NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2021

Check out the latest on the Oilers, Leafs, Panthers, Blues and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NO PROGRESS IN NUGENT-HOPKINS CONTRACT TALKS

TSN: Frank Seravalli reported there’s been no meaningful progress in contract talks between the Edmonton Oilers and pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers apparently made a five-year offer but it isn’t one the 27-year-old center is rushing to sign. Both sides intend to continue negotiations and there’s no belief the Oilers will move Nugent-Hopkins if he’s unsigned before the April 12 trade deadline.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay in Edmonton and the Oilers want to keep him. The term could be the issue here as management could be reluctant to re-sign him to the maximum eight years given the uncertainty over the salary cap over the next several years.

The Oilers hope to unseat the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top spot in the Scotia North Division. They’re not about to peddle away one of their core players regardless of the status of his contract talks.

LEAFS NOT SHOPPING FOR A GOALIE

TSN: Pierre LeBrun doesn’t think the Toronto Maple Leafs are panicked about their goaltending situation and doesn’t believe they’re even calling around for a netminder. They expect sidelined starter Frederik Andersen will return fully healthy and won’t rush back as he did earlier in the season when Jack Campbell was injured. They could reconsider if Andersen suffers another setback. Campbell, meanwhile, is 7-0 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs might not be panicked about their goaltending but the same cannot be said about a number of denizens of Leafs Nation. They are practically begging GM Kyle Dubas to acquire a goalie.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk believes the Leafs’ current goaltending isn’t good enough, citing Andersen’s recent injuries and shaky confidence, Campbell’s injury history and Michael Hutchinson’s inconsistency.

The pleas from Leafs fans and observations of Toronto pundits seem likely to fall on deaf ears in the front office. Dubas seems intent on sticking with his current goalies for better or worse.

TEAMS CALLING ABOUT PANTHERS’ DRIEDGER

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports teams are calling the Florida Panthers about pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger following their signing of prospect netminder Spencer Knight to an entry-level deal. Panthers general manager Bill Zito was coy about what Knight’s signing meant for Driedger’s future. LeBrun feels there’s a possibility Driedger gets moved by the trade deadline given the market for goaltenders and his cheap cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Based on LeBrun’s earlier report, the Leafs aren’t among the clubs calling the Panthers about Driedger. He’s played well, offsetting Sergei Bobrovsky’s early-season inconsistency. Shipping him out before the trade deadline could be a risky move. Knight has considerable potential but lacks NHL experience.

LATEST BLUES CLUES

STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon said it’s not hard to imagine some NHL general managers contacted St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong asking about Mike Hoffman after the struggling winger was made a healthy scratch earlier this week. While Hoffman could entice contenders looking for scoring they won’t offer anything in return that will bolster the Blues’ sagging offense.

Gordon also noted Blues defenseman Vince Dunn has frequently surfaced in trade rumors this season given his long-term earning power clashing with the club’s long-term salary-cap concerns. He could be enticing to teams seeking a defenseman like the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. However, trading Dunn means the Blues could risk losing a valuable forward to the Seattle Kraken in this summer’s NHL expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gordon’s colleague Jim Thomas believes the Blues’ next six games before the deadline will determine if Armstrong becomes a buyer, seller or spectator at the deadline.

As Gordon points out, Armstrong isn’t afraid to make bold moves in the trade market. If he gets a pitch for Hoffman or Dunn that improves the Blues’ scoring punch he’ll be all over it. Finding such an offer, however, might not be easy given most of the teams have limited cap space, just like the Blues.

PENGUINS SHOPPING FOR A CENTER

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti cites Brian Burke, the Pittsburgh Penguins director of hockey operations, recently telling Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his club is in the market for a center with Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger sidelined.

