NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

Could the Penguins trade Kris Letang? Are the Blackhawks trying to re-sign Corey Crawford? Could Wayne Simmonds join the Leafs? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE PENGUINS TRADE LETANG?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi reports Kris Letang would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin but feels the club could try to trade him. Neither ownership nor management feels the club would be better without Letang and the return of Todd Reirden as an assistant coach could benefit the 33-year-old defenseman.

Nevertheless, Rossi cites multiple team sources saying Letang expects to be traded. League sources claim Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was gauging the market value of the veteran blueliner but he’s not actively shopping him. Rutherford reportedly confided to associates that the right thing is for Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins-for-life.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t dismiss the possibility of Letang getting traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suiting up with the Penguins next season.

Letang’s contract won’t be easy to move. He has two years remaining on his contract worth $7.25 million per season. He also has an 18-team no-trade list and a no-movement clause preventing him from being demoted to the minors. The flattened salary cap for 2020-21 will also affect his trade value.

I don’t fault Rutherford for exploring the trade market to see what’s out there for Letang. He probably doesn’t think he’ll find a suitable deal but it doesn’t hurt to consider that option. Maybe a club on the blueliner’s list of preferred trade destinations makes an offer too good to pass up.

BLACKHAWKS MAKE OFFER TO CRAWFORD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to have offered Corey Crawford a one-year contract worth around $3.5 million. The 35-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford’s completing a six-year, $36-million contract worth $6 million annually, but he knows he’s not getting that much for an annual average value again. The netminder is also aware of the Hawks’ cap constraints. Maybe he takes the hometown discount on a one-year deal, especially if that $3.5-million offer is the base salary for a bonus-laden deal.

SIMMONDS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOING THE LEAFS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Wayne Simmonds believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team where he could have an impact right away. The 32-year-old winger is a UFA on Oct. 9 and spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. He recently moved his family north of Toronto and spends a lot of time in the city.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds also indicated he’s open to everything as free agency approaches. “Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go,” he told LeBrun. He’s also aware of the cap constraints facing the Leafs and other teams for next season.

Injuries hampered Simmonds’ performance over the past two years, limiting his effectiveness as a power forward. Still, he could be an affordable signing for clubs seeking veteran grit and leadership. Maybe a cap-strapped club like the Leafs comes calling.

THE LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports re-signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom is the top priority for Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning. It’s believed the Markstrom camp seeks over $6-million annually while the Canucks are believed to have countered with $5.5 million per season.

Re-signing Markstrom could affect the rest of the roster. Johnston also points out the Canucks are unlikely to keep Markstrom and promising goalie Thatcher Demko in next year’s expansion draft.

Johnston also reports Jake Virtanen could be shopped in the trade market. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but with Benning hoping to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli, Virtanen would be demoted to third- or fourth-line duty. Benning indicated they’ve been patient with Virtanen but was expecting more production from the winger, especially in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $64.4 million invested in 16 players next season, a deal worth over $6 million annually for Markstrom will bite deeply into the Canucks’ remaining cap space. So will a new contract for Toffoli.

Trading Virtanen would allow money that would’ve gone to him be put toward re-signing Toffoli or another player. However, Benning still must shed salary to absorb new contracts for Markstrom and Toffoli and leave sufficient room for other moves.

Benning’s reportedly attempted to move winger Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually through 2021-22) without success. Brandon Sutter ($4.35 million) could be another trade candidate. The Canucks GM might get some wiggle room if Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million AAV through 2022-23) starts the season on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to make cap room for Ferland’s return.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

Will the Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom? Could the Predators pursue Taylor Hall? What could the Wild do during the offseason?

WHAT WILL THE CANUCKS DO WITH MARKSTROM?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons mused over what the Vancouver Canucks will do with Jacob Markstrom. The 30-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent this fall. Simmons points out they also have promising Thatcher Demko and must expose a goalie in next year’s expansion draft. He wonders if the Colorado Avalanche might pursue Markstrom if he hits the open market.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports the Canucks have $15 million in salary-cap space for next season to spend on six players to fill out their roster. They’ll have to find an experienced backup for Demko if they part ways with Markstrom. If they re-sign Markstrom, Demko could become a fascinating trade chip.

Johnston also wondered what Canucks general manager Jim Benning will do with Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a fan favorite and a restricted free agent, but he has arbitration rights and struggled with consistency. Benning must also prioritize his other free agents, including UFAs like Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev and RFAs Troy Stecher and Tyler Motte.

Jim Benning could also look at a cost-cutting move or two to free up cap space to re-sign key players. Candidates could include Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle or Sven Baertschi.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Thomas Drance also examined the Canucks’ free agent and salary-cap issues for the offseason. If they can free up cap space, he feels they must bring in a top-four, right-handed defenseman and upgrade their third-line center position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an interesting offseason for the Canucks. How Benning addresses his club’s needs and cap issues will have far-reaching consequences. The goaltending is the priority. Simmons makes a good point about the risk of losing one of them in the expansion draft.

Some might argue passing on Markstrom after watching Demko’s playoff performance, but three outstanding games isn’t a large enough body of work to crown him as their starter going forward. On the other hand, this year’s goalie market is a deep one and they could bring in a quality veteran at a reasonable price to tutor Demko if they part ways with Markstrom.

COULD THE PREDATORS SIGN TAYLOR HALL?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required): Adam Vingan was asked in a recent mailbag segment about Scott Burnside suggesting the Nashville Predators as a destination for Taylor Hall because of his connection with coach John Hynes. The Arizona Coyotes left wing is this summer’s top UFA forward and played well for Hynes during their time with the New Jersey Devils.

