NHL Rumor Mill – February 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 10, 2021

What the Penguins hiring Ron Hextall and Brian Burke could mean for the club going forward in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen wonders what’s in store for the Pittsburgh Penguins following their hiring of Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations. Hextall has a reputation for patiently building a team while Burke is known for his aggressive moves.

There’s no indication they’ll move away from ownership’s current win-now mentality. Nevertheless, Boylen questions how much their current core of talent has left in the tank. Team captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang are 33 while Evgeni Malkin is 34. The latter two have contracts that expire at the end of next season.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Boylen ponders what will happen if the Penguins miss the playoffs or suffer another early elimination. Do they re-sign Letang and Malkin or move in a different direction?

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Paul Zeise also deliberates over how well Hextall and Burke will work together. He suggests perhaps Hextall will focus on the draft, scouting prospects and building up the foundation while Burke can focus on trying to give the Penguins a chance of winning the Stanley Cup around their current core.

Zeise believes the first order of business is to upgrade the goaltending. However, he admits that’s easier said than done. He questioned who has the priority when it comes to making big decisions on personnel, and at what point do they decide the Penguins are no longer Cup contenders and try to retool by dumping some of their big-name players.

TSN: Darren Dreger recently reported on the possibility Crosby and Malkin might not finish their careers in Pittsburgh. Asked how their futures could be affected by the hiring of Hextall and Burke, Dreger believes it depends upon the conversations they have with those two and Letang about the club’s direction. That could happen in the short term and perhaps in the offseason.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski included Malkin’s situation among the five factors facing Hextall and Burke. Multiple sources indicate ownership’s unwillingness to move Malkin and Letang. He noted the Penguins have been approached in recent years with tantalizing offers for Malkin that could help the club in the short and long term only to be rebuffed.

A top priority is figuring out where Malkin and Letang fit best. If it’s not with the Penguins, they’ll have to convince ownership to buy into that.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski feels Hextall and Burke made it clear during their introductory press conference yesterday that moving Letang or Malkin is unlikely at least for this season. They and Crosby were cited as the top players to build around.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Attempting to build up the roster around Crosby, Malkin and Letang is the short-term goal for Hextall and Burke. That’s not going to be easy during a pandemic-shortened season when most teams have limited salary-cap space and trades between Canadian and American clubs are hampered by tight border restrictions.

Hextall and Burke might not shake things up right away if the Penguins fall short this season because of ownership’s insistence on sticking with their aging core. The goal this summer could become restocking their prospect cupboard while attempting to make trades and/or free-agent signings that provide immediate help, especially if they can land younger talent. They could also open contract-extension talks with Letang and Malkin or put those off until the end of next season.

The Penguins, however, have limited cap room for 2021-22. Cap Friendly indicates they have $79.3 million invested in 17 players. With the cap expected to remain at $81.5 million, there’s little wiggle room for free-agent additions while trades would have to be dollar-for-dollar.

If the Penguins fail to improve next season, Hextall and Burke will have no choice but to convince ownership that it’s time for big changes. That means deciding whether to re-sign Letang and Malkin, assuming they haven’t already been signed to new deals. It could also mean shopping them before next year’s trade deadline.

Preparing for a rebuild will also mean determining whether Crosby wants to be part of it. He’s signed through 2024-25 so there’s not as much urgency about his situation as there is with Letang and Malkin. Still, the front office will have to have that discussion with their captain sooner or later.










What If The Penguins Next GM Decides To Blow Up The Roster?

What If The Penguins Next GM Decides To Blow Up The Roster?

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 31, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 31, 2021

Recaps of a busy Saturday, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM:Connor McDavid scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Barrie each collected two assists while John Tavares had two assists for the Leafs.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid’s end-to-end power-play goal in the second period is my candidate for goal of the year. I realize it’s very early in the season and lots of great goals are coming but it will be difficult for McDavid – or anyone else – to top that tally.

Jack Eichel tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Buffalo Sabres edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Sabres winger Taylor Hall collected two assists. Devils defenseman Ty Smith scored to move into a tie with Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (seven points) for the rookie scoring lead.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal lifted his club to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers. Rookie defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph had three assists for the Penguins, who lost blueliner Kris Letang to a lower-body injury. Rangers center Colin Blackwell left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Letang’s status could be coming later today. The Penguins already have four regular defensemen on the shelf with injuries.

The Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 3-2 on an overtime goal by Scott Laughton. Carter Hart kicked out 26 shots for the win. It’s the Islanders’ fourth consecutive defeat.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. It was Ovechkin’s first game since being placed on COVID-19 protocol list a week ago. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists. This was Zdeno Chara’s first game against the Bruins since signing with the Capitals. Bruins winger David Pastrnak collected an assist in his first game of the season following his recovery from offseason hip surgery.

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 to hand the latter their first loss of the season. Vincent Trochek scored twice for the Hurricanes, who chased Stars goalie Anton Khudobin after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek left the game early in the first with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin didn’t get much help from his teammates in this contest. The defense was sloppy, giving up three power-play goals.