Burke also said the Penguins would like to add some toughness to their lineup. He indicated the club’s second-round pick in this year’s draft is off-limits in the trade market as they lack a first-round pick. They have depth in defensemen to use as trade bait but Burke isn’t sure he’s willing to use that depth for help in other areas of his roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins have played well despite the absence of Malkin and Blueger. That doesn’t mean they won’t be active in the trade market but it could take away some of the urgency to find a center.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 9, 2021

An update on Ryan Getzlaf, the Blue Jackets seek a center and the latest on the Oilers and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

DUCKS HAVEN’T ASKED GETZLAF TO WAIVE NMC

NHL.COM: Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray said he has not asked team captain Ryan Getzlaf to consider waiving his no-movement clause. The 35-year-old center is in the final season of an eight-year deal and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf (NHL Images).

I’m tired of hearing this from Toronto anymore, how his name is out there (in media rumors),” said Murray. “The only way Ryan Getzlaf would go anywhere is if he came to me and said, ‘Bob, can you try and trade me to a contender?’ He added, “he’s not going anywhere.”

Murray said he’s spoken with Getzlaf after next year and they’ve agreed to see how he feels after this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s apparent Murray would prefer if Getzlaf stayed on during the club’s ongoing rebuild but will leave that decision up to him. Maybe the long-time Ducks captain will decide in the coming weeks he’d like one more shot at winning another Stanley Cup before hanging up his skates. Maybe not.

BLUE JACKETS SEEK A FIRST-LINE CENTER

TSN: cited Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen tell The Athletic his club is in the market for a top-line center. “It’s a challenge because they’re just not available,” said Kekalainen. “You usually have to draft and develop one. We did that with one player and now he’s not here.”

Kekalainen was referring to Pierre-Luc Dubois, who asked to be traded and was subsequently shipped to the Winnipeg Jets in January along with a draft pick for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. He added there could be some centers available in this summer’s free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the reason behind Dubois’ trade request, the fact remains the Jackets are in a difficult spot without a reliable first-line center.

The Blue Jackets tried to bolster their depth at center before the season began by acquiring Max Domi and Mikko Koivu but the former has struggled to adapt while the latter retired after only seven games. They’ve been using Roslovic and Nick Foligno to plug the gap at the first-line center spot but it’s not working out.

Pickings will be slim for first-line centers via this year’s UFA market. The best of the bunch is Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but there’s no certainty he’ll be available. The Blue Jackets will face stiff competition signing him if he decides to test the market. The remainder are aging stars like Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, Boston’s David Krejci, Buffalo’s Eric Staal and Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny or a struggling center such as Montreal’s Phillip Danault.

LATEST ON THE OILERS AND SENATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell recently suggested several targets for the Edmonton Oilers leading up to the April 12 trade deadline. Mitchell believes trading for a true No. 1 goaltender would do more to bolster the current roster than anything else. He wonders if GM Ken Holland could find a way to “switch out (Mikko) Koskinen” and acquire Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible but Holland faces long odds acquiring Kuemper. The Coyotes are battling for the final playoff spot in the Honda West Division so they have no reason to trade their starter unless they tumble out of the race before April 12. Even then, they’ll be reluctant to move him with a year remaining on his contract.

A more likely trade option would be Arizona backup Antti Raanta, who becomes a UFA this summer. But as long as the Coyotes remain in the playoff chase they won’t break up their current goalie tandem.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will have decisions to make regarding their eight pending UFAs leading up to the trade deadline. He considers it “highly doubtful” alternate captain Erik Gudbranson would get moved while Ryan Dzingel only recently joined the lineup from a 14-day quarantine following his acquisition from Carolina last month. Mike Reilly would be an attractive option for teams seeking blueline help but he’s stabilized the Senators’ second pairing with Artem Zub.

Garrioch believes GM Pierre Dorion will listen if a team comes calling and want to give something in return. Given the current environment, however, this could be a quiet deadline for him.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 24, 2021

The latest on Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins plus updates on the Predators, Sabres, Coyotes, Kings, Red Wings and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman cited Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley appearing on Andy Strickland and Cam Janssen’s podcast where he said he doesn’t want goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to be traded. “He never came close to be part of a deal,” said Foley. “I would’ve had a big problem with it if that had been presented to me.” Friedman believes the Pittsburgh Penguins tried to reacquire Fleury through another team and they thought they were close to a deal.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman indicated if Foley doesn’t want Fleury traded then that’s the end of it. The 36-year-old goaltender becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Friedman believes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay with the Edmonton Oilers and management wants to keep him. The biggest challenge is the economic landscape is recovering more slowly than expected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the salary cap is likely to remain at $81.5 million for next season, affecting how much the Oilers can comfortably afford to invest in a long-term extension for Nugent-Hopkins.

