NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2019

Mikko Rantanen makes a splashy return with the Avalanche, Alex Ovechkin tallies a hat trick, fallout from the Peters firing and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen made a splashy return to action by picking up four points in a 7-3 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks. It was his first game since being sidelined by a leg injury on Oct. 21. Joonas Donskoi also enjoyed a four-point performance, Nathan MacKinnon picked up three points, and Nazem Kadri scored two goals. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored to extend his points streak to 15 games.

Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen collected four points in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo via NHL Images)

Alex Ovechkin tallied a hat trick to lead the Washington Capitals over the Detroit Red Wings 5-2. Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov collected three assists. Ovechkin now has 20 goals on the season, sitting second to Boston’s David Pastrnak (24) in the goal-scoring race. The Wings’ winless skid has stretched to nine games. Earlier in the day, they acquired goaltender Eric Comrie from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Vili Saarijarvi.

The Vancouver Canucks got a four-point performance from Tanner Pearson to down the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. Canucks captain Bo Horvat picked up three assists. Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler left the game in the third period with an upper-body injury.

New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made 33 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast each tallied shorthanded goals. Devils rookie Jack Hughes missed the game with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Devils near the bottom of the conference, there are reports they’re entertaining offers for Taylor Hall. Check out the Rumors section for details.

The Philadelphia Flyers extended the Montreal Canadiens’ winless skid to seven games (0-4-3) with a 4-3 overtime victory. Ivan Provorov tallied the game-winner while Flyers goalie Brian Elliott kicked out 39 shots. Tomas Tatar scored twice for the Habs, who lost defenseman Victor Mete to a lower-body injury. The Flyers sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with 35 points.

Calgary Flames winger Elias Lindholm scored twice in a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Jean-Gabriel Pageau netted his team-leading 14th goal for the Senators.

John Tavares tallied in overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Tavares also had an assist on William Nylander’s game-opening goal. Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton made 41 saves in a losing cause.

Carolina Hurricanes netminder James Reimer made 36 saves as his club held on for a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes. The Lightning also revealed defenseman Brayden Coburn is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury, while winger Alex Killorn (lower-body injury) is listed as day-to-day.

Florida Panthers rookie goaltender Chris Driedger’s first NHL start was a memorable one, turning aside 27 shots to blank the Nashville Predators 3-0. Anton Stralman scored twice for the Panthers.

Semyon Varlamov replaced an ailing Thomas Greiss in the first period and backstopped the New York Islanders to a 2-0 shutout over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Isles center Mathew Barzal scored one goal and collected an assist on the other. Isles defenseman Nick Leddy returned to action after missing one game with a lower-body injury. Blue Jackets rearguard Zach Werenski left the game with an upper-body injury.

Logan Couture scored twice and Tomas Hertl picked up two assists as the San Jose Sharks overcame a 2-0 deficit to down the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. It’s the Sharks’ 11th win in their last 13 contests.

St. Louis Blues forwards Jaden Schwartz and Ryan O’Reilly each had two points in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin left the game with an undisclosed injury. The Penguins also played without winger Bryan Rust, who’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

A 33-save effort by Jack Campbell enabled the Los Angeles Kings to hang on for a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

HEADLINES

TSN: Former Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis issued a statement yesterday claiming he informed then-team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. of alleged physical incidents between former coach Bill Peters and two players. Earlier in the week, Karmanos claimed he was not aware of the incidents and would’ve immediately fired Peters had he known. Francis said he took immediate action to address the issue and no further incidents occurred.

Peters resigned Friday as coach of the Calgary Flames after former NHL player Akim Aliu claimed he hurled racial slurs at him during their tenure with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs a decade ago.

SPORTSNET: Speak of Aliu, he’ll be meeting with the NHL this week to to discuss the cultural problems in hockey.

NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Sean Avery claimed he was kicked by coach Marc Crawford during a game in 2006-07 when they were with the Los Angeles Kings. Avery said the incident occurred when he took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty.

“He didn’t have me serve it, we got scored on, and he let me have it. You know how I stand at the end of the bench? He came down and gave me an ass kick that left a mark.” Avery found the incident more bemusing than upsetting.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will miss tonight’s game against the Canadiens with a lower-body injury. Winger Brad Marchand is questionable for the game as he’s battling flu symptoms. Winger David Backes (concussion symptoms) could be close to returning to the lineup.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu will appear in his 1,000th NHL game today when his club takes on the Dallas Stars.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 1, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – October 1, 2019

Updates on Jonathan Drouin, Julius Honka, Daniel Sprong, and Luke Schenn in today’s NHL rumor mill.

DROUIN TRADE SPECULATION COOLING DOWN

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently weighed in on the trade rumors swirling around Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin. A poor performance in a preseason game sparked the speculation, prompting Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to deny Drouin was on the block. 

