What Next For the San Jose Sharks?
What next for the Rangers following yesterday’s front-office purge? Could Rasmus Sandin’s emergence on the Leafs’ blueline lead to a Morgan Rielly trade? Which Sharks forwards could end up on this summer’s trade block? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker believes the New York Rangers replacing team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton yesterday with Chris Drury indicates ownership wants the current roster reconstruction wrapped up quickly. Drury will be expected to turn the Rangers into a Stanley Cup contender as soon as possible. Reaching the playoffs was a goal this season but will become a requirement in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Rangers GM Glen Sather will be working with Drury in a consulting role. Sather was well known for his wheeling and dealing during his long management career. He would prove useful if ownership pressures Drury to explore this summer’s trade and free-agent markets to accelerate the rebuild.
The incident earlier this week with Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson showed a glaring need for more grit in the New York Rangers’ lineup. The club is expected to address its lack of experienced and heavy skaters in the offseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have considerable depth in young players and prospects to use as trade bait to address that need. Cap Friendly indicates they have $55.6 million invested in 17 players, giving Drury sufficient cap space to target teams looking to shed salary this summer or to pursue unrestricted free agents.
Walker also reported former Rangers captain Mark Messier yesterday told ESPN NY radio he’s ready to help the club any way he can. He believes “One thousand percent” he could coach despite having no prior experience.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I admire Messier’s confidence. However, the Rangers will need an experienced, respected bench boss if they replace David Quinn as head coach. Messier doesn’t tick that box.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently suggested the emergence of Rasmus Sandin on the Maple Leafs’ blueline could make things a little uncomfortable for Morgan Rielly. If the club develops faith in Sandin, trading Rielly and his $5 million cap hit for next season to free up money to re-sign Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen could become an option.
McGran feels Rielly could fetch a return comparable to the first-round pick and prospect the Leafs got for shipping Kaspari Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the blueliner would be safe if Andersen isn’t re-signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McGran’s just spitballing here. I don’t think Rielly’s got anything to worry about. I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs bring back Andersen. They’ll likely stick with Jack Campbell as their starter and seek a reliable, affordable backup for him in the offseason.
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz suggests San Jose Sharks forwards Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc could become expendable after being pushed out of the top-six at times in recent weeks. He speculates one or both could be moved out this summer, perhaps in pursuit of an effective third-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s got a $6 million annual salary-cap hit through 2022-23 while Labanc’s is $4725 million annually through 2023-24. Those contracts could prove tough to move with the salary cap staying around $81.5 million next season. It’s not impossible to move them but it could be more of a dollar-in, dollar-out scenario or perhaps the Sharks will have to retain some salary in the deals.
In today’s NHL rumor mill: the Flames face some big offseason decisions, it might be time for the Sharks to consider trading Timo Meier or Kevin Labanc and Nikita Zadorov’s uncertain future with the Blackhawks.
TSN: Salim Valji examined the seven-year tenure of Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving and the big decisions he faces in the offseason. He pointed out the perception of the Flames as a flawed team has grown, suggesting it’ll take more than a handful of transactions to turn this disappointing club into a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
Winger Johnny Gaudreau’s no-trade clause kicks in after this season and he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Team captain Mark Giordano could be exposed in the expansion draft. Under-performing winger Matthew Tkachuk will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights requiring a $9 million qualifying offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving took responsibility for the Flames’ discouraging performance this season but that’s cold comfort for their fans. There could be growing calls for a new GM but Valji points out Treliving has two years remaining on his contract.
Gaudreau’s future could be Treliving’s biggest decision. The 27-year-old winger is a whipping boy for the Flames’ woes as his production has declined over the last two years. He could be their best trade chip but interested parties will want to know if Gaudreau will sign a contract extension before committing to a trade. He’d have more value if he’s under contract beyond next season.
Exposing Giordano in the expansion draft is a calculated risk. The Seattle Kraken could select him but could prefer another option given his age (37) and UFA eligibility next summer.
Tkachuk disappointed this season but the Flames could be reluctant to part ways with the pesky 23-year-old winger. He’d attract plenty of interest in the trade market but some teams will balk at that hefty qualifying offer.
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz points out it’s not just the San Jose Sharks’ veterans who are playing poorly of late but also their younger players. Most concerning is Timo Meier (24) and Kevin Labanc (25) aren’t performing to the level expected of players with their contracts.
