NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 24, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 24, 2019

Updates on the Stanley Cup Finalists, Islanders re-sign Brock Nelson, Oilers reportedly to hire Dave Tippett as head coach, and the Senators hire D.J. Smith as head coach. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Over 16,000 fans turned out for a Bruins intra-scrimmage game last night at Boston’s TD Garden. Bruins winger Brad Marchand left the game after jamming his left hand in a collision with Connor Clifton but returned to finish the contest. 

STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Vince Dunn has resumed skating after missing the last three games of the Western Conference Final. Dunn was sidelined after taking a puck to the face during Game 3. He’s believed to be dealing with concussion symptoms. There’s no timetable for his return. 

NEWSDAY: The New York Islanders re-signed center Brock Nelson to a six-year, $36-million contract. Nelson was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s completing a one-year, $4.25-million deal. 

New York Islanders re-sign center Brock Nelson (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a considerable pay raise for Nelson, who’s coming off a career-high 53-point performance.  Cap Friendly indicates the deal ($6 million annual average value) comes with a full no-trade clause in the first two years and a modified no-trade for the remaining term.

Such is the market value for a second-line center under a constantly rising salary cap. I anticipated Nelson would get at most $5.5 million on a five-year contract. 

Newsday’s Arthur Staple anticipated Islanders captain Anders Lee can expect a deal (from the Isles or someone else) worth $7 million annually. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Dave Tippett is the new head coach of the Oilers. The hiring could be formally announced as early as today. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tippett has 14 seasons of NHL head-coaching experience under his belt. However, there’s some concern over whether he can coach the new up-tempo style prevalent around the league. If he can’t, there won’t be much change in the Oilers’ fortunes. 

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators introduced D.J. Smith as their new head coach. Smith was an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I like this hire by the Senators. Smith spent four seasons with the Leafs. Before that, he spent three seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. In 2014-15, he guided the Generals to the OHL championship and the Memorial Cup. He has lots of experience with young players, which should prove invaluable for the rebuilding Senators. 

Speaking of the Leafs, they hired former Florida Panthers assistant coach Paul McFarland as Smith’s replacement. 

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Two members of the San Jose Sharks dealt with multiple injuries during the playoffs. Captain Joe Pavelski suffered a head injury in the opening round. He also aggravated a knee injury in Game 5 of the Conference Final and had surgery on his left hand. Tomas Hertl suffered a head injury in Game 5 of the Final and broke his left pinkie finger in the opening round.

Erik Karlsson confirmed he reaggravated a lower-body injury and hopes to avoid off-season surgery. Joe Thornton suffered a groin injury in the conference final.

Thornton also said he hasn’t reached a decision yet on his future. If he does return for one more season, he said it’ll only be with the Sharks. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Thornton has another year left in him. I also expect the Sharks will re-sign captain Pavelski. I don’t believe they can afford to re-sign Karlsson. 

MLIVE.COM:  Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin will be fine after being struck in the groin by a shot during a game against Canada in the IIHF World Championships. Larkin missed the remaining games for Team USA, who were eliminated yesterday by Russia. 

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild have hired Mike Modano as an executive advisor to Craig Leipold, the club owner. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings cut ties with defenseman Slava Voynov after his season-long suspension was cut in half by an independent arbitrator. Voynov pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor corporal injury to his spouse in 2015. He was suspended indefinitely by the NHL and spent two months in jail before returning to Russia. The conviction was expunged last summer, but the league levied a one-year suspension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Voynov can sign with an NHL club after 41 games this coming season. Given the reason behind his suspension, I doubt any NHL team will risk the public backlash. 

SPORTSNET: Jacques Martin will be staying with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach. He was interviewed by the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators for their head-coaching positions. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Speaking of the Penguins, they re-signed defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year deal worth $700K per season.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks hired Tomas Mitell as an assistant coach. 

ESPN.COM: On a non-NHL note, the National Women’s Hockey League “is increasing salaries, offering a 50-50 split of sponsor-related revenues and improved benefits in an agreement reached with its players’ association.”

NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2019

Updates on Evgeni Malkin, Milan Lucic, Patrick Marleau, Matt Duchene, Jason Zucker, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a couple of NHL executives who felt there was something to the Evgeni Malkin trade rumors now think the speculation will die down. They suggest the goal of Penguins management was to rattle Malkin’s cage. The long-time Penguins center had a disappointing season, and some believe he could’ve played better. 