All quiet on the Jonathan Drouin rumor front (Photo via NHL Images).

Larkin noted a report about Drouin’s name being “out there” (on the trade block) but his sources claim otherwise. Larkin acknowledged the Canadiens could use a mobile top-four defenseman and suggested Nick Leddy of the New York Islanders as one option. However, the Habs don’t have a surplus of wingers to spare.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted last week, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bergevin is willing entertain trade offers but I doubt he’s trying to move the 24-year-old winger. A player’s preseason performance usually isn’t indicative of what to expect in the regular season. Consistency remains an issue for Drouin but he still has the potential to become a reliable scorer. I believe Bergevin will remain patient. 

COULD THE SABRES CLAIM SPRONG OFF WAIVERS?

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington suggests Anaheim Ducks winger Daniel Sprong could be enticing to the Sabres. The 22-year-old tallied 14 goals in 47 games with the Ducks last season but was placed on waivers yesterday. He was a second-round pick (2015) of the Pittsburgh Penguins “and thus has a relationship with both Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill and assistant GM Randy Sexton from their days in Pittsburgh.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sprong has solid scoring abilities but his defensive play leaves much to be desired. He wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh and now with the Ducks. Sprong can play either wing and the Sabres reportedly seek depth on the right wing. He could be an affordable waiver gamble.

UPDATE ON HONKA

TSN’s Bob McKenzie (stick tap to Account4hockey) reports the Dallas Stars seek “a 2nd round pick or 3rd round pick or young player for Julius Honka.” The 23-year-old restricted free agent defenseman is skating in Finland awaiting a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Media trade chatter linked Honka to the Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. The Habs were reportedly willing to do a player-for-player swap but there’s no indication who they could offer up in return. Given the decline in Honka’s value, I doubt the Stars will find a club willing to meet their asking price.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2019

An updated list of the best remaining UFAs plus the latest Rangers and Islanders speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

UPDATED UFA LIST

THE SCORE: updated their listing of the best available unrestricted free agents by position. That includes Jake Gardiner, Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, Cam Ward, and Thomas Vanek. Other notables include Patrick Marleau, Pat Maroon, Derick Brassard, Jason Pominville, and Niklas Kronwall. 

Jake Gardiner remains the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those on his list, only Gardiner can be considered still in his playing prime. The rest are all past their best-before date. Many observers are surprised Gardiner remains available. Some suggest he was hoping to be signed by the Leafs but that doesn’t seem possible with Mitch Marner due for a big raise. Last season’s back injury could also be dampening his UFA value.

It’s expected Thornton will be back for one more season with the Sharks. Their recent re-signing of Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1-million deal prompted speculation this could also allow them to bring back Marleau for a last hurrah.

Maroon would love to stay in St. Louis but the Blues are said to be offering a one-year deal and he wants a multi-year contract. Williams is said to be mulling retirement. If he does decide to play it’ll only be with the Hurricanes.

Some Quebec pundits suggest the Montreal Canadiens should sign a Quebecker like Pominville or Brassard. It remains to be seen if the Habs intend to take that advice. 

LATEST RANGERS AND ISLANDERS SPECULATION

NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton still has to figure out how he’ll shed some salary to make room for restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. That includes deciding the future of winger Chris Kreider, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. “Also on the trade block would be restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich, as well as Vladislav Namestnikov.”

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples noted Cyrgalis’ report that Buchnevich could be on the trade block and wonders if the Edmonton Oilers should look at him. Staples feels Buchnevich could fill a need for the Oilers. He also noted a rumor suggesting the possibility of the Oilers acquiring Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. He also pondered the notion of the Oilers using unhappy winger Jesse Puljujarvi in a deal for Buchnevich, Bennett, or another forward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buchnevich was considered part of the Rangers’ youth movement. Their recent, expensive signing of Artemi Panarin and their need to re-sign Trouba could make the 24-year-old winger expendable. He had 43 points in 2017-18 and tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season. He’s filed for arbitration, which could also determine his future in New York. The Rangers probably prefer moving Namestnikov and his $4-million cap hit for 2019-20 but Buchnevich would probably attract more interest.

As for the Oilers landing Bennett, I don’t think the Flames want to move him. But if they do, it’ll likely be anywhere other than up the road to their biggest rival. 

Cyrgalis also believes defenseman Nick Leddy remains the New York Islanders’ “best possible trade piece.” He feels the 28-year-old blueliner’s contract ($5.5 million annually through 2021-22) would be attractive in the trade market. However, Leddy isn’t likely to fetch a return that turns the Isles into a contender. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy was linked to the Canadiens last month. So far, however, there’s no indication they’re interested in acquiring him. Indeed, things have gone quiet on the Leddy trade rumors since late June. 










