NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 7, 2021

It’s been a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the first round but that hasn’t stopped speculation over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes the clock is ticking for the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup hopes with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner under contract. Matthews’ current deal expires in 2024, Marner’s the following year.

If things go sideways, the pair can depart via the unrestricted free agent market. Traikos doubts the pair will want to endure another five years of disappointment, much less a decade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Traikos feels the Leafs have three seasons to either win the Cup or make significant progress toward doing so to convince those two to stay. A lot can happen over that time. What Dubas does over the next three years will determine the futures of Matthews, Marner and the Leafs.

Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could find it difficult to bolster the roster with limited cap space this summer. They have roughly $67.8 million invested in next season’s cap payroll, leaving little room under the $81.5 million cap.

With Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan adamant that high-paid forwards Matthews, Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander aren’t going anywhere, the Leafs will have to look elsewhere to free up payroll.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images).

Dubas could avoid potentially losing Morgan Rielly to free agency next summer by trading him now. It would free up $5 million in cap room but also leave a big hole on their blueline, one Rasmus Sandin could eventually fill. If Alex Kerfoot is taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, it’ll free up $3.5 million.

Koshan considers re-signing Zach Hyman a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 28 and the Leafs lack the money to re-sign him. It’s believed the 28-year-old winger could get multiyear offers between $5 million and $6 million annually on the open market. With other holes in the roster to address, the Leafs can’t afford that even if they lose Kerfoot’s cap hit to the Kraken.

Hyman’s agent dismissed a rumor claiming the Leafs had already offered a deal worth $5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hyman is a Toronto native. He could accept a “hometown discount” to stay with the Leafs, especially if he thinks he won’t get better offers in the free-agent market under a flattened salary cap. However, this is also his best opportunity to land a lucrative long-term deal. There will be teams willing to pay between $5 million and $6 million for his services on the open market despite the flat cap.

Even if Hyman accepts a lesser deal of, say, $4 million annually, that’s still going to take a big bite out of the Leafs’ cap space. That could force Dubas to consider a bigger move this summer.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox believes the Leafs must make a decision soon on Rielly. Do they keep him for next season as an “own rental” for one last shot at the Cup with the Leafs, do they trade him, or attempt to negotiate a contract extension starting on July 28? His trade value, combined with his affordable $5 million cap hit, might never be higher than it is now.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes trading Rielly should be on the table if the Leafs are committed to Sandin taking over his role. He points out they got a first-round pick and promising prospect Filip Hallander by trading Kasperi Kapanen last year to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rielly would be worth at least that much, and freeing up his $5 million cap hit would give the Leafs room to bring in a couple of affordable bottom-six forwards.

While Dubas and Shanahan said they’re not trading Marner, McGran wondered if they would listen if it was talent-for-talent. Perhaps they’d listen if the Columbus Blue Jackets offered defenseman Seth Jones, or the Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, or the Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk or Johnny Gaudreau.

McGran admits it would get tricky trying to move Marner. He expects Dubas won’t change his approach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Rielly is a more realistic scenario than moving Marner. Yes, the latter could happen if the Leafs got a terrific offer. But Rielly’s affordable cap hit for next season is easier for other clubs to absorb than Marner’s $10.9 million through 2024-25.

The question is, will Dubas make that move? As The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel observed last week, the Leafs better make sure they have a suitable replacement lined up. Siegel doesn’t consider Sandin ready yet for a full-time top-four role. If Dubas shares that view, Rielly could return for at least next season unless he can find an appropriate substitution in the trade or free-agent market.

Mark Zwolinski examined the Leafs’ options for a backup goaltender for Jack Campbell next season. One option is bringing back Frederik Andersen if he accepted a pay cut in the $2 million range. Free-agent options could include Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Colorado’s Devan Dubnyk or Edmonton’s Mike Smith.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen has played his last for the Leafs. He did his best and was often overworked and underappreciated, but Campbell has taken over the starter’s job now.

