How might John Tavares’ contract talks with the Leafs pan out next summer? Are the Sabres interested in Ducks center Trevor Zegras? What’s the latest on Blues defenseman Torey Krug? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
WILL TAVARES HAVE TO ACCEPT A PAY CUT TO REMAIN A LEAF?
Stamkos, 33, raised eyebrows last week when he voiced his disappointment to reporters over the lack of contract extension discussions with Lightning management this summer. Bolts general manager Julien BriseBois said that his captain will have to wait until the end of this season for those negotiations to begin.
Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (NHL Images).
McGran wonders if Leafs GM Brad Treliving will ask Tavares, who will be 34 next summer, to accept a pay cut like Evgeni Malkin did with the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer. Malkin’s pay dropped from an average annual value of $9.5 million to $6.1 million. He also mused over whether Treliving might have other ideas.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tavares is earning an AAV of $11 million on his current contract, which expires at the end of the 2024-25 season. He’ll have no choice but to accept a pay cut if he hopes to continue playing for the Leafs, especially if his production declines between now and then. That’s assuming management intends to keep him once this contract is completed. How big a cut will depend on his performance over the next two seasons.
SABRES EYEING ZEGRAS?
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie recently weighed in on the lack of progress in contract talks between the Anaheim Ducks and restricted free agent Trevor Zegras. He claimed the Buffalo Sabres have an interest in the 22-year-old center, believing Zegras will help them end their 12-year playoff drought.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I missed this one when it was first reported last week. The Sabres are already set with Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens centering their top two lines. Zegras can also play wing but they’re loaded at those positions too. Goaltending and blueline depth are the bigger concerns for the Sabres entering this season.
If the Sabres are looking into Zegras’ availability I doubt the Ducks are willing to part with him. If they are, the asking price will be significant plus there’s also the cost to the Sabres of re-signing him to a new contract.
The Sabres have the depth in assets to make a competitive trade offer for Zegras and the cap space to sign him if he’s seeking under $8 million annually starting this season. Long-term cap space, however, could be an issue with Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and Casey Mittelstadt due for new contracts (and big raises) next season.
The 32-year-old defenseman cited his unwillingness to uproot his young family from St. Louis, his closeness to his Blues teammates, and the fact that he didn’t want to join a rebuilding club in Philadelphia.
Krug acknowledged he was upset that Blues management was looking at trading him. However, he said he took some time to deal with the aftermath of the situation and insists he has a great relationship with general manager Doug Armstrong.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korac and The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford noted that Krug was within his rights to reject the trade. However, Rutherford believes the pressure will be on the blueliner to step up his game in 2023-24 and prove that he wants to be part of the solution after the Blues missed the playoffs last season.
Lindholm didn’t have much to say to reporters yesterday regarding his contract talks when the Flames gathered for their annual charity golf tournament. “I’ve made it pretty clear that I want to stay,” said the 28-year-old center. “That’s about it”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daniel Austin also reported on Lindholm’s contract situation. It’s understood that the Flames have made a big-money, long-term offer to the two-way center to keep him in Calgary. He also indicated that Conroy doesn’t want to risk losing Lindholm to free agency like his predecessor did with Johnny Gaudreau.
Earlier in the week, Gilbertson suggested it could take over $9 million annually to keep Lindholm in the fold. However, he thinks the lack of progress in getting a deal done is due to the center taking what appears to be a wait-and-see approach regarding the coming season.
Gilbertson believes Conroy doesn’t want to trade Lindholm but doesn’t doubt that he’s gauged the interest of his fellow NHL general managers to see what type of package they’d be willing to offer. Trading him, however, would also leave a huge hole at center for the Flames that will be difficult to fill internally.
TSN’s Salim Nadim Valji believes Lindholm sounded more open and optimistic about his future in Calgary than he did a couple of months ago. Time will tell if that’s the case as this season unfolds.
Hanifin also provided some clarity on his situation following a summer of reports claiming he didn’t want to sign a contract extension. The 26-year-old defenseman told reporters he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the Flames but is putting his focus on the coming season and will see how things go from there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valji reported that Hanifin told management he would wait and see how the season went but he hadn’t shut the door on an extension. He also informed them during the summer that he needed time to digest the disappointment of last season.
Conroy stressed that none of those six pending UFAs have asked to be traded or told him that they didn’t want to be in Calgary. He considered it understandable that they want time to evaluate the club’s performance this season following last year’s disappointing outcome.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, a bounce-back performance by the Flames followed by a strong postseason effort could sway most of those core UFAs to re-sign. Another discouraging season like 2022-23 could lead to Conroy peddling some of them by the March 8 trade deadline.
