NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

More speculation over which Lightning player could be moved in a cost-cutting trade plus the latest on the Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined which players the Tampa Bay Lightning could shop in a cost-cutting move. They’re above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev earlier in the week, with restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak in need of new contracts.

The Lightning put winger Tyler Johnson and his $5 million salary-cap hit on waivers last month but he went unclaimed. His no-trade clause gives him some say over where he could go but there might not be a market for a 30-year-old winger with declining stats and a high cap hit for the next four years.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn could become a cost-cutting trade candidate (NHL Images).

Alex Killorn is another candidate because of his modified no-trade clause whereas other Bolts with annual average values exceeding $4 million have full no-trades. Ondrej Palat and captain Steven Stamkos have also come up in speculation but both have full no-trade protection.

Whoever the Lightning trade they won’t get back a favorable return. However, the point is to free up cap room to keep as much of their roster intact as possible.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked if Tyler Johnson was a legitimate trade target for the Anaheim Ducks. While acknowledging Johnson’s had a solid NHL career, he wonders how well the 30-year-old will perform away from a deep roster like the Lightning. Given the Ducks’ own salary-cap constraints, the Bolts would have to absorb half of Johnson’s cap hit while the Ducks made a separate cost-cutting move to balance out the $2.5 million.

Stephens also suggested moving Ryan Kesler’s contract and perhaps another cap-related asset for Johnson if the center stays on long-term injury reserve during 2020-21. However, Ducks general manager Bob Murray could prefer retaining Kesler’s contract for his own LTIR purposes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson would be a tough sell that could end up costing the Lightning more than they’d like to part with in terms of a sweetener since they can’t afford to take back salary. It’ll be a tricky bit of juggling for Lightning GM Julien BriseBois.

Perhaps BriseBois could attempt to move Johnson for a permanent LTIR contract from another club thus providing sufficient wiggle room to re-sign Cirelli and Cernak and remain cap compliant. Some readers have suggested swinging a deal with the Detroit Red Wings to acquire the contract of all-but-retired center Henrik Zetterberg and his $6.083 million cap hit.

Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is the Lightning’s former GM and BriseBois’ mentor so there could be a fit there. However, Yzerman might not be keen to take on Johnson’s contract when he’s still got Frans Nielsen on his books for two more years at $5.25 million per season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Anaheim Ducks should embrace a rebuild rather than attempting to become a playoff contender in 2020-21. If David Backes ($4.5 million) ends up on LTIR it would provide the Ducks with more salary-cap wiggle room. That could allow them to take on another team’s problem contract along with some valuable pieces for their future.

Should they go the rebuild route, team captain Ryan Getzlaf could become a valuable trade chip if the 35-year-old center is willing to waive his no-movement clause to join a contender. Getzlaf is in the final season of his contract with an $8.25 million cap hit but earning only $3 million in actual salary.

O’Brien also suggested winger Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson as trade options. They’re in the late-20s and their contracts will expire at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Bob Murray is convinced his club can compete for a playoff berth this season. His opinion could change if the Ducks are wallowing near the basement again by the trade deadline.

Getzlaf, Rakell, Lindholm and Manson would all have considerable trade value if Murray opts to tear things down and stage a full rebuild. Backes on LTIR for the season might also be enticing to cap-strapped contenders looking to free up space for other moves.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

Reaction to the Maple Leafs’ elimination from the qualifying round in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston believes a seismic change is needed for the Toronto Maple Leafs following their elimination from the qualifying round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their disappointing loss and a stagnant salary-cap could force management to make some difficult decisions.

Johnston considers the Leafs defense to be second-rate and took a big blow after losing Jake Muzzin in Game 2. Secondary scoring was an issue after Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe put Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner on the same line in Game 5.

Has William Nylander played his last game with the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Except for Matthews, Johnston expects one of the Leafs core players (Tavares, Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Andersen, Morgan Rielly) will be sacrificed as part of wider changes before next season. “Everything else must be up for consideration, pending the forces at play in the marketplace.”

If the Leafs win tonight’s draft lottery, Johnston suggests selecting left wing Alexis Lafreniere, trade away one of the high-priced, high-impact forwards, and use the savings to address their blueline needs.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes it’s time for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to trade William Nylander for defensive help. He pointed out the Blue Jackets did the same thing several years ago, shipping center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for blueline stud Seth Jones. “Maybe Nylander can get the Leafs a Seth Jones or, at the very least, a Josh Manson or Brett Pesce.”

THE SCORE: John Matisz listed John Tavares, Frederik Andersen, and Kaspari Kapanen among those on the hot seat heading into the off-season.

