Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup, there’s more fallout from last week’s Kasperi Kapanen trade, including speculation the Leafs could take a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Read on for the latest.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins is one factor that could make it possible for them to sign Alex Pietrangelo via free agency in the offseason.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Alex Pietrangelo if he tests the UFA market? (NHL Images)

Fox points out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas traded Kapanen to clear salary-cap space, speculating he might not be done making cost-cutting moves. He also observed St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be reevaluated for his latest shoulder surgery for at least five months, suggesting it could give Blues GM Doug Armstrong pause to make another major investment in his blueline by re-signing Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo indicated he wants to stay in St. Louis and Armstrong said he wants to keep him. However, Fox reminds us that the Blues GM also acquired and re-signed defensemen Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella this season.

Fox thinks the Blues will make an offer to Pietrangelo but it’ll be lower than what he could get on the open market. Maybe the defenseman takes the hometown discount, but perhaps he’ll go elsewhere if he wants to maximize his contract. 

Dubas likes big-game hunting (signing John Tavares) and making bold moves (the Nazem Kadri trade) and is backed by the deep pockets of MLSE. Such a move, however, could mean shedding someone like William Nylander and signing the 30-year-old Pietrangelo to more term than makes sense. Still, Fox feels Dubas should at least look into it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course Dubas should look into signing Pietrangelo if the Blues captain heads to free agency. Any GM worth his salt should do so. Freeing up the cap space to sign him without weakening the roster, however, is another matter.

The Leafs need for a top-four, right-side defenseman is well-documented. Yes, Dubas is known for making big signings and creative trades. But how well did the Tavares signing and the Kadri trade work out for the Leafs? Tavares is a great player, but the Leafs didn’t need him, and the $11 million they’re paying him for the next five years should’ve been put into shoring up the defense. That’s what led to the Kadri trade, which didn’t pan out as Dubas hoped. 

Pietrangelo would address that glaring blueline need for the Leafs. Freeing up sufficient cap room to land him, however, will hurt their depth elsewhere, not to mention they’ll be tying up far too much cap payroll in a handful of players. That’s not a wise move given the current economic landscape.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons isn’t ready to declare the Leafs the winners of the Kapanen deal until he sees what the Leafs do with the first-round pick (15th overall) they received in the deal. It depends upon who they select with that pick and how that player pans out, whether they trade the pick, and what they do with the money they free up by sending Kapanen to Pittsburgh.

Simmons also touched on the recent trade speculation regarding Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. He doesn’t feel Andersen is the Leafs biggest problem but the feeling around the hockey world is his time in Toronto is coming to an end. Trading him won’t be easy in a flooded goalie market but there are many options to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will those options be better than Andersen? He’s played well behind one of the league’s worst defensive teams over the past four years but has become a scapegoat for the club’s recent woes for some Leafs fans. If you can land someone like Robin Lehner, it might be worthwhile. If it’s someone whose stock has declined like Braden Holtby, it might be wiser to stick with Andersen. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike DeFabo was asked what other moves he sees the Penguins making after acquiring Kapanen. He feels either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be traded. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents and GM Jim Rutherford indicated he’s likely to move one of them.

Murray could be the likely trade candidate because he’d be more expensive to re-sign. The Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames could be in the market for a goaltender.

As for the potential return, DeFabo indicates the third-line center position has been an issue for the past several years. He also expects changes are coming to their blueline as they need a better right-shot defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray seems to be the guy Rutherford is shopping but he could be getting more interest in Jarry. He’s younger, more affordable, and doesn’t have Murray’s injury history.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks interest in Kapanen before he was shipped to the Penguins suggests GM Bob Murray isn’t interested in a roster tear-down. He could instead be looking for players who can provide immediate help. Possible targets could include more affordable options like Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, or Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen might’ve ended up with the Ducks had Murray been willing to part with his first-round pick (sixth overall) in this year’s draft. If that was Dubas’ asking price, Murray was wise to pass.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

What next for the Leafs and Penguins following yesterday’s Kasperi Kapanen trade? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby singled out the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of a first-round pick (15th overall) and prospect forward Filip Hallander while freeing up salary-cap space from shipping winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t ruling out shopping that pick if it would help his team. “If there’s another Jake Muzzin, we’d be interested, to put it mildly,” he said.

