Patrick Kane says he didn’t know anything about sexual assault allegations against the Blackhawks former video coach, the Canadiens will host the 2022 Draft, James Neal is among the latest PTO signings & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said he has participated in the investigation into allegations the club’s former video coach sexually assaulted two players in 2010. The 32-year-old winger denied having any knowledge about the incidents at the time.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s remarks run counter to those of former teammate Nick Boynton, who claimed everyone knew about the incidents during an interview with the lawyers hired by the Blackhawks to investigate the allegations. “I said talk to Torch (former assistant coach John Torchetti). I called out Brian Campbell, and said talk to Patrick Sharp and talk to Kaner (Patrick Kane),” he told TSN on July 29.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The NHL announced Friday the 2022 Draft will be held in Montreal at the Bell Centre on Thursday, July 7 and Friday, July 8. The 2020 Draft was originally scheduled to be held there but was instead conducted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The first round will be on Thursday evening and rounds two through seven the following day.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Returning to a live venue should significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for teams to make their selections. The recent virtual drafts saw teams take an inordinate amount of time selecting prospects, with each round taking much longer to complete.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announced the signing of wingers James Neal and Michael Frolik to professional tryout contracts.
TORONTO SUN: Nikita Gusev was invited to Maple Leafs training camp on a professional tryout offer.
TSN: The New Jersey Devils inked center Fredrik Gauthier to a PTO.
SPORTSNET: Zack Smith is hanging up his skates after 12 NHL seasons, all but one with the Ottawa Senators from 2008-09 to 2018-19. He spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Smith, 33, tallied 98 goals and 204 points in 662 career regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Smith and his family in his future endeavors.
PHILLY.COM: Former NHL forward Lou Angotti passed away Thursday at age 83. He spent 10 seasons in the league from 1964-65 to 1973-74 with the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. Angotti was the Flyers’ first-ever captain. He had 103 goals and 289 points in 653 career NHL contests. He also went on to coach the Blues for two seasons (1973-74 to 1974-75) and the Penguins in 1983-84.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Angotti’s family, friends and former teammates.
Columbus Blue Jackets player Zac Rinaldo gave a short speech against vaccine passports at a PPC party rally this week.
“I’m not anti-vax, I’m not anti-mask. I’m pro choice.”
Updates on Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas while several notable unrestricted free agents could become tryout targets. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek was asked about St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s status in a recent mailbag segment. He doesn’t consider the 29-year-old’s contract as untradeable because this summer’s proved there’s no such thing, pointing to Tyler Johnson, Andrew Ladd and Loui Eriksson getting moved for a price.
ST. LOUIS, MO SEPTEMBER 12: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season on September 12, 2019 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)
Tarasenko has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million. However, Duhatschek points out the winger will earn $9.5 million in actual salary this season, dropping to $5.5 million next season.
Despite Tarasenko’s trade request, Duhatschek speculates the winger will report to the Blues if he’s not moved when training camp opens next week. He feels the two sides will “make nice” and coexist while his salary-cap dollars click off and teams get an opportunity to evaluate his skill level following his third shoulder surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the window for moving Tarasenko during the offseason has closed. Concerns over his thrice-repaired shoulder and his contract have made teams leery of meeting what could be an expensive asking price from the Blues. Most teams have also invested most of their cap space into the coming season’s rosters.
As Duhatschek points out, things could change quickly and perhaps Tarasenko gets traded before camp opens. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spends this season with the Blues and gets traded next summer. Teams will have more cap space and a willingness to take on his lower actual salary for 2022-23.
Jeremy Rutherford reports the contract standoff continues between the Blues and restricted free agent Robert Thomas. The 22-year-old forward is coming off his entry-level deal with little leverage except if he signs an offer sheet with a rival club.
The Blues have almost no cap space left for the coming season. If a team signed Thomas for between $2.055 million and $4.11 million and the Blues declined to match, they’d receive a second-round pick as compensation.
Rutherford suggested the Arizona Coyotes as a possibility. General manager Bill Armstrong knows Thomas well, having drafted him when he was the Blues director of amateur scouting. He also has five second-round picks in next year’s draft. So far, however, there’s no indication Armstrong will make that move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Armstrong doesn’t want to cross his former team. Perhaps he’s not that keen on Thomas. Or maybe he intends to use those picks as trade chips for better options between now and next year’s draft.
As for Thomas and the Blues’ cap situation, they’re expected to place sidelined Oskar Sundqvist on long-term injury reserve to start the season. That’ll give them sufficient room to sign Thomas for perhaps $2 million on a one-year deal. They’ll have to shed salary when Sundqvist returns but other ways could be found to accomplish that. Maybe a deal for Tarasenko will have emerged by then.
