NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2018

The latest on Erik Karlsson, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Rick Nash in your NHL rumor mill.

The Vancouver Canucks reportedly expressed interest in Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson (Photo via NHL Images).

KARLSSON TO THE CANUCKS?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman took to Twitter yesterday claiming trade talks involving Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had recently picked up. He said the likely destinations appear to be in the Western Conference, with the Vancouver Canucks joining those clubs with interest in the all-star blueliner.

Friedman’s colleague John Shannon subsequently reported Canucks general manager Jim Benning said there is no truth that his team has become involved in trade conversations regarding Karlsson.

Iain MacIntyre also weighed in on Benning’s comments, as well as his claim that he’s not trading young players and prospects such as Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. MacIntyre also tweeted that if the Canucks had looked into Karlsson’s trade status it was likely due diligence, something Friedman agreed with. Friedman also believes the Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks remain the front-runners for Karlsson.

MacIntyre also noted Karlsson would have to agree to accept a trade to the rebuilding Canucks. They would also have to pay him something akin to Drew Doughty’s new eight-year, $88-million contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

THE PROVINCE: Even if the Canucks were able to land Karlsson, Ben Kuzma doubts he’ll do much to bolster their popgun defense. He believes it could take “a first-round pick, roster player and two prospects to pry Karlsson out of Ottawa.” Kuzma also reported that recent trade speculation linked the Canucks to Boston Bruins rearguard Torey Krug.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch also reported the Karlsson rumor mill has recently returned to life. Like Friedman, he believes the Golden Knights, Stars and Sharks have revisited their interest in the Senators captain. It’s not known if the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-entered the talks but Garrioch feels it would make sense if they did.

Garrioch said this recent uptick in trade discussions suggests Karlsson might be moved before the start of the season. He also noted Benning’s public denial about the Canucks’ rumored interest in Karlsson but that won’t stop people from speculating.

BSN DENVER’s Adrian Dater said he’s heard nothing regarding any possible involvement by the Colorado Avalanche in the recently reheated Karlsson trade chatter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Benning isn’t going to publicly admit he’s interested in Karlsson as that would constitute tampering, something he got fined for two years ago. Nevertheless, I agree with MacIntyre’s assessment. If Benning did inquire, it was likely to “kick the tires” regading the Senators’ asking price. Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion would almost certainly want one or two of those young players Benning is unwilling to part with. I also have my doubts over Karlsson’s willingness to join a rebuilding club at this stage in his career.

As for the other clubs, I don’t think the Sharks have the available assets to pull this off. We know the Stars and Lightning were reportedly very interested in Karlsson earlier this summer, but the former is unwilling to part with top prospect Miro Heiskanen while the latter must free up sufficient salary to absorb Karlsson’s $6.5-million salary-cap hit. 

The Golden Knights were reportedly close to landing Karlsson at the trade deadline. They still have the depth in prospects, young players and cap space to make this happen. The question is, are they still as interested in getting him as they were in February? 

UPDATES ON PANARIN, BOBROVSKY AND NASH

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports the chances of the Columbus Blue Jackets trading Artemi Panarin appear slim. There was interest in the 26-year-old left wing earlier this summer but the offers were only for “futures” such as draft picks and prospects.

Panarin hasn’t provided the Jackets with a list of preferred trade options. There’s speculation the New York Rangers are his destination of choice but his agent denies this. Portzline feels the Rangers won’t swing a trade for a player they could sign via free agency next July. He thinks the Jackets could try to work out a deal with another club and then ask Panarin if he’d consider signing a contract extension with that team.

Portzline doesn’t rule out the New York Islanders as a possibility for Panarin, as he’s said to have high respect for Isles GM Lou Lamoriello. The winger’s purchase of a Miami condo raised conjecture the Florida Panthers could be a destination but it’s apparently over an hour away from the Panthers’ arena and is more of a getaway property rather than a permanent address. Still, Portzline feels the Panthers are the obvious trade target for the Blue Jackets. However, if the Rangers get involved, it could dampen interest from other teams.

Portzline also reports there’s been no recent active contract negotiations between the Blue Jackets and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent next July. The gap between the two sides is significant, with Bobrovsky believed to be seeking “Carey Price money”, which would be an eight-year contract worth $10.5 million per season.

Given how the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has struggled in the playoffs, the Jackets could be reluctant to make him the league’s highest-paid goalie. However, Portzline doesn’t see them trading their starting goalie before the start of this season.

