Notable Trades and Free Agent Signings Before the 2023 NHL Draft
NOTE: The following moves occurred on June 28 prior to 6 pm ET. Any subsequent notable trades involving NHL players during the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft will be duly noted in a separate post following the completion of that round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier, 26, is now the highest-paid forward on the Devils and the second-highest-paid player next to Dougie Hamilton ($9 million AAV).
New Jersey Devils winger Timo Meier (NHL Images).
Joining the Devils in a trade from the San Jose Sharks before the March trade deadline, he had nine goals and 14 points in 21 regular-season games with the Devils. Including his totals with the Sharks, he finished the regular season with 40 goals and 66 points in 78 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With limited salary-cap space, the Golden Knights are forced to trade one of their few remaining “misfits” from their original expansion roster to free up the dollars to re-sign Barbashev.
Smith, 32, was a reliably productive top-six forward for Vegas, coming off his fourth 50-plus point season (56) in six years. He carries a $5 million AAV through 2024-25. He has a 12-team no-trade clause for 2022-23. In all likelihood, the Penguins weren’t on it.
The Penguins are trying to build around aging stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for a quick turnaround after missing the playoffs this season. Smith should be a solid fit alongside Crosby or Malkin on their top two lines. He likely replaces pending UFA winger Jason Zucker.
Barbashev, 27, is five years younger than Smith and plays a more physical style. He’s a year removed from a 60-point performance with the St. Louis Blues.
Acquired from the Blues before the trade deadline, he had 16 points in 23 regular-season games with Vegas, finishing the season with 45 points. He also had 18 points in 22 playoff games helping the Golden Knights win their first Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche wasted little time filling the gap after trading Alex Newhook to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Colton, 26, is a versatile middle-six forward with Stanley Cup experience who should fit in well with the Avs. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights but should be an affordable re-signing.
Salary-cap constraints force the Lightning to lose yet another player as their roster depth continues to whittle away. Some folks envisioned Colton as a potential replacement for Alex Killorn if he departs as an unrestricted free agent.
This move also gives the Lightning one pick in the first five rounds. The second-rounder originally belonged to the Canadiens, who shipped it to the Avalanche in the Newhook deal.
The Canucks buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Timo Meier seeks a long-term deal with the Devils, the Leafs will discuss a contract extension with head coach Sheldon Keefe, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
The Canucks acquired Ekman-Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes in 2021. He had four seasons remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $8.25 million. Vancouver was carrying $7.26 million while the Coyotes retained the remainder. The buyout will affect the salary-cap payrolls of both clubs for the next eight seasons.
Vancouver Canucks buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).
This move was made to free up much-needed cap space for the Canucks, who were sitting above next season’s projected $83.5 million salary cap. It provides $7.1 million in cap room this summer and $4.9 million in 2024-25.
They’ll face a cap hit of over $4.7 million annually in 2025-26 and 2026-27 before dropping to over $2.1 million annually over the remaining four years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks had no choice. They had to create cap room to become cap compliant at the start of next season and to improve their roster after missing the playoffs over the past three years. They obviously couldn’t find any takers for Ekman-Larsson in the trade market because of his contract and the decline in his performance over the past few years. He now becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Coyotes’ cap hit isn’t as harsh. It’s $20K in 2023-24 and $320K in 2024-25, rising to $650K in 2025-26 and 2026-27 and dropping to $290K for the final four years. However, they lose one of their three retained salary slots over the eight-year period of the buyout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL teams can only have three contracts with salary retained on their books at any one time. The Coyotes now have two slots remaining.
NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: The Devils filed to take Timo Meier to arbitration but the club could soon have an agreement on a new contract with the 26-year-old winger. General manager Tom Fitzgerald indicated that Meier has instructed his agent to negotiate an eight-year contract with the Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils filed for arbitration to set a date to reach an agreement with Meier on a new contract rather than have it drag out throughout the offseason. The move also prevents the winger from signing his qualifying offer and prevents a rival team from swooping in with an offer sheet.
This report indicates there’s a mutual desire to get a long-term contract done. Fitzgerald indicated both sides are in constant communication.
The arbitration period is from late July into early August. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two sides hammer out a new deal by the end of this month.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs and head coach Sheldon Keefe are expected to discuss a contract extension later this summer. Keefe’s current contract expires at the end of 2023-24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for Keefe losing his job. It appears the only significant shakeup for the Leafs this summer took place in the management office.
Keefe and Brad Treliving, the Leafs new general manager, are currently interviewing candidates to replace former assistant coach Spencer Carbery, who’s now the head coach of the Washington Capitals.
