A look at the biggest concerns facing the Blues, Senators, Bruins and Canadiens in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Limited scoring and defensive lapses are threatening to sink the St. Louis Blues’ season. If things don’t improve soon, GM Doug Armstrong could face deciding whether to attempt a season-saving trade or commence a rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeremy Rutherford followed up by exploring Armstrong’s options. He could replace head coach Craig Berube, trade pending UFAs Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, or start a rebuild.
St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).
Rutherford believes Tarasenko and O’Reilly would draw plenty of interest in the trade market. However, it’s probably too early in the season to move them. If Armstrong decides to shop one or both, it’ll like be near the March 3 trade deadline.
A lack of consistency among the Ottawa Senators’ defensemen remains an issue. The recent injury to Artem Zub magnified the problem. They’ll have to do something soon lest it threatens to derail their season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have some cap space (less than $4 million) plus plenty of promising young assets to use as trade bait. They could also dangle unsigned winger Alex Formenton if they can’t get him under contract before the Dec. 1 deadline.
They’ve been linked to Jakob Chychrun but the Arizona Coyotes defenseman remains week-to-week and won’t provide any immediate help. The Coyotes also set a high asking price that no one currently wants to pay.
This is supposed to be the season the Senators finally turn things around. With just four wins in their first 12 games, however, they’re at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and in danger of falling too far behind the pack to catch up. I suspect a trade could be coming sooner rather than later.
The Boston Bruins must clear salary-cap space when sidelined defenseman Charlie McAvoy returns to action. With Mike Reilly and Nick Foligno having cleared waivers, they’ll have to include some assets if they hope to part with either guy. Winger Craig Smith is an unrestricted free agent next summer but he’s been injured and his playing time has been reduced.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reilly seems like the odd man out. He hasn’t requested a trade but already spent a bit of time in the minors to make room for the return of Brad Marchand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported Dadonov’s been held pointless thus far and hasn’t seen much time on the power play this season. That’s because head coach Martin St. Louis is going with the guys he trusts (Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach) to produce.
LeBrun indicated teams he’s spoken with about Dadonov said they want to see how he plays in the coming weeks to see if the Canadiens can create a trade market for him. He got back into the lineup for last night’s win against the Detroit Red Wings but did little to improve his trade value. Perhaps Dadonov will get more chances for playing time as the season goes on.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds (NHL Images).
Stephens and Fox both cited rumors that have Simmonds returning to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he spent nearly eight seasons and enjoyed the most productive period of his career. Fox also cited Nick Kypreos claiming the Ottawa Senators could have some interest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs management said they’re not concerned about return but want to do right by Simmonds. His best seasons are well behind him but he’s still well-regarded for his toughness, experience and leadership. He also carries an affordable $900K cap hit for this season which could be enticing to clubs with limited cap space.
The fact Simmonds cleared waivers makes it easier to move him in the trade market. He can be demoted to the minors within the next 30 days without having to pass through waivers.
He cited rumors suggesting the Philadelphia Flyers as a destination for Foligno, who played for Flyers coach John Tortorella when the two were with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’re said to be seeking some veteran leadership.
Meanwhile, Reilly’s skills as a mobile defenseman could make him attractive to a club like his hometown Chicago Blackhawks, who could later flip him at the trade deadline for future assets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins won’t want much in return for Foligno or Reilly as they can’t afford to take back too much salary. They’ll need the space for when Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy come off the long-term injury reserve list later this season. Having cleared waivers, they too can be demoted within the next 30 days without having to pass through them again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Penguins carrying nine defensemen under NHL contracts, Pettersson was frequently mentioned during the off-season as a trade candidate. However, they found other ways to become cap compliant to start this season, assigningTy Smith and Mark Friedman to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
32 THOUGHTS PODCAST (stick tap to “NHL Watcher”): Elliotte Friedman still believes the Ottawa Senators intend to add a defenseman. “I believe they’ve talked internally about it, and my expectations is they’re still going to do it.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators were linked to Arizona Coyotes blueliner Jakob Chychrun throughout the latter half of the off-season. The Coyotes’ expensive asking price, however, could have them considering more affordable options. We’ll see what transpires. Maybe they’ll make a trade for a Penguins defenseman?