I don’t see Rinne leave Nashville if he still wants to play one more season. The Oilers have already indicated they’re bringing back Smith. Dubnyk’s performance has really declined over the last two years. Other free-agent options include former Leafs James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier or the Hurricanes’ Petr Mrazek.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2021

Could Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas or Sheldon Keefe lose their jobs following another early playoff exit by the Leafs? Could the Florida Panthers try to acquire Penguins center Evgeni Malkin? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN/THE ATHLETIC: Lance Hornby and Jonas Siegel wondered if heads will roll in the Maple Leafs’ front office or among the coaching staff following the club’s early playoff exit.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com).

Brendan Shanahan’s in his seventh season as team president but the club’s postseason woes continue. General manager Kyle Dubas has been in the role three years and head coach Sheldon Keefe completed his second season.

Hornby and Siegel raised some questions about several of the moves made by the franchise in recent years and the overall performance. However, they don’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to lose their jobs. They instead anticipate an assistant coach such as Manny Malhotra, Dave Hakstol or Paul MacLean or goalie coach Steve Briere could become a sacrificial firing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun’s Steve Simmons also doesn’t expect Shanahan, Dubas or Keefe to be fired. One or two of the assistant coaches could be replaced. The Leafs’ struggling power play could cost Malhotra his job.

Hornby wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs see which goaltenders are available in the summer’s trade and free-agent markets. If nothing’s worthwhile there, he suggests returning with Jack Campbell and either David Rittich or a goalie from within their system. He doesn’t expect Frederik Andersen will be re-signed.

Of the Leafs’ other unrestricted free agents, Hornby feels Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza and perhaps Alex Galchenyuk should be signed. Siegel thinks restricted free agent Travis Dermott will be an affordable re-signing.

With defenseman Morgan Rielly a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, Siegel believes the Leafs must decide on his future this year. Trading Rielly would fetch assets and clear cap space but the move would also leave a big hole on their blueline.

As for shopping a core player such as Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Siegel preaches caution here. Making change for change’s sake could set the Leafs back several years, pointing to the Boston Bruins’ trading Tyler Seguin in 2013 and the Edmonton Oilers trading Taylor Hall in 2016.

Both pundits believe the Leafs could lose Dermott or Alex Kerfoot in the expansion draft unless the Leafs cut a side deal with the Seattle Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have to tread carefully as Siegel suggests. Nevertheless, they must fully evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine what moves are necessary and what’s available to address their needs.

They’ve still handcuffed themselves with those big contracts for Marner, Nylander, John Tavares and Auston Matthews. The latter two, of course, aren’t going anywhere. Tavares has a full no-movement clause while Matthews is coming off a Richard Trophy performance despite his lack of production in the series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Marner, Nylander or Rielly are the prime trade candidates if they wish to shake up the core. Each would fetch significant returns in the trade market. By moving one of them, however, they must ensure they’re not creating one problem by trying to fix another.

Losing Rielly could hurt the Leafs the most as it could prove difficult to replace him on the blueline. If they’re going to trade him they better be sure they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up.

Their depth at center suffered against the Canadiens when Tavares and Nick Foligno were injured. They’ll have to address that issue if Foligno isn’t re-signed and they lose Kerfoot to the Kraken. Finding a suitable goaltender to split the duties with Campbell is a must. So is replacing Hyman if he departs via free agency.

The Leafs sacrificed speed for experienced grit this year. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have physical players in their lineup but they can’t be the slowfooted kind.

They could also end up pursuing bargain players via trades or free agency if they don’t make a significant cost-cutting move. Cap Friendly shows them with nearly $69 million tied up in 14 players. They will get some relief depending on which player they lose in the expansion draft, but not enough to make an impact addition.

THE LATEST PANTHERS SPECULATION

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards shot down a recent report in the New York Post speculating Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville could head to the Seattle Kraken. “No one is taking it too seriously,” said Richards, pointing out Quenneville is among the NHL’s highest-paid coaches and appears very happy in his current job.

Richards wondered what the Panthers will do with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Keith Yandle. They’re the club’s highest-paid players with a combined annual average value of $16 million. However, both were healthy scratches during the Panthers’ final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round series.

Both players have no-movement clauses plus Bobrovsky has a lot of years left on his contract. After seeing GM Bill Zito trade Mike Matheson and his contract last year, Richards doesn’t rule out the possibility of trading Bobrovsky or Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards considers it important for the Panthers to free up some salary to re-sign pending free agents such as Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Montour. They’ll also have to consider long-term cap space to sign Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to contract extensions over the next couple of years.

