NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2020

Updates on the Jets and Leafs, plus the latest speculation about Matt Dumba and Brandon Saad in today’s NHL rumor mill.

JETS TRADE OPTIONS

WINNIPEG SUN: Ted Wyman believes the Jets have money to spend in this offseason with Dustin Byfuglien and Dmitry Kulikov off the books and the uncertainty over center Bryan Little’s future following last season’s serious injury. He feels they don’t have to trade away a young star like Patrik Laine or Nikolaj Ehlers unless they’re getting a star player without a no-trade clause or a big-minute defenseman and a two-way, top-six center in return.

Wyman suggests general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dangle the Jets’ first-round pick (10th overall) in this year’s draft and young players like Jack Roslovic, Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen. He thinks they could get something good, like Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. Failing that, Wyman proposed pursuing unrestricted free agents like Travis Hamonic, Brenden Dillon or T.J. Brodie on defense, Mikhail Granlund, Alex Galchenyuk or Derick Brassard at center.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe listed Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli or Tyler Johnson, Montreal’s Phillip Danault, Florida’s Erik Haula, Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick, Vegas’ Paul Stastny and the New York Islanders Derick Brassard as possible trade targets to address their second-line center need.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Cheveldayoff moves Laine or Ehlers. Wyman’s proposals won’t land a superstar but I agree the Jets could get one or two good players from cap-strapped teams. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports they’re believed to have some interest in Dumba, but they don’t have a top-six center to entice the Wild.

Looking at Wiebe’s list, I don’t see the Lightning trading Cirelli and doubt Cheveldayoff will try to go the offer-sheet route to get him. Johnson, however, could be available but he’ll have to waive his no-trade clause. I don’t see the Canadiens parting with Danault. If they do, they’ll want a scoring winger in return.

Haula has been hampered by injuries. Patrick’s been dealing with a migraine disorder that cost him the entire 2019-20 season. Stastny was effective in his short tenure with the Jets in 2018 but the 34-year-old performance has declined since then. Brassard seems best suited for checking-line duty now.

LEAFS GM MUST GET CREATIVE TO ADDRESS DEFENSE ISSUES

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes there are blue-line options out there for Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, but he’ll have to get creative to acquire them. Given the Leafs limited cap space, he doesn’t expect they’ll sign St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if he hits the open market.

Koshan assumes Dubas will acquire a right-shot rearguard. Free-agent options include Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz and Chris Tanev. He also wonders if Dubas will take another look at Zach Bogosian, who’s played well for the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s playoffs.

Dubas could make a splash in the trade market by shopping William Nylander but Koshan doubts he’ll do that. Trade chips could include Andreas Johnsson or Alexander Kerfoot, or perhaps the first-round pick he acquired from Pittsburgh. He thinks Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, Anaheim’s Josh Manson or Carolina’s Brett Pesce would look good in a Leafs jersey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild reportedly seek a center for Dumba. I doubt they’ll part with him for a third-line center like Kerfoot. I don’t see Parayko or Pesce going anywhere. The Ducks might listen if a scoring forward is offered up for Manson but Kerfoot or Johnsson won’t do it.

Dubas might have to go the free-agent route to land that right-shot blueliner. He’ll have to shed a little more salary to do it.

UPDATE ON SAAD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Lazerus was asked if the Chicago Blackhawks might trade Brandon Saad before his UFA eligibility next summer. He doesn’t think there will be much of a market for a winger with a year left on his contract and a $6-million cap hit.

Lazerus also doesn’t see trading Saad making the Blackhawks better with the front office still in “win-now” mode. If they do move the left winger it’ll likely be at the trade deadline if they’re out of playoff contention by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Hawks are willing to absorb part of Saad’s contract there would be more interest in him this summer. They could try to peddle him as a cost-cutting move, but they’ll likely have better luck shopping or buying out Olli Maatta or Zack Smith to free up the cap dollars to re-sign Dominik Kubalik, Corey Crawford and Dylan Strome.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

Reaction to the Maple Leafs’ elimination from the qualifying round in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston believes a seismic change is needed for the Toronto Maple Leafs following their elimination from the qualifying round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their disappointing loss and a stagnant salary-cap could force management to make some difficult decisions.