Will the Evgeni Malkin trade rumors die down? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t put much stock in the Malkin trade speculation. It arose because general manager Jim Rutherford declined to say he wouldn’t shop the veteran center.

If Rutherford was serious about trading Malkin, finding a deal wouldn’t be easy. He has a full no-movement clause and can kill any trade. He also carries a hefty salary-cap hit ($9.5 million annually for three more seasons). The Penguins would set a high asking price, one most clubs would be reluctant to pay for a 32-year-old center.

I’m not suggesting Malkin can’t be traded. Such a move, however, would be difficult to achieve. 

Before the Edmonton Oilers hired Ken Holland as general manager, they considered buying out Milan Lucic’s contract if a workable trade couldn’t be found. The first four years will be expensive, but the cap hit drops to only $625K per season through the final four years. Friedman also said the Oilers’ asking price for Lucic was “unreasonable” a year ago. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates a Lucic buyout would result in a $3.625-million cap hit in 2019-20, jumping to $5.625 million in 2020-21, dropping to $4.125 million in 2021-22 and rising to $5.625 million in 2022-23.

Trading Lucic would be preferable to a buyout but he’ll have to be packaged with a significant sweetener. The other option is taking back a toxic contract that could be less painful to buy out, but that could prove easier said than done. 

Friedman points out an “odd quirk” in the contract of Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Patrick Marleau. His signing bonus is paid in two installments (July and December), which “adds a wrinkle” to any possible trade. He points out Marleau still controls his future. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Malkin, Marleau has a full no-movement clause. Maybe a club would be willing to take him off the Leafs’ hands after July 1, when the first installment of his signing bonus is paid, but only with his blessing.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will have about $30 million in salary-cap room for next season. Friedman wonders if they’ll use that to target cap-strapped clubs or take a more patient approach. Center Matt Duchene is a UFA this summer and is expected to keep his options open. The Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens could be interested in him. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets are going to lose Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency on July 1. GM Jarmo Kekalainen mortgaged part of his club’s future to land Duchene. He’ll have nothing to show for his investment if Duchene follows Panarin and Bobrovsky out the door. Kekalainen could be forced to overpay to keep the center in Columbus. 

Friedman wonders what the future holds for Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and winger Jason Zucker. Spurgeon, 30, is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. Friedman claims there’s plenty of interest in the veteran blueliner, who is among the Wild’s few tradeable assets. He reminds us Zucker was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline and there’s always interest in scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Friedman that it would be surprising if Zucker returns with the Wild next season. GM Paul Fenton purged his roster of veterans he considered under-achievers in favor of younger, affordable talent. Zucker could be next.

As for Spurgeon, he reportedly wants to say in Minnesota and Fenton is keen to keep him. Much will depend, of course, on how expensive he’ll be to re-sign and for how long. 

Friedman wonders what Cale Makar’s arrival on the Colorado Avalanche means for Tyson Barrie. The latter is a year away from UFA eligibility and has come up in previous trade chatter. Friedman said they’ve indicated to interested teams that it’ll take a “hockey trade” to get him. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie’s fate could also depend upon how costly he’ll be to re-sign. GM Joe Sakic could attempt to re-sign him to an extension this summer. If Barrie proves too expensive to retain, Sakic could entertain trade offers. 

It’s assumed the Winnipeg Jets will lose defenseman Tyler Myers to the UFA market. However, Friedman suggests that’ll depend upon whether they trade Jacob Trouba and what they get in return. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With restricted free agents Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine in line for significant raises, the Jets can’t afford to re-sign Trouba and Myers. If they get a return of affordable young talent in return for Trouba, they could keep Myers in the fold. His asking price will also be a determining factor. Anything north of $6 million annually could be too expensive.

Friedman wondered how the Vegas Golden Knights will get under the salary cap for 2019-20. Defenseman Colin Miller fell out of favor and could be available but Vegas won’t be giving him away. Friedman feels there could be interest in Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have no choice but to “give away” a salaried player or two to free up sufficient cap room. Cap Friendly indicates their projected salary-cap hit is over $82.3 million for 2019-20. Karlsson is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. If they intend on re-signing him, they must shed salary.