Dubas also suggested he might not be done dealing. “I don’t think this will be it for us,” he said. “We need to gain greater (cap) flexibility than what we have.” The Leafs GM pointed out they have to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev and he’d like more space to address other needs.

Could Frederik Andersen become the next player traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Hornby’s colleague Michael Traikos wondered if the Leafs will trade another third-line winger, or replace goaltender Frederik Andersen with a more affordable (but unproven) option, or break up their core. He feels they need a defenseman or two and a scoring forward who plays with a snarl like former Leafs Nazem Kadri is doing with the Colorado Avalanche.

Traikos suggested trading Kapanen opens up cap room to perhaps pursue Boston’s Torey Krug, Calgary’s T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic or Vancouver’s Chris Tanev via free agency. They could even pursue St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo if Dubas moves out another player like Andreas Johnsson, Alexander Kerfoot, or even William Nylander.

Signing Pietrangelo, however, could cost between $8 million and $11 million annually. Traikos also warns there’s no certainty those free-agent blueliners will sign with the Leafs. “After all, it’s not like the team has won anything lately.”

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Leafs also spoke to the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and New Jersey Devils before trading Kapanen to the Penguins. The Leafs attempted to reacquire the pick they sent to the Hurricanes last summer but the Canes weren’t interested in parting with the 13th overall selection. The Blackhawks also balked on moving their first-round pick (17th overall).

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle cites sources indicating Kapanen wasn’t the only player dangled by Dubas in the trade market since the Leafs were eliminated from the qualifying round two weeks ago.

Andersen could apparently be had in a salary-dumping deal, leading Mirtle to wonder if the Edmonton Oilers might be interested if they can find the cap room. Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, and Johnsson were also mentioned. The Leafs could free up $17 million if they could move all four.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas is not done making moves after yet another disappointing postseason performance. I concur with Traikos that the Leafs GM must bolster his blueline and bring in a physical scorer. Perhaps he’ll revisit talks with some of those clubs he spoke with regarding Kapanen. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas shops that first-round pick. Their core players – Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly – will be between 22 and 29 when next season begins. The Leafs don’t want to waste their playing primes.  They’re in “win-now” mode and could use that pick to bring in a player who can immediately address a roster need. If there are no suitable offers, Dubas can retain that pick and perhaps use the prospect selected as part of a deal in the near future to bring in an impact player.

Signing any of those UFA defensemen listed by Traikos will require freeing up more salary-cap payroll. Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $73.7 million tied up in 16 players. Signing one of those blueliners will eat up most or all of that cap room, leaving nothing for Dermott and Mikheyev.

Landing Pietrangelo won’t be easy. Indeed, it might not be possible, as the Blues captain already stated his wish is to stay in St. Louis. And no, he’s not going to accept less than whatever the Blues offer to “come home” to Toronto. St. Louis is his home now and it’s where he wants to stay. If that’s not possible, he’ll seek a lucrative deal in the UFA market despite the flattened salary cap for next season. If the Leafs want him, they’ll have to pay a lot to sign him.

Krug will also be expensive, though nowhere near as much as Pietrangelo. Figure it could cost between $6-$7 million annually. Brodie, Hamonic or Tanev won’t cost that much but they’ll still eat up a big chunk of change, perhaps over $5 million annually. Assuming the flat cap hurts their UFA value, they could seek cap hits similar to what they’re making now.

Moving Andersen is dangerous unless Dubas intends to add a better option and that might not be readily available. He could pursue Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner via free agency, but either guy could cost more than Andersen’s current $5 million AAV. In Holtby’s case, it would be ponying up for what appears to be a declining asset.