Matisz wondered how Tavares will be perceived following his inconsistent play against the Jackets, especially carrying an $11 million annual average value for the next five years.

Replacing a goaltender of Andersen’s caliber won’t be easy, as he’s usually top-10 caliber during the regular season. While he’s undoubtedly safe, he will face increasing pressure heading into his contract year

If a shake-up is coming, Matisz believes Kapanen (and perhaps Andreas Johnsson) could become a trade chip. He carries an affordable contract ($3.2 million AAV for the next two years), had a decent scoring touch and skates like the wind.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll see and hear a lot more speculation about the Leafs’ off-season plans in the coming weeks. No one should be surprised. The Leafs are top-heavy offensively and lack sufficient blueline depth. They can get by with that during the regular season, but it’s their undoing in playoff or qualifying-round series.

Dubas, with the blessing of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, approved that hefty contract for Tavares two years ago, bringing in a player they didn’t need. That’s not to disparage Tavares. I don’t blame him for taking the big bucks to play for his hometown club. He didn’t pressure the Leafs to sign him, and he’s played well for them.

However, the Leafs’ defensive shortcomings were obvious two years ago. They were coming off a season where they were among the top-five in scoring but also in shots-against per game. Andersen’s goaltending was the only reason they finished 12th in goals-against per game (2.80).

But the Leafs front office got distracted by a shiny thing in the summer of 2018, and Tavares’ $11 million AAV handcuffed them ever since. That’s why they had their contract standoff last season with Nylander, it’s why Dubas and his capologist engaged in salary-cap gymnastics last summer to free up room to re-sign Marner, and it’s why they failed to suitably address their defensive needs.

I praised Dubas’ efforts last summer because he hadn’t made the team any worse. However, it’s clear he didn’t make them any better. And now, he faces a daunting challenge of addressing those weaknesses with even less cap room.

So who gets moved? I agree it won’t be Matthews. It also won’t be Rielly. Trading their best defenseman for defensive help would be ridiculous.

They could move Andersen, but the cost of a replacement will be expensive via trade or free agency. That’s a move likely to be kicked down the road a year. They could move Marner but that’s unlikely after all those moves last summer to accommodate his new salary. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. Even if he agrees to waive it, good luck trying to move that contract in the current economic environment. 

That leaves Nylander, who Dubas reportedly promised wouldn’t be moved as long as he was the general manager. The youngster could find out that sometimes general managers break their promises for the good of the team.

Nylander had a breakout performance this season, carries a reasonable $6.962 million AAV, and lacks no-trade protection. Teams in the market for a scoring winger will definitely be interested if he becomes available. The Leafs could also move Kapanen, but he won’t fetch the type of return the Leafs need.

Dubas and company could shock us by moving someone else, but I think it’s got to be Nylander.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Let me know in the comments section below.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 18, 2020

Check out some recent Golden Knights and Ducks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HOW CAN THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS RE-SIGN LEHNER?

NHL.COM: Danny Webster reports Robin Lehner hopes to speak with Vegas Golden Knights’ management soon about re-signing a new contract. Acquired at the February trade deadline, the 28-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Does Robin Lehner have a future with the Vegas Golden Knights? (Photo via NHL Images)

I’m sure we’ll have some discussions (with general manager Kelly McCrimmon) after the season and see what happens,” said Lehner on Wednesday. He added he’s had a really good impression about the team in his short time with them.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jesse Granger recently examined how a flat salary cap of $81.5 million will affect the Vegas Golden Knights. They already have over $75 million committed to next season’s payroll with 16 players under contract.

The Golden Knights cannot afford to make expensive additions as they’ve done in their short history. They must instead improve their roster with younger, cheaper options. It will also make it difficult to retain Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner’s status gave rise to speculation suggesting the Golden Knights could attempt to trade Fleury if Lehner outplays him in the upcoming playoff tournament. Easier said than done. Fleury, 35, carries a 10-team no-trade list plus an annual average value of $7 million through 2021-22.

If McCrimmon wants to keep both goalies, he’ll have to slash salary elsewhere to free up sufficient space. Assuming Lehner signs for $6 million annually, it would mean shopping someone like Paul Stastny ($6.5 million AAV through 2020-21, 10-team no-trade) or William Karlsson ($5.9 million through 2026-27, with a 10-team no-trade kicking in next season). Considering how many other clubs are affected by a flat cap, finding takers for either guy could prove difficult.

Other trade options could include wingers Reilly Smith or Jonathan Marchessault. Both carry $5 million AAVs beyond next season with modified no-trade clauses. Young winger Alex Tuch ($4.75 million through 2025-26) lacks no-trade protection and has power-forward potential, though injury hampered his performance this season.