They’ll get some cap relief by placing permanently sidelined David Clarkson ($5.25 million) on long-term injury reserve. However, they can’t do that until the start of the season. They could try to trade his dead cap space by bundling his rights with a draft pick or prospect to a budget-minded club that must reach the cap minimum. Miller’s been mentioned as a trade candidate, as well as center Cody Eakin. 

The Vancouver Canucks will explore all possibilities regarding their blueline. It’s possible only one of Alex Edler, Ben Hutton and/or Chris Tanev return next season. 

Friedman said the New York Islanders are working away at getting pending UFA center Brock Nelson under contract.

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2019

Looking ahead for the Blue Jackets, plus the latest on the Islanders and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters believe the Columbus Blue Jackets should make a push to re-sign Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Failing that, they’ll have to find suitable replacements this summer. Panarin and Bobrovsky are expected to test this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Rumors link Panarin to the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. There’s a sliver of hope that Bobrovsky could have a change of heart and re-sign with the Jackets. 

Has Artemi Panarin played his final game with the Columbus Blue Jackets? (Photo via NHL Images)

Forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are also slated to become UFAs this summer. Both were acquired from the Ottawa Senators before the trade deadline. Duchene fit in well with the Jackets but Dzingel saw diminished ice time during the playoffs. 

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline said Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene, Dzingel, and Adam McQuaid are all expected to depart via free agency this summer. President of hockey operations John Davidson could depart to take on a similar role with the New York Rangers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Panarin, Dzingel, and McQuaid won’t be back. Bobrovsky could stay if the Jackets are willing to open the vault. However, he could get some tempting offers from rival clubs looking for an established starting goaltender. I also think Duchene would be willing to return for the right price, perhaps over $8 million per season on a long-term deal.

Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have over $52.3 million invested in 16 players. Assuming an $83 million cap and provided ownership is willing to spend, they’ll have over $30 million to re-sign some of those UFA or find replacements via trade or free agency. The Jackets won’t be able to draw upon their draft picks as trade bait. They have just two picks in this year’s draft and five in next year’s. 


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports the New York Islanders will face decisions with pending UFAs Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Robin Lehner. General manager Lou Lamoriello expressed interest in re-signing all of them. Cyrgalis believes Lamoriello would love to bring in a high-impact forward such as Columbus’s Artemi Panarin. Adding more offensive skill might allow head coach Barry Trotz to loosen the reins on his tight-checking defensive system.

Cygalis notes Lee is interested in returning. Over the weekend, however, Cyrgalis suggested Mark Stone’s new eight-year, $76-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights could be used as a starting point. He also feels Eberle is the most likely to depart while Lehner and Nelson are toss-ups. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lee’s representative could use Stone’s contract as a comparable but I doubt he’ll get that much from the Isles or anyone else. He earned $3.75-million per season on his current contract. Lee turns 29 in July and I expect Lamoriello will offer up something between $6 – $6.5 million per season on a five-year deal.

I also expect Lamoriello will do all he can to keep Lehner in the fold. As a Vezina finalist, he will be expensive to retain. His reps could seek something in the neighborhood of $7 million per season. I agree that Nelson’s a toss-up and Eberle is probably a goner.


THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo recently listed Jared Spurgeon, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin among his list of Minnesota Wild player who could be on the move this summer.

Spurgeon is a year away from UFA eligibility. If it appears a contract extension is impossible to reach this summer, Russo suggested the defenseman’s trade value could be high at this year’s draft. He pointed out the Toronto Maple Leafs need a right-shot blueliner. 

Zucker is coming off a down year and was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. With GM Paul Fenton committed to a roster rebuild, the winger could be a prime trade candidate. Russo wouldn’t be surprised if Fenton explored Brodin’s trade value. However, moving him out could be a risk because veteran blueliner Ryan Suter isn’t getting any younger. 

During a recent mailbag segment, Russo was asked which impact players the Wild should pursue this summer. He suggested Columbus center Matt Duchene and Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner. He also thinks one of the Islanders UFA forwards (Eberle, Nelson or Lee) would be a good fit. 

Russo wondered if Fenton looks into Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen or revisits his interest in William Nylander. If Spurgeon is traded, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers might be a good replacement. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Fenton will be among this summer’s busiest general managers. He already shook things up during the regular season, swapping Nino Niederreiter for Viktor Rask, Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato, and Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala. Zucker could be next.

If Fenton decides to move Spurgeon I can see the Leafs expressing interest, though finding sufficient cap space to re-sign him will be difficult. If Spurgeon is re-signed, maybe he’ll look at shopping Brodin.

