NHL Rumor Mill – September 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 22, 2021

Updates on Jack Eichel, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, Johnny Gaudreau and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman believes Jack Eichel will attend Buffalo Sabres training camp but won’t pass his physical and thus won’t be cleared to play. He also believes the club will remove his captaincy.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

The 24-year-old center remains in a standoff with Sabres management regarding which medical procedure he’ll undergo for a herniated disc in his neck. Friedman heard some trade talks a couple of weeks ago but he thinks teams want to hear what the doctors say.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless a team is willing to take a chance on Eichel’s wish to undergo a disc replacement procedure (which the Sabres are against), there’s no end in sight for this impasse. One side or the other will have to bend or Eichel won’t be playing this season.

Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and center Elias Pettersson and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk are the four restricted free agents to watch now.

Regarding Tkachuk, Friedman believes the Senators have talked about a long-term contract but he wonders if a short-term deal is necessary to get things done. He doesn’t think they’re far apart in dollars but the Senators’ reluctance to give bonuses could be an issue. A no-trade/no-movement clause near the end of the deal could also be a sticking point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports out of Ottawa claim the Senators tabled an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually for Tkachuk. Signing bonuses are likely the main sticking point here as that’s money the player gets upfront each season.

It appears the Canucks face a bit of a stalemate with Hughes and Pettersson. It’s thought the club is thinking short-term but Friedman wonders if a six-year deal might be the solution here. There’s also pushback to rumors the Canucks might make a cost-cutting trade to free up salary for those two with Tyler Motte remaining sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Canucks with over $10.6 million cap space. They will get another $3.5 million if necessary by placing Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve to start the season. Motte would give them another $1.225 million if he ends up on LTIR. As I noted yesterday, I doubt they’ll get Hughes and Pettersson for less than a combined $14 million.

Friedman said the Dahlin rumors are all over the map. At first, it sounded like things were going well. However, the Sabres want a short-term deal not because of anything he did or didn’t do but because of overall frustration and an unwillingness to commit to a long-term agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dahlin’s development in Buffalo has been hampered in part by a revolving door of coaches. A short-term deal could set the stage for a messy arbitration battle down the road.

There were teams with interest in Robert Thomas. However, Friedman thinks St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told teams he wasn’t interested in trading him.

The cone of silence has dropped on Johnny Gaudreau’s contract talks with the Calgary Flames now that training camp has started. He’s told reporters he’s not talking to them about his contract situation. Meanwhile, the club won’t be releasing any updates. The 28-year-old left winger can become an unrestricted free agent next July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will only stoke speculation over his future in Calgary, especially if the club gets off to a slow start this season.

Friedman believes the Edmonton Oilers aren’t done in goal. “Mike Smith will be there, but what happens around him?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not much in the short term. Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock will be Smith’s backups for now. Koskinen carries that $4.5 million cap hit for this season plus a 15-team no-trade list.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

Updates on the notable unsigned restricted free agents as training camps approach in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Ottawa Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk and Minnesota Wild right winger Kirill Kaprizov are among the notable restricted free agents still without contracts as training camps open later this week. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlen and St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas are also among those without contracts.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

  THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks fans probably won’t see Pettersson and Hughes when training camp begins on Thursday in Abbotsford, BC. General manager Jim Benning maintains they’re continuing to have good dialogue and hopes to get something done sooner rather than later. Kuzma wonders if bridge deals for the young stars might be palatable for both parties.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal cited sources in Pettersson’s camp saying the young center has departed Vancouver and flown to Michigan to be with Hughes. Both are close friends and represented by agents Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. They will remain in Michigan preparing for the upcoming season while awaiting a resolution in negotiations.

It’s expected the Canucks will sign Pettersson first because Hughes isn’t eligible to receive an offer sheet. While the threat of an offer sheet is remote the club doesn’t want to take any chances. Of the two, Hughes could be the more likely to ink a long-term deal. The Canucks have up to $16 million in cap space if necessary to sign both but would ideally prefer $14.5 – $15 million.