There’s a slim hope Bobrovsky and Panarin could re-sign with the Jackets this season. A solid performance by the club throughout 2018-19 could convince both to stay.

Portzline also reports Blue Jacket GM Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson met with unrestricted free agent Rick Nash last month to discuss his future and a possible return to the Blue Jackets. The meeting apparently went well, though the 34-year-old Nash has yet to reach a decision regarding his playing career due to an accumulation of injuries. If he does decide to return to action, Portzline suggests it could be with Columbus or another team with a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless a rival club is willing to step up with an offer of a young scoring forward who can help the Jackets now and in the long term, I doubt Kekalainen will trade Panarin before the season begins. However, he could be forced to reconsider as the Feb. 25 trade deadline approaches, especially if the Jackets slide out of playoff contention by that point. By that point, interested clubs could consider Panarin a rental player and could be unwilling to part with established talent to get him. If the Jackets are still holding down a playoff spot by then, they’ll likely hang onto him and take their chances.

Bobrovsky could also hit the trade block by the deadline if the Jackets are out of the playoff picture by then. Like Panarin, I expect they’ll hang onto him for the postseason and hope to re-sign him before July 1. But if he struggles again in the playoffs, the Jackets could start looking at other options.

As for Nash, returning to the city where his NHL career began and where he had his best seasons would be a nice way to bring his playing days to a close. Given his history of concussion injuries, It remains to be seen if this storybook ending takes place.  

 











Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?

LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.

He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki. 

SPORTSNET’S LIST OF NOTABLE REMAINING UFAs.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future. 

The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play. 

 











Notable NHL Free-Agent Signings – July 1, 2018

Notable NHL Free-Agent Signings – July 1, 2018

The NHL free-agent market opens today at noon ET. Here’s a list of today’s notable signings, which will be updated throughout the day. 

Toronto Maple Leafs signed center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77-million contract

Toronto Maple Leafs sign John Tavares to a seven-year contract (Photo via NHL Images)

Philadelphia Flyers reportedly signed left wing James van Riemsdyk to a five-year, $35-million contract. 

Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed defenseman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract extension worth $6.75 million per season.

Arizona Coyotes officially announced the signing of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year contract extension worth $8.25 million AAV. They also re-signed defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a two-year contract extension worth $5 million AAV, and signed free-agent winger Michael Grabner to a three-year deal worth $3.35 million per season. 

Vegas Golden Knights will sign center Paul Stastny to a three-year contract. The annual average value is $6.5 million. They’ve also signed defenseman Nick Holden to a two-year deal worth $2.2 million annually. 

Pittsburgh Penguins will reportedly sign defenseman Jack Johnson to a five-year, $16.25-million contract. They’ve also signed Matt Cullen to a one-year, $650K contract

St. Louis Blues expected to sign winger David Perron to a four-year deal worth $4 million per season. The Blues have also signed center Tyler Bozak to a three-year contract with an AAV of $5 million and goaltender Chad Johnson to a one-year, $1.75-million deal. 

Colorado Avalanche reportedly close to signing defenseman Ian Cole to a three-year contact worth an annual cap hit of $4.25 million.

Chicago Blackhawks sign goaltender Cam Ward to a one-year, $3-million contract with a full no-movement clause. They’ve also signed winger Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $1-million contract and defenseman Brandon Manning to a two-year deal. 

Boston Bruins expected to sign goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year contract worth $2.75 million annually. They also signed winger Joakim Nordstrom to a two-year, $2 million deal and defenseman John Moore to a five-year contract worth an AAV of $2.75 million.

Columbus Blue Jackets sign center Riley Nash to a three-year contract worth $2.75-million per season. 

Buffalo Sabres will reportedly sign goaltender Carter Hutton to a three-year, $8.25-million contract.

New York Islanders have an agreement in place to bring back defenseman Thomas Hickey on a four-year deal worth an AAV of $2.5 million. They also signed forward Leo Komarov to a four-year, $12-million contract.

Detroit Red Wings expected to sign goaltender Jonathan Bernier to a three-year deal worth around $3 million annually and forward Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $3-million contract. 

Edmonton Oilers will sign forward Kyle Brodziak to a two-year deal with an AAV of around $1 million and forward Tobias Rieder to a one-year, $2-million contract.  

Dallas Stars expected to sign forward Blake Comeau to a three-year deal worth $2.4 million per season. They’ve also re-signed winger Valeri Nichushkin to a two-year deal worth $2.95-million annually. Roman Polak is reportedly heading to the Stars on a one-year contract worth $1.3 million.