A four-goal second-period outburst carried the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Nashville Predators 4-3. Lightning rookie Callan Foote tallied his first NHL goal while Steven Stamkos scored the eventual game-winner. Filip Forsberg had two assists for the Predators.

Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Aleksi Heponiemi scored his first career NHL goal in overtime to lift the Florida Panthers over the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Panthers extended their season-opening points streak to five games (4-0-1).

The Calgary Flames blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 to hand the latter their first regulation loss of the season. Jacob Markstrom kicked out 37 shots for the shutout while Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Granlund were the goal scorers as the Flames halted their three-game losing skid. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game following the first period with flu-like symptoms. He tested negative for COVID-19 but will be retested today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames winger Dillon Dube got away with a blindside headshot on Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It’s unlikely he’ll receive supplemental discipline. Kotkaniemi was shaken up but returned to action.

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Brandon Saad, Andre Burakovsky, and Samuel Girard each collected two points as the Colorado Avalanche downed the Minnesota Wild 5-1, handing the latter their third loss in their last four games. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba left the game with a leg injury in the third period. Earlier in the day, the Wild revealed prospect Marco Rossi returned to Austria to rest due to complications from COVID-19. He’s expected to return to the Wild sometime in March.

The St. Louis Blues scored their fastest three game-opening goals (2:06) in franchise history on route to a 6-1 thrashing of the Anaheim Ducks. Jordan Kyrou scored two of those three goals. Ducks goalie John Gibson was pulled after giving up those three goals on just six shots.

Brock Boeser scored twice to lead the Vancouver Canucks over the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 for their fourth straight win. Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko made 23 saves for the win while Jets netminder Connor Hellebucyk turned aside 35 shots.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 30, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 30, 2021

Check out the latest on the Penguins, Ducks and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski addresses some of the conspiracy theories surround Jim Rutherford’s decision earlier this week to step down as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Among them was speculation Rutherford was working on trading center Evgeni Malkin or defenseman Kris Letang but team co-owner Mario Lemieux blocked those moves. Kingerski dismissed that conjecture, pointing out the difficulty in keeping such a trade under wraps, especially involving Malkin, who would have to waive his no-movement clause to make it happen. He pointed out not a single legitimate reporter had a whiff that type of deal was being worked on.

The last time a team kicked the tires on Malkin, we knew it,” said Kingerski, referring to 2019 when the Florida Panthers made a pitch. The internal conclusions were that Malkin, Letang and team captain Sidney Crosby should retire as Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many trades happen that catch most insiders by surprise. However, in today’s salary cap world where superstars like Malkin a measure of control over where they play because of their no-trade clauses, moving a player of his stature wasn’t something that could be kept quiet.

I agree with Kingerski that Rutherford’s decision to step down had nothing to do with any supposed blocked attempt to trade one of the Penguins’ stars. Rutherford even subsequently dismissed that notion.

Recalling the Malkin chatter during the summer of 2019, it sounded to me like two general managers spit-balling, a “Hey, what would you want in return for Malkin?” kind of discussion. Even then, it still leaked out and was duly noted in the press.

We might someday learn the real reason behind Rutherford’s departure. I doubt it’ll be because of a thwarted attempt to trade a Penguins star.

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi reports the Penguins’ early shortlist of potential replacements for Rutherford includes New York Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury, Boston Bruins director of player personnel John Ferguson Jr, Los Angeles Kings adviser Ron Hextall, Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, and Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby.

Rossi also reports signing Malkin to a new contract will be the next general manager’s top priority. The Penguins ownership wants Malkin, Crosby and Letang to retire as Penguins but also wants the new GM to prioritize retooling around those aging stars.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That shortlist provides a good indication of what the Penguins are looking for in their new general manager. Those candidates seem best suited to implement ownership’s plan of building around their veteran stars.

NO BIG MOVES COMING FOR THE DUCKS?

THE ATHLETIC: During a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked if Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray would consider moving one or two core players like Rickard Rakell, Jakub Silfverberg, Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson or Hampus Lindholm for future assets to fit in alongside promising youngsters like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale.

Stephens doubts Murray wants to move players of importance to his roster. He also notes the Ducks lack the salary-cap space to bring in free-agent help, while making cost-cutting deals for prospects and draft picks opens up more holes in the roster. They could be filled with younger players provided they’re ready to do so and be more productive than the players you’ve traded away.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray entered this season believing his club can compete for a playoff spot. He’s not ready to blow up his roster and start rebuilding but wants instead to improve what he’s currently got. That’s why he looked into acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine before they were swapped for each other last Saturday by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets.

Maybe he reaches that point this summer if the Ducks fail to qualify for the postseason. For now, he’s going to stick with his core while transitioning younger players into the lineup.

COULD THE COYOTES PURSUE DUNN?

