St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko became a fixture in the NHL rumor mill after requesting a trade last summer amid reports of his unhappiness over the treatment he received by the team’s medical staff for his shoulder surgeries. The Blues were believed to have had trade discussions last summer with several clubs but couldn’t find a suitable offer.
After two injury-shortened seasons, Taranseko is enjoying a bounce-back performance with 31 goals and 72 points in 67 games. The 30-year-old winger is signed through next season with an annual cap hit of $7.5 million and a full no-trade clause.
GAUDREAU HEADED FOR BIG PAY RAISE ON HIS NEXT CONTRACT
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen looked at what Johnny Gaudreau’s next contract will look like. The 28-year-old Calgary Flames left winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13. He’s earning $6.75 million annually on his current contract.
With Gaudreau enjoying a career-best 101-point (and counting) season and the Flames poised to clinch a playoff berth, he’s going to receive a significant raise on his next deal. Boylen speculates he could earn $8.5 to $9 million on a multi-year deal but wonders how his playoff performance might affect that number or if the Flames are willing to invest that much to sign him.
Further complicating things for the Flames is winger Matthew Tkachuk becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. It will cost the Flames $9 million to qualify his rights.
Flames management could be forced to choose between Gaudreau or Tkachuk. However, Boylen suggests they could garner cap relief to sign both by buying out the remaining year of center Sean Monahan’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Gaudreau camp could price him out of the Flames’ market if they push for well over $9 million annually by pointing to his performance this season. Tkachuk’s representatives could also do the same for their client.
Shedding Monahan’s $6.375 million cap hit for 2022-23 would go a long way to clearing space to re-sign Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Trading him would be preferable but the recent decline in his performance brought on by hip injuries would make it difficult to swing a cost-cutting deal.
That could leave buying out Monahan as the only reasonable option but that effort could be hampered by his recent season-ending hip surgery. They could place him on long-term injury reserve if he remains sidelined to start next season but would have to free up cap room at some point when he’s ready to return to the roster.
The Panthers stage a four-goal third-period comeback, Kirill Kaprizov sets a Wild franchise record, Keith Yandle’s Ironman streak comes to an end and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Down 6-2 to the New Jersey Devils entering the third period, the Florida Panthers scored four unanswered goals and emerged with a 7-6 victory on Gustav Forsling’s overtime goal. Forsling and Aleksander Barkov each scored twice. Spencer Knight got the win as he replaced goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the third period. Yegor Sharangovich tallied a hat trick for the Devils. The Panthers became the second team to reach 100 points this season and hold a two-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and an assist in his club’s 3-1 win over the Hurricanes to set a new franchise single-season record of 85 points (and counting). Marc-Andre Fleury kicked out 37 shots as the Wild have a three-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division with 89 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild rookie Matt Boldy missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He has 27 points in 35 games this season.
The Colorado Avalanche are on the verge of becoming the first team to clinch a playoff berth after downing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. Devon Toews snapped a 2-2 tie in the third period as the Avalanche hold a four-point lead over the Panthers for first overall in the league standings with 104 points. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon each had two points while Darcy Kuemper stopped 38 shots. Jake Guentzel had two assists for the Penguins (92 points), who sit one point back of the second-place New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche center Nazem Kadri missed this game with an upper-body injury and could be sidelined for some time. He’s expected to be back for the playoffs which begin on May 2.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the club is optimistic over the status of winger Jason Zucker as they await further updates on his condition. Zucker’s been sidelined since Thursday after suffering an apparent leg injury against the Wild.
Tyler Seguin collected three assists and Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist as the Dallas Stars held off the San Jose Sharks 5-4 to regain the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 81 points. Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson also each had two-point performances for the Stars. Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro returned to the lineup after being sidelined for five weeks by a broken leg.
Los Angeles Kings forwards Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe each had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. With the win, the Kings (86 points) moved within three points of the first-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division. Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves for the Jets (76 points), who slip five points behind the Stars in the race for the final Western wild-card berth.
