NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Blackhawks, Ducks, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has stayed in touch with his pending free agents. However, he hasn’t spoken much about their pending free agency.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (Photo via NHL Images).

​Re-signing Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome are on Bowman’s to-do list but he can’t get into negotiations until he knows what next season’s salary cap will be.

In a mailbag segment, Lazerus was asked who he felt would be the Blackhawks’ starting goalie next season. He still believes it will be Crawford, who badly wants to remain in Chicago and is coming off a strong season.

Making the money work will be difficult, especially with Kubalik and Strome to re-sign. Nevertheless, Crawford would be a better option than most of this year’s pending UFA goalies and not as expensive as Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks don’t have much choice but to re-sign Crawford. They don’t have anyone in their system ready to step in as their full-time starter. Finding a suitable replacement will be expensive. Perhaps Bowman inks the 35-year-old Crawford to a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $4 million.

Asked if the Blackhawks should trade Strome, Lazerus believes it would be a mistake to move the 23-year-old center. He envisions Strome becoming the Hawks No. 2 center behind Kirby Dach in four or five years while Jonathan Toews moves into the third-line center role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome’s production dropped this season (38 points in 58 games) after tallying 51 points in the same number of games with the Hawks last season. Lazerus suggests he’s still scarred by his experience with the Arizona Coyotes and could take a little less to stay where he’s happy and getting lots of playing time.

Strome is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Bowman will likely use that to leverage an affordable short-term bridge deal.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently did his postmortems of the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

Larkin doesn’t expect the rebuilding Ducks will be adding any expensive veterans, especially with their limited salary-cap space for 2020-21. He anticipates they’ll keep trying to shed salary and make room for younger players.

The Sharks, meanwhile, could see around one-third of their roughly $15 million in salary-cap space go toward re-signing Kevin Labanc to a make-good contract after he took a one-year bargain-basement deal last summer. They’ll also have to decide if they’ll bring back Joe Thornton for one more year. If they re-sign the 41-year-old center, it won’t leave much room to chase higher-end UFAs, especially a No. 2 goaltender. Larkin also wondered if they might consider buying out starting goalie Martin Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc has arbitration rights this time around, so GM Doug Wilson must either pay him a suitable raise or trade him. Labanc’s stats declined this season but that could be tied to the Sharks’ overall poor performance.

The cap hit for buying out Jones is $2.875 million for 2020-21, $1.875 million for 2021-22, $2.375 million in 2022-23, and $2.875 million for 2023-24 before dropping to $1.625 million annually through 2027-28. While it’s not expensive, it’s still a long time to be carrying that much dead cap space.

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – San Jose Sharks

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – San Jose Sharks


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 11, 2019

The latest on Johnny Gaudreau, Robin Lehner, Kevin Labanc, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau believes his club’s recent acquisition of Milan Lucic brings a much-needed physical element to the lineup that can “push us over the edge here.”

Johnny Gaudreau believes the acquisition of Milan Lucic will improve the Calgary Flames (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: By over the edge, Gaudreau is suggesting toward Stanley Cup contention. If we were talking about Lucic from four or five years ago, I’d agree with that assessment.

Unfortunately, Lucic’s performance declined over the last two seasons, so much so that most analysts panned the Flames for acquiring him. Maybe Lucic can regain some of his once-dominant form in Calgary but most observers doubt it. 

NEW YORK POST: Former New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner received his replica Masterton Trophy, which indicated he played for the New York Rangers last season. Lehner, 28, signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate engraving mistake that I’m sure the league will be happy to correct. At least Lehner was able to get a bit of a laugh out of it…


NHL.COM: Kevin Labanc admitted putting his team first when he signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks well below market value. By playing an enhanced role this season, he expects to play well enough to earn a more lucrative contract next summer. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc’s contract raise eyebrows and even some accusations of collusion.Some even criticized the winger, suggesting he risked hurting his value if he should become sidelined or his play unexpectedly declines.

Labanc is taking the long view here. If he has a career-best performance in 2019-20, he’ll be in line for a significant raise on a long-term deal with the hammer of arbitration backing him up. 