Johnston considers the Leafs defense to be second-rate and took a big blow after losing Jake Muzzin in Game 2. Secondary scoring was an issue after Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe put Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner on the same line in Game 5.

Has William Nylander played his last game with the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Except for Matthews, Johnston expects one of the Leafs core players (Tavares, Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Andersen, Morgan Rielly) will be sacrificed as part of wider changes before next season. “Everything else must be up for consideration, pending the forces at play in the marketplace.”

If the Leafs win tonight’s draft lottery, Johnston suggests selecting left wing Alexis Lafreniere, trade away one of the high-priced, high-impact forwards, and use the savings to address their blueline needs.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes it’s time for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to trade William Nylander for defensive help. He pointed out the Blue Jackets did the same thing several years ago, shipping center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for blueline stud Seth Jones. “Maybe Nylander can get the Leafs a Seth Jones or, at the very least, a Josh Manson or Brett Pesce.”

THE SCORE: John Matisz listed John Tavares, Frederik Andersen, and Kaspari Kapanen among those on the hot seat heading into the off-season.

Matisz wondered how Tavares will be perceived following his inconsistent play against the Jackets, especially carrying an $11 million annual average value for the next five years.

Replacing a goaltender of Andersen’s caliber won’t be easy, as he’s usually top-10 caliber during the regular season. While he’s undoubtedly safe, he will face increasing pressure heading into his contract year

If a shake-up is coming, Matisz believes Kapanen (and perhaps Andreas Johnsson) could become a trade chip. He carries an affordable contract ($3.2 million AAV for the next two years), had a decent scoring touch and skates like the wind.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll see and hear a lot more speculation about the Leafs’ off-season plans in the coming weeks. No one should be surprised. The Leafs are top-heavy offensively and lack sufficient blueline depth. They can get by with that during the regular season, but it’s their undoing in playoff or qualifying-round series.

Dubas, with the blessing of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, approved that hefty contract for Tavares two years ago, bringing in a player they didn’t need. That’s not to disparage Tavares. I don’t blame him for taking the big bucks to play for his hometown club. He didn’t pressure the Leafs to sign him, and he’s played well for them.

However, the Leafs’ defensive shortcomings were obvious two years ago. They were coming off a season where they were among the top-five in scoring but also in shots-against per game. Andersen’s goaltending was the only reason they finished 12th in goals-against per game (2.80).

But the Leafs front office got distracted by a shiny thing in the summer of 2018, and Tavares’ $11 million AAV handcuffed them ever since. That’s why they had their contract standoff last season with Nylander, it’s why Dubas and his capologist engaged in salary-cap gymnastics last summer to free up room to re-sign Marner, and it’s why they failed to suitably address their defensive needs.

I praised Dubas’ efforts last summer because he hadn’t made the team any worse. However, it’s clear he didn’t make them any better. And now, he faces a daunting challenge of addressing those weaknesses with even less cap room.

So who gets moved? I agree it won’t be Matthews. It also won’t be Rielly. Trading their best defenseman for defensive help would be ridiculous.

They could move Andersen, but the cost of a replacement will be expensive via trade or free agency. That’s a move likely to be kicked down the road a year. They could move Marner but that’s unlikely after all those moves last summer to accommodate his new salary. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. Even if he agrees to waive it, good luck trying to move that contract in the current economic environment. 

That leaves Nylander, who Dubas reportedly promised wouldn’t be moved as long as he was the general manager. The youngster could find out that sometimes general managers break their promises for the good of the team.

Nylander had a breakout performance this season, carries a reasonable $6.962 million AAV, and lacks no-trade protection. Teams in the market for a scoring winger will definitely be interested if he becomes available. The Leafs could also move Kapanen, but he won’t fetch the type of return the Leafs need.

Dubas and company could shock us by moving someone else, but I think it’s got to be Nylander.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Let me know in the comments section below.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 23, 2020

A listing of this year’s top UFA forwards and the latest on the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP FORWARDS IN THIS YEAR’S UFA MARKET

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli sit atop Josh Gold-Smith’s recent ranking of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agent forwards. Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov and Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund round out the top five.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk, Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestikov, Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis, Predators winger Craig Smith, and Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the top-10.