ARIZONA COYOTES INSIDER: During a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked if the Coyotes would have any interest in St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn. Morgan acknowledged Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has a connection with Dunn from his days as Blues assistant GM.

The problem, however, is the Coyotes would have to move out another blueliner to make room. Dunn is also a left-hand shot and the Coyotes need more right-hand rearguards. There are also questions about Dunn’s commitment to training and his attitude.

Asked about possible moves this season by the Coyotes, Morgan believes they could involve players on expiring contracts who could be shopped at the trade deadline. They include Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Raanta.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 29, 2021

Check out the latest on the Penguins and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?

TSN: Darren Dreger wonders what other changes could be in store for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they search for a new general manager after Jim Rutherford stepped down earlier this week.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images)

If the Penguins miss the playoffs or don’t do well in the postseason there could be potential for a seismic shift. Dreger feels the organization owes it to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to have a conversation over the direction of the club under new management. He wonders if they will want to chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere or retire as Penguins. “But, imagine if those names were in play at some point in the near future?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins’ attitude remains “win now” but that could change if things go sideways this season. Of the three, Malkin and Letang could face the more uncertain futures with the organization. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2022 while Crosby’s under contract until the end of 2024-25.

If there’s a change in direction after this season the new GM will have to discuss it with Crosby, Malkin and Letang to determine where those three fit into the club’s long-term plans. Crosby and Malkin have full no-movement clauses while Letang has an 18-team trade list.

They’re obviously not going anywhere during this season but this situation could be worth watching this summer.

Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun reports 20 different candidates have reached out to the Penguins to indicate interest in their vacant GM position. They include Jason Botterill, Chris Drury, Ron Hextall, Mark Hunter, Tom Fitzgerald, Peter Chiarelli, Scott Mellanby, Mike Gillis, Laurence Gilman, John Ferguson Jr and Mike Futa. Interim GM Patrik Allvin will also be under consideration.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille also looked at some possible candidates to replace Rutherford. Among his suggestions are old friends of team owner Mario Lemieux such as agent Pat Brisson, NHL analyst Pierre McGuire and Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.

Others could include Dean Lombardi, Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, NHL analyst Kevin Weekes, and Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins won’t lack for suitable candidates. I don’t see Bergevin getting hired unless he quits the Canadiens or is fired by team owner Geoff Molson. The New Jersey Devils could be reluctant to part with current GM Tom Fitzgerald.

McGuire always comes up as a GM candidate but seems to get courtesy interviews before being passed over. He hasn’t been in a management position in over a quarter-century. Brisson seems happy in his role as one of the most powerful player agents in hockey.

CANUCKS IN THE MARKET FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports he’s sure the Vancouver Canucks are looking around for help on their blueline but there are no guarantees they’re getting it. He indicated defensemen such as the Montreal Canadiens’ Victor Mete, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott and the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn could be available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks stumbled out of the gate in part because of their porous defense but recently swept their three-game series with the struggling Ottawa Senators. That could buy management a bit of breathing room while they evaluate their defensive game.

We don’t know what the Canadiens’ asking price for Mete could be. The Leafs are said to be looking for some depth at forward while the Blues’ asking price for Dunn is reportedly a first-round pick or as high a draft pick as they can get for him.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 7, 2021

Recent speculation on the Penguins, Avalanche and Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe recently reported Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford believes spending money in free agency will be pivotal to keeping his club competitive two years from now.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Yohe believes the summer of 2022 could be crucial for the Penguins, as Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang will become eligible for unrestricted free agency. Malkin will be 36 by then, Letang 35. Rutherford feels it will be key to plug in one or two impact players in their mid-20s into the roster.

For now, Rutherford isn’t expected to make any immediate deals. He wants to evaluate the current roster to see what they have to offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if the Penguins move on from aging core players like Malkin and Letang next year or retain them on more affordable, short-term contracts. If Rutherford’s intent is to make a big splash or two in the 2022 free-agent market for younger impact players, there might not be enough cap space to retain those veteran stars.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater recently reported Bowen Byram’s solid performance for Canada during the 2021 World Junior Championship have the Colorado Avalanche considering a trade to free up a roster spot for the young defenseman.

Dater doubts this move would happen before February. Nevertheless, he considers Ian Cole a likely trade candidate. The veteran blueliner is eligible for UFA status this summer with a salary cap hit of $4.25 million for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byram has considerable potential and could crack the Avs’ lineup soon. However, there’s no need to rush him. They can take their time and see how things unfold.

Cole lacks no-trade protection but moving him won’t be easy. It could involve packaging him with a sweetener to a team with sufficient cap space to take on his contract.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers have checked in with free agent Brian Boyle. They need help in the faceoff circle plus there are questions about a vacuum of veteran leadership as well as the makeup and role of the fourth line.

Brooks feels the former Ranger could address those issues but the club informed Boyle they’re taking a wait-and-see approach with their young players. Meanwhile, several other clubs have also reached out to the veteran center.