NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2020

Some potential destinations for Alex Pietrangelo plus the latest on the Penguins and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD LEAFS, GOLDEN KNIGHTS OR FLAMES TARGET PIETRANGELO?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun wonders if the St. Louis Blues will consider trading Alex Pietrangelo’s rights if they don’t re-sign the pending free-agent defenseman before Oct. 9. The acquiring team could sign him to an eight-year deal, lowering the annual average value, Pietrangelo would get more money under that scenario, while the Blues could get a good asset in return. LeBrun suggests the Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Calgary Flames as possible destinations if Pietrangelo hits the open market.

TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski acknowledged the Leafs need for a top-shelf blueliner like Pietrangelo, but finding the cap space to sign him will be challenging for general manager Kyle Dubas. They have over $6 million in cap space and would have to shed salary to make it work.

Zwolinski suggests Alexander Kerfoot and Andreas Johnsson as trade candidates, and also felt William Nylander would have to be considered. The risks of acquiring another high-priced player would be high under a flattened salary cap.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Leafs will inquire if Pietrangelo becomes available. As per Cap Friendly, they’ve already handcuffed themselves with over $40.4 million tied up in just four players: Nylander ($6.9 million), Mitch Marner ($10.8 million), John Tavares ($11 million) and Auston Matthews ($11.8 million). Adding Pietrangelo could push that figure to almost $50 million, leaving little room to bolster their depth as needed throughout the rest of the roster. Unless they’re moving out Nylander, they should consider more affordable blueline options.

I don’t see the Golden Knights in the market for Pietrangelo. They have $76.5 million tied up in 18 players. If they re-sign Robin Lehner, they’ll have to shed salary by moving out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury or someone else, leaving little room for a big-ticket defenseman.

With $64.5 million committed to 14 players, the Flames have the cap space to sign Pietrangelo, but that move could push them to $73 million invested in 15 players. That won’t leave much to find a possible replacement for Cam Talbot if he’s not re-signed, let alone fill out the rest of the roster.

LATEST ON THE PENGUINS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe report multiple league sources claim Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has received several inquiries about winger Bryan Rust. Rutherford isn’t shopping Rust and prefers keeping the top-six winger, but wouldn’t rule out trading him if the return was significant, such as at least an NHL-ready player and a top-six prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Rust remains a Penguin.

They also cite multiple sources claiming Rutherford is attempting to clear enough salary-cap space to sign Chris Tanev if the Vancouver Canucks defenseman hit the open market on Oct. 9. The Penguins GM isn’t concerned about Tanev’s age (30) and is willing to offer a five-year contract concurrent to the final five years of brother (and Penguins forward) Brandon Tanev. Chris is said to be seeking a raise over the $4.45-million AAV of his current contract. A Penguins source claims they’d prefer keeping the AAV to $5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s not a good idea. Tanev’s performance has declined over the last couple of years as the wear-and-tear of his style of play are taking a toll on his body. A short-term deal (two years) might be worth the gamble, but five years at $5 million per is too risky. Meanwhile, TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Canucks have yet to make Tanev a contract offer.

Rossi and Yohe also report the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin’s camp have expressed interest in a three-year contract extension allowing Malkin to retire as a Penguin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But…but…Malkin’s supposed to be unhappy as second fiddle to Crosby. No, wait, he’s getting traded to the Kings. Or was it he’s retiring and returning to Russia at the end of his current contract? Dammit, it’s difficult keeping these Malkin rumors straight!

The Pens aren’t against acquiring a third-line center but are content to keep recently re-signed Jared McCann in that role. It doesn’t appear they’ve approached Patric Hornqvist about waiving his no-trade clause.

BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS FOR THE CAPITALS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Tarik El-Bashir lists the New York Islanders Thomas Greiss, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and Calgary’s Cam Talbot as free-agent backup goalie options for the Washington Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Braden Holtby’s expected departure via free agency, the Capitals will need an experienced backup for promising Ilya Samsonov. Greiss, Khudobin and Talbot would be fine choices, though Khudobin’s playoff heroics could put him outside the Caps’ price range. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got $72.6 million invested in 17 players.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 31, 2020

The Stars, Islanders, and Golden Knights are on the verge of advancing to the Conference Finals. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars took a 3-1 series lead over the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-4 victory in Game 5 of their second-round series. Goals by Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov within 32 seconds in the third period opened a 5-2 lead for the Stars, who held off a late surge by the Avs. Radek Faksa had a goal and two assists for the Stars while Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin scored twice. Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz was lifted in the third after giving up five goals on 26 shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars can wrap this up with a win in Game 5 later tonight. They won this game in the first period, jumping to a 3-0 lead and out-shooting Colorado 10-5. The Avs were forced to play catch-up for the remainder of the game. While they dominated most of the next two periods and narrowed the Dallas lead to 3-2 entering the third, those two quick goals by Hintz and Gurianov were the game-breakers.

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (NHL Images).

Brock Nelson scored twice as the New York Islanders held on for a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 and a 3-1 series lead. Jean-Gabriel Pageau broke a 1-1 tie in the third period followed by Nelson’s second goal which proved to be the game-winner. Isles goalie Thomas Greiss made 36 saves for his first playoff win since 2016.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once again, most of the Flyers’ leading scorers struggled to find the back of the net. Jakub Voracek’s four goals all came in the previous series against Montreal. Two of Kevin Hayes’ three playoff goals came in Game 2 against the Isles. Couturier’s two goals have come in this series, but Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and James van Riemsdyk still seek their first goals of this postseason.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves in just his third start of this postseason to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks and a 3-1 series lead. The Golden Knights overcame a 3-2 deficit with three unanswered third-period goals by Nate Schmidt, Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a heartbreaking loss for the Canucks. They played well through two periods but defensive breakdowns in the third proved costly against the Golden Knights, who maintained their poise despite blowing 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Boston Bruins winger Nick Ritchie won’t receive supplemental discipline for boarding Tampa Bay Lightning forward Yanni Gourde in Game 4 of their second-round series on Saturday. Ritchie received a five-minute major for the hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen if Ritchie plays tonight. His undisciplined play in Game 4 didn’t help the Bruins.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins named Evgeni Malkin as their MVP for 2019-20.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports former NHL coach Peter Laviolette is “very much a contender” for the Washington Capitals’ vacant head-coach position.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 18, 2020

The Bruins, Avalanche, and Lightning take commanding leads, the Blues tie their series with the Canucks, an update on Evgeni Malkin, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: A four-goal third-period outburst by the Boston Bruins gave them a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their first-round series and a commanding 3-1 series lead. Jake DeBrusk scored two of those goals as the Bruins held off the Hurricanes’ push in the dying minutes of regulation to tie the game.

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big hit by Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal shifted the momentum of the game. Staal departed and didn’t return. An update on his status could be announced today.

 

   

Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and set up another as the St. Louis Blues downed the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 in Game 4 to tie their series at two games apiece. Blues goalie Jake Allen made 22 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Blues’ best effort of the postseason as they showed why they’re defending champions. O’Reilly remains in Conn Smythe Trophy form with his hardworking two-way play.

The Colorado Avalanche took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Arizona Coyotes in Game 4 with a convincing 7-1 victory. Nazem Kadri scored twice and set up another, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog had two assists and Cale Makar a goal and an assist. The Avs limited the Coyotes to just 15 shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was only a matter of time before the Avalanche broke through in this series. The Coyotes have relied on goalie Darcy Kuemper and a tight-checking defensive system, but the Avs’ talented depth couldn’t be contained in this game. MacKinnon also got into a rare tussle, rag-dolling Coyotes forward Christian Fischer after the latter cross-checked him during a scrum.  

 

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in their opening-round series. Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde scored for the Bolts while Cam Atkinson replied for the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts are playing a more grinding style against the Jackets compared to last year’s opening-round series. If the Jackets can’t find a solution, their postseason will end on Wednesday.