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. 

UPDATE ON TROUBA

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. 

ISLES TO MOVE LEDDY?

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. 

MORE MOVES IN STORE FOR THE SHARKS? 

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 Rumor Mill – June 18, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – June 18, 2019

The fallout from the Karlsson signing and the Trouba trade, plus the latest on the Penguins, Bruins, Canadiens, Islanders, and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EFFECT OF KARLSSON SIGNING ON SHARKS, UFA MARKET

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: In the wake of the San Jose Sharks re-signing Erik Karlsson, Marcus White examined its effect upon the club for the remainder of the offseason. Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist are their noteworthy unrestricted free agents. Their restricted free agents include Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.  White indicates the Sharks now have around $12.5 million in salary-cap space, leaving general manager Doug Wilson facing some tough choices.

White’s colleague Chelena Goldman expects Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Radim Simek will likely be the staples of the Sharks blueline next season. Defensemen Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon are a year away from UFA status. Goldman suggests they could be used in off-season trades.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien observes Karlsson’s signing leaves this summer’s UFA market thin on quality defensemen. The best of the bunch include Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers, Vancouver’s Alex Edler, and Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, Braun carries a salary-cap hit of $3.8 million while Dillon’s is $3.27 million. Both lack no-trade protection. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are traded in cost-cutting deals. Even then, the Sharks probably won’t have enough cap space to re-sign everyone. Nyquist and Donskoi could be goners. Pavelski, too, if he seeks an expensive new deal. 

**UPDATE** Sharks general manager Doug Wilson isn’t wasting time freeing up cap space. He traded Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers for a second-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2020 Draft. 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE JETS AND RANGERS FOLLOWING THE TROUBA TRADE?

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes more changes are coming for the Jets following yesterday’s trade of defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff faces a potential salary-cap crunch with RFAs Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Andrew Copp to re-sign. McIntyre notes there are plenty of trade rumors swirling around left wing Nikolaj Ehlers. If Ehlers is moved, McIntyre suspects it’ll be more of a hockey trade to address a specific roster need for a center or a defenseman.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers will find it expensive re-signing Trouba. The RFA blueliner could seek at least $7.5- million annually on his next contract. That could affect potential efforts to pursue a scorer like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin via free agency next month. Brooks speculates winger Chris Kreider could be shopped at the upcoming NHL draft if his asking price to re-sign proves too expensive. Kreider’s a year away from UFA status and carries an 11-team no-trade list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Following the Trouba trade, McIntyre reported Cheveldayoff said he’s still got a lot of balls in the air right now. In other words, the Jets GM might not be done dealing. Ehlers carries an expensive annual cap hit ($6 million) but lacks no-trade protection this summer. He’ll attract plenty of interest if he hits the trade block.

It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out between Kreider and the Rangers. If they intend to pursue Panarin or Matt Duchene via free agency they could move Kreider to free up cap room. They could also attempt to trade or buy out a defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk or Brendan Smith. 

Following the Sharks re-signing Erik Karlsson yesterday, Brooks wonders if San Jose GM Doug Wilson might try to acquire Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. While the Rangers aren’t shopping Lundqvist, Brooks points out the goalie’s sister lives in the San Jose area plus he’s also good friends with Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks admits this is just speculation on his part. Given the Sharks’ limited cap space and Lundqvist’s no-movement clause, I don’t see the long-time Rangers goaltender going anywhere. 

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford maintains he’s not shopping winger Phil Kessel (Photo via NHL Images).

PENGUINS NOT SHOPPING KESSEL, MALKIN, LETANG

NHL.COM: Appearing on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan yesterday, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford admitted Phil Kessel rejected a proposed trade to the Minnesota Wild by invoking his no-trade clause. Rutherford said he’s not actively shopping the winger. When asked about trade rumors regarding center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang, Rutherford said they’re not untouchable. However, he added they’re not players he’s pushing to move or intends to trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers aren’t buying Rutherford’s claim he’s no longer trying to trade Kessel. However, he won’t be going anywhere unless a club on Kessel’s eight-team trade list makes a great offer or the winger expands that list. I don’t see Malkin or Letang getting traded anytime soon.

UPDATE ON KRUG

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t outright reject the notion of trading Torey Krug this summer. However, he indicated he’d have to receive a mind-blowing offer to consider it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug’s coming off arguably the best season of his career. He’s a year away from UFA status and will be an expensive re-signing for the Bruins. Nevertheless, Sweeney’s doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to move Krug. 

