NHL Rumor Mill – October 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 20, 2020

The latest on Kyle Palmieri, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Erik Haula in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the New Jersey Devils haven’t been shopping winger Kyle Palmieri, who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. His agent said there have only been preliminary contact discussions.

New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri (NHL Images).

LeBrun believes Palmieri wants to sign a contract extension. He’s entering the final season of a four-year deal with a $4.65-million cap hit. Brendan Gallagher’s new contract with the Montreal Canadiens (six years, $6.5 million AAV) could be of interest.

If an extension cannot be worked out, LeBrun speculates Palmieri could be moved by next season’s trade deadline.

Corey Masisak speculates Palmieri might’ve expected to receive a deal comparable to Philadelphia’s James van Riemsdyk (five years, $35 million) before the pandemic. That seems less likely now, as Masisak pointed to Evgenii Dadonov getting a three-year, $15 million deal with the Ottawa Senators and Tyler Toffoli inking a four-year, $17 million contract with the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Palmieri wants to stay with the Devils and I believe they want to keep him. They could offer up a four-year deal worth around $5.5 million per season. He might prefer a shorter-term in hopes of a more lucrative deal in a year or two with the market being what it is, or perhaps a long-term term at around $5 million annually.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins recently reported there are “lots of indications” the Oilers are pursuing a contract extension for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He believes they have plenty of room to do this properly even if the cap doesn’t go up for 2021-22.

Leavins also suggests the Oilers consider signing former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Madison Bowey to add a veteran right-side rearguard to their blue line. He argues the Oilers could find sufficient cap space to sign Bowey and re-sign Ethan Bear by placing Oscar Klefbom on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Oilers have $51.9 million invested in 11 players for 2021-22. Re-signing Nugent-Hopkins could cost $7.5 million annually. Given the ongoing economic uncertainty, perhaps they could convince him to accept a slight raise over his current $6 million per season (say, $6.5 million?) for the security of a long-term extension.

THE ATHLETIC: LeBrun reported agent Jay Grossman, who represents free-agent center Erik Haula, said he’s spoken with 10-12 teams that have a legitimate interest in his client. Haula’s coming off a three-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. He also has an injury history but Grossman said he’s fully healthy now.

LeBrun believes it’s probably best for Haula to be patient and see if those interested clubs that currently can’t sign him perhaps make a trade that frees up some cap space. He wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights might be willing to reach out to Haula if they can clear some cap room.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula will need to be very patient. It appears most teams now are hoping to out-wait players like him in hope of signing them to bargain contracts.










Oilers’ Rot Begins At The Top

Oilers’ Rot Begins At The Top

Something that really pisses me off as a hockey fan is watching a once-proud franchise being run into the ground by mismanagement or ownership indifference. So you can imagine my disgust over what the Edmonton Oilers have become under Daryl Katz’s ownership.

To be fair, the Oilers’ glory days were already well behind them before Katz took over. But in his decade of ownership, they’ve jumped the track, crashed over an embankment and exploded into a fireball of blunders.

In the days following last week’s firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli last week, pundits were already speculating about his full-time replacement while offering suggestions on how to improve the roster.

None of that will matter, however, if instability persists in the front office and behind the bench.

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.

In 11 seasons under Katz, the Oilers went through eight head coaches and four general managers.

Among the coaches were respected bench bosses like Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, and Todd McLellan. They did their best with the rosters provided to them. Management impatience and incompetence, however, did in most of them before they had a reasonable chance to make any sort of positive imprint. 

Following their sputtering start to this season, Ken Hitchcock was lured out of retirement in November to replace McLellan as a stopgap measure to get them back on track. For while, it worked, until their roster weaknesses caught up with them despite Hitchcock’s efforts.

Fortunately for Hitchcock, his reputation among the league’s greatest coaches won’t be too badly tarnished by what could be his brief tenure with the Oilers. 

The widely-hailed hirings of former Hockey Canada honcho Bob Nicholson as team CEO and Peter Chiarelli as GM was supposed to end the Oilers’ culture of losing while removing the supposed influence of an old boys network of former Oilers.

Chiarelli, who built the Boston Bruins into a Stanley Cup champions, failed to do the same for the Oilers. He deserves the criticism he received for his lousy trades but those deals also had the stamp of approval by his employers.

In a press conference following Chiarelli’s firing, Nicholson was trying to be optimistic over the Oilers’ playoff hopes. Most observers instead saw an executive trying to sell hope in a season where little can be found.

Something is definitely wrong when respected hockey men end up chewed up and spat out, some with their reputations in tatters, while the team remains mired in mediocrity.

The Oilers’ ongoing follies could soon take its toll upon the long-suffering fanbase. Perhaps a drop in season-ticket sales might spur Katz into reconsidering how he and his staff are running this franchise.

There’s also dark mutterings among some fans and pundits suggesting the Oilers are wasting the best years of McDavid’s career.

McDavid is currently in the first season of a new contract that runs through 2025-26. So far, the young Oilers captain is expressing defiance of his team’s critics. He’s defended his teammates, believes they can still make the playoffs and wants to be part of the solution.

But if the Oilers fail to turn things around it could eventually take its toll on McDavid, perhaps to the point where he reconsiders his long-term future in Edmonton.

The Oilers are expected to announce a long-term replacement for Chiarelli in the offseason. They could also end up replacing Hitchcock if the new GM wants his own guy behind the bench.

With the fans growing restless and questions being raised over the future of their franchise player, the Oilers better get it right this time.

If they don’t, they will remain the graveyard of careers for coaches, general managers, and perhaps, even the NHL’s best player.