Following up on his Saturday report regarding the Nashville Predators’ trade speculation, Friedman said their deep respect for aging goaltender Pekka Rinne means they want him to retire in their uniform. They have no desire to move defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. They’re willing to listen to trade offers but it will be difficult to pry away Filip Forsberg and Dante Fabbro.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators most likely to be traded are pending unrestricted free agents like Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula or those on affordable contracts (Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok) that expire at the end of 2021-22. They’ll entertain offers for expensive underachievers such as Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen but I doubt there will be much interest in either guy.

The Buffalo Sabres are making Brandon Montour available. The 26-year-old defenseman is eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer.

The Arizona Coyotes are looking for a center. They could also be interested in a rental player like Montour or a winger like the Vancouver Canucks’ Tanner Pearson if he becomes available.

Don’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to become buyers if they remain in playoff contention by the trade deadline. General manager Rob Blake intends to stick with his rebuilding plan.

UPDATES ON THE RED WINGS AND FLAMES

TSN: Frank Seravalli believes three Detroit Red Wings – Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening and Marc Staal – could draw attention from rival clubs as the Apr. 12 trade deadline approaches. Pierre LeBrun, meanwhile, said the Calgary Flames’ recent slump sparked speculation whether GM Brad Treliving was up to something. However, it seems all’s quiet on the Flames front.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Ryan, Staal and Glendening could be playing elsewhere by Apr. 12. As for the Flames, Treliving is remaining patient with his roster but his hand could be forced if they don’t show significant improvement. Complicating things, of course, are the COVID protocols and travel restrictions for any players acquired from American teams.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 19, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 19, 2021

The Jack Eichel trade speculation flares back to life as the Sabres continue to struggle, plus the latest on Taylor Hall, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Binnington in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday giving WGR 550 a quick “yes” when asked whether he sees the possibility of the Buffalo Sabres trading Jack Eichel. Friedman pointed to the Sabres’ performance coming out of their COVID-19 protocol break “has started a lot of talk about what could be happening.”

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images)

While the Sabres’ recent play isn’t enough to spur a franchise-changing move, Vogl took note of the fact Eichel hates losing and there’s been little change in the club’s fortunes despite recent changes. The Sabres captain is also off to a slow start after suffering an upper-body injury during training camp.

The Sabres’ ongoing woes have given rise to speculation over Eichel’s future in Buffalo. He’s in the third year of an eight-year deal with the final four years containing a full no-movement clause. Moving him before that clause kicks in 17 months from now would give the Sabres a broader trade market.

Vogl speculates the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could be best-positioned to make a competitive pitch for Eichel. Both have considerable depth in promising youth and the cap space to take on Eichel’s $10 million annual average value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Eichel trade conjecture first surfaced last year when he voiced his unhappiness over the club’s performance. Few observers seriously entertained the notion of the Sabres star getting traded then. However, Vogl and Friedman pointed out the longer the club continues to stumble the more questions will be asked about Eichel’s future.

Another failed season could force a discussion this summer between Eichel and the Sabres’ ownership and management over the team’s direction. I don’t see them trying to move him if he wants to stay. He’s the guy they’ve been trying to build around since drafting him in 2015. But if Eichel decides it’s time to move on, trading him before his NMC kicks in makes the most sense.

Every NHL club would love to have a player like Eichel in their lineup. As I noted last September, finding a suitable trade partner willing to take on his big contract and pony up what will be an expensive asking price won’t be easy. Just because the Rangers and Kings have the cap space and assets to make a competitive offer doesn’t mean they’ll do it.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports there’s mutual interest between Taylor Hall and Sabres management in discussing a contract extension when the time is right. Both sides can start those discussions on March 12, one month before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s widely assumed Hall could be moved before the trade deadline if the Sabres fail to re-sign him by then. That’s still a possibility. If they can re-sign him, however, it could help alleviate some of the potential concerns Eichel might have about the club’s plans going forward.