Zito didn’t sign Bobrovsky and Yandle to those contracts. He inherited them from his predecessor. Moving Matheson was easier because he lacked no-trade protection and had a more affordable $4.875 million cap hit. Trading those other two presents a bigger challenge for Zito.

Yandle could be easier to move than Bobrovsky. The 34-year-old blueliner’s got two years left on his deal with an annual average value of $6.35 million. It will require some creativity, perhaps a third-party broker and it could cost the Panthers a couple of draft picks or prospects to make happen in a package deal. Still, they’d have a better chance at moving Yandle than Bobrovsky’s $10 million AAV for the next five years.

Jimmy Murphy reported there have been numerous rumors over the last two years linking Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to the Panthers. Malkin lives in Florida with his family during the offseason.

Murphy cited an NHL source with direct knowledge of the situation saying he believes there is and has been mutual interest there. However, they’re stuck with Bobrovsky’s big contract plus they’re planning to sign Barkov to an expensive new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers’ rumored interest in Malkin first surfaced when Dale Tallon was the general manager. I doubt that’s the case now under Bill Zito. Even if he found a way to shed Bobrovsky’s salary, I don’t think he’ll use the savings to acquire an aging Malkin.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

The Leafs face an interesting summer after another first-round exit plus the latest Seth Jones speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LEAFS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes Toronto Maple Leafs management shouldn’t panic and make any rash moves following yet another first-round playoff exit. He points to how the Washington Capitals got sent into “a philosophical crisis” for several seasons after falling to another underdog Montreal Canadiens squad in 2010.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner become a trade candidate this summer? (NHL Images)

Wyshynski feels the Leafs’ window of opportunity remains wide open. He suggests they rethink their supporting cast by opting instead for players with speed, rather than bring in those with experience as they did this season. He also proposes they look to this summer’s trade and free-agent markets for someone to share the goalie duties with Jack Campbell.

Of their eight unrestricted free agents, Wyshynski believes they’ll bring back Zach Hyman given his contributions to the first line.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox wondered where the Leafs go from here. He thinks forwards Hyman and Jason Spezza are worth re-signing, as well as defenseman Zach Bogosian if he’d accept another one-year, $1 million contract. They could lose center Alex Kerfoot to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.

If the affordable Campbell ($1.65 million) remains their starting goalie, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas will have sufficient cap space to assemble a new supporting cast around their star players.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel doesn’t see the Leafs trading Auston Matthews. John Tavares’ no-movement clause takes him off the table as well. That leaves Mitch Marner and William Nylander. While both would fetch considerable returns, they would be difficult to replace on the roster.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt wonders what the future holds for former San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton after his quest to win the Stanley Cup this year with the Leafs fell short. Thornton turns 42 on July 2 and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Witt wonders if he’ll retire or return for a 24th NHL season. If he can’t land with another Cup contender, perhaps he’d consider returning to the Sharks if they approached him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Wyshynski. Leafs management must avoid overreacting in this situation. They still have a talented core of mostly young talent to reload around and try again next season. They should build up the speed and skill among their forwards and defense, and bring in a reliable backup for Campbell.

Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have almost $69 million invested in 14 players next season. They’ll get an additional $3.5 million if Kerfoot is selected by the Kraken. Should re-sign Hyman, Spezza and Bogosian to affordable deals, they’ll still have to go bargain hunting to address their needs through trades and free agency.

Trading Marner or Nylander could help to address some of the Leafs roster needs. As Siegel pointed out, however, moving either guy will create another roster issue to address.

Thornton has probably played his final NHL game. His lack of speed was apparent against the Canadiens and I don’t think he can be effective over a full 82-game schedule. I understand his desire to win a Stanley Cup, but I don’t see him landing with a contender now. I also doubt the Sharks will bring him back for a last hurrah after seeing how diminished Patrick Marleau was this season.

LATEST SETH JONES SPECULATION

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin examined several possible trade destinations for Seth Jones after the defenseman informed the Columbus Blue Jackets he intends to test next summer’s free-agent market.

