NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2022

Four unexpected early-season trade candidates plus speculation over how the Leafs will replace the sidelined Jake Muzzin in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen lists the Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat and Thatcher Demko, St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson as four trade candidates we didn’t expect to see.

Horvat, 27, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. With the Canucks struggling, his future in Vancouver has come under question. There’s speculation it could cost them $8 million annually for eight seasons to re-sign their captain.

As for Demko, Boylen indicates he’s not the sole reason behind the Canucks’ difficulties this season. However, the 26-year-old goaltender’s inconsistent play has been a contributing factor that could take him out of the franchise’s core of untouchable players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the losses piling up in Vancouver there’s a sense that something’s gotta give. There’s talk that head coach Bruce Boudreau could be replaced which seems the more likely option given how difficult it is at this stage of the schedule to swing a season-saving trade.

Of the two, Horvat is the more likely trade candidate given his contract status. Demko’s struggles are tied in part to the porous defense in front of him. Besides, trading Demko would only create the additional headache of finding a suitable replacement carrying an annual cap hit comparable to his reasonable $5 million per season.

If Canucks management shakes up the roster I suspect it’ll be in the New Year when we get closer to the March 3 trade deadline. Horvat would draw considerable interest from playoff contenders and should fetch a quality return.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

Like Horvat, O’Reilly is due to become a UFA next summer. He turns 32 in February and will be in line for a hefty new deal. However, the Blues are transitioning toward younger talent while O’Reilly is struggling to score this season. They could peddle their captain if it looks like they’ll miss the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly has stated he wants to remain with the Blues beyond this season. I doubt he’ll be going anywhere if the Blues rebound and are a playoff contender by the trade deadline. Whether he and Blues management can agree to a contract extension is another matter.

If they’re out of contention by then it wouldn’t be surprising if GM Doug Armstrong trades him. He has parted ways with previous captains, letting Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes depart via free agency. Armstrong could look at getting something for O’Reilly rather than lose him for nothing.

Karlsson’s terrific start to this season for the lowly Sharks has sparked some musings about his trade status. Boylen observed first-year GM Mike Grier traded away Brent Burns to Carolina in July. Karlsson carries a hefty $11.5 million cap hit and a full no-movement clause. However, a trade might be possible if he’s willing to waive the clause to join a playoff contender and if the Sharks are willing to retain a healthy chunk of his cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns was easier to move because his contract was shorter and more affordable than Karlsson’s. He’s signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $8 million, which made retaining $2.7 million of that AAV easier to do. Karlsson is signed through 2026-27, which is a far longer period to be carrying dead cap space.

I’m not saying Karlsson can’t or won’t be traded, only that his contract won’t be easy to move. I think Grier will want to retain as little of that big cap hit as possible.


TORONTO SUN: With Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin sidelined until at least February by a cervical spine injury, Terry Koshan believes GM Kyle Dubas should determine what’s available in the trade market regarding veteran blueliners.

THE JEFF MAREK SHOW (stick tap to “NHL Watcher”): Marek suggested Anaheim Ducks rearguards John Klingberg and Kevin Shattenkirk as trade options to replace Muzzin. Elliotte Friedman disagreed as he doesn’t believe they’re the type of defenders the Leafs need.

Friedman also noted the Leafs have been tied to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he expressed concern over Chychrun’s injury history and the Coyotes’ high asking price.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel suggested pending UFAs such as the Washington Capitals Dmitry Orlov, the Ottawa Senators’ Artem Zub and the New York Islanders Scott Mayfield. He also mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy, who has three more seasons left on his contract with an AAV of $4.4 million. However, he wondered if it could cost them a defenseman like Timothy Liljegren or Rasmus Sandin or perhaps forward Nick Robertson in order to get a serious return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koshan and The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk reported Dubas intends to see if Liljegren and Sandin can elevate their play before going the trade route. They’ve managed to make do with Muzzin missing most of this season thus far. T.J. Brodie is also sidelined but he’s expected to be out for just a couple of weeks.

Dubas won’t go shopping for help as long as the Leafs can keep their heads above water while Muzzin is sidelined. If the blueliner is ruled out for the remainder of the regular season during his February re-evaluation, the Leafs GM will keep him on long-term injury reserve and probably use the cap relief to bring in a rental defenseman. The trade market will likely contain better options by that point.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 10, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 10, 2022

Growing speculation over the futures of Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko with the Blues plus a look at what the Oilers could do to replace the sidelined Evander Kane in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon suggests a retooling of the Blues roster could come sooner than later if they continue to flounder in the standings. With Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou are the new foundations of the franchise, general manager Doug Armstrong could consider parting with center Ryan O’Reilly and winger Vladimir Tarasenko for draft picks and prospects. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).

