NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 22, 2020

Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.

Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.

Will Zdeno Chara return with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.

Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.

If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.

Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.

Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.

Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.

Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.

Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

Updates on negotiations for the 2020-21 season, two people arrested for stealing Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, Mark Messier loses money on a cannabis investment deal, the latest on Oskar Lindblom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports issues such as roster size and taxi squads are slowing down negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13. Frank Seravalli said the effect on the salary cap of transferring a player between the roster and the taxi squad is also part of the discussion. At this point, it would be handled similar to the rules regarding a demotion to the AHL.

Pierre LeBrun points out teams are at the mercy of local health restrictions, especially in Canada. As of Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators each have over 30 players that have returned, while the Winnipeg Jets have nine, the Montreal Canadiens under 10, the Edmonton Oilers have 12 and the Calgary Flames 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those health restrictions vary from city to city and province to province. It’s affecting quarantine rules and use of training facilities, which could explain why the Jets and Canadiens have a low number of players in their respective cities.

Dreger reports the league is looking into allowing a limited number of fans to attend games in select markets depending on the restrictions of each city in each state. Seravalli points out that will be only if the league can open in all 31 of its cities. That remains in doubt as some teams, like the San Jose Sharks, are planning to open training camp in Arizona because of restrictions in their own market.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater reports sources are saying the concept of hub cities is no longer on the drawing board. He said each team will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings with travel limited only to games within a team’s division.

Because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can stage a regular season in which teams travel from city to city despite the strict protocols. The league remains adamant it will not attempt to jump the queue to obtain vaccinations ahead of others.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NH season is going to open but the projected Jan. 13 start date could change. A vote approving the format for ’20-’21 needs a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA’s 31-member executive. It’s required by the end of this week to meet the timeline for a Jan. 13 start. That date could be pushed into late January if more time is required to work out the details.

SPORTSNET: Two people were arrested by Brantford, Ontario police after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home. A three-month investigation involving searches of homes in Ontario and Alberta by police (including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police) recovered several items with an estimated combined value of over $500K USD. The investigation is ongoing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walter Gretzky is the world’s most famous hockey dad and among the kindest people in hockey. Shame on those people for stealing from him.

YAHOO SPORTS: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is suing the CEO of an Alberta cannabis company after he allegedly lost his $500K investment. Messier claimed the company also used his celebrity to raise $30 million in funding.

THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom is cancer-free just over a year after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He finished his treatments on July 2 and suited up with the Flyers in the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom enjoys a long, cancer-free life.

TSN: cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting the Minnesota Wild are close to signing free-agent goaltender Andrew Hammond. He speculates this could mean Wild backup Alex Stalock could be hurt entering training camp. Stalock reportedly hasn’t been on the ice.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Former San Jose Sharks forward Melker Karlsson has signed with Swedish club Skelleftea AIK for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if Karlsson has an out-clause if he signs with an NHL club. The report indicating it’s for the remainder of the season suggests he didn’t get any NHL offers to his liking. The flattened salary cap for this season could be a factor, which doesn’t bode well for comparable players still available in the UFA market.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have promoted Ryan Miller (no, not the NHL goaltender) as their new assistant general manager.

WHL.COM: The Western Hockey League has delayed the start of its 2020-21 season because of public health restrictions across Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The board of governors will meet in January to discuss possible start dates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the development of WHL players hoping to be selected in the 2021 NHL Draft.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.

The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.

Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.

Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.

If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.










NHL Playoffs: Golden Knights Let Down By Top Players

NHL Playoffs: Golden Knights Let Down By Top Players










NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2020

Check out some recent Golden Knights and Ducks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HOW CAN THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS RE-SIGN LEHNER?

NHL.COM: Danny Webster reports Robin Lehner hopes to speak with Vegas Golden Knights’ management soon about re-signing a new contract. Acquired at the February trade deadline, the 28-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Does Robin Lehner have a future with the Vegas Golden Knights? (Photo via NHL Images)

I’m sure we’ll have some discussions (with general manager Kelly McCrimmon) after the season and see what happens,” said Lehner on Wednesday. He added he’s had a really good impression about the team in his short time with them.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jesse Granger recently examined how a flat salary cap of $81.5 million will affect the Vegas Golden Knights. They already have over $75 million committed to next season’s payroll with 16 players under contract.

