NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

Could the Coyotes make some big changes? Are the Hurricanes interested in Frederik Andersen? What’s the latest on Alex Pietrangelo, Jonas Brodin, and Phillip Danault? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Arizona Coyotes’ goal will be to cut payroll and rebuild. They face a tight salary cap for 2020-21 but then it eases. With no picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft and no first- or third-rounder for 2021, they could try to restock that.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images)

Friedman suggests there could be a market for goaltender Darcy Kuemper and they would like to test defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s trade value. Ekman-Larsson has seven years left on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause, but he could be open to waiving it depending on the destination. They also have four defensemen (Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Jordan Oesterle and Niklas Hjalmarsson) with a year remaining on their contracts. Friedman claims Hjalmarsson remains much-loved around the league.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan considers Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes’ most marketable assets if they decide to rebuild. Kuemper has two years left on his contract ($4.5 million AAV) and lacks no-trade protection. Chychrun has five years left ($4.6 million AAV) with a modified no-trade in the final two years. He also considered those other blueliners on one-year deals as tradeable assets, though he thinks they could retain Oesterle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because those names are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be moved in the off-season. The Coyotes still haven’t decided on a full-time general manager and it remains to be seen if they’ll make any drastic moves. Nevertheless, their situation will be worth monitoring.

Friedman said team owner Alex Muerelo’s casino business is getting hammered by COVID-19, resulting in business layoffs and players complaining of late per diem payments. If the goal is to cut payroll and rebuild with affordable players, veterans like Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson could be on the move. It will also mean they won’t be re-signing Taylor Hall, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on Nov. 1.

Friedman reports the Carolina Hurricanes have an interest in Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen. However, the Leafs aren’t keen to make a change just for the sake of doing so. Friedman feels if they make that move it’ll be for an upgrade, suggesting they could wait to see how this year’s goaltending free-agent market shakes out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Leafs could pursue someone like Vegas’ Robin Lehner if he hits the open market. Or maybe they make a trade for someone like Darcy Kuemper and then peddle Andersen to the Hurricanes. If they go the UFA route they’ll be paying more than Andersen’s $5 million AAV. The Canes would also have to dump either Petr Mrazek or James Reimer as both have a year left on their contracts.

Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman doesn’t think William Nylander is going anywhere without a legitimate top-four right-hand shot defenseman coming in return.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think they’d prefer that defenseman to be a top-two right-side guy. It would take someone like Nylander to fetch that type of return, especially with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner considered untouchable.

Friedman also mentioned Alex Pietrangelo met last week with St. Louis Blues management to discuss a new contract. He feels the Blues captain wants to stay in St. Louis but cited a couple of sources suggesting it hasn’t been easy for Pietrangelo to see teammates like Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Brayden Schenn get contract extensions while his talks stalled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have $79.4 million invested in 21 players, with defenseman Vince Dunn also to be re-signed. The additions of Faulk and Scandella were likely insurance in case Pietrangelo departs via free agency. If the Blues hope to re-sign him, they must shed two or three contracts to make it work. There’s plenty of time for both sides to get a deal done. The tip-off will be how quickly Blues GM Doug Armstrong sheds salary once the playoffs are over.

The Montreal Canadiens are getting asked about their plans for Phillip Danault, who’s a year away from UFA status. His comments following the Habs’ playoff elimination about his future being a bit unclear drew attention.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s role as solely a defensive center against the Penguins and Flyers and the rise of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi is stoking speculation about his future in Montreal.

As for his comments, Danault said he wasn’t ready to be solely a defensive forward, adding he enjoyed producing offensively and his role as a two-way forward. He acknowledged his role for next season would determine if he re-signs with Montreal. However, he also indicated that by what he’s proven in the last few years, his role shouldn’t change in Montreal.

The Canadiens could move him if they feel Suzuki and Kotkaniemi are now ready as full-time centers on the top two lines. However, I think they prefer keeping Danault around in case one or both struggle to adjust over the course of a long season. 