UPDATES ON GETZLAF, NUGENT-HOPKINS AND BINNINGTON

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports teams have a lot of interest in Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. The 35-year-old center is slated to become a UFA this summer. Seravalli indicates the Ducks have no plans to ask Getzlaf about a trade unless he asks to be moved to a contender before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf is among the greatest players in Ducks history. They’re not going to force him out the door if he’s non-committal about returning next season or doesn’t fit into their future plans. They’ll give him all the time he needs to make a decision.

Ryan Rishaug took to Twitter on Tuesday reporting no resumption of contract talks between the Edmonton Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 27-year-old forward is due to become a UFA this summer. He wants to stay and the club wants to re-sign him but working out term and dollars on a new deal during a flat-cap COVID environment has proven tricky.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rishaug points out Nugent-Hopkins isn’t an asset the Oilers want to risk losing for nothing to free agency this summer. It’ll be interesting to see if talks resume before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I don’t expect them to move Nugent-Hopkins while they’re in the midst of the playoff race but perhaps that changes if they tumble in the standings.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said his goal is to sign Jordan Binnington to a new contract. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become a UFA this summer and is off to a strong start to this season.

Armstrong cited Binnington’s accomplishments in the short time he’s been with the Blues. He also pointed out the club would have to find a replacement for him if he departs via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues don’t have anyone in their system who can step up and fill Binnington’s skates. There aren’t many suitable options to replace him via this summer’s UFA market.

Tuukka Rask could be available but it’s expected he’ll re-sign with the Boston Bruins. Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen has a solid regular-season record but hasn’t accomplished much in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Devan Dubnyk of the San Jose Sharks are past their prime.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2021

The latest on Keith Yandle, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reported on what led to the speculation over Keith Yandle’s future with the Florida Panthers. Prior to the start of their season, there was talk the veteran defenseman would be a healthy scratch from their season-opener amid rumors he might be asked to waive his no-movement clause.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (NHL Images).

The club wanted to change its culture, become tougher to play against and hold players to account. New general manager Bill Zito comes from a demanding franchise (Columbus Blue Jackets) and there were rumblings during the offseason that Yandle didn’t fit into the organization’s plans.

The club denied asking Yandle to waive his no-movement clause, which the blueliner confirmed. However, over the past two weeks, the 34-year-old rearguard felt his character was being called into question. Several of his teammates stood up for Yandle and made it clear they wanted him in the lineup.

Friedman doesn’t think this story is over, suggesting perhaps the club wouldn’t mind if the players used this situation as a rallying cry. There’s a rumor suggesting Yandle would waive his NMC for the Boston Bruins but Friedman doesn’t see him as a fit given their avoidance of taking on long-term contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like Zito mishandled this situation. Friedman noted some of the Panthers felt Yandle needed to improve his defensive play but none of them questioned his character. It’s one thing to demand accountability for a player’s performance but this quickly blew up into a bigger issue that still has the potential to become an unnecessary distraction for the Panthers unless the air is cleared.

I agree with Friedman’s take regarding Yandle and the Bruins. Taking on an aging blueliner with a questionable defensive game and a $6.35 million AAV through 2022-23 wouldn’t be a wise decision to improve their blueline.

Friedman believes there are several “very, very good teams in the weeds” on Pierre-Luc Dubois waiting to see how the Columbus Blue Jackets handle the situation. He’s curious to find out what the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning think.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche have a superstar centering their first line in Nathan MacKinnon, while Nazem Kadri’s worked out well as their second-line center. Dubois doesn’t seem to be a fit there unless the plan is to knock Kadri down to the third line or ship him out. Ditto the Lightning, who have Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde centering their top-three lines, with captain Steven Stamkos who can slide into the center position when necessary.

Assuming either or both clubs wanted Dubois, they’ll have to part with a center or a forward who can have an immediate positive effect on the Jackets’ forward lines. Kadri, Point or Cirelli fit that description but I don’t see their respective clubs parting with them.

