NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2020

Check out the latest Buffalo Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty suggests the Buffalo Sabres’ “dumpster fire” might be a good opportunity for the Bruins to look into acquiring Jack Eichel. The Sabres captain was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, providing the Bruins with a local boy possessing superstar potential. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci aging, Eichel would give the Bruins a dominant young center. 

Should the Boston Bruins look into acquiring Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel? (Photo via NHL Images).

Haggerty noted Eichel’s recent exasperation with the Sabres’ ongoing mediocrity, suggesting perhaps he’s tacitly pining for a change of scenery. Acquiring him would be expensive. Haggerty felt it could cost the Bruins promising young center John Beecher, winger Jake DeBrusk, and a robust high draft pick package. They might also have to include a defenseman like Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo, which would be a difficult decision.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Folks may be looking at Eichel’s comments and seeing more than is really there. There’s no question he’s frustrated over the constant losing, and Sabres’ ownership should be concerned if their franchise player isn’t happy. Nevertheless, there’s no indication Eichel wants out of Buffalo…yet.

Another season or two of mediocrity could test Eichel’s patience. If that happens, the Bruins could be among the clubs queuing up to inquire into his availability and the Sabres’ asking price.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently observed Sabres defensemen Brandon Montour and Colin Miller didn’t seem to fit into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. He wouldn’t be shocked if new general manager Kevyn Adams moved them in the off-season for some help on the forward lines. Harrington also noted Krueger really likes Rasmus Ristolainen, suggesting the recent change in management could be a good sign for the 26-year-old defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen, Montour, and Miller frequently surfaced in this season’s trade rumors. Ristolainen suggested he might be among the first to be moved if then-GM Jason Botterill wanted to make changes, but he also sang Kruger’s praises.

With Botterill gone, Ristolainen might not be a trade candidate after all. Montour and/or Miller, however, seem more likely to be moved by new management, especially if Krueger has any say in the matter.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his Sabres postmortem, Matt Larkin noted the Sabres will have over $34 million in salary-cap space to work with during the off-season. He feels that’s enough to re-sign restricted free agents like Montour, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Dominik Kahun, and Linus Ullmark while leaving enough to go shopping in the free-agent market. Given the current status of the club, however, they could be forced to overpay to attract UFA talent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather than chase overpriced UFAs, Adams should target clubs looking to shed salary before next season. With 13 teams carrying payrolls of over $70 million for next season, Adams could pluck away a couple of good young players from cap-strapped rivals.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 5, 2020

Should the Oilers re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Which notable players should the Sabres retain? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell called upon the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once this season is over. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.

Should the Edmonton Oilers attempt to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the off-season (Photo via NHL Images).

Mitchell cited Nugent-Hopkins’ improved offensive game skating on the wing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. A big offensive performance next season could make re-signing him more difficult. He suggested inking Nugent-Hopkins to a six-year, $45-million extension, which would equate to an annual average value of $7.5 million.

Mitchell believes the idea of moving Nugent-Hopkins at next season’s trade deadline is noxious to Oilers’ fans. He feels the Oilers will never get full value back by moving him as a playoff rental. He thinks there’s no one in the Oilers’ system to adequately replace the versatile forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the previous two seasons. His solid play this season and the Oilers’ improvement in the standings silenced that chatter for the most part. However, he could resurface in next season’s rumor mill he’s still unsigned as the trade deadline approaches.

As Mitchell observes, the salary cap will determine what the Oilers can afford to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48 million invested in nine players for 2021-22.

Some of that cap room will be taken up this year by re-signing or replacing such notables as Mike Smith, Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Riley Sheahan. Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell will be among those due for new contracts in 2021.

Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2021-22, there should be enough to accommodate a $7.5 million AAV for Nugent-Hopkins. His performance next season will also be a determining factor.


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski and Mike Harrington weighed in on which notable players the Sabres should retain.

They were split on Rasmus Ristolainen, as Lysowski pointed to the regression in the blueliner’s play. Moving him could fetch some scoring help and free up cap room to sign a free-agent rearguard like Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen often comes up as a Sabres’ trade candidate. However, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger indicated last week they still consider the 25-year-old defenseman among their core players. If so, that suggests Ristolainen won’t be shopped.

Both believe Brandon Montour should be traded. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent and they feel there’s no room for his style of play in Krueger’s system. He could bring the Sabres a second- or third-line forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have depth on the blueline but need more on their forward lines. If Ristolainen isn’t shopped, Montour could become the likely candidate. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility and has arbitration rights this year. Ristolainen, on the other hand, is under contract through 2021-22.