Other notables include Minnesota Wild forward Alex Galchenyuk, Florida Panthers center Erik Haula, New York Islanders center Derick Brassard, Buffalo Sabres winger Wayne Simmonds, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can quibble over some of Gold-Smith’s rankings, but it’s clear this isn’t a great year for UFA forward talent.

Hall is the best of the bunch. Hoffman and Dadonov are reliable scorers while Toffoli is the best two-way forward. Granlund struggled through most of his tenure with the Predators, but his play improved after Peter Laviolette was replaced as head coach with John Hynes. A solid playoff tournament performance could boost his stock.

It’s pretty much buyer beware for most of the rest. They either haven’t panned out (Galchenyuk), were hampered by injuries (Haula), or are on the downside of their careers (Kovalchuk, Brassard, Simmonds, Spezza).

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked for the Toronto Maple Leafs likely blueline targets in the off-season. Given their limited salary-cap space, he doesn’t expect they’ll land Alex Pietrangelo, suggesting instead Travis Hamonic, Chris Tanev, Sami Vatanen, or Radko Gudas as more viable options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap constraints will also hamper efforts to sign the others. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $76.9 million invested in 16 players. Some cost-cutting would have to be made to pursue them.

Turning to the trade market, Fox pointed out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas tends to deal for players with term remaining on their contracts. High-end right-hand shots include Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, Columbus’ David Savard, Carolina’s Brett Pesce, Buffalo’s Colin Miller, Edmonton’s Adam Larsson, and Anaheim’s Josh Manson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Dumba, Pesce, Larsson, or Manson getting moved. Ristolainen or Miller could be available, but it depends on whether the Sabres will trade with a hated division rival like the Leafs. Savard might be a trade option if Dubas offered up a decent scoring forward like Kasperi Kapanen.

Regarding Frederik Andersen’s contract status, Fox feels that they should kick it down the road. Andersen becomes a UFA next summer. He also expects defenseman Travis Dermott and winger Ilya Mikheyev will receive bridge deals.










NHL Up and Down the Boards – Blue Jackets, Hurricanes Benefiting from Shutdown

NHL Up and Down the Boards – Blue Jackets, Hurricanes Benefiting from Shutdown

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 6, 2020

Mika Zibanejad lights up the Capitals, the Flyers keep rising in the Metro, the Wild and Blackhawks surge into playoff contention and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Mika Zibanejad scored five goals, including the winner in overtime, as the New York Rangers edged the Washington Capitals 6-5. Artemi Panarin and Tony DeAngelo each had three points for the Blueshirts. Zibanejad tied the club record for most goals in a single game. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to move into a tie for the goal-scoring lead with 47 goals. With the win, the surging Rangers (76 points) are two points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The slumping Capitals, meanwhile, move into a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Metropolitan Division with 87 points.

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad tallied five goals in a 6-5 win over the Washington Capitals (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are in a good position to overtake the Isles and the stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets. They must now be taken seriously as a playoff contender. The Capitals, on the other hand, appear to be in trouble. As per The Washington Post, a lack of cohesive team player (especially on defense) has led to a record of 14-15-2 since Dec. 23.

Meanwhile, the Flyers picked up their eighth straight victory by downing the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Earlier in the day, however, the Flyers learned winger James van Riemsdyk will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with an injured hand. The struggling Hurricanes (75 points) slipped three points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. They also learned defenseman Brett Pesce is out for the season following shoulder surgery. His expected recovery period is four-to-six weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Capitals flounder, the Flyers are poised to take over first place in the Metro. They’ve been red hot in 2020, showing no sign of slowing. The Hurricanes are really struggling with goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek sidelined since late February. If they don’t return to action soon, the Canes’ playoff hopes could be dashed.

The Ottawa Senators spoiled the return of former Senator Jean-Gabriel Pageau by hanging on to defeat the New York Islanders 4-3. Pageau was dealt by the Sens to the Isles at last Monday’s trade deadline. The loss leaves the Islanders (78 points) clinging to the final Eastern wild-card spot. They’ve won just two of their last 11 contests.

