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.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2020

What next for the Flames, Capitals and Blue Jackets now that their postseason is over? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLAMES

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered about the future of Johnny Gaudreau following yet another disappointing early playoff exit by the Calgary Flames. The 27-year-old winger’s been the subject of trade speculation throughout this season as he put up his lowest offensive output since his rookie season.

Could the Calgary Flames shop Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason? (NHL Images)

It’s been speculated Gaudreau, a New Jersey native, could be peddled to an East Coast team. There’s also a theory the Flames could trade away “Johnny Hockey” to make room for Arizona Coyotes winger (and Calgary native) Taylor Hall.

With notable coaches such as Bruce Boudreau, Peter Laviolette, and Mike Babcock available, Wyshynski pondered the future of Flames interim bench boss Geoff Ward. He also wondered which of their notable UFAs (goalie Cam Talbot, blueliners T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic) will be back.

CALGARY SUN: Kristen Anderson and Wes Gilbertson wondered if changes could be coming to the Flames’ core forwards like Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Sam Bennett. Gilbertson also mused over whether it’s time for general manager Brad Treliving to test Gaudreau’s trade value or make a change at center by trading Sean Monahan or dropping him to the second line.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think a shakeup is coming and it could be Gaudreau on the move. A year ago, I considered that unthinkable. Not now. He seemed off-kilter until midseason and wasn’t much of a force in this postseason. As Gilbertson pointed out, he didn’t have an even-strength goal during the series with the Stars.

Despite Gaudreau’s struggles this season, he’s the Flames’ best trade chip. They aren’t moving Monahan because first-line centers are difficult to find. Spark plug Matthew Tkachuk isn’t going anywhere. I expect they’ll hang onto Bennett. He’s a versatile checking-line forward who elevates his play in the postseason. Backlund could be shopped but won’t fetch as strong a return as Gaudreau.

Dump Gaudreau to sign Hall? Stranger things have happened but Hall did little to raise his UFA stock this season. Maybe he’d regain his 2018 Hart Trophy form in Calgary but he would be an expensive gamble.

CAPITALS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan examined some possible off-season moves by the Washington Capitals. It appears long-time starting goaltender and pending UFA Braden Holtby has played his final game for the Caps. Their blueline could use some help but they have limited salary-cap space. Kaplan also wondered about the fate of head coach Todd Reirden.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Barry Svrluga wondered if the Capitals’ early playoff departure suggests a team in decline or perhaps the interruption of the season by COVID-19 skewed the results. He points out most of their core players are now in their thirties, took note of Holtby’s expected departure and wondered about Reirden’s fate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Replacing the coach is easier than replacing the roster, and there’s some justification for a change behind the Capitals bench after Reirden got schooled in the Isles series by former Washington coach Barry Trotz. The Caps remain a talented team but most of their stars don’t have many good years left. 

Holtby’s departure is a foregone conclusion. His performance declined over the last couple of years. Ilya Samsonov had a promising debut season and will be their starter for the foreseeable future.

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $71.1 million invested in 16 players. There’s a chance they’ll re-sign Brenden Dillon but he could cost over $4 million annually. RFA Jonas Siegenthaler will get an affordable bridge deal coming off his entry-level deal. That won’t leave much to bolster their blueline depth.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports of rumors Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could be preparing for some big off-season moves to bolster his forward lines.

Portzline believes their priority should be adding a top-six center. He feels the Jackets’ GM could draw from his blue-line depth for trade bait, suggesting David Savard as a candidate. RFA winger Josh Anderson could be another. With Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins as bonafide starters, the Jackets could get calls from clubs seeking help in goal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen showed a willingness to make significant moves leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. With his club in dire need of scoring punch, I expect he’ll swing a trade or two to address that need. Several clubs with limited salary-cap space could be looking to shed a high-salaried talent for a more affordable option.