YAHOO! SPORTS: cited NHL insider Chris Johnston reporting the Leafs are unlikely to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bunting is the most notable of this trio after exceeding expectations on a two-year deal worth $1.9 million. He’s evidently priced himself out of Toronto.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: It appears the Red Wings are unlikely to re-sign any of their pending UFAs. They reportedly made contract offers to Pius Suter and Alex Chiasson but both players passed on those offers.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers re-signed defenseman Zac Jones to a one-year, two-way contract worth $800K in the first season and $825 K in 2024-25.
SPORTS MEDIA WATCH: Game 5 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights was the least-watched Game 5 in 29 years. That game was the Cup-clincher for the Golden Knights as they won the series in five games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics of the NHL’s expansion into non-traditional markets have pounced on this as proof that hockey fans don’t want to see Stanley Cup Finals involving Sun Belt teams. UFC president Dana White believes it’s because the league is run by “old dumb f**king people who have no idea what’s going on” when it comes to marketing their product.
White’s salty assessment of NHL marketing isn’t without its merits. However, the ratings for Game 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final saw an increase of 11 percent compared to the average Cup Final viewership from 2017-21 and was the second-most watched Stanley Cup Final game ever on cable.
I’d argue that the low ratings for Game 5 had more to do with how lopsided this series became as the Golden Knights dominated the underdog Panthers. Three of their five wins were by a margin of at least three goals, with Game 5 a 9-3 blowout in which Vegas was up 6-1 by the end of the second period.
The Devils sign Jesper Bratt to an eight-year deal but will take Timo Meier to arbitration, the Senators also elect arbitration for Alex DeBrincat, Jarome Iginla returns to the Flames and John LeClair to the Flyers. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bratt was slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 1. He is completing a one-year contract worth $5.45 million. The cap hit also keeps him below Jack Hughes’ $8 million AAV, which leads all Devils forwards.
The 24-year-old winger’s new contract is front-loaded. He’ll earn $10 million in actual salary next season, declining gradually down to $6 million in 2030-31. He also gets a full no-movement clause from 2024-25 to 2027-28, after which it becomes a 15-team no-trade clause with his no-movement preventing him from being sent to the minors.
It’s a significant investment in Bratt by the Devils. He earned this raise with back-to-back 73-point performances. With their Stanley Cup window opening, they obviously consider the winger to be a key part of their future. It will be money well-invested if Bratt maintains that level of production through most of this contract.
The Devils also filed team-elected arbitration with Timo Meier. They had hoped to get the 26-year-old winger signed up for the same term as Bratt but he seeks more money.
Meier was acquired from the San Jose Sharks before the March trade deadline. The Sharks reportedly went over $9 million annually in their efforts to re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This report suggests that taking Meier to arbitration is a way of buying time as the two sides continue to negotiate a new contract. The date for his hearing will be sometime in July or August but both sides could hammer out an agreement on a deal before then.
Meier is coming off a four-year contract with an AAV of $6 million. However, he earned $10 million in actual salary, which is what it would’ve cost the Devils to qualify his rights. In the worst-case scenario, the team-elected arbitration would reduce that qualifying offer to $8.5 million as one-year arbitration awards can be at 85 percent of the QO.
This move also ensures Meier won’t receive an offer sheet. Given how high his qualifying offer amount would’ve been, it’s doubtful that any club would’ve attempted to go that route.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators are taking winger Alex DeBrincat to team-elected arbitration. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement on a new contract, the arbitration award would be 85 percent of his $9 million qualifying offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrincat, 25, earned $6.4 million annually on his current contract but $9 million in actual salary this season. The report also indicates the Senators are actively shopping him and would prefer to get a deal done before July 1.
If they’re unable to move him, getting him signed to a one-year deal at $7.65 million provides them with cap flexibility to add another player. It would also perhaps make him more enticing as a trade candidate.
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Jarome Iginla has returned to the Flames as the special advisor to general manager Craig Conroy. The all-time franchise leader in scoring and games played, the popular former captain was traded by the Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Iginla spent 16 of his 20 NHL seasons in Calgary. He retired as a player in 2018 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020.
It was long assumed that Iginla might one day return to the Flames in a front-office role. Conroy said he and his former teammate used to talk about one day working together in the NHL.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Flyers yesterday announced John LeClair is returning to the club as a special advisor of hockey operations. He spent 10 seasons with the Flyers from 1994-95 to 2003-04, scoring 333 goals and 310 assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeClair was part of the Flyers’ famed “Legion of Doom” line alongside Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. He’s among their single-season leaders in goals (51) and career leaders in goals and points (643).
