NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at possible goalie trade candidates this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked which club makes the most sense for the Buffalo Sabres to trade Jack Eichel to get the best return.

Assuming Eichel eventually gets healthy and returns to form, Duhatschek feels it’ll take a team willing to make a bold move in order for the Sabres to get full value for him. He rules out the Los Angeles Kings as too conservative and unwilling to part with prospect Quinton Byfield. Also ruled out are the Boston Bruins as there doesn’t appear to be a fit in salary or the player/draft choice combination heading the other way.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Duhatschek feels the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen and the Minnesota Wild’s Bill Guerin are two general managers with the courage to wade into an Eichel deal. Both clubs need a genuine No. 1 center. He also considers the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks as long shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never with the Kings but I agree with Duhatschek’s take. Anze Kopitar is still their first-line center and the signing of Phillip Danault suggests they’re buying time until Byfield and Alex Turcotte are ready to join the roster on a full-time basis.

The Bruins certainly could use hometown boy Eichel but there just isn’t a fit there unless GM Don Sweeney gets very creative by bringing in a third team to pull off the swap. He could instead set his sights on a more affordable short-term option such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.

I’ve also suggested the Blue Jackets as a destination. They have over $10 million in cap space, carry potentially two first-round picks in next year’s draft and have some promising players in their system (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy) that could tempt the Sabres. Kekalainen has made bold moves in the past but I’m not sure he’s willing to pursue a big fish like Eichel.

The Wild’s cap space will shrink considerably once winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract unless Guerin pulls a swerve and becomes willing to part with the young winger in a package for the Sabres’ center. While the Wild need a bonafide first-line center, I don’t think they’ll pursue Eichel.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving reportedly looked into an Eichel swap but it doesn’t appear things got too far. Unless Treliving intends on a dramatic roster shake-up this season I don’t see Calgary as a serious bidder. The Ducks have lots of cap space and promising youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale but GM Bob Murray probably won’t part with those guys.

Duhatschek was also asked which goaltenders could surface in the trade rumor mill by the Olympic break in February. He points out the Dallas Stars’ depth between the pipes could make them the first place to call, especially if Ben Bishop returns from knee surgery. He doesn’t see Jake Oettinger getting moved as he’s their future starter but Braden Holtby could be an affordable option.

Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo could also get moved. He and Elvis Merzlikins are unrestricted free agents next summer but Merzlikins is the better goalie. Others could include Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Stars’ goalie situation shakes out. The uncertainty over Bishop’s career is why they brought in Holtby. They could go with him and Anton Khudobin as their tandem to start the season and send Oettinger down to the minors as he’s waiver-exempt. They could also put Khudobin on the trade block.

It’s expected the Blue Jackets will retain Merzlikins and move Korpisalo by the March trade deadline. It was assumed Korpisalo would get shopped this summer but that plan was shelved by the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks in July.

Greiss and Koskinen are UFAs this summer and could become rental players at the deadline. Quick, however, has another season on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. Given his age (35) and injury history, there might not be many takers for him.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2021

How will the Bruins cope without David Krejci? What’s going on with the Islanders and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HOW WILL THE BRUINS REPLACE KREJCI?

THE ATHLETIC: In the wake of David Krejci’s decision to finish his playing days in the Czech Republic, Fluto Shinzawa pondered how they could replace the 35-year-old second-line center.

Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk (NHL Images).

One option could be the trade market but Shinzawa rules out pursuing Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, citing their lack of cap space and Eichel’s health issues and hefty contract. Jake DeBrusk remains a trade asset but the dropoff in his performance last season makes him unlikely to fetch a second-line center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shinzawa reports the Bruins are about $1 million under the $81.5 million salary cap. While a trade is possible for a second-line center I wouldn’t be surprised if they start the season with Charlie Coyle replacing Krejci. And no, they’re not trading for Eichel.

Perhaps they’ll have an opportunity to add a short-term replacement before next year’s trade deadline. The pickings in the free-agent market are slim and none will suitably replace Krejci unless someone can find a fountain of youth for Joe Thornton or Eric Staal.

LATEST ISLANDERS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple weighs in on the seeming inactivity of the New York Islanders since the start of free agency on Wednesday. He believes general manager Lou Lamoriello is keeping silent about his signings because he doesn’t want anyone in the league to know where the Isles are with their salary-cap space. He believes Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri have been signed, perhaps Casey Cizikas and maybe Travis Zajac but doesn’t know when we’ll know for sure.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello employed the same tactic last fall with Matt Martin, Andy Greene, and Cory Schneider. No surprise he’s doing it again.