Gordon feels Tarasenko seems more likely to test the market given the past signals from his camp. Armstrong could ask him to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a trade.

O’Reilly would be tougher to part with given his leadership value and his positive effect on the roster since his arrival. However, he turns 32 this season and appears to be slowing down. Nevertheless, he’d attract interest from postseason contenders.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford also believes there will be interest in Tarasenko and O’Reilly if they hit the trade block. However, it will likely be greater closer to the March 3 trade deadline than in November, when it’s difficult for contending teams to fit in players carrying $7.5 million cap hits.

Rutherford speculates Armstrong could be looking at smaller deals for more immediate help. He might be able to pull one off in the coming weeks.

SPORTSNET: Regarding a possible trade of O’Reilly, Ken Wiebe pointed out that Armstrong isn’t afraid of making difficult decisions when it comes to team captains on expiring contracts. He let Alex Pietrangelo walk in 2020 and did the same with David Backes four years earlier.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested O’Reilly would look good centering the Colorado Avalanche’s second line. He also suggested Vancouver’s Bo Horvat and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews as other candidates for that role with the Avs if they become available in the trade market.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater mused about a possible reunion of O’Reilly and the Avalanche. He began his career in Colorado in 2009-10 and spent six seasons there before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2015.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the two, Tarasenko is the most likely to be traded by the Blues before March 3. He requested a trade in July 2021 over his unhappiness with the team doctors’ treatment of his injured shoulder. While he’s still with the Blues, there was a report this summer claiming he never rescinded that request.

I would’ve considered trading O’Reilly to be unlikely entering this season. Now, I’m not so sure. His struggles this season are one reason behind the Blues’ difficulties. That could dissuade Armstrong from signing him to an extension.

Unlike Tarasenko, O’Reilly lacks no-trade protection so the Blues GM can ship him anywhere, though I daresay if it comes to that he’ll ask his captain where he’d prefer to go. Maybe O’Reilly would welcome a return to the Avalanche. Then again, he could favor another destination.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples wonders if the Oilers will use Evander Kane’s cap hit to add another top-six forward with Kane returning just before the playoffs. The 31-year-old winger is on long-term injury reserve for the next three-to-four months recovering from wrist surgery.

Yes, those are the rules, “ writes Staples. “Tampa Bay did it. It may well develop in that direction for the Oilers.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, it could. Kane’s average annual value is $5.125 million. According to Cap Friendly, the Oilers have $4.76 million in projected trade deadline cap space. However, they just ensure they can become cap compliant whenever Kane returns to action.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2022

A look at the biggest concerns facing the Blues, Senators, Bruins and Canadiens in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Limited scoring and defensive lapses are threatening to sink the St. Louis Blues’ season. If things don’t improve soon, GM Doug Armstrong could face deciding whether to attempt a season-saving trade or commence a rebuild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeremy Rutherford followed up by exploring Armstrong’s options. He could replace head coach Craig Berube, trade pending UFAs Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, or start a rebuild.

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).

Rutherford believes Tarasenko and O’Reilly would draw plenty of interest in the trade market. However, it’s probably too early in the season to move them. If Armstrong decides to shop one or both, it’ll like be near the March 3 trade deadline.

A lack of consistency among the Ottawa Senators’ defensemen remains an issue. The recent injury to Artem Zub magnified the problem. They’ll have to do something soon lest it threatens to derail their season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have some cap space (less than $4 million) plus plenty of promising young assets to use as trade bait. They could also dangle unsigned winger Alex Formenton if they can’t get him under contract before the Dec. 1 deadline.

They’ve been linked to Jakob Chychrun but the Arizona Coyotes defenseman remains week-to-week and won’t provide any immediate help. The Coyotes also set a high asking price that no one currently wants to pay.

This is supposed to be the season the Senators finally turn things around. With just four wins in their first 12 games, however, they’re at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and in danger of falling too far behind the pack to catch up. I suspect a trade could be coming sooner rather than later.

The Boston Bruins must clear salary-cap space when sidelined defenseman Charlie McAvoy returns to action. With Mike Reilly and Nick Foligno having cleared waivers, they’ll have to include some assets if they hope to part with either guy. Winger Craig Smith is an unrestricted free agent next summer but he’s been injured and his playing time has been reduced.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reilly seems like the odd man out. He hasn’t requested a trade but already spent a bit of time in the minors to make room for the return of Brad Marchand.