LeClair joins general manager Daniel Briere, president of hockey operations Keith Jones and special advisor to hockey ops Patrick Sharp among former Flyers recently hired to front-office roles.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will undergo shoulder surgery that could keep him out of training camp in September. He expects to be ready to go by the time the regular season begins in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekblad is the second Panthers blueliner undergoing shoulder surgery. However, he’s expected to be ready to return in time for the start of training camp.
NHL.COM: The order of selection for all seven rounds of the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft has been released. Round one begins on June 28 with the following six rounds on June 29.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that this list could be revised if there are trades involving 2023 draft picks leading up to June 28.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Tampa Bay Lightning are reportedly set to sell a minority stake of their franchise to private equity group Arctos Sports Partners for a record $1.4 billion.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last fall, Forbes indicated that 14 of the NHL’s 32 teams were valued at $1 billion or higher, with the Lightning sitting 14th at $1 billion. Selling their minority stake for more than its estimated value will have a ripple effect on the value of the other NHL franchises.
ESPN.COM: Las Vegas police arrested a man who threatened to carry out a mass shooting at T-Mobile Arena just four hours before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was played there.
Court records indicate the man has arrests in Las Vegas on various charges stretching back to 2014. He was also arrested last October on a felony charge of threatening an act of terrorism or mass destruction.
Wegman believes compensation would be a hangup for the Bruins given their depleted prospect pool. That’s not an issue for the Hurricanes, who also have plenty of salary-cap space. Wegman speculates Jesperi Kotkaniemi might interest the Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins’ limited cap space also probably takes them out of the running. The Hurricanes need scoring but the Jets might prefer someone like Martin Necas or Seth Jarvis over Kotkaniemi.
The Avalanche also have a limited prospect pool but they could dangle defenseman Samuel Girard. They’re also getting some cap relief with Gabriel Landeskog ($7 million average annual value) out for next season recovering from knee surgery. The rebuilding Red Wings have plenty of prospects to draw on for trade bait but they’d have to convince Dubois to sign long-term.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois could be a terrific fit with the talented Avalanche but I think that they’d have to add more than Girard to make this deal worthwhile for the Jets. The Red Wings have the assets to make a tempting offer and the cap space to sign him to a long-term deal. However, I don’t see him committing to such a contract with a rebuilding team.
The Canadiens are considered the most likely landing spot given his agent’s comments last summer suggesting his client would one day like to play for the Habs. The Athletic reports they reached out to Winnipeg about Dubois after the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs. They have the assets and cap flexibility to make this happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The question is, how badly do the Canadiens want Dubois? Enough to part with more than just draft picks and prospects? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last weekend indicated the Jets were seeking more than just futures for Dubois, Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele. They want a return that enables them to make a fast turnaround. That could mean the Habs part with Kirby Dach or Josh Anderson.
The other issue is how much the Canadiens are willing to pay for Dubois on a long-term deal. While Nick Suzuki is their highest-paid skater at $7.875 million, The Athletic’s Arpon Basu reports general manager Kent Hughes said that’s not a cap for signing an unrestricted free agent or someone who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. If Hughes is comfortable paying Dubois an AAV of $9 million, perhaps a deal can be made here.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (NHL Images)
The Canadiens have backup Jake Allen for another season while Sam Montembeault had a good season and played well for Canada at the 2022 World Championships. However, Hart’s ceiling is considered to be higher.
Friedman claimed there were mixed messages from his sources regarding the Leafs with one denying interest while some aren’t ruling it out. He also cited their change in management and how GM Brad Treliving likes to be in on everything.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule it out but I can see them sticking with an affordable tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll, who both played well for them this season. They also have to deal with shedding the contract oft-sidelined goalie Matt Murray.
The Sabres will be part of goalie trade rumors until they either make a trade or say they’re sticking with what they have. As for the Senators, Friedman said their rumors interest was “denied to me”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart might not be a certainty to move as originally believed. Friedman followed up by reporting that a source told him to dial back the Hart trade rumors as that’s not a front-burner issue for the Flyers.
BOESER TRADE RUMORS COOLING
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported the temperature on the Brock Boeser front has cooled. The winger’s agent was given permission to speak with other clubs by the Vancouver Canucks but nothing came of it, adding that no teams are calling the Canucks about him.
Boeser had a meeting with Canucks GM Patrik Allvin following the season and expressed his desire to stay put. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s out of play but the club is more than happy to keep him if they don’t get any suitable trade offers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would explain why we’ve heard more about Conor Garland or Tyler Myers as trade candidates in recent weeks.