Vancouver Canucks are expected to sign center Jay Beagle to a four-year contract worth $3 million annually and forward Antoine Roussel to a four-year deal worth $3.25 million per season. 

Calgary Flames expected to sign center Derek Ryan to a three-year deal worth an AAV of $3.125 million and center Austin Czarnik to a two-year deal worth $1.25-million annually. 

Carolina Hurricanes sign goaltender Petr Mrazek to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. 

Montreal Canadiens are expected to announced the signing of center Tomas Plekanec to a one-year deal worth a base salary of $2.25 million plus bonuses. 

Minnesota Wild will reportedly sign defenseman Greg Pateryn to a three-year contract and signed goaltender Andrew Hammond. 

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2018

Rick Nash facing uncertain future, Capitals to re-sign Michal Kempny, an update on Auston Watson and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The agent for Boston Bruins pending free agent winger Rick Nash said his client remains undecided over continuing his playing career. Five teams were reportedly interested in signing Nash but they’ve been made aware of his situation. He has decided to withdraw himself from the start of the UFA signing season to ponder his future. Health is his primary concern as he’s suffered several concussions during his player career. 

Free-agent winger Rick Nash is taking time to evaluate his future (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take some time for Nash to decide if he’ll retire or continue his playing career. A final decision could come by late-August or early-September before the start of training camp. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals are reportedly on the verge of re-signing defenseman Michal Kempny to a multi-year contract. Terms have yet to be disclosed. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in February, Kempny went on to earn top-pairing minutes with the Capitals during the playoffs. His addition played a crucial role in their march to the Stanley Cup this spring. He is coming off a one-year, $900K contract. 

THE TENNESSEAN: The domestic assault hearing for Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been postponed to July 24. He was arrested and charged on June 16.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: The NHL and the Senators are denying a report claiming the club’s owner, Eugene Melnyk, was attempting to sell the franchise. “Eugene has no interest in selling the Senators,” said league deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “Offers are made for NHL teams all the time. Doesn’t really mean anything.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The speculation was sparked by the Senators recently completing a $135-million refinancing of a six-year debt “with a syndicate of financial institutions.” Media consensus suggests this is proof Melnyk doesn’t intend on selling the club anytime soon. 

SPORTNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday announced “Dave Morrison has been promoted to Director of Player Personnel, Troy Bodie has been promoted to Director of Pro Scouting and Wes Clark has been hired as Assistant Director of Player Personnel.”

THE ATHLETIC’S James Mirtle reports “Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Caron, Nikolai Ladygin, Evgeny Namestnikov and Tommy Albelin have all left the organization.”

ARIZONA SPORTS: To no one’s surprise, the Arizona Coyotes’ salary-cap payroll for next season will be near the $58.8-million cap minimum. 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Steve Rosenbloom laments the fact former Blackhawks star Steve Larmer was once again passed over for selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 15 NHL seasons (13 with the Blackhawks), he amassed 441 goals and 1,012 points in 1,006 games. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1982-83 and a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994. 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2018

Updates on John Tavares, Paul Stastny, Jack Johnson and more in your NHL rumor mill.

THE TAVARES WATCH

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins made their pitches yesterday to New York Islanders center and pending free agent John Tavares at his agent’s office in Los Angeles. The Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs made their presentations to Tavares on Monday and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars will meet with him today. It’s possible other teams could also get an opportunity to talk to him. Tavares is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at noon ET on July 1.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith lists the ways the Lightning could squeeze Tavares under their salary-cap ceiling if he agrees to sign with them. Trading Tyler Johnson or the recently re-signed J.T. Miller or buying out or trading Ryan Callahan next summer are three of his proposed options.

WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports Tavares’ decision could affect the Jets’ plans to re-sign center Paul Stastny. The two sides have mutual interest in working toward a new contract, but the Jets have several notable restricted free agents (including Connor Hellebuyck and Jacob Trouba) to re-sign. As a result, they might be unable to afford Stastny if teams that lose out in the bidding for Tavares look toward the Jets center as an alternative.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has acknowledged he’ll have to make some adjustments if his bid for Tavares proves successful. Someone will have to be moved in a cost-cutting deal.

