NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2023

The Kings defeat the Coyotes to split their Global Series in Australia, plus the latest on Auston Matthews, Mark Stone, Mathew Barzal, Jeff Carter and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: The Los Angeles Kings held off the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 to split their two-game Global Series at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. Adrian Kempe scored twice for the Kings while Karel Vejmelka made 31 saves for the Coyotes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both games were sellouts with over 13,000 fans in attendance at each contest.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews hasn’t killed many penalties in his NHL career but the Leafs are going to see if the 26-year-old center can grow into that role in training camp.

You’re down a man but at the same time, it’s hockey, a lot of anticipation, a lot of reads and I feel like I have a good stick and can break up plays,” said Matthews. “I’d love to be utilized on it.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s part of Matthews’ evolution as a more complete NHL player. He remains among the league’s elite scorers but he’s been developing other aspects of his game. The complaint against him earlier in his career was he didn’t backcheck but he’s since improved that part of his game.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone believes his club’s critics shouldn’t be taking the defending Stanley Cup champions lightly this season. “You look at the players we have, it’s pretty ironic that people are writing us off,” said Stone. He believes the Golden Knights can use that as motivation to win the Cup again this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think people are “writing off” the Golden Knights so much as they are basing their views on the difficulty of repeating as Cup champions. They’re also looking at how other Cup contenders have improved compared to last season.

Stone and his teammates can rest assured that their opponents certainly won’t be taking them lightly. As the defending champions, the Golden Knights are now the measurement of success for other NHL clubs this season.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders center Mathew Barzal is hoping to bounce back from his injury-shortened 2022-23 campaign. “It’s tough to come back off injury,” said Barzal. “I had, like, three skates before I played in the playoffs. Lungs weren’t really there, legs weren’t really there.” He managed just two goals in six playoff games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal missed the last 23 games of the regular season with a knee injury. It can take time for players to regain their conditioning following an injury, especially one involving their legs. Being unable to skate makes it difficult to maintain cardio or leg strength while recovering.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forward Jeff Carter said he hasn’t given much thought to his future as he takes part in his 20th NHL training camp. The 38-year-old said he’s focussing on giving the Penguins the best that he can regardless of his role this season. It appears the Penguins intend to lighten his workload by bumping him down to fourth-line winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is likely Carter’s final season with the Penguins regardless of his role or performance. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Whether he lands with another NHL club next season depends on how he plays in 2023-24.

THE ATHLETIC’s Aaron Portzline took note of a report indicating that former Columbus Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek is now a member of the Kladno Knights coaching staff. “He’s true to his word, Voracek. He always said he’d go into coaching,” wrote Portzline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Voracek is in the final season of his eight-year NHL contract. The 34-year-old winger has been sidelined indefinitely by concussion symptoms since last November and is on permanent LTIR. The Columbus Blue Jackets traded his contract to the Arizona Coyotes last March.

The Kladno Knights, by the way, are owned by Jaromir Jagr, who is still playing for them at age 51.

CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Yegor Chinakhov is listed as day-to-day with a back strain. He’s missed three straight days of training camp thus far.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Former Anaheim Ducks winger Nic Kerdiles was killed in a motorcycle accident early Saturday morning in Nashville. He was 29.

An Irvine native, he was the first Ducks player to come from Orange County, chosen in the second round (36th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft. Kerdiles played three regular-season games and four postseason contests for the Ducks from 2016 to 2018 and spent the rest of his pro career in the minors before retiring in 2019.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Kerdiles’ family, friends and former teammates.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2023

The Leafs sign Auston Matthews to a four-year contract extension while teammate William Nylander hopes to stay in Toronto, Canucks center Elias Pettersson is in no rush to sign an extension, and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs reached an agreement with Auston Matthews on a four-year, $53 million contract extension that begins in 2024-25. The average annual value is $13.25 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Starting in ’24-’25, Matthews will have the highest AAV in the league, surpassing Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon ($12.6 million) and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid ($12.5 million).

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

The deal is front-loaded, paying $16.7 million in actual salary for ’24-’25, $15.2 million in 2025-26, $11.080 million in 2026-27 and $10.020 million in 2027-28. Of that $53 million total, $50 million will be paid out as signing bonuses. That means he’ll get $15.925 million of his actual salary on July 1 of the first season, $14.425 million for the second season, $10.180 million in season three and $9.120 million in the final season.