The Montreal Canadiens hoped to flip forwards Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Drouin and to a lesser extent Mike Hoffman for assets at the trade deadline. So far, however, their poor performances thus far haven’t done much to improve their value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported Dadonov’s been held pointless thus far and hasn’t seen much time on the power play this season. That’s because head coach Martin St. Louis is going with the guys he trusts (Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach) to produce.

LeBrun indicated teams he’s spoken with about Dadonov said they want to see how he plays in the coming weeks to see if the Canadiens can create a trade market for him. He got back into the lineup for last night’s win against the Detroit Red Wings but did little to improve his trade value. Perhaps Dadonov will get more chances for playing time as the season goes on.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2022

Could the Blackhawks trade Jonathan Toews but not Patrick Kane? Could the Blues re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko but not Ryan O’Reilly? Will the Flyers trade a key veteran this season? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Among their staff’s bold predictions for 2022-23 were three interesting forecasts involving the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).

Mark Lazerus observed the consensus is the Blackhawks will trade Patrick Kane because he’ll be too valuable at the trade deadline to retain while Jonathan Toews is untradeable. However, he suggests Toews could be valuable to clubs like the Colorado Avalanche that could be in the market for a third-line center. As for Kane, Lazerus believes the winger could be looking for a reason to stay in Chicago and finish his career with the Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would certainly be a swerve from the current narrative suggesting Kane could end up playing for a contender like the New York Rangers by deadline day.

As Lazerus observed, Kane would have the best trade value of the two. However, the 33-year-old winger’s no-movement clause gives him complete control over his fate this season.

Toews also has a full NMC and the same cap hit ($10.5 million) as Kane. Nevertheless, he would be more affordable in terms of return for contenders seeking experienced postseason depth at center.

Jeremy Rutherford, meanwhile, made the bold prediction of the St. Louis Blues re-signing Vladimir Tarasenko and parting ways with team captain Ryan O’Reilly. He pointed out teams weren’t willing to trade for Tarasenko and wondered if they’d be willing to pay for his services in the free-agent market. He also asked if the Blues can afford to lose the skilled winger.

Rutherford suggested O’Reilly could be expendable with centers Robert Thomas and Brayden Schenn on long-term contracts. He also reminded us that general manager Doug Armstrong has parted company with previous captains like Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford admitted he didn’t fully believe this scenario either. Still, the topic was bold predictions and this one certainly fits into that category.

Tarasenko’s probably a goner after this season. His unhappiness with the club’s medical staff over the treatment of his injured shoulder led to a trade request in 2021 that he reportedly hasn’t rescinded. They’ll likely re-sign O’Reilly to a five-year deal for slightly less than his current $7.5 million AAV.

Turning to the Flyers, Charlie O’Connor’s bold prediction is they’ll trade one of their “recognizable veterans on long-term contracts.” That player would likely be one who doesn’t buy into head coach John Tortorella’s game plan. If it happens, they could be quickly on the move as GM Chuck Fletcher can’t afford to be patient anymore.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Connor didn’t single anyone out because we don’t know yet which players might not see eye-to-eye with Tortorella as the season unfold. Recognizable veterans on long-term contracts could include Sean Couturier or Kevin Hayes.

I’m not saying one of those guys will clash with Tortorella. For all I know, they could be fully onboard. Still, it’ll be interesting to follow the Flyers this season to see who buys into what their new coach is peddling and who doesn’t.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2022

In today’s NHL Rumor Mill: limited cap space could affect the Blues’ efforts to re-sign Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko plus an update on P.K. Subban.


STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas reports the Blues could find it difficult to re-sign Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev and Niko Mikkola. The four are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said he intends to let the season play itself out, “have those guys play.” He didn’t rule out contract negotiations during the coming season. “It means if we do, we’ll do it behind closed doors.”

O’Reilly and Tarasenko will draw the most interest. Both were key players in the Blues’ Stanley Cup run in 2019.

O’Reilly has become the Blues captain and remains among the league’s best two-way players. He also seems to enjoy playing in St. Louis.

Tarasenko, however, requested a trade last summer but enjoyed a career-best 84-point performance last season. Reports emerged this summer claiming he hasn’t rescinded that request.

Both players currently carry an average annual value of $7.5 million. O’Reilly turns 32 in February while Tarasenko will be 31 in December, meaning they won’t be getting eight-year contract extensions like those signed this summer by teammates Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.

With a projected salary cap of $83.5 million for 2023-24, the Blues will have around $15.95 million in cap space with 13 players under contract. Assuming O’Reilly returns for a cap hit similar to his current one, that’ll leave just $8.45 million for the rest of the roster.