Don’t forget that both teams have limited salary-cap space this season. Any deal for Dubois will have to be as close to dollar-for-dollar as possible to take on his $5 million annual average value. Even if the Avs or Bolts were interested it’s probably too complicated to pull off that trade.

Friedman said he’d heard during the offseason that the Edmonton Oilers were close to a contract extension with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. However, things have gone quiet for a while.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s talk the Oilers don’t want to go above $7 million per season for Nugent-Hopkins, which could explain the silence of late. Then again, maybe the two sides have decided to just put things on hold while the season is underway.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ interest in Jack Roslovic can’t be tied to their opening two losses. They’ve been interested in the 23-year-old Winnipeg Jets forward for some time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski recently reported second-hand sources told him during the offseason that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was interested in Roslovic. Kingerski noted the Jets could use some blue-line help. The Penguins have nine defensemen, including Pierre-Olivier Joseph on their taxi squad.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland contacted Jimmy Howard to see if the 36-year-old goaltender was interested in a reunion in Edmonton. Howard played for Holland when the latter was GM of the Detroit Red Wings. Howard, however, declined the offer and intends to announce his retirement soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No offense to Howard, who had a long and mostly productive career with the Red Wings, but this shows how desperate Holland is to improve his goaltending.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 18, 2021

A look at some predicted moves for this season involving Patrik Laine, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Duncan Keith and more in the NHL rumor mill.

TSN: In his 31 bold predictions for the new NHL season, Frank Seravalli envisioned the Winnipeg Jets moving winger Patrik Laine before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. Two potential destinations: the Columbus Blue Jackets (for Pierre-Luc Dubois?) and the Carolina Hurricanes (for Brett Pesce or Vincent Trocheck?).

Could the Winnipeg Jets move Patrik Laine before the April 12 trade deadline? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve learned never to say never in this business so I don’t rule out Laine hitting the trade block before Apr. 12. However, I don’t see that happening if the Jets are in the thick of the playoff chase.

Seravalli isn’t the only pundit suggesting swapping Laine for Dubois. On paper, it makes sense. The Jets get a reliable second-line center while the Jackets bring in a type of goal scorer they haven’t had since Rick Nash left town almost 11 years ago.

The problem is we don’t know if Jets management wants to swap Laine for a second-line center when blue-line depth is their primary concern. I think they’ll want much more than that for a winger with 50-goal potential. We also don’t know how well Laine will get along with Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. There’s also the concern over whether Laine or Dubois would commit long-term to their new clubs.

Laine would certainly provide a boost to the Hurricanes’ offense but he could end up on the second line if he doesn’t click with first-line center Sebastian Aho. A return of Trocheck and Pesce could tempt the Jets, but not if it’s just one or the other unless something else of significance is included in the deal. Moving Trocheck for Laine would leave the Hurricanes without a suitable second-line center.

Seravalli predicts Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could become the top target on TSN’s top free-agent list for 2021. The 27-year-old center wants to stay with the Edmonton Oilers but the club has no plans of going beyond $7 million annually on a long-term deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap for next season could work to the Oilers’ advantage here. Nugent-Hopkins might not find many better offers because a number of teams will have limited cap space to make a competitive bid for his services. We’ll see how things unfold by July.

Speaking of the Oilers, Seravalli believes they’ll trade for another goaltender before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli made that prediction before Smith landed on long-term injury reserve last week. General manager Ken Holland will keep an eye on the waiver wire in the short term but I wouldn’t rule out Holland testing the trade market this season.

Seravalli thinks Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith will seek a trade after this season. The 37-year-old blueliner has two years left on his contract at $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Again, never say never. He’s got a full no-movement clause but could waive it if the right opportunity presents itself. Cap Friendly indicates Keith only has $3.6 million in actual salary remaining on his deal ($2.1 million for next season, $1.5 million for 2022-23). However, the cap hit itself could be difficult to move unless the Blackhawks pick up part of it. His age will also be a factor. He turns 38 this summer and his best seasons are now behind him.