Wayne Simmonds, Nazem Kadri and Akim Aliu take issue with a Toronto Sun columnist, an update on David Pastrnak’s contract talks, the Golden Knights sign Nic Hague while the Senators sign Derick Brassard and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
YAHOO SPORTS/TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds and Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri took issue with Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons regarding an article the latter wrote about former NHLer Akim Aliu. The three players are members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, formed in 2020 by several current and former players of color to eradicate racism in hockey.
Simmons suggested Aliu, chair of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, was using racism as an excuse for not achieving his potential as a player. “By my count, Aliu played for 23 teams in nine different leagues in 12 professional seasons and rarely finished any season with the same team he started with. If that was color-related, how is it that Wayne Simmonds spent just about the same 12 seasons playing in the NHL?”
Aliu replied on social media saying Simmons had “no clue” what he and his family endured physically and emotionally since he started playing hockey. He recounted several instances of racism he faced throughout his career.
Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).
Simmonds replied to the Sun columnist on Twitter, saying he didn’t appreciate what Simmons was trying to do. “Do not ever use my name or any other player of color’s name to try and make your point.”
Kadri, meanwhile, said Simmons is the last person who would know about experiencing racism. “He’s always been a writer that’s kind of been on the line and created a lot of controversy so people can read his articles,” said the Flames center. “He’s just a guy who’s a little dated in his writing.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The number of teams Aliu played for or the number of leagues he played in or his ability as a player doesn’t disqualify him from speaking out against racism in hockey. His story and those of other players who’ve endured racism and bigotry in the sport must be heard and their concerns must be addressed. Remember, hockey is supposed to be for everyone.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said contract talks with David Pastrnak are ongoing but offered up no timetable to finalize a deal. The 26-year-old winger said he’s comfortable with negotiations carrying on into the season. Meanwhile, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said ownership’s mindset in trying to re-sign Pastrnak was “aggressive.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fact those discussions are ongoing bodes well for the two sides reaching an agreement before Pastrnak’s eligibility for unrestricted free-agent status next July.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: The Golden Knights signed Nicolas Hague to a three-year contract worth an average annual value of $2.294 million. The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights’ limited cap room factored into why it took so long to get Hague under contract. With Shea Weber, Robin Lehner and Nolan Patrick on LTIR, Owen Krepps of Vegas Hockey Now speculates they’ll squeeze under the $82.5 million cap by $700K depending on which players they demote to their AHL affiliate.
OTTAWA SUN: Derick Brassard earned a one-year, $750K contract with the Senators following a professional tryout offer. It’s the 35-year-old forward’s second tour with the Sens, having skated with them from 2016 to 2018.
CBS SPORTS: The New Jersey Devils placed captain Nico Hischier on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. It’s unclear if the 23-year-old center will be ready for the Devils’ season opener on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
TSN: Vancouver Canucks placed Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott and Tyler Myers on injured reserve. Meanwhile, Brock Boeser will start the season on their active roster. Boeser had been recovering from hand surgery.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: The Capitals placed Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injury reserve. The 34-year-old center is recovering from off-season hip surgery. Carl Hagelin (lower-body injury) and Tom Wilson (knee surgery) are listed as non-roster to start the season.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers placed Anthony Duclair (torn Achilles tendon) on LTIR. They will start the season with a 20-player roster due to salary-cap constraints. They also released Eric Staal from his professional tryout offer but are hoping to find a way to sign him to a contract.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Limited salary-cap space is also delaying the Carolina Hurricanes from signing Derek Stepan. They demoted Jordan Martinook after he cleared waivers but it’s considered merely a paper transaction until Jake Gardiner is officially placed on LTIR to start the season. Martinook will remain with the club and Stepan is expected to be signed shortly.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs demoted Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford after they cleared waivers on Monday.