One of the Minnesota Wild’s priorities is figuring out the cost of extending Jonas Brodin. The 27-year-old defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Michael Russo suggested the blueliner could also be used to acquire a starting goaltender like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray or to acquire a center. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets could consider moving a goalie for some scoring. Friedman notes Joonas Korpisalo and Matiss Kivlenieks aren’t exempt from next year’s expansion draft. Meanwhile, he reports the Pittsburgh Penguins is testing the trade market on third-line center Jared McCann.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup, there’s more fallout from last week’s Kasperi Kapanen trade, including speculation the Leafs could take a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Read on for the latest.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins is one factor that could make it possible for them to sign Alex Pietrangelo via free agency in the offseason.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Alex Pietrangelo if he tests the UFA market? (NHL Images)

Fox points out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas traded Kapanen to clear salary-cap space, speculating he might not be done making cost-cutting moves. He also observed St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be reevaluated for his latest shoulder surgery for at least five months, suggesting it could give Blues GM Doug Armstrong pause to make another major investment in his blueline by re-signing Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo indicated he wants to stay in St. Louis and Armstrong said he wants to keep him. However, Fox reminds us that the Blues GM also acquired and re-signed defensemen Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella this season.

Fox thinks the Blues will make an offer to Pietrangelo but it’ll be lower than what he could get on the open market. Maybe the defenseman takes the hometown discount, but perhaps he’ll go elsewhere if he wants to maximize his contract. 

Dubas likes big-game hunting (signing John Tavares) and making bold moves (the Nazem Kadri trade) and is backed by the deep pockets of MLSE. Such a move, however, could mean shedding someone like William Nylander and signing the 30-year-old Pietrangelo to more term than makes sense. Still, Fox feels Dubas should at least look into it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course Dubas should look into signing Pietrangelo if the Blues captain heads to free agency. Any GM worth his salt should do so. Freeing up the cap space to sign him without weakening the roster, however, is another matter.

The Leafs need for a top-four, right-side defenseman is well-documented. Yes, Dubas is known for making big signings and creative trades. But how well did the Tavares signing and the Kadri trade work out for the Leafs? Tavares is a great player, but the Leafs didn’t need him, and the $11 million they’re paying him for the next five years should’ve been put into shoring up the defense. That’s what led to the Kadri trade, which didn’t pan out as Dubas hoped. 

Pietrangelo would address that glaring blueline need for the Leafs. Freeing up sufficient cap room to land him, however, will hurt their depth elsewhere, not to mention they’ll be tying up far too much cap payroll in a handful of players. That’s not a wise move given the current economic landscape.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons isn’t ready to declare the Leafs the winners of the Kapanen deal until he sees what the Leafs do with the first-round pick (15th overall) they received in the deal. It depends upon who they select with that pick and how that player pans out, whether they trade the pick, and what they do with the money they free up by sending Kapanen to Pittsburgh.

Simmons also touched on the recent trade speculation regarding Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. He doesn’t feel Andersen is the Leafs biggest problem but the feeling around the hockey world is his time in Toronto is coming to an end. Trading him won’t be easy in a flooded goalie market but there are many options to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will those options be better than Andersen? He’s played well behind one of the league’s worst defensive teams over the past four years but has become a scapegoat for the club’s recent woes for some Leafs fans. If you can land someone like Robin Lehner, it might be worthwhile. If it’s someone whose stock has declined like Braden Holtby, it might be wiser to stick with Andersen. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike DeFabo was asked what other moves he sees the Penguins making after acquiring Kapanen. He feels either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be traded. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents and GM Jim Rutherford indicated he’s likely to move one of them.

Murray could be the likely trade candidate because he’d be more expensive to re-sign. The Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames could be in the market for a goaltender.