He feels the best hockey fits would be the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Winnipeg Jets, with the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils as possible sleepers. The Los Angeles Kings could be the best all-around fit for Jones, though he plays the same side on defense as Drew Doughty.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports two clubs reached out to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen after the news broke over the weekend of Jones’ intentions. He expects Kekalainen to receive a flood of calls this week from other clubs. The Kings could be the early favorite. Portzline expects the Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens could be major players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An elite defenseman available in the trade market doesn’t happen every summer. Jones will draw plenty of interest but it’ll come down to which teams have the depth in tradeable assets and the cap space to potentially sign him to a new contract. Indeed, Jones’ willingness to sign an extension with the acquiring club could be the key factor determining his trade destination.

The Kings certainly seem the best fit in that regard but they could prefer adding a top-four left-side defenseman unless Doughty or Jones is willing to play second-pairing minutes. The Blackhawks would have the cap room once they work out the long-term injury reserve gymnastics for all-but-retired Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw.

The Canadiens have plenty of draft picks, prospects and promising youngsters to draw upon for trade bait but I don’t see them pursuing him unless he commits to a long-term extension. With over $69 million invested in 18 players, they can afford his current $5.4 million cap hit but it would leave them overcrowded on the right side with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry already there.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

Are the Oilers making progress in Nugent-Hopkins’ contract talks? Will they trade or buy out Mikko Koskinen or James Neal? Could Oscar Klefbom be exposed in the expansion draft? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Oilers general manager Jim Matheson faces a long to-do list this summer. Topping that list is signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a new contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (NHL Images).

Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay but Matheson wondered if Holland will go higher than $6 million per season or $5.5 million and over five years. He also feels the Oilers see him now as a top-six left-winger rather than a center and want to pay him as such.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson’s colleague David Staples cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming Nugent-Hopkins contract talks haven’t gone well and his status remains uncertain. They were apparently close to a deal before the season began but things fell apart at the last minute.

Plenty of time for the two sides to work things out. I’d get concerned, however, if they haven’t gotten any closer when the calendar flips to July. Nugent-Hopkins will draw plenty of interest around the league if he goes to market on July 28. Someone will pay him what he wants.

The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old goaltender Mike Smith. As for Mikko Koskinen, Matheson believes his return is less than 50-50. They might not buy out Koskinen but Matheson wondered if they’d absorb part of the goalie’s $4.5 million cap hit to facilitate a trade or include a player or draft pick to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples noted Friedman said buying out Koskinen was a possibility. He also cited NHL insider Brian Lawton telling Oilers Now show host Bob Stauffer the Oilers shouldn’t bring Koskinen back. However, Staples suggests finding a suitable replacement this summer won’t be easy.

Koskinen, 32, struggled at times this season and wasn’t a reliable backup for Smith. He has just one year left on his contract. I think Holland will try to trade him, even if it means eating some of his salary. Failing that, he’ll probably go the buyout route at a cap hit of $1.5 million for 2021-22 and 2022-23 as per Cap Friendly.

Turning to the blueline, Matheson wondered if Holland will leave Oscar Klefbom unprotected in the expansion draft. He’d be taking a chance on the Kraken being scared off by the defenseman’s season-long absence with a shoulder injury.

Pending UFA blueliner Tyson Barrie is looking at a long-term deal and will see what’s out there. Matheson expected Holland will re-sign Adam Larsson, perhaps around the same $4.1 million range of his current deal. The question is whether it’s three or four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland must also ensure he’ll have sufficient long-term cap space to sign Darnell Nurse to a contract extension. He’s slated to become a UFA next summer but contact talks can begin this summer. If Klefbom is selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft it’ll free up $4.1 million from their cap payroll, giving Holland extra room to sign Nurse or make other moves.

Matheson considers it likely Holland will buy out veteran winger James Neal. Doing so would free up $3.83 million in each of the next two seasons to target an unrestricted free agent winger such as Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Toronto’s Zach Hyman. If Neal is bought out, Matheson sees him returning to Pittsburgh where he had his best seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Mark Spector believes Holland should buy out Neal, considering him dead cap space already at $5.75 million annually and barely playing. It would count as $1.92 million over the next four years against the Oilers cap.

He also suggests Holland should explore trading Neal, absorbing half his salary for the final two years of his contract to make it work. However, he feels there would have to be something else included in the deal.

