NHL Rumor Mill – January 7, 2020
Are more moves coming for the Predators after firing their head coach? What’s the latest on the Rangers, Penguins, and Jets? Find out in today’s edition of the NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PREDATORS?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton reports speculation abounds over who will replace Peter Laviolette as the Nashville Predators head coach. The Predators last night announced Laviolette had been relieved of his duties.
Former San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer and former New Jersey Devils bench boss John Hynes are being suggested as his potential replacement. Clinton cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying the Predators indicate their coach for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins remains to be announced.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators announced former Devils coach John Hynes has been hired as Laviolette’s replacement.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski also reports DeBoer and Hynes are being mentioned as possible candidates for the Predators’ vacant coaching position. He suggested former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, though he needs an image rehab following accusations of mental abuse by some former players.
Wyshynski also expects Predators general manager David Poile to be active by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. He points out Poile has already indicated the Preds are “open for business.” They have five picks in the first three round of the 2020 NHL Draft and could have upward of $8 million in cap space by the deadline.
THE ATHLETIC: Before Laviolette’s firing, Adam Vingan listed Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, Nick Bonino, and Kyle Turris as possible trade candidates if Poile becomes a seller. Of the four, Bonino could have the most trade value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators’ performance under Laviolette’s replacement over the next four weeks will determine if Poile becomes a buyer or a seller. That coaching change might not help if the Preds don’t get better goaltending from Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, who have a combined 3.27 goals-against per game.
If Poile becomes a seller, pending UFAs Granlund and Smith are the most likely to be moved. Bonino has one year remaining on his contract with an annual average salary of $4.1 million. Turris’s $6-million annual average value through 2023-24 makes him almost untradeable, unless Poile agrees to pick up a healthy chunk of his cap hit.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE RANGERS’ THREE-GOALIE SYSTEM?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders why the Rangers called up goaltender Igor Shesterkin when they already have Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. It’s unclear if the move was motivated by concern over Shesterkin possibly exercising the out-clause in his contract to return to the KHL, or to play with a European club. Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere, while Georgiev’s waiver exemption expired on Dec. 20.
Brooks reports there’s no indication the Rangers have a trade in the works for Georgiev or that teams are calling with interest in Lundqvist, who has no intention of waiving his no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could be concerned Shesterkin might head overseas if he didn’t see NHL action this season. If he plays well, it could stoke speculation over Georgiev’s future in New York. If he plays poorly, the Blueshirts can justify returning him to the minors for the rest of the season.
PENGUINS STILL SEEKING A WINGER
TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh reports the Pittsburgh Penguins intend to find a way to replace sidelined winger Jake Guentzel. They have the opportunity to clear his $6-million salary-cap hit by potentially placing him on long-term injury reserve. GM Jim Rutherford said he’s received some calls, but he’s been offered depth forwards rather than a top-six winger.
Rutherford indicated he doesn’t need to address his left-side depth because of the versatility of his wingers. “If a better right winger comes along than a left-winger that makes sense in a deal, I don’t feel the pressure that we have to have a left-hand shot,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will certainly broaden the range of potential trade targets for the Penguins in the coming weeks. Once they get back their other sidelined forwards, such as Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad, Rutherford will be able to better evaluate his needs at forward.
JETS’ NIKU DOWNPLAYS TRADE REPORT
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Jets defenseman Sami Niku downplayed a report out of his native Finland claiming he’s unhappy with his place in the club’s organization. He had an early-season clash with Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy and spent some time with their AHL affiliate. That left him reportedly considering a trade request or heading for the KHL.
Niku acknowledged the dispute with Huddy but claimed it was a miscommunication and apologized to Huddy. He also insisted he doesn’t want to play in the KHL. Jets coach Paul Maurice attributed Niku’s demotion to injuries.