How would a new contract for Filip Forsberg affect the Predators’ salary-cap payroll next season? Can the Oilers afford to sign Evander Kane? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked what it would mean for the Nashville Predators’ salary cap if they signed Filip Forsberg to a new contract in the range of $9 million per season. The increase of next season’s salary cap to $82.5 million would leave the Predators with $26.2 million in cap space.
Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).
Setting aside $9 million for Forsberg, Vingan believes they have enough to re-sign such players as Luke Kunin and Yakov Trenin to modest raises. It would also mean trimming payroll around the edges such as replacing backup goaltender David Rittich with Connor Ingram. He advised the Predators to spend wisely as Alexander Carrier, Dante Fabbro and Tanner Jeannot will need new contracts following 2022-23.
Asked if Ryan Johansen’s resurgence this season could make it possible for the Predators to trade him, Vingan pointed out he’ll soon turn 30 and has three more seasons left on his deal with an annual cap hit of $8 million. He doubted there will be many takers unless the Predators retain some salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forsberg is 27 and likely seeking an eight-year deal worth between $8 million and $9 million per season. Predators general manager David Poile will obviously attempt to sign him at the low end of that asking price and perhaps seek a shorter-term close to five years.
I concur with Vingan regarding Johansen. Poile would have to retain some salary in a trade, something he’s never done.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins recently pondered how the Oilers can hang onto Evander Kane. He’s had a positive effect on the lineup since joining them two months ago as an unrestricted free agent after the San Jose Sharks bought out his contract.
Making that happen could require some hard decisions about younger players such as Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, who will become restricted free agents this summer. Both have endured highs and lows this season, leaving Leavins to wonder whether they’ve shown enough to invest in for the long term or perhaps one or both receive short-term bridge deals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s future with the Oilers could also depend upon the outcome of the grievance he filed against the Sharks for terminating his contract. If an arbiter determines Kane should receive most or all of the remainder of his contract with the Sharks ($7 million AAV through 2024-25) while allowing him to remain a free agent, it shouldn’t cost much for the Oilers to retain him if he wants to stay.
Andre Burakovsky pots his first career hat trick, Max Pacioretty sets a Golden Knights record, Alex Pietrangelo has concerns about COVID protocols for the Winter Olympics, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.com: Colorado Avalanche winger Andre Burakovsky tallied his first career hat trick in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Burakovsky broke a 2-2 tie in the third period as the Avs picked up their fourth straight win while snapping the Panthers’ five-game points streak.
Colorado defenseman Jacob MacDonald was stretchered from the ice in the second period following a hit by the Panthers’ Ryan Lomberg. He was said to be “alert, responsive and has full movement” and undergoing further evaluation. The Avs also played without captain Gabriel Landeskog as he’s sidelined for two weeks with a lower-body injury. Earlier in the day, they placed goaltender Jonas Johansson on waivers after recalling Pavel Francouz from their AHL affiliate.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty (NHL Images).
Max Pacioretty pushed his goals streak to a franchise-record six games as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Minnesota Wild 6-4. Pacioretty and Mark Stone each had a goal and two assists to extend their points streaks to eight games while teammate Chandler Stephenson picked up four assists. The Wild (39 points) still lead the Western Conference but have lost two straight games.
The Vancouver Canucks picked up their fourth win in as many games under new head coach Bruce Boudreau by holding off the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson scored for the Canucks. Martin Necas replied for the Hurricanes, who played without leading scorer Sebastian Aho due to a non-COVID-related illness.
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros had a 32-save shutout to blank the New York Rangers 1-0. Philip Tomasino scored the game’s only goal in the Predators’ fifth consecutive win, bringing Rangers’ goalie Alexandar Georgiev’s three-game win streak to an end. Earlier in the day, the Predators placed center Ryan Johansen in COVID protocol.
The Anaheim Ducks defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on an overtime goal by Troy Terry, who also scored the tying goal in the third period on a penalty shot. St. Louis forward Nathan Walker had a goal and an assist. Blues forward Jordan Kyrou missed the game with an upper-body injury.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has expressed concern about the potential COVID-19 protocols in Beijing and is uncertain if he’ll participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Pietrangelo was already named to Canada’s roster along with the Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid and the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby.