A trade is possible. A buyout is more likely. And no, he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin like him. He’s a fading star who won’t address the Penguins’ need for a better starting goalie and more skilled toughness in their lineup.

Matheson also suggested St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Vegas Golden Knights versatile forward Mattias Janmark and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth as possible free-agent targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland would have better luck landing Janmark and/or Nemeth than Schwartz. The Blues hope to re-sign him. Failing that, he’ll draw considerable interest in the free-agent market. The Oilers might not win a bidding war for his services.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2021

What does the future hold for Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What players could the Blackhawks target via free agency? How will the Stars address their goaltending logjam? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE OILERS RE-SIGN NUGENT-HOPKINS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wonders what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ next contract will look like and whether it’ll be with the Edmonton Oilers. The versatile 28-year-old forward is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s coming off a seven-year deal worth an annual average value of $6 million.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Derek Van Diest wondered if Nugent-Hopkins has played his last game with the Oilers. He claims he’s not thinking about free agency right now, adding his goal is to stay in Edmonton. Nugent-Hopkins was the third-highest paid Oilers behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman believes a new contract for Nugent-Hopkins with the Oilers could get tricky. Oilers general manager Ken Holland must be careful not to offer too much money or term, assuming he brings Nugent-Hopkins back. There were reports of progress in contract talks at various points in the season but nothing got done.

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes the Senators should give Nugent-Hopkins a long look if he hits the open market on July 28. He could be a good fit centering the Senators’ second line alongside winger Tim Stuetzle if they could sign him within a $5 million to $5.5 million range per season on a long-term contract.

Has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played his final game with the Edmonton Oilers? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins’ contract status is the Oilers’ biggest priority this offseason. He could see if he can get a better deal via free agency if the Oilers offer a deal similar to this current salary or less. If that happens, Holland will be scrambling to find a suitable replacement via free agency or the trade market.

The Senators could approach Nugent-Hopkins if he becomes available. If they’re unwilling to come up over Warren’s suggested range, however, they won’t be among the suitors for long.

The flattened salary cap will affect Nugent-Hopkins’ efforts to land a more lucrative contract. Nevertheless, don’t rule out the ability of general managers with lots of cap space to overpay for talent when the free-agent auction fever hits.

POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Phil Thompson recently examined some of the Blackhawks’ biggest needs for next season. They require a top defenseman, more consistent scoring threats, and more size in front of the net.

The Blackhawks could still have over $10.8 million in long-term injury salary relief from Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw for next season, though GM Stan Bowman has hinted certain factors could affect that. Nevertheless, Thompson believes they should have sufficient cap space after re-signing affordable young RFAs such as Adam Gaudette, Pius Suter and Brandon Hagel.

Thompson wondered if the Blackhawks would be in the market for a defenseman like Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton or Edmonton’s Tyson Barrie, or forwards such as Toronto’s Zach Hyman or Florida’s Alexander Wennberg. More affordable options could include Arizona’s Michael Bunting, Boston’s Mike Reilly, Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Detroit’s Luke Glendening.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowman could pursue a big-ticket UFA but I think he’ll seek more affordable veteran options to augment the younger players he’s bringing into the roster. Much of what he’ll do, of course, will depend upon how much cap space he’ll have to work with.

Cap Friendly indicates the Hawks have over $76 million invested in 23 players for 2021-22. Placing Seabrook and/or Shaw on LTIR will help but those factors Bowman alluded to could complicate things. The Blackhawks GM could attempt to get around that by shopping their contracts to teams seeking cap relief or those attempting to stay near the $60.2 million cap floor next season.

STARS HAVE OPTIONS TO ADDRESS CROWDED CREASE

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks examined several options facing the Dallas Stars to address their crowded goal crease. They currently carry three goaltenders in Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger. Khudobin and Oettinger were their regular tandem this season while Bishop recovered from knee surgery that sidelined him the entire season.

One option is the Seattle Kraken select Khudobin in the expansion draft. Bishop has a no-movement clause and there’s no indication he’ll waive it to be exposed in the draft. Oettinger is exempt from the expansion draft.

