NHL Rumor Mill – January 18, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 18, 2022

​​Will the Flyers trade Claude Giroux? Will the Oilers pursue a goaltender with term on his contract? What could the Flames and Ducks do? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently examined four NHL clubs facing critical roster decisions over the remainder of this season.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux (NHL Images).

Boylen believes real questions about the Philadelphia Flyers’ core have to be asked. He cites colleague Elliotte Friedman recently saying they have questions about their identity and where they’re headed after last summer’s moves failed to bring about any improvement this season.

Friedman believes Flyers captain Claude Giroux could be traded to a Stanley Cup contender with the possibility of returning to Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Boylen also speculated pending UFA defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen seems likely to be moved by the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the question to be asked is whether Chuck Fletcher is the right general manager to fix this club. They showed some promise in 2019-20 but have since been on the downslide.

Fletcher was applauded for acquiring Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators last summer and cannot be faulted for Ellis missing most of this season to injury. However, he gave up a first-round pick to acquire Ristolainen.

Giroux could agree to be moved to a contender by the trade deadline but one wonders if he’ll want to return to a club that’s been spinning its wheels for most of the last 10 years. He could decide to finish his playing career elsewhere.

The Flyers also need a new coach. They continue to flounder under interim Mike Yeo after firing Alain Vigneault several weeks ago.

Boylen also explored the Edmonton Oilers’ current season-threatening tailspin. Given their precarious position in the standings, he doubts GM Ken Holland will pursue a rental player, citing his unwillingness to part with a first-round pick or one of his top prospects for a quick fix.

Holland could prefer adding a player with term remaining on his contract. Boylen believes adding a defenseman like Jakob Chychrun isn’t a pressing need when they require a reliable starting goalie. He points out someone like the New York Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov or Montreal Canadiens’ Jake Allen makes a lot of sense on the surface.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland has to be feeling the heat from ownership and fans to do something to reverse his club’s fortunes. However, he’s aware he’s dealing from a position of weakness and will have to give up more than he’s comfortable with to address his goaltending.

The Islanders and Canadiens are in worse straits than the Oilers right now but their respective managements probably aren’t feeling the same pressure as Holland. I doubt Isles GM Lou Lamoriello is being goaded to move Varlamov or Canadiens hockey ops VP Jeff Gorton is being pushed to shop Allen. That doesn’t mean those goalies aren’t available but acquiring either one could cost a draft pick or prospect that Holland would prefer to keep.

Boylen also wondered what the Calgary Flames will do with pending UFA Johnny Gaudreau. The winger is having a terrific season so it might make sense to extend him how. However, if they do that and the Flames miss the playoffs or get bounced in the first round again, they’re right back where they started. If they wait and he plays well in the postseason he could decide to test the market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen believes much of what the Flames do with their roster will depend on their performance this season. Another disappointing effort could see Gaudreau hit the open market this summer. Gaudreau’s declined to talk about his contract and his agent and Flames management are maintaining a cone of silence on the matter.

The Anaheim Ducks have several veterans like Hampus Lindholm who are slated to become UFAs this summer. However, they’re also contributing to the club’s better-than-expected effort this season. They also have an interim GM in Jeff Solomon while they search for a full-time replacement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks could retain those UFAs if they’re still in the thick of the playoff chase. However, they’ve struggled in recent weeks and could slide out of contention if they don’t get back on track soon. A slide down the standings could lead to guys like Lindholm, Josh Manson and Rickard Rakell hitting the trade block by the March 21 trade deadline.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 14, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 14, 2022

Tuukka Rask makes a triumphant return to the Bruins, the 2022 All-Star Game rosters and captains are revealed but several notable players are passed over, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tuukka Rask made 25 saves in his season debut as he backstopped the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. David Pastrnak tallied all of the Bruins’ goals, including the game-winner on the power play to snap a 2-2 tie in the second period. Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist for the Flyers while teammate Carter Hart turned aside 33 shots. With 44 points, the Bruins moved to within three points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Penguins, they fell 6-2 to the Los Angeles Kings as the latter tallied four unanswered third-period goals, including three in a span of 1:23. Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored twice and set up another while Sean Durzi had a three-point performance and Jonathan Quick made 27 saves. The Kings (43 points) move into third place in the Pacific Division.

Nikita Kucherov collected two assists and Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 24 shots as the Tampa Bay Lightning doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. The Lightning holds a two-point lead over the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings with 55 points. The Canucks have lost three of their last four contests.

The New York Rangers Rangers got a 37-save shutout from Igor Shesterkin in a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Chris Kreider scored twice, including his first NHL shorthanded goal. Braden Schneider scored in his first NHL game. The Rangers (52 points) sit atop the Metropolitan Division while the Sharks (41 points) still cling to the final Western Conference wild-card berth with a one-point lead over the Calgary Flames.

Speaking of the Flames, they were upset 4-1 by the Ottawa Senators. Nick Paul tallied twice while Matt Murray made 27 saves for his first win of the season. The Flames have dropped four straight games.

Connor Hellebuyck picked up the shutout with a 33-save performance to blank the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Andrew Copp scored two goals and Kyle Connor scored shorthanded. The Jets (39 points) are two points behind the Sharks and one back of the Flames.

A four-goal third period carried the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 6-0 thumping of the Carolina Hurricanes. Elvis Merzlikins turned in a 31-save shutout and Yegor Chinakhov scored two goals. The loss leaves the Hurricanes two points behind the Rangers in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Third-period goals by Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich lifted the St. Louis Blues over the Seattle Kraken 2-1. The Blues extended their home points streak to 13 games while the Kraken have lost eight straight. With 49 points, the Blues are one point behind the first-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division.

The Predators, meanwhile, saw their five-game win streak halted in a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Jeff Skinner tallied twice while Aaron Dell made 29 saves for the Sabres.

Mathew Barzal broke a 2-2 tie to lift the New York Islanders over the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Barzal’s teammates Zach Parise and Josh Bailey each collected two points as the Isles’ played their first game in 11 days.

Philipp Kurashev scored in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2, handing the latter their five straight loss. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane also scored to snap a 13-game goalless drought. The Canadiens played without goalie Jake Allen, who is sidelined for a week with a lower-body injury. Teammate Chris Wideman also missed this game as he’s serving a one-game suspension for head-butting Boston Bruins forward Erik Haula.

HEADLINES

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar were among the notable first-time selections for the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game to be held in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 5.

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid were named captains of their respective division squads as chosen by fan voting.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow the link to see the full rosters as well as the candidates for the “Last Man In” for each division to be decided by fan voting.

THE SCORE: Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin were among the notables passed over for selection.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The exclusion of Markstrom, Rantanen and Ekblad could be a result of being overshadowed by their more well-known teammates. Marchand’s snub is likely tied to his well-earned reputation for questionable play.

Shesterkin still isn’t as well-known as he should be, though his profile should improve if the Rangers remain among the league’s top clubs. It won’t help him become a participant in this year’s All-Star Game but could help him garner recognition for next season’s event.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: A partial tear in a thumb tendon has sidelined Oilers goaltender Mike Smith for at least a week, possibly two. The club has recalled Stuart Skinner from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Signing Evander Kane could help resolve that issue…oh, wait, he’s not a goaltender…never mind…

SPORTSNET: Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome, New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere and Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny are among the notable players added to the NHL’s COVID protocol on Jan. 13.

AHL’s Iowa Wild signed Eric Staal to a professional tryout contract.

TSN: The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said individual active NHL players will not be permitted to take part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, any player under an NHL contract cannot participate in the Beijing Olympics.

THE SCORE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Quebec finance minister Eric Girard the league isn’t aware of any opportunity at this time that would lead to a franchise returning to Quebec City.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As one observer noted on Twitter, that was Bettman’s polite way of saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Oh, and for those of you saying, “What about the Arizona Coyotes?”, should that club be relocated, it’ll likely be to another American city in the Western Conference such as Houston.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2022

Some suggested goaltending trade targets for the Oilers plus the latest on the Rangers and Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLEURY, HOLTBY AMONG SUGGESTED OILERS GOALIE TARGETS

SPORTSNET: Marc-Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Dallas Stars’ Braden Holtby are two of Rory Boylen’s suggested targets to address the Edmonton Oilers’ struggling goaltending.

Could the Edmonton Oilers target Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury? (NHL Images)

The others include the Seattle Kraken’s Chris Driedger, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo, the New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov and the Montreal Canadiens’ Jake Allen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen goes into detail examining the pros and cons of each option and I recommend giving it a read. I’m just going to offer up my brief take.

I don’t think the Oilers can afford to take on Fleury’s $7 million annual average value given their limited cap space. They’ll have to get the Blackhawks to retain part of it and that’s going to mean tossing a sweetener into the deal. They could try to get another club to act as a third-party broker but it could end up costing the Oilers their first-round pick. That’s assuming the Oilers aren’t on Fleury 10-team no-trade list.

The Stars could peddle Holtby if they’re out of playoff contention by the trade deadline but I think they’d be keen to retain him beyond this season as a mentor for promising Jake Oettinger. Holtby could be willing to stick around as playing in the Lone Star State seems to agree with him. They are willing to part with Anton Khudobin, who’s in the minors after passing unclaimed through waivers last month. Teams are said to be calling about Khudobin but we don’t know if the Oilers are among them. He carries an affordable $3.33 million cap hit but has another year left on his contract.

Driedger could be available but he’s got two more years on his contract and I think the Oilers are more interested in a rental at this stage. Besides, I don’t see him as an upgrade over the current crop of Oilers goaltenders.

The Isles could be willing to move Varlamov if they’re comfortable with Ilya Sorokin as their full-time starter. However, his 16-team no-trade list and $5 million cap hit likely take him out of the equation for the Oilers.

Uncertainty over what the Canadiens’ new management will have in store for their roster at the trade deadline accounts for Allen’s inclusion on this list. He’s got a year left on his contract with an affordable $2.875 million cap hit but the Habs aren’t under any pressure to move him out, especially given Carey Price’s undetermined future. I wouldn’t rule it out but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Habs hang onto Allen.

Korpisalo seems the more realistic trade target. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and isn’t expected to be back after the Blue Jackets committed to Elvis Merzlikins as their starter. Promising Daniil Tarasov could be Merzlikins’ full-time backup next season. Kopisalo has an affordable cap hit ($2.8 million) and lacks no-trade protection.

LATEST ON THE RANGERS AND KRAKEN

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple looked at possible rental defense options for the New York Rangers. The most expensive would be the Canadien’s Ben Chiarot but Staple is skeptical that their newly install hockey ops VP Jeff Gorton would be interested in helping the club that spectacularly dumped him last May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He might if they offered up a first-round pick for Chiarot, which some pundits believe is the going rate for a blueliner of his caliber.

Staple also mused about the Chicago Blackhawks’ Calvin de Haan, the Seattle Kraken’s Mark Giordano, and the Blue Jacket’s Vladislav Gavrikov.

NEW YORK POST: Ethan Sears cited ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes suggesting the Rangers could use another top-six winger. He suggested the Canadiens’ Tyler Toffoli as a possibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have plenty of promising young assets to use as trade bait if they wish to seek immediate help, especially for someone with term on their contract carrying an affordable cap hit like Toffoli. Whether there’s a deal to be made with the Canadiens is another matter, especially if Gorton turns out to be as reluctant to help the Rangers as Staple believes.

THE ATHLETIC: Ryan S. Clark believes the Seattle Kraken could be in a good position to use the March 21 trade deadline to their advantage. They have six players on expiring contracts, including Mark Giordano, Calle Jarnkrok and Marcus Johansson. Those three could have value to playoff contenders, allowing the Kraken to acquire some future assets while clearing some cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giordano will draw considerable attention and would fetch the best return. Jarnkrok’s versatility and two-way play would also generate interest. Johansson’s injury history and declining production could hurt his trade value.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – December 17, 2021

The latest Canadiens speculation and an update on Evander Kane in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Marc Antoine Godin spoke with several NHL scouts regarding the potential trade value of several notable Montreal Canadiens players.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

Several clubs could have an interest in goaltender Carey Price but his hefty contract and no-movement clause make him difficult to trade. It could be worthwhile testing Jake Allen’s trade value if Price returns from offseason knee surgery later this season as they already have Sam Montembault and Cayden Primeau as backups. Allen could fetch a first-round pick.

Jeff Petry could draw some interest from clubs seeking a second-pairing defenseman and could bring in perhaps a couple of draft picks. His $6.25 million annual salary cap hit and no-trade clause are stumbling blocks.

Ben Chiarot is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 30-year-old defenseman could be worth a first-round pick if he remains healthy.

Left winger Brendan Gallagher is another who would draw interest but whose expensive contract and no-trade clause could make him difficult to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Godin touched on several other Canadiens (including Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Toffoli) but I’m focusing on those who’ve surfaced most frequently in the rumor mill. The piece is also behind a paywall so you’ll need a subscription to read the entire thing. I’ve also encapsulated the takes on the aforementioned as Godin and the scouts he spoke with go into great detail over each player’s potential value.

Changes will be coming for the Canadiens, most likely starting around the time of the March 21 trade deadline. Pending UFAs like Chiarot, Brett Kulak, Mathieu Perreault, Cedric Paquette and Chris Wideman will be shopped. I wouldn’t be surprised if a restricted free agent with arbitration rights like Artturi Lehkonen ends up on the trade block if they’re unwilling to sign a long-term deal.

The biggest changes could occur in the offseason. One or two could involve an expensive core player such as Price, Petry or Gallagher. Maybe one or two players with a year or two left on their contracts, such as Drouin or Toffoli, get peddled this summer. We’ll just have to wait and see what executive VP of hockey ops Jeff Gorten and his new general manager have in store.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen observed several NHL clubs sent scouts to follow scandal-plagued San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane as he works on his conditioning and timing with their AHL affiliate.

A Red Wings scout was in attendance at one of Kane’s AHL games but there’s no confirmation he was there to follow the 30-year-old winger. Allan doesn’t believe Kane is the type of player the Wings need given his age and expensive contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s well-documented off-ice issues and reputation for being a dressing-room hasn’t dissuaded some clubs from considering the possibility of adding him to their roster. He’s a reliable scorer who plays with a physical edge.

The Sharks are said to be willing to retain part of his salary to facilitate a trade. I’m with the camp that believes it could take a three-team deal to spread his $7 million cap hit around to get it done. We’ll see if there’s any serious interest in him in the coming weeks.