NHL Rumor Mill – December 14, 2020
Breaking down some potential moves to watch as the 2020-21 season inches closer in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon examined five lingering issues that must be addressed before the project Jan. 13 start to the 2020-21 NHL season.
The respective salary-cap crunches facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and New York Islanders dominated the list.
The Lightning sits just above the $81.5 million salary cap and must sign restricted free agent center Anthony Cirelli. Dixon observed some trade speculation arose earlier this fall suggesting Steven Stamkos could become a trade candidate. However, the captain’s full no-trade clause and the limited number of teams that could afford his $8.25 million annual average value pretty much rules out trading him. Winger Alex Killorn (16-team no-trade list, $4.5 million AAV) remains a possible cap casualty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning’s recent signing of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev prompted conjecture they could have a cost-cutting deal in hand but it has yet to materialize.
They also attempted to shed salary by putting winger Tyler Johnson ($5 million AAV) on waivers in early October but couldn’t find any takers. He also has a full no-trade but reportedly submitted a list of eight or nine potential destinations to Lightning management.
The Golden Knights are also just above the salary cap, prompting rumors they could be shopping a high-salaried player such as Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury won’t be traded while team owner Bill Foley recently dismissed the Pacioretty rumors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights could move an expensive veteran. Then again, they could also trade or demote a lower-salaried depth player to become cap compliant before the start of the season.
The Islanders still haven’t signed RFA center Mathew Barzal. They will get some cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk (eye injury) and his $6 million AAV on long-term injury reserve. Dixon took note of GM Lou Lamoriello’s failed attempt at this year’s trade deadline to ship winger Andrew Ladd to Minnesota for Zach Parise. He wondered if Lamoriello might try to package Ladd with a sweetener to a rebuilding team with the cap space to take on the winger’s $5.5 million AAV.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but it could take one heckuva sweetener to convince a rebuilding team to acquire Ladd. While Dixon cited the 35-year-old winger’s experience and leadership, age and injuries have significantly affected his performance.
Dixon also noted the trade rumors swirling around Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine and the Arizona Coyotes’ attempt to trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets aren’t in any hurry to move Laine, whose agent suggested earlier this fall it might be beneficial for both sides if his client was moved to a team where he’d get first-line minutes. The winger has a year remaining on his contract and becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. That doesn’t mean GM Kevin Cheveldayoff won’t trade Laine but he’ll seek a significant return, such as perhaps a top-pairing defenseman.
Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. However, attempts to move him fell through before his self-imposed deadline of Oct. 9.
The Coyotes captain insisted he’s happy in Arizona and wasn’t upset by the club exploring trade options. Nevertheless, this could resurface if the Bruins or Canucks make a pitch to the Coyotes’ liking, provided he’d be willing to waive his clause before the season begins.