The Wild have over $62.4 million invested in 14 players, with all their core players under contract. Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek are restricted free agents and should be affordable re-signings. If Fenton ships out Zucker and either Spurgeon or Brodin, he’ll want affordable young NHL-ready players in return. If he goes shopping for UFA help, I expect he’ll look for twenty-something talent. 

NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2019

A look at the Islanders’ potential offseason plans, the latest Oilers GM speculation, and an update on Ryan Miller in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello faces “a massive amount of questions” this summer. They have “a gaggle of free agents” plus “a handful of attractive trade pieces”. He feels they must add some “high-end skills” to supplement their defensive style.

Robin Lehner is among four notable New York Islanders’ unrestricted free agents this summer. (Photo via NHL Images)

Cygalis’ colleague Larry Brooks expects changes are coming. Goaltender Robin Lehner, captain Anders Lee, center Brock Nelson, and winger Jordan Eberle are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Brooks believes Eberle is “essentially out the door”.

The Islanders could have up to $34 million in salary cap room this summer but Lamoriello might not spend all of it. Brooks wonders if the Isles GM will get into a bidding war with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin. He also pondered the possibility of Lamoriello attempting to sign Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner to an offer sheet.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters expect Lee to be re-signed and recommend retaining Nelson. The contract term for Eberle could become a sticking point for Lamoriello. Lehner will command a big raise but Kaplan and Peters wonder if the Isles GM will instead attempt to sign Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.

They also wonder if Lamoriello will pursue a high-end forward like Panarin or Matt Duchene.

Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss has a year remaining on his contract. He could be traded if promising Ilya Sorokin cracks the roster next season. Center Valtteri Filppula could return on another one-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have over $47 million invested in 16 players. They’ll have plenty of cap room to re-sign their key free agents and bring in a high-end player or two. Lamoriello has a reputation for frugalness but he’s also willing to pay big raises to deserving players.

As long as the Lehner camp doesn’t seek Carey Price money, I expect he’ll return with the Islanders. I can see Lamoriello offering big bucks to Lehner on a two-year deal with the promise of more money to come on his next deal if he maintains his Vezina-worthy form. The netminder could feel a sense of loyalty to the Isles for taking a chance on him and perhaps agree to such a deal. We’ll see.

Lee seems keen to stay with the Islanders and Lamoriello probably doesn’t want to lose another captain two years in a row. Dollars shouldn’t be an issue but I recall reading somewhere that Lamoriello won’t want to go beyond five years for Lee.

Eberle has probably played his final game with the Islanders while Nelson’s status appears hazy. He’s coming off a career regular season and played well in the opening round sweep of the Penguins. However, he didn’t have a good series against the Hurricanes. Time will tell if that affects his contract negotiations with Lamoriello.

I expect Lamoriello will attempt to land a skilled player or two via free agency or trades. He’s got the cap space to make a competitive bid via free agency. He’ll also have to sell his prospective UFA targets on why the Isles are worth joining. The club’s improvement this season and the presence of well-respected head coach Barry Trotz should help.

Speaking of trades, I expect winger Joshua Ho-Sang will be shopped this summer. He’s struggled to crack the Isles roster under two different GMs and head coaches. He won’t fetch much on his own but could be bundled into a package offer.

As for an offer sheet, you can’t rule anything out with Lamoriello. However, he’s never gone that route before and could remain unwilling to go down that path.


SPORTSNET: Mark Spector reported sources claim the Edmonton Oilers are going all-in trying to woo Detroit Red Wings senior VP Ken Holland into becoming their new general manager. The two sides have reportedly conducted extensive negotiations, with Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson offering Holland complete autonomy to hire and fire at will.

The two sides could reach an agreement over the weekend with an official announcement of the hiring to be made next week. If Holland doesn’t accept the job, Mark Hunter, Sean Burke, and Oilers interim GM Keith Gretzky would remain in the running. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, Holland would take over full control of the Oilers’ hockey operations department. That would rule out the possibility of any meddling from the so-called “Old Boys Network” of former Oilers among the front-office staff. Indeed, it could mean some of those people would be replaced by Holland. It’s a tempting offer for the former Wings GM, who’s been shunted aside in Detroit since Steve Yzerman took over that job.