“I’ve got four kids that are under the age of 3 1/2. For me to be potentially locked up there for five weeks plus the Olympics, that’s a long time being away from my family,” said Pietrangelo. He indicated he won’t make a decision until the players receive further clarification on the COVID protocols for the Olympics.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chinese law states people who test positive for COVID-19 face a quarantine period of between three to five weeks. It remains to be seen if there will be exemptions for Olympic participants.
The NHL and NHLPA have until Jan. 10 to opt-out of Olympic participation without facing financial consequences. League commissioner Gary Bettman expressed concern last week over those protocols but said he’d leave it up to the players to decide if they’ll participate in the Beijing Games.
Other NHL players could share Pietrangelo’s concerns. A number of them could back out of participation rather than risk a lengthy quarantine in China without pay if they contract COVID-19 during the Olympic tournament.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo faces a deadline to fulfill his mandatory military service in Finland before the end of the regular season. All Finnish males between 18 and 28 must serve a required number of days of compulsory service.
The Finnish government released a statement indicating athletes like Korpisalo, who turns 29 on Apr. 28, will begin their service on Apr. 11. However, the Blue Jackets regular season ends on Apr. 29. The required service is 165, 255 or 347 days depending on the assignment.
Korpisalo said he put off his service due to his offseason training schedule. His passport expires in a year’s time and the Finnish government won’t issue him a new one until he completes his service.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Portzline pointed out it was easier in the past for Finnish athletes to avoid service but the rules were changed several years ago. Korpisalo said he wouldn’t leave the Jackets to do his service while their season was ongoing. However, this could affect his chances of getting a new NHL contract this summer when he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agent status.
ESPN.COM: The Chicago Blackhawks placed forward Reese Johnson on injured reserve with a broken right clavicle.
The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.
NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.
Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.
The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.
The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.
TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.
Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.
TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.
Speculation persists over possible destinations for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (NHL Images).
The Kings are considered early favorites, given their extra second and third-round picks and impressive depth in young forwards and prospects to offer up as trade bait. The Blackhawks also have extra picks and depth in prospects plus they hold the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Johnston suggests the Oilers could feel pressure to add a defenseman if Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie depart this summer via free agency. Lacking extra draft picks, GM Ken Holland might have to part with one of his young players. The Flyers, meanwhile, would have to move a few bodies to free up cap space.
The Canadiens have extra picks and several players coming off the books this summer. Johnston suggests Jones would be an ideal replacement for Shea Weber if the Habs could find a way to move his $7.75 million annual cap hit. The Red Wings have the draft capitals to do it with 12 picks in this year’s draft, seven of those in the first three rounds.
As for the Leafs, the comments of GM Kyle Dubas and winger Mitch Marner suggest he’s not going anywhere. Nevertheless, Johnston wondered if he’d be off the table for a defenseman like Jones.
OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito could shoot for a reunion with Jones. Zito was the Blue Jackets former assistant GM before taking the full-time gig with the Panthers.
Brennan, however, thinks the Colorado Avalanche could make a pitch for Jones. They’re bound to lose a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. He also believes the Leafs will have to get creative to land Jones.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The team with the depth in draft picks, prospects and young players plus the cap space to ink Jones to a long-term extension is the most likely to pry him away from the Jackets in this summer’s trade market. The Kings and Blackhawks seem to be the favorites but that depends on their willingness to meet what’s bound to be an expensive asking price by the Jackets.
One of those other teams mentioned by Johnston and Brennan could surprise us with some intricate wheeling-and-dealing. The key remains the willingness of Jones to sign an extension with the acquiring club. If he’s noncommittal that will narrow the field of potential suitors, making it difficult for the Jackets to get a significant return.
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes it’s time for the Predators to shake up their core. He also suggests they consider trading the oft-injured Arvidsson. While Arvidsson’s contract isn’t prohibitive, the $8 million annually being earned by Duchene and Johansen could leave the Predators eating part of their salary or adding a draft pick in the deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Arvidsson would be easier if he were healthier, but if he were healthier, the Predators would have little reason to move him. His $4.25 million AAV isn’t expensive but he’s signed through 2023-24. It could be difficult finding suitors with the salary cap remaining flat for next season.
Moving Duchene and Johansen will be very difficult given their contracts and poor performance. GM David Poile could attempt to get a third team involved to broker a deal but that could still mean he’ll still have to absorb part of their salaries to make it work.