They also split on Jimmy Vesey, with Harrington believing he’s not the scoring winger he was projected to become.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Harrington on this one. A highly-touted college player, Vesey’s struggled in the NHL.

Both believe the Sabres should re-sign UFA winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year deal, part ways with UFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Michael Frolik, and Vladimir Sobotka, and attempt to trade goalie Carter Hutton.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 3, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 3, 2020

Check out recent Blues and Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.


STLTODAY.COM: During a recent live chat with his readers, Tom Timmermann was asked if Blues fans should be worried about Alex Pietrangelo departing via free agency after this season. He didn’t rule out it, suggesting the 30-year-old defenseman will take a business-like approach to the situation. If Pietrangelo gets a better offer from a rival club, Timmermann thinks he’ll take it.

Blues fans remain concerned over Alex Pietrangelo’s future in St. Louis (Photo via NHL Images).

Given the possibility of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, most clubs won’t have the cap space to make Pietrangelo a lavish offer. Nashville Predators blueliner Roman Josi’s annual average value of $9 million is considered the yardstick. Nevertheless, Timmermann feels the Blues will fight hard to keep their captain.

Timmermann’s colleague Benjamin Hochman shares this view, pointing to the Blues’ lack of salary-cap space next season. It could mean shedding one or two players to free up sufficient room. They could trade goaltender Jake Allen and buy out the final season of Alex Steen’s contract, though the Blues rarely do contract buyouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo’s status will remain a hot topic for conjecture until this season is finally over. With $79.4 million tied up in 20 players and restricted free agent Vince Dunn also to be signed, the Blues must shed salary if they hope to re-sign Pietrangelo.

There’s lots of talk among fans and pundits suggesting compliance buyouts could return this off-season to help cap-strapped clubs as a result of the pandemic’s effect upon league revenue. However, if the league and the NHL Players Association agree to maintain the cap at $81.5 million, that could rule out compliance buyouts. If so, the Blues would have to go the conventional route to buy out Steen, which would only free up $2.33 million of his current $5.75 million cap hit for 2020-21.

Speaking of Allen, Timmermann was asked about bundling the goalie with Ivan Barbashev as a cost-cutting move. He feels Allen would be enticing to clubs seeking help between the pipes, but that move would only free up $5.8 million, not enough to re-sign Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Timmermann points out, that’s why folks keep turning to trading or buying out Steen.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Yerdon recently examined the salary-cap issues facing the Buffalo Sabres next season. They’re currently around $1.25 million over the $81.5 million salary cap because of bonuses owed to Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju.

Should Dahlin finish in the top-10 among defensemen in assists, he’ll be owed another $2 million. It would push the Sabres’ overage to $3.275 million, leaving them with $78.225 million available next season.

Yerdon observes the Sabres have over $47 million committed to next season’s cap payroll, but those potential bonus overages make that cap space a bit of a mirage. They could make low-ball offers to their restricted free agents or trade one or two players (like Rasmus Ristolaninen) to loosen the salary cap pressure.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres’ RFAs include Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Brandon Montour, Dominik Kahun, and Linus Ullmark. Their UFAs include Wayne Simmonds, who was acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline.

Re-signing them will take up a sizable chunk of their cap space, leaving less to replace the others or to address their ongoing roster needs. A $3.2 million overage penalty will complicate things.

Ristolainen frequently surfaced as a trade candidate this season, as did Montour whenever pundits discussed the Sabres’ need for another scoring forward. One or both could get moved before next season.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Travis Jost suggests Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli could be an intriguing fit for the Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cirelli would be an intriguing fit for any NHL club. However, I don’t believe the Lightning intend to move him. He’s a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract without arbitration rights.

With over $76 million invested in 15 players, the Bolts don’t have enough cap space to re-sign him and their other free agents. However, media speculation suggests they could look at moving one or two veterans (like Alex Killorn) to clear space to re-sign Cirelli and Sergachev to affordable bridge contracts.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

No April Fool’s here. Check out the latest on Braden Holtby and Tuukka Rask, plus an update on the Buffalo Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks observed this year might not be an opportune time for Braden Holtby to become an unrestricted free agent. The Washington Capitals goaltender has a save percentage of .897 this season.

Would Braden Holtby be a good fit with the San Jose Sharks? (Photo via NHL Images)

Nevertheless, Brooks wondered if the San Jose Sharks might feel differently. He pointed out they’ve been undone by dreadful goaltending over the last two seasons, ranking next-to-last in overall save percentage and last in five-on-five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that the decline in Holtby’s stats will hurt his efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract as a UFA this year. I disagree, however, with the premise that Sharks might feel differently.

Not that they don’t need an upgrade between the pipes. That’s obvious to everyone.