There’s also speculation whatever Kaprizov gets with the Minnesota Wild will affect how much Pettersson receives from the Canucks. However, that’s considered remote within the industry. The Wild face a unique salary-cap crunch in the near term so inking Kaprizov to a bridge deal has little benefit for them.

The comparables for Pettersson could be the bridge deals signed by Tampa Lightning center Brayden Point ($6.75 million annual average value) and the New York Islanders Mathew Barzal ($7 million AAV).

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the lines of communication remain open between the Senators and Tkachuk but the two sides remain at a stalemate. While things can change with one phone call, it’s expected the Senators will open training camp tomorrow without the 22-year-old left winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of these players could be under contract by tomorrow morning. Then again, negotiations could drag on through the opening days of their respective camps.

The Canucks probably won’t get Pettersson and Hughes under contract for less than a combined $14 million. Pettersson could come in at $7.5 million and Hughes close to $7 million. By the sound of things, Pettersson could end up with a bridge deal.

It’s been reported the Senators have an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually on the table for Tkachuk. Maybe his representatives are pushing for $9 million or perhaps they seek a shorter term in hope of cashing in on a more lucrative deal in three or four years’ time.

Kaprizov will miss the opening week of training camp. Even if signed today, he would reportedly face a seven-day quarantine period before joining his Wild teammates. His side wants a short-term deal in order to qualify for UFA status as soon as possible while the Wild prefer between five and eight years. It’s believed he’ll eventually get a five-year deal worth an annual average value of $9 million.

Not much to report on Dahlin and Thomas. Talks are said to be ongoing between the Sabres and the 21-year-old blueliner but no word on possible contract terms. Thomas, meanwhile, took part in the Blues’ development camp sessions last week. He’s said to be seeking more than teammate Jordan Kyrou’s $2.8 million AAV on a two-year deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

The latest on Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Morgan Rielly in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Brady Tkachuk has yet to join his Senators teammates in Ottawa in preparation for the start of training camp on Sep. 22. He’s still back home in St. Louis as his agent and Senators management continues to work on a new contract for the 22-year-old left wing.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Garrioch cited TSN’s Gord Miller recently saying he felt a deal between the two sides could come quickly. It’s believed the Senators offered up an eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $8 million. The two sides could fall back to a three-year deal if a long-term agreement cannot be hammered out in time.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma took note of the apparent lack of progress in contract talks between the Vancouver Canucks and young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. He feels the negotiation pressure point of missing the start of training camp next Thursday could adversely affect their regular-season performance.

Kuzma also speculates the Canucks could be forced to shed some salary if Pettersson and Hughes each pocked $8 million annually on their new deals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the start of training camp fast approaching, most of the focus in the rumor mill will be on the contract talks of notable restricted free agents such as Tkachuk, Pettersson, Hughes and the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov.

Plenty of time remains for those players to be signed before their respective training camps open but the clock is ticking. It may be more pressing for the Wild and Kaprizov, as the latter reportedly requires a work visa and would have to spend a week self-isolating from his teammates once he arrives in Minnesota.

Cap Friendly shows the Canucks with a projected $10.6 million in cap space. Signing Pettersson and Hughes would push them over the cap. If necessary, they can get an additional $3.5 million in cap relief by placing sidelined winger Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve. As Kuzma points out, however, they would have to free up more room depending on what their combined cap hit turns out to be.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the Maple Leafs shouldn’t trade Morgan Rielly this season. He acknowledged the 27-year-old defenseman is due for a big raise next summer. However, he feels they shouldn’t move their annual leader in ice time unless they’re certain of getting equal or greater value in return. “And that’s not going to happen,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koshan was responding to recent reports speculating over Rielly’s future with the Leafs because of his unrestricted free agent status next summer and the club’s limited cap space.

I daresay management has no intention of moving him this season unless they’re well out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. That’s assuming, of course, they have no desire to re-sign him or he plans to test the market in July.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

Updates on the notable remaining restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined where things stand with the NHL’s notable restricted free agents.

