NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2020

A look at TSN’s updated trade-bait board in today’s NHL rumor.

TSN: Frank Seravalli updated and expanded his trade-bait board. Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray and Vegas Golden Knights’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury now sit in the top five.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli’s colleague Darren Dreger reports Ekman-Larsson is willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is talking with both clubs hoping to work out a deal. Dreger believes the Coyotes will either have to retain some of Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25-million annual average value or they’ll have to take back some contracts in return.

The Coyotes lack a first-round pick for this year and next year, but the Bruins and Canucks don’t have first-round picks in this year’s draft. The Province’s Patrick Johnston suggested Canucks GM Jim Benning offer up Loui Eriksson, who has two years left on his contract at $6 million AAV, as part of the return. Eriksson’s only being paid $5 million in actual salary over those two years. However, the Coyotes could be on his 15-team no-trade list.

Acquiring Ekman-Larsson would allow the Bruins to replace Torey Krug, who’s expected to depart via free agency next Friday. If the Coyotes aren’t willing to pick up part of his cap hit, the Bruins will have to give up something worthwhile while freeing up some additional cap space to absorb Ekman-Larsson’s contract.

Turning to Murray, Seravalli noted the Edmonton Oilers were linked to him. With free agency looming, he said many observers are wondering if they might set their sights on Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson, Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk, the Ottawa Senators’ second-round picks, Canucks winger Jake Virtanen and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli said there were rumors the Oilers had an interest in DeBrusk but their cap constraints likely make him too expensive. He’s a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Maybe he becomes part of the Bruins’ package offer for Ekman-Larsson?

As for Rask, Seravalli cites multiple sources claiming Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been gauging the goalie’s value in the trade market. He’s got a year left on his contract ($7 million AAV) with a 15-team trade list. If he trades Rask, however, he’ll have to find a suitable replacement via trade or free agency. While both markets are flooded with goaltenders, that doesn’t mean Sweeney is guaranteed to land an upgrade over Rask.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn and Wild forward Ryan Donato come in at 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning must shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Gourde and Johnson have full no-trade clauses while Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list.

New York Rangers center Ryan Strome, St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson, and Blue Jackets goalies Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo fill spots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Blues could attempt to trade Pietrangelo’s rights if the two sides fail to hammer out a new contract before the UFA market opens next Friday. The Jackets could be open to moving one of their goalies, either to free up cap room or perhaps in a package deal for a scoring forward.

Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad fill spots 21 to 24.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kuemper trade chatter has cooled in recent days as the Coyotes shift their focus on trade Ekman-Larsson. It’s now believed they prefer to retain him. Hanifin recently surfaced in the rumor mill when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned his name came up during the Flames discussions with the New Jersey Devils last fall about Taylor Hall. Hanifin might not be available if the Flames let TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic depart next week as free agents.

Nashville Predators forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei, Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere complete spots 25 to 30.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli said the lack of quality centers in this year’s free-agent market has the Predators believed to be seeking opportunities to move one of theirs. I’m guessing GM David Poile would like to bring in a scoring winger in return or to free up the cap room to pursue one via free agency. Poile would love to move Kyle Turris but the four years remaining on his contract at $6 million per season makes that almost impossible.

I’m not convinced the Hurricanes are keen to move Skjei after acquiring him at the February trade deadline. Domi and Gostisbehere have been fixtures in the rumor mill for some time. Speaking of the Canadiens, Pierre LeBrun said they’re willing to move their first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s draft for the right return. He indicated they’re in the market for a top-six forward.

New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri, Canadiens center Phillip Danault, New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk, Canucks center Brandon Sutter and Blues winger Jaden Schwartz are in spots 31 to 35.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’re reaching the spot in the list where there are players who could be traded, but various factors likely work against it. For example, I don’t believe the Canadiens intend to trade Danault. While centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi could become the Habs top-two centers next season, they’ll need Danault’s skill and experience in case one or both of those youngsters struggle or become sidelined. Maybe that move takes place at next season’s trade deadline. Not now.

Blues center Tyler Bozak, the Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault, Alec Martinez and Paul Stastny, and Coyotes winger Phil Kessel fill spots 36 to 40.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marchessault, Martinez or Stastny could become a cap casualty if the Golden Knights need to shed salary to re-sign Lehner or pursue a big-ticket free agent like Pietrangelo. That’s assuming they can’t find any takers for Fleury.