98.5 THE SPORTS HUB: The Boston Bruins demoted Nick Foligno, Mike Reilly and Chris Wagner after they cleared waivers. It’s expected they’ll be recalled with Brad Marchand (hip surgery) and Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) going on LTIR to start the season.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: The Blues assigned Jake Neighbours and Josh Leivo to the minors but in reality, they’re not going anywhere. The move is a paper transaction until sidelined defenseman Marco Scandella is placed on LTIR today.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Canadiens did the same thing with defenseman Arber Xhekaj. He made the roster due to a strong performance in training camp but the Canadiens must first place forward Paul Byron on LTIR.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clubs can be over the cap during the off-season by 10 percent but must be compliant when the regular season officially opens. Lots of teams with limited cap space were forced to do some creative accounting until they can officially place players on long-term injury reserve to start the season.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Juraj Slafkovsky also made the Canadiens’ roster to start the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 2022 first-overall pick faced considerable scrutiny and criticism from pundits and fans for his play during training camp and preseason games. His improvement over the course of that period garnered him at least a nine-game regular-season tryout.
After that, the Canadiens must decide if they’ll keep Slafkovsky on the roster for the season or send him to their AHL affiliate in Laval. If he’s sent down before his 10th game, the first year of his entry-level contract won’t count against this season and will slide to 2023-24.
Updates on the notable players remaining in the unrestricted free agent market plus some cost-cutting Bruins trade candidates in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski took a look at the status of several noteworthy players still available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market.
Former New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (NHL Images)
P.K. Subban’s agent, Don Meehan, recently told the Montreal Gazette that the 33-year-old defenseman is being selective on where he’ll play next. He said there were “expressions of interest” in his client but those clubs also had other things in play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wyshynski believes Subban is ready to be a difference maker if the right fit can be found. He might not be interested in signing with a non-contender. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy believes the Bruins should look into signing Subban to a professional tryout offer. However, it’s still possible he inks an affordable one-year contract with a club before training camp opens.
Evan Rodrigues hasn’t signed a new contract but it appears he’s garnered plenty of interest. His agent, Darren Ferris, told Wyshynski that there are “a good seven or eight teams” he’s having discussions with about his client.
Some of those clubs have cap constraints, including his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Calgary Flames have also shown an interest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hockey News’ Mike Stephens suggested the Seattle Kraken, Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators as potential destinations for Rodrigues. However, we don’t know if those clubs are among those talking to his agent.
Wyshynski expects Rodrigues will sign a one-year “show-me” contract and then try his luck for a more lucrative deal next summer.
Many observers felt last season was Keith Yandle’s last but the 35-year-old defenseman isn’t ruling out playing this season. His agent, Jerry Buckley, said he’s still talking to teams but his client wants to find the right fit if he’s to continue his NHL career.Buckley “highly doubted” Yandle will accept a PTO.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A PTO might be the only way for Yandle to continue his playing career if that’s what he wants to do. He’s the NHL’s reigning Ironman but his performance has declined in recent years.
No word on Joe Thornton’s plans. If his playing days are over, the 43-year-old forward reportedly could moving into a managerial role with the Spengler Cup Tournament.
Speaking of aging veterans, no word yet from 45-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara regarding his intentions. He hasn’t announced his retirement but it’s assumed he’s played his final NHL game.
An NHL source claims “a lot of teams” are interested in Sonny Milano. So far, no one’s signed the former Anaheim Ducks winger.
Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser is healthy and hoping to land with a new NHL club. Agent Matt Federico is confident his 32-year-old client will have a one-year, low-dollar deal in place before training camps open.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Matt Porter recently observed the Bruins are above the $82.5 million salary cap by $2.4 million. They can address this at the start of the season by placing sidelined stars Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy on long-term injury reserve. However, they must become cap compliant when those players are ready to return to the lineup.
It sounds like Nick Foligno ($3.8 million) will remain part of the main group this season. Defenseman Mike Reilly ($3 million) could be a trade candidate given the Bruins’ depth in left-shot blueliners. Winger Craig Smith ($3.1 million) could be shopped if a youngster such as Fabian Lysell or Jack Studnicka makes a push this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be Smith who gets moved. There was a rumor last month claiming a team had made an offer for the 32-year-old winger but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.