UPDATES ON THE DEVILS
NJ HOCKEY NOW: James Nichols cited Pierre LeBrun reported that the New Jersey Devils have made an eight-year contract offer to winger Jesper Bratt. The average annual value is unknown but expected to be a high number. They’re also in talks with winger Timo Meier, whose AAV could be higher than Bratt’s.
The Devils have also had discussions with pending UFA forward Erik Haula. There is mutual interest in working out a new contract. Meanwhile, UFA defenseman Ryan Graves’ future in New Jersey isn’t as clear. His agent indicates that the Devils need to figure out if they have room. Nichols noted the arrival of Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec knocking on the door could see Graves moving on.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had expressed an interest in acquiring the rights of pending UFA rearguard Damon Severson. That was before they traded for Ivan Provorov earlier this week but Nichols suggests that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re no longer interested in Severson, who’s a right-handed shot while Provorov shoots left.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hockey News’ Jason Newland believes the Blue Jackets’ acquisition of Provorov kills the idea of them signing Severson. He believes the latter will be too expensive, suggesting the Jackets could invest that money elsewhere.
**UPDATE** TSN reports the Blue Jackets acquired Severson this morning in a sign-and-trade deal. He is signing an eight-year contract with the Jackets.
Reaction to the three-team trade that sent Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets, the latest Stanley Cup Final news, an update on Timo Meier and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
REACTION TO THE PROVOROV TRADE
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Flyers general manager Daniel Briere thanked Ivan Provorov for his years of service to the club after trading the defenseman on Tuesday to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a three-team deal involving the Los Angeles Kings.
Philadelphia Flyers general manager Daniel Briere (NHL.com).
Briere indicated that the deal was “really enticing” based on the draft picks the Flyers received and the direction the club is going as it rebuilds. “For us, what we were looking at is young guys and picks. We’ve said it from the beginning, so that was the major reason behind it,” said Briere.
“In exchange for Provorov and veteran minor leaguers Kevin Connauton and Hayden Hodgson, the Flyers will receive a first-round draft pick from Columbus (No. 22 overall), veteran goaltender Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defensive prospect Helge Grans, a conditional second-round pick from Columbus, and a 2024 second-rounder from Los Angeles. Provorov heads to Columbus, while Hodgson and Connauton go to L.A. The Kings will pay for 30% of Provorov’s contract for Columbus.”
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen considers Provorov “a defenseman who slots in perfectly with our group.” He believes his club now has “two really strong defensemen on the left side of our top four with Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov”.
Meanwhile, some LGBTQ+ Blue Jackets fans and community members are disappointed about the club’s addition of Provorov, citing his refusal in January to wear a Pride Night jersey when he was a member of the Flyers. Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox beliefs for declining to take part in the pregame formality.
Kekalainen defended the acquisition of Provorov. “We’ve always been an organization that promotes inclusion and diversity and all those things,” he said. “Hockey is for everyone, but we also respect freedom of opinion and freedom of choice.”
Speculation abounds in the aftermath of the Provorov trade over whether Briere has other offseason moves in the works and how it affects the Kings’ efforts to re-sign a couple of key free agents. I’ll have more on that in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
STANLEY CUP FINAL NEWS
NHL.COM: Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights averaged 2.8 million viewers in the United States across TNT, TBS and truTV. It was the second-most watched Cup Final game ever on US cable. Viewership peaked at 3.3 million viewers between 10:45 – 11 PM ET.
Game 3 goes Thursday night in Florida at 8 pm ET. The Golden Knights hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault’s play since the middle of the second round has pushed him into the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation.
The 32-year-old has scored nine goals in his last nine games and leads the Golden Knights in this postseason with 12 goals in 19 games. He also has the best plus-minus (plus-16) among postseason players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At this stage, I’d say it’s between Marchessault and Jack Eichel as the favorites among the Golden Knights as this postseason’s MVP. Nevertheless, there’s no question he’s played a big role in his club’s playoff run thus far.
THE SCORE: Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said he has “complete faith” in Sergei Bobrovsky, who was pulled in Game 2 after giving up four goals on 13 shots in the Panthers’ 7-2 loss. He dismissed any talk of Bobrovsky wearing down from the grueling playoff run.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bobrovsky’s teammates also defended the goaltender. They cited their own poor defensive play and vowed to play better in front of him.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald said his club will begin serious contract discussions with Timo Meier’s agent to sign the winger to a long-term contract. The 26-year-old winger is a restricted free agent on July 1 and is also a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A sticking point is Meier’s salary. He’s coming off a four-year contract with an average annual value of $6 million but earned $10 million in actual salary this season. That’s how much it’ll cost the Devils to qualify his rights unless he and the club reach an agreement on a new contract before July 1.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders will maintain its status quo in the front office and behind the bench for 2023-24. Lou Lamoriello will be back as general manager while Lane Lambert remains their head coach.