Staple took note of a report by colleague Jeremy Rutherford indicating the Islanders are believed in the mix for St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. He doubts Anthony Beauvillier would be part of that deal, suggesting Josh Bailey as the likely trade candidate given the Isles left him exposed in the expansion draft. Perhaps Bailey packaged with a high draft pick and/or another asset might be enough to clear cap space to acquire Tarasenko (if the Blues pick up part of his $7.5 million cap hit) and leave enough to acquire a defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple also mused about the Isles pursuing Seattle’s Vince Dunn, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm or Anaheim’s Cam Fowler or Hampus Lindholm as a replacement for the departed Nick Leddy on their blueline.

Dunn, a restricted free agent, hasn’t been signed yet by the Kraken but I think that’s only a matter of time. The Predators are committed to re-signing Ekholm. Lindholm might be available but the Isles would have to part with a suitable package that fits the Ducks’ rebuilding scheme. Fowler, meanwhile, has a four-team trade list and the Isles might not be on it.

OILERS ATTEMPTING TO ACQUIRE KORPISALO?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples reports of rumors that have the Oilers offering up goaltender Mikko Koskinen (along with a first-round pick and/or prospect Dmitri Samorukov) to the Columbus Blue Jackets for netminder Joonas Korpisalo.

It’s hard to imagine how such a deal makes sense, as Korpisalo isn’t obviously a better goalie than Koskinen,” writes Staples. He believes the Oilers are better off with Mike Smith, Koskinen and Alex Stalock as their goalies to start the season and shop for a goalie if Koskinen and Stalock fail to cut it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Couldn’t have said it better myself.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

Niklas Hjalmarsson to retire, the Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal, the Canucks to buy out Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. Morgan doesn’t anticipate he’ll make a formal announcement.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hjalmarsson, 34, spent 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Coyotes. A shutdown defenseman, his best years were with the Blackhawks as he helped them win three Stanley Cups during his 10 seasons with the franchise. He finishes with 172 points in 821 career NHL games. Best of luck to Hjalmarsson and his family in their future endeavors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal also includes a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal proved to be a valuable addition to the Red Wings. The 34-year-old provided experience, leadership and stability to the rebuilding club’s defense corps. He hopes to become a mentor this season to promising Wings blueliner Moritz Seider, who’s expected to make his NHL debut in 2021-22.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was once considered a promising offensive forward but he failed to play up to expectations. His recent questionable off-ice behavior also became an issue. The Canucks attempted to trade the 24-year-old winger during this season but reportedly couldn’t find any suitable offers. He’s been on leave from the club since May 1 following a sexual misconduct allegation.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to keep their goaltending tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo intact to start the 2021-22 season. Both are entering the final year of their contracts. It was anticipated one of them would be traded this summer but the tragic death of promising Matiss Kivlenieks on July 4 changed that plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps one of them will be shopped later in the season if the Jackets are out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline.

CAP FRIENDLY: The St. Louis Blues signed forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2021

The latest on Mitch Marner, Seth Jones, Sam Reinhart and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS GM SAID HE WON’T MOVE MARNER BUT SPECULATION PERSISTS

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger reports Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Mitch Marner won’t be part of any potential offseason roster changes. He defended Marner and Auston Matthews, adding that moving either of them would be foolish.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos acknowledged Dubas’ comments but believes rival general managers will be calling about Marner. He thinks the Leafs should listen to offers, especially if they’re coming from Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. Traikos wondered if they could swap out Marner for Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, or Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, or Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas seems adamant about not trading Marner or Matthews. It would have to be a significant deal to pry Marner away from the Leafs. Maybe he’s willing to listen if Jones or Gibson or Eichel were pitched to him for Marner, but we don’t know if those offers will be made.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S RECENT “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes there will be plenty of interest in Jackets defenseman Seth Jones despite his unrestricted free agent eligibility next summer. He feels it could be a complex transaction. He thinks it could be “a trade and free agency at the same time” unless someone’s willing to offer up a major package for Jones as a playoff rental for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I said before, interested clubs could want assurances Jones will sign a contract extension before signing off on a trade. He’ll be of more value in the trade market that way. Perhaps a sign-and-trade scenario takes place. Maybe the Jackets grant permission for rival general managers to speak with Jones’ agent about a new deal.

Speaking of the Jackets, Friedman believes they spoke to the Buffalo Sabres about Sam Reinhart. The Sabres are looking for goaltenders and could have interest in Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. He thinks these two clubs would make sensible trade partners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart for Korpisalo or Merlikins could make sense for both clubs. As Friedman noted, however, there’s no guarantee that a deal takes place.

Friedman expects the Anaheim Ducks will try to make a big move this summer. They attempted to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Blue Jackets before he was traded in January to the Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The pursuit of Dubois suggests Ducks GM Bob Murray will be in the market for a center. Aging captain Ryan Getzlaf is a UFA this summer. If he returns it won’t be in a top-six role.

Sources indicate league revenue for this season could be between $1.8 billion and $2 billion. Factor in money owed to the league by the players and the salary cap could remain static for several seasons, perhaps to 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman suggests that could mean offer-sheet thresholds could be lower than ever. I still don’t hold my breath waiting for one given how rarely that tactic is employed.










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.