Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 14, 2020

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

WHAT COULD THE KINGS DO IN THE OFF-SEASON?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his postmortem on the Los Angeles’ Kings 2019-20 season, Matt Larkin observed they’ll have around $20 million in salary-cap space if the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season. With all their impact players under contract, Larkin wondered if general manager Rob Blake will chase a major unrestricted free agent. Noting it’s still too early for the club to become a contender, Larkin believes Blake could remain conservative for another year.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Kings might re-sign Trevor Lewis to a contract extension in the off-season. She doesn’t think so, pointing out the 33-year-old center was reportedly available at this year’s trade deadline. She suspects there haven’t been any contract discussions lately.

Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (Photo via NHL Images).

Dillman was also asked if Jeff Carter might be traded. She doubts it, pointing out the 35-year-old center recently underwent core-muscle surgery. She said there wasn’t a trade scenario before Carter’s surgery, but if there was, this would change the equation.

Asked which player she felt might be a good target for the Kings in the 2022 UFA market, Dillman cited Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. She cautioned, however, that most pending free agents tend to re-sign with their teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Blake is likely to wait another year before attempting to make a big splash in the UFA pool. However, I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll attempt to pry away a good young player from a cap-strapped rival.

With over $69 million invested in 16 players (as per Cap Friendly) for next season, the Kings also have sufficient cap space to make that kind of addition. Blake has some tradeable assets if the opportunity arises to land a promising NHL talent. The Kings have seven picks in rounds two through four of this year’s draft and six in the same rounds next season.

LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked what he thought the Pittsburgh Penguins will do about their goaltending situation. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both restricted free agents with arbitration rights and the Penguins can’t afford to keep both.

Yohe speculates Murray could hit the trade block. He’ll command the most money, which could be a problem for the Penguins if the salary cap declines next season. To keep both goalies would mean trading Kris Letang or a couple of other important players.

Asked which two players won’t be on the roster next season, Yohe thinks Nick Bjugstad and Patrick Marleau are the most likely candidates. Bjugstad’s injury history, however, will make him hard to trade. Marleau, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t ruled out re-signing Murray and Jarry, but it will require some salary and roster juggling to pull it off. Even if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Penguins have over $68 million committed to 15 players in 2020-21. New contracts for both goalies will eat up a big chunk of that cap room.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 25, 2020

Some positive reaction to the league proposed 24-team return-to-play tournament, New York state allowing pro teams to resume training, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

**UPDATE** The NHL has published its framework for Phase 2 of its Phased Return To Sport Protocol. You can read the details by following this link. I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s Morning Coffee Headlines. 

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Unlike some who feel the NHL’s return-to-play proposal could be a travesty, Mike McIntyre suggests it could be the most memorable Stanley Cup playoffs in our lifetime.

There won’t be any home-ice advantage, while the playing field will be level for the most part because many players have recovered from nagging injuries. It also provides for some potentially entertaining match-ups, such as the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets squaring off in the best-of-five play-in series.

McIntyre doesn’t feel this tournament should become the new normal. Provided the health and safety of everyone involved can be assured, he thinks this could give sports fans starved for live events the opportunity to enjoy this unique tournament from the comfort of their homes.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Jim Souhan acknowledged the daunting logistical hurdles the NHL must clear to safely stage this tournament, including COVID-19 testing, finding suitable hub cities, international travel issues, and the absence of the usual “sportstuff” that accompanies the game, such as fans and media scrums.

Nevertheless, Souhan suggests hungry sports fans should take what they can get, appreciate the players willing to take this risk, and hope the league is doing this because it can ensure the players’ safety. 

For Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patrick Marleau, the proposed 24-team tournament could be his last chance to play for the Stanley Cup (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The critics of this proposed tournament raised legitimate concerns. If the league cannot assure the health and safety of everyone involved, from the players, team and training staff, arena staff, broadcasting crews, plus all those involved in feeding, housing, and transporting those people, then no, this tournament shouldn’t happen.

On the other hand, the NHL will earn justifiable plaudits if they can pull this off, providing an example for other major professional sports leagues. I expect many of those voicing opposition to this tournament will tune in to follow the outcome. If this is done in careful steps, it’s worth a try.

TRIBLIVE.COM: For Patrick Marleau, this tournament could be his last shot at playing for the Stanley Cup. The 40-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins winger is in the twilight of his career and could retire after this season.

SPORTSNET: New York state governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday announced professional sports teams could resume training as of Sunday. Those include the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, as both clubs are eligible to participate in the proposed 24-team tournament.

NEW YORK POST: The league hasn’t told the Rangers (or Islanders) when they can reopen their facilities. We have yet to set a date on which clubs may reopen their facilities for training and, eventually, formal training camps,” NHL group VP of communications John Dellapina told The Post via email. “We are still working with the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) on a league-wide plan to return to play.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan involves players returning to their respective NHL cities and taking part in small-group training in their team facilities. That could go into effect in early- or mid-June.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Representatives for Red Wings forward Dmytro Timoshov denied a recent report out of Russia claiming their client was close to signing with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga in Latvia.