As for the potential return, DeFabo indicates the third-line center position has been an issue for the past several years. He also expects changes are coming to their blueline as they need a better right-shot defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray seems to be the guy Rutherford is shopping but he could be getting more interest in Jarry. He’s younger, more affordable, and doesn’t have Murray’s injury history.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks interest in Kapanen before he was shipped to the Penguins suggests GM Bob Murray isn’t interested in a roster tear-down. He could instead be looking for players who can provide immediate help. Possible targets could include more affordable options like Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, or Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen might’ve ended up with the Ducks had Murray been willing to part with his first-round pick (sixth overall) in this year’s draft. If that was Dubas’ asking price, Murray was wise to pass.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 27, 2020

The latest on Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford plus updates on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ANDERSEN AND CRAWFORD

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Claude Lemieux, the agent for Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, understands the recent trade speculation about his client is part of the territory when a team with high expectations like the Leafs suffers an early playoff exit. Lemieux also indicated Andersen has not requested a trade.

There’s media chatter suggesting Andersen is being shopped by the Leafs. Lemieux said the club hasn’t spoken to him about a trade. He also stated he hasn’t had contract extension talks for his client, whose contract expires at the end of next season. Rumors have linked the Leafs to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Corey Crawford hopes to return with the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs need a better goalie than Murray if they’re thinking about moving Andersen. While Murray has two Stanley Cups (2016 and 2017) on his resume, Andersen has had better health and better stats since 2017 with a heavier workload.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently reported Corey Crawford wants to stay with the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old goalie will become an unrestricted free agent on Nov. 1. He’d consider a three- or four-year deal if the Blackhawks prefer, but would also accept a short-term deal.

Crawford also indicated playing time matters more than his next salary. “I don’t want to play half the games and sit on the bench for stretches at a time,” he said. “I’m way more valuable playing games and playing consistently.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite his age (35) and injury history, Crawford proved his value as a starting goalie this season to the Blackhawks. His next deal won’t be worth $6 million annually like his current contract. I’ll be surprised if the Hawks commit to anything over two years.

Crawford’s age would allow him to sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million if he meets all bonus requirements. It would provide him with an opportunity to finish the season with a significant salary while giving the Blackhawks some cap flexibility. That depends, of course, on whether he would accept a one-year deal.

RANGERS

LOHUD.COM: Vincent Z. Mercogliano recently looked at several possible off-season trade targets for the New York Rangers. He believes they need a center and a left-handed defenseman.

Centers include Calgary’s Sam Bennett, Ottawa’s Logan Brown, Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli, Montreal’s Phillip Danault, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, and Toronto’s William Nylander. His defense options include Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin, Vancouver’s Olli Juolevi, and Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mercogliano lists his targets in descending order and explores the pros and cons of each player and the potential cost to acquire them. Follow the link above to get the details. I’m just going to briefly add my two cents.

The Flames won’t part with Bennett as he’s a versatile forward who always elevates his game in the playoffs. He’s among the few Flames who could hold his head high over his performance in this year’s postseason. I don’t believe the Senators will give up on Brown. The Bolts intend to re-sign Cirelli. Danault is the Habs’ best two-way center so he’s not going anywhere.

Hertl is very talented but his injury history makes him a risky acquisition. Nylander’s cap hit ($6.9 million) makes him too expensive for the Blueshirts under a flattened salary cap.

I believe the Canucks will remain patient with Juolevi. Brodin and Lindholm might be available but the asking price for Brodin could be a center (which the Rangers need) while the Ducks will likely want a top-six winger for Lindholm.

FOREVER BLUESHIRTS: Anthony Scultore cited Swedish reporter Johan Rylander wondering why Frolunda is one of only two Swedish league teams still holding closed-door practices. “Is it because (Henrik) Lundqvist is training for return? Or is it simply due to fear of covid-19 from two journalists 40 meters from the ice?”