As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $76 million invested in 23 players, with center Pierre-Luc Dubois due for a raise coming off his entry-level contract. He lacks arbitration rights so Kekalainen could ink him to an affordable short-term bridge deal with the promise of a more lucrative contract afterward.

If Kekalainen seeks impact forwards, he’ll have to move salaried players too. He could get $5.85-million in cap flexibility if sidelined forward Brandon Dubinsky starts the season on long-term injury reserve.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 12, 2020

The Lightning down the Blue Jackets in a five-overtime marathon. Check out the details in the recaps of the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning needed five overtime periods to edge the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. Brayden Point tallied the winner at 10:27 of the fifth-overtime period, marking the fourth-longest game in NHL history, lasting over six hours and 13 minutes. The goal was Point’s second of the game. Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.

 

 

     

Tampa Bay Lightning center Braydon Point (NHL Images).

The two teams combined for a record 151 shots, with the Lightning firing a record 88. Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo set a record with 85 saves while Bolts netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 61. Jackets defenseman Seth Jones also set a record for minutes-played by a skater, logging 65 minutes and six seconds of ice time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the most entertaining multiple overtime game I’ve seen since the Buffalo Sabres edged the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in Game 6 of their 1994 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. These types of games usually turn into long, dull defensive slogs with few quality scoring chances. Not this game. Every period was fast-paced and exciting, with the Lightning having the bulk of the offensive opportunities. A tough loss for the Jackets, who’ll have little time to recover before Game 2 tomorrow.

Because of the length of the Lighting-Blue Jackets game, the NHL rescheduled Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to 11 am ET today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the right call by the league. It reportedly would’ve taken nearly two hours following the end of the Bolts-Jackets game to clean the dressing rooms and players benches and to prepare the ice surface for the Bruins and Hurricanes.

Rasmus Andersson’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Calgary Flames held off the Dallas Stars 3-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. Dillon Dube scored twice as the Flames jumped to a 2-0 lead but the Stars tied it on goals by Denis Gurianov and Jamie Benn nine seconds apart. Stars defenseman Stephen Johns left the game in the second period and is listed as “unfit to play.” Stars center Tyler Seguin was held without a shot.    

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dube had a heck of a game for the Flames, especially with his second goal that looked like a Pavel Bure special. Teammate Milan Lucic is also playing well, picking up his fifth point (1-4-5) in as many games.

Reilly Smith scored twice and collected an assist to lead the Vegas Golden Knights over the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Mark Scheifele said he doesn’t believe Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk deliberately intended to injure him in Game 1 of their qualifying-round series. Scheifele suffered an injury to the back of his leg following a collision with Tkachuk, who reached out to the Jets center explaining he was skating too fast and lost control as he approached Scheifele along the boards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets coach Paul Maurice had thought otherwise, accusing Tkachuk of a dirty hit and doubling down a day later. It was obvious, however, that the collision was accidental. I think Tkachuk got a bad rap here because of his well-earned reputation for questionable tactics. If it had been Tkachuk’s teammate Johnny Gaudreau colliding with Scheifele, nobody would’ve thought it was dirty.

CBS SPORTS: Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis suffered a fractured leg and ligament damage near his ankle during an Aug. 5 game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s expected to be recovered in time for the 2020-21 season, but it might not be with the Oilers. Ennis is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues forward Ivan Barbashev is expected to rejoin his teammates in Edmonton on Friday after traveling to St. Louis to be with his wife during the birth of his son.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2020

The Jets and Dustin Byfuglien agree to mutual contract termination, the Blue Jackets re-sign Joonas Korpisalo, neutral-site speculation and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets and Dustin Byfuglien agreed to a mutual termination of his contract. The move brings an end to the dispute between Jets management and the veteran defenseman over his injury status. It resulted in his suspension without pay for missing training camp and his subsequent season-ending ankle surgery that took place without informing management. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff maintains the situation remains largely a private matter between the two sides but acknowledged it was emotional.

Dustin Byfuglien’s days with the Winnipeg Jets are over (Photo via NHL Images).