SPORTSNET: For the third straight week, the NHL reports no positive COVID-19 tests.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Zach Aston-Reese recently underwent surgery. Malkin went under the knife for an elbow injury and is expected to require three-four weeks to recover. Aston-Reese had shoulder surgery and is expected to be sidelined for six months.

ESPN.COM: The NHL is finalizing plans that would allow family members to join players in the conference finals bubble in Edmonton. Family members would have to quarantine in their hotel room away from the player upon arrival for four days until they’ve passed four COVID-19 tests, after which they’ll be allowed in the same hotel room as the player. They would also be subject to daily testing.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 15, 2020

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

PENGUINS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi report rival team executives believe Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford could explore trading Kris Letang, despite Rutherford saying he wanted to keep the blueliner among his core players. One executive claimed Letang still has value in the trade market.

Could the Pittsburgh Penguins explore trade possibilities for Kris Letang (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang’s age (33), annual average salary ($7.25 million through 2021-22), and injury history are significant sticking points. While he has an 18-team trade list, his no-movement clause means he cannot be demoted to the minors. With two-thirds of the teams facing a cap crunch for 2020-21, moving Letang seems a remote possibility.

They also reported the Penguins’ decision to release assistant coach Sergei Gonchar isn’t a sign of renewed strain between head coach Mike Sullivan and Evgeni Malkin, who is close to Gonchar. Despite occasional disputes, management believes Malkin respects Sullivan. They also said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby let it be known last year that he doesn’t want Malkin traded unless the center asks to be moved. Malkin has indicated he wants to finish his career with the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin’s name is always brought up by somebody in the rumor mill as a trade option whenever the Penguins fall short of expectations. Yohe and Rossi remind us he’s got a full no-movement clause, giving him full control over his NHL future for the remainder of his contract, which expires in 2022. Malkin’s not going anywhere unless he wants out, and he isn’t interested in that option.

Yohe also believes Matt Murray could be on his way out, suggesting he needs a change of scenery. He anticipates Rutherford will find a way to move center Nick Bjugstad, who has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.1 million. He also doesn’t rule out Jared McCann and Zach Aston-Reese becoming trade candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Rutherford sheds salary, the Penguins cannot afford to re-sign Murray and fellow RFA goaltender Tristan Jarry. I think Murray hits the trade block following the postseason.

Yohe doesn’t expect pending unrestricted free agents like Justin Schultz, Patrick Marleau, and Conor Sheary will be back.

WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently raised several questions about possible offseason moves by the Minnesota Wild.

One was whether Wild GM Bill Guerin would bundle some assets, including either Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, to acquire a first-line center, or attempt to sign one via free agency. Russo also wondered if Guerin might shop one of his goalies, acquire one via trade or free agency, and/or promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba would have better trade value, and might even fetch a first-line center in a one-for-one swap. That move, however, would address one problem but create another, as Dumba is (in my opinion) their best defenseman. Guerin will have to look to the trade market as this year’s UFA market is thin on quality centers. 

As for their goalies, Russo pointed out adding one could mean buying out Devan Dubnyk, a move that could suggest Kahkonen’s not the goalie of the future. Dubnyk’s only got one year left on his contract. It might be worthwhile standing pat between the pipes and see how next season unfolds. They’ll have a better idea of Kahkonen’s readiness and can let Dubnyk walk via free agency.

Russo wondered if Guerin might revisit his failed trade-deadline attempt to ship Zach Parise to the New York Islanders. He also mused about buying out Dubnyk or Victor Rask if they can’t trade them, and if they’ll find a way to move expensive winger Mats Zuccarello, who also carries a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The attempted Parise deal was done before COVID-19 derailed the schedule and flattened the salary cap. I don’t see that trade happening, especially with the Isles’ limited cap space. Buying out Dubnyk and Rask creates around $4 million in dead cap space next season, over $2.1 million in 2021-22, and $1.33 million for each of the following two seasons.