If Holland accepts he’ll bring a stellar resume with him. The Red Wings were among the league’s dominant teams for most of his 22-year tenure as general manager. During that period, they appeared in four Stanley Cup Finals and won three championships. He also has a solid reputation at the draft table, selecting such notables as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Dylan Larkin. Critics, however, point to his tendency to overpay in the free-agent market and the Wings decline during his final years as GM.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds. 


NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2019

What changes are in store for the Detroit Red Wings under new GM Steve Yzerman? Which scorers could the Arizona Coyotes pursue this summer? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.


MLIVE.COM: Prior to yesterday’s press conference announcing Steve Yzerman was taking over as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Ansar Khan looked at what could be on Yzerman’s “to-do” list in the coming months. Decisions will have to be reached regarding pending unrestricted free agent Niklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek, and Luke Witkowski. Yzerman’s predecessor Ken Holland indicated a willingness to re-sign the Kronwall if the 38-year-old blueliner is willing to return for one more season. 

Will Steve Yzerman make a big move in his first summer as GM of the Detroit Red Wings? (Photo via NHL.com)

Khan wondered if forwards Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen become buyout candidates. “It would cost $9.1 million over eight years to buy out Abdelkader” while Nielsen “would cost $6.33 million over six years to buy out, with hefty cap hits of $3.8 million and $4.8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22, respectively.” Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has one year remaining on his deal and Khan doubts he’ll be bought out.

Yzerman’s name might be a selling point if the Wings new GM goes shopping for experienced talent via this summer’s UFA market. Holland recently estimated the Wings could have between $15-$20 million in cap space, but Khan believes they must also ensure they leave sufficient long-term room for Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi when those youngsters become restricted free agents next summer. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: John Niyo believes Yzerman’s arrival buys the Wings some time to complete their roster rebuild. He noted Yzerman acknowledging there’s plenty of work to do and his call for Wings fans to be patient. He points to Yzerman’s tenure as Lightning GM when he wasn’t afraid of making bold moves (trading Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis), convinced current Bolts stars like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov to accept below-market contracts and invested heavily in player development. 

Niyo also suggested there are buyouts to consider, such as Ericsson or Trevor Daley, while others (Abdelkader, Nielsen, Darren Helm) could be too difficult to get out from under. While Yzerman’s cachet could help the Wings land some big fish in the free-agent pool, he doesn’t sound as though he’ll be going that route just yet, pointing to his remarks downplaying a pursuit of UFA talent while putting an emphasis on drafting and developing talent. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Yzerman does this summer. I agree with Niyo that it’s unlikely he’ll be a major player in the UFA market, but I can see him exploring the trade market to see what’s available that might help his club.

As per Cap Friendly, the Wings have just over $71 million invested in 18 players, but they’ll get nearly $10 million in cap relief to start the season by placing all-but-retired forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on long-term injury reserve at the start of the season. They could get another $5.375 million if Mike Green’s ongoing liver ailment prevents him from continuing his playing career. 

The Wings also hold three second-round picks and two fifth-round selections in this year’s draft plus two seconds and two thirds in next year’s draft to draw upon for trade bait.  Yzerman could also dip into his club’s growing pool of young players and prospects but I don’t see him drawing too much from that well.

Yzerman could use the combination of his cap space and depth in draft picks to target a club facing a salary-cap crunch in need of shedding salary. He won’t be looking at aging expensive veterans like Edmonton’s Milan Lucic or Chicago’s Brent Seabrook but it wouldn’t be surprising if he targeted the Toronto Maple Leafs for a young forward like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson or the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba.   

Some Edmonton pundits think Ken Holland would be a good fit as the Oilers new general manager but he’s reportedly taken himself out of the running for that job and will stay on as the Wings’ senior vice-president


ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Arizona Coyotes need scoring and Richard Morin believes Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner would be a great fit. However, budget constraints likely mean the Coyotes can afford him, which could force GM John Chayka to get creative and find more affordable options. Morin suggested New York Islanders forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle and Columbus’ Ryan Dzingel as possible free-agent targets. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Chayka returned to the offseason trade market, perhaps by targeting clubs looking to move salary. 

THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan also looked at several scorers the Coyotes could target via trade or free agency. He notes Chayka pointed out his club needs scoring wingers and not centers, though Morgan believes they’d take on a first-line center if one became available. A right-shot, top-four defenseman would also help. 

