NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

98 percent of NHL players expected to be vaccinated for the coming season, Sidney Crosby hopes Alex Ovechkin breaks Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, plus the latest on Evander Kane, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimates 98 percent of players will be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the 2021-22 season opens on Oct. 12. That will leave between 10 and 15 players unvaccinated among 700 players on 32 teams.

The NHL and NHL Players Association didn’t impose a vaccine mandate on players, but restrictions (including restrictions at the Canada – US border requiring lengthy quarantine) contributed to the high number of vaccinations. Teams can also suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities as part of its protocols.

Fully vaccinated players will have any positive COVID-19 tests treated as hockey injuries and continue to be paid. Unvaccinated players will have their movements restricted during road trips. Regular COVID testing will remain in place for vaccinated players. Coaches and staff must be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Daly confirmed that teams who suspend players without pay under the terms of the league’s COVID protocols will receive salary-cap relief from that player’s daily salary-cap hit.

Unvaccinated players can be ruled exempt from suspension if they have legitimate medical reasons for avoiding vaccination or if it conflicts with “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Johnston also reported at least one Caucks remains unvaccinated but the team declined to comment citing medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL isn’t fooling around with its protocols this season after a number of game postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks over the course of last season led to a series of scheduling changes. It took a physical toll on the players as they endured multiple games within a much more compressed period of time.

Unvaccinated players will have a more difficult time navigating through those strict protocols this season. Those restrictions could encourage the remainder who lack medical exemption to get vaccinated. The risk of suspension without pay for a positive test is too great over the course of the season.

SPORTSNET: Daly indicated the salary cap for the 2022-23 season is expected to increase by $1 million to $82.5 million.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

  NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has the support of a long-time rival in his quest to break Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said he told Ovechkin he hopes he does it. “It would be awesome. He’s in range, “ said Crosby. “He can score anywhere from insider the blue line.”

Crosby added one caveat. “I just hope that all his goals that he gets are against the other teams as he’s trying to add toward it.” Gretzky has 894 goals while Ovechkin sits at 730 to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s legacy is secure as this generation’s greatest goal scorer and one of the all-time greats. Most of Gretzky’s records are out of reach of today’s players, so the opportunity for the Capitals superstar to break the goal record would be a phenomenal achievement.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Evander Kane remains confident that the league will clear him of allegations by his estranged wife that he gambled on NHL games. In an interview with ESPN’s Linda Cohn, the San Jose Sharks winger called the allegations “incredibly false”, claiming he’s never bet on any NHL games or intentionally altered the way he plays.

The NHL opened an investigation into the allegations in July. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he anticipates it will wrap up soon and to have a full report by the start of training camp.

Kane admitted he has a gambling addiction which led to his filing for bankruptcy in July. He also downplayed reports claiming some of his Sharks teammates don’t want him back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz believes it’s what’s Kane didn’t say during the interview that’s newsworthy. “This was a missed opportunity for him to signal to his teammates/organization that he’s ready to come back, change his ways, and be a solid teammate. Instead, nothing’s changed.”

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price took to the ice yesterday in full equipment with a member of the team’s training staff. It’s believed the first time he’s skated since undergoing knee surgery in July. He spent 10 minutes on the ice doing stretching and skating drills.

TORONTO STAR: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban is an executive producer on an upcoming docuseries entitled, “Black Life: A Canadian History.”

THE ATHLETIC: Andrew Ladd is looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NHL again. He was traded this summer to the Arizona Coyotes by the New York Islanders. He played just 30 NHL games over the past three seasons with the Islanders.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will face off in the 2022 Heritage Classic on March 13 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario.

THE SCORE: Two suspects were arrested in the robbery of a St. Louis Blues prospect and a woman on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. The name of the prospect has not been released.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 18, 2021

Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, Gabriel Landeskog are among the notables to be left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft, Miro Heiskanen among several players inking new contracts, and a roundup of yesterday’s notable trades in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NOTE: The NHL expansion draft roster freeze went into effect at 3 pm ET on Saturday. It will remain in effect until 1 pm EST on Thursday, July 22.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has agreed to waive his no-movement for the upcoming NHL expansion draft. He made that decision to enable the Canadiens to protect backup goalie Jake Allen.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The gamble here for Price and the Canadiens is the Kraken could be put off by his contract, which has five years remaining at an annual average value of $10.5 million.