NEWSDAY: Construction on the New York Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park is expected to resume on Wednesday.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2020

Check out the recent Canucks, Penguins, and Red Wings’ speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANUCKS

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Vancouver Canucks need a lot of help on defense. He also pointed out they’re top-heavy on offense. Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, while backup Thatcher Demko is only signed through next season.

O’Brien believes general manager Jim Benning will try to use the draft and the trade market to bolster the supporting cast around Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes. He also wondered if they’ll break the bank to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli or sign 30-year-old pending free agent blueliner Chris Tanev to a risky contract.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal and Thomas Drance think Tanev, Jordie Benn, and Sven Baertschi are the Canucks most likely to move on. Moving Benn and Baertschi would free up valuable salary-cap space. They also suggest Brandon Sutter could be a realistic ordinary course buyout candidate. Moving veteran winger Loui Eriksson ($6 million annual average value through 2021-22) could be difficult, while it’s uncertain if the Canucks can re-sign Toffoli.

Will the Vancouver Canucks re-sign goaltender Jacob Markstrom? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering how the Canucks struggled when Markstrom was sidelined by a knee injury, re-signing him should be their priority, followed by boosting their blueline corps. With over $63.4 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21, they’ll have around $18 million to work with if the cap remains at $81.5 million next season. There’s enough to re-sign Markstrom, but it will cut deeply into their available payroll.

A couple of cost-cutting moves will help, but finding a suitable deal under a flat cap won’t be easy. It’ll certainly make the chances of moving Eriksson more difficult, even with his actual total remaining salary dropping to $5 million after his signing bonus is paid out on July 1. A compliance buyout would help here, but there’s no certainty the league and the NHLPA will implement that measure in the off-season.

PENGUINS

TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh recently examined the Pittsburgh Penguins’ free agents. He feels it wouldn’t be unreasonable for RFA goalie Matt Murray to seek a hefty contract extension comparable to Tampa Bay’s Andrej Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million AAV) or Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck ($6.16 million AAV) because he’s had better postseason success. However, it’s also not unreasonable for the Penguins to consider a more affordable option such as re-signing fellow RFA Tristan Jarry.

Rorabaugh doesn’t expect UFA winger Patrick Marleau to return to the Penguins after this season. Justin Schultz‘s difficult 2019-20 season and the emergence of rookie defenseman John Marino likely signals the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh. Rorabaugh doesn’t rule out the Pens re-signing Conor Sheary if the price is right.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins have over $68.2 million tied up in 15 players for next season. It’ll be interesting to see what the Penguins do with Murray and Jarry.

Ideally, GM Jim Rutherford would probably sign both to short-term contracts and take more time to evaluate their performances before settling on which one should be their starter. With both goalies carrying arbitration rights, that might be possible, but all concerned might prefer avoiding that route. If they have to part with one or the other, Casey DeSmith is ready and able to step into the backup position.

RED WINGS

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports acquiring a new starting goaltender is among the off-season tasks facing Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman. The Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby is the best of this summer’s UFA goalies, but St. James believes he’d be reluctant to join a rebuilding club like the Wings.

More realistic options could include the Calgary Flames’ Cam Talbot, the Boston Bruins’ Jaroslav Halak, the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin, the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jacob Markstrom.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot and Markstrom have more recent starter experience. Halak, Khudobin, and Greiss are better backup options for clubs with a skilled starter. The Wings have plenty of salary-cap room ($46.2 million committed to 11 players) to make a substantial bid for one of them. Whether they’ll accept it, or if Yzerman intends to go the UFA route to boost his goaltending, remains to be seen.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2020

A look at several veterans who could face retirement in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis lists Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu among six pending unrestricted free agents that may have played their final NHL games if the league cancels the remainder of this season and the playoffs. Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patrick Marleau, and Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams round out his list.

Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry is among several veterans who may have played their final NHL games if the season doesn’t resume (Photo via NHL Images).

Perry’s low production (21 points) makes it hard to imagine another team signing him after this season. Injuries have hampered Koivu, who’s slipped down the Wild’s depth chart. He’s also shown no interest in playing elsewhere. Injuries have also taken a toll on Hamhuis’ play.

Howard’s struggles in recent years leads Ellis to suggest a club would be desperate to take a chance on the veteran netminder. Marleau didn’t manage much offense with the Penguins after being traded to Pittsburgh last month. Williams put up decent numbers following his return from a half-season hiatus, but his two-way play was rusty and his ice time reduced from last season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently looked at which NHL players may have played their final games if the league doesn’t return to action this season.

He also notes Koivu’s Wild-or-nothing position could make things tricky for the veteran center. He also believes the Stars’ one-year gamble on Perry hasn’t worked out. However, Williams could still be an affordable option if he decides to return next season. For teams with flexibility, a player like Marleau, Toronto’s Jason Spezza or Washington’s Ilya Kovalchuk might be worthwhile signings.