THE SCORE: NHL broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick will be enshrined into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. “Emrick has called NHL games for nearly 40 years, including 14 Stanley Cup Finals as lead announcer for NBC, Versus, FOX, and ESPN.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations, Doc! Well deserved. 

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 14, 2019

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 14, 2019

Latest on the Rangers, Islanders, and Sharks in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup. 


NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks is not so sure the Rangers can reach a contract agreement with Jacob Trouba before the defenseman’s arbitration hearing on July 25. He still expects Trouba and the Rangers will eventually hammer out a seven-year, bonus-heavy deal worth between $7.5 million to $7.8 million per season. However, the longer things drag out, Brooks suggests the blueliner could turn this into a nine-year committment.

Can the New York Rangers avoid a salary-arbitration hearing with Jacob Trouba? (Photo via NHL Images)

Brooks envisions Trouba opting for a one-year deal via arbitration and then signing an eight-year extension late in the season or before next July. Going that route could make Trouba’s tenure on Broadway a short one, as there’s no guarantee general manager Jeff Gorton wouldn’t flip him to another club before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both sides apparently continue to have cordial contract discussions They could reach an agreement on a new contract before then. However, the longer this drags on, the more questions will arise over Trouba’s future in New York as his arbitraiton hearing looms. 


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis briefly mentioned the possibility of the New York Islanders trading defenseman Nick Leddy before training camp. However, he doesn’t expect Leddy will fetch an impact player he feels the Isles need to contend next season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy’s frequently popped up in the rumor mill since May. While he could be traded come September, I agree with Cyrgalis that the Isles won’t get an impact player in return. 

It’s been a weird off-season for the Isles. On the plus side, they re-signed Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle. On the down side, they let goaltender Robin Lehner (their MVP last season) depart via free agency. His replacement is an inconsistent, brittle veteran in Semyon Varlamov, considered a mentor to promising Ilya Sorokin whenever he’s ready to leave the KHL. They also lost a major bidding war for Artemi Panarin, leading some observers to suggest the winger merely used the Isles to leverage a massive new contract with the Rangers. 


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz was asked if the San Jose Sharks will pursue another top-nine winger via free agency. That question came following their surprisingly cheap re-signing (one-year, $1 million) of winger Kevin Labanc. Depending on the cost of bringing back Joe Thornton, Kurz doubts the Sharks can afford to chase the remaining UFA wingers unless they’re willing to ink a low-cost one-year deal. Otherwise, the Sharks would have to shed salary via trade. 

Kurz doesn’t rule out a possible return of Patrick Marleau. However, if the 40-year-old winger expects more than a one-year, $1 million contract, Kurz thinks GM Doug Wilson could seek other options. Asked about the trade status of goalie Aaron Dell, his $1.9-million cap hit probably isn’t easy to move after coming off a rough season.  Kurz also downplays trade rumors regarding winger Melker Karlsson, considering him a valuable depth player.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks also noted Labanc’s new contract. “We trust the NHL will keep a close eye on this when — that should be, if — he signs a multi-year extension soon after he is eligible to do so on Jan. 1.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: More than a few eyebrows shot up last week after Labanc, coming off a 56-point season, agreed to a one-year deal worth well below market value. The league hasn’t stepped in to void the contract so we must assume they’re fine with it. But as Brooks suggests, if he signs a lucrative new deal early in the new year, that one-year contract could be construed as salary-cap circumvention.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson, however, seems too shrewd to fall into that trap. It wouldn’t surprise me if he and the Labanc camp have a “handshake agreement” ensuring the winger gets a hefty pay raise on his next deal.

Labanc will be a restricted free agent next July 1. If he and the Sharks wait until then to sign that next contract, I believe there’s nothing legally the league can do about it under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement. It’ll be interesting to see if this type of maneuver is addressed in the next CBA. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2019

Jacob Trouba’s arbitration hearing date set, Martin Hanzal mulling retirement, the Sharks re-sign Kevin Labanc, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reporting Jacob Trouba’s arbitration hearing is July 25. Trouba was among 40 players who filed for arbitration last Friday. The Rangers acquired the 25-year-old defenseman last month in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets.