Matthews turns 26 on Sept. 17 and will be 27 when the ’24-’25 regular-season schedule begins. He’ll be 30 when his new contract expires. If he maintains his annual 40-plus goal pace, he’ll be in line for yet another lucrative deal.

Top NHL stars usually sign expensive contracts for the maximum number of years under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That’s eight years for re-signing with their current team as a restricted free agent and seven years if they sign with a new club as an unrestricted free agent.

Matthews, however, is breaking that trend. Signing deals that are four or five years in length ensures he’ll remain among the highest-paid players during most of his career.

It also ensures that Matthews is not locked into one team for too long, especially if management decides to rebuild the roster. Had he signed an eight-year extension and the Leafs ended up rebuilding four years from now, he’d be stuck on a club with no chance of winning the Stanley Cup over the remaining term of a contract that would prove difficult to trade.

Other NHL superstars are likely taking notice. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing similar deals among the league’s current and future top players in the coming years.

TORONTO SUN: Speaking of the Leafs, William Nylander claims there’s no other place he wants to play. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 27-year-old winger indicated his representatives have spoken with Leafs management but doesn’t think there’s much going on right now. He’s unconcerned about the situation, adding that his focus is on getting ready for the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was reported earlier this summer that negotiations between the Leafs and Nylander’s camp weren’t going well, with speculation claiming he seeks $10 million annually on his next deal.

With Mitch Marner due for a hefty raise in 2025, it’s believed the Leafs could retain Nylander for this season as a self-rental as they chase that elusive Stanley Cup and let him depart via free agency in July. Time will tell if that comes to pass.

THE PROVINCE: Elias Pettersson told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he’s not in a rush to sign a new contract with the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old center is in the final season of his three-year deal with an AAV of $7.35 million but he’ll earn $10.25 million in actual salary in 2023-24. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next July.

Pettersson indicated that contract discussions are on hold as he focuses on preparing for the coming season. He wants to ensure that he gets the right contract for himself, be it a short or long-term deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report goes on to point out that the Canucks performance this season could determine the length of Pettersson’s next contract. It also noted that his camp has positioned itself well given the anticipated rise in the salary cap to over $90 million within the next two seasons.

Because Pettersson signed his current contract after the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) extending the CBA, it won’t cost the Canucks $10.25 million to qualify his rights next summer. It will instead cost them $8.82 million to do so.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed winger Alexis Lafreniere to a two-year, $4.65 million contract. The AVV is $2.325 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise that Lafreniere agreed to a bridge contract. The 2020 first-overall pick has struggled to play up to expectations with the Rangers. Only 21, he still has plenty of time to reach his full potential and perhaps land a more lucrative deal when the new one expires as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly finalizing a two-year, $7.8 million contract for defenseman Evan Bouchard. The AAV is $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That deal will leave the Oilers with just over $382K in cap space for this season with 21 roster players under contract.

The puck-moving Bouchard, 23, gets a decent pay raise for now on a short-term contract. He stands to cash in down the road when the Oilers have more cap space, especially with the cap projected to rise to $92 million for 2025-26 when he’ll become an RFA with arbitration rights.

NHL.COM: As expected, the Arizona Coyotes formally announced the re-signing of head coach Andre Tourigny. He has received a three-year contract extension.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed defenseman Darren Raddysh to a two-year extension with an AAV of $975K.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Lightning also inked former Ottawa Senators forward Austin Watson to a professional tryout offer.

Speaking of PTOs, the Columbus Blue Jackets have added goaltender Aaron Dell and defenseman Nicolas Meloche.

TSN: The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Scott Harrington to a PTO.

NHL: The league and the NHL Players Association are working on plans to begin a rotation of international competition starting with a tournament in February 2025 and followed by tournaments every second year starting with the 2026 Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s about damn time too. The last tournament involving NHL players was the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The last Olympic participation was in 2012.

NHL Rumor Mill – July 19, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – July 19, 2023

Check out the latest on Erik Karlsson, an update on the Leafs’ contract talks with William Nylander and Auston Matthews, and the Flames’ efforts to re-sign Elias Lindholm in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


NHL NETWORK: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman still believes it’s primarily between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes to acquire Erik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks.

Friedman said this situation tends to ebb and flow. Some sources tell him that it’s more likely Carolina is the destination while others claim it’s tipping toward Pittsburgh.

According to Friedman, the Hurricanes have two issues holding them back from landing the 33-year-old defenseman.

