NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

A recent survey of player agents revealed which high-profile players they expect to be traded and which teams they feel still need to make a significant move. Check it out in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: A recent survey of 21 player agents conducted by Craig Custance revealed Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, and Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Mitch Marner and William Nylander topped their list of high-profile players who could change teams in the next year.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

One agent pointed to the recent trade speculation surrounding Laine in recent weeks. Another feels Eichel will tire of losing in Buffalo. Another feels Marner could become a trade candidate if the Leafs decide to move one of their expensive forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m also leaning toward Laine because of the ongoing trade chatter and the uncertainty over his future beyond this season when he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Eichel could decide he’s had enough in Buffalo if the Sabres fail to improve but I don’t think he’s reached that point yet.

Moving Marner and his $10.8 million annual average value will be more difficult to trade than Nylander’s $6.96 million under the current economic climate. I know Dubas reportedly said Nylander wouldn’t be traded as long as he was general manager, but that doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind, especially if the Leafs make another early playoff exit.

The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Edmonton Oilers topped their list of teams they feel still need to make a significant offseason move.

One agent believes the Bruins must figure out what direction they’re going in. Another felt they’re still a Stanley Cup contender but must find a suitable defenseman to replace the departed Torey Krug

One agent said the Lightning need to get out of their salary-cap hell. Another believes the Oilers must get better faster or they’ll run into a problem.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the Bruins offseason speculation suggests they’re waiting to re-sign restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk until after they’ve sorted the left side of their blue line. DeBrusk has also been mentioned as a possible trade chip to address that need.

The Lightning’s cap issues are well known and dominate the offseason rumor mill. They must free up sufficient cap space to re-sign RFAs Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. Forwards Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn are oft-mentioned as trade candidates.

Goaltending remains the Oilers’ Achilles heel but they couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in an upgrade over the current tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. They’re just over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get some relief by placing defenseman Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve if he should undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. That could provide a little wiggle room for other moves during the season.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 15, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 15, 2020

The latest on the Jets and Lightning in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

WINNIPEG SUN: Ted Wyman reports a recent poll of Jets fans reveals they don’t want their club to move Patrik Laine, they would prefer if Jack Roslovic was traded, and management should have another season to get things right.

The majority of Winnipeg Jets fans don’t want Patrik Laine to be traded (NHL Images).

Laine, 22, is rumored to be on the trade block as he enters the final season of his contract. It could prove difficult re-signing him, but almost 80 percent of Jets fans surveyed believe he shouldn’t be traded. 75 percent want the Jets to re-sign him though most wouldn’t want to overspend to do so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets will have to overspend if they want to keep Laine. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights who’ll demand a big raise, especially if he regains his 40-goal form. The current economic uncertainty facing the NHL might work in the Jets’ favor. Nevertheless, there could be a club willing to pay Laine whatever he wants that could be willing to meet the Jets’ asking price in the trade market.

Almost 60 percent of Jets fans believe the club should trade Roslovic. He’s reportedly been shopped in recent weeks in an attempt to land a top-four defenseman. Just over 50 percent would like to see Sami Niku traded.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic is believed to be unhappy with his current role and prefers regular top-six minutes. The 23-year-old is a versatile two-way forward who can play center or on right wing.

He’s currently a restricted free agent without arbitration rights who’s likely to get an affordable short-term bridge contract. The Jets aren’t in any hurry to move him. That could change if they get a suitable offer from a team with depth in defenseman seeking an affordable young forward with upside.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Smith was asked about the possibility of the Tampa Bay Lightning trading a bad contract, like Tyler Johnson’s $5 million annual average value, for a bad contract with a lower AAV. He doubts that happens as the Lightning must clear around $10 million in cap space.

Smith can’t confirm if it would cost the Bolts a first-round pick to move Johnson but he feels they’ll have to add a sweetener. He also doesn’t get the sense Johnson has expanded his list of trade destinations beyond 8 – 9 clubs.

Smith said Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois is working the phones seeking cost-cutting deals. However, the market is quiet right now because of the flattened cap and uncertainty over the start of the season.

While they could start the season with one of their restricted free agents (Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak) still unsigned, Smith feels they’ll get them signed before then. He also hasn’t heard anything suggesting a rival club could attempt to sign one of them to an offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning’s efforts to clear cap space by moving someone like Johnson to re-sign those RFAs will likely increase once the start of the season has been confirmed. For now, there’s no reason to rush into anything. If the season begins sometime in January, expect business to pick up in December.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 2, 2020

A look at five teams with unanswered offseason questions in the NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently listed five NHL teams with some unanswered questions to address in this offseason.

Gretz noted the Edmonton Oilers brought back the goaltending duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, wondering if they will be good enough in 2020-21. Smith is 38 and hasn’t played well over the last two seasons while the 32-year-old Koskinen still hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers couldn’t or wouldn’t pay big bucks to land someone like Jacob Markstrom via free agency. They’ll start next season with their current tandem and see how things shake out. I expect they’ll test the trade market if Smith and Koskinen aren’t getting the job done.