NOTE: My original note incorrectly stated Bill Armstrong was related to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. I apologize for any confusion my error may have caused.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary has taken its toll on the UFA market. Several of those veterans would’ve landed affordable short-term contracts with NHL clubs by now. Some of them could avoid the PTO route by inking one-year deals for under $1 million. Others, however, could find themselves waiting in vain for any type of NHL offer.
Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market
Cap Friendly shows slim pickings for talent three weeks after the NHL annual free-agent market opened on July 28. As usual, most of the top players were quickly signed within hours of the market opening, with the remainder snapped up over the next several days.
Several recognizable names remain but almost all are now past their playing prime. With training camps set to open in a little over a month, those still available could end up accepting cheap one-year deals or professional tryout offers in hope of landing a contract.
Still, for teams seeking experienced depth at bargain-bin prices, several noteworthy options remain obtainable.
Tuukka Rask is among several notable players still available in the 2021 NHL free-agent market (NHL Images).
Tuukka Rask is sidelined until the New Year recovering from off-season hip surgery. It’s believed he’s only interested in returning with the Boston Bruins, who could keep a spot open for him. The former Vezina Trophy winner could be worth pursuing later this season if he and the Bruins part ways before the trade deadline.
Devan Dubnyk is still waiting for a contract. The 35-year-old struggled as a backup last season with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Still, he could be worth the gamble on a PTO for teams with a young starter seeking an experienced mentor.
Henrik Lundqvist hinted he’d be up to a comeback if he receives medical clearance. Heart surgery sidelined him for all of last season. The 39-year-old “King Henrik” is no longer an elite netminder but could be a worthwhile backup if he gets a clean bill of health.
Zdeno Chara had a good performance last season as a third-pairing defensemen with the Washington Capitals. The 44-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is training in Slovakia and hasn’t made any decisions about this season. He’d bring plenty of experience and leadership to any blueline if he decides to return for one more year.
Jason Demers could be a worthwhile addition for teams seeking an experienced third-pairing right-shot defender. The same goes for Sami Vatanen though his long injury history hurts his value.
Erik Gustafsson’s puck-moving abilities could be useful for teams looking for a power-play specialist on the blue line. Erik Gudbranson’s toughness and leadership keep earning him work despite the decline in his defensive game.
Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Casey Cizikas are still available but speculation suggests they’ve already been signed by the New York Islanders. It’s believed Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want his rivals to know how much cap space he’s actually got left as rumors persist he’s shopping for a top-six forward.
On the eve of the free-agent market, the Avalanche re-sign Gabriel Landeskog, the Lightning trade Tyler Johnson to the Blackhawks and the Canucks ship Nate Schmidt to the Jets. Get the details plus other signings and trades in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed Gabriel Landeskog to an eight-year, $56 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million.
The Colorado Avalanche re-sign captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big name off the market just hours before free agency begins at noon ET today. The cap hit isn’t too bad but the term is lengthy for a forward turning 29 in November. Still, it should be worthwhile during the first half of the deal if Landeskog’s performance doesn’t decline during that period. It could get costly over the latter half of the contract if his skills deteriorate.
Landeskog is the Avs’ captain and their first-line left-winger. They need his skill and leadership to remain a Stanley Cup contender over the next four years. His cap hit, however, leaves the Avs with $12.3 million in cap space for 2021-22. That could make it difficult to re-sign goaltender Philipp Grubauer and to fill out the remaining roster spots.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Tampa Bay Lightning trade winger Tyler Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Brent Seabrook’s contract and a second-round pick in 2023.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning were expected to trade Johnson this summer to free up salary-cap space. By taking on the permanently sidelined Seabrook’s contract, they’ll free up around $5 million in cap space by placing him on long-term injury reserve. That contract is worth an annual average value of $6.875 million through 2023-24.
Johnson’s contract also expires in ’23-’24 and he carries a $5 million annual cap hit. The Blackhawks now have around $2.5 million in cap room, though they can get $3.9 million more if necessary by placing permanently sidelined forward Andrew Shaw on LTIR.
THE PROVINCE/WINNIPEG SUN: The Vancouver Canucks trade defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a third-round pick in 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A salary dump by the Canucks, shedding $5.95 million through 2024-25 from their books. With over $26 million in cap space, they have sufficient room to re-sign young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. It should also allow them to fend off any offer sheet attempts for Pettersson.
The Jets, meanwhile, add their second defenseman in as many days after acquiring Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals. A lack of depth among their top-four blueliners was an area of concern last season. Schmidt and Dillon should help them address that issue.
THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken are expected to sign winger Jaden Schwartz when the free-agent market opens at noon ET today.