It’ll be interesting to see what Dubas and his capologist have in mind. They proved capable of salary-cap gymnastics last summer, but those moves failed to improve the Leafs. He must do better this time around and that won’t be easy given the current economic landscape.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh believes the Penguins’ addition of Kapanen rules out re-signing pending UFA winger Conor Sheary. He also suggests it clouds the futures of restricted free agent goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry and forwards Jared McCann and Dominik Simon.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun suggests Murray could be the next Penguin on the move. Rutherford already indicated he needs to trade one of his goalies and sources told LeBrun his focus is on moving Murray. His RFA status (with arbitration rights) is a sticking point. One source said they’re worried the goalie could command $6 million in arbitration, after which he’s eligible for unrestricted free-agent status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s injury history and inconsistent play could also be a concern. Rutherford might have to package him with a draft pick or prospect if teams are worried about his contract for next season.










Leafs Trade Kapanen to the Penguins

Leafs Trade Kapanen to the Penguins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded right wing Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins:

 

 

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs trade Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen is returning to the club that drafted him 22nd overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. He was traded the following year to the Leafs as part of the deal that sent Phil Kessel to the Penguins.

A 20-goal scorer in 2018-19, the 24-year-old right-winger tallied 13 goals and 36 points in 69 games this season. He’ll bring speed and decent offensive skills to Pittsburgh’s forward lines. His addition could signal Conor Sheary’s departure from the Penguins via the unrestricted free agent market at the season’s end.

Aberg is a restricted free agent who spent most of his career bouncing between the NHL and the AHL. He’ll likely end up with the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if he re-signs. Lindgren is in the second year of a three-year, two-way contract and is also likely headed to the AHL next season. 

The Leafs shed Kapanen’s $3.2 million annual average value through 2021-22,  giving them $7.7 million in cap room for 2020-21. They also replace the first-round pick they traded to Carolina last year in the Patrick Marleau deal. A 15th-overall selection is just two picks lower than the one they sent to the Hurricanes. 

It was rumored throughout this season that the Leafs might use Kapanen as trade bait for a top-four, right-side defenseman. It’ll be interesting to see if management retains that pick or use it to address their immediate blueline needs.

The Leafs also picked up an affordable depth forward in Rodrigues, who’s a restricted free agent coming off a one-year, $2-million contract. He could be headed to the AHL Marlies next season depending on what other moves Leafs management has in store.  Warsofsky has a year remaining on his two-way contract and is likely headed to the Marlies next season.

Hallander could be intriguing. Dobber Hockey indicates he’s a dangerous offensive forward with good skating and decent defensive skills. However, he didn’t stand out during last August’s World Junior Summer Showcase and suffered a fractured leg that cost him half the season. The 20-year-old might become an NHL regular one day but the jury seems out on him for now. He’s on a one-year contract for next season with SHL club Lulea HC. If he doesn’t make the Leafs next season, he’ll be skating in Sweden. 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 25, 2020

Penguins GM says there’s a “very, very good chance” he’ll trade Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry, plus the latest on the Blue Jackets and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

** UPDATE** LEAFS TO TRADE KAPANEN TO PENGUINS

TSN’s Darren Dreger and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Toronto Maple Leafs are working on a trade that would sent winger Kasperi Kapanen back to the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the details are announced, I’ll have an analysis of the deal in the News section.

MURRAY OR JARRY ON THE MOVE?

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman cited The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reporting Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford admits his club likely cannot afford to retain Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents with arbitration rights following this season.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

We know that there’s a very, very good chance that we’re going to have to move one of them,” said Rutherford. He also indicated he’s spoken with other NHL general managers, though he hasn’t reached the point where serious trade discussions have started. “There is already interest,” he said. “And it looks like we’re going to have to move one of them.”

Wegman reports the Penguins will have $12.4 million in salary-cap space this off-season. They also have six RFAs in addition to Murray and Jarry to re-sign, as well as decisions to be reached regarding UFAs Conor Sheary, Patrick Marleau, and Justin Schultz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yohe listed the Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Edmonton Oilers as possible trade partners.