They’re trying to deal with defenseman Brett Pesce and winger Teuvo Teravainen, who both are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. Friedman thinks they’ve spoken with some teams regarding Teravainen if they need to free up cap space for Karlsson.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

The other issue is how much of Karlsson’s $11.5 million average annual value will the Sharks retain. He believes the Hurricanes already have a number that the Sharks are unwilling to reach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman claims the Hurricanes are involved in a lot of things. As noted yesterday, they’re monitoring Karlsson’s situation. It’s difficult to determine how much interest they have in landing the Sharks rearguard or what they’re willing to offer up in return.

My guess is the Hurricanes would prefer the Sharks retain at least 40 percent of his cap hit which runs through 2026-27. However, that would require the Canes to give up much more in terms of return, perhaps more than they’re comfortable with.

Turning to the Penguins…

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel speculated last Friday that there was a 50-50 chance of the Penguins landing Karlsson. He believes the Sharks could be feeling the urgency to move the veteran rearguard as his trade value will only go downhill after this offseason.

Vensel believes the quality of the return the Sharks receive depends on how much they’re willing to sacrifice financially, whether it’s retaining part of Karlsson’s cap hit or taking on a bloated contract or two.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sharks don’t wish to retain salary or only a small portion, they’ll have to take back someone like Jeff Petry ($6.25 million) or Mikael Granlund ($5 million). Petry has a 15-team no-trade clause and could be reluctant to join a rebuilding club, even if it’s in sunny California. Granlund, however, lacks no-trade protection.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Mark Madden recently claimed Karlsson is “vehemently against going to Carolina,” claiming he hates Hurricanes defenseman (and former Sharks teammate) Brent Burns as well as the club’s style of play.

Madden also said that everybody has made their best offers for Karlsson. It’s now down to see if the Sharks crack and take one.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, Karlsson’s supposed dislike of Burns would explain why the Hurricanes haven’t landed him by now. On the other hand, why are they still mentioned as a suitor by insiders like Friedman if he has no intention of joining the Hurricanes?

Karlsson has a full no-movement clause. If he ruled out the Hurricanes as a destination you’d think that would’ve surfaced in the rumor mill by now.

THE ATHLETIC: On Monday, Josh Yohe reported things were quiet on the Karlsson front for the Penguins. He claims they remain very interested. “Something could happen quickly, or this could drag on all summer.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The way things are going, this could last all summer. Stay tuned…


NHL NETWORK: Elliotte Friedman reports contract negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and winger William Nylander appear to remain at a standstill. He doesn’t see any movement in those talks until one side budges. Friedman added that if other players aren’t going to take a little less to remain in Toronto then neither will Nylander.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports earlier this month claimed Nylander is seeking an AAV of $10 million on his next contract while the Leafs are offering between $8 million and $9 million. He’s coming off back-to-back 80-point performances including a career-high 88 points playing second-line minutes.

I’d say Nylander makes a reasonable case for seeking that much. If the Leafs won’t pay it, somebody else will if he hits the open market next July with a salary cap projected to jump by at least $4 million (I say up to $6 million) for 2024-25. Clubs who consider Nylander as a first-line guy will pay him what he wants, especially if he reaches or exceeds 80 points again.

Some observers believe Leafs general manager Brad Treliving will trade Nylander before the start of this season rather than go through another season of uncertainty as he did in 2021-22 with Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary. There are also some who feel the Leafs could retain Nylander for the coming season and see how things play out on the ice and in contract talks.

Friedman indicates the news is better regarding Auston Matthews’ negotiations. He believes the Leafs superstar will reach an agreement on a deal that is between three to five years in length. Friedman believes it will happen but isn’t sure when.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word on how much of a raise Matthews will receive over his current $11.6 million AAV. Some believe it could exceed the league-leading $12.6 million of Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, ranging from between $13.5 million to $14 million. Whatever Matthews agrees to will affect Nylander’s talks with the Leafs.


NHL NETWORK: Elliotte Friedman believes the Calgary Flames are still trying to re-sign Elias Lindholm. The 28-year-old center is a year away from UFA eligibility. The Flames consider him a key piece of their future and hope to retain him.

Friedman speculated an extension for Lindholm could cost between $8 million and $8.5 million. However, with several key players having left the Flames in recent years, he thinks they could offer up $9 million annually.

