NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2021

Speculation over Taylor Hall and Jaroslav Halak’s futures with the Bruins, the Blue Jackets face a busy offseason, plus a look at some possible coaching candidates for the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BRUINS

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek recently examined how the Boston Bruins could keep Taylor Hall after this season if he remains a good fit on their roster. He’s not going to get more than Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand, with Bergeron the top earner of the trio at $6.875 million annually.

Could Taylor Hall re-sign with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

If they do keep Hall it could come at the expense of another forward such as Jake DeBrusk, who’s signed beyond this season at $3.675 million. That’s assuming Hall would accept playing on their second line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Bruins could re-sign Hall if he’s willing to accept a pay cut to play the same role he’s currently filling as their second-line left wing. That could also mean re-signing linemate David Krejci on an affordable, short-term deal, which he could accept to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for. Doing so, however, will mean shipping out DeBrusk in a cost-cutting move.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports this season could be Jaroslav Halak’s last with the Bruins. There were exploratory contract talks with Halak and Tuukka Rask two months ago but a source said the play of Jeremy Swayman changes everything.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Swayman’s emergence this season likely spells the end of Halak’s tenure in Boston. Like Krejci, Rask could return on a cost-effective, short-term contract.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: Prior to the Columbus Jackets parting ways yesterday with John Tortorella, Aaron Portzline wondered who they could hire as a replacement. He speculated they could go with a “player’s coach”, though general manager Jarmo Kekalainen never had an issue with Tortorella’s firm stance. He doubts the Jackets will pay top dollar for one of the bigger names available in the coaching market.

Turning to the roster, signing Seth Jones to a contract extension will be the offseason priority. The 26-year-old defenseman is a year away from unrestricted free agent status. If Jones doesn’t re-sign, Kekalainen could attempt to trade him for the best possible return. Then again, perhaps Jones will wait and see what roster moves the Jackets GM makes before signing an extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones’ contract status will be among this offseason’s closely-watched stories. He’ll draw considerable attention in the trade market if a new deal cannot be reached with the Jackets.

Kekalainen must also decide if winger Patrik Laine’s game will improve under a new head coach and if they can find a suitable center for him. Portzline cites sources saying he isn’t averse to trading Laine for the right deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen’s proven he’s willing to make bold moves. That’s how he got Laine in the first place. He could trade the winger this summer but that doesn’t mean he will. The right deal would probably be the offer of a good, young first-line center. A lot will also depend on how Laine’s contract talks shake out. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights costing $7.5 million just to qualify his rights.

The Jackets GM must also attempt to acquire one or two centers. He has three first-round picks in this year’s draft and plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a deal with a cap-strapped rival.

He’ll also have to decide between goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. Portzline doesn’t see them returning as a tandem for next season. Both are UFAs next summer and Kekalainen can’t afford to lose one of them for nothing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo or Merzlikins could be part of a package deal to acquire a center or one of them could be used to address other roster needs.

COYOTES

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan listed several potential coaching candidates for the Arizona Coyotes after the club parted ways yesterday with bench boss Rick Tocchet. A source told Morgan they’d like to have Tocchet’s replacement hired before this year’s draft on July 23-24.

Morgan doesn’t expect veteran coaches such as John Tortorella, Claude Julien, Bruce Boudreau or Gerard Gallant will be under consideration. He speculated options include St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson, New York Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert or Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Larsen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Jackets, the Coyotes seem to prefer affordable coaches over more well-known ones who’ll be expensive to hire.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 28, 2021

The Panthers and Lightning clinch playoff berths, the new broadcasting deal with Turner Sports is announced, the date for the 2021 draft lottery is revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice and collected three assists as the Florida Panthers defeated the Nashville Predators 7-4. Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett each had three points. With 69 points, the Panthers clinched their first playoff berth since 2015-16 and sit two points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Discover Central Division. Ryan Ellis tallied twice for the Predators, who sit in fourth place with 56 points.

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau (NHL Images).

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning also secured a postseason spot with a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Brayden Point had a goal and two assists and Alex Killorn scored two goals for the Lightning, who sit one point back of the Panthers in third place. Chicago defenseman Adam Boqvist suffered a broken right wrist in this game and is done for the season. The Blackhawks (49 points) are seven points behind the Predators with two games in hand.

Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal scored twice and picked up an assist as his club beat the Dallas Stars 5-1. Andrei Svechnikov picked up three assists. The Stars remain two points behind the Predators.