RECENT DUCKS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag, Eric Stephens was asked if the Anaheim Ducks should move players like Josh Manson, Jakob Silfverberg, or Adam Henrique for picks or to move up in this year’s draft.

Stephens doesn’t see that happening, pointing to GM Bob Murray’s belief that the team is much better than it showed last season. Nevertheless, he believes Murray should at least listen on offers for Manson, who needs a bounce-back season. If promising Trevor Zegras is ready, perhaps an Henrique deal will be considered.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Manson would attract attention if he hits the trade block. He carries an affordable $4.1 million AAV through 2021-22, but also a 12-team no-trade list. For the right offer (a scoring forward), perhaps Murray would consider it, provided it from one of the clubs on Manson’s list of preferred destinations.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 23, 2020

A listing of this year’s top UFA forwards and the latest on the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP FORWARDS IN THIS YEAR’S UFA MARKET

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli sit atop Josh Gold-Smith’s recent ranking of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agent forwards. Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov and Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund round out the top five.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk, Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestikov, Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis, Predators winger Craig Smith, and Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the top-10.

Other notables include Minnesota Wild forward Alex Galchenyuk, Florida Panthers center Erik Haula, New York Islanders center Derick Brassard, Buffalo Sabres winger Wayne Simmonds, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can quibble over some of Gold-Smith’s rankings, but it’s clear this isn’t a great year for UFA forward talent.

Hall is the best of the bunch. Hoffman and Dadonov are reliable scorers while Toffoli is the best two-way forward. Granlund struggled through most of his tenure with the Predators, but his play improved after Peter Laviolette was replaced as head coach with John Hynes. A solid playoff tournament performance could boost his stock.

It’s pretty much buyer beware for most of the rest. They either haven’t panned out (Galchenyuk), were hampered by injuries (Haula), or are on the downside of their careers (Kovalchuk, Brassard, Simmonds, Spezza).

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked for the Toronto Maple Leafs likely blueline targets in the off-season. Given their limited salary-cap space, he doesn’t expect they’ll land Alex Pietrangelo, suggesting instead Travis Hamonic, Chris Tanev, Sami Vatanen, or Radko Gudas as more viable options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap constraints will also hamper efforts to sign the others. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $76.9 million invested in 16 players. Some cost-cutting would have to be made to pursue them.

Turning to the trade market, Fox pointed out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas tends to deal for players with term remaining on their contracts. High-end right-hand shots include Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, Columbus’ David Savard, Carolina’s Brett Pesce, Buffalo’s Colin Miller, Edmonton’s Adam Larsson, and Anaheim’s Josh Manson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Dumba, Pesce, Larsson, or Manson getting moved. Ristolainen or Miller could be available, but it depends on whether the Sabres will trade with a hated division rival like the Leafs. Savard might be a trade option if Dubas offered up a decent scoring forward like Kasperi Kapanen.

Regarding Frederik Andersen’s contract status, Fox feels that they should kick it down the road. Andersen becomes a UFA next summer. He also expects defenseman Travis Dermott and winger Ilya Mikheyev will receive bridge deals.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 21, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 21, 2020

Check out the latest on the Devils and Stars plus an update on Jesse Puljujarvi in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

DEVILS DEFENSE SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (Subscription required) In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak speculated Andy Greene could return to the New Jersey Devils if they see a veteran defenseman to mentor their young blueliners. He also doubts they’ll pursue this summer’s top UFAs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greene spent nearly 14 full seasons with the Devils before he was shipped last February to the New York Islanders. If he’s still available later in the off-season perhaps he’d be willing to return to New Jersey on a one-year, bonus-laden deal.

Could the New Jersey Devils target a defenseman like Anaheim’s Josh Manson in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Turning to the trade market, Masisak looked at several defensemen that could be on the Devils’ off-season radar. His list of good options included Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Buffalo’s Colin Miller, Columbus’ David Savard, St. Louis’ Vince Dunn, and Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak published a long list of options, but I wanted to focus on the notables.

I believe it’ll cost the Devils a scoring forward to acquire Manson, Miller, or Savard because their respective clubs need secondary scoring. Dunn and Sergachev made his list largely because of the cap constraints faced by their respective teams. However, it’s assumed the Blues and Lightning will make cost-cutting moves to free up salary-cap space to re-sign those two.

UPDATE ON PULJUJARVI

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins believes Jesse Puljujarvi will sign a one-year contract extension with Karpat of the Finnish Professional League. He expects that deal will include an NHL opt-out clause.