The Golden Knights cannot afford to make expensive additions as they’ve done in their short history. They must instead improve their roster with younger, cheaper options. It will also make it difficult to retain Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner’s status gave rise to speculation suggesting the Golden Knights could attempt to trade Fleury if Lehner outplays him in the upcoming playoff tournament. Easier said than done. Fleury, 35, carries a 10-team no-trade list plus an annual average value of $7 million through 2021-22.

If McCrimmon wants to keep both goalies, he’ll have to slash salary elsewhere to free up sufficient space. Assuming Lehner signs for $6 million annually, it would mean shopping someone like Paul Stastny ($6.5 million AAV through 2020-21, 10-team no-trade) or William Karlsson ($5.9 million through 2026-27, with a 10-team no-trade kicking in next season). Considering how many other clubs are affected by a flat cap, finding takers for either guy could prove difficult.

Other trade options could include wingers Reilly Smith or Jonathan Marchessault. Both carry $5 million AAVs beyond next season with modified no-trade clauses. Young winger Alex Tuch ($4.75 million through 2025-26) lacks no-trade protection and has power-forward potential, though injury hampered his performance this season.

RECENT DUCKS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag, Eric Stephens was asked if the Anaheim Ducks should move players like Josh Manson, Jakob Silfverberg, or Adam Henrique for picks or to move up in this year’s draft.

Stephens doesn’t see that happening, pointing to GM Bob Murray’s belief that the team is much better than it showed last season. Nevertheless, he believes Murray should at least listen on offers for Manson, who needs a bounce-back season. If promising Trevor Zegras is ready, perhaps an Henrique deal will be considered.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Manson would attract attention if he hits the trade block. He carries an affordable $4.1 million AAV through 2021-22, but also a 12-team no-trade list. For the right offer (a scoring forward), perhaps Murray would consider it, provided it from one of the clubs on Manson’s list of preferred destinations.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

The latest on the Sharks and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHICH UFAS WILL THE SHARKS RE-SIGN?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently examined which San Jose Sharks’ unrestricted free agents could be re-signed and those who have likely played their final games in teal.

Will the San Jose Sharks bring back Joe Thornton for one more season? (Photo via NHL Images)

He feels it would make sense to bring back Joe Thornton if the long-time Sharks center accepts a $1 million or less salary to provide the club with salary-cap flexibility. He’s leaning toward Thorton’s return but doesn’t consider it a certainty.

Kurz wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks re-signed Melker Karlsson but could also see him move on to another club. Having traded away a penalty killer in Barclay Goodrow, it might be worthwhile to re-sign Karlsson if he accepts a pay cut.

Backup goalie Aaron Dell won’t be back unless the Sharks can trade starter Martin Jones, but his contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Stefan Noesen will likely get an affordable one- or two-year deal. Unless the Sharks trade Brent Burns, Kurz expects the Sharks will part ways with Tim Heed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve singled out the more notable of the Sharks’ UFAs. I can see Thornton, Karlsson, and Noesen being re-signed if they’re willing to accept cost-effective deals.

Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. General manager Doug Wilson indicated he believes his club can make a quick turnaround from this season’s disappointing performance. To do so, he’ll need those aforementioned free agents to accept affordable one-year contracts or watch them depart via free agency.

UPDATE ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently reported the league’s proposed roster expansion to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders would allow the Minnesota Wild to use Kaapo Kahkonen in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock are the Wild’s current goalie tandem. However, coach Dean Evason isn’t ruling out the possibility of the AHL goalie of the year becoming their starter in the tournament if he plays well in training camp. “Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward,” said Evason.

Russo suggested it also makes sense for Wild general manager Bill Guerin to play Kahkonen to determine if the 23-year-old netminder is ready to become their No. 1 or No. 2 goalie next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s goaltending situation could get interesting in the off-season if Kahkonen outplays Dubnyk and Stalock in the proposed return-to-play tournament. Dubnyk has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of over $4.33 million and a 19-team trade list. Stalock has two years left at a cheap AAV of $785K. Should Kahkonen prove himself NHL-ready, Guerin could be tempted to use Dubnyk or Stalock as trade bait to address other roster needs.

Russo also reported Marcus Foligno hopes to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno’s become an effective third-line forward for the Wild. He carries a $2.875-million annual average value on his current contract. The Wild have over $39 million invested in just seven players for 2021-22, leaving plenty of space to re-sign Foligno if they choose.