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.










No Movement But Plenty of Buzz in NHL Trade Market

No Movement But Plenty of Buzz in NHL Trade Market

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 24, 2020

Another look at the top remaining UFAs, including suggested destinations for Mike Hoffman, plus the latest on the Islanders and Jets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP REMAINING UFAs

THE SCORE: listed a roundup of the best available players by position. The top wingers include Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, and Andreas Athanasiou. Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene top the listing of defensemen, while Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg are among the best remaining centers. Goaltenders include Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Miller.

Unrestricted free agent winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some decent depth remains among the wingers and defensemen, but not so much among the centers. All the goaltenders are past their best-before dates.

SPORTSNET: listed the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes as potential destinations for Mike Hoffman. Those clubs are in need of scoring depth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Hoffman the best player remaining in the market and activity in the free-agent market slowed to a crawl by the flattened salary cap, the latest guessing game among fans and pundits is figuring out where the 30-year-old winger could go. He reportedly seeks a one-year deal worth $6 million.

Hoffman’s agent recently said up to 13 teams have expressed an interest in his client, with five or six of those serious. The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings have also been suggested, plus there’s been the odd speculation about Hoffman rejoining the Florida Panthers or Ottawa Senators.

LATEST ON THE ISLANDERS AND JETS

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple listed Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd, Thomas Hickey and perhaps Leo Komarov as potential cost-cutting trade candidates for the New York Islanders. A sticking point is teams could be asking for the Isles 2021 first-round pick. Staple wondered if general manager Lou Lamoriello could be comfortable including that pick. He has an extra second-round pick in 2022, or he could use his second-round picks to trade for a first-round pick.

Trade partners would be clubs with plenty of salary-cap space such as the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, or New Jersey Devils. What complicates things is there are a half-dozen clubs over the cap that must shed salary, plus four others (including the Islanders) that are close to the ceiling.

Staple isn’t concerned about Isles center Mathew Barzal becoming an offer-sheet target as there aren’t many clubs with sufficient cap space to blow him away with a big offer. He considers it unlikely Barzal would sign with Detroit or New Jersey. Nashville would be squeezed for cap space in 2021-22 with two goalies to sign while joining the New York Rangers would “ignite a true war”. Staple also points out it’s difficult to see teams making big offer sheets when they’re furloughing or laying off employees.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello’s biggest concern is freeing up cap space to re-sign Barzal and Ryan Pulock. Barzal could sign an offer sheet but I have my doubts. Lamoriello has indicated he’d match any offer. With Cap Friendly indicating the Isles have $8.9 million in cap space plus they can exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, it’s unlikely Barzal will be signed away.

A rival club could do it just to complicate matters for the Isles by matching but that doesn’t seem likely, especially given the tight economic situation everyone is facing right now.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe speculates it’s still possible Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could package restricted free agents like Sami Niku and Jack Roslovic that brings in someone like the Florida Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar or one of the left-shot defensemen the Carolina Hurricanes have in abundance. They could also circle back on a UFA like Ben Hutton to see if their asking price is more reasonable.

With 21 players already under contract for next season, the Jets will have limited salary cap space even after they place Bryan Little on LTIR. Wiebe doesn’t expect a big-name move by the Jets to address their defense unless they make a blockbuster trade involving winger Patrik Laine.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll have to be one helluva defenseman coming to the Jets to make Cheveldayoff part with Laine. The Jets GM could be comfortable starting the season with his current blueline and see how things develop leading up to the trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

The latest on the Flyers, Islanders and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is still actively talking to teams, but the flattened salary cap is making it difficult to add players to his roster.

This is the most difficult offseason that I’ve ever seen,” said Fletcher. He feels the NHL is entering the Flat Cap Era. “As crazy as it is right now out there, I think next summer could be even worse in terms of having some paralysis in the market, and having just too many teams having to move money.”

Fletcher is also focused on the long term. Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim will be restricted free agents next summer while Scott Laughton is due to become an unrestricted free agent. Sean Couturier is two years away from UFA eligibility.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

Carchidi observers forwards such as Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou remain available in the UFA market. However, he doesn’t know if Fletcher will pursue one of them.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall wondered what the Flyers’ recent signing of Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract means for Shayne Gostisbehere. Both defensemen play a similar offensive-minded style. While Gustafsson’s addition doesn’t guarantee Gostisbehere will be traded, Hall suggests it increases the possibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could make it more difficult for the Flyers to move Gostisbehere. As per Cap Friendly, the 27-year-old blueliner has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.5 million.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports unrestricted free agents Andy Greene and Matt Martin are expected to return with the New York Islanders. The Isles could also be in the market for a bargain third-line winger. He listed Derick Brassard, Carl Soderberg, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Riley Sheahan among forwards who might be available for the right price.

Staple added there’s nothing new regarding a recent rumor suggesting the Isles were close to trading defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million AAV for next season. He speculates perhaps the Isles could interest the New Jersey Devils in winger Leo Komarov, who has a $3 million cap hit for the next two years. Staple also thinks Andrew Ladd is a likely LTIR candidate given his recent injury history.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders have $8.9 million in cap space, but a new contract for RFA center Mathew Barzal will likely eat up most of that, while defenseman Ryan Pulock is also due for a significant raise. Pulock has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

GM Lou Lamoriello must shed salary to re-sign Barzal and Pulock and bring back Greene and Martin. Moving Boychuk could alleviate much of that cap concern, but Lamoriello could be forced to include a draft pick, prospect or young NHL player in the deal.

WGR 550: Brayton J. Wilson believes the Buffalo Sabres should revisit the idea of trading defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to provide themselves sufficient salary-cap flexibility for next season. The Sabres have a projected $13.645 million available but most of that will be taken up re-signing RFAs such as Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt and Linus Ullmark and perhaps bring back Dominik Kahun after he wasn’t extended a qualifying offer.

Ristolainen, 25, has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.4 million. Wilson feels it may be worthwhile under the current economic conditions to move the blueliner for less than market value, pointing to the Vegas Golden Knights accepting a third-round pick in 2022 from the Vancouver Canucks for Nate Schmidt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ristolainen trade rumors had the Sabres attempting to move him in exchange for a scoring forward. That need has been addressed with the additions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal.

It might be easier to move Ristolainen for a draft pick in a cost-cutting deal, but that’s assuming GM Kevyn Adams is willing to move him. Head coach Ralph Krueger apparently thinks highly of the Finnish blueliner and his opinion seems to carry considerable weight within the Sabres’ organization. Ristolainen probably won’t be shopped if Krueger wants him in the fold for next season.