Thomas wondered how much of a pay cut O’Reilly might accept to remain with the Blues. He believes term will be an issue as well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko is likely playing his final season with the Blues. His trade request did not become an issue with his teammates and it’s unlikely to be one this season. Even if he has another 80-point performance, there’s a sense that the rift between himself and the front office hasn’t fully healed.

Signing O’Reilly, on the other hand, is likely to be a priority for Armstrong. Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek last week suggested the Blues captain could seek a deal comparable to the seven-year, $49 million contract that Nazem Kadri signed last month with the St. Louis Blues. His colleague, Elliotte Friedman, doubted the Blues will agree to that.

Maybe O’Reilly will accept a pay cut if the Blues offer up a deal of at least five years? That’s something he and Armstrong will have to discuss at some point between now and next July.

If O’Reilly is re-signed, the Blues could be forced to shed salary elsewhere to clear enough room to fill out the remainder of their roster.


TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons observes training camp is fast approaching but P.K. Subban is nowhere to be found. He made a series of calls to people close to the 33-year-old defenseman but hasn’t been able to reach him.

As far as Simmons knows, Subban has neither a place to play nor has he received a training camp invitation. While the former Norris Trophy winner and All-Star isn’t the player he once way, he’s still good enough to end up somewhere with an NHL club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports from earlier this summer claimed Subban was receiving some interest and was evaluating potential destinations. Maybe he’s still deciding where he’ll land or perhaps those teams have moved on to other defensemen.

Training camps open on Sept. 21 and 22. We should know Subban’s fate by week’s end.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2022

Will the Blues attempt to sign Ryan O’Reilly to a contract extension? What’s the latest on MacKenzie Weegar’s extension talks with the Flames? What’s going on with the Rangers’ Nil Lundkvist? Could Jake Virtanen sign a PTO with the Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: During his latest “32 Thoughts” podcast with Jeff Marek, Elliotte Friedman speculated the St. Louis Blues could shift their focus toward signing team captain Ryan O’Reilly to a contract extension. This comes after the club made re-signing Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou their offseason priority, with the duo inking identical eight-year contracts.

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (NHL Images).

O’Reilly is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Term could be an issue for the 31-year-old center. Marek suggested the Calgary Flames’ Nazem Kadri as a comparable. He signed a seven-year, $49 million contract last month but Friedman doesn’t know if he sees the Blues doing that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly is in the final year of a seven-year, $52.5 million contract with an AAV of $7.5 million. He’s still among the league’s best two-way players but, as Friedman observed, he turns 32 in February. That could make Blues general manager Doug Armstrong leery about investing too much for too long in an aging asset.


SPORTSNET: During the same podcast, Friedman reports MacKenzie Weegar said during the Flames’ recent golf tournament that they’re “working on something” and hope to get it done. Friedman believes it could be comparable to Hampus Lindholm’s contract with the Boston Bruins. Lindholm inked an eight-year deal at $6.5 million per season soon after joining the Bruins in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would double Weegar’s current AAV of $3.25 million. The Flames have shown a willingness to be generous with their talent, inking Jonathan Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million contract and Nazem Kadri to seven years and $49 million. It wouldn’t be shocking if Weegar gets a deal similar to Lindholm’s.

Those hefty contracts, however, could become burdensome for the Flames down the road. Weegar will turn 29 in January, Huberdeau will be 30 next June and Kadri turns 32 in October. Nevertheless, general manager Brad Treliving is willing to pay now in the hope these players can turn his Flames into Cup contenders over the next four or five seasons.

Another factor is the potential for significant increases in the salary cap perhaps starting as early as next season if revenue projections are higher than expected. New broadcasting deals with ESPN and Turner and new revenue streams such as online gambling are pouring more money into the league’s coffers. That could result in a big jump in the cap over the next several years which could help offset those expensive contracts for the Flames when Weegar, Huberdeau and Kadri inevitably decline.


NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker reports Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury remains uncertain over the status of Nils Lundkvist. The 22-year-old defenseman reportedly won’t report to training camp next week unless the Rangers trade him to a club where he has a better opportunity at a top-four role.

I really don’t have any update on it,” said Drury. He hopes Lundkvist will be in camp next week but said he doesn’t have a definitive answer yet regarding the blueliner’s plans. Walker indicated the belief that he’ll be traded but Drury wouldn’t confirm if he’s requested a trade.


THE ATHLETIC’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman tweeted the Edmonton Oilers appear to be out on Jake Virtanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They were reportedly among several teams interested in signing the former Vancouver Canucks winger to a professional tryout offer. Nugent-Bowman reported they’re considering offering a PTO for former Flames winger Brett Ritchie.