The Wild are likely stuck with Zuccarello for a while unless he’s willing to waive his NMC and they’re willing to either pick up part of his $6 million AAV or bundle him with a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Check out the latest on the Penguins, Wild, and Predators in this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.

PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel examined several pressing questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their elimination from the playoff qualifying round.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

He wondered if Matt Murray will return, believing it’ll come down to how much the restricted free agent will seek on his new contract. Backup Tristan Jarry is also an RFA and showed potential as a starting goalie this season.

Murray was also on Vensel’s list of Penguins who might not return next season. Unrestricted free agents such as Patrick Marleau and Justin Schultz probably skate away, while Conor Sheary will have to accept a bargain-basement deal to stay.

Vensel suggests Nick Bjugstad and Jack Johnson as cost-cutting trade options, though moving the latter could prove difficult. He also proposed shopping Kris Letang after the emergence of John Marino.

The Pens must find two new defensemen to plug into their top-six, with promising Pierre-Olivier Joseph as an option. They also need to sort out their third-line center position and their bottom-six forwards.

It’s unlikely they’ll consider trading Evgeni Malkin unless he asked to be traded. So far, he’s given no indication he wants to move on.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $68.2 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Unless Murray’s taking a hometown discount for a year or two with the promise of bigger bucks down the road, or the Penguins shed salary to make room for his new contract, I don’t see how they can afford to keep him and Jarry.

Unless Malkin wants out, he’ll be back with the Penguins next year. So will Johnson, who’s earning an annual average value of $3.25 million through 2022-23 and isn’t capable of being a decent third-pairing defenseman anymore. They’ll have to package him with a sweetener to make him palatable, but his age (33) and the remaining years on that contract are serious sticking points.

Bjugstad has a year remaining at $4.1 million. If he hasn’t recovered from spinal surgery they could place him on long-term injury reserve to start next season. They can’t buy him out as long as he’s still recovering from surgery.

As I noted yesterday, trading Letang won’t be easy. He has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the oft-injured rearguard is 33 and carries a $7.25 million AAV through 2021-22.

PREDATORS

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina wondered what the Nashville Predators will look like next season following their qualifying-round elimination.

He suggested buying out Kyle Turris’ contract, though that would cost $2 million annually against their salary cap through 2027-28. They could also let Craig Smith and/or Mikael Granlund depart via free agency and replace them with prospects such as Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Rexrode advocates buying out Turris and bidding farewell to Granlund. However, the hard part is figuring out if a major trade is necessary to push the Preds back into relevance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Predators GM David Poile intends to make a big move, the question becomes which player hits the trade block? Not Filip Forsberg or defensemen Ryan Ellis and team captain Roman Josi. Rexrode doubts Poile will shop Matt Duchene only a year after signing him to a long-term contract. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson comprise the Predators’ best line alongside Forsberg, but there’s been some grumbling over Johansen’s reliability as a first-line center.

Poile has a history of making big moves that no one saw coming. If he considers going that route again, my guess is Johansen becomes the trade candidate, provide a taker can be found for his $8 million AAV through 2024-25.

WILD

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sara McLellan suggests Kirill Kaprizov could address some of the Minnesota Wild’s scoring woes. He’ll make his NHL debut next season, but other reinforcements might be necessary.

It remains to be seen what happens to captain (and pending UFA) Mikko Koivu. McLellan feels the Wild need better depth on defense and wonders about the status of their goaltending after Alex Stalock replaced Devan Dubnyk as their starter. Both are under contract for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $65 million tied up in 17 players. With Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin coming off entry-level contracts, GM Bill Guerin could ink them to affordable bridge deals to ensure sufficient space for other moves.

Unless Koivu’s willing to accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary, the 37-year-old probably played his final game for the Wild, or as an NHL player. They’ll probably stick with the Dubnyk-Stalock tandem and see how things shake out next season. Stalock’s signed through 2021-22 while Dubnyk is a UFA next year.










2020 NHL Qualifying Round: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens Game 1 Notebook

2020 NHL Qualifying Round: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens Game 1 Notebook