Byfuglien has forfeited the $14 million in actual salary remaining on his contract. He was slated to earn $8 million this season and $6 million in 2020-21. He’s not spoken publicly about the situation or his future plans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can read the entire timeline of this saga here. With Byfuglien’s contract off the books for next season, Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have over $65.9 million invested in 13 players for next season, with all of their core players signed. That should provide Cheveldayoff with some wiggle room to bolster his blueline.

As for Byfuglien, there’s already speculation over potential destinations if he continues his NHL career. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets re-signed Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $2.8 million. The 25-year-old goaltender will earn $2.2 million in actual salary next season and $3.4 million in 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a reasonable contract for Korpisalo, who’s coming off a one-year, $1.125-million deal. Given the uncertainty over next season’s salary cap, it’s probably a wise decision on his part to take that deal now, rather than risk a lower payday. He’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Fellow Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins is also a restricted free agent at season’s end, but The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline believes he’ll get a similar deal. Portzline noted there was speculation suggesting the Jackets made Merzlikins a three-year offer, but the netminder denied that report last month.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues re-signed MacKenzie MacEachern to a two-year, one-way contract worth $900K per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t wasting time getting some business done during the pandemic shutdown. The MacEachern contract is the third deal he’s signed in as many days, inking Sammy Blais on Wednesday and Marco Scandella on Thursday. The Blues now have over $79.4 million tied up in 20 players, with defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn to re-sign.

SPORTSNET: New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu admitted he’s had discussions with the NHL about staging neutral-site games in Manchester if the league returns to action in a reduced capacity this summer. “There is truth to that,” he said. “I have had discussions about that. Don’t know whether it’s going to happen, but we are talking about it.”

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell and his wife bought approximately 500 lunches for local sanitation workers in recognition of their efforts during this pandemic.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Columbus Blue Jackets

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Columbus Blue Jackets

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2020

Could the Rangers pursue Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What will the Blue Jackets do with their goalie tandem? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NUGENT-HOPKINS TO THE RANGERS?

NEW YORK POST: In a recent mailbag segment, a reader told Larry Brooks he’d heard lots of rumors about the Rangers trading for Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Brooks acknowledged the Rangers will attempt to bulk up at center for next season. They could be in the market for a second-line center depending on Ryan Strome’s contract status and Filip Chytil’s readiness. He feels they could defenseman Tony DeAngelo as trade bait.

Could the New York Rangers trade for Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? (Photo via NHL Images)

While Nugent-Hopkins would be a good fit, Brooks doesn’t believe the Rangers will pursue him. He pointed out RNH is only a year away from unrestricted free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could do it if they get permission from the Oilers to speak to the Nugent-Hopkins camp about a contract extension. However, I think the Oilers prefer to retain RNH. If they were to shop him in the off-season (whenever that might be), it’ll be for a second-line winger, not a puck-moving defenseman.

COULD THE BLUE JACKETS TRADE KORPISALO OR MERZLIKINS?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required) Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets believe they have two No.1 goaltenders in Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. There’s an assumption they could trade one of them this summer. Both are restricted free agents with arbitration rights sitting a year away from unrestricted free agent status.

Portzline expects the Jackets won’t accept anything less than two years. It’s unlikely either goalie will accept anything longer than three or four years.

A free-agent goalie market featuring Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, and Chicago’s Corey Crawford could also affect efforts to trade Korpisalo or Merzlikins. Finding the right team and the right deal could also complicate matters.

The Jackets can afford to wait to move either goalie. They also won’t be under pressure to move one before next summer’s expansion draft, as Merzlikins is exempt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have over $68.2 million invested in 17 players, with Korpisalo, Merzlikins, and forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson as their notable free agents. They’re in a good position with their goaltenders.

If a club offered up a good young NHL center, they’ll probably act on it. Nevertheless, I think they’ll sign both netminders to two-year deals and see how things shake out.