Sending Oettinger back to the AHL next season is another option as he’s waiver-exempt until he plays 24 more NHL games. They could also trade or waive Khudobin, carry all three goalies next season, or return with the Khudobin-Oettinger tandem if Bishop isn’t ready to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oettinger is the Stars’ future starter and outplayed Khudobin this season. GM Jim Nill could prefer the youngster as Bishop’s backup for next season.

Nill could attempt to trade Khudobin before the July 21 expansion draft rather than lose him to the Kraken for nothing. While he backstopped the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, his struggles this season could hurt his value in the trade market. It could also make the Kraken think twice about selecting him unless Nill offers up an incentive like a draft pick or prospect in a side deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton topped Frank Seravalli’s recent list of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell indicated in March the two sides agreed to put aside contract talks until the end of this season. Sources claimed a big gap exists between how much the Hurricanes are willing to pay and what Hamilton’s camp believes is his market value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it makes little sense for the Hurricanes to sign Hamilton before the expansion draft. That would mean protecting him at the expense of perhaps losing blueliner Jake Bean to the Seattle Kraken.

However, the Kraken has a three-day window before the expansion draft to interview pending free agents. Things could get interesting if Hamilton is willing to listen to what they could offer.

Seravalli excluded Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog from this list. There’s no indication either player will be leaving their respective clubs. Both would impact their team’s expansion protection lists if they sign before July 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs could be comfortable waiting until after July 21 to re-sign them if both players are determined to stay put.

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf was also excluded. The Ducks are open to having him return for another season but it remains to be seen if he’ll look elsewhere to chase another Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf, 36, could be back for one more year. Several factors – including his family, his health and his willingness to accept a lesser role with the rebuilding Ducks – will determine his future.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman and Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers hope to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins but that will depend on what he’s seeking in terms of salary. He’s completing a seven-year, $42 million contract. Barrie’s future in Edmonton is less clear.

Mutual interest exists between Hall and the Bruins in talking contract after this season but that will depend on his playoff performance. Hyman wants to stay in Toronto and the Leafs want to keep him but their limited salary-cap space could be an issue.

Seravalli includes former Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet on his list at No. 6. He believes Tocchet will draw interest from multiple teams.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault and Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg fill out the top-ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask on a short-term deal if he’ll accept less than his current annual average value of $7 million. Martinez and Danault face uncertain futures with their current clubs as there’s little indication of contract talks. Wennberg rejuvenated his career in Florida. Panthers GM Bill Zito knows him from their days with the Jackets, signed him last fall, and could ink him to a new deal.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman, Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Blake Coleman checked in at Nos. 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Sabres hope to re-sign Ullmark. Whether he wants to stay is another matter. Hoffman was hoping a big season in St. Louis would bolster his stock in this summer’s UFA market. His inconsistent play, however, could put a lucrative new deal further out of reach.

Recent reports out of Edmonton suggest the Oilers are close to a new deal with Larsson. Andersen’s injury history and his uneven playoff performances could hurt his value but not enough to prevent him from landing with another NHL club. Coleman’s physical two-way style and decent scoring touch will draw plenty of attention if he tests the market.

Colorado Avalanche winger Brandon Saad, Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri, and Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak fill in spots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs likely won’t have the cap space to re-sign Saad as they’ll be keeping Landeskog plus goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar must be signed. The Blues prefer to keep Schwartz but their limited cap space will make it difficult to do.

Granlund could be an affordable re-signing for the Predators. Palmieri’s stock took a tumble in the regular season but could rebound with a strong postseason effort. The Stars could part ways with Oleksiak as they’ll need their limited cap room to re-sign blueliner Miro Heiskanen.

Bruins center David Krejci, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Lightning defenseman David Savard and Bruins blueliner Mike Reilly are in spots 21-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could re-sign Krejci on an affordable short-term deal, especially if they can also retain Taylor Hall. The Jets could retain Stastny if he’s agreeable to a cost-effective contract.

The Canadiens will likely cut ties with the inconsistent Tatar. Savard was a playoff rental for the Lightning as was Reilly with the Bruins. Savard will draw interest from clubs seeking a shutdown blueliner.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci, Arizona Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski, Leafs forward Nick Foligno, Canadiens winger Corey Perry and Coyotes forward Michael Bunting complete the top 30.