SPORTSNET: Patrik Laine is accepting the Columbus Blue Jackets’ $7.5 million qualifying offer for 2021-22.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins are reportedly closing in on a new contract for center David Krejci.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins have re-signed defenseman Mike Reilly to a three-year deal worth $3 million per season.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Joel Armia to a four-year, $13.6 million contract. The annual average value is $3.4 million.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers are reportedly re-signing defenseman Brandon Montour to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million per season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are expected to sign defenseman Keith Yandle to a one-year, $900K contract. Yandle was bought out of his former contract by the Florida Panthers.
NEW YORK POST: The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to sign former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.
WGR550.COM: The Buffalo Sabres re-signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year, $750K contract.
TSN: The Winnipeg Jets re-signed goaltender Eric Comrie to a one-year, $750K deal.
THE PROVINCE: The Canucks bought out the final season of goaltender Braden Holtby’s contract.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks bought out the remaining three years of goaltender Martin Jones’ contract.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers bought out the remaining two years of winger James Neal’s contract. They’re also believed to be working on a four-year contract extension for defenseman Darnell Nurse.
THE DENVER POST: The Avalanche acquired defenseman Kurtis MacDermid from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2023 fourth-rounder.
A look at some of this summer’s potential buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli listed 10 buyout candidates who could enter this summer’s free-agent market. The first window for contract buyouts opens 24 hours following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final and closes at 5 PM EST on July 27.
Tony DeAngelo is expected to be bought out of his contract later this month (NHL Images).
Topping his list is New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. The Blueshirts have reportedly finalized plans to buy out the final season ($4.8 million annual average value) of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo has played his final game with the Rangers. While his defensive game needs work he’s a skillful puck-moving blueliner. Given his personal baggage, however, the question is whether another NHL club will take a chance on him. Rumors linked him to the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens before the April 12 trade deadline.
Seravalli pointed out Oilers general manager Ken Holland has hinted at buying out one or two contracts this summer. The 33-year-old Neal has two years with an annual average value of $5.75 million.
Johnson missed all but four games this season to injury but Seravalli observed he wasn’t on the list of players exempted from the upcoming expansion draft due to injury. He suggested placing Johnson on long-term injury reserve might be the better way to go for the Avs. Johnson has two years left at $6 million annually.
Yandle was a healthy scratch during the Panthers’ playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 34-year-old has two years remaining on his deal with an AAV of $6.35 million.
Seravalli suggests the Sharks buy out Jones and use the cap savings to put toward his replacement. The 31-year-old netminder has three years remaining at $5.75 million AAV.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could buy out Neal but there’s also talk of shipping him to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Duncan Keith, whereby the Blackhawks would buy him out.
Putting Johnson on LTIR sounds like a better option. However, a buyout might be the only choice if it appears he’ll be healthy to return next season. The Avs need cap space to re-sign Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Gabriel Landeskog.
Yandle surfaced in the rumor mill back in January when it appeared he would become a healthy scratch to start the season, putting his Ironman streak in jeopardy. That talk died down when the 34-year-old blueliner never missed a game during the regular season.
There might be a trade market for Yandle if he agrees to waive his no-movement clause. However, the Panthers would either have to absorb part of his cap hit, take back a bad contract, or try to work a three-way deal.
Jones has really struggled over the last three seasons. The Sharks need more consistency between the pipes. Buying him out, however, would result in six years of dead cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly) totaling over $12 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Parise buyout seems unlikely. It’s eight years of dead cap space. They’d get a $2.3 million cap hit for next season, but it jumps to over $6.3 million in 2022-23 and over $7.3 million annually for the following two seasons. The only real cap relief would come in the final four years at over $833k per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks tried to trade Virtanen but couldn’t find any takers. A buyout seems likely given his on-ice struggles and off-ice issues.
Bishop missed all of the 2021-22 schedule recovering from knee surgery but Seravalli indicated he worked out with the club toward the end of the season. He could be bought out if healthy but they might not go that route if Anton Khudobin is selected in the expansion draft. Seravalli suggests a buyout of Bishop would enable them to protect Khudobin as Jake Oettinger is exempt but that might not be in their plans.
Seravalli pointed out the Canadiens put Byron on waivers three times during the regular season. However, his performance in this year’s playoffs probably means he’ll be back next season. The Habs could consider other options to free up some cap space.
Milano only played six games last season with the Ducks. With a year left on his contract at $1.7 million, he could become a buyout candidate, though the savings ($500K) are minimal.