Speaking of the Flames, they dropped a 6-4 decision to the St. Louis Blues. Justin Faulk had a goal and two assists while teammates Brayden Schenn, Robert Thomas and Brandon Saad each had two points for the Blues (86 points), who sit three points back of the second-place Wild in the Central Division. Johnny Gaudreau scored his 32nd goal of the season for the Flames, who announced before the game that center Sean Monahan will undergo season-ending surgery on his left hip. Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington also missed this game as he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the same procedure Monahan had done on his right hip last year. His performance seemed to suffer in the aftermath of that first surgery, making him the topic of trade speculation. He has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.375 million.
Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 51st goal of the season, Morgan Rielly a goal and two assists while Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting each collected two assists in a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell made 29 saves as he returned to action after missing 10 games with a rib injury. The Leafs are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 93 points but hold second place in the Atlantic Division with 44 wins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle was a healthy scratch, bringing his NHL-record consecutive game streak to an end at 989. Flyers coach Mike Yeo faced criticism for benching Yandle given the club is eliminated from the playoffs and the blueliner only needed 11 more games to extend his record to 1,000 games.
Yeo explained it was part of the club’s decision to evaluate younger players for next season. Yandle took the decision in stride, saying management had spoken to him about the club’s plans over the final weeks of the regular season.
The Lightning, meanwhile, fell to the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on a shootout goal by Nick Suzuki. Jake Allen made 37 saves for the Canadiens as they got the win in Martin St. Louis’ first game as head coach against his former club in Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists for the Lightning.
Boston Bruins center Erik Haula scored twice in a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists for the Bruins (91 points) as they opened a seven-point lead over the Washington Capitals for the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
In other news, the NHL department of player safety suspended Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie for one game for slashing Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Are the Avs setting the table for a big move? Could Tyler Bertuzzi or Sean Monahan be moved before the trade deadline? What’s the latest on Ben Chiarot and Andrew Copp? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
Chambers believes Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux and San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl could be most enticing to the Avalanche if they can find sufficient salary-cap space to acquire them. Swapping Jost for Sturm gives them almost $3 million in projected trade deadline cap space. They could also garner additional flexibility by placing sidelined winger Gabriel Landeskog ($7 million annual cap hit) and defenseman Samuel Girard ($5 million) on long-term injury reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic isn’t done dealing. I believe he’s in “go-for-it” mode this season with his club riding high in the standings, especially after they came up short in last year’s playoffs. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make a major move before Monday’s trade deadline.
Seravalli said Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has told teams he’s “open for business”. Just about everyone other than rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond is believed to be available.
The Flames, meanwhile, would prefer not to move Monahan now while his trade value is at its lowest. However, there are teams said to be interested to see if the 27-year-old center can reboot his career with another club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi is signed through next season with a $4.75 million annual cap hit and lacks no-trade protection. Monahan, meanwhile, carries a $6.375 million cap hit through next season and has a 10-team no-trade list.
The Wings and Flames don’t have to move either guy at the trade deadline but it doesn’t hurt to gauge the market. They could wait until the offseason when they’re likely to find more suitors with available cap space willing to make deals.
The Flames, however, could be under greater pressure to move Monahan. As Seravalli observes, they can’t afford to carry Monahan’s contract if they intend to sign Johnny Gaudreau to a long-term contract extension. Maybe they can find a suitable offer before Monday.
Darren Dreger said the Minnesota Wild also has an interest in Chiarot but they also don’t want to part with a first-rounder. Meanwhile, there’s discussions between the two clubs about prospect center Jack McBain, who has told the Wild he doesn’t intend to sign with them. The asking price is a second-round pick, which doesn’t worry the Canadiens provided they can get him signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues are also rumored to be interested in the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov. It will take significant offers to acquire either guy, much more than what it could cost to land Chiarot. Maybe they can tempt the Canadiens with a couple of quality prospects if no other club meets the Habs’ asking price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s an interesting situation for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. He risks losing Copp for nothing to free agent in July, but trading him now would signal to his roster that he’s giving up on reaching the playoffs. They’ve won four of their last five, by the way, and are just two points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As LeBrun indicates, Middleton’s a great story this season, going from signing an AHL contract with the Sharks to seeing significant minutes on their blueline. However, what’s working for him in San Jose might not work for him with another club. Interested teams should tread carefully here.