A 41-save shutout by Elvis Merzlikins carried the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 1-0 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings. Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstand tallied in the shootout. Earlier in the day, the Jackets announced goaltender Joonas Korpisalo will miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

The Washington Capitals regained first place in the MassMutual East Division by blanking the New York Islanders 1-0. Vitek Vanecek made 18 saves for the shutout and Daniel Sprong netted the only goal. The Capitals (68 points) sit one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit four up on the Islanders.

Speaking of the Penguins, they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Boston Bruins. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall were the goalscorers for the Bruins (62 points), who moved within a point of the third-place Islanders.

The New York Rangers remain four points back of the Bruins by downing the Buffalo Sabres 3-1. Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin kicked out 36 shots.

Third-period goals by Yegor Sherangovich and Mikhail Maltsev gave the New Jersey Devils a 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers to snap their 10-game losing skid.

The NHL and Turner Sports officially announced their seven-year media rights agreement yesterday. Regular-season, Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final games will be televised on TNT and TBS starting next season and running through 2027-28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Combined with the NHL’s new broadcasting deal with ESPN, this agreement will pour $625 million annually into the league’s coffers. That’s a significant increase over the $200 million annually the league was receiving in their current deal with NBC Sports.

THE SCORE: cites a report by TSN’s Frank Seravalli saying the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery will take place on June 2.

TORONTO SUN: Former Maple Leafs forward Miroslav Frycer passed away in the Czech Republic yesterday at age 61. He’d been battling a series of health problems brought about in part by alcohol abuse earlier in his playing career.

Frycer and his family defected to Canada from communist Czechoslovakia in 1981. He spent nine seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers from 1981-82 to 1988-89, spending seven of those seasons with the Leafs. In 415 games, Frycer scored 147 goals and 183 assists for 330 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Frycer’s family, friends, colleagues and former teammates.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

Are offseason changes in store this summer for the Blue Jackets? Could Patrik Laine, Max Domi or John Tortorella be part of them? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline was asked if Patrik Laine’s body language suggests the Blue Jackets winger wants out of Columbus. Citing those who know Laine best, he said the winger does care, wants to be in Columbus and is being maligned by a lack of confidence. Laine becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Portzline suspects he’ll get a one-year deal, making him an RFA again next summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine could also pop up in offseason trade speculation. Unless he demands a trade or the Jackets get a mind-blowing offer I expect they’ll re-sign him. A one-year contract could be the best path for now given his difficulties this season.

This was a tough season for the Jackets as a team and Laine personally. The club could have a different coach behind the bench and maybe some news faces in the lineup for 2021-22. Gauging Laine’s play over a normal 82-game schedule will allow them to fully evaluate whether he’s a worthwhile long-term fit.

The likely return for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo could be underwhelming if the market for goaltenders is flooded this summer. He suggested teams like Colorado, Toronto or Washington could seek help between the pipes if their goaltending fails them in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer’s pending UFA goalies include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. There could still be a decent market for Merzlikins or Korpisalo assuming Rask and Grubauer sign with their current clubs.

The health of the franchise will depend upon what Seth Jones wants to do. Signing the defenseman to a contract extension this summer has to be the top item on general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s list, followed by deciding whether to sign or replace head coach John Tortorella.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent. The Blue Jackets can open contract extension talks once the NHL offseason is in full swing. His contract negotiations could become a hot topic in this summer’s rumor mill. If Jones prefers testing the market it could lead to a franchise-altering trade at some point before next year’s trade deadline.

Tortorella’s critics this season (of which I am one) wonder why he hasn’t been replaced given the Jackets’ decline this season and the struggles of Laine and Max Domi since their arrivals in Columbus. There’s no question he did a good job reversing their fortunes in recent years. Nevertheless, the club’s disappointing performance this season suggests it’s time for a change behind the bench. We’ll find out well before next season if Kekalainen shares that view.

Portzline is against trading struggling forward Max Domi, pointing out the Jackets would be selling low. He wonders if Domi might benefit from a different voice behind the bench.

In another mailbag, Portzline suggests the Jackets might have to package defenseman Zach Werenski to acquire a No. 1 center in the trade market, though they shouldn’t do that unless they know what Jones intends to do. Free-agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Montreal’s Phillip Danault but the former is really a second-line center and the latter a middle-six guy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boosting the offense should be a priority, even if it means adding wingers if no decent centers can be found. The Jackets require a reliable first-line center but they might have to develop their own while making do in the short term with second-line additions via trades and/or free agency.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2021

A look at some potential goalie trade bait, the obstacles facing teams in this year’s trade market plus the latest on the Hurricanes, Jets, Islanders, Penguins and more in today’s NHL Rumor Mill. 