There are a couple of poison pills in this contract. If the Kraken select Price, they’ll have to pay him the $11 million signing bonus due in September. His no-movement clause would follow him to Seattle as he’s only waiving it in this instance for the expansion draft, not a trade. In other words, the Kraken would need his permission to trade or demote him.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche will expose Gabriel Landeskog in the expansion draft. The 28-year-old left-winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. This allows the Kraken to exclusively negotiate with Landeskog and perhaps sign him to a new contract before the draft on Wednesday night. If he does, he would become the Kraken’s expansion draft selection from the Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Landeskog seeks a long-term deal worth between $9 million and $10 million annually. That would be a big contract for the Kraken to take on so early in their existence. They could, however, try to ink him to a multi-year deal worth around $7 million annually. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues are believed to have left winger Vladimir Tarasenko exposed in the expansion draft. They could also leave defenseman Vince Dunn unprotected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues have been shopping both players. The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford reports a source said Tarasenko can’t believe he hasn’t been traded yet. Blues GM Doug Armstrong has told the winger’s camp that no teams are interested in him.

The source also said several teams have an interest in Tarasenko but Armstrong hasn’t found a suitable return. Another source told Rutherford there’s limited interest in the winger, who’s coming off three shoulder surgeries and carries a $7.5 million annual cap hit for the next two seasons.

SPORTSNET: cites Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reporting the Los Angeles Kings will expose goaltender Jonathan Quick in the expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. The Kings want to protect Quick’s heir apparent Cal Petersen. The 35-year-old netminder has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Kraken are reportedly close to signing Chris Driedger. The 27-year-old goaltender is slated to become a UFA on July 28. His camp received permission from the Panthers to speak to other clubs. If the Kraken sign Driedger, he’ll count as their selection from the Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll be a big win for the Panthers as they won’t have to worry about losing another player from their expansion list. They had to protect goalie Sergei Bobrovsky because of his no-movement clause. Promising netminder Spencer Knight is exempt from this draft.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets will expose Max Domi in the expansion draft. They’re betting Domi’s injured shoulder will deter the Kraken. He’s recovering from shoulder surgery and could miss the opening month or two of 2021-22.

NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars signed defenseman Miro Heiskanen to an eight-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $8.45 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a wise long-term investment by the Stars. Heiskanen, 21, is completing his entry-level contract but he’s earned this new deal.

Over the past three seasons, he’s become the Stars’ best all-around defenseman. He regularly leads them in ice time, plays in every situation, and was their leading scorer in the 2020 postseason during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. This kid is a future Norris Trophy contender. His new contract will look like a bargain in a few years.

In other signings yesterday, the New York Islanders re-signed defenseman Andy Greene to a one-year, $1 million contract, the Anaheim Ducks signed winger Alexander Volkov to a one-year, $925K contract extension, and the Tampa Bay Lightning inked defenseman Fredrik Claesson to a one-year, two-way contract.

Several trades were made yesterday, the biggest being the Nashville Predators shipping Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers in a three-team deal. You can read my take here. Other deals of note:

The New York Rangers acquired forward Barclay Goodrow from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for their seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft. The Rangers also traded forward Brett Howden to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft (originally belonging to the Winnipeg Jets) and impending free-agent defenseman Nick DeSimone.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The first piece of the Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup championship roster has departed. Expect more cost-cutting moves by the Bolts in the coming days/weeks as they attempt to become cap compliant for next season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired forward Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospect forward Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick in 2023.

The Vancouver Canucks acquired forward Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars in exchange for their third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

The Arizona Coyotes acquired winger Andrew Ladd, a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, a second-round pick in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2023 from the New York Islanders. The Coyotes also traded goaltender Adin Hill to the San Jose Sharks for goaltender Josef Korenar and a second-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move comes on the heels of the Islanders shipping Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. They have been trying to move Ladd’s contract for some time. He spent all of this season with their AHL affiliate. He has two seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.5 million, giving the Isles some much-needed cap space for other moves, such as re-signing restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin.

It’s interesting that there was nothing listed in the Ladd trade report of the Coyotes sending anything the other way to the Isles. Perhaps they’re getting “future considerations.”










NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2021

The latest Mattias Ekholm speculation plus updates on the Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Golden Knights, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS FOR EKHOLM

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently listed the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers as five potential trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The Nashville Predators asking price for the 30-year-old defenseman is reportedly a first-round pick and two quality prospects.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sadler’s list appeared before Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas stated his intent to pursue a top-six forward before the April 12 trade deadline. We can probably take them off this list.

