-level contract but I doubt he’ll have any difficulty justifying that deal. Eichel has considerable upside and has yet to hit his playing prime. 

Following the signing, I saw some folks on Twitter criticizing the deal by noting Eichel hasn’t cracked 60 points in a season. That’s overlooking the fact he missed 21 games with a high-ankle sprain at the start of last season. He still finished with 57 points in 61 games, putting him close to a point-per-game pace. If he stays healthy this season, he should reach at least 80 points this season.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The NHL ruled the Chicago Blackhawks can place winger Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve for this season. The veteran forward is sidelined with a skin condition related to his hockey gear. Once he’s placed on LTIR, the club can exceed this season’s $75 million cap ceiling to replace him up to his cap hit of $5.275 million.

The Blackhawks will today sign left wing Bryan Bickell to a one-day contract, allowing him to retire with the club. Bickell spent all but one season with the Hawks, winning two Stanley Cups. His career was ended by multiple sclerosis.

SPORTSNET: The league also ruled the Toronto Maple Leafs can placed sidelined winger Joffrey Lupul on LTIR. Lupul, who failed to pass his training-camp physical, also failed a second medical examination. His annual cap hit is $5.25 million.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The PIttsburgh Penguins traded defenseman Derrick Pouliot to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for  defenseman Andrey Pedan and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move provides Pouliot an opportunity for a fresh start. He struggled to crack the Penguins roster and could have a better opportunity with the rebuilding Canucks. There was some expectation the Penguins might use Pouliot as a trade chip to bring in a third-line center but GM Jim Rutherford is willing to stick with Greg McKegg and Carter Rowney centering the bottom two lines.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes won’t have a captain for this season, opting instead for three alternates. A source said defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson would be named alternates, with centers Derek Stepan and Brad Richardson and blueliner Alex Goligoski in the running for the third spot. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bit of a surprise move by the Coyotes. It was anticipated Ekman-Larsson will take over the captaincy from now-retired winger Shane Doan. 

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed gritty winger Tanner Glass to a one-year, $650K contract. 

NBC SPORTS: Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson received a four-game suspension for boarding St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche claimed defenseman Patrik Nemeth off waivers from the Dallas Stars. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights plucked goaltender Malcolm Subban off waivers from the Boston Bruins. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2017

Updates on Kyle Turris, Marian Hossa, Scottie Upshall and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports contract discussions between Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and center Kyle Turris are described as “healthy”. That’s giving rise to the possibility the two sides could work out an agreement before their season opener on Thursday.

If not, however, it won’t be cause for concern. Turris is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July but the Sens could get him re-signed before then. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch also said it’s rumored the Turris camp seeks a seven- or eight-year deal in the range of $6 million annually. I can see him getting that much. If the Sens won’t pay it, another club certainly will via free agency on July 1. I think he’ll be staying in Ottawa.

THE ATHLETIC: The Chicago Blackhawks are still awaiting approval from the league to place sidelined winger Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve on the second day of the season. Hossa will sit out the entire 2017-18 campaign because of a persistent skin condition related to his hockey equipment. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decision will come before the Blackhawks submit their cap compliant roster by the 3 pm ET deadline on Tuesday. I believe they’ll get approval to do so, probably on Monday. 

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues brought back forward Scottie Upshall on a professional tryout offer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Blues recent rash of injuries I expect Upshall will soon ink a one-year deal with them.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins released veteran center Jay McClement from his professional tryout offer. 

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Winnik’s tryout with the Minnesota Wild is over. He’s free to sign with the Wild or another NHL team. 

Buffalo Sabres left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and Montreal Canadiens center Peter Holland are the two notable players placed on waivers yesterday.