Citing Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston suggesting Hall could a stable, winning situation where he fits in well over filling up his bank account, Vingan doesn’t see the Predators meeting that requirement. He cautions against signing an aging player at this stage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Predators GM David Poile making a big splash in this year’s UFA market. His club has $72.2 million tied up in 17 players. Poile will try to shed center Kyle Turris’ $6 million per season cap hit through 2023-24 but that won’t be easy. He could be forced to absorb a big chunk of Turris’ cap hit or buy him out and carry $2 million in annual dead-cap space through 2027-28.

LATEST ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked if the Minnesota Wild will do any contract buyouts. He felt there’s a chance, suggesting if they did so for goalie Devan Dubnyk or center Victor Rask it would be to create roster spots rather than clear cap space. He also felt Alex Stalock would only fetch a mid-round draft pick if placed on the trade block. Russo doesn’t believe GM Bill Guerin will pursue Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom if he becomes available in the free-agent market.

In a second mailbag segment, Russo noted the Wild have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon in next year’s expansion draft because of their no-movement clauses. If they decide to protect just three defensemen, this is the offseason to move Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin unless they intend to move one of them before the 2021 trade deadline. Brodin has a year left on his contract and could be the one to get traded if he proves too expensive to re-sign.

Russo is against trading Brodin to Montreal for Max Domi because he doesn’t feel Domi can address the Wild’s need for a first-line center. Asked if Guerin could pursue Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Russo feels the asking price would be steep. If Monahan is available, the Flames will want a first-line center to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Guerin will be busy in the offseason. He indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending and pointed out his club’s need for a first-line center.

He could move Stalock or Dubnyk and promote promising goalie Kaapa Kahkonen. Russo said he could seek them signing Braden Holtby or Cam Talbot to buy Kahkonen some time if they part ways with Dubnyk, but those two could prove expensive signings, especially Holtby.

Some in the Montreal media suggested swapping Domi for Brodin or Dumba. I think Guerin shares Russo’s opinion of the Habs’ center. Domi could be a good second-line center but he’s not the proven No.1 the Wild need. Guerin also sought to tamp down the expectations of Wild fans calling for him to pursue a first-line center, pointing out teams typically don’t part with that type of player.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.

The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.

Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.

I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.

Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.

Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club. 

Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.

Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.

New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.










NHL Playoffs: These 10 Players Are Shining In The Stanley Cup Spotlight

NHL Playoffs: These 10 Players Are Shining In The Stanley Cup Spotlight

 










NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 22, 2020

The Canucks eliminate the Blues while the Flyers send the Canadiens packing. Recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: There will be new Stanley Cup champs in 2020 as the Vancouver Canucks eliminated the defending champion St. Louis Blues with a 6-2 victory in Game 6 of their first-round series. Jacob Markstrom got the win with a 34-save performance while Tyler Motte scored twice and Brandon Sutter collected three assists. Jaden Schwartz tallied twice for the Blues.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues couldn’t contain the speedy young Canucks, who chased goaltender Jordan Binnington from the game after leaping to a 4-0 lead. It’s the first time the Canucks have won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. It also provides a considerable confidence boost to their young core led by Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser.

St. Louis coach Craig Berube cited a lack of energy among his players for their demise. Perhaps it was challenging for the Blues to regain their championship mojo after such a long layoff due to COVID-19. Whatever the reason, the Canucks were the better team throughout most of this series and deserve to march on.

The Philadelphia Flyers also advanced to the second round as they hung on for a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of their first-round series. Michael Raffl’s goal early in the third period held up as the winner as Carter Hart kicked out 31 shots for the Flyers. Nick Suzuki tallied twice for the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart made the difference for the Flyers in this series, sporting back-to-back shutouts and bouncing back well from two lopsided losses. He’s looking more and more like the true starting goaltender they’ve lacked since Ron Hextall was in his prime 30 years ago. While many of the Flyers’ leading scorers were shut down in this series, Jakub Voracek proved to be a Hab killer with seven points.

The lowest seed in the Eastern Conference when return-to-play began, the Canadiens exceeded expectations by upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifier and pushing the favored Flyers to six games in this series. Goaltender Carey Price was outstanding, captain Shea Weber was a force on the blueline and youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi gave a tantalizing glimpse of their potential. They have nothing to hang their heads over.

The second-round match-ups and schedule have been released. In the Western Conference, the Canucks will face the Vegas Golden Knights while the Dallas Stars tangle with the Colorado Avalanche. Over in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers face off against the New York Islanders while the Tampa Bay Lightning meet the Boston Bruins in a rematch of their 2018 second-round series.

ESPN.COM: The NHL issued a statement Friday condemning what it called an “insensitive and insulting” comment by NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury during Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. As Milbury and fellow analyst Brian Boucher was discussing the merits of the NHL playoff bubble, Milbury said, “Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration.” The league communicated its concern to NBC. Milbury issued an apology on Twitter. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As ESPN’s Emily Kaplan noted, this isn’t the first time Milbury’s made insensitive comments about women during telecasts. Forbes.com’s Kim Elsesser pointed out his remarks have no basis in fact. She called them “reductive, diminishing the role of all women to a distraction. It implies there are only drawbacks of having women around.” 

Milbury’s comments were the latest in a long list of stupid things he’s said over the years. This one might be the last straw. He was removed from Friday’s telecast and it remains to be seen if he’ll be back.