NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021
Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl was asked if Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula intend to sell the franchise. He said the club isn’t for sale but that hasn’t stop prospective buyers from calling. He doesn’t think the Pegulas have any plans to sell.
Asked about Jack Eichel’s contract, Vogl said the captain’s no-movement clause kicks in with the 2022-23 season. That would limit where the Sabres could trade Eichel if things reached the point where he had to be moved.
Asked if Eichel’s played his final game with the Sabres, Vogl guesses no. The clock isn’t ticking this summer on trading their captain. They can take this summer if they wish to weigh offers, see what happens with Eichel and the team next season, and decide his fate after that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if some clubs make inquiries this summer about Eichel’s availability and the asking price. Perhaps one of them will make a pitch too good to pass up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume it’s a certainty Eichel will be traded unless the Sabres captain wants out.
Vogl believes the Sabres will do everything they can to re-sign Linus Ullmark. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doing so could cost $5 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether they re-sign Ullmark or look elsewhere for a starter they better find a reliable backup. Carter Hutton is a UFA and won’t be back. Dustin Tokarski is signed through next season at $725 and has looked ok in an emergency call-up role but can they depend on him over a full season? Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, is in their system but might not be NHL-ready yet.
Vogl doubts there’s a viable way for the Sabres to shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. No club except the Seattle Kraken can afford Skinner’s long-term cap space. Buying out Okposo wouldn’t make sense until 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s signed through 2026-27 with a $9 million annual average value and a full no-movement clause. Okposo’s got two more seasons left at $6 million annually and a 15-team no-trade list.
I don’t see the Kraken having any interest in Skinner even if he agreed to waive his NMC and I doubt they’ll take Okposo off the Sabres’ hands unless there’s a significant sweetener involved.
Maybe the Sabres can get creative by working out a three-way trade where they absorb half of Skinner’s or Okposo’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. However, that would still leave some significant dead cap space on the Sabres books for a long time, especially where Skinner’s contract is concerned.
The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.
Matthew, however, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer and I believe he’ll be only a year away from UFA eligibility. Any team interested in acquiring him this summer will want to know if he’d be interested in a contract extension. Otherwise, you risk losing him for nothing in two years’ time if he’s unwilling to accept more than a one-year contract next summer.
The Sabres could use a good right-winger. That would allow Victor Olofsson to move to his natural left side.