POTENTIAL GOALIE TRADE BAIT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin included Florida’s Chris Driedger, Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick on his list of 10 goaltenders who could get moved at the NHL trade deadline. Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier, San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and Arizona’s Antti Raanta are the others.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Driedger’s a pending unrestricted free agent but I don’t see the Panthers trading him while they’re among the top three clubs in the Discover Central Division. The same goes for Korpisalo and Merzlikins as the Jackets remain in the playoff chase. Besides, they both have a year left on their contracts so there’s no rush to move either guy at the deadline.

If the Coyotes trade Kuemper I believe that happens in the offseason when they could get a better return from a club with cap space. If Miller wanted one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup he would’ve signed with a contender instead of the Ducks. He’s happy in Anaheim and I doubt he has any intention of leaving.

Quick has two more years left on his contract worth $5.8 million. I don’t see much interest in him given the current cap situation. Even if the Kings picked up half of his cap hit he’s still a declining asset with a long injury history.

Bernier, Dubnyk and Raanta are pending UFAs and thus more likely to move. Khudobin could be intriguing to some clubs and he carries an affordable $3.33 million annual average value, but he’s 34 and that contract has two more years on it.

TEAMS FACING OBSTACLES IN TRADE MARKET

NHL.COM: Dan Rosen reports most NHL clubs are still trying to navigate through quarantine protocols and a flat salary cap as the April 12 trade deadline approaches. He also adds the cost of top rental players such as Buffalo’s Taylor Hall and Eric Staal and New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri could be a high draft pick and a top prospect. Those in the rumor mill with term on their contracts, such as Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg, could be more expensive.

Asking prices could be expensive for rental players such as New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri (NHL Images)

Some teams, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, are in the market to add players before the deadline. The Islanders have additional salary-cap flexibility after placing captain Anders Lee (knee injury) and his $7 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any significant movement by Canadian teams could come by the end of March. If they wait until the deadline any player acquired from American franchises will be unavailable until April 27 after they’ve cleared the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people crossing the US border into Canada. That won’t leave them much time to adjust to their new teams before the playoffs open on May 11.

LATEST ON THE HURRICANES, JETS AND SHARKS

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said he and Dougie Hamilton’s camp have agreed to table contract extension talks until the season is over. Hamilton is in the final season of a six-year, $34.5 million contract and is slated for UFA eligibility this summer.

Waddell also said he believes his club is close to a contract extension for head coach Rod Brind’Amour. He could be willing to tinker with his roster before the trade deadline, citing a need for a right-shot defenseman and perhaps a top-nine forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Waddell doesn’t have to make any significant moves with his club battling for first place in the Central Division. However, he alluded to team owner Tom Dundon’s competitive nature and desire to ice the best team possible. The Hurricanes will be worth watching as the trade deadline nears. Dundon’s wish to turn them into a Stanley Cup contender could push Waddell into the market.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe reports the expectation remains the Winnipeg Jets will try to add a defenseman to play on one of their top-two pairings. The best trade target remains Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm. Columbus’ David Savard could be out of the picture given the Blue Jackets’ recent rise into playoff contention in the Central Division.

Another option could be Anaheim’s Josh Manson. Like Ekholm, he has a year remaining on his contract. The asking price for Ekholm will be high while injuries have limited Manson to six games this season. Wiebe also suggests keeping an eye on Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets must be careful taking on a defenseman with term on his contract (Ekholm, Manson, Ristolainen) as that could complicate their expansion draft protection list for their blueline. A rental such as Savard or perhaps Vancouver’s Travis Hamonic might be the way to go here unless they work out a deal with the Seattle Kraken before the expansion draft.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Alex Didion cited a report by The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz indicating Patrick Marleau would be open to a trade that sends him to a playoff contender before the April 12 deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But are playoff contenders open to acquiring a fading winger like the 41-year-old Marleau at the trade deadline? He has just five points in 30 games this season.

UPDATES ON THE ISLANDERS, PENGUINS AND DUCKS

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports acquiring a first-line winger remains the New York Islanders’ priority. He believes Columbus’ Nick Foligno could be off the Isles’ list of targets owing to the Jackets’ recent rise in the Central standings. Vancouver’s Tanner Pearson has been sidelined a month, curtailing the Canucks’ trade options.