The Athletic’s Adam Vingan believes the Canadiens and the Flyers have the organizational depth to meet the Predators’ asking price for Ekholm. Whether either club will make a serious bid remains to be seen.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin recently pointed out salary-cap constraints and the mandatory 14-day quarantine on players joining Canadian teams from American clubs as factors that could hinder his efforts in the trade market.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could be reluctant to invest in a notable player with his club struggling to stay in the MassMutual East Division playoff picture. Ekholm has a year remaining on his contract and that could mess up Fletcher’s expansion draft protection list for his blueliners

BLACKHAWKS CONSIDERING TRADE OPTIONS

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is “actively having conversations” regarding trade possibilities with other clubs as deadline day approaches. Bowman suggested he could be a buyer and seller. He’s seeking players who can be a part of the club’s future but won’t ship out players he feels can be part of their long-term plans.

Bowman could use his salary-cap space to acquire a bad contract from another club if the return also includes valuable prospects and/or draft picks. He could shop pending unrestricted free agents such as Carl Soderberg and Mattias Janmark, a pending restricted free agent such as Lucas Wallmark, or defenseman Calvin de Haan as he’d be exposed in this summer’s expansion draft. He could also acquire a young player with term remaining on his contract, though they must be mindful they’re two contracts away from the 50-contract limit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Arthur Staple and Scott Powers recently discussed the possibility of the New York Islanders trading for Janmark, citing his affordable cap hit ($2.25 million), versatility and playoff experience. They also speculated that Bowman’s willingness to take on a bad contract might lead to discussions about bringing Andrew Ladd back to Chicago.

LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS, HURRICANES, SHARKS & SENATORS

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports the Vegas Golden Knights are unlikely to make moves before the trade deadline. They’ve made big splashes during the last two deadlines by acquiring Mark Stone and Robin Lehner but GM Kelly McCrimmon believes his club is in a different position now. He also pointed out his club has limited salary-cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With his club atop the Honda West Division, McCrimmon doesn’t have to make a move if he doesn’t want to. The Golden Knights GM could surprise us with a dollar-in, dollar-out deal. He also has defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (upper body) and his $8.8 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve but he’d have to shed salary to make room for Pietrangelo’s return.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour was asked about the possibility of Eric Staal returning to the Hurricanes via trade. “That’s a question that’s probably for further up the chain than me, but I think we know he’s an awesome person,” said Brind’Amour of his former teammate.

Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell didn’t mention Staal but pointed out his club has a little bit of salary-cap space heading toward the trade deadline but not a lot. Alexander suggests if injuries continue the Hurricanes could be interested in a veteran at the right price.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alexander also pointed out the Hurricanes’ winning record and solid performance through the first half of the schedule. Waddell won’t be under any serious pressure to make a move if the club continues playing well.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Dalton Johnson reports San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson intends to reset his roster going forward by giving younger players more opportunities. Wilson also indicated he’s not trading his 2021 first-round pick at the trade deadline. Any decision on whether he’ll be an offseason buyer or seller will depend upon the club’s performance over the remainder of the season.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion has been working the phones. However, he thinks the coming trade deadline could be a quiet one for the Senators because of teams with limited cap space and the restrictions on travel at the Canada-US border.

Garrioch speculates veteran defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Mike Reilly and Braydon Coburn could draw interest from playoff contenders. He also thinks Dorion has a decision to make with defenseman Christian Wolanin given his limited role and playing time.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 9, 2021

Suggested trade destinations for Pierre-Luc Dubois and what could be holding up the Islanders’ attempt to sign Mathew Barzal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun listed the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks among seven teams he believes would make sense as trade destinations for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center has reportedly sought a trade despite re-signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets last week.

LeBrun feels the Flames could be an attractive trade partner for the Jackets if they seek a return that can help them right away. He spitballs a deal involving Dubois for Sean Monahan. LeBrun suggests Dubois would be the kind of young core piece that would fit into the Blackhawks’ current direction. However, he believes the Jackets would want promising center Kirby Dach as part of the return.

Should the Calgary Flames consider acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also pitched the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. He discussed them during a recent TSN “Insider Trading” segment. You can get the details and my thoughts on those clubs as Dubois trade destinations by following this link.

As for the Flames and Blackhawks, I can’t disagree with LeBrun’s assessment of Dubois’ impact upon those clubs and the Jackets’ asking price. The Flames could consider shaking things up if this season ends in disappointment so I wouldn’t dismiss a Dubois-for-Monahan swap. I don’t see the Blackhawks moving Dach so Dubois probably isn’t landing in Chicago.

