NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

Could the Flyers or Blues attempt to sign Mike Hoffman? What’s the deal behind the Sabres’ recent short-term RFA signings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall noted a recent report by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicating a “dozen or so” teams have expressed an interest in Mike Hoffman. However, a source told Hall the Flyers aren’t among the clubs pursuing the unrestricted free-agent winger.

Free-agent winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).

Hall notes Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher likes his club’s prospects on the wing and he still has defenseman Philippe Myers to re-sign. They’re also hoping for a better performance by veteran winger James van Riemsdyk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have $4.8 million in cap space, which will shrink after Myers is signed. Unless they make a cost-cutting move to clear room for Hoffman, don’t expect to see him suit up for the Flyers in 2020-21.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong wouldn’t rule out adding a player like Hoffman. However, such a move would have to make sense dollar-wise for the Blues.

Rutherford noted the Blues already sit $1.2 million above the $81.5 million salary cap with restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn to be signed. They can put sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen (combined AAV of $13.25 million) on long-term injury reserve next season to exceed the cap by that amount, but they must also be cap compliant when those players are ready to return to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It doesn’t look like the Blues will be among Hoffman’s suitors. Rutherford reported Armstrong wants to give more playing time to forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. The Blues GM also remains confident Tarasenko will return at some point in 2020-21.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Buffalo Sabres signing Sam Reinhart, Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour to one-year contracts, as well as their acquisition of Eric Staal, who has a year left on his contract.

O’Brien considers those “prove it” moves in which the players will have to justify longer deals through their performance in 2020-21. He also points out the flexibility it gives the Sabres at the 2021 trade deadline.

If the Sabres are non-contenders by then, they could peddle Hall to wherever he’s willing to accept getting dealt to. O’Brien also doesn’t rule out the possibility of shopping Reinhart by inflating his value, trading him before they have to pay up, and coming out on the better side of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres could use the same approach with Staal and Montour. Of course, that depends on how next season shakes out. If the Sabres are contenders, they won’t be sellers even at the risk of losing Hall, Staal and Montour to next year’s UFA market.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 11, 2020

The latest on Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos, plus a look at yesterday’s notable free-agent signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

UPDATES ON JOHNSON AND STAMKOS

THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson cleared waivers yesterday. The Lightning had hoped a rival club would claim Johnson and clear his $5 million annual average value from their books.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts hope to shed some salary to create cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Trading Johnson is still possible but the Lightning will have to include a sweetener in the deal like a quality draft pick, prospect or young player. He has a full no-trade but has reportedly submitted a list of preferred trade destinations.

TSN: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair an abdominal core muscle. He’s expected to make a full recovery before the start of the 2020-21 season.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos will have plenty of time to recover. The NHL and NHLPA have targeted Jan. 1 for the start date of next season. I believe March 1 could be a more realistic start date, depending on the course of the second wave of COVID-19.

NOTABLE UFA SIGNINGS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed defenseman Tyson Barrie to a one-year, $3.75-million contract and brought back goaltender Mike Smith on a one-year, $2-million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Barrie addition is an affordable short-term acquisition to address Oscar Klefbom’s anticipated lengthy absence as he deals with a nagging shoulder injury. Bringing back Smith, however, doesn’t improve their goaltending, which is their biggest weakness. After failing to find an upgrade via free agency, GM Ken Holland seems unwilling to take a chance in the trade market.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks are reportedly close to bringing back winger Patrick Marleau for a third stint.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marleau’s had a long, productive NHL career, most of it with the Sharks. However, the 41-year-old winger is well past his prime. This could be based more on sentimentality than what he can actually bring to their lineup.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed former Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild opted not to re-sign their long-time captain after the 37-year-old Koivu dropped down their depth chart last season. His best days are behind him but he could still have one decent season left as a fourth-line center with the Jackets.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings signed goaltender Thomas Greiss to a two-year deal with an annual average value of $3.6 million and defenseman Troy Stecher to a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.7 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Two decent short-term deals bringing some much-needed goaltending and blueline depth to the rebuilding Wings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed winger Craig Smith to a three-year deal with a $3.1 million AAV.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes signed winger Jesper Fast to a three-year deal ($2 million AAV).