Rylander confirmed Lundqvist is in town and practicing somewhere to stay in shape. Frolunda, meanwhile, issued a statement indicating their closed-door sessions are to protect their players as much as possible from the virus. The team stated it had no information on Lundqvist other than he is not a member of their roster or their team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report indicates Lundqvist is allowed to practice with the club as per IIHF rules. He spent several seasons with Frolunda before joining the Rangers in 2005-06. Perhaps he’s considering NHL retirement and finishing his career with his old team. Or he could simply be staying in shape before training camp opens later this fall.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

What next for the Leafs and Penguins following yesterday’s Kasperi Kapanen trade? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby singled out the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of a first-round pick (15th overall) and prospect forward Filip Hallander while freeing up salary-cap space from shipping winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t ruling out shopping that pick if it would help his team. “If there’s another Jake Muzzin, we’d be interested, to put it mildly,” he said.

Dubas also suggested he might not be done dealing. “I don’t think this will be it for us,” he said. “We need to gain greater (cap) flexibility than what we have.” The Leafs GM pointed out they have to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev and he’d like more space to address other needs.

Could Frederik Andersen become the next player traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Hornby’s colleague Michael Traikos wondered if the Leafs will trade another third-line winger, or replace goaltender Frederik Andersen with a more affordable (but unproven) option, or break up their core. He feels they need a defenseman or two and a scoring forward who plays with a snarl like former Leafs Nazem Kadri is doing with the Colorado Avalanche.

Traikos suggested trading Kapanen opens up cap room to perhaps pursue Boston’s Torey Krug, Calgary’s T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic or Vancouver’s Chris Tanev via free agency. They could even pursue St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo if Dubas moves out another player like Andreas Johnsson, Alexander Kerfoot, or even William Nylander.

Signing Pietrangelo, however, could cost between $8 million and $11 million annually. Traikos also warns there’s no certainty those free-agent blueliners will sign with the Leafs. “After all, it’s not like the team has won anything lately.”

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Leafs also spoke to the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and New Jersey Devils before trading Kapanen to the Penguins. The Leafs attempted to reacquire the pick they sent to the Hurricanes last summer but the Canes weren’t interested in parting with the 13th overall selection. The Blackhawks also balked on moving their first-round pick (17th overall).

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle cites sources indicating Kapanen wasn’t the only player dangled by Dubas in the trade market since the Leafs were eliminated from the qualifying round two weeks ago.

Andersen could apparently be had in a salary-dumping deal, leading Mirtle to wonder if the Edmonton Oilers might be interested if they can find the cap room. Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, and Johnsson were also mentioned. The Leafs could free up $17 million if they could move all four.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas is not done making moves after yet another disappointing postseason performance. I concur with Traikos that the Leafs GM must bolster his blueline and bring in a physical scorer. Perhaps he’ll revisit talks with some of those clubs he spoke with regarding Kapanen. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas shops that first-round pick. Their core players – Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly – will be between 22 and 29 when next season begins. The Leafs don’t want to waste their playing primes.  They’re in “win-now” mode and could use that pick to bring in a player who can immediately address a roster need. If there are no suitable offers, Dubas can retain that pick and perhaps use the prospect selected as part of a deal in the near future to bring in an impact player.

Signing any of those UFA defensemen listed by Traikos will require freeing up more salary-cap payroll. Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $73.7 million tied up in 16 players. Signing one of those blueliners will eat up most or all of that cap room, leaving nothing for Dermott and Mikheyev.

Landing Pietrangelo won’t be easy. Indeed, it might not be possible, as the Blues captain already stated his wish is to stay in St. Louis. And no, he’s not going to accept less than whatever the Blues offer to “come home” to Toronto. St. Louis is his home now and it’s where he wants to stay. If that’s not possible, he’ll seek a lucrative deal in the UFA market despite the flattened salary cap for next season. If the Leafs want him, they’ll have to pay a lot to sign him.

Krug will also be expensive, though nowhere near as much as Pietrangelo. Figure it could cost between $6-$7 million annually. Brodie, Hamonic or Tanev won’t cost that much but they’ll still eat up a big chunk of change, perhaps over $5 million annually. Assuming the flat cap hurts their UFA value, they could seek cap hits similar to what they’re making now.

Moving Andersen is dangerous unless Dubas intends to add a better option and that might not be readily available. He could pursue Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner via free agency, but either guy could cost more than Andersen’s current $5 million AAV. In Holtby’s case, it would be ponying up for what appears to be a declining asset.