LATEST ISLANDERS SPECULATION

NEWSDAY: With Erik Karlsson and Jacob Trouba no longer available, Andrew Gross wondered who the New York Islanders’ blueline targets could be. Even with their depth on defense, Gross believes GM Lou Lamoriello won’t shy away from an opportunity to bolster his defense. Possible free-agent options could include Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers, and Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman. Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie could be a trade option.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Yvon Pedneault observed there’s speculation linking the Montreal Canadiens to New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy. The 28-year-old has three years remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. He also lacks no-trade protection and has dropped out of the Isles’ top-two defense pairings. Appearing on TVA Sports, Pedneault speculates the Isles could shop Leddy for a forward. He suggests it would cost the Canadiens Andrew Shaw and a second-round draft pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $22 million in projected cap space, the Islanders are expected to be busy in this summer’s trade and free-agent markets. If they bring in a blueliner they could put Leddy on the trade block. The Canadiens are in dire need of a top-four left-side defenseman and Leddy could interest them. 

 










NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2019

Looking ahead for the Bruins and Blues plus updates on Phil Kessel, Jason Zucker and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BRUINS AND BLUES?

ESPN.COM: Following Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, Greg Wyshynski, Emily Kaplan, and Chris Peters looked at some off-season keys for the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. They believe the Bruins still have a good mix of veterans and youth to contend for the Cup next season but they should also focus on getting younger.

Should the Boston Bruins shop defenseman Torey Krug this summer for a second-line winger? (Photo via NHL Images)

Given Boston’s blueline depth, they suggest shopping defenseman Torey Krug for a second-line winger. The Bruins should also consider buying out the final two seasons ($6 million annual average value) of David Backes’ contract. 

The Blues must sort out new contracts for restricted free agents like Jordan Binnington, Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, and Joel Edmundson. Oft-injured winger Robby Fabbri faces an uncertain future after falling out of favor by the end of the playoffs. Carl Gunnarsson and Patrick Maroon can become unrestricted free agents but both could return on affordable short-term deals. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It won’t be easy for both clubs to repeat as Cup Finalists. The Bruins appear to have the better chance of returning to the Final next season. They’ve got a lot of good young talent on their roster and within their system.

Krug’s been mentioned in media trade chatter since last summer but nothing came of it. However, he’s a year away from UFA status and could prove an expensive re-signing. 

The  Bruins must also re-sign RFA blueliners Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. With over $68 million invested in 19 players, there’s room to get both under contract but it could be a tight squeeze. Moving Krug’s $5.25-million cap hit would clear some additional room depending on what they get back in return.

A Backes buyout will only free up over $333K in cap space for 2019-20. The real savings come in the following three years of the buyout term.

I don’t expect big changes in store for the Blues. GM Doug Armstrong will probably try to keep as much of the roster intact as possible. With over $64 million committed to 16 players and all their core players except for Binnington under contract, they can afford to keep the band together. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Fabbri, whose once-promising career has been hampered by numerous injuries.  

UPDATES ON KESSEL AND ZUCKER

TRIBLIVE.COM: Despite Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford saying it looks like Phil Kessel won’t be traded, Kevin Gorman doesn’t believe it. He calls Rutherford’s comments “public posturing at its best.” Kessel recently used his no-trade clause to spike a proposed deal to the Minnesota Wild. Gorman believes Rutherford left Kessel with two choices: continue playing for the Penguins under coach Mike Sullivan or help management find a suitable trade partner. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford could be bluffing. It wouldn’t be the first time an NHL GM says a player probably won’t be traded only to move him soon afterward.

His comments could be aimed at sending the Kessel camp a message. If he doesn’t want to play for Sullivan any longer, he’ll have to consider other trade destinations beyond his eight-team list. However, if Kessel holds firm, Rutherford will have to consider other cost-cutting moves. 

THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Wild GM Paul Fenton, Michael Russo asked him about Jason Zucker’s trade status. He was nearly part of that proposed pitch for Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the February trade deadline.

Fenton admits he’s received calls about Zucker but also other players on his roster. He also denied he’s intent on moving the winger. Nevertheless, it’s believed he’s also discussed Zucker with the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, and Carolina Hurricanes. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fenton may be playing coy about his intentions to move Zucker. However, it appears he’s willing to entertain offers and isn’t shy about pitching him to other clubs. He won’t move Zucker just for the sake of doing so but I believe he’s looking for the right deal.

COULD PULJUJARVI BECOME A “SWEETENER” IN A LUCIC-FOR-ERIKSSON SWAP?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recent comments on a rumored Milan Lucic-for-Loui Eriksson swap between Edmonton and Vancouver. Given the extra year on Lucic’s contract, he wondered if the Oilers would have to include Jesse Puljuarvi as part of the return. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples points out Friedman isn’t saying this is a trade rumor but merely musing over what it might take to pull off that type of swap. I concur with Staples that adding Puljujarvi in that deal would be too much.