Edmonton’s Kris Russell, Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck, Columbus’ Alexander Wennberg, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, the Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo, Edmonton Evan Bouchard, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, San Jose’s Martin Jones, Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky round out the bottom ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli wonders if Bobrovsky’s contract is the NHL’s most unmovable. Bill Zito, the Panthers new GM, should become the front-runner for GM of the Year if he can trade that contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 1, 2020

Possible destinations for Henrik Lundqvist and Bobby Ryan plus the latest on Patrik Laine, Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and many more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHERE COULD LUNDQVIST AND RYAN LAND AS FREE AGENTS?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks looked at potential landing spots for Henrik Lundqvist. The 38-year-old goaltender was bought out of the final year of his contract yesterday by the New York Rangers. Brooks suggests the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights (if they trade Marc-Andre Fleury), Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks (if Jacob Markstrom departs via free agency) as options.

SPORTSNET: The Canucks make Mike Johnston’s list, which includes the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars (if they fail to re-sign Anton Khudubin), and Chicago Blackhawks if they move on from Corey Crawford.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien suggests Lundqvist could provide affordable goaltending insurance to contenders like the Capitals, Stars, Blues and Golden Knights, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets. He also suggested some playoff hopefuls that could provide him more playing time like the Oilers and Canucks, along with the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.

Where could former New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist land following his contract buyout? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears there are a number of clubs that could be destinations for Lundqvist but this is all mere media speculation right now. But how many of those clubs will be serious suitors and how many of them is he willing to consider as acceptable destinations? His affordability, experience and leadership would be invaluable, but finding the right fit and the right role will be crucial factors.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Joe Fordyce reports Bobby Ryan said the Philadelphia Flyers would be high on his list of destinations if they made him a contract offer or extended an invitation to training camp. The 33-year-old winger was recently bought out by the Ottawa Senators.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt cites The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz recently reporting the San Jose Sharks are one of “many teams” believed interested in Ryan. “They could certainly use a right wing,” said Kurz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen if the Flyers are among the clubs interested in Ryan. Whoever signs him will likely do a short-term deal (one-to-two years) for probably between $2 -$3 million per season. Some clubs could try him in a second-line role while others could see him as a third liner.

Speaking of the Sharks, they also reportedly talked to the Minnesota Wild about goaltender Devan Dubnyk and winger Ryan Donato. Kurz suggests this could have some legs as a possible package deal.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST 31 THOUGHTS

SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman expects Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois to “think unconventionally” in the offseason. He believes teams will ask if defenseman Mikhail Sergachev wants a bigger role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev should get an opportunity for a bigger role with the Lightning. Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn and Jan Rutta are unrestricted free agents. All of them could depart on Oct 9. Granted, they’re also right-side defensemen and Sergachev plays the left side, but I can see the Bolts trying to convert him to the right side.

Friedman expects the Dallas Stars will try to move a big salary, although trade protection is a concern. He expects Anton Khudobin has priced himself out of Dallas. Ben Bishop’s full no-trade becomes a partial, but his actual salary drops to three years at $3.5 million, which is manageable for the Stars.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly lists Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Joe Pavelski as the three highest-paid players with each carrying full no-movement clauses, followed by Alexander Radulov with a 15-team no-trade list. Trying to move any one of them will be difficult.

Friedman thinks the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes had a discussion about Coyotes blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he doesn’t see if a deal is possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It isn’t unless the Canucks move some salary to take on Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million AAV and he agrees to be traded to Vancouver.

If the Jets decide to trade Laine, Friedman wonders if there’s a match with the Columbus Blue Jackets or Carolina Hurricanes. He believes the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers could do it but isn’t sure they would. He also wondered about the New York Islanders but mentioned their salary-cap issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets will set a big asking price if they put Laine on the trade block. They need a second-line center and a top-four, right-shot defenseman. There’s also the fact he’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and will be in the market for a big raise over his current $6.75-million AAV.

The high volume of goalies available in the UFA market could affect the trade market, making it difficult for a club like Pittsburgh to trade a netminder. Friedman suggests that’s why the Arizona Coyotes’ preference is to retain goalie Darcy Kuemper. He believes the Calgary Flames talking with the Columbus Blue Jackets about one of their goalies but that talk has cooled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that fail to address their goalie needs via free agency could return to the trade market, but their numbers will be depleted after the best UFA goalies are signed. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch also cited sources claiming the Coyotes could retain Kuemper, but he thinks that could change if GM Bill Armstrong gets a first-round pick and another piece he’s seeking in the deal.

Speaking of the Flames, Friedman thinks they could revamp their blueline depending on who’s available. Noah Hanifin’s name was mentioned when the Flames were talking with the New Jersey Devils about Taylor Hall last month.