An overtime goal by Torey Krug carried the Boston Bruins over the Florida Panthers 2-1. It was the Bruins’ fourth consecutive victory while the Panthers dropped their eighth straight home game. The Bruins sit atop the overall standings with 98 points, while the Panthers (74 points) sit four points out of a playoff spot in the East.

The Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 32 shots for the shutout while Victor Hedman tallied twice. The Bolts sit second in the Atlantic Division with 89 points. Before the game, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar returned to Montreal for evaluation of an upper-body injury.

Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Evgeni Malkin collected two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2, handing the latter their fifth straight defeat. The Pens have won two straight and sit third in the Metro with 84 points.

Zach Parise extended his goal streak to four games and Alex Stalock made 30 stops as the Minnesota Wild nipped the San Jose Sharks 3-2. With 75 points, the Wild leaped over four other clubs into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A month ago, the Wild seemed done like dinner, especially after winger Jason Zucker was traded to Pittsburgh on Feb. 10. Since then, the Wild have won eight of their last 12 games and put themselves into the middle of the Western Conference playoff race.

The Nashville Predators got a 33-save shutout from Juuse Saros to blank the Dallas Stars 2-0. Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene were the goal scorers. The Stars (82 points) remain in third place in the Central Division while the Predators (74 points) moved into a four-way tie with the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, and Arizona Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. The Canucks hold the spot due to games in hand.

Alex DeBrincat scored twice to lead the Chicago Blackhawks over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane also netted his 30th goal of the season. Chicago (74 points) are four points out of playoff contention in the West, while the Oilers (80 points) remain two back of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division.

Shootout goals by Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe gave the Los Angeles Kings a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves while the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen made 30. The Leafs (79 points) picked up a point and sit third in the Atlantic Division.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NJ.COM: Devils defenseman Will Butcher underwent season-ending surgery to repair ruptured ligaments in his right thumb.

TSN: The NHL Players Association canceled its April meeting with player agents because of the spread of the coronavirus.

NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Matthew Barnaby was arrested on assault and public intoxication charges at a Nashville bar early Thursday morning.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2020

Stars of the week, Leafs re-sign Jake Muzzin, two Rangers injured in a car accident, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets snapped an eight-game winless skid with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators. Nick Foligno scored two goals for the Jackets, while Connor Brown tallied twice for the Senators. Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins and center Riley Nash both left the game in the second period with injuries. No update was provided post-game on their status. With 76 points, the Jackets hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, and Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane was the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 23, 2020.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and forward Pavel Buchnevich were injured in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night. Shesterkin suffered a non-displaced rib fracture and well be re-evaluated in two weeks. Buchnevich was shaken up and is listed as day-to-day. The accident occurred when their vehicle struck another that was doing an illegal U-turn.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thankfully, neither player was seriously hurt. Losing Shesterkin could be a blow to the Rangers’ playoff hopes. His stellar goaltending since his call-up in early January was largely responsible for the Blueshirts’ recent surge in the standings.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau created a stir when he momentarily left the ice yesterday during practice, sparking speculation he might be getting traded. Turns out he was answering the call of nature. “I had to pee,” Gaudreau said.

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed defenseman Jake Muzzin to a four-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $5.625 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lost in the hubbub of yesterday’s NHL trade deadline, this is a reasonable deal for the 31-year-old Muzzin. He’s a big, physical defenseman with good defensive skills averaging over 21 minutes per game. Given their blueline weaknesses, the Leafs couldn’t afford to lose their best defensive rearguard to free agency.

The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed defenseman Nick Holden to a two-year extension worth $1.7 million per season.

The Nashville Predators re-upped winger Rocco Grimaldi to a two-year, $4-million contract extension.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes may be without injured goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, and defenseman Brett Pesce for an extended period. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he wasn’t sure how long they could be sidelined.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

TSN: Former NHL forward Scottie Upshall has announced his retirement. He spent 15 years in the NHL, scoring 138 goals and 285 points in 759 games with the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues.