NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill: the Jack Eichel trade speculation resurfaces, questions about Sam Reinhart’s future in Buffalo, and wondering whether the Predators will expose Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen in this summer’s expansion draft.

LATEST EICHEL AND REINHART SPECULATION

WGR 550: Appearing on “The Instigators”, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger speculated Jack Eichel might not be playing with the Buffalo Sabres next season. He’s heard the Los Angeles Kings have an interest in Eichel and thinks the 24-year-old could be a good fit there. However, he also believes the Sabres will hang onto their captain if they don’t get the return they want.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl recently noted Sam Reinhart’s stock was high before the trade deadline. He claimed there’s interest in the 25-year-old Sabres winger. Reinhart is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer coming off a one-year, $5.2 million contract and is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Vogl envisioned several possible scenarios for Reinhart, such as the Sabres trading him during the 2021 NHL Draft, re-signing him for a year to see if the club improves and shopping him as a rental next season if they don’t, or signing him to a long-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is going to be a decisive summer for the Sabres, one that finally puts them on the right track toward building a playoff contender or keeps them mired in an already decade-long streak of mediocrity. It’ll come down to whatever decisions general manager Kevyn Adams makes with Eichel and Reinhart.

Eichel lacks no-trade protection this summer, giving Adams the flexibility to trade him to any NHL club. He’s also under contract for the next five seasons with a whopping $10 million annual average salary.

A lot of teams will be interested in Eichel but few can afford the cost in dollars and tradeable assets (first-round draft picks, top prospects, promising young players) to pry him away from the Sabres. The Kings could be one of those few if GM Rob Blake hopes to accelerate his club’s rebuilding program.

Reinhart would be a much more affordable asset if Adams puts him on the trade block but the Sabres GM could seek at least a first-round pick and a top prospect or promising young player in return. An acquiring club must also negotiate a new contract for him if the Sabres haven’t re-signed him first.

WILL PREDATORS LEAVE DUCHENE AND JOHANSEN UNPROTECTED?

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan and Ryan S. Clark recently wondered if the Nashville Predators might leave forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen unprotected in this summer’s expansion draft. Both carry $8 million annual salary-cap hits but struggled to live up to contract expectations. The Seattle Kraken would need to be incentivized to take one of them. Others clubs will also attempt to expose high-salaries players in the hope the Kraken will take them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan and Clark point out Kraken GM Ron Francis will have leverage in this situation. They suggest the Predators would have to add a sweetener like a draft pick and/or a prospect and possibly some salary retention to make Duchene or Johansen palatable to the Predators.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.

It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.

Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.

Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.

UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.

We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”

Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.

An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible. 










Time For The Predators To Part Ways With GM Poile

Time For The Predators To Part Ways With GM Poile

 










NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2021

Five players who could use a change of scenery, more Victor Mete trade speculation and some suggested changes for the Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD USE A TRADE

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott, the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, the Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen need fresh starts on new teams.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn is among several players who could use a change of scenery (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Larkin but there are various reasons why these players might not be moved this season, if at all.

The Flames are reportedly reluctant to move Bennett because of his value as a proven playoff performer. Larkin also noted if they move him they’ll have to protect someone else in this summer’s expansion draft.

Dermott’s having trouble earning a full-time spot this season on Toronto’s blueline. Larkin points out he’s in nearly every Leafs rumor and would be perfect trade bait to add another forward. The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel suggested a Dermott-for-Sam Bennett swap if they can make the dollars work.

Dunn is probably the most likely on this list to get traded. Larkin feels it’s only a matter of time until he’s moved. The Blues reportedly seek a first- or second-round pick in return. There are several clubs that could use him but finding the right fit is the sticking point. The Blues at this point don’t seem in a hurry to trade him.

Mantha’s a big, fast forward with good offensive skills but his inconsistency and injury history hurt his trade value. So does his $5.7 million annual average value.

Virtanen has come up a lot of late in trade rumors but reports out of Vancouver suggest there’s not much of a market for him. He’s brought that on himself with his poor play. Maybe he’ll finally reach his full potential on a different team but there doesn’t appear to be a general manager out there willing to take a chance on him.

MORE METE SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston lists the Red Wings, Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres as clubs that could show interest in Victor Mete. The agent for the Montreal Canadiens defenseman recently went public with a trade request for his client, angering Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

Mete’s been a frequent healthy scratch as he’s become the odd man out on the Canadiens’ blueline. However, they haven’t sent him to their taxi squad because another club could scoop him up off waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Flames with Bennett, the Canadiens aren’t rushing to ship out Mete. They’d prefer hanging onto him as insurance in case injuries strike their defense corps.

Steven Ellis of SI.com/The Hockey News believes Mete would be a good value pickup for teams seeking blueline depth. Those clubs listed by Johnston could be potential destinations for the 22-year-old rearguard whenever Bergevin decides to honor his trade request. However, that move probably won’t happen until the offseason unless one of those clubs makes an irresistible pitch before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

LATEST ON THE PREDATORS

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked what the struggling Nashville Predators should do to avoid sliding into years of becoming a bad team with bloated contracts.

Vingan believes the Predators should become sellers by the April trade deadline if they’re still out of the playoff running by then. He advocates moving players on one-year contracts (Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Brad Richardson) for draft picks. They should also consider moving defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who has one year remaining on his cap-friendly contract.

The next step is trying to unload Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen in this summer’s Seattle expansion draft. He suggested using some of the draft capital acquired at the trade deadline and/or throw in a player to sweeten the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan acknowledged all of this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I agree with his take. The Predators have been trending downward since winning the President’s Trophy in 2017-18. They’re near the bottom of the Central Division and the overall standings. It’s time for GM David Poile to acknowledge the obvious that his roster needs at least a significant retooling.










NHL Players Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 4

NHL Players Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 4

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 9, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 9, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s games, stars of the week, additional Sabres, Devils and Wild game postponed by COVID-19 protocols, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz picked up his 850th career win as his club blanked the New York Rangers 2-0. Trotz moves past Ken Hitchcock into third on the list of all-time career victories by NHL coaches. Semyon Varlamov picked up the shutout with a 30-save performance while Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin were the goal scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Trotz on his milestone. He’s 81 victories behind Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, who’s second with 931. Scotty Bowman is the all-time leader with 1,244 wins.

The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Jack Roslovic’s third-period goal, but it was Patrik Laine’s benching that garnered headlines. The Jackets winger didn’t play in the final 26:19 of the game. Head coach John Tortorella said the benching wasn’t about one play but was “part of the process of understanding our team concept, how we do things here, the discipline of being a pro.” Laine had no shots and had a plus-minus of minus-1 during his 11:14 of ice time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Welcome to playing under Tortorella, Patrik Laine. Torts’ critics will suggest this might force the recently-acquired winger to reconsider re-signing with the Jackets as a restricted free agent this summer. However, Laine will adjust and adapt to his new coach and his system. As long as he’s getting first-line minutes and scoring opportunities, he’ll do whatever Tortorella wants him to do on the ice.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Auston Matthews extended his goal streak to eight games and collected his 300th career point by scoring the game-winner in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Frederik Andersen made 31 saves for the win.

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 27 saves in his season debut in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Leon Draisaitl (two points) and Connor McDavid (one point) extended their points streaks to 10 games. Smith was activated off long-term injury reserve earlier this week.

The Tampa Bay Lightning extended their win streak to five games by beating the Nashville Predators 4-1. Anthony Cirelli scored twice for the Lightning. Earlier in the day, the Predators placed center Ryan Johansen (upper body) on injured reserve. He’s listed as week-to-week.

Clayton Keller’s game-tying goal in the final second of regulation set the stage for Christian Dvorak’s shootout winner as the Arizona Coyotes nipped the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper kicked out 40 shots in regulation and overtime. Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and collected an assist.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 7.

The NHL also postponed additional games for the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild because of COVID-19. A decision on when these teams can resume practice and their game schedule will be made in the coming days.

The number of Wild players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list grew to 11 with the additions of Victor Rask and Carson Soucy on Monday. Wild general manager Bill Guerin confirmed one staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus.

NJ.COM: The Devils have a league-leading 19 players on the protocol list as Connor Carrick, Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen were added on Monday.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Yerdon reports Rasmus Dahlin joined the Sabres’ list, raising their number to nine players. Two linesmen who worked the Sabres-Devils game when the outbreak is believed to have taken place have also entered protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The growing number of sidelined players and game postponements is raising concerns over the league’s handling of its COVID-19 protocols and of the effects upon the schedule.

The league remains intent on maintaining its 56-game schedule and making up those postponed games. However, some critics are calling for a league-wide postponement until the COVID curve is flattened or reduced but that’s unlikely to happen. Some suggest the schedule could be shortened in order to meet the May 9 completion of the regular season while others believe that the end date could be pushed forward toward late May or early June.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman expressed concern for Brent Seabrook. The 35-year-old defenseman remains sidelined by a back injury and there’s no timetable for his return. The Blackhawks also announced defenseman Adam Boqvist has come off the COVID-19 protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowman indicated Seabrook’s back injury occurred prior to training camp. It appears to be the result of several injuries he played through and underwent surgery for last season.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs confirmed winger Wayne Simmonds suffered a broken wrist during Saturday’s game against the Canucks and will be sidelined for at least six weeks.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals got some good news as Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov and Justin Schultz returned to practice on Monday. Kuznetsov and Samsonov were taken off the COVID protocol list. Schultz was recovering from a facial injury suffered on Jan. 28.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin returned to practice yesterday following a one-game team disciplinary suspension for being late for practice on Saturday. Khudobin downplayed the incident, saying he had a good conversation with head coach Rick Bowness and accepted his punishment.