Kurz wonders if it might be time to trade one or both but that won’t be easy. While they lack no-trade protection, Labanc has a $4.725 million cap hit for the next three seasons while Meier’s is $6 million annually for the next two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their trade value at this point would also be affected by their play this season. Factor in those cap hits and getting a worthwhile return for either guy this summer seems unlikely.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope suggested the Blackhawks’ signing physical defenseman Riley Stillman to a three-year contract extension casts more doubt over Nikita Zadorov’s future in Chicago. He speculates Zadorov’s RFA rights could be traded in the offseason.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman listened to offers for Zadorov at the trade deadline but set a high asking price. He might have to lower it to move the blueliner this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stillman’s $1.35 million annual average value and age (23) makes him a younger, more affordable option for the Blackhawks than the 26-year-old Zadorov, who’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights. He’s also got arbitration rights this summer, making him perhaps more difficult to move this summer.
Recent speculation on the Leafs, Senators, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LEAFS MOST LIKELY TO BE ON THE MOVE THIS OFF-SEASON
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle consider Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci as the most likely not to return with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both defensemen are unrestricted free agents who underwhelmed during their one-season tenures with the Leafs. They also considered forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alex Kerfoot among the Leafs’ likely trade chips as the club seeks to shed salary and bolster their blueline depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of Leafs Nation will agree Barrie and Ceci won’t be back. It just didn’t work out for either guy.
Kapanen, Johnsson, and Kerfoot frequently surfaced as trade candidates through this season. General manager Kyle Dubas didn’t have to move them during this campaign but could have no choice during the off-season.
The Leafs have over $76 million invested in 16 players. They desperately need to bolster their defense. Dubas surprised most observers with his slick moves last summer to free up sufficient cap room to re-sign Mitch Marner. Unless he’s got another trick or two up his sleeve, Kapanen, Johnsson, or Kerfoot could be shopped for a top-four defenseman.
COULD THE SENATORS WEAPONIZE THEIR CAP SPACE?
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes a flat or reduced salary cap for next season could work in favor of the rebuilding Senators as cap-strapped clubs attempt to shed salary in the off-season. The Sens only have around $41.9 million invested in next season’s cap payroll. They don’t need any more draft picks, but Warren believes they should listen if some promising prospects are packaged into the deal.
NBC SPORTS: Scott Charles believes the Senators should look for short-term players that other clubs no longer have the patience for, such as the New York Islanders’ Joshua Ho-Sang. Charles points out Anthony Duclair turned into a successful reclamation project for the Sens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators also have 13 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, including three in the first round, four in the second, and two in the third. They also hold three second-rounders in next year’s draft.
Their first-rounders are off the table, but GM Pierre Dorion could offer up a couple of those other picks to take on a toxic short-term contract that’s packaged with prospects or young NHL-ready players, or perhaps a player who could accelerate the rebuild. He can even afford to acquire someone like Ho-Sang on an affordable contract that can be easily buried in the minors if that player doesn’t work out.
WILL THE SHARKS MAKE A BIG MOVE THIS OFF-SEASON?
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: During a recent interview long-time San Jose Sharks broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky told Brodie Brazil he believes the club needs to make a big change or two, partly for salary-cap reasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s easy to see why Rusanowsky feels this way. Despite spending to the cap ceiling to ice a star-studded roster, the Sharks were among this season’s worst clubs.
Making a big cost-cutting change, however, won’t be easy. The Sharks have over $66.6 million tied up in 13 players for 2020-21. Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, and Martin Jones all have three-team trade lists, while Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have full no-movement clauses.
Timo Meier ($6 million annually through 2022-23) lacks no-trade protection, but GM Doug Wilson could be reluctant to peddle the 23-year-old winger. Winger Tomas Hertl ($5.625 million AAV through 2021-22) also lacks no-trade protection for this season, but his long injury history could scare off potential suitors.
The latest on the Canadiens and Sharks plus updates on Jeff Carter and Erik Gustafsson in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
COULD THE CANADIENS SHOP KOVALCHUK, DOMI OR TATAR?
SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports the Montreal Canadiens are very pleased with the performance of Ilya Kovalchuk. Earlier this month, they signed the veteran winger to a one-year, prorated $700K contract. He’s got eight points in as many games, including four goals. As the Canadiens get healthier coming out of the upcoming All-Star break and with the Feb. 24 trade deadline getting close, Johnston believes Kovalchuk could become a trade asset that lands the Habs a draft pick.
Earlier in the week, Johnston’s colleague Eric Engels observed Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin faces some difficult decisions in the coming weeks. If leading scorer Tomas Tatar’s value in the trade market is high, Engels suggests Bergevin should explore the winger’s value in the trade market. He also feels the same about defenseman Jeff Petry, but acknowledged it would take a significant offer to tempt Bergevin as youngers blueliners Cale Fleury and Josh Brooks are at least a couple of years away from becoming top-four blueliners.
If the Canadiens can’t find a suitable return for Kovalchuk, Engels proposes attempting to re-sign the veteran winger.
TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie believes the Canadiens will be sellers leading up to the trade deadline. He feels they should move Kovalchuk if he can fetch a second-round selection. He also thinks a team willing to do a “problem swap” could come calling about Max Domi. Lajoie lists Nick Cousins, Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, and Brett Kulak as other trade candidates.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Jonathan Bernier also ponders what the Habs could get for Kovalchuk in the trade market. He reminds us that the New Jersey Devils traded Brian Boyle last season to the Nashville Predators for a second-round pick. In 2017, the Detroit Red Wings sent winger Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for a third-round and Dylan McIlrath, while the Colorado Avalanche got a conditional fourth from the LA Kings for Jarome Iginla.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk’s thriving thus far in Montreal. If the Canadiens somehow surge back into the playoff chase in a month, they could hang onto him for the remainder of the season. If not, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to suggest they could get a second- or a third-round in return if he maintains his point-per-game pace.
Domi’s name has surfaced a couple of times in recent speculation. While there’s been some grumbling in the Montreal media over his temper, consistency, and supposedly selfish play, the 24-year-old reached a career-high 72 points last season and is on pace for a respectable 55 points. I’m not convinced that he’s in any danger of getting traded.
Tatar, meanwhile, has another year remaining on his contract. Bergevin doesn’t have to shop the 29-year-old winger this season, but it might not hurt to gauge his value in the trade market.
COULD CARTER HIT THE TRADE BLOCK?
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall wonders if LA Kings center and former Flyer Jeff Carter might be available at the trade deadline. The 35-year-old Carter is under contract through 2021-22 with an annual average salary of over $5.2 million. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a four-time 30-goal scorer who’s on pace for 23 goals this season.
Hall’s colleague John Clark said the Flyers discussed the possibility of trading for Carter. While he has fond memories of his years in Philadelphia, Carter said he doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles. “I love playing in L.A. and being a part of this team,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter surfaced in the rumor mill midway through last season. A report claimed he could retire if traded, but he denied it. Carter lacks no-trade protection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rebuilding Kings looked into moving him.
Nevertheless, his age and annual average value are significant stumbling blocks. An interested club might insist on the Kings picking up a healthy portion of his salary-cap hit. Given the Flyers’ limited cap space, they can’t afford his full AAV.
BLACKHAWKS LISTENING ON GUSTAFSSON?
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers recently reported the Chicago Blackhawks have spoken with other clubs about Erik Gustafsson. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He and Hawks GM Stan Bowman declined to comment regarding a possible contract extension.
A league source believes they’re checking the market value and could circle back before the trade deadline. They were asking mostly about prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Powers that how the Blackhawks fare in the coming weeks will also determine what happens with Gustafsson. If they climb back into the playoff picture, they could hang onto the blueliner for a run at the postseason.
UPDATE ON THE SHARKS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports there’s word San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson is embarrassed the first-round pick he gave up as part of the deal for Erik Karlsson could turn into a lottery selection. As a result, he’ll try to get a first-rounder back before the trade deadline. He’ll have to sweeten the pot because none of his pending UFAs (including Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson) will fetch a first-rounder.
Garrioch speculates teams could call about Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns. He also claims New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is sniffing around for a defenseman and should give Wilson a call.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson’s reportedly let it be known he’s not interested in moving a core player. Of course, that could change if someone were to make a significant offer, but I doubt that type of deal takes place before the deadline.