As for the Jets and Stastny, I believe it was Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman who suggested they could free up cap space if they can find a taker for backup goaltender Steve Mason and his $4.1-million cap hit. Easier said than done, perhaps, but it could be possible. There are several clubs seeking goaltending depth this summer, including the Islanders. that have the cap room to take on Mason’s contract. 

The Montreal Canadiens are believed among several clubs with interest in Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny (Photo via NHL Images)

CANADIENS NEWS

TSN: The Montreal Canadiens are among several teams reportedly with interest in Jets center Paul Stastny.

JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: cites a report by TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggesting we shouldn’t be surprised if Tomas Plekanec returns to the Habs this summer. The Canadiens traded Plekanec at the trade deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Canadiens’ need for depth at center it’s not surprising they’re among the suitors for Stastny and considering bringing back Plekanec. Forget about them becoming a late suitor for John Tavares, as he’s already informed them he’s not interested in coming to Montreal. 

PENGUINS INTERESTED IN JOHNSON

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports a source claiming there’s mutual interest between the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets pending UFA defenseman Jack Johnson. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has apparently been lobbying for his club to pursue his old friend. GM Jim Rutherford has acknowledged his intention to make at least one move to give himself more salary-cap flexibility.

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe notes the Penguins’ re-signing of Bryan Rust yesterday to a four-year, $14-million contract leaves them with just over $4 million in salary-cap space. He expects Rutherford will likely re-sign center Riley Sheahan and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. He also wants to add another forward and defenseman.

Yohe lists winger Conor Sheary ($3 million annually), defenseman Matt Hunwick ($2.25 million), winger Carl Hagelin ($4 million) and center Derick Brassard ($5 million cap hit, $3.5 million in actual salary) as potential trade candidates. He considers trading winger Phil Kessel or defenseman Kris Letang “quite unlikely to happen at this time”, as Rutherford “pointedly shot down such ideas during his sit-down with reporters in his office on Monday.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Rutherford intends to sign Johnson he’ll definitely have to dump some salary. Of those trade candidates, Brassard would likely attract the most interest. There’s a market for quality centers and interest in Brassard could increase once Tavares and Stastny are off the UFA market. Sheary’s youth and Hagelin’s speed could make them enticing trade options. 

**UPDATE** The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick to the Buffalo Sabres for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That move clears over $5.2 million from the Penguins salary-cap payroll, giving them over $69 million invested in 17 players. Looks like Rutherford is setting up to make a significant acquisition soon. 

CANUCKS UPDATE

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports the Vancouver Canucks have reached out to the agent of Boston Bruins pending free-agent center Riley Nash, who believes the Canucks could be poised for a turnaround in their fortunes in the near future.

SPORTSNET’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Canucks are among four-five teams with interest in Los Angeles Kings UFA winger Tobias Rieder.

LATEST ON LEHNER AND MAROON

THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports Buffalo Sabres UFA goaltender Robin Lehner made an in-person visit to Detroit yesterday to meet with Red Wings management and coaches. The Wings are seeking to fill their backup goaltender position, which could be an appealing destination as starter Jimmy Howard is oft-injured and entering the final season of his contract. The Wings have also spoken with former Wings forwards Valtteri Filppula and Thomas Vanek.

 

 

 











NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2018

Latest on John Tavares, James Neal, Erik Karlsson, Rick Nash and more in your NHL rumor mill.

TAVARES WATCH

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are believed among the five teams expected to meet today with New York Islanders pending free-agent center John Tavares at his agent’s office in Los Angeles. The Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights could also be involved.

The Leafs, who don’t have much depth at center for 2018-19, wouldn’t mind bringing back Tyler Bozak, who’s also due to become a UFA on July 1. However, Koshan doubts they’d signed him to another contract paying him $4.2 million annually.

NBC BOSTON: The Boston Bruins haven’t ruled out getting into the Tavares sweepstakes. As of yesterday, they hadn’t been told if they’re among the clubs he’s willing to meet with but they very much would like to be.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro reports the Stars would have to shed some salary to make room for Tavares if they’re successful in wooing him to Dallas. Trading Jason Spezza or buying out the final year of his contract ($7.5 million cap hit) would be the best option.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports it was unclear if the Golden Knights were among the clubs Tavares is willing to meet with today in Los Angeles. GM George McPhee declined to comment. Scuttlebutt among league executives during the recent 2018 NHL Draft suggested Tavares could re-sign with the Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that meet with pending UFAs during the interview period usually prefer to keep it quiet. The reports regarding the Tavares interviews are merely speculating over which clubs could be involved. I don’t doubt most of the teams mentioned are interested in him but there’s no certainty they’ll be able to sway him into leaving the Islanders. 