Rutherford dismissed that rumor as well as another reader’s suggested offer for Nylander with Torey Krug as the centerpiece of the return to the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Rutherford observed, Nylander is a two-time 40-goal scorer who nearly had 90 points last season. The Leafs wouldn’t accept Krug even if he was healthy. He also believes any possibility of a Nylander-for-Parayko swap died out a long time ago. Parayko isn’t on the same level of talent as the Leafs winger.
Rutherford was also asked if the Blues might attempt to move a veteran defenseman such as Krug, Parayko, Justin Faulk or Nick Leddy at some point this season. He didn’t rule out the possibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As we saw with Krug earlier this summer when he nixed a trade to Philadelphia, the respective no-trade/no-movement clauses of those blueliners will make them difficult to shop.
TOREY KRUG’S LATEST INJURY AFFECTS HIS TRADE VALUE.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford noted that oft-injured Torey Krug will miss the start of the St. Louis Blues training camp after injuring his right foot during off-season training. He will be re-evaluated on Oct. 1.
Rutherford pointed out that the Blues attempted to trade Krug this summer to the Philadelphia Flyers. However, the deal fell through when the 32-year-old defenseman invoked his no-trade clause.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Torey Krug (NHL Images).
It doesn’t appear as though the Blues were any closer to moving Krug after that. His latest injury along with his $6.5 million average annual value over the next four seasons could further dwindle any interest in him in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The most realistic way for the Blues to trade Krug would be to retain 50 percent of his cap hit or swap him for a comparable player with a similar AAV. Neither scenario seems likely heading into this season.
CAREY PRICE IS OPEN TO A TRADE
TVA SPORTS:Carey Price said he’d be open to having his contract traded if the Montreal Canadiens. The 36-year-old goaltender admitted yesterday that the injured knee that sidelined him since last season has likely ended his playing career.
Price said the decision wouldn’t be his. He understands that teams have to manage their contracts and salary cap space. The former Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy winner said he’d accept it if they had to move his contract for salary-cap reasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price also said that he sees himself one day taking a role with the Canadiens once his children are older. He stated that he would be a Montreal Canadien “for the rest of my life.”
While the 33-year-old Myers carries a $6 million salary-cap hit for this season, $5 million of that was paid out as a signing bonus. That means he’ll earn $1 million in actual salary for the remainder of this season.
With so little money owed and the Canucks in need of cap space, Yost suggests Myers could be an intriguing option. Teams that need to reach the salary cap minimum or clubs that feel the blueliner still has something left in the tank could come calling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yost also noted that Myers carries a 10-team no-trade clause.
There was speculation in July claiming the Canucks had a deal in place to send Myers to the San Jose Sharks once his signing bonus was paid. So far, this rumored trade has yet to materialize.
The Blue Jackets refute a privacy violation accusation against coach Mike Babcock, Carey Price admits his playing career is likely over, the Blues’ Torey Krug will miss the start of training camp, and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Columbus Blue Jackets released statements from head coach Mike Babcock and team captain Boone Jenner refuting allegations that he invaded his players’ privacy.
“Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast host Paul Bissonnette said he got a text from an unnamed player claiming Babcock called Jenner into his office asking to see his phone in order to view the photos on it to determine the type of person he was.
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock (NHL Images).
After looking into the allegation yesterday, the Blue Jackets released statements from Babcock and Jenner with their versions of what happened, stating Bissonnette’s depiction wasn’t delivered in the proper context.
Babcock said that he asked players and staff to share family photos off their phones as a way of getting to know them better. He called Bissonnette’s depiction of events “a gross misrepresentation of those meetings and extremely offensive.”
Jenner, meanwhile, said he was “happy to share” some of his photos of his family, pointing out Babcock had done the same with him. “I thought it was a great first meeting and a good way for us to start a relationship. To have this blown out of proportion is truly disappointing.”
Blue Jackets winger Johnny Gaudreau fully supported Babcock and Jenner. He said the coach also asked him to share some of his family photos. “It was his way of kinda getting to know me, and I got to know him,” said Gaudreau, adding he had no problem with it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Babcock was hired as the Blue Jackets coach earlier this summer. He is under a harsher spotlight following allegations in 2019 that he bullied players during his coaching tenures with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bissonnette is standing by his comments claiming “tons of players” have confirmed the accusation. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league doesn’t consider this to be an issue. He also said the NHLPA has followed up, claiming Bissonnette’s depiction of the events wasn’t consistent with what the players reported to the PA.