Wild GM Bill Guerin indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending following his club’s qualifying-round elimination by the Vancouver Canucks. Cap Friendly indicates he’s got $65.7 million invested in 17 players next season, but he’ll have to find a trade partner for Devan Dubnyk ($4.33 million annual average value through 2020-21, 19-team trade list) or dump the more affordable Alex Stalock ($785K through 2020-21).

The Flames could be in the market if Cam Talbot departs via free agency. The Sabres need an experienced starter but we don’t know the intentions of new GM Kevyn Adams. The budget-conscious Hurricanes could stick with their affordable tandem of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek for another year. The Oilers definitely need help between the pipes, but their limited cap space ($70.4 million invested in 16 players) means they’ll have to shed salary to add a new goalie.

UPDATE ON THE BLUE JACKETS

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace weighed in on the Blues Jackets offseason needs. He feels they need another top-six center or an impact scorer like the departed Artemi Panarin. He wondered if they’ll draw from their blueline and/or goaltending depth, or shop RFA winger Josh Anderson, or use some prospects as assets to upgrade the offense.

Arace also makes the point that the Jackets must convince defenseman Seth Jones that they’re capable of going deep into the playoffs so he doesn’t depart via free agency in 2022. They must also manage their salary cap accordingly to make Jones one of the league’s highest-paid blueliners.

NHL.COM: Craig Merz reports Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to rebuild from within rather than through the free-agent market. “I don’t believe in the (free agent) signings to be the answer or recipe for success,” said Kekalainen. “We’ve done a good job building through drafting and having some depth.”

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox believes Josh Anderson will be used as a trade chip. He points out the Jackets are flush with middle-six wingers and Anderson’s game could be attractive to other clubs. His recovery timeline from shoulder surgery is Sept. 2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have $76.2 million invested in 23 players for next season, with Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois slated for raises as restricted free agents. Kekalainen recently indicated Brandon Dubinsky’s chronic wrist injury could keep the forward on long-term injury reserve next season, freeing up $5.85 million if necessary.

Kekalainen will have to go shopping in the trade market if he won’t go the UFA route for scoring punch. Anderson seems the most likely to go as his name’s been in the rumor mill for months, but his shoulder injury could dampen his trade value. The Jackets GM could peddle a blueliner like David Savard or Ryan Murray, but they won’t fetch a scoring forward. Goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins played well this season, but their inexperience could also hurt their trade value.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson reports Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau acknowledged hearing the calls for his trade from frustrated fans and pundits. However, he insists he wants to stay in Calgary, calling it his “second home.”  Meanwhile, pending UFA goaltender Cam Talbot indicated he’s “very open” to re-signing with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames GM Brad Treliving defended Gaudreau and told Talbot during the pause in the schedule he’s interested in talking contract with him. However, Treliving also acknowledged there will have to be some changes following yet another early playoff exit. Whether those involve Gaudreau or Talbot remain to be seen, but we can expect both players will feature prominently in the Flames rumor mill in the coming weeks.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 18, 2020

A look at off-season questions for several teams eliminated during the qualifying round, plus the latest on the Ottawa Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined one big off-season question for each club eliminated during the qualifying round. Among the noteworthy:

What kind of return could Kaspari Kapanen fetch for the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boylen asked what kind of defenseman they’ll add. Given the flat cap and the free-agent pool would be difficult to wade into, Boylen suggested the trade market could be their best option. He wonders if Kaspari Kapanen or Alex Kerfoot become trade bait, and what type of return they might fetch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen or Kerfoot at best could bring a second-pairing right-side defenseman. They won’t bring in a top-pairing guy unless they’re packaged with a first-round pick and/or a top prospect, and they’ll have to target a team in need of shedding salary.

Whoever becomes the Florida Panthers’ next general manager has a lot of work to do. The defense is a problem area, plus they have to decide what to do with free agent wingers Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. Boylen wonders if they’ll be replaced by rookies if ownership decides to cut payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things are a mess with the Panthers. We can’t really get a bead on their intentions until they’ve hired a new GM.