UPDATE ON THE LEAFS
TSN: Chris Johnston reports his sources indicated the Maple Leafs are looking for help in goal, on defense and on their forward lines. They’ll have to trade someone off their roster to make the dollars fit if they intend to make multiple additions before the trade deadline.
Some recent predictions for the Flames plus the latest on Jake DeBrusk in the first NHL rumor mill of 2022.
PREDICTIONS FOR THE FLAMES IN 2022
TSN: Salim Valji made six predictions for the Calgary Flames in 2022. Among them was his belief general manager Brad Treliving will be active at the March 21 trade deadline by bringing in at least one significant player.
Sportsnet’s Eric Francis believes the Flames will trade for a top defenseman like Giordano or someone else. He pointed out they’ll have to be prepared to pay a high price to bring back their former captain as a number of playoff contenders will also be interested.
Valji also believes the Flames will part ways with center Sean Monahan by buying him out or trading him. The 27-year-old center hasn’t been the same since undergoing hip surgery in the spring. He’s signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $6.375 million and a 10-team no-trade list. They’ll need the cap space to re-sign their key free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Monahan is more likely to occur in the offseason. Even then, it won’t be easy. The decline in his performance over the past couple of seasons hurts his trade value. It could mean retaining half of his cap hit, taking back a toxic contract in return, or attempting to broker a three-team trade to spread around his cap hit at the cost of a quality draft pick or prospect.
A buyout could be the way to go here. Cap Friendly indicates it would cost $2.375 million against the Flames cap in 2022-23 and $2 million the following season.
In other predictions, Valji believes Gaudreau will depart via free agency this summer, Tkachuk signs a three-year deal worth $9.5 million annually and they’ll make a strong pitch via free agency for Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see those predictions for Gaudreau and Tkachuk taking place. However, I don’t think Treliving will convince Kadri to sign with the Flames. Valji observed the center invoked his no-movement clause to block a trade from Toronto to Calgary in 2019. I think Kadri sees his future elsewhere if he hits the open market this summer.
LATEST ON DEBRUSK
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes the return of the taxi squad until February gives the Boston Bruins a better opportunity to honor Jake DeBrusk’s trade request. GM Don Sweeney hasn’t found an offer to his liking, with the 24-year-old winger’s market value said to be a similarly dissatisfied player to a mid-round draft pick.
Shinzawa speculates the Bruins could be forced to accept that draft pick if they hope to move DeBrusk and clear sufficient salary-cap space for Tuukka Rask. It’s believed they intend to bring back the free-agent goaltender later this month as he progresses in his recovery from offseason hip surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could depend on how much it’ll cost the Bruins to sign Rask to what’s expected to be a low-cost, prorated one-year contract. They currently have around $2 million in projected cap space.
Kaplan said she was told a trade could be close (“on the one-yard line”) but details are still being worked out. Sabres general manager Kevin Adams has been working hard to get this done but he’s standing firm on his asking price. The Flames and Golden Knights have yet to meet his full demands.
The timetable for Eichel’s return would see him return to the ice within six weeks of surgery but it could be up to three months before he’s ready for game play. That would take him out of joining Team USA for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Still, the recovery period is two months shorter than it would be if he underwent neck fusion.
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Steve Macfarland noted the Sabres asking price was set months ago consisting of at least four assets not including those that would have to go the other way for salary-cap purposes. He believes the Flames would have to part with a first-round pick, a top prospect and two young roster players, preferably a forward and defenseman under 25.
Macfarland doesn’t see the Sabres being interested in Juuso Valimaki given his struggles this season. The Flames are short on wingers so they’re unlikely to part with Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman or Andrew Mangiapane.
Center Sean Monahan and his $6.375 million annual cap hit would have to go the other way to help offset the addition of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit. McFarland doubts the Flames will acquire Eichel unless general manager Brad Treliving feels he won’t be able to re-sign Gaudreau or if Tkachuk is biding his time as a restricted free agent.