SPORTSNET: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Cody Eakin to a two-year, $4.5-million contract.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year, $1-million contract.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed forward Johan Larsson to a two-year, $2.8-million contract.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals signed defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year, $800K contract.

NOTABLE RFA SIGNINGS

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The Sharks re-signed winger Kevin Lebanc to a four-year deal worth an AAV of $4.725 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is Lebanc’s reward for only taking a one-year, $1-million contract last year when the Sharks were facing a salary-cap crunch. His production was down last season but that could be due to the Sharks’ overall poor performance last season. This could be a worthwhile contract for the Sharks if Lebanc regains his 56-point form from 2018-19.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed wingers Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin to two-year contracts. Burakovsky’s AAV is $4.9 million while Nichushkin’s is $2.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Both forwards were key contributors to the Avalanche last season. Burakovsky enjoyed a career-best 20 goal, 45 point performance in 58 games last season while Nichushkin has turned into a versatile checking-line forward.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres re-signed defenseman Brandon Montour to a one-year, $3.85-million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montour was the frequent topic of trade speculation last season. It’ll be interesting to see if he has a future in Buffalo beyond next season.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild re-signed winger Jordan Greenway to a two-year, $4.2-million contract.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: The Ottawa Senators acquired forward Austin Watson from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round pick.

NHLPA: 26 NHL players filed yesterday for salary arbitration. The arbitration period begins Oct. 20 and concludes Nov. 8.

Boston Bruins

Matt Grzelcyk

Buffalo Sabres

Victor Olofsson

Sam Reinhart

Linus Ullmark

Calgary Flames

Andrew Mangiapane

Carolina Hurricanes

Clark Bishop

Haydn Fleury

Warren Foegele

Gustav Forsling

Colorado Avalanche

Ryan Graves

Detroit Red Wings

Tyler Bertuzzi

Florida Panthers

MacKenzie Weegar

Minnesota Wild

Kaapo Kahkonen

New York Islanders

Joshua Ho-Sang

Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews

New York Rangers

Tony DeAngelo

Alexandar Georgiev

Brendan Lemieux

Ryan Strome

Ottawa Senators

Connor Brown

Christian Jaros

Nick Paul

Chris Tierney

Toronto Maple Leafs

Ilya Mikheyev

Vancouver Canucks

Jake Virtanen










NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2020

What next for the Golden Knights following their playoff elimination? How are Alex Pietrangelo’s contract talks going? What’s the latest on the Sabres? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Vegas Golden Knights must sort out their goaltending drama. Marc-Andre Fleury was supplanted in the starting goaltender role by Robin Lehner. Wyshynski reported a source claimed Lehner and the Golden Knights have a handshake agreement on a five-year contract extension. He wondered if the Golden Knights are prepared to invest a lot of money in Fleury and Lehner, or if Fleury even wants to stay.

Wyshynski also believes they should reexamine the center position, pointing out Paul Stastny is no longer a reliable second-line center. Unless Chandler Stephenson or Cody Glass can develop into that role, Wyshynski feels they should consider addressing that issue, potentially by moving out Stastny and his $6.5-million cap hit.

THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger speculates a new contract for Lehner could be a five-year, $25-million deal. With over $76.5 million invested in next year’s payroll, they’ll have to shed some salary to make room for Lehner and restricted free agents like Stephenson and Nick Cousins. He also suggests Fleury as a trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the 35-year-old Fleury is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $7 million and a 10-team no-trade list. Even if he agrees to narrow that list, his cap hit and age could make him difficult to move given the current economic conditions and the flooded market for goaltenders.