Chayka also indicated he would prefer adding players in the prime of their careers or just entering their prime. Expensive options such as Columbus’ Artemi Panarin or Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner would be out of their price range. 

Morgan also listed Lee, Nelson, Eberle, and Dzingel as possible UFA options. Others could include Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds, Winnipeg’s Kevin Hayes, San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist or Washington’s Brett Connolly. Given the Coyotes’ budget constraints, Morgan rules out Chaya going the offer-sheet route. 

Morgan also thinks Chayka could get creative in the trade market. He suggested perhaps the Coyotes GM could use his cap space to pry away one of the Leafs’ promising young forwards (Kapanen, Johnsson or William Nylander) by offering to take on the final year of winger Patrick Marleau’s contract ($6.25 million cap hit), though Marleau’s no-trade clause could complicate things. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chayka’s been busy in the trade market since becoming the Coyotes GM in 2016. Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Alex Goligoski were among his trade acquisitions. I expect he’ll go the trade route again to bring in a top-six winger, using his depth in promising youngsters and draft picks to target cap-strapped clubs.  

NHL Rumor Mill – April 13, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – April 13, 2019

Updates on the Islanders and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports Islanders pending unrestricted free agents Anders Lee, Robin Lehner, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson are showing general manager Lou Lamoriello what type of players they are with their performances down the stretch and in their playoff series against Pittsburgh. Lamoriello acknowledged everyone is talking about their free agents, adding they want to keep them and will try to do so. 

Cyrgalis suggests Eberle could be playing his way off Long Island. The 28-year-old has performed very well since being reunited on center Mathew Barzal’s line, scoring five goals in his final seven regular-season contests and tallying a goal and an assist in each of the Isles two games thus far against the Penguins in their opening-round series. Should Eberle continue playing this well over the remainder of the postseason, Cyrgalis believes suitors will be lining up for his services. 

A strong playoff could boost New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle’s UFA value (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello will face some difficult decisions regarding his “Big Four” UFAs. Cap Friendly indicates the Isles have over $47 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20, giving Lamoriello around $35 million to work with should the cap reach $83 million as projected for next season. Assuming management is willing to spend to the cap there’s plenty of room to re-sign all four. However, Lamoriello still has a reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator.

I believe Lee and Lehner are his priorities, followed by Eberle and Nelson. Much will depend upon what those players seek on their next contracts. Eberle is completing a six-year, $36-million deal and Lamoriello could be reluctant to pay him that much for that long to stay on Long Island.  


ESPN.COM: In their season-ending assessment of the Arizona Coyotes, Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe boosting the scoring should be among their priorities. The limited market via free agency and the team’s economics could hamper efforts to address the issue. They suggest finding a solution via the trade market. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Danny Shapiro reports Coyotes GM John Chayka acknowledges his club’s offense must improve next season. “We didn’t score enough goals, so we have to go through and figure out how to get more out of our own group and how to add to the group and that’s the summer plan,” Chayka said.

While management will hope a healthier lineup next season will help, Chayka didn’t rule out pursuing a scoring in the offseason. Shapiro noted Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Jordan Eberle, and Jeff Skinner are among the notable potentially available via free agency.

THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan doesn’t believe Panarin is interested in signing long-term with the Coyotes. He wondered if they should or could look at Islanders UFAs like Anders Lee, Brock Nelson or Jordan Eberle, or Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner, or Panarin’s teammate Ryan Dzingel. He also wondered if Chayka would be best-served going the trade route as he has the past two years. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes already have over $73 million invested in 16 players next season. If necessary, they can deduct $5.25 million from their cap payroll by placing all-but-retired Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve. Still, ownership could be unwilling to spend much more than they already have for 2019-20.

A healthier roster will certainly improve the Coyotes’ offense. However, Chayka should try to add another proven scorer. Duchene, Lee or Skinner would address that need but could be too expensive for the Coyotes. Dzingel, Nelson and perhaps Eberle might be more affordable but they could prefer signing with established playoff contenders.

If Chayka boosts his offense I expect he’ll make a trade. Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk, Jason Demers, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Alex Goligoski were all Chayka acquisitions. Ditto Jakob Chychrun, as Chayka acquired the pick to select Chychrun in a trade with Detroit during the 2016 Draft.

He’s got the depth in young players to draw upon as trade bait for a proven scorer. Perhaps he’ll entertain offers for his first-round pick (14th overall) in this year’s draft.