LeBrun’s colleague Lisa Dillman examined the pros and cons if the Kings tried to acquire Dubois. Pros include Dubois filling a need for a No. 1 center as Anze Kopitar ages as well as their depth in promising assets to tempt the Jackets. Cons include what could be an expensive asking price (Quinton Byfield?) by the Jackets and the cap hit required to keep Dubois in Los Angeles after his current deal expires.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dillman that the Kings should at least explore the option of acquiring Dubois. If the asking price is Byfield, however, that could be a deal-breaker.

OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes the Senators should contact the Jackets about Dubois’ availability and the asking price. He feels the Sens have the depth in prospects, especially young defensemen, to make a serious pitch. Dubois would address the Senators’ need for a first-line center now and for the future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators and Jackets have a trade history. While the Sens have plenty of promising youngsters to offer up a trade bait, the Jackets probably want a return that provides immediate help to their roster.

The Jackets are not a rebuilding club but one that sees itself building toward Stanley Cup contention. I think they’ll want a scoring forward (preferably a center) in return rather than budding young NHL defensemen unless those prospects are flipped to another team to acquire a scoring center.

The Senators would also want assurances from the Dubois camp that he’ll commit to a long-term deal with them after his current contract expires at the end of next season. Otherwise, it’ll be a waste of assets to acquire a player who doesn’t want to be there.

Turning to Mathew Barzal’s contract negotiations, THE ATHLETIC’s Arthur Staple reports it’s believed New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello is trying to unload another contract in order to sign the 23-year-old center to a lucrative long-term deal. Once completed, Staple suggests Barzal could get perhaps a six, seven or even an eight-year contract at an annual average value close to $10 million.

Staple speculates defenseman Thomas Hickey ($2.5 million AAV, $3.75 million in actual salary for this season and next) and forward Leo Komarov ($3 million AAV, $3.5 million in actual cash) as potential trade candidates. Trading Johnny Boychuk’s contract is another option but that would take away the Isles’ long-term injury reserve flexibility for this season. It doesn’t appear anyone’s taking Andrew Ladd and his $5.5 million AAV off their hands.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello attempting to make a cost-cutting trade to free up cap space for an expensive long-term contract for Barzal would explain why the young center remains unsigned a week into training camp. Perhaps this can be sorted out during this weekend.

However, Barzal’s missed a week of practice and scrimmages with his teammates. That’s not going to help his preparation for the upcoming season.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 14, 2020

Breaking down some potential moves to watch as the 2020-21 season inches closer in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon examined five lingering issues that must be addressed before the project Jan. 13 start to the 2020-21 NHL season.

The respective salary-cap crunches facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and New York Islanders dominated the list.

The Lightning sits just above the $81.5 million salary cap and must sign restricted free agent center Anthony Cirelli. Dixon observed some trade speculation arose earlier this fall suggesting Steven Stamkos could become a trade candidate. However, the captain’s full no-trade clause and the limited number of teams that could afford his $8.25 million annual average value pretty much rules out trading him. Winger Alex Killorn (16-team no-trade list, $4.5 million AAV) remains a possible cap casualty.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning’s recent signing of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev prompted conjecture they could have a cost-cutting deal in hand but it has yet to materialize.

They also attempted to shed salary by putting winger Tyler Johnson ($5 million AAV) on waivers in early October but couldn’t find any takers. He also has a full no-trade but reportedly submitted a list of eight or nine potential destinations to Lightning management.

Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty (NHL Images).

The Golden Knights are also just above the salary cap, prompting rumors they could be shopping a high-salaried player such as Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury won’t be traded while team owner Bill Foley recently dismissed the Pacioretty rumors.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights could move an expensive veteran. Then again, they could also trade or demote a lower-salaried depth player to become cap compliant before the start of the season.

The Islanders still haven’t signed RFA center Mathew Barzal. They will get some cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk (eye injury) and his $6 million AAV on long-term injury reserve. Dixon took note of GM Lou Lamoriello’s failed attempt at this year’s trade deadline to ship winger Andrew Ladd to Minnesota for Zach Parise. He wondered if Lamoriello might try to package Ladd with a sweetener to a rebuilding team with the cap space to take on the winger’s $5.5 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but it could take one heckuva sweetener to convince a rebuilding team to acquire Ladd. While Dixon cited the 35-year-old winger’s experience and leadership, age and injuries have significantly affected his performance.

Dixon also noted the trade rumors swirling around Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine and the Arizona Coyotes’ attempt to trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets aren’t in any hurry to move Laine, whose agent suggested earlier this fall it might be beneficial for both sides if his client was moved to a team where he’d get first-line minutes. The winger has a year remaining on his contract and becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. That doesn’t mean GM Kevin Cheveldayoff won’t trade Laine but he’ll seek a significant return, such as perhaps a top-pairing defenseman.

Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. However, attempts to move him fell through before his self-imposed deadline of Oct. 9.

The Coyotes captain insisted he’s happy in Arizona and wasn’t upset by the club exploring trade options. Nevertheless, this could resurface if the Bruins or Canucks make a pitch to the Coyotes’ liking, provided he’d be willing to waive his clause before the season begins.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 5, 2020

How will the Islanders find cap space to sign Mathew Barzal? How will the Blue Jackets replace sidelined Gustav Nyquist? Check out the latest in the NHL rumor mill.

ISLES MUST SHED SALARY TO SIGN BARZAL

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker reports the Islanders have around $3.9 million in salary-cap space with center Mathew Barzal still to sign. General manager Lou Lamoriello will also find it challenging to bring back unrestricted free agents Matt Martin and Andy Greene and to add goaltender Cory Schneider.

Don’t expect the New York Islanders to buy out Jordan Eberle to alleviate their cap crunch (NHL Images).

Pulock filing for arbitration provides the Isles with a second buyout window that opens for 24 hours on Friday. However, they can only buy out a player earning an annual average value of over $4 million, ruling out Leo Komarov and Thomas Hickey as options.

Lamoriello could attempt another cost-cutting trade. It’ll be difficult to find takers for Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) or Andrew Ladd ($5 million AAV) in this economic climate.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin indicates buying out Boychuk or Ladd won’t provide much immediate relief. The way their salaries are structured, a Boychuk buyout would give the Isles $833K in savings for 2020-21 while Ladd’s would be over $666K.

Larkin wondered if Lamoriello could place a player like Ladd on long-term injury reserve. Failing that, he’ll have to dump another salary via trade.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple also weighed in on the Islanders’ options. He indicates Martin, Greene and Schneider already have agreed-upon deals with the club but they’re being kept off the books for now in case Barzal signs an offer sheet.

Lamoriello could take a drastic step like buying out Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey or Nick Leddy but Staple doubts he’ll go that far. He also doubts Barzal will get $10 million annually from the Isles unless Lamoriello can find a taker for Boychuk and at least one other contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple believes Lamoriello will have to get creative given how the trade market has dried up and the complications of going the LTIR route. He has a well-earned reputation for creativity when it comes to finding wiggle room under the cap, but this situation will still be a significant challenge.

Leddy has surfaced as a trade candidate. He’s under 30, doesn’t have a long injury history like Boychuk and Ladd, lacks no-trade protection and carries an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. With Devon Toews shipped to Colorado last month in a cost-cutting deal, it’s unlikely Lamoriello parts with Leddy now.

He could try to move Komarov ($3 million AAV through 2021-22, seven-team no-trade list) and Hickey ($2.5 million AAV, lacks no-trade protection. Both could be easier to move than Boychuk and Ladd, though it will still be challenging drumming up interest for either guy.

HOW WILL THE JACKETS REPLACE NYQUIST?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets might pursue Mike Hoffman now that winger Gustav Nyquist is sidelined five-to-six months following shoulder surgery. Losing Nyquist is a big blow for the low-scoring Jackets, who still haven’t suitably replaced the offense lost when Artemi Panarin departed via free agency to the New York Rangers last year.

Larkin acknowledged adding Hoffman won’t make the Jackets a Stanley Cup contender, but it would provide a much-needed injection of offense. He’s the type of player who can score given the opportunity at five-on-five or on the power play, which he’ll certainly get with the Jackets.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t a big fan of free agency. Instead, he’s expected to continue to play the waiting game with the handful of cap-strapped NHL clubs in the hope one of them will be willing to trade away a quality player on the cheap.

Portzline also examined internal options for the Jackets. They could slide Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner into left wing on the second line. Nyquist’s absence could also create an opportunity for rookie Liam Foudy to skate on the third line with Mikko Koivu and either Foligno or Jenner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets still have to sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois. With over $12 million in cap space, however, they’ve got sufficient room to do that and to find a suitable short-term replacement for Nyquist.

Hoffman is the best choice in the UFA market. He’d prefer a long-term contract but recent reports indicated he’d accept a one-year deal worth $6 million. That’s probably too rich for Kekalainen’s blood. He could be keeping an eye on the Lightning to see if he can land Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn.

As with his efforts to sign Dubois, Kekalainen can afford to remain patient. He might not move on finding Nyquist’s replacement until training camp, which could be at least two months away.