Defense remains the Winnipeg Jets’ Achilles heel entering 2020-21. Gretz feels they’re lacking a true No. 1 defender and maybe another top-four option.

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains in part why Jets winger Patrik Laine keeps appearing in offseason trade speculation. He’d certainly land a No.1 defenseman, but no one’s willing to part with a top blueliner right now for a 40-goal first-line winger.

Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe doesn’t see the Jets trading Laine unless they’re blown away by a big offer in the coming weeks or months. He didn’t rule out using Jack Roslovic and Sami Niku in a package deal or in separate trades to bring in a defenseman. Maybe that package nets a second-pairing rearguard but it’s not enough for a top defender.

Gretz wonders how the Nashville Predators will replace the offense lost by the departures of Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund and Nick Bonino. He doesn’t think the additions of Brad Richardson, Nick Cousins and Luke Kunin will address that issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hence the rumors claiming the Predators have interest in Mike Hoffman. However, the 30-year-old unrestricted free agent winger reportedly seeks a one-year deal worth $6 million. It’s believed the Predators (and other interested clubs) are playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price.

The departure of Torey Krug via free agency leaves a big hole on the left side of the Boston Bruins’ defense corps. Gretz pointed out Sami Vatanen and Slater Koekkoek remain available but they’re not going to replace Krug’s minutes and production.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have over $6.6 million in cap space. However, they must re-sign restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk and determine if long-time captain Zdeno Chara will return for another season. New contracts for those two will eat up most of that cap space. They won’t have enough cap room to bring in someone to suitable replace Krug unless they go the trade route, and that’ll mean parting with a very good player.

Gretz also wondered why the Buffalo Sabres stuck with goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. The latter was a notable flop between the pipes. He feels none of their offseason additions will matter if their goaltending doesn’t improve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gretz did point out Ullmark was solid last season. Nevertheless, he’s yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Hutton blamed vision problems for his struggles last season but credits therapy with addressing that issue. Like the Oilers, I daresay the Sabres will evaluate their goaltending during next season and look to the trade market if there’s no significant improvement by their current tandem.










Activity Slows In The NHL Offseason Trade Market

Activity Slows In The NHL Offseason Trade Market

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2020

A look at some intriguing offseason trade candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently listed 6 intriguing players who could still get traded this offseason.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

He begins with Shayne Gostisbehere, noting the Philadelphia Flyers reportedly made the puck-moving defenseman available earlier in the offseason. Matt Niskanen’s sudden retirement and the Flyers’ subsequent addition of Erik Gustafsson (who plays a similar style to Gostisbehere) leaves the 26-year-old blueliner’s status uncertain in Philadelphia. Wegman suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings as potential landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins’ and Jets’ limited cap space means the Flyers would have to take back some salary to move Gostisbehere to either of those clubs. Cap Friendly indicates he has three years remaining on his contract worth $4.5 million annually. The Kings can afford him but general manager Rob Blake already acquired Olli Maatta from Chicago and could be content to promote from within.

Wegman noted the trade speculation swirling around Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine. He pointed out Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will want either a top-six center or top-four defenseman as part of the return. The Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are possible destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres landed Taylor Hall via free agency so I doubt they’re in the market for Laine. The Hurricanes could be a good fit but I don’t see them parting with any of their top-four defensemen plus they lack the depth in centers to pry Laine away from the Jets. The Wild need a proven top-line center, not a left-winger, so I don’t think they’re a fit.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they reportedly placed Jake Gardiner on the trade block. He’s tumbled down their depth chart and carries a $4.05 million cap hit, but could be a top-four defenseman for clubs like the Jets, Florida Panthers or New York Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gardiner’s contract runs through 2022-23 so the Hurricanes will either have to absorb part of that cap hit or take back salary to make this work. The Panthers and Jets are looking for more defensive-minded options, plus the latter has limited cap space. I don’t see the Rangers taking on his contract.

Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been frequently mentioned in trade rumors for some time, prompting Wegman to wonder if new Sabres GM Kevyn Adams might find a taker for him. The Sabres have a logjam at right defense and moving one of their right-side blueliners to the left side isn’t ideal. Wegman suggested the Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Jets as possible landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most reports out of Buffalo on Ristolainen suggested he was no longer on the trade block because head coach Ralph Krueger thinks highly of him. If so, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s need to shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev have Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson on Wegman’s list. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list, making him somewhat easier to move. Johnson has a full no-trade clause but is willing to work with the Lightning to work out a trade, but there were no takers for his $5 million AAV when he was placed on waivers. They’ll have to include a sweetener to move him. The Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators or Panthers could be destinations for one of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Detroit has the salary-cap space plus former Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is now the Red Wings’ GM. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if Killorn or Johnson would accept a trade to a rebuilding club like the Wings or the Senators.

The Panthers also have the cap space but could be unwilling to spend much higher than they already have. They could also be trying to woo back free agent Mike Hoffman. We also don’t know if Killorn or Johnson would accept getting traded to the Lightning’s less-successful rival.










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.