Puljujarvi spent this season in Finland after requesting a trade from the Edmonton Oilers. While the young winger hasn’t ruled out returning to the Oilers, Leavins wondered if his recent change of heart was to rehabilitate his trade value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt it’ll make Puljujarvi more attractive in the trade market. The Oilers reportedly listened to trade offers but didn’t get anything worthwhile.

Most teams consider the former fourth-overall pick to be at best a third-line winger. They’re unwilling to part with a first-rounder or a good young player to get him. Puljujarvi will likely have to return to the Oilers if he hopes to salvage his NHL career and boost his trade value.

STARS COULD TRY TO RE-SIGN KHUDOBIN.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Sean Shapiro said he believes the Stars will do everything they can to re-sign goaltender Anton Khudobin. They know they won’t make the playoffs next season without a competent backup for Ben Bishop.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $62 million invested in 15 players (stick tap to Cap Friendly), the Stars have sufficient cap space to re-sign Khudobin.

They must also re-sign RFAs Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, and Radek Faksa. Hintz and Gurianov lack arbitration rights, giving Stars management sufficient leverage to re-sign both to affordable bridge deals.

Assuming Khudobin isn’t seeking a significant raise over his current $2.5 million, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stuck around in Dallas for at least another year.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the potential off-season plans for the seven non-playoff clubs.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The beat writers for the seven non-playoff teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks – examined those clubs’ possible off-season plans.

Eric Stephens reports the Ducks must determine if Ryan Miller will return as their backup goaltender. They could also discuss if they’ll stick with winger Rickard Rakell and defenseman Josh Manson or test their value in the trade market. Adding an affordable right-shooting defenseman could be an option.

Could the Anaheim Ducks shop defenseman Josh Manson? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rakell and Manson popped up frequently in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. While they could fetch good returns via trade, moving either guy will also weaken the Ducks’ roster. Unless general manager Bob Murray intends to tear things down, I don’t see either guy being shopped. 

Joe Yerdon believes the biggest task facing Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is re-signing winger Sam Reinhart. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and is due for a lucrative, long-term deal. They could also use an experienced second-line center to ease the workload of promising youngsters Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $47 million committed to 10 players next season, the Sabres have the cap room to re-sign Reinhart to a long-term deal. How much, and for how long, could take some time to sort out, but I expect it’ll get done. 

Max Bultman believes Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman must decide if he’ll retain or replace head coach Jeff Blashill. He must also re-sign restricted free agents such as Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Both are RFAs with arbitration rights in need of long-term deals. Yzerman must also find a backup goalie for Jonathan Bernier and a veteran defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings have over $46.2 million invested in 11 players next season. Yzerman has plenty of cap space to re-sign his key free agents and address his other needs. Who he might pursue via trade or free agency are questions for whenever the off-season finally rolls around. 

Lisa Dillman observed the Kings have sufficient salary-cap space to make a big splash or perhaps a strategic addition to their roster. GM Rob Blake has indicated he’d like to bolster the left side of his blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake has lots of cap space (around $20 million) to make a big acquisition, but I doubt he’ll go that route this year. He could instead seek an affordable, short-term addition or two to ensure he’s got sufficient room for a significant move next year. 

Corey Masisak reports the Devils must determine if interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and interim head coach Alain Nasreddine will return or be replaced. Whoever becomes the GM must decide if they’ll stick with Cory Schneider as part of their goalie tandem, bring in a third goalie to compete with Schneider, or buy out his contract. The Devils also need one or two top-four defensemen and multiple top-six wingers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have lots of issues to be addressed this off-season. Most of them cannot be done until they’ve sorted out who the general manager will be. 

Hailey Salvian believes free-agent goalie Craig Anderson’s tenure with the Senators has come to an end. RFA winger Anthony Duclair seems to have found a home in Ottawa, but contract term and money remains unclear. RFAs Chris Tierney and Connor Brown also earned raises. Pending UFA blueliners Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki could be brought back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Pierre Dorion has only $41.9 million committed to nine players next season. He’s also got 13 picks in this year’s draft, some of which are likely to be used as off-season trade bait. I expect he’ll be busy trying to add some experienced depth to his rebuilding roster. 

Kevin Kurz believes the Sharks’ first order of business is deciding if interim coach Bob Boughner returns full-time behind the bench. Backup goalie Aaron Dell has likely played his final game as a Shark. GM Doug Wilson must do more than just make periphery changes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 million committed to 13 players, Wilson will have to get creative if he intends to improve his roster for next season. It’s been suggested he shop one of his high-priced stars, but they all carry hefty salaries and most of them have no-trade protection.