I’m not saying Fleury can’t be traded. However, the Golden Knights might have to pick up part of that cap hit or perhaps bundle him with a quality draft pick or prospect to facilitate a deal.

Stastny has one year left on his contract. Like Fleury, he has a 10-team no-trade list. At 34, he’s no longer as effective as he once was. His age and cap hit could also be a sticking point but having just one year left on his contract might make him a little easier to move.

PIETRANGELO DISAPPOINTED IN PROGRESS OF CONTRACT TALKS

THE SCORE: Brandon Maron cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reporting Alex Pietrangelo has found it “a little disappointing” that he and the St. Louis Blues haven’t reached an agreement yet on a new contract. The 30-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

Pietrangelo indicated there hasn’t been much progress in contract discussions. While he wants to stay in St. Louis, he understands the difficulty the Blues face re-signing him with just $5 million in salary-cap space. “I think you have to be willing to accept the fact that there may be a change one day,” said Pietrangelo. “Whether it happens or not, it certainly changes your mindset and makes things a little easier if you ever get to that point.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo would prefer staying in St. Louis because his wife is from there and they’ve raised a family there. However, he also noted a number of players have moved on after spending most of their careers in one city. It sounds like he and his wife are preparing for that possibility. There’s still enough time for Pietrangelo and the Blues to hammer out a deal, but that’ll depend upon his asking price and how much cap space they can free up.

LeBrun listed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers as possible destinations for Pietrangelo if he hits the open market. He acknowledged those three clubs have salary-cap issues but didn’t rule out one of them trying to find a way to sign the Blues captain.

LATEST ON THE SABRES

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl noted a recent report by TSN indicating the Buffalo Sabres could have an internal salary cap in the $70-million range. He suggested selling low on defenseman Brandon Montour, find a taker for blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen, and perhaps re-sign some of their restricted free agents to cost-effective one-year deals with the promise of raises next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Sabres currently have over $48.2 million committed to 10 players. Vogl points out re-signing key RFAs like Montour, goalie Linus Ullmark, and forwards Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson and Dominik Kahun could cost a combined $24.5 million, pushing them over $70 million and leaving little room for additions.

Moving Montour for a draft pick and perhaps a prospect will help. Vogl noted they couldn’t find an acceptable for Ristolainen and his $5.4-million cap hit plus head coach Ralph Krueger likes the blueliner’s game.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

Alex Ovechkin, Brenden Dillon, and the Capitals postpone contract talks until after the playoffs, plus the latest on the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said contract extension discussions with Alex Ovechkin are on hold until after the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Given the uncertainty that’s unfolded this year in the NHL, MacLellan indicated both sides want to see how everything pans out.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Ovechkin, 34, has one year remaining on his contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a rumor, of course, but Ovechkin’s contract status could generate interest following this season. The longer he goes without an extension, the more speculation about his future with the Capitals.

Ovechkin’s current contract counts as over $9.538 million annually against the Capitals’ salary-cap payroll. In actual salary, he’s earning $10 million per season.

Despite his age, Ovechkin remains among the NHL’s elite players, winning the Richard Trophy for the ninth time as the league’s leading goal scorer (shared this season with Boston’s David Pastrnak). He’s among the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.

Ovechkin’s also the greatest player in Capitals history, the man who led them to their first Stanley Cup. He’s the face of that franchise. Re-signing him, however, could get interesting. 

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $57 million invested in 13 players to 2021-22, though that figure will rise depending on who they re-sign or add to their roster this season and for how long. Winger Jakub Vrana and goaltender Ilya Samsonov will be restricted free agents next year and due for pay raises. Finding sufficient space for Ovechkin’s new contract, as well as Vrana’s and Samsonov’s, and having enough to fill out the rest of the roster could be challenging. 