Babcock and Jenner also spoke to the media yesterday after their statements were released. They insisted what happened was taken out of context and blown out of proportion.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price admitted that his knee injury has likely ended his playing career. He missed all of 2022-23 and is expected to be sidelined again this season.
Price, 36, said his knee feels good on a day-to-day basis and he can do things that are strenuous for a short period of time. However, he cannot handle the brunt of a full season of goaltending as he still gets tremendous swelling in his knee as a result. Price indicated that it was swollen for two weeks following his participation in a charity softball event this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price still has three seasons remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $10.5 million. He will be placed on long-term injury reserve this season once he completes his training camp medical next week.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues defenseman Torey Krug will miss the start of training camp after injuring his right foot during off-season training. He’ll be reevaluated on Oct. 1.
Krug, 32, has been hampered by injuries in recent years. He missed 19 games last season and 18 contests in 2021-22.
NHL.COM: Seth Jones said he’d be honored if he were to be named the next captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. “I’ve always wanted to be a captain,” said Jones, adding he’d learned from some great leaders such as Shea Weber, Nick Foligno and Jonathan Toews over this career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have yet to name a replacement for Toews, who captained the club from 2008 to April of last season. Jones could be the front-runner for the role.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets named center Adam Lowry as their new team captain. Lowry, 30, takes over from Blake Wheeler, who was bought out of the remaining year of his contract in June.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets head coach Rick Bowness cited Lowry’s work ethic, competitiveness and ability to communicate with his teammates as reason why he was tapped as the new captain. The Athletic’s Murat Ates cited Lowry as “a level-headed, inclusive, passionate, honest and consistently hard-working player.”
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: The Avalanche signed free-agent winger Tomas Tatar to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors linked Tatar to the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. Instead, he lands with one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
The 32-year-old winger has a reputation as a solid regular-season performer who struggles in the postseason. Perhaps he’ll have better luck in the playoffs with the Avalanche.
CALGARY SUN: Mikael Backlund hasn’t closed the door on signing a contract extension with the Flames. The 34-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Backlund is taking a wait-and-see approach to this season to determine if the Flames are ready to become a Stanley Cup contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backlund could be shopped by the March 8 trade deadline if the Flames are out of playoff contention by then.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: The Golden Knights signed winger Maxime Comtois to a professional tryout offer (PTO).
TSN: Speaking of the Golden Knights, Nick Holden is joining their front office after announcing his retirement yesterday. The 36-year-old defenseman played 654 career regular-season games over 12 seasons (2010-11 to 2022-23) with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators, finishing with 178 career points.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Edmonton Oilers signed forward Adam Erne to a PTO contract.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken prospect Shane Wright will be granted an exemption from the OHL allowing him to play for the club’s AHL affiliate if he fails to make the Kraken roster this season. In other words, he won’t have to return to his junior club because he missed the age eligibility cutoff by just five days.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins announced their “Historic 100” list of the 100 most legendary players in franchise history ahead of its “All-Centennial” all-star roster reveal on Oct. 12. Among the notables are Bobby Orr, Raymond Bourque, Phil Esposito, Eddie Shore, Brad Park, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Gerry Cheevers, Tim Thomas, Brad Marchand, Jean Ratelle, Rick Middleton and Joe Thornton.
ESPN.COM: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly believes a third attempt at operating an NHL franchise in Atlanta could be more successful than the previous two attempts. He indicated the market demographics have significantly improved in that area but noted that the rink location would be important.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report also indicated that league commissioner Gary Bettman has said that expansion isn’t a priority for the NHL right now.
Nevertheless, there’s been speculation among some pundits that another franchise in Atlanta could become a possibility down the road. In addition to the construction of an arena in a suitable location, it will also require a deep-pocketed ownership group willing to pay over $1 billion in expansion fees.
TSN: The NHL and NHLPA are planning on staging a scaled-down version of the World Cup of Hockey in February 2025 given the timeframe and uncertainty over the participation of Russian players. It will not be a “typical tournament” of eight national teams playing over 16 days.
Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).
Marchessault and Stephenson are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. It’s not a certainty one or both will be re-signed as both will likely command significant raises. Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season while Stephenson has been outperforming his current contract.