LATEST ON KARLSSON, NASH, NEAL, PERRON AND KUNITZ

FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman discussing Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson with Jeff Marek during their latest “31 Thoughts” podcast. He believes the Dallas Stars could be a stealth candidate to acquire the Senators captain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would probably be if they lose out in the bidding for John Tavares, as they can’t afford both. Landing Karlsson would cost the Stars more than just money, as they’ll have to make a significant trade offer to the Senators, plus they’ll also likely have to take winger Bobby Ryan and his $7.25-million cap hit off the Sens’ hands. With center Tyler Seguin due to become a UFA next summer, the cost of re-signing him and Karlsson could be too much for the Stars.

TSN: cites a report by The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline saying Boston Bruins pending UFA winger Rick Nash is seeking a multiyear deal and has his former club, the Columbus Blue Jackets, at the top of his list. Portzline also said the Blue Jackets are showing more interest in Nash, who could also re-sign with the Bruins or elsewhere if he believes he can win a Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports out of Boston over the weekend had Nash mulling his future to determine if he wanted to continue his NHL career after years of wear and tear. Evidently, he’s still keen to keep playing. The 34-year-old winger won’t get expensive long-term offers but could receive two- or three-year offers worth between $4 – $5 million annually. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports pending UFA forwards James Neal and David Perron were unable to reach terms on new contracts with the Golden Knights. They’ve begun fielding offers from other clubs when the UFA interview period opened Sunday.

Perron seeks a long-term deal after completing a two-year contract. Neal reportedly rejected a five-year, $25-million offer from the Golden Knights at the February trade deadline, apparently seeking a long-term deal worth between $6.5-$7 million annually. 

Vegas Golden Knights winger James Neal is listening to offers from rival clubs (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both players could circle back to the Golden Knights if they don’t find any suitable offers from other clubs. They could also see if the Knights will match offers.

Neal’s agent said if his client hasn’t re-signed by July 1 that “common sense” suggests he’s not coming back. Both players said they loved playing in Vegas and prefer to stay. We’ll find out soon enough where their futures lie.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports a source said the Penguins have interest in bringing back winger Chris Kunitz, though anything they due is contingent on creating extra salary-cap space.

LATEST ON THE RANGERS AND BLACKHAWKS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the most critical decision facing Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is whether to trade Kevin Hayes or Mika Zibanejad. Hayes, a restricted free agent, seeks a five-year deal worth $5.5 million annually, which is comparable to the five-year, $5.3-million annually deal signed last summer by Zibanejad. Though they play different styles, their offensive production is essentially the same. Brooks said the Rangers intend to clear room to allow Filip Chytil an opportunity to claim a top-six role. 

Brooks also believes the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to clear the $5.3-million annual cap hit of sidelined and all-but-retired winger Nathan Horton if they succeed in wooing John Tavares. He wonders if the Rangers, who have “oodles of cap space”, “might be able to work out a deal for a young asset and/or a second-rounder for Horton.” He also believes the Rangers have interest in bringing back winger Michael Grabner but the chances of Rick Nash coming back are negligible. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Gorton wants to move Zibanejad or Hayes perhaps he should give the Montreal Canadiens a call. They’re in desperate need of depth at center. If the Leafs do land Tavares, moving Horton’s rights could be an option to free up cap space, though they’ll certainly have to include a promising young player or a decent draft pick as part of the deal. 

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus reports the Blackhawks off-season priorities are landing a top-four defenseman, a backup goaltender, a scoring left wing and a taker for Marian Hossa’s contract. He wonders if GM Stan Bowman will attempt to move Connor Murphy ($3.85 million cap hit) to free up space for a free agent such as Ian Cole or Calvin de Haan, or swing a trade for someone like Carolina’s Justin Faulk.

A source said the Blackhawks were among the clubs reaching out to St. Louis Blue pending UFA goalie Carter Hutton. He also suggests if they can find a way to land a scorer like Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk via free agency or Montreal’s Max Pacioretty or Carolina’s Justin Faulk via trade they should do it. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting a top-four blueliner and a reliable backup are the Blackhawks top priorities. Sure, they could always use another scorer but they’ve got sufficient firepower right now to start the season. They can also put Hossa’s contract on long-term injured reserve to start the season if they’re in need of additional cap room.