Lindholm sounded reluctant about signing an extension with the Flames during his end-of-season presser in April. Nevertheless, Friedman thinks he hasn’t closed the door on re-signing with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mikael Backlund also shared Lindholm’s reluctance. Their comments, however, came before the club hired Craig Conroy as GM and fired head coach Darryl Sutter.

Conroy is believed working on keeping Lindholm and Backlund. Nevertheless, he also shipped out Tyler Toffoli when he asked for a trade last month. Defenseman Noah Hanifin indicated he wouldn’t sign an extension. Conroy has reportedly shopped him but hasn’t pulled the trigger yet on a trade.

If Lindholm won’t re-sign, the Flames will go into rebuild mode. Lindholm, Backlund and Hanifin could be shipped out before the March 1 trade deadline.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 18, 2023

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 18, 2023

The latest on the Leafs, the Devils could shop Yegor Sharangovich and an update on the Oilers in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.


TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is still expected to sign a contract extension. Matthews and his agent met in Arizona this week with Brad Treliving, the Leafs new general manager.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported on Friday that he believes Matthews will re-sign with the Leafs. He felt the club will try to sign him to a maximum eight-year extension though he’s not sure how likely it is that Matthews will agree to a term that long.

Freidman believes there’s a sense of urgency on the Leafs’ part to get this done as soon as possible rather than have negotiations drag on through the summer so as not to adversely affect their long-term plans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s rumored the Matthews camp envisions a three to five-year deal so the 25-year-old superstar can still cash in on another lucrative contract while he’s still in his playing prime. Either way, his next deal will likely exceed the league-leading $12.6 million average annual value of Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon.

Hornby also noted there are rumors suggesting the Carolina Hurricanes might trade Brett Pesce if they fail to sign the 28-year-old defenseman to a contract extension.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander (NHL Images).

At $4.025 million, Pesce would be a welcome addition to the Leafs blueline but they’d have to trade a salary. Hornby suggested William Nylander, who would play a larger role with the Hurricanes than his current one in Toronto. The 26-year-old winger is a year away from UFA eligibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Hurricanes are intent on signing Pesce but there are rumors that the negotiations got off to a rocky start. It’ll be interesting to see how those talks unfold in the coming weeks.

I’m just spitballing here but I think the Hurricanes would be interested in a Pesce-for-Nylander swap if the Leafs were on board. The Canes have the cap space to take on the winger’s $6.962 million cap hit for next season.

Nylander has a 10-team no-trade clause starting July 1. If the Hurricanes are on that list, this hypothetical deal would have to go down by June 30 unless he’s willing to waive it for Carolina.

In other Leafs news, Hornby believes pending unrestricted free agents Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl won’t be back. UFA forward Michael Bunting will have to accept a hometown discount to remain with the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Elliotte Friedman believes Bunting has priced himself out of Toronto.

The Leafs would welcome back UFA center Ryan O’Reilly. However, many clubs will look to pay him more than the cap-strapped Leafs.

Hornby mentioned the Leafs could buy out or attempt to trade goaltender Matt Murray.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The preference would be trading him but they’ll have to package him with a sweetener or retain some of his salary to make it happen. Given his injury history, a buyout before the June 20 deadline wouldn’t be surprising.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Leafs reportedly aren’t close to a new contract for pending UFA defenseman Luke Schenn. It’s believed he’s seeking term and no-trade protection in his next deal.


NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: James Nichols cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondering about whether the Devils could put Yegor Sharangovich on the trade block. The 25-year-old is a restricted free agent coming off a down year of 13 goals and 30 points following a 24-goal, 46-point performance in 2021-22.

Friedman said that he’d heard that “some talks picked up around him”. He indicated that someone told him not to be surprised if something went down here.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Evan Rawal believes the Avalanche could be interested in Sharangovich if he hits the trade block. He pointed out how they’d landed players in the past such as Andre Burakovsky, Devon Toews and Alexandar Georgiev made available by other clubs looking to cut salary or in need of a change of scenery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharangovich is coming off a two-year deal with an AAV of $2 million. He’d be an affordable pickup for any club seeking a versatile middle-six forward in his mid-twenties with 20-goal ability. The asking price could be a second-round pick.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins thinks Kailer Yamamoto is in play this offseason. He believes the Oilers want to get an asset in return to clear his contract from their books. A buyout is also a possibility.

Leavins also anticipates that defenseman Cody Ceci will be back next season. He felt Ceci when fully healthy can return to being the player he was a year ago plus his $3.25 million AAV is a good fit for the cap-strapped Oilers.