Sean Gentille, Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe report the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t shopping defenseman Marcus Pettersson. Despite their left-side blueline depth, they’re reluctant to move a blueliner given the schedule and need for depth to secure a playoff spot. They also rejected a rumor linking the Penguins to Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart, citing the club’s lack of cap space and available assets to pry him away from the Sabres.

Pierre LeBrun reports Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray could attempt to trade a few veteran players between now and the start of next season as he transitions his roster toward younger players. However, most of those moves might not come until the offseason. Murray admits things are quiet in the trade market due to the pandemic, the flattened salary cap, and this summer’s expansion draft.

Murray doesn’t have many rental players to shop. The Ducks GM could instead look for a hockey deal, with LeBrun suggesting winger Rickard Rakell making the most sense. Rakell is a good two-way winger with an affordable $3.78 million cap hit through next season.










NHL Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 7

NHL Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 7

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

Are the Oilers shopping for a goalie? Will the Blue Jackets get into the market for a center? How could the Blackhawks shed salary? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS SEEKING A GOALTENDER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers seek a goaltender to share the duties with Mikko Koskinen. While they’ve kicked the tires on Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, the Oilers would prefer adding a younger version of Mike Smith for around $2.5 million who can play 35-40 games with Koskinen.

Matheson points out the Oilers only have around $9 million in cap space. He also notes it’s a buyer’s market for unrestricted free agent goalies with such notables as Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss potentially available. Trade options could include Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, or maybe Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bolstering the goaltending should be the Oilers’ priority. Koskinen cannot be relied upon to carry the bulk of the starts and Smith is clearly past his prime and must be replaced.

Kuemper would be the best trade option if available, carrying a reasonable $4.5 million annual average value over the next two seasons. Korpisalo would be even more affordable ($2.8 million AAV for two years) but has a limited body of work as a starter.

The Penguins are trying to cut costs by shopping Murray. The asking price won’t be expensive but his new contract will be, perhaps over $6 million annually. Factor in his injury history and inconsistent play over the last two years, and the Oilers would be wise to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the Oilers will move one of their defensemen to free up cap space for other moves. Matheson’s colleague David Staples suggested shopping veteran defenseman Kris Russell to free up some cap space. He’s got a year left on his contract with a $4 million AAV and a 15-team no-trade list for 2020-21, but his actual salary will be $1.5 million once the Oilers pay his $1 million signing bonus for next season.

WILL THE BLUE JACKETS SHOP FOR A CENTER?

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger reports the 2020 playoffs showed the Blue Jackets need an upgrade at center, specifically on the second line. He indicates there’s a “glaring void” between first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois and third-liner Boone Jenner.

Hedger lists free agency, the trade market and developing from within as the ways general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can address this issue.

The free-agent market is bleak, with Nashville’s Mikael Granlund topping the list with 30 points this season. Kekalainen will explore the trade market as they can draw upon their blueline depth, young forwards, and a pair of goalies in their mid-20s who performed well this season for trade bait. Hedger suggested the Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a trade target, though he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Options from within could include Alexander Wennberg or Alexandre Texier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The UFA market is very thin for center. Granlund, Carl Soderberg, Tyler Ennis, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula are the best of the bunch. Thornton, Spezza, Koivu and Soderberg are past their prime, Granlund and Ennis are used more as wingers while Haula’s been hampered by injuries in recent years.They could try Wennberg and Texier, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Wennberg is inconsistent while Texier is used mostly on the wing.

The trade market is their best option to address that need, but I don’t think the Oilers intend to part with Nugent-Hopkins. He’s a key versatile part of their forward lines, able to play second-line center or skate at left wing on Connor McDavid’s line.

HOW WILL THE BLACKHAWKS CUT SALARY?

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Charlie Roumeliotis recently examined how the Blackhawks can free up salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Drake Caggiula and unrestricted free agent goalie Corey Crawford.

The Blackhawks can free up $5.56 million if they buy out Olli Maatta and Zack Smith. A more ideal solution would be moving one or both via trade, but that would involve packaging them with sweeteners.

Trading Brandon Saad would shed $6 million. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become a UFA next summer. However, Roumeliotis argues that move would subtract a top-six forward merely to shed salary. Given the current economic climate, he doubts a rival club would take on that full cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buying out Maatta and Smith could also leave the Blackhawks with over $1.7 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons, followed by two more seasons of $680K annually. Nevertheless, that could become their best option to re-sign their key players.

I doubt Smith will have any more trade value. Maatta’s performance in this year’s playoffs might make him enticing for clubs seeking a puck-moving defenseman.