In today’s NHL Rumor Mill: The latest on the Senators’ rumored interest in Jakob Chychrun plus three ways the Bruins can get cap compliant later this season.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators general manager Pierre Dorion would like to add another defenseman before training camp opens on Sept. 21. If he doesn’t, he’s hopeful that he’s put together a competitive roster for the coming season.
Garrioch writes the Senators have held talks with the Arizona Coyotes regarding Jakob Chychrun but Dorion balked at the asking price for the 24-year-old blueliner.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s been the running theme regarding Chychrun since last season. Teams are interested but the Coyotes have set a price too high. Several versions of their asking price have made the rounds including a first-rounder, a top-prospect, and a good young NHL player, a first-rounder, two prospects and two players. The latest is two first-rounders and a top prospect.
Whatever the Coyotes want, nobody wants to pay it at this time. Maybe Dorion or another general manager gets desperate if injuries strike in training camp or during the season. Perhaps Arizona GM Bill Armstrong will lower his price to make it more palatable.
For now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chychrun’s still with the Coyotes when the regular season begins in October.
As for other blueline targets for the Senators, the best remaining free agent options are P.K. Subban and Anton Stralman. Dorion could target cap-strapped teams in the trade market looking to shed salary before the season begin.
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa recently examined three ways the Boston Bruins can become cap compliant when some of their sidelined players return to action later in the season.
One way could be trading Mike Reilly once defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is good to go. The 29-year-old is among five left-handed rearguards with one-way contracts on the Bruins blueline. He carries an average annual value of $3 million.
Trading Craig Smith is another. He turns 33 next month and is in the final season of his contract with a $3.1 million AAV. He could be replaced from within by Fabian Lysell or Oskar Steen.
Shinzawa’s third option is demoting Nick Foligno or attempting to trade him if he’ll waive his partial no-trade clause. However, it would require packaging an asset with him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was a report earlier this month that the Bruins had held trade talks regarding Smith. Nothing has come of them but that doesn’t mean a deal won’t happen at some point.
Reilly could draw interest if the Bruins put him on the block. Foligno carries a $3.8 million cap hit and is slated to become a UFA next summer. His performance, however, has really declined over the past couple of years. Unless he has a bounce-back effort this season, the Bruins’ best option could be sending him to the minors, though it will only trim $1.125 million from their payroll going that route.
Kassian has two seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $3.2 million. Murray also has two seasons remaining with a $6.25 million AAV.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Seravalli that Kassian could be bought out as he could prove difficult to move this summer via trade. The Senators, however, are reportedly willing to carry three goaltenders (including Murray) into next season.
That’s understandable given Murray’s cap hit. While the Sens have the cap space to absorb the two-thirds’ buyout for four seasons, that’s a long time to carry dead cap space, especially the $2.5 million per season over the final two years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vlasic’s buyout will sit on the Sharks’ books for eight years, with years three and four biting deeply into their cap space. Nevertheless, The Athletic’s Corey Masisak said in a recent mailbag segment that he considered a Vlasic buyout more likely than trading a blueliner like Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson. As Seravalli observed, carrying the full $7 million of the fading Vlasic’s contract for four more years would be worse than the buyout cost.
I see Scandella and Dickinson as buyout candidates if their respective teams can’t find anyone to trade their contracts off their hands in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers appears a likely buyout candidate. As Seravalli points out, the blueliner is 25 so his buyout is one-third the remaining value instead of two-thirds. Because his contract is also backloaded, the Predators would get a cap credit of over $616K for this season and be charged only $633K the following season. Seravalli suggests that could make Myers’s contract enticing in the trade market for cap-strapped clubs.
I think the rebuilding Blackhawks can afford to carry Johnson’s contract for at least one more season. The Penguins could also ride out the remaining year of Zucker’s deal if they can fit new contracts for Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin into their current cap space. They could also retain up to half his cap hit in a trade or attempt to move him for another player with a comparable contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could attempt to trade Nemeth but the way his contract is structured could make a buyout likely. The cap hit is $1 million for each season except for the second year, where they won’t be charged anything. As for Foligno, Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty reports the Bruins aren’t leaning that way.