The Oilers are unlikely to part ways with Philip Broberg. Leavins also dismissed the notion of defenseman Evan Bouchard signing an offer sheet with another club.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 6, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – June 6, 2023

The Senators exploring trade options for Alex DeBrincat, proposed trade destinations for Connor Hellebucyk and Blake Wheeler, and speculation over what Auston Matthews’ cap hit on his next contract will be in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Ottawa Senators have begun exploring the trade market for Alex DeBrincat. A source described it as the Senators conducting “due diligence” given the 25-year-old left winger’s desire to wait until the sale of the club before engaging in contract talks.

DeBrincat is a restricted free agent this summer. He’s also a year away from unrestricted free-agent status. Senators management is considering its options from taking him to arbitration to trading him.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch speculates the decision on DeBrincat could come before the end of this month. League sources confirmed the winger’s agent informed management that his client isn’t ready yet to discuss a contract extension.

Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).

Garrioch believes Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has to see what the trade market looks like for DeBrincat if the winger isn’t committed to staying with the Senators. He noted that the upcoming NHL draft is a time when teams are trying to make deals to shape their rosters for next season.

Dorion has publicly said he’ll make a qualifying offer to DeBrincat. If he’s unwilling to sign it, the Senators GM hinted he could take the winger to arbitration and ask for a 15 percent drop on his qualifying offer.

DeBrincat was earning an average annual value of $6.4 million on a three-year contract. However, he made $9 million in actual salary this season, which is what it would cost to qualify his rights. A 15 percent reduction would be around $7.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators acquired DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2022 NHL Draft. They could be forced to move him during this year’s draft if the winger remains reluctant to sign a long-term contract.

Trading DeBrincat would be considered a loss for the Senators considering they gave up their first and second-round picks in last year’s draft to Chicago to acquire him. However, Dorion could save face if he can find a solid return that provides the Senators with immediate as well as long-term help.


DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin proposed seven trade destinations for Connor Hellebuyck if the Winnipeg Jets attempt to peddle the 29-year-old goaltender.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are Larkin’s top-three landing spots for Hellebuyck. The three clubs could become Stanley Cup contenders with strong, reliable goaltending. However, the Hurricanes also need game-breaking scoring, the cap-strapped Kings still hope to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and the Devils face re-signing two expensive wingers in Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes’ focus could be more on their scoring, especially given their front office has said they’re willing to bring back pending UFA goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. The Kings would have to free up cap space to take on Hellebuyck and re-sign Gavrikov. The Devils, however, could still have sufficient cap room to take re-sign Bratt and Meier and still add Hellebuyk.

Larkin also listed the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights as possible destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Senators pursuing Hellebuyck unless he’s willing to agree to a long-term contract extension. It’s bad enough they could be trading away Alex DeBrincat after a year, they don’t need to see Hellebuyck heading out the door next summer as a free agent.

The Penguins have the cap space for Hellebuyck but I don’t believe they can come up with a suitable return to tempt the Jets given their depleted prospect pool and aging roster. The Leafs need to improve their defense core plus I think they’ll stick with the more affordable goalie tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll. The Golden Knights lack the cap space to pull it unless they’re willing to shed over $6 million to do it.

WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck believes it would be shocking to see Blake Wheeler back with the Jets next season. The 36-year-old left winger was stripped of the captaincy by head coach Rick Bowness but still wields influence in the dressing room. He has a year remaining on his contract but his $8.25 million cap hit will be difficult to move unless the Jets retain part of it.

Billeck suggests buying out Wheeler. While that would cost $2.75 million against their salary cap, it would provide $5.5 million in cap savings for next season to put toward retooling the roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets could try to move Wheeler in this summer’s trade market. As Billeck observers, they’ll have to take back a bad contract, retain half of his cap hit in a trade with another club, or attempt a three-team deal that spreads his cap hit around.

Despite those options, I wouldn’t be surprised if they buy out Wheeler later this month. His age and cap hit works against finding a suitable trade partner.


TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes Auston Matthews will become the NHL’s highest-paid player in 2024-25. The 25-year-old Maple Leafs center is a year away from UFA status.

Simmons observes that Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon will be the highest-paid player with an average annual value of $12.6 million while Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is second at $12.5 million.