What would be a fair return for Mitch Marner if the Leafs shopped him in the trade market? Should the Jets shop Kyle Connor for a defenseman? What moves should the Oilers make this summer? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: In his latest Toronto Maple Leafs mailbag, Luke Fox was asked if the club could win a Mitch Marner trade. While acknowledging the front office’s belief in the 24-year-old playmaker, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas would want a return that fits with his bet-on-young skill vision that helps the club now. He also doesn’t foresee Marner requesting a trade.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).
He doubted Dubas would accept someone like Columbus’ Patrik Laine or Seth Jones or Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk in return. However, he could listen if the Buffalo Sabres offered up center Jack Eichel.
John Tavares’ injury highlights the Leafs lack of center depth. Fox suggests shifting Tavares to the wing as he ages and his foot speed slows.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox also said Eichel’s neck injury would be a huge caveat, adding they shouldn’t make that move unless certain he’s fully recovered.
Eichel for Marner straight up would work in terms of player value and cap dollars. Nevertheless, I doubt it’s a move we’ll see take place between these two long-standing rivals.
Fox was also asked which players the Leafs should add to address the lack of killer instinct team president Brendan Shanahan felt his club still needs. He wondered if Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf or Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny would accept a Joe Thornton deal, or if Colorado’s Brandon Saad would come more cheaply than Zach Hyman.
His other suggested options include Minnesota’s Nick Bonino, Vegas’ Mattias Janmark and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak. He also proposed it would be great to see what a healthy Nick Foligno could do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas will have to engage in more salary-cap gymnastics given his club’s limited cap space to address that need. I think Getzlaf re-signs with Anaheim or retires. Stastny might be a possibility. Saad could cost more than Hyman.
The Wild could re-sign Bonino if he’s willing to accept a pay cut from his current $4.1 million cap hit. If not, he could be a good option for the Leafs. Janmark and Oleksiak could also be worthwhile cost-effective additions.
Foligno could also help if he’s fully healthy but that depends on whether he sees a future in Toronto or if they feel they should look toward younger alternatives.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma wondered if the Vancouver Canucks would be interested in Alex Kerfoot. The Leafs aren’t expected to protect the 26-year-old center in next month’s expansion draft. They need to clear cap space if they hope to re-sign Zach Hyman. The Leafs can’t afford to take back salary but perhaps they’d accept a draft pick or prospect.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuzma noted the Canucks pursue Kerfoot four years ago as a college free agent before he signed with the Colorado Avalanche. He could be an affordable option to bolster the Canucks’ depth at center.
SHOULD THE JETS SHOP CONNOR FOR A DEFENSEMAN?
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes it’s time for the Jets to pay the price to acquire some high-end defensive talent if they wish to be more than playoff also-rans. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all departed since the Jets marched to the 2018 Western Conference Final.
McIntyre doubts we’ll see any significant off-season activity out of Winnipeg based on their history. However, he wonders at what point general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be forced to consider moving a core player to balance a lineup that isn’t good enough.
Other than goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and perhaps winger Nikolaj Ehlers, McIntyre doesn’t believe there should be an untouchable on the Jets roster. He proposed shopping winger Kyle Connor, who struggled in the Montreal series after center Mark Scheifele was suspended. The Jets’ crop of promising young skaters like Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins and Cole Perfetti could give them the freedom to use Connor as trade bait to address their blueline issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff has occasionally made a big move during his tenure as Jets GM, the latest being his swap of Patrick Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois. For the most part, however, he tends to be patient, sometimes to a fault.
The Jets GM could surprise us with a major offseason move. Like McIntyre, however, I don’t expect him to shop a core player like Connor this summer. He could instead look for affordable options via trade or free agency while preparing to promote promising youngsters like Ville Heinola or Dylan Samberg into the lineup.
THE LATEST ON THE OILERS
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited NHL insider Kevin Allen’s three main offseason proposals for the Oilers. They include pursuing a younger goalie like Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo or the New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov via trade, or Frederik Andersen or Linus Ullmark via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old Mike Smith for another season but could shop Mikko Koskinen. The Islanders aren’t in a hurry in shop Varlamov but inquiring with the Jackets about Merzlikins or Korpisalo makes sense. It wouldn’t hurt to kick tires on Andersen or Ullmark.
Allen also suggested the Oilers try to come up with enough assets to bundle with James Neal to get a rebuilding club with cap space (Detroit Red Wings) to take the winger off their hands.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Holland will consider that option. The assets in that package, however, could be more than he’s willing to part with. A contract buyout remains possible for Neal if he isn’t moved in a cost-cutting deal.
Allen also recommended re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson and then calling the New York Rangers about Tony DeAngelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers are working on the first two. DeAngelo’s character issues are a red flag but there could be clubs interested in the puck-moving defenseman. If the Oilers were interested, they could wait until he’s bought out of his current contract and then sign him as a free agent.