NHL Rumor Mill – September 27, 2023
UPDATE ON PATRICK KANE’S REHAB
TSN: Darren Dreger reports Patrick Kane is doing well as he continues to rehab in Toronto from his June hip resurfacing procedure. The 34-year-old unrestricted free-agent winger and his representatives remain committed to his four-to-six-month recovery period.
Kane’s agent Pat Brisson is getting calls from multiple teams seeking updated medical information on his client. However, it could be mid-to-late October at the earliest before he can begin interviews with select teams.
Chris Johnston pointed out that limited salary cap space will be an issue for many of the clubs interested in signing Kane and there aren’t many mechanisms available to help them clear sufficient cap space. They can’t sign him to a 35-plus contract because he’s ineligible to receive one.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes have been suggested as possible suitors. A wild rumor making the rounds earlier this month claimed the Toronto Maple Leafs would be interested but that was based on comments made by TSN’s Dave Poulin that were misinterpreted by several rumor sites.
ARE THE DUCKS LOW-BALLING ZEGRAS?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there doesn’t seem to be much movement in contract talks between the Anaheim Ducks and Trevor Zegras. TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie recently reported the Ducks were offering the restricted free-agent center between $3 million and $4 million annually.
Friedman believes there was a time when the two sides were willing to agree to a three-year deal. If so, he thinks that AAV has to be higher. Zegras isn’t arbitration-eligible now but he will be on his next contract so it defies logic that he would get an AAV below $4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zegras is the rebuilding Ducks’ most skilled forward and their most marketable star. He’s a foundation piece going forward. It makes no sense to low-ball him.
The Ducks hold all the leverage right now with Zegras coming off his entry-level contract. I’m not suggesting they should overpay the 22-year-old center but they have to be reasonable or risk alienating their franchise player.
Perhaps Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek’s first pitch to the Zegras camp was between $3 million and $4 million. I’d expect a high initial offer while the player’s representatives and then the two sides negotiate toward something in the middle.
It’s not like the Ducks are pressed for cap space. They’ve currently got $17.5 million available for this season. For 2024-25, they’ve got just $44.2 million invested in 11 active roster players. They can afford to sign Zegras to a short-term deal with a reasonable average annual value.
Zegras is going to demand much more on his arbitration-eligible contract and he’ll get it one way or another if he develops as projected. He could also decide that he only wants a short-term deal to take him up to UFA eligibility.
FLAMES AND BACKLUND TALKING CONTRACT EXTENSION
TSN: Chris Johnston reports contract extension talks have started between Calgary Flames management and Mikael Backlund. The 34-year-old center was noncommital about a new deal following last season’s disappointing performance by the Flames. However, the positive environment brought about by new head coach Ryan Huska has made Backlund consider committing to a new contract.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman predicts Backlund will get a three-year deal with an AAV of $5.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps that also has some effect on potential extension talks with center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin. Like Backlund, they’re slated to become UFAs next July but they have indicated a recent willingness to discuss new contracts with management.
SENATORS TRYING TO SHED SALARY FOR PINTO’S NEW CONTRACT.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Ottawa Senators are trying to free up some salary-cap space to re-sign 22-year-old center Shane Pinto. He believes the restricted free agent could accept a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season. LeBrun mentioned that Senators forward Mathieu Joseph has been in the rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman indicates the Philadelphia Flyers have an interest in Joseph but they won’t make it easy. He claims they’d want a high-level prospect or the 2024 first-round pick sent by Detroit in the Alex DeBrincat trade. The Senators, however, aren’t willing to do that at this point. Friedman also wondered if the San Jose Sharks might be interested.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Senators GM Pierre Dorion signing Vladimir Tarasenko in July before getting Pinto under contract has become a big headache right now. It’s not doing Pinto any good as he’s already missed a week of training camp. This could end up costing the Senators a lot more than cap space the longer this drags out.