CALGARY SUN: Kristen Anderson also weighed in on the cost for the Flames to acquire Eichel. She pointed out the Flames have just over $1 million in cap space, meaning they must shed salary in addition to perhaps parting with younger players like Valimaki, speedy winger Dillon Dube and promising prospect Jakob Pelletier as part of the deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted yesterday, the salary cap is an issue for the cap-strapped Flames and Golden Knights. The Sabres have made it clear they’re not retaining any portion of Eichel’s cap hit.
Vegas has Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch on long-term injury reserve and can use that flexibility in the short term to add Eichel. However, they must shed salary later in the season when those players return to the lineup.
The Flames, meanwhile, would have to ship out salary immediately to make the dollars fit. That will involve either a direct deal with the Sabres, a separate cost-cutting trade with another club, or a trade involving a third team acting as a third-party broker.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports the Boston Bruins likely won’t be involved in any Eichel trade. He cites a well-placed source saying the Bruins are trying to improve their roster but haven’t been involved in the Eichel trade sweepstakes for a while.
Murphy believes the Bruins lack depth in tradeable assets to tempt the Sabres. His source said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been looking for a defenseman, specifically a top-four rearguard who can produce offense from the blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise the Bruins are out of the bidding for Eichel given the Sabres’ expensive asking price. Most observers have said for months the Bruins lack the assets to make a competitive pitch for Eichel.
Talks got “pretty hot” last week but then cooled. Friedman believes both sides know where they stand and what the issues are. If the Sabres aren’t going to retain any portion of Eichel’s salary, they’ll need to find a third team to help facilitate the deal. That might not be easy as you’d be asking that third team to absorb part of Eichel’s cap hit for the next five years. He wondered what that’s worth to that club.
Friedman also said the talk of Eichel filing a grievance got pushed off last week. However, he’s not sure where that stands right now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal involving a third team perhaps would’ve been done by now if Eichel only had a year or two left on his contract. Asking a club to pick up part of his $10 million annual cap hit for five years is another matter. That’s going to require more than just a first-round pick or a top prospect. It could cost a good young NHL player to be a sufficient sweetener.
Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan (NHL Images).
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington also noted the Sabres’ unwillingness to retain part of Eichel’s cap hit. Pointing out the growing number of Golden Knights players sidelined by injury (Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and William Karlsson), they could use long-term injury reserve to free up cap space for Eichel this season. However, they’ll have to become cap compliant when those players and Eichel return to the lineup later in the season.
Harrington speculates Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams could be contemplating multiple deals. He pointed to NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes saying not to sleep on the Calgary Flames as a suitor. The Flames lack depth in prospects compared to the Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings but the Sabres’ strong start to this season could have Adams seeking more immediate help for his roster.
Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk is probably not in play. Harrington wonders if Elias Lindholm or Sean Monahan might be available. He also noted Flames VP of hockey operations Don Maloney was spotted at the Sabres’ recent games against the Ducks and Kings.
Harrington observes Adams isn’t under any pressure to move Eichel during the season until the center’s no-movement clause kicks in next July. Eichel could file a grievance but it’s not certain he’d win that with the Sabres’ position on his medical treatment supported by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Time is on the Sabres side for now. That won’t be the case if we get to July and no deal has been found for Eichel. The 25-year-old center will then have more leverage over where he could be traded, though by that point he might not be too picky over where he goes.
Salvian suggested Matthew Coronato, Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier, Dillon Dube, Juuso Valimaki and future first-round selections as potential tradeable assets for Eichel. Finding sufficient cap space for Eichel means shedding salary. She wondered if the Sabres would take Monahan as part of the return. Her proposed offer would be Monahan, Zary, Pelletier, a 2022 first-round pick and perhaps a prospect as a sweetener for accepting Monahan in the deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Complicating all this, of course, is how to shed sufficient salary to make this work. Cap Friendly shows the Flames just over $1 million in cap space for this season. Putting Monahan and his $6.375 million AAV in the deal certainly helps but they’ll need to include another salaried player or two or conduct a separate cost-cutting swap with another club. They could try packaging Monahan, Dube and Valimaki (combined $10.225 million) for Eichel but that risks depleting their roster depth.
Monahan, by the way, has a 10-team no-trade clause and might not be keen to join the Sabres. Lindholm ($4.85 million) lacks no-trade protection but the Flames would have to move even more salary in that scenario to make room for Eichel.