I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals don’t work something out. It’ll be fascinating to see how much term and dollars he gets to stay in Washington and the effect the Capitals’ payroll under what could be a flat cap for ’21-’22.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan reports MacLellan also indicated contract negotiations for this year’s pending free agents are on hold until the playoffs are over. That includes defenseman Brenden Dillon, a pending UFA who joined the Capitals from the San Jose Sharks near the February trade deadline. Dillon has expressed interest in re-signing with the Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Radko Gudas are UFAs at the end of this season, while Travis Boyd and Jonas Siegenthaler are restricted free agents. With over $71.1 million invested in 16 players, there’s not a lot of wiggle room there.

Holtby, Kovalchuk, and Gudas are expected to depart via free agency. Boyd and Siegenthaler should be affordable re-signings. Depending on Dillon’s asking price, they might be able to squeeze him into their payroll.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl expressed his belief the Buffalo Sabres’ No.1 job is to find a center for high-prices winger Jeff Skinner.

He doesn’t expect the Sabres will pinch pennies with their roster. However, he acknowledged an off-season comment by team co-owner Kim Pegula where she noted the club had spent toward the cap for years with little to show for it.

Vogl also believes the Sabres must improve their goaltending. He’d be concerned if they should pass up a netminder who’s available for a reasonable price.

Defenseman Brandon Montour could become a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and the Sabres have sufficient right-side blueline depth.

Whether the Sabres plunge into this year’s UFA pool depends on the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given their recent front-office purge, it’s difficult to determine what’s in store for the Sabres under rookie general manager Kevyn Adams. I agree with Vogl regarding their needs, but Adams and company could see things differently. The earliest indications should come in the days following the Stanley Cup Final and leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft.

If the Pegulas get frugal with their payroll, we can expect a younger roster supplemented by cheap, short-term additions via the trade and UFA market. However, that probably won’t sit well with captain Jack Eichel. The Sabres must commit to winning or risk alienating their franchise player.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

Check out recent Flames and Canucks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): During a recent mailbag segment, Scott Cruickshank was asked about recent trade rumors swirling around Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. The 26-year-old has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

There was some speculation suggesting Gaudreau won’t re-sign with the Flames but Cruickshank believes he’s not necessarily gone once his contract is up. He doesn’t think general manager Brad Treliving is actively shopping the winger but believes he’d be nuts not to entertain all offers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Gaudreau’s production this season combined with last spring’s poor playoff performance (a lone assist in five games) gave rise to the trade whispers. A better effort in the upcoming playoff tournament could put some of that talk to rest. Still, the Gaudreau trade chatter could ramp up if the Flames make another early playoff exit.

Cruickshank was asked what it would take for the Flames to acquire Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, as well as Casey Mittelstadt and/or Sam Reinhart. All three are restricted free agents with Montour and Reinhart carrying arbitration rights.

Citing Evolving-Hockey.com, Cruickshank indicates Reinhart could get over $8.7 million annually on an eight-year deal, Montour $4.8 million annually for three years, and Mittelstadt $1.17 annually on a two-year deal. Prying those players from the Sabres would mean parting with some core Flames players, high-level youngsters, and draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Sabres moving Reinhart unless he wants out. So far, there’s no indication he’s unhappy in Buffalo or wants a trade.

Montour’s supplanted Rasmus Ristolainen as the most likely Sabres trade candidate because he reportedly doesn’t fit well into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. Perhaps there’s a fit in Calgary if the Flames lose T.J. Brodie and/or Travis Hamonic to free agency at season’s end.

Mittelstadt is a former first-round pick (eighth overall, 2017) whose slow development has frustrated Sabres followers. I don’t think the Flames would be interested unless he’s part of a package involving a much better player coming to Calgary.