The Winnipeg Jets need more size on their blueline. Boylen wonders if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will try to address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have over $65 million invested in next year’s payroll and all their core players under contract. There’s room to make an addition or two, but a bigger move would require shipping out a notable player as part of the return. However, he could get more cap flexibility if sidelined center Bryan Little is placed on LTIR next season.

Boylen noted Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin was dissatisfied with his goaltending. He mused about whether Guerin will promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen or explore the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s current goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock is under contract for next season. One of them would have to be moved to make room for Kahkonen or someone else. Dubnyk ($4.333 million AAV for 2020-21) has a 19-team list of preferred trade destinations, but his performance this season remains a stumbling block. Stalock’s cap hit ($785K annually through 2021-22) could be the easiest to move. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk rejected rumors suggesting his club might offer up the third- and fifth overall picks to the New York Rangers for the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, calling the notion “nonsensical.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers would probably reject that offer anyway. It could take a significant pitch to pry that pick away from them.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

It’s been over a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the postseason but speculation persists over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports Frederik Andersen could face an uncertain future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his stats in elimination games aren’t that good.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).

Nevertheless, Fox doesn’t think there’s a suitable replacement for Andersen in this year’s free-agent market. Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are past their prime. If the Vancouver Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom, Vegas’ Robin Lehner would be the best available free-agent goalie and expensive to sign. Fox doesn’t think Calgary’s Cam Talbot, the NY Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, or Dallas’ Anton Khudobin would be suitable replacements.

Fox notes the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins appear open for goalie trades, but he’s not sure what they have to offer would be an improvement over Andersen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $76 million invested in 17 players, the Leafs lack sufficient cap space to chase expensive UFA talent without shedding some salary first. I agree with Fox’s assessment of this year’s crop of free-agent goalies.

What might be available in the trade market isn’t that tantalizing. The Wild could shop an aging Devan Dubnyk or career backup Alex Stalock. The Rangers could peddle Henrik Lundqvist (provided he waives his no-movement clause) but he’s also past his best-before date. Alexandar Georgiev is another Rangers’ option but he hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter. Recent speculation tied Penguins starter Matt Murray to the Leafs, but he’s struggled with injuries and consistency since backstopping the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

I anticipate the Leafs will stick with Andersen for next season and see how things unfold. It’ll give them time to assess next season’s trade market and see if there are better options among next year’s free agents.

TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked about the possibility of the Leafs trading winger William Nylander. McGran feels Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t want to go that route, but the coming salary-cap crunch could leave him little choice. He considers Nylander their most tradeable commodity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take some nifty salary-cap gymnastics for Dubas and his capologist to address his club’s need to bolster the defense without parting with a significant asset. Nylander could be the best option to land that elusive top-pairing, right-side rearguard.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports the Penguins are looking to shore up their roster and have asked questions about Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To which the answer should be, we’re not moving him unless you offer up a good, young, right-side defenseman or skilled two-way center.

Simmons also proposed how the Leafs could sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if the St. Louis Blues captain tests the free-agent market.

I take Cody Ceci’s $4.5 million — he’s a free agent — and add it with Tyson Barrie’s $2.5 million. Both should be leaving. Now you take $3 million from either Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson and you’ve got $10 million to play with in a soft free-agent class, considering the economics of all of professional sport.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have $76.9 million invested in 17 players next season, leaving roughly $4.5 million in cap space. That’s with Ceci and Barrie off the books. Dumping Kerfoot, Kapanen, or Johnsson would give the Leafs around $7.5 million to spend in the free-agent market.

Assuming Pietrangelo is willing to accept a modest pay bump from his current $6.5 million annual average value to come to Toronto (and honestly, why would he?), the Leafs would have no money left to re-sign other players (like Travis Dermott, Ilya Mikheyev, and perhaps Kyle Clifford) and fill out the rest of the roster.