Lamoriello said he intends to prioritize signing key free agents such as Zach Parise, Scott Mayfield, Pierre Engvall and Semyon Varlamov. However, he suggested winger Josh Bailey’s 15-year tenure with the club may be coming to an end. Bailey, 33, has a year left on his contract with a cap hit of $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears that Lamoriello will attempt to trade Bailey, who lacks no-trade protection. Failing that, the Isles GM could buy out that remaining year before the buyout period ends on June 30.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Nashville Predators have announced their new ECHL partnership with the Atlanta Gladiators.
THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of Atlanta, there’s some talk that the NHL could one day try again to establish a franchise in that city. Two previous teams, the Flames and Thrashers, relocated to Calgary and Winnipeg respectively.
Bad rosters, poor ownership and an arena in a bad location were cited as reasons why the Thrashers failed during their 11-year tenure there. However, if those issues are addressed and accounted for, there could be another opportunity to put an NHL franchise there.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged the two previous failed attempts in Atlanta. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a third effort at making it work there. However, he indicated the issue of expansion will not be on the table during the league’s upcoming board of governors meeting.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The size of the Atlanta market and the potential money it could generate explains why the league won’t shut the door on returning there. It’s the same reason behind the NHL’s stubborn efforts to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.
The Devils must determine if Timo Meier is part of their long-term future. They parted with a package of players, prospects and draft picks to acquire the 26-year-old winger from the San Jose Sharks before the trade deadline.
Meier is a restricted free agent who’s a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. It will cost the Devils $9 million to qualify his rights unless they agree to a more economical long-term contract.
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).
What they do with Meier will also determine what they do to improve their lineup next season. Winger Jesper Bratt is coming off a 73-point performance and is also an RFA this summer while Miles Wood, Damon Severson and Ryan Graves are slated to become UFAs. Shilton speculates the Devils’ improvement and promising future could make them a desirable destination for free agents.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Adam Proteau believes improving the defense should be the Devils’ offseason priority. They have over $34 million in cap space with 12 players under contract for 2023-24.
Some might prefer Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald use some of that cap room to re-sign Meier but their offense remains potent without him. Their defense needs a direct boost. Proteau suggested pursuing a UFA such as Minnesota’s Matt Dumba or Boston’s Dmitry Orlov.
THE ATHLETIC: Shayna Goldman believes Fitzgerald’s goal will be to re-sign Meier and Bratt and balance the books around them or replace the high-end skill of whichever one departs.
To balance the rising cost of those two, they should maximize players on entry-level contracts like defensemen Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec. Goldman also believes they must stabilize their goaltending situation.
They have plenty of salary-cap room to address those aforementioned issues. However, they must ensure they have sufficient long-term space for when their up-and-coming talents like Dawson Mercer and Luke Hughes are ready for new contracts within the next couple of years. The anticipated big jump in the salary cap after next season should help them in that regard.
The situation with Meier and Bratt will be interesting. It can be argued that they didn’t produce as expected in the postseason. That could have an effect on their contract negotiations.
The potential departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci suggest Dubois would be a good fit with the Bruins but Wiebe doubts the cap-strapped club can afford to re-sign him. The 24-year-old center is a restricted free agent this summer and could seek over $8 million annually on a long-term contract.
Wiebe believes a lot of contending teams will be interested in Dubois even if it’s for one shot at winning the Stanley Cup. His appeal is enhanced if he’s willing to sign an extension with the team that trades for him.
The Colorado Avalanche could be a possibility as they’ll be looking for a second-line center. The Montreal Canadiens still look like the front-runner but Wiebe believes it’s not a “Habs-or-bust” scenario. He believes an Eastern Conference team close to New York is the most likely outcome but doesn’t rule out the Los Angeles Kings as a sleeper.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is among the few pundits I’ve read or heard that aren’t pushing the narrative of Montreal as Dubois’ sole destination. Some, like Nick Kypreos, have floated the scenario of a contender signing Dubois for just a one-year deal for a chance at pursuing the Cup next season even at the risk of him walking away as a free agent next summer.
The Canadiens likely remain Dubois destination of choice but we can’t rule out the possibility that he ends up with another club, perhaps on a lengthy contract extension. That will provide fodder for Montreal followers demanding the Canadiens trade for Dubois this summer and ink him to a long-term deal.