While Matthews lacks MacKinnon’s Stanley Cup ring and McDavid’s plethora of individual awards, Simmons believes he’ll get between $14 million and $15 million annually on his next contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve speculated that Matthews could get a more conservative $13.5 million but it wouldn’t shock me if it exceeds $14 million. He’s a two-time Richard Trophy winner who last year became the first player in over a decade to tally 60 goals in a season. The Leafs center has reached the 40-goal plateau in five of his seven NHL seasons and won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2021-22.

Matthews isn’t a better player than McDavid. Nevertheless, if the Leafs won’t pay him between $14 million and $15 million annually, another club will happily do so via next summer’s free-agent market, when the salary cap is expected to jump by at least $4 million. That’s the way the market works.

As for McDavid, he’ll regain his title as the NHL’s highest-paid player once his current contract is completed at the end of 2025-26.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2023

Check out the latest on Auston Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi and Alex Killorn plus updates on the Avalanche and Flames in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman expressed his belief that Auston Matthews will extend with the Toronto Maple Leafs but not at the maximum term of eight seasons. Instead, he thinks the 25-year-old center inks a deal between three and six years in length.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why wouldn’t Matthews want the maximum term on his next contract? The belief is he’d like to have a crack at free agency while he’s still in his playing prime thus ensuring that he continues to make big money well into his thirties.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

The challenge for Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is “trying to get it done before July 1, when his no-trade clause kicks in.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That line has created the assumption among some fans that the Leafs can officially sign Matthews to his extension before free agency begins at noon ET on July 1. To clarify, Matthews still has a year remaining on his current contract. They can discuss an extension with him in the weeks leading up to July 1, 2023, but that date remains the earliest they can sign him to an extension.

Matthews’ no-trade clause (it’s actually a no-movement clause) is an issue if he’s reluctant to sign beyond next season or seeks an extension of less than three years. If so, the Leafs might have to explore the trade market before his movement clause kicks in as that would significantly limit the number of potential trade partners.

Friedman believes Matthews’ next contract could likely be the highest AAV in the league. He wonders what that means for Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner has two years remaining on his contract while Nylander’s expires at the same time as Matthews’. They’ll seek significant raises but they won’t be as expensive as what Matthews will get given his status as a former Hart Trophy and two-time Richard Trophy winner.

It also depends on how the Leafs manage their payrolls in 2024-25 and 2025-26 when the salary cap is expected to jump by as much as $4 million per season.

The Boston Bruins are exploring what it’ll take to re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired before the March trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings, Bertuzzi fit in well with the Bruins and was their leading scorer in their short-lived 2023 postseason.

However, their limited cap space plus the possibility of Bertuzzi receiving a long-term deal on the open market worth around $5.25 million annually has some observers suggesting the Bruins simply can’t afford him.

Friedman believes the Tampa Bay Lightning offered Alex Killorn a long-term contract with a lower average annual value. However, the pending UFA winger is in demand and that could be difficult to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn is 33 but he’s coming off a career-best performance (27 goals and 64 points in 82 games) this season. His current average salary is $4.45 million. He’ll have to decide if he wants to stick with the only NHL team he’s ever played with for less money in a city where there’s no state tax or chase bigger bucks elsewhere.


THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh recently looked at several potential options for the Colorado Avalanche to address their second-line center position. Internal choices would be re-signing pending UFA J.T. Compher, signing RFA Alex Newhook and promoting him into that role or shifting Mikko Rantanen from winger to center.

External options include Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Philadelphia’s Kevin Hayes, Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm or Anaheim’s Adam Henrique via the trade market. They could also try to bring back Ryan O’Reilly if he hits the UFA market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche will get $7 million in long-term injury reserve cap relief with Gabriel Landeskog out for next season recovering from knee surgery. However, one of those external options will be costly in terms of salaries as well as assets if they go the trade route. Their best option could be one of those internal ones suggested by Baugh.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli noted the Flames have a potential logjam in goal with Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar under contract for next season and rising young netminder Dustin Wolf primed to become a full-time NHL player.

McKenna believes Wolf has accomplished all he can at the AHL level as their two-time reigning goalie of the year and AHL MVP. He believes they should shop Vladar and promote Wolf into sharing the duties with Markstrom starting next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I share McKenna’s opinion as well as his enthusiasm for a Markstrom-Wolf tandem. Having a promising youngster pushing him for the starter’s job could help Markstrom regain the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2021-22. If Markstrom continues to struggle, it provides Wolf with the opportunity to seize that role for himself.

Vladar, 25, could prove to be a decent trade chip for the Flames given the lack of quality goaltending depth in this summer’s free-agent market.