Jacob Trouba’s salary-arbitration hearing is set for July 25 (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those who filed for arbitration, Trouba’s situation could be the most interesting. Brooks believes it would be “stunning” if the process reaches that point. Trouba went through arbitration with the Jets last summer and was awarded a one-year. $5.5-million contract.

Coming off a career-best 50-point performance last season, Troub could seek between $7 – $8 million per season on his next contract. He’s also slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Rangers will want to ink him to a long-term deal but Cap Friendly indicates they only have around $8 million in cap space. They also have RFAs Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, and Tony DeAngelo to re-sign.

A new deal for Trouba will eat up most or all of their remaining cap space. A cost-cutting trade or contract buyouts will be necessary to free up sufficient cap space for the others. 

iDNES.CZ: A nagging back injury has Dallas Stars center Martin Hanzal considering retirement. The 32-year-old has already undergone three operations. He has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.75 million.

Hanzal said he has an agreement with the Stars to report to training camp in September. He intends to continue off-season training but if the condition persists he could hang up his skates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to Alexander Wirdzek for the link. When healthy, Hanzal is an effective two-way checking forward. Injuries, however, have frequently sidelined him in recent years. He played only 45 games over the last two seasons with the Stars. 

TSN: The San Jose Sharks re-signed forward Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1-million contract. Labanc tallied 56 points last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a helluva re-signing by the Sharks. Labanc was coming off his entry-level contract and also posted 40 points in 2017-18. He was in line for a significant raise but left a lot of money on the table by accepting this offer.

With the Sharks pressed for cap space and looking to bring back Joe Thornton and perhaps Patrick Marleau for one more season, Labanc did them a big favor. I daresay general manager Doug Wilson promised a much bigger payday for Labanc next summer. 

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues re-signed forward Zach Sanford to a two-year, $1.5-million contract.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed defenseman Ryan Graves to a one-year, two-way contract.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2017

Game recaps, including historic nights for Ken Hitchcock and Dustin Brown, in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock picked up his 800th career NHL victory as his club blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. Tyler Seguin scored twice and Ben Bishop made 24 saves for the shutout.

Playing in his 1000th NHL game, Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Brown scored in overtime to defeat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1.

Defenseman Hampus Lindholm tallied his first career hat trick, including the winner in overtime, to lead the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders. John Tavares scored twice for the Isles.

Kevin Labanc added an overtime goal to his three assists as the San Jose Sharks downed the Vancouver Canucks 5-4. Joe Thornton also scored twice for the Sharks.

Brian Boyle scored the game-tying goal late in the third period and the game winner in a shootout as the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers 4-3. Marcus Johansson returned to the Devils lineup after missing four games with a bruised ankle.

Boston Bruins rookie Charlie McAvoy celebrated his 20th birthday in style by scoring the game winner in a shootout to give his club a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

The Carolina Hurricanes picked up their fourth win in five games by downing the Nashville Predators 4-1. Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin had a goal and two assists.

Third-period goals by Connor McDavid and Drake Caggiula lifted the Edmonton Oilers to their third straight win by nipping the St. Louis Blues 3-2.

Shootout goals by Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos carried the Tampa Bay Lightning to their 25th win of the season by downing the Ottawa Senators 4-3.

Matt Murray made 30 saves and Kris Letang netted the shootout winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk (lower-body injury) returned to practice yesterday but isn’t expected to return to action until after Christmas.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called the arena standoff between the Flames and the city of Calgary “very frustrating”. He believes part of the reason the club stopped pursuing a new arena in Calgary is “they don’t see any prospect of making a deal for a new building on terms that make sense. And based on my experience up there, I understand why they’ve taken that position.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames could also be waiting to see if the city of Calgary lands the Winter Olympics in 2026. That could bring about the construction of a new arena largely with federal and provincial dollars, which would suit Flames ownership just fine. In the meantime, Damien Cox poses a good question:


NBC SPORTS: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the National Women’s Hockey League’s Buffalo Beauts. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Laugh along to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ parody of “A Christmas Story.”