It’ll be interesting to see what Dubas and his capologist have in mind. They proved capable of salary-cap gymnastics last summer, but those moves failed to improve the Leafs. He must do better this time around and that won’t be easy given the current economic landscape.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh believes the Penguins’ addition of Kapanen rules out re-signing pending UFA winger Conor Sheary. He also suggests it clouds the futures of restricted free agent goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry and forwards Jared McCann and Dominik Simon.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun suggests Murray could be the next Penguin on the move. Rutherford already indicated he needs to trade one of his goalies and sources told LeBrun his focus is on moving Murray. His RFA status (with arbitration rights) is a sticking point. One source said they’re worried the goalie could command $6 million in arbitration, after which he’s eligible for unrestricted free-agent status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s injury history and inconsistent play could also be a concern. Rutherford might have to package him with a draft pick or prospect if teams are worried about his contract for next season.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 20, 2020

What’s next for the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Carolina Hurricanes now that they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered if the Arizona Coyotes will re-sign winger Taylor Hall, whose efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract could be affected by the flat salary cap for next season. Team ownership met with the pending UFA before the postseason began, but the club only has $1.51 million in cap space for next season.

Has Taylor Hall played his final game with the Arizona Coyotes? (NHL Images)

Wyshynski wondered if the Nashville Predators might be interested as they need a shakeup following another disappointing postseason. He also noted the Coyotes need to bolster their anemic offense.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER.COM (subscription required): Craig Morgan suggests the Coyotes flawed, tapped-out roster could need another rebuild, pointing out they were overmatched in skill and scoring in the playoffs. They lack a true No.1 center, scoring punch, and physicality at forward and on the blueline.

Efforts to acquire young talent will be hampered by a lack of a first- and third-round pick in this year’s draft. Morgan doesn’t expect pending UFAs Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg will return and speculates players with one year on their contracts, such as Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, and Alex Goligoski could be shopped.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Difficult decisions await new general manager Steve Sullivan. They must attempt to convince Hall to re-sign, but even if he won’t get as much as he would’ve before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap, the Coyotes must shed salary to keep him.

Hall will likely test the market if the Coyotes opt to rebuild again. However, I don’t see him landing with the Predators unless they can dump some salary. They’ve got over $72 million committed to 17 players.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Chicago Blackhawks could face another off-season salary cap crunch with veteran starting goalie Corey Crawford an unrestricted free agent and RFAs Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome due for raises. She also said there’s some buzz around the league that this could be it for general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the goalie situation remains murky, the defense has some talent but little cohesion, and their bottom-six forwards were sub-par.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Phil Thompson believes the Blackhawks will be hard-pressed to go anywhere without Crawford. They have no one in their system capable of taking over as their starting goalie.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers wondered what the future holds for Brent Seabrook in the wake of two hip surgeries and shoulder surgery earlier this year. He has an unmovable contract worth $6.875 million annually for the next four seasons. Trying to trade him would mean including a key young player they cannot afford to give up. Andrew Shaw also faces an uncertain future as concussion injuries mount for the 29-year-old forward.

Lazerus and Powers expect Olli Maatta and Zack Smith to be bought out, freeing up a combined $5.5 million for next season. They also wondered about Alex Nylander’s place in the lineup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 19 players next season. If Seabrook and Shaw both start next season on long-term injury reserve, it would give them over $10.7 million in cap flexibility, enough to re-sign Crawford, Kubalik, and Strome and still leave a little wiggle room for other moves.

Seabrook, however, remains determined to return, as could Shaw if he feels he can continue his playing career. That could lead to buyouts for Maatta and Smith.

Crawford seems willing to finish his playing career in Chicago. The 35-year-old netminder could ink a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary ($2.5 – $3 million) to provide the Hawks with a bit of breathing space. Kubalik and Strome will get raises but could be signed to affordable short-term deals with promises of bigger rewards ahead.

Upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round and the emergence of young players like Kubalik, Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Adam Boqvist could give Bowman and Colliton a reprieve. Nevertheless, the front-office shakeups earlier this year suggest they’re on notice.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Carolina Hurricanes could part ways with one or two of their pending UFA defensemen like Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson, or Trevor van Riemsdyk. She also wonders if Justin Williams has played his final NHL game and expects the budget-conscious Hurricanes to stick with their affordable goalie tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer for one more season. Both are signed through 2020-21.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock also wondered if the 38-year-old Williams has come to the end of his playing career. He feels the Hurricanes lack an intimidating presence on their blueline. He thinks they’re built to make the playoffs but the Boston Bruins have shown them in successive postseasons what it takes to become a Stanley Cup contender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Hurricanes have over $72 million invested in 16 players, with RFAs Warren Foegele and Haydn Fleury also due for new contracts.

Those two will be affordable short-term signings, as could Edmundson if they want to retain some snarl on defense, but they won’t have enough to go shopping for an established starting goalie or to bring in some physical leadership. They could make it work for Williams if he wants to come back but I think this was his last hurrah.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2020

It’s been over a week since the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the postseason but speculation persists over their offseason plans. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports Frederik Andersen could face an uncertain future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his stats in elimination games aren’t that good.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).

Nevertheless, Fox doesn’t think there’s a suitable replacement for Andersen in this year’s free-agent market. Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are past their prime. If the Vancouver Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom, Vegas’ Robin Lehner would be the best available free-agent goalie and expensive to sign. Fox doesn’t think Calgary’s Cam Talbot, the NY Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, or Dallas’ Anton Khudobin would be suitable replacements.

Fox notes the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins appear open for goalie trades, but he’s not sure what they have to offer would be an improvement over Andersen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $76 million invested in 17 players, the Leafs lack sufficient cap space to chase expensive UFA talent without shedding some salary first. I agree with Fox’s assessment of this year’s crop of free-agent goalies.

What might be available in the trade market isn’t that tantalizing. The Wild could shop an aging Devan Dubnyk or career backup Alex Stalock. The Rangers could peddle Henrik Lundqvist (provided he waives his no-movement clause) but he’s also past his best-before date. Alexandar Georgiev is another Rangers’ option but he hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter. Recent speculation tied Penguins starter Matt Murray to the Leafs, but he’s struggled with injuries and consistency since backstopping the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

I anticipate the Leafs will stick with Andersen for next season and see how things unfold. It’ll give them time to assess next season’s trade market and see if there are better options among next year’s free agents.

TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked about the possibility of the Leafs trading winger William Nylander. McGran feels Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t want to go that route, but the coming salary-cap crunch could leave him little choice. He considers Nylander their most tradeable commodity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll take some nifty salary-cap gymnastics for Dubas and his capologist to address his club’s need to bolster the defense without parting with a significant asset. Nylander could be the best option to land that elusive top-pairing, right-side rearguard.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports the Penguins are looking to shore up their roster and have asked questions about Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To which the answer should be, we’re not moving him unless you offer up a good, young, right-side defenseman or skilled two-way center.

Simmons also proposed how the Leafs could sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if the St. Louis Blues captain tests the free-agent market.

I take Cody Ceci’s $4.5 million — he’s a free agent — and add it with Tyson Barrie’s $2.5 million. Both should be leaving. Now you take $3 million from either Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson and you’ve got $10 million to play with in a soft free-agent class, considering the economics of all of professional sport.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have $76.9 million invested in 17 players next season, leaving roughly $4.5 million in cap space. That’s with Ceci and Barrie off the books. Dumping Kerfoot, Kapanen, or Johnsson would give the Leafs around $7.5 million to spend in the free-agent market.

Assuming Pietrangelo is willing to accept a modest pay bump from his current $6.5 million annual average value to come to Toronto (and honestly, why would he?), the Leafs would have no money left to re-sign other players (like Travis Dermott, Ilya Mikheyev, and perhaps Kyle Clifford) and fill out the rest of the roster.