Martin Jones‘ performance has declined over the last two years. However, he’s also signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $5.75 million and a three-team trade list. Unless Jones’ salary is shed via a compliance buyout (assuming the league goes that route following this season) or the normal buyout route, the Sharks can’t afford Holtby.


NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Tuukka Rask sought to clarify his recent comment suggesting he might retire when his contract expires at the end of next season. He claimed he hasn’t made any decisions regarding his future. Given the current situation, it’s not on his mind right now.

“I’m sure we’re going to have good conversations with (Don Sweeney) after this season and go from there,” said Rask during an interview with WEEI’s Greg Hill. “But I’m only 34, so it’s not too old, might play another year or two and go from there. I don’t want to promise anything either way because you never know what’s going to happen.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Rask decides to play beyond next season, he’ll likely be looking at a short-term extension with the Bruins or a short contract with another club. With no immediate replacement for Rask in the pipeline, they could ink him to a two-year deal to buy time to groom his successor or shop for one via trade or free agency..


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski believes Sabres general manager Jason Botterill needs to make a significant trade to add a second-line center or top-six winger. He doesn’t feel the solution can be found via free agency, noting the Sabres’ haven’t had much luck in that department.

The Sabres aren’t in a position where they can trade away draft picks or prospects. Lysowski suggested peddling a defenseman like Rasmus Ristolainen or Brandon Montour for a talent forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Easier said than done. Ristolainen was a fixture in the rumor mill since last summer, but criticism of his play hurt his trade value. Montour could be a better trade option, but there’s no certainty he’ll fetch a scoring forward.

Nevertheless, with over $47 million invested in 10 players, Botterill is well-positioned to target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary, or those in need of blueline help. Perhaps he’ll have better luck addressing his needs in the off-season.

NHL Trade & Free Agent Candidates – Buffalo Sabres

NHL Trade & Free Agent Candidates – Buffalo Sabres


NHL Rumor Mill – March 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 21, 2020

The NHL schedule remains paused, but the off-season trade and free agent rumor mill grind on. Check out the recent speculation on the Devils, Sabres, and Golden Knights in the NHL rumor mill.


NJ.COM: The fate of Cory Schneider was among Abbey Mastracco’s five questions facing the New Jersey Devils while the season is paused. Goaltending was the Devils’ Achilles heel over the past two seasons, in part because of the 34-year-old Schneider’s struggles between the pipes. They need a reliable backup for Mackenzie Blackwood. Buying out Schneider is an option, but promising Gilles Senn isn’t expected to be NHL-ready next season.

Cory Schneider faces an uncertain future with the New Jersey Devils (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mastracco observed buying out Schneider isn’t ideal, but if there’s a management change, a new GM will want to make his own decisions about the future of the club. If Schneider doesn’t fit into their plans, a buyout of the remaining two years of his contract (worth $6 million annually) could be in the cards.

Some observers speculate the projected revenue losses brought about by this pandemic could prompt the league and the NHLPA to introduce amnesty contract buyouts for next season. If they do, I think it’s a safe bet the Devils will go that route to shed Schneider’s contract. They could use part of the savings to sign a reliable backup for Blackwood.


THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked how the Buffalo Sabres will address their backup goaltending situation. Carter Hutton‘s struggles make it difficult to envision him on the roster next season. General manager Jason Botterill isn’t a fan of contract buyouts and it’s difficult to say what next season’s salary cap will look like. If they can find someone to take Hutton off their hands, Lysowski expects they’ll try to find a cheap backup option.

Lysowski was also asked about the Sabres’ options to fill their second-line center position. He doubts they’ll go the free-agent route, suggesting instead using an asset like defenseman Brandon Montour to acquire a center via the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hutton has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of $2.75 million. If the league and the NHLPA agree to allow amnesty contract buyouts for next season, Botterill could use that option to shed Hutton’s contract. For now, of course, that tactic is merely speculation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sabres GM shops a defenseman like Montour or Rasmus Ristolainen to bring in a second-line center.


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jesse Granger was asked about the Vegas Golden Knights’ backup goalie situation if Robin Lehner isn’t re-signed. While there are plenty of options in this summer’s UFA market, Granger feels the Golden Knights could wait until next season’s trade deadline to address that need. The Seattle expansion draft will be held next summer, and he thinks a rival club could try to trade a goalie to Vegas rather than lose him for nothing to Seattle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That sounds good in theory, assuming aging starter Marc-Andre Fleury remains healthy and sharp throughout next season and they can find a good, short-term option as his backup until the trade deadline. However, the long grind of a regular season can take its toll, which could force them into the market for help. They would risk not dealing from a position of strength then.