NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 5, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 5, 2018

Latest on the Leafs, an update on Boone Jenner, Jared Boll retires and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t believe his club’s recent signing of John Tavares will affect efforts to re-sign young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Asked if the Leafs can afford to keep all four during a recent interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, Dubas replied, “We can, and we will.” Nylander is a restricted free agent, while Matthews and Marner are both entering the final season of their entry-level contracts. 

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is confident his club can afford John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner & William Nylander (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have just over $16 million in projected salary-cap space for 2018-19.

That’s more than enough to re-sign Nylander for perhaps between $5 – $6 million annually and leave enough to fill their remaining five roster spots, including perhaps a top-four defenseman via trade. Depending on how much they invest in contracts that stretch beyond 2019-20, they’ll have enough to re-sign Matthews and Marner.

However, as I pointed out in a recent Featurd.io article, the cost of re-signing them might leave limited cap space next summer to replace or re-sign unrestricted free agent defensemen Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner, or to address any roster weaknesses that should crop up over the next year. 

THE ATHLETIC’s Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets are closing in on a new four-year contract for restricted free agent forward Boone Jenner. 

Portzline also profiles former Blue Jackets enforcer Jared Boll, who announced his retirement following 11 NHL seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boll spent nine of those seasons with the Blue Jackets, followed by two with the Anaheim Ducks. In 579 NHL games, he scored 28 goals, 66 points and amassed 1,298 PIMs.

NBC SPORTS: Former NHL players Nathan Oystrick is the new head coach of the Humboldt Broncos. He takes over the role formerly filled by the late Darcy Haugan, who died in a bus crash in April that killed 16 people and injured 13.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Osytrick spent three seasons in the NHL with the Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues. 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2018

Latest on the Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues in your NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BLUE JACKETS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan lists re-signing Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Zach Werenski to contract extensions, restocking the defense and acquiring scoring depth as the offeseason keys for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Panarin, Bobrovsky and Werenski all have a year remaining on their respective contract, with Panarin and Bobrovsky eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2019.

Could Columbus Blue Jackets winger Boone Jenner become a trade candidate this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

While the Blue Jackets have a solid top defense pairing in Werenski and Seth Jones, there’s uncertainty elsewhere on the blueline, with Jack Johnson and Ian Cole both due for UFA status this summer and Ryan Murray a restricted free agent. A decision will have to be made about RFA winger Boone Jenner, whose production slipped over the past two seasons. Pending UFA winger likely won’t be back unless it’s a bargain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have over $61 million invested in 19 players. That’s more than enough to re-sign or replace this year’s notable free agents such as Vanek, Cole, Johnson, Jenner and Murray. However, GM Jarmo Kekalainen must be careful not to tie up too much cap space beyond next summer. That’s when the big raises expected for Panarin, Bobrovsky and Werenski will kick in. 

Vanek was useful down the stretch but he was eventually demoted to the fourth line in the series against the Capitals. I doubt he’ll be back. As Kaplan observed, Kekalainen could be reluctant to invest too much in Johnson. Murphy and Cole could be affordable re-signings. As for Jenner, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Kekalainen quietly gauging his value on the trade market. 

UPDATE ON THE SABRES’ GOALTENDING

THE BUFFALO NEWS: John Vogl recently examined the Sabres options if they decide to pass on re-signing RFA goaltender Robin Lehner in favor of promoting Linus Ullmark as their starter. Vogl believes Sabres general manager Jason Botterill “hardly made it sound like a contract was coming” for Lehner.

Options via unrestricted free agency include St. Louis’ Carter Hutton, Boston’s Anton Khudobin, Colorado’s Jonathan Bernier, Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen, Florida’s Harri Sateri, the New York Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak,  Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson and Carolina’s Cam Ward, It doesn’t appear as though the Sabres intend on re-signing Chad Johnson.

Vogl wonders if Toronto’s Garrett Sparks might be available via trade. He also notes the Vancouver Canucks crease could get crowded with Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilson under contract beyond this season and Thatcher Demko knocking on the door. He considers it highly unlikely the Canucks part with Demko.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Sabres could shop him before the June draft. If Ullmark is to be their starter, there are some pretty good veteran backup options to draw upon in this summer’s free agent market. The best of the bunch is Hutton but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blues re-sign him before July 1. 

LATEST BLUES SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford dismissed one reader’s suggestion of the St. Louis Blues shipping goatender Jake Allen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brian Elliott. He also considers the notion of acquiring center Ryan Getzlaf from the Anaheim Ducks more of a long shot than signing New York Islanders center John Tavares via free agency. He believes it’s wishful thinking to assume the Ducks will trade Getzlaf.

Rutherford doesn’t see the Blues shipping defenseman Colton Parayko to the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, pointing out it would create a big hole on their blueline. Ha addressed the possibility of bringing back center Paul Stastny via free agency, believing the only way this makes sense for the Blues is if they’re adding someone else and if Stastny comes on the cheap.

He also thinks free agent Ilya Kovalchuk could give the Blues what they need: “a guy who can finish.” That could also be a longshot.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues GM Doug Armstrong already confirmed Allen will return as the starting goaltender next season. I agree with Rutherford’s take on Parayko. I don’t see Stastny returning. Kovalchuk’s priority appears to be the Rangers but if he’s available it’s worth looking into if the contract is right. 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2018

Latest on Erik Karlsson plus updates on the Red Wings, Sabres and Blue Jackets more in your NHL rumor mill.

Speculation of an Erik Karlsson trade is growing (Photo via NHL Images).

SENATORS LISTENING ON KARLSSON

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has been, and still is, engaged in some level of trade dialogue regarding defenseman Erik Karlsson with perhaps more than half-a-dozen teams. If the Senators get an “acceptable” offer, Karlsson could be dealt by Monday’s 3 PM ET trade deadline. To the best of his knowledge, McKenzie said Dorion hasn’t received any formal offers for Karlsson and he’s more likely laying the framework of what a possible deal could look like.

The talk is it could take five, six or seven piece, consisting of good young players, top prospects and first-round picks. However, if a team is also willing to take Senators winger Bobby Ryan in the deal, the price could be discounted. Ryan, 31, has four years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $7.25 million. That provision, however, could severely limit the number of interested teams. Karlsson, meanwhile, is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

McKenzie said the Tampa Bay Lightning are likely to lead the Karlsson trade speculation. They’re loaded with picks and prospects, but the Senators could seek promising center Brayden Point, as well as budding young defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, as part of the return. Moving Point to acquire Karlsson would fill a hole on the blueline but create another at forward. McKenzie believes the next 24-48 hours will determine if a Karlsson trade goes down, though he feels it’s still a big “if” at this point.

McKenzie’s colleague Pierre LeBrun reports a Western Conference GM suggests Dorion could be laying the groundwork for a possible Karlsson trade in the offseason. While playoff contenders could be willing to pay more now to acquire Karlsson for two playoff runs, they could be unwilling to dip too much into their roster core. An offseason deal, on the other hand, would involve more teams with more salary cap and roster flexibility.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports there’s rampant recent speculation about Karlsson. He said Dorion isn’t shopping his captain and franchise player but teams have been calling to inquire into Karlsson’s long-term future in Ottawa. Garrioch cites three league executives expressing doubt Karlsson gets deal by the deadline, though another suggested the Sens could strike while the iron is hot. The Senators won’t know how much it could cost to re-sign Karlsson until July 1, when they can open contract extension talks. If it appears it will be difficult to re-sign him, they’ll have a good idea which teams could be interested in him based on the inquiries they receive now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted yesterday, a Karlsson deal at the trade deadline is possible but a lot of things must fall into place to make it happen.

First, the interested parties must be on Karlsson’s trade list. If they’re not, and if he’s unwilling to broaden his list, he won’t be going anywhere at the deadline.

If the team is on his list, do they have sufficient cap space to take on his $6.25 million cap hit or the combined $13.5 million if they’re to take on Karlsson and Ryan? As per Cap Friendly, not many teams do right now. Cup contenders, such as Tampa Bay, will have to ship out a big chunk of change to make this fit. Even if the Sens were willing to pick up part of Karlsson’s cap hit (or part of the combined hit for Karlsson and Ryan), that’s still a potentially hefty cap hit to take on at this point in the season.

Third, of course, is the asking price. Five, six or seven pieces involving young players, top prospects and first-round picks is a helluva lot. For the club acquiring Karlsson or Karlsson-Ryan, such a deal could adversely affect their overall roster depth and team chemistry. Even if you get a discount by taking on Ryan as part of the deal, you’ve got to figure the Sens will still want a good young NHL player, a top prospect and a first-round pick.

The Lightning are often listed as being a front-runner for Karlsson. However, Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith doesn’t see Lightning GM Steve Yzerman overpaying at the trade deadline, citing Yzerman’s comments that deadline deals don’t guarantee a Stanley Cup.  

Again, it’s possible Karlsson could be dealt at the trade deadline. Such a deal, however, seems more likely to occur this summer, when clubs are flush with cap dollars and more willing to swing trades involving superstars.

LATEST ON THE SENATORS AND RED WINGS

OTTAWA SUN:  Bruce Garrioch also reports the Senators are getting “boatloads of interest” in forwards Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenceman Cody Ceci. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers could have interest in centers Brassard and Pageau. Garrioch suggests Hoffman or Smith could be good fits with the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins or Vegas Golden Knights. Moving Ceci might not make sense if the Sens are contemplating a move of Karlsson. Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya could be moved.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James lists defenseman Mike Green, forwards Gustav Nyquist, Andreas Athanasiou and Luke Glendening and blueliner Xavier Ouellet as Red Wings who could be on the move by the trade deadline. Green is open-mined to waiving his no-trade clause. Nyquist would also have to waive his no-trade and the Wings might have to pick up part of his $4.75-million cap hit. St. James speculates Athanasiou could be a good trade chip if they get an offer of a high-end defense prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators appear reluctant to move Brassard or Pageau because it could adversely affect their depth at center. They could be less likely to move Hoffman because of the chemistry he’s established with Matt Duchene. Smith or Oduya seem like more likely trade options. I agree with Garrioch that trading Ceci seems less likely if the Sens are considering an eventual move of Karlsson.

Green appears a goner by the deadline. Indeed, I think he could end up with the Lightning at the trade deadline, as he’d be a much more affordable option than blowing their brains out on a Karlsson trade. Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have surfaced in recent trade chatter but the Wings will probably only move one of them. Moving Athanasiou for a top defense prospect seems like a move that happens in the offseason. 

UPDATES ON THE BLUE JACKETS AND SABRES

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Steve Gorten interviewed Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen on the state of his team and possible plans for the upcoming trade deadline. Kekalainen said he’s going to try not to move a roster core player, such as Boone Jenner, in search of help for his lineup. He feels the biggest remedy for his team is for them to start playing on the level they should. He also doesn’t want to give up his top prospects, young players or his first-round pick in 2018 for playoff rentals.

Kekalainen hopes to get a substantial piece for defenseman Jack Johnson, who requested a trade earlier this season. If the return is comparable to what the Minnesota Wild gave up last season for Martin Hanzal (a first- and a second-round pick), they might have to think about that. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in Oilers center Mark Letestu. 

WGR 550: Paul Hamilton reports Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane believes he’ll be moved by the trade deadline. Hamilton also suggests defenseman Josh Gorges and forwards Benoit Pouliot and Jacob Josefson could also become trade candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Jackets in danger of falling out of the playoff race, Kekalainen could be feeling pressure to make a significant move at the trade deadline. It sounds, however, like he’s not going to just ship out Johnson for just a draft pick. Perhaps  he’d like to use Johnson as a trade chip to perhaps bring in a forward who can help his club right way. I expect Kekalainen will do something by the deadline, but it remains to be seen if it’s a substantial deal. 

I expect Kane will get deal by Monday. Don’t see much interest in Gorges, Pouliot or Josefson but that doesn’t mean one of them couldn’t be dealt. 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – February 9, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – February 9, 2018

Latest on the Rangers plus updates on Jeff Skinner, Boone Jenner, Mike Green, Jack Johnson and more in your NHL rumor mill.

New York Rangers winger Rick Nash is the hot topic right now in the NHL rumor mill (Photo via NHL Images).

UPDATES ON RICK NASH

TSN: Darren Dreger reports agent Joe Resnick, who represents New York Rangers winger Rick Nash, has spoken with at least eight-to-10 teams that have some degree of interest in his client. Dreger believes the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars could be atop Nash’s list of preferred destinations, but it could be tricky for both clubs because they don’t want to shift their dynamics. He noted Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock has a history with Nash from their days with the Columbus Blue Jackets but he wonders if the winger can be a fit there.

Pierre LeBrun feels Nash could affect the trade value of Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. The Sabres set a high asking price for Kane, but whatever the Rangers get for Nash could set the market for Kane.

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston listed the Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, Blue Jackets, Stars, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders as 10 potential trade destinations for Nash.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Predators are the front runner as Nashville GM David Poile is rumored to be seeking a scoring winger. Depending on the asking price, he could make a pitch for Nash. I still think the Penguins prefer to bolster their depth at center but I wouldn’t rule out GM Jim Rutherford chasing a scoring winger. However, I think he’d prefer one with speed, like Nash’s teammate Michael Grabner. The Jets are expected to be buyers this year but it’s possible Nash might reject a trade to Winnipeg.

We probably shouldn’t rule out a possible reunion with the Blue Jackets, but is he really a good fit there now? The Jackets are stumbling and need some scoring punch and inspired leadership. Stars GM Jim Nill said he’s not looking to make a big splash at the trade deadline, but that remains to be seen. The Blues certainly could use some help at left wing and could be among the clubs with interest in Nash.

I think the Capitals are more interested in adding a veteran defenseman. The Flames, Sharks and Islanders are reportedly unwilling to part with young players, high draft picks or top prospects for rental talent so Nash is probably not a fit with them. 

MORE FROM TSN’s INSIDERS

Dreger also reports there’s some trade buzz regarding Rangers forwards J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider. The latter is recovering from a blood clot in his right arm but could return to action in mid-March.

Bob McKenzie speculates Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green’s list of acceptable trade destinations could be a small one. Green, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in July, carries a full no-movement clause. McKenzie reports the Wings’ asking price is either a first-round pick and a prospect or a second- and a third-round pick. He also notes trade chatter frequently links Green to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

LeBrun believes the Columbus Blue Jackets could seek either a forward or a low first-round pick for defenseman Jack Johnson. If they can’t land that forward, they could try to move Johnson for that pick and then make a separate deal for a forward.

Dreger thinks the Vegas Golden Knights could attempt to add to their roster before the deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting to see Miller and Kreider pop up in the rumor mill. If the Rangers goal is to retool with younger players, one would think Miller (24) and Kreider (26) would be worth retaining. Still, it’s believed they’re willing to listen to offers for almost everyone on their roster. Green likely wants to go to a team that’ll give him the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup. If the Bolts are interested I can see him agreeing to be dealt to Tampa Bay. 

TSN TRADE BAIT BOARD CONTINUES TO GROW

Frank Seravalli reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner is the most notable of the 10 new names added to TSN’s trade bait board, expanding the list to 40 names. He claims the Canes aren’t actively shopping the 25-year-old Skinner but could be willing to entertain offers. Seravalli suggests growing friction between Skinner and head coach Bill Peters combined with the club being recently taken over by new ownership could lead to things coming to a head for the winger, if not at the deadline then perhaps in the offseason. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner reached a career-best 37 goals and tied his career-best points total (63) last season, so his decline this season is troubling. However, I think that’s due in part to the Canes lack of offensive depth at center. They’re among this season’s lowest-scoring teams. Trading away one of their leading scorers isn’t a good idea unless they’re seeking an offensive center in return. 

Seravalli also noted Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner is also having a tough season, receiving 10 percent more ice time this season but seeing his production down to less than half of his 30-goal performance two years ago. That could adversely hurt his trade value and Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t like to sell low.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli notes Kekalainen didn’t give up on Cam Atkinson a couple of years ago and was rewarded for his patience. He could do the same with Jenner, though it doesn’t hurt to at least listen to offers. 

Other new names include “Flames prospect Jon Gillies, Wild centre Matt Cullen and Habs centre Tomas Plekanec. The board’s other newbies are Canucks defenceman Ben Hutton, Red Wings winger Gustav Nyquist and Maple Leafs spare forward Josh Leivo.” After dropping Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner and Chicago defenseman Cody Franson last week, Seravalli brings them back.

 











NHL Rumor Mill – February 8, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – February 8, 2018

Latest on the Rangers, Leafs, Blue Jackets, Islanders, Bruins, Flames, Wild and more in your NHL rumor mill.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman once again brought up the possibility of New York Rangers winger Rick Nash widening his list of preferred trade destinations if a team not on his list makes a competitive offer to the Blueshirts. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Nash and fellow UFA Michael Grabner returned to the Rangers this summer. He also sees the Boston Bruins being in on Grabner and perhaps defenseman Nick Holden for depth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As long as the asking price for Grabner isn’t a high pick or top prospect (see below), the Bruins could consider adding Grabner. 