Speaking of the Coyotes, Friedman wonders if they’ll test the market on forward Clayton Keller.

The Washington Capitals are trying to shed some salary to re-sign defenseman Brenden Dillon.

The New Jersey Devils are willing to move the 18th and 20th picks in this year’s draft but Friedman doesn’t see them shopping the seventh-overall selection. The Anaheim Ducks aren’t averse to moving down a few spots from sixth overall.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 30, 2020

The latest on the Lightning, Oilers, Jets, Coyotes, Canucks and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIGHTNING?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered how the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning will navigate the offseason following their Stanley Cup win. Only three defensemen (Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Braydon Coburn) are under contract for next season, with Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak restricted free agents while Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn are among their unrestricted free agents. Center Anthony Cirelli is an RFA due for a big raise.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (NHL Images).

Wyshynski observes the Lightning have $5.3 million in cap space. It’s expected they’ll have to move a veteran forward to free up cap space, with Tyler Johnson ($5 million annual value, no-trade clause) and Alex Killorn ($4.45 million AAV, modified no-trade) among the trade candidates.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun also mentioned Johnson as a trade candidate as well as center Yanni Gourde ($5.16 million). He points out both could be tough to move because of their full no-trade clauses.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre suggests the Winnipeg Jets attempt to trade for Cirelli. Noting the Lightning’s cap situation, he feels picks and/or prospects could be the return. Failing that, McIntyre suggests attempting to sign Cirelli to an offer sheet worth between $4.2 million and $6.3 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of general managers will be interested in what Lightning GM Julien BriseBois will do to address his cap issue and re-sign Cirelli and Sergachev. Shopping one or two veteran forwards seems the likely play, though that could prove difficult if there isn’t much of a market for them or if interested clubs insist on a sweetener in the deal. Killorn’s lesser cap hit and modified no-trade makes him easier to move than Johnson and Gourde

An offer sheet for Cirelli is possible, provided he’s willing to sign one. If he does, the Bolts can spend over the cap ceiling by 10 percent in the offseason to match the offer, though they must be cap compliant when next season begins.

OILERS INTERESTED IN EKMAN-LARSSON, KUEMPER?

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Edmonton Oilers are among the clubs with interest in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman carries a hefty contract ($8.25 million AAV through 2026-27, full no-movement clause), making it a difficult transaction for the Oilers. Dreger also adds the Boston Bruins in the mix.

Pierre LeBrun adds the Oilers are looking at goaltenders and believes they’ve spoken to the Coyotes about Darcy Kuemper. He also said they have shown interest in Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek and could keep an eye on Jacob Markstrom’s contract talks with the Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples doesn’t see any of those players coming to Edmonton because of the Oilers’ cap constraints. Unless GM Ken Holland intends to dump some salary to make room for one of those players, I agree with Staples’ take.

VIRTANEN ON THE MOVE?

TSN: Darren Dreger suggests the Vancouver Canucks might not have much choice but to trade Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Canucks would like to keep him but it could cost $3 million annually on a two-year deal. Dreger indicated other teams are interested in Virtanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $14.2 million in cap space but they’re also trying to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Toffoli, which will eat up a big chunk of their available cap payroll. Depending on how those negotiations go, they could be forced to shop Virtanen.

The Canucks could also shed salary to free up additional cap room. The Province’s Steve Ewen reports GM Jim Benning is rumored to be trying to move Loui Eriksson or Brandon Sutter. He noted Eriksson’s agent said he has permission from Benning to speak with other clubs about brokering a deal, though Ewen speculates that could also require packaging the winger with a sweetener like a draft pick or prospect.

LATEST ON THE SENATORS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch suggested possible options for the Senators if they decide to bring in an experienced goaltender. Free-agent targets could include Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss. Trade options include Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek.

Garrioch also reports the Senators are willing to listen to offers for the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have plenty of goaltending options to choose from and the cap space and trade assets to make it happen. It’ll be interesting to see what route they take.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 26, 2020

The latest on Patrik Laine and Marc-Andre Fleury plus an update on the Coyotes and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT WOULD IT COST TO ACQUIRE LAINE?

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Ken Wiebe was asked about the trade speculation surrounding Patrik Laine. He isn’t ignoring the possibility of the 22-year-old Winnipeg Jets winger getting traded However, he considers it a long shot unless general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff gets blown away by an offer.

What could the Winnipeg Jets get if they trade Patrick Laine? (NHL Images)

Wiebe said the Jets would like to re-sign Laine, who’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. However, the flattened salary cap will affect those negotiations. Laine could command as much (or more) than captain Blake Wheeler’s $8.25 million annual average value if he takes another step forward in his development next season. If common ground can’t be reached, the trade talks could heat up next summer.