Term could be a sticking point between the Vancouver Canucks and defenseman Quinn Hughes. His camp sought a deal beyond five years, perhaps comparable to contracts signed this summer by Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen and Colorado’s Cale Makar. Pat Brisson, one of Hughes’ agents, said there was no animosity as discussions continue.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

Teammate Elias Pettersson shares the same representatives as Hughes. They were considering a shorter team for the 22-year-old center. Pettersson wants assurances the Canucks are as committed to winning as he is. It could cost a combined $14 million to get both youngsters under contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were said to be nervous about Pettersson getting an offer sheet after the Carolina Hurricanes successfully signed away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens. That’s a remote possibility given the high cost of compensation to the Canucks and salary for Pettersson.

Talks between the Minnesota Wild and winger Kirill Kaprizov continue. Speculation the 24-year-old winger could sign a one-year deal with KHL club CSKA Moscow came to nothing. The Wild hoped to sign Kaprizov to a seven or eight-year deal but the winger’s camp wanted a three-year contract to bring him up to his eligibility age for unrestricted free agent status. Wild general manager Bill Guerin is reportedly willing to consider a five-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent conjecture suggests the two sides could agree to a five-year contract worth around $9 million per season. Yes, that annual average value is high for a player with just one NHL season under his belt, but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy during that campaign, becoming the first Wild player to receive that honor.

Kaprizov’s also the most exciting offensive player the Wild have had since Marian Gaborik’s heyday from 2000 to 2008. They hope to build around this kid for at least the next five years. That’s why it could cost $9 million per season.

Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion described contract discussions with winger Brady Tkachuk’s representatives as positive and productive. The two sides are trying to work out a long-term deal. Tkachuk reportedly won’t travel to Ottawa for training camp until the paperwork is sorted out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tkachuk’s contract talks have garnered increased attention over the last couple of weeks. There have also been conflicting stories with Dorion saying things are going smoothly while other reports claim Tkachuk is growing frustrated it’s taking so long to get a deal done.

The Buffalo Sabres and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin began contract talks on July 21. A three-year bridge deal is possible but Fox wonders if they’ll work toward a long-term agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jack Eichel saga continues to overshadow Dahlin’s contract situation. There’s been no drama thus far but interest in his negotiations could increase as training camp approaches.

Fox also believes Nolan Patrick could get a bridge deal with the Vegas Golden Knights following his unhappy tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Golden Knights from the Nashville Predators as part of a three-way deal. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers and representatives for winger Kailer Yamamoto are said to be grinding away toward a bridge deal.

St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas seeks more than the $2.8 million AAV signed by teammate Jordan Kyrou. He could miss the start of training camp if he’s not offered a suitable deal. The Blues have limited cap space and haven’t been able to unload Vladimir Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz recently suggested Yamamoto as an offer sheet possibility. He considers the 22-year-old winger a good young forward on a team whose cap situation would make it difficult to match a modest $4.1 million offer sheet. Thomas could also be another target, though his struggles last season hurt his chances of getting one.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Phil Kessel and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent roundup of notable hockey news, Elliotte Friedman reports the Buffalo Sabres had an “introductory meeting” with Jack Eichel’s new representatives. Thus far, however, no indication of any resolution in the 24-year-old center’s impasse with the team. Friedman believes the club revisited discussions with interested teams to see where they stand.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The issues probably remain the same for those clubs. They’re unlikely to pay the Sabres’ hefty asking price for a talented but expensive player who’s yet to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.

The Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives are still working on a long-term deal believed comparable to teammate Thomas Chabot’s eight-year, $8 million per season contract. Both sides hope to have a deal in place before training camp opens later this month.

Friedman feels the Vancouver Canucks have made more progress in contract talks with Quinn Hughes than with Elias Pettersson. He wonders if Pettersson might be waiting to see what Minnesota Wild winger Kiril Kaprizov gets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could end up digging deep to pay Pettersson. Kaprizov reportedly could get $9 million annually on a five-year deal from the Wild.