Noting Pettersson’s recent remarks about putting contract talks with the Canucks on hold, Gawlik speculated the pending restricted free agent might prefer a trade to a potential contender. He pointed out that Marchessault and Stephenson have already peaked while the 24-year-old Pettersson is just starting his prime. The Golden Knights could offer up draft picks and prospects to get him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gawlik isn’t the first pundit to suggest the team that he’s covering should look into Pettersson’s availability. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy made the same proposal for the Bruins.
Bear in mind Gawlik and Murphy aren’t stating that the Golden Knights and Bruins are actively pursuing Pettersson or even remotely interested at this point. They’re just suggesting the management of those clubs should conduct their due diligence and at least look into it.
In reality, it will take more than draft picks and prospects for the Golden Knights to pry Pettersson away from the Canucks. Their first-round picks in 2024, 2025 and 2026 will likely be near the bottom of each round. They’ve also depleted their prospect pipeline putting together their current roster.
The Golden Knights currently have 16 active roster players under contract for 2024-25 with just over $16 million in cap space. A new contract for Pettersson will likely eat up over $10 million of that, making him a tight squeeze within their cap payroll.
Rutherford indicated that the Blues had a trade in place earlier this summer to ship Krug to the rebuilding Philadelphia Flyers. However, the 32-year-old defenseman nixed the deal by invoking his no-trade clause.
There are three reasons why Rutherford believes a Krug trade is possible during the upcoming season. The Blues’ failed attempt to move the veteran blueliner created a potentially awkward and distracting situation. They’d like to free up a spot on their defense corps for Scott Perunovich. They’re also up against the $83.5 million cap and moving out Krug’s $6.5 million cap hit will free up much-needed payroll space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford acknowledged it remains difficult to trade Krug given his cap hit and his no-trade clause. Nevertheless, it could happen if a suitable trade destination can be found. A healthy season and a return to form could also make him more desirable in the trade market.
A look at five centers the Bruins could target to replace Patrice Bergeron, possible cost-cutting trade options for the Senators, and more speculation over whether the Blues will trade a defenseman in today’s NHL Rumor Mill
MORE TRADE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE BRUINS TO REPLACE BERGERON
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve noted previous suggestions linking the Bruins to Lindholm and Scheifele. Lindholm is younger, more affordable and has better all-around skills than Scheifele. However, both players will be expensive to acquire right now, perhaps too expensive for the Bruins to acquire. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy cited a source suggesting the Bruins would have to part with Jake DeBrusk as part of the return to land Lindholm.
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture (NHL Images)
Wegman also suggested San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture. He acknowledged a number of obstacles, such as the 34-year-old Couture’s age, expensive contract and three-team trade clause. Nevertheless, he remains productive and would be worth looking into.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t hurt to check but I don’t see Couture ending up in Boston. His contract is simply too complicated to move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll admit anything’s possible and the Bruins could consider that option if there’s nothing more suitable available in the trade market.
However, I expect they’ll likely start the season with Coyle and Zacha and see how things shake out. If they need an upgrade at center, better options could become available near the March trade deadline.
HOW WILL THE SENATORS SHED CAP SPACE AFTER SIGNING TARASENKO
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch pointed out the Senators will have to make a cost-cutting trade after signing Vladimir Tarasenko on Thursday to a one-year, $5 million contract. They have roughly $900K in cap room with restricted free agents Shane Pinto and Egor Sokolov to re-sign.
According to Garrioch, the most likely scenario sees the Senators shopping forward Mathieu Joseph before the regular season opens in October. He carries an AAV of $2.95 million through 2025-26.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steve Warne also considers Joseph the most likely cost-cutting candidate, though he believes the Senators might have to include a sweetener in the deal.
Defenseman Erik Brannstrom ($2 million) is another option but the Senators might prefer retaining him given how many injuries they had on their blueline last season. Warne also speculated they could play hardball with Pinto and sign him to a one-year, $1 million contract and then ink him to a long-term in the new year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Better off to move Joseph than to deplete the blueline depth or get into a contract pissing contest with the promising Pinto.
LATEST SPECULATION REGARDING THE BLUES DEFENSE CORPS
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford was recently asked by a reader how the St. Louis Blues intend to address their logjam on the blueline. He noted that general manager Doug Armstrong has said he intends to start the season with eight defensemen on the roster, which means they could send Scott Perunovich to the minors as he’s the only one who’s waiver-exempt.
Rutherford wouldn’t be surprised if Armstrong attempts to pull off a trade before training camp. However, he noted the difficulty the Blues GM had in trying to trade Torey Krug to the Philadelphia Flyers as he invoked his no-trade clause to block that attempt. Armstrong would also likely have to sweeten the pot to move someone like Marco Scandella.