THE SCORE: Matt Teague and Brandon Maron listed the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild as five possible trade destinations for Laine.

From the Avs, they suggested a return of defensemen Ryan Graves or Nikita Zadorov, blueline prospect Connor Timmons and center Tyson Jost. From the Hurricanes, Vincent Trocheck and Brett Pesce. From the Blue Jackets, defenseman David Savard, winger Josh Anderson, and a 2021 third-round pick. From the Devils, defenseman Damon Severson, forward Pavel Zacha, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick. From the Wild, defenseman Matt Dumba, center Joel Eriksson Ek, and the conditional 2021 first-round pick from Pittsburgh.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens are in a position to make an attractive pitch. He suggests offering up Max Domi, defenseman Brett Kulak and either Cale Fleury or Noah Juulsen, and the Canadiens’ first-round pick (16th overall).

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Duhatschek believes the Jackets would have to part with Seth Jones or Zach Werenski to acquire Laine, which he doesn’t see them going. He feels Hurricanes blueliner Pesce would be more attractive to the Jets than Dougie Hamilton, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. Laine to Minnesota for Dumba also makes some sense, though the Wild’s biggest need is at center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That sound you’re hearing is most Jets fans panning those proposed deals. Justifiably so. The return for Laine would have to be significant, which those suggested returns are not. However, those proposals also illustrate the difficulty Cheveldayoff could face getting a quality package for Laine. As talented as the young winger is, and as much upside as he has, getting equal or greater value won’t be easy.

When the Laine rumors first surfaced earlier this month, one Winnipeg sportswriter said the return better be someone of the equivalent of Buffalo’s Jack Eichel. I agree with the sentiment, but the reality is that type of return is rarely received in trades involving stars like Laine.

Hanging over all this, of course, is Laine’s contract status at the end of 2020-21. If Cheveldayoff doesn’t believe he can afford to re-sign the winger, perhaps he’ll feel it’s best to move him now instead of having contract talks become an unnecessary distraction over the course of next season.

FLEURY PREFERS STAYING IN VEGAS

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary cites The Athletic’s Jesse Granger reporting Marc-Andre Fleury prefers staying with the Vegas Golden Knights. The 36-year-old goaltender said he’s loved the city and the team from the moment he arrived. It’s believed the Golden Knights could re-sign Robin Lehner, making Fleury potentially expendable. He said he gets along fine with Lehner and is open to splitting the goaltending duties with him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights only have $4.94 million in salary-cap space for 2020-21. They’ll need more than that to re-sign Lehner. They’ll have to shed salary and Fleury would be the most likely trade candidate. Moving his $7 million annual average value over the next two seasons won’t be easy, but it could be done by perhaps retaining a portion of it.

LATEST COYOTES RUMORS

ARIZONA COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan reports it’s not a certainty the Coyotes will trade goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Before the hiring of general manager Bill Armstrong, it was believed the asking price for Kuemper was a first-round pick. However, it appears they now want more than that. If the Coyotes cannot maximize the return on an asset like Kuemper, Morgan feels they should hang onto him.

Morgan also noted Niklas Hjalmarsson won’t waive his no-movement clause. While we have to wait-and-see on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Morgan senses the blueliner’s camp is open to a change of scenery.

Center Derek Stepan and defensemen Jason Demers could be attractive to rival clubs. In addition to goalie Antti Raanta, Morgan suggests keeping an eye on forward Michael Grabner and defenseman Alex Goligoski. He cites sources indicating Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Detroit and Los Angeles are among his eight-team no-trade list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause and reportedly loves living in Arizona. Nevertheless, it’s noteworthy that he could be open to a trade, though I daresay it’ll be a short list made up of playoff or Stanley Cup contenders.

UPDATE ON THE PENGUINS

TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie reports Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he’s not interested in trading Brian Dumoulin or Marcus Pettersson. He expects recently acquired defenseman Mike Matheson will play on the left side. Rutherford also said Jack Johnson will have to compete for the sixth defenseman’s role, and he doesn’t plan to be active in the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Johnson doesn’t nail down that role he could be shopped or demoted, with the latter the most likely option.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

The latest on the Oilers, Kings, and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill

OILERS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined several potential trade targets for the Oilers. He suggested Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper would be an attractive option given his salary-cap hit ($4.5 million) for the next two years and solid save percentages (.920 or higher) over the last three years.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins expects the Oilers focus will be on their goaltending rather than on defense or a third-line center. He notes speculation suggests Darcy Kuemper could be available but feels he’ll go to a goalie-poor club with draft picks to spend like the Calgary Flames. He also considers Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract is too expensive.