Asked which player he’d try to add if he were Flames GM, Cruickshank suggested Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a big, 26-year-old right-winger who tallied 27 goals in 2018-19, but he also missed most of 2019-20 to a shoulder injury and he’s an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cruickshank feels Anderson would be worth pursuing depending on the Blue Jackets’ asking price and the cost of his new contract. Anderson popped up frequently in media-generated rumors before the February trade deadline. The Flames could have plenty of competition if they attempt to acquire him.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnson reports the Vancouver Canucks patience with Jake Virtanen may be running thin. The 23-year-old winger wasn’t part of their lineup for their exhibition game loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Virtanen’s fitness levels and consistency have been questioned in the past. He was also surpassed by more defensively-responsible forwards like Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter, and Zack MacEwen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was enjoying a career-best performance before the pandemic. He was on pace to finish with 20 goals and 40 points (18 goals, 36 points) when the schedule was interrupted. Nevertheless, his fitness, inconsistency, and seeming unwillingness to improve his defensive play knocked him out of the Canucks lineup against the Jets and could relegate him to the press box for their upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild. 

Virtanen’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but it remains to be seen if he has a future in Vancouver after this season. His name could pop up in the rumor mill if he remains on the sidelines during the playoff tournament.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 8, 2020

Check out the latest on the Golden Knights, Bruins, and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ GOALTENDING

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports the salary cap remaining frozen at $81.5 million for next season makes it tougher for the Vegas Golden Knights to re-sign Robin Lehner. Acquired at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Can the Vegas Golden Knights afford to re-sign Robin Lehner? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Golden Knights have over $74.6 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Lehner will be seeking security after spending the past three seasons on one-year contracts. He could command around $6 million annually on the open market.

If Lehner departs, the Golden Knights must find a backup goalie for Marc-Andre Fleury. It could be recently re-signed Oscar Dansk, an affordable free agent, or perhaps trading for a promising netminder like the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jesse Granger last week suggested the Golden Knights pursue goalies in the trade market who could be left exposed by their current clubs in next summer’s NHL expansion draft. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Antti Raanta, and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen were among his proposed targets.

Andersen won’t be available next season but Murray and Raanta could be. Murray is a restricted free agent so his next contract will take up a big chunk of the Golden Knights’ payroll, meaning they’ll have to send salary the other way. Same goes for Raanta, but the Coyotes wouldn’t want salary back if they’re moving him to clear cap room to re-sign Taylor Hall.

The Golden Knights might prefer more affordable options. Trading for a young, affordable goalie like Georgiev might be the best move.

NO HOMETOWN DISCOUNT FOR DEBRUSK?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the agent for Jake DeBrusk brushed aside talk of his client accepting a hometown discount. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent who’s average 20 goals and 40 points in each of his first three NHL campaigns.

DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, said they’re not considering taking less than market value at this stage. He also pointed to his client’s performance in big games during the playoffs, noting he’s been a top-six winger almost from the moment he first stepped on NHL ice.

During an appearance on NBC Sports Boston Zoom last week, Edmonton Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer suggested DeBrusk was worth between $5.5 million and $6 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. That gives Bruins management leverage to ink him to an affordable bridge deal if necessary. Much will depend on whether they can re-sign defenseman Torey Krug and the cost of keeping him off the UFA market at season’s end.

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked about Brandon Montour‘s future with the Sabres. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent who could cost $5 million annually to re-sign. Given their abundance of right-shot defensemen and their need for help on their forward line, Lysowski feels Montour has enough value to fetch a good return via trade.

Asked about whether Rasmus Ristolainen might be traded, Lysowski noted the coaching staff spoke highly of the blueliner. With head coach Ralph Krueger considering Ristolainen a core player, he probably won’t be moved.

Lysowski also doesn’t see the Sabres shopping their first-round pick (eighth overall) in this year’s draft. He also suggests they sign a UFA goalie to a short-term contract and attempt to find a team that will take the final year of Carter Hutton’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montour frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors because of his difficulties in adjusting to Krueger’s defensive system. He was acquired by now-former general manager Jason Botterill, so I don’t think new GM Kevyn Adams would have any qualms about shopping him for a second-line scoring forward.