Sources say Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev asked to be traded following last season but the club doesn’t want to accommodate his request. The departures of Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton mean the Leafs envision a bigger role for Mikheyev this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Playing time was apparently the issue for Mikheyev. He should get much more of that this season, providing him a terrific opportunity to prove his worth to the Leafs.

Friedman rejected rumors suggesting the Arizona Coyotes could trade defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he thinks veteran winger Phil Kessel could draw a lot of attention if he has a hot start to this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan observed, the Coyotes see the 23-year-old Chychrun as a player they can build around. Kessel, on the other hand, becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer and no longer has a future in Arizona. While the Coyotes only carry $6.8 million of his $8 million AAV, it could still be difficult to find takers for that cap hit.

A couple of teams are awaiting Tyler Bozak’s decision on where he’ll play this season. Friedman wonders if the 35-year-old center might land in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the shelf to start the season.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas scuttled rumors linking his club to New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. “I can definitively say that we have not thought a single thing about any player that is going to be a free agent a year from now,” said Dubas.

Koshan also reports Dubas did give some thought to trading one of his core players during the offseason. However, it didn’t sound like much serious thought was given to that idea.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s $9 million annual average value and the decline in his performance in recent years make him difficult to move right now.

I don’t doubt Dubas and the Leafs’ brain trust gave some thought to shake up their core but it was apparent during their season-ending press conference that they want to keep that group intact for this season. That could change next summer, however, if the Leafs fail again to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Dubas might not even be part of that decision as another early postseason exit could cost him his job.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

A look at which players the Canadiens may have pursued before acquiring Christian Dvorak, plus the latest on Elias Pettersson, P.K. Subban and what the Leafs and Kraken must still address in the Labor Day edition of the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In their latest “31 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the aftermath of the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet saga. Friedman believes Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin may have called around asking about San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Calgary’s Sean Monahan. Bergevin acquired Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes almost immediately after declining to match the Kotkaniemi offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak seemed to be at or near the top of Bergevin’s list during his search last week for a replacement for Kotkaniemi. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels mentioned him as a trade target soon after the offer sheet was signed. I don’t doubt the Habs GM shopped around to see what other options were available but I don’t think he just settled for Dvorak.

Friedman also reported the Kotkaniemi offer sheet had the Vancouver Canucks’ front office nervous about another club doing the same with Elias Pettersson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Contract talks are ongoing between Pettersson and the Canucks. The 22-year-old center would be a tempting target despite the Canucks’ public stance that they’d match any offer.

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (NHL Images).

However, the high cost of signing away Pettersson ($9 million or more per season) plus the compensation owed to the Canucks for a successful signing (at least two first-round picks, a second, and a third-round pick) make an offer sheet unlikely in this case.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports multiple sources confirmed the Bruins, on more than one occasion, explored what it would take to acquire P.K. Subban from the New Jersey Devils. At the same time, they hope to convince the Devils to pick up half of his $9 million cap hit for this season. Murphy also said the Toronto Maple Leafs had “more than lukewarm interest” in Subban.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would take a substantial offer to convince Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald to eat half of Subban’s cap hit. He can afford it but why do another club a favor for a less than worthwhile return?

Fitzgerald also isn’t under any pressure to move Subban. He’s only on their books for this season after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Devils also aren’t facing any cap crunch this season.

If Fitzgerald decides to trade Subban it could be close to the March trade deadline provided the Devils are out of playoff contention by then. Most of the 32-year-old blueliner’s salary will be paid out by then, making him more enticing to other clubs.

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger wondered who will join Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander among the Toronto Maple Leafs top-six this season. The Leafs are top-heavy and will need more secondary scoring from their supporting cast.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be Nick Ritchie, Alex Kerfoot, and/or Ilya Mikheyev skating among the top six. Perhaps Michael Bunting gets a shot at left wing if Ritchie or Kerfoot don’t work out in those roles.

Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes the Seattle Kraken still needs more firepower up front. He wonders if they have enough depth at center with Yanni Gourde sidelined for at least the opening month of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kraken GM Ron Francis could attempt to address that