Turning to defensemen, O’Brien suggests injuries could force the end of the careers of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Dallas’ Roman Polak, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. He also hopes St. Louis Blues rearguard Jay Bouwmeester hangs up his skates following his health scare last month. He feels Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is a “play as long as you want” option, while Hamhuis and Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey could remain good veteran options.

Among the goaltenders, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller could get nudged out the door. O’Brien wondered if Henrik Lundqvist would accept a backup role if the New York Rangers buy him out. He speculates Howard might accept less money and a reduced role to remain in the NHL. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Edmonton’s Mike Smith are aging and struggled in recent seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL cancels this season, it will rob those on Ellis’ and O’Brien’s lists the opportunity for a last hurrah.

I think Perry, Koivu, Howard, Hamhuis, Miller, Anderson, Polak, Ericsson, and Daley have probably played their final NHL games. Bouwmeester’s cardiac incident last month will probably bring his playing days to an end.

Lundqvist’s situation will be interesting if he and the Rangers part company. He could move on to a mentor role with another club or call it a career. At this point, it could go either way.

Chara will return with the Bruins next season on another one-year, bonus-laden deal. I can see Marleau doing the same with the Sharks, though that’ll depend upon their cap space. Williams could return with the Hurricanes, but they’ll probably want a full-season commitment this time around.

Seabrook could be placed on long-term injury reserve for next season if he needs more time to recover from his surgeries. Smith’s had his inconsistencies, but he’s played well enough to remain in Edmonton in a backup role for another season.

Spezza could stick with the Leafs for another season on a cheap one-year deal. Speculation out of Montreal claims Kovalchuk is all-but-certain to return to the Canadiens on a bonus-filled one-year deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 18, 2020

The NHL regular-season may be paused, but the trade and free-agent rumor mill churn on. Check out the latest on the Leafs and Sharks.

LEAFS WOULD BE AFFECTED BY FLAT SALARY CAP

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined the effect of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million could affect the Toronto Maple Leafs. He wondered if pending UFA forwards Kyle Clifford and Jason Spezza would accept something near the league minimum to re-sign with the Leafs.

UFA defenseman Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci aren’t expected back. Their spots could be filled by affordable youngsters like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, but that would leave only Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin as established veterans. Fox wonders who they could add via trade or free agency and what the price would be. Re-signing RFAs like Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, and Frederic Gauthier will also eat up valuable cap room.

A flat salary cap could force the Toronto Maple Leafs to swap a forward like Kasperi Kapanen for a defenseman (Photo via NHL Images).

A nuclear option to address their blueline needs would involve trading a top forward like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews or John Tavares, but Fox doesn’t detect any desire from Leafs management to go that route. Instead, they could be forced to swap a middle-class forward such as Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot for a defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every NHL team will be affected by a flat cap for 2020-21. Teams like the Leafs with limited cap space will feel the pinch more than others. They have over $76 million invested in 16 players next season

Clifford and Spezza probably won’t get much more than offers that are close to the league minimum from other clubs, so they could be open to staying in Toronto. Bringing in one or two veteran blueliners will cost more than the Leafs can afford right now.

If they’re unwilling to move one of their top-four forwards for a blueliner, a deal involving Kapanen, Kerfoot or Johnsson seems the only viable option. Unless they can free up the additional salary, such a move could end up being dollar-for-dollar.

LATEST SHARKS SPECULATION

THE MERCURY NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Curtis Pashelka was asked if the San Jose Sharks might move a big contract in the off-season. While general manager Doug Wilson insists he likes the core of his team, he hinted after the trade deadline that there could be a deal made in the off-season. The effect of the current health crisis upon league revenue will also affect the salary cap, which could hamper any potential deals by the Sharks unless it’s a “money-in, money-out” move.

Regarding their next head coach, Pashelka thinks they could take a long look at former Nashville Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette if they decide not to keep interim coach Bob Boughner in that role. He also thinks they could consider adding more grit to their lineup.

Asking if former Sharks Brenden Dillon or Patrick Marleau might return via free agency, early indications are Marleau will be back next season. Pashelka doesn’t see Dillon coming back after the Sharks re-signed Radim Simek to a four-year contract extension.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt reports long-time Sharks center Joe Thornton intends to return next season. “”I have years to go!” Thornton recently texted The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 milion committed to 13 players, the Sharks will have around $15 million to work with under an $81.5 million cap. While all their core players are under contract, upgrading their roster could prove difficult. Wilson has proven adept in the past in retooling a roster quickly through trades and free agency, but this off-season could prove challenging.

If Wilson moves a big contract, I suspect it’ll be for a return that provides immediate roster help. It won’t easy. Timo Meier is the only high-salaried Shark lacking any form of no-trade protection. Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have no-movement clauses, while Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Evander Kane and Martin Jones each have modified no-trades listing three preferred trade destinations.

Interesting that it appears Marleau could return with the Sharks next season. He’ll have to a pay cut to do so, but at this stage in his career, I don’t think that’s a concern for him. The same goes for Thornton. If they want to return to the Sharks and if Wilson wants to bring them back, it’ll be under affordable, one-year deals.