Leavins argues for upgrading Mikko Koskinen’s goalie partner rather than seeking a true starter. He points out Koskinen’s save percentage (.917) is similar to Toronto’s Frederik Andersen and comparable to Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom (.919) and Vegas’ Robin Lehner (.921). Re-signing Mike Smith to a one-year, $1-million deal would make sense if Smith accepts playing 20-25 games per year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly reports the Oilers have $70.9 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They seemingly lack the cap room to bring in an established starter, but recent rumors indicate they had talks with the Penguins about Matt Murray but balked at parting with a first-round pick. Maybe Oilers general manager Ken Holland attempts a dollar-for-dollar deal to add a goalie or dumps salary in a separate trade.

Kuemper would be a solid addition if Holland seeks a reliable starter, but I agree with Leavins that he could end up with a club that has the tradeable assets to tempt the Coyotes if they’re looking to rebuild. That would be draft picks, prospects or young NHL-ready players.

If Holland’s going to upgrade Koskinen’s partner he should pass on Smith. There should be better options available in what’s expected to be a flooded goalie market. Dallas’ Anton Khudobin is due to become a UFA but his playoff heroics will price him out of the Oilers’ range. The New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.913) could be an option.

Leavins colleague David Staples looks into whether it would be worthwhile for the Oilers to pursue Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While he considers the Coyotes captain a very good defenseman, his stats indicate he’s not an elite one. He doubts the Oilers can afford Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25-million annual average value plus he could be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to come to Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication Holland is interested in Ekman-Larsson. I daresay those points raised by Staples ensures the blueliner won’t be coming to Edmonton anytime soon.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also suggested Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk would be an attractive trade option for the Connor McDavid line. DeBrusk is a restricted free agent and could cost around $5 million annually to sign. The Bruins asking price could be prospects and draft picks, though Mitchell suggests the Oilers’ first-round pick might come into play.

Mitchell’s colleague Jonathan Willis believes the Oilers won’t get fair value in any trade involving Jesse Puljujarvi. While some observers suggest swapping the winger for another underachieving young player, Willis believes that could be simply exchanging one problem for another. He suggests they follow the Tampa Bay Lightning’s example with Jonathan Drouin and hope Puljujarvi can build up his value if he returns to the Oilers next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Bruins don’t re-sign Torey Krug they’ll have the cap room to re-sign DeBrusk, though that could go off the rails if the winger seeks more than they’re willing to pay. I think they intend to re-sign DeBrusk and remain patient with him. He’s only 23 and was on pace to exceed 20 goals for the second straight year and 40 points for the third straight year before COVID-19 prematurely ended the regular season.

I agree with Willis’ take on Puljujarvi. Shipping him out for another struggling youngster doesn’t guarantee improvement. Best to bring him back and give him an opportunity to build up his game.

KINGS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman doesn’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to pursue any big-name talent via free agency. If they do look toward the UFA market it could be for affordable options. Oilers winger Tyler Ennis, Nashville Predators winger Craig Smith, and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon were among Dillman’s suggested targets.

Dillman also pointed out the Kings carry over $19 million in salary-cap space, putting them in a good position to acquire a player from a cap-strapped club who can provide immediate help if they’re willing to part with draft picks and prospects. Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and fellow Coyotes blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson could be available. The St. Louis Blues could look to move winger Jaden Schwartz to clear cap room to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap it was expected Kings GM Rob Blake would wait until next summer before getting into the UFA market as the 2021 pool of free-agent talent is deeper than this year’s. We don’t know if the current economic landscape has changed his mind.

Dillman isn’t saying Blake will pursue a big-name player via trades or free agency. She’s simply looking at possible moves if the Kings GM were inclined to get involved. Blake could make a move or two but I’ll be surprised if he makes a big splash in this year’s trade or free-agent markets. He could stick with his plan of rebuilding with youth but I see him adding a reasonable price veteran or two.

CAPITALS

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan wonders if the Washington Capitals need to trade a defenseman. If they re-sign Brenden Dillon they’ll be overloaded with left-shot blueliners as they’ll also have Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny and Jonas Siegenthaler, as well as prospects Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. He speculates that could leave one of them expendable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lot will depend upon whether Dillon re-signs. Even then, there’s no rush to ship out one of those blueliners. If they do I suspect it would be Kempny or Siegenthaler.










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.