Friedman also repeated that trade speculation regarding Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly was shot down. Depending on what the Minnesota Wild do, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Pittsburgh Penguins try to bring back center Matt Cullen.

“Trade that might make sense only to me: something around Justin Faulk from Carolina to Detroit for Andreas Athanasiou.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not sure if the Wings would do that deal. Despite Athanasiou’s ill-advised contract holdout last summer, the Wings apparently still see him as a key piece of their rebuilding plan. Faulk’s performance, meanwhile, has noticeably declined this season. 

Could Columbus Blue Jackets winger Boone Jenner become a trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

Friedman’s also keeping an eye on Chicago’s Brandon Saad, Columbus’ Boone Jenner and Arizona’s Tobias Rieder. The three forwards are struggling this season. Jenner and Rieder are also restricted free agents this summer with arbitration rights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (see below) also noted Jenner’s decline this season and guesses the Jackets might be willing to part with him to land a forward such as Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman. I don’t think the Blackhawks are keen to move Saad, as he’s still a young player (25) with size and two-way skills. Rieder, on the other hand, could be on his way out if he and the Coyotes can’t work out a suitable contract to avoid arbitration. 

Friedman believes the Colorado Avalanche will retain defenseman Tyson Barrie unless someone “stuns them” with an offer of a forward. The Avs have some promising blueliners in their system but none are ready yet for full-time NHL duty.

It’s unlikely the Vancouver Canucks will get some clarity about the Sedins’ future by the trade deadline. The twins are due to become unrestricted free agents in July. They’re also attempting to re-sign defenseman Erik Gudbranson but it’ll be interesting to see if the two sides are on the same page. “Among those whose value they are testing: Ben Hutton and Anders Nilsson.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs are at the maximum 50 contracts. Forward Josh Leivo has requested a trade as he’s not seeing enough playing time in Toronto. Forward Nikita Soshnikov could also get moved as he’s no longer waiver exempt. The Leafs apparently seek “a higher-than-expected price for both players.” Friedman also thinks they could absorb part of winger Matt Martin’s salary to move him, saying they’ve checked with the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders (see below) aren’t keen to part with high draft picks for rental players. Martin is signed through 2019-20 with a $2.5 million cap hit but Snow isn’t going to overpay to bring him back.  If the Leafs want a third or a fourth rounder for Martin, maybe Snow considers it. 

Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he decides to return to the NHL, it’s believed he’s eyeing New York.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will New York be eyeing him? That’s something we’ll have to wait until the summer to find out. 

LATEST ON THE WILD AND BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC:  In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline addressed some trade questions and speculation from Blue Jackets fans. He can see the Jackets having interest in Ottawa Senators speedy winger Mike Hoffman. Noting the decline in Boone Jenner’s play, he guesses the Jackets might be willing to part with him to land a forward such as Hoffman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jenner is a big, versatile forward but his production has eroded since his career-best 30-goal, 49-point effort in 2015-16. At 24, he still has upside and could improve if given more playing time as a top-six winger. Maybe the Sens could be enticed by his size, youth and all-around skills. Hoffman, however, has a 10-team no-trade list and the Jackets could be on it. 

Portzline also said the Jackets have dismissed a rumor claiming Brandon Dubinsky had requested a trade. He also doesn’t know if Columbus is on Rick Nash’s list of trade destinations but he’d be shocked if it wasn’t, pointing out the winger loves the city and still lives there. However, he isn’t sure if Nash is a fit with the Jackets, who need someone to “elevate the pace of play and crank up the passion.”

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher once again face big decisions with the trade deadline approaching. The Wild are jockeying for a playoff berth in the tough Central Division. Fletcher is averse to moving his 2018 first-round pick and lacks a second and a fourth in this year’s draft. Russo doesn’t see the Wild parting with Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway or Kirill Kaprizov.

Russo noted there’s been trade chatter regarding forwards Charlie Coyle and Matt Cullen and defenseman Mike Reilly, plus the Wild have three third-round picks and some promising prospects. If the Wild can’t find a suitable short-term replacement from within for sidelined defenseman Jonas Brodin, perhaps Fletcher could be more in the market for a blueliner than a scoring winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fletcher could also be wary of making another big deadline splash after giving up a 2017 first-round pick, a second rounder this year and a conditional pick next year to Arizona last season for playoff dud Martin Hanzal. I expect he’ll wait and see how his club performs over the next couple of weeks before deciding if he needs to make a move. 

FLAMES, ISLANDERS AND BRUINS RELUCTANT TO MOVE DRAFT PICKS

SPORTSNET: Calgary Flames president Brian Burke suggested his club’s need for a scoring winger could be addressed internally with the return of Kris Versteeg from hip surgery. He said his club won’t be parting with high draft picks for a rental player, noting they don’t have many picks in this year’s draft to spare. “We’re not going into [2019] picks … unless it’s an extraordinary circumstance.”

NEWSDAY: Steven Marcus reports New York Islanders GM Garth Snow reiterated he’s not moving center John Tavares at the trade deadline. The club’s intention remains re-signing their captain before his eligibility this summer for unrestricted free agent status.  He also said he’s unlikely to add players at the deadline if the cost is high draft picks. Snow acknowledged he’s carrying two first- and two second-round picks in the 2018 draft but is reluctant to part with them for rental players.

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s appearance on NBCSN discussing possible moves by the surging Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. He believes the Bruins management and coaching staff would, in a perfect world, prefer adding a top-six or top-nine scoring winger, but he’s not sure they’re willing to part with draft picks and/or prospects for rental players if the asking prices remain high by the deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: None of this means the Flames, Islanders and Bruins won’t make any moves at the deadline, but it’s clear they’re unwilling to pay the big asking prices for this year’s top playoff rental players. If those prices come down, perhaps they’ll become more interested in acquiring such players. 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – December 7, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – December 7, 2017

Updates on the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.

SABRES GOALIES DRAWING INTEREST

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports Sabres goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson could be attracting interest from clubs with sidelined netminders seeking additional depth between the pipes. He notes Lehner ($4 million) and Johnson ($2.5 million) are on one-year contracts and promising Linus Ullmark could be ready to take over the starter’s job by next season. There are goaltending injuries in places like Edmonton, Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that could lead those teams to look to Buffalo for help.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner could draw the most attention though his salary could be an issue unless the Sabres pick up part of it. GM Jason Botterill could also seek a higher return for Lehner. Johnson, who’s more affordable, has a decent record as a backup. The Oilers and Penguins were reportedly among the clubs with the most interest in those two. Given the struggles of Laurent Brossoit, perhaps the Oilers could take a closer look at Johnson. 

SENATORS TO LOOK TO WITHIN?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports limited trade options could force Senators GM Pierre Dorion to look to within to find help for his struggling club. Garrioch said only “the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are active in the trade market,” and feels the real problem for the Senators is few players are performing up to their full capabilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With only one victory in their last nine games, the Senators must turn things around soon or risk falling into a hole in the standings too deep to climb out of. They’re five points out of third in the Atlantic Division and nine points out of a wild-card spot.

As for those clubs Garrioch claims are active in the trade market, the Sabres are making minor moves right now, the Jackets could seek a depth center, the Oilers need goaltending help and the Sharks need scorers. Doesn’t appear any of them at this point are good fits for the Sens. 

LATEST ON THE BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline addressed some questions from Columbus Blue Jackets fans regarding possible moves by their club. With the Jackets winning eight of their last 11 games, he doubts they’ll make a trade now simply for the sake of doing so. He expects GM Jarmo Kekalainen could make a move near the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Replying to a reader’s question about including winger Boone Jenner in a trade for a No.1 center, Portzline doesn’t think he’d be out of the question in those type of discussions. However, moving Jenner means the Jackets would lose “a lot of their gumption along the wall and in the corner.”

Regarding the status of struggling center Alexander Wennberg, Portzline feels the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois means moving out Wennberg “is no longer a non-starter.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blue Jackets currently aren’t in any rush to swing a deal. Doesn’t mean Kekalainen isn’t monitoring the trade market, as we know he was interested in center Matt Duchene before Colorado dealt him to Ottawa last month. However, Dubois’ solid play thus far on the Jackets’ first line suggests their need for a No.1 center is no longer a top priority. Instead, they could look at bringing in a skilled No.3 center.

After consecutive 40-plus point seasons (59 in 2016-17), Wennberg is on pace for only 35 points this season. Perhaps he might benefit from a change of scenery. As for Jenner, the return must be significant for Kekalainen to part with him.