I doubt the Kraken will select Duchene or Johansen if they’re exposed in the draft. It would take a significant sweetener to convince them. Even then, I think they’d balk at paying out $8 million annually for a player with several seasons remaining on his contract.
WILL THE CANUCKS ADD A FORWARD VIA FREE AGENCY?
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston recently examined possible free-agent forward targets for the Vancouver Canucks. They have holes to fill at center and right wing but a tight budget could hamper efforts to address those needs.
Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg would be an interesting option but he’s not going to be cheap coming off a 17-goal season. The same goes for Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman, who tallied 14 goals. More affordable options could include Vegas’ Tomas Nosek, Chicago’s Vinnie Hinostroza or Carolina’s Steven Lorentz.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Canucks GM Jim Benning can find a way to shed some burdensome contracts, he’ll have to go to the bargain bin this summer.
Are offseason changes coming for the Predators? Has Evgeny Kuznetsov played his final game with the Capitals? Are the Senators interested in Flyers captain Claude Giroux? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PREDATORS?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan believes it’s time for the Nashville Predators to start incorporating more young players into their lineup. She also anticipates they’ll prioritize re-signing defenseman Mattias Ekholm if he seeks a long-term extension before his contract expires next summer.
Could the Nashville Predators attempt to trade Matt Duchene this summer? (NHL Images).
Free-agent goaltender Pekka Rinne won’t be back as Juuse Saros has taken over the starter’s job. Kaplan proposed trying to entice the Seattle Kraken into selecting Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene in this summer’s expansion draft.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Rexrode believes the Predators must figure out where they are and how to get to the next level. Assuming long-time general manager David Poile isn’t asked to leave or doesn’t step down, he’ll have to figure out what to do with Johansen, Duchene and pending free agent Mikael Granlund.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Attempting to unload overpaid underachievers Johansen and Duchene won’t be easy. Both have several seasons remaining on their respective contracts with each carrying an $8 million annual average value. They lack no-trade protection but those contracts will be tough to move with the salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million next season.
Poile will have to get creative to find a way to move one or both. Getting the Kraken to select one of them will mean offering up a sweetener in the form of a draft pick, a top prospect or a good young player. That still might not be enough to get it done. Maybe Poile finds a club will to be a third-party broker by taking on part of the cap hit in return for a pick or prospect.
HAS KUZNETSOV PLAYED HIS FINAL GAME WITH THE CAPITALS?
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir reported Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan addressed the recent trade rumors about Evgeny Kuznetsov during his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday. “We’re always open to trading people if it makes sense,” he said. “If it’s going to make our team better, we’re open to it. “
SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacLellan also said they need Kuznetsov to play at his highest ability. If that wasn’t possible, they wouldn’t be a good team and they’ll have to make some other decisions.
The Capitals GM could entertain trade offers for Kuznetsov this summer. Then again, this could be his public way of reminding the center that his tenure in Washington is in jeopardy unless he cleans up his act on and off the ice.
Kuznetsov’s play has declined over the last couple of years. He received a three-game suspension by the league in 2019 for “inappropriate conduct” less than a month following a four-year ban from international competition following a positive test for cocaine. He tested positive twice this year for COVID-19 and was benched for one game earlier this month after he and goalie Ilya Samsonov missed a team function.
Those factors could impede MacLellan’s efforts to trade Kuznetsov. So could his $7.8 million annual average value over the remaining four years of his contract and his 15-team no-trade clause.
ARE THE SENATORS INTERESTED IN GIROUX?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports there’s speculation among Senators followers over Claude Giroux’s future with the Philadelphia Flyers. He becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Garrioch considers it doubtful he’ll be traded because of his no-move clause and his desire to stay in Philadelphia.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That speculation linking Giroux to the Senators wasn’t generated by media sources. The Athletic’s Ian Mendes recently observed the “Giroux-to-Ottawa” talk that appeared among Senators fans on social media in recent weeks. The Flyers captain spends his offseasons in the Ottawa area but Mendes doubted that would be a factor in his future plans. If Giroux and the Flyers part company, the 33-year-old center will likely want to join a Stanley Cup contender.
Another look at how this summer expansion draft could affect several teams in the NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently looked at several teams that could be faced with a tough loss or an interesting decision to make in this summer’s expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark previously did a feature examining six clubs that could make side deals with the Seattle Kraken to protect key players. Boylen is examining nine teams.
The Colorado Avalanche needs Erik Johnson to waive his no-movement clause. If he does, they’ll have to decide if they’ll protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defensemen. Under the former, they could lose a forward like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Tyson Jost or Valeri Nichushkin. Under the latter, Ryan Graves could be left unprotected. If Johnson doesn’t waive his clause, they’ll have to go the eight skaters option, leaving the Seattle Kraken the choice of Graves or one of those forwards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Ryan S.Clark reported Johnson is expected to waive his NMC. The Kraken will likely pass on him given his age (33), injury history and his $6 million annual average value through 2022-23. He also reported the Avs are willing to trade one of their forwards for something decent in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken
The status of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom and how general manager Ken Holland handles pending unrestricted free agents like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie could affect the Edmonton Oilers’ plans. If Klefbom is healthy and Larsson or Barrie is re-signed before the draft, the Oilers could lose a defenseman like Ethan Bear. Caleb Jones could be protected only if the UFA blueliners aren’t re-signed and Klefbom is exposed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom’s status remains uncertain. Holland could wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign Larsson and/or Barrie. That depends, of course, on whether the Kraken have interest in either blueliner during their exclusive free-agent interview window from July 18-21.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (NHL Images)
Five members of the Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin) have no-movement clauses. If none of them waive their clauses, the Wild could be forced to make a side deal with the Kraken or risk losing defenseman Matt Dumba if they protect just three defensemen or risk losing a forward by protecting eight skaters. If they’re faced with leaving Dumba unprotected they could attempt to trade him before the protected lists are due.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clark reported Wild management could have discussions with those five players about waiving their NMCs. Having Parise, Suter and Zuccarello waive would be the best scenario. They’re aging players carrying hefty salary-cap hits for at least three more seasons who likely won’t be enticing to the Kraken.
If Dumba becomes the odd man out, I expect they’ll try to trade him rather than lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. Boylen also suggested they could make a side deal with the Kraken by sending them a player to ensure they take someone other than Dumba in the draft.
The Kraken could make a push for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton if he’s left unsigned and unprotected. If he’s re-signed, he’ll have to be protected and that would leave blueliner Jake Bean available. The Kraken could also have a shot at goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic if pending UFA Petr Mrazek is re-signed before the draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculated the Hurricanes could hold off on signing Hamilton in order to protect Bean, leaving Brady Skjei exposed. They could do the same with Mrazek to protect Nedeljkovic. There’s a chance Hamilton or Mrazek could sign with the Kraken but their priority could be staying in Carolina.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take quite an offer to convince Kraken GM Ron Francis to take on Johansen or Duchene. Both are underachieving forwards carrying $8 million cap hits for several more years.
Travis Dermott is expected to be the odd man out for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, contract negotiations with pending UFA winger Zach Hyman could affect which players they end up protecting. If Hyman is re-signed, they’ll have to protect seven forwards, leaving an extra defenseman exposed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under that scenario they’ll protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie, leaving Justin Holl exposed. They could take the chance on Hyman re-signing after the expansion draft to protect four blueliners and leave Dermott exposed. If they sign Hyman, they could try to work out a deal with the Kraken to ensure Holl isn’t taken.
Boylen expects Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic will waive his no-movement clause to allow the club to protect a younger forward like Dillon Dube or Glenn Gawdin. He also wondered if the Kraken would take defenseman Mark Giordano if left exposed. The 38-year-old Flames captain has a year remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen observed that big changes could be coming to the Flames roster following this season. Those, however, could occur following the expansion draft. As for Giordano, the Kraken could prefer players who fit into their long-term plans.
The Dallas Stars could go the eight-skater option to protect four defensemen if Jamie Oleksiak is re-signed. That could leave a forward such as Radek Faksa, Denis Gurianov or Joe Pavelski exposed. Boylen feels it could be easier for the Stars if Oleksiak isn’t protected or a side deal is worked out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wait until after the draft to re-sign Oleksiak and take the chance that the Kraken will pass on him or else talk trade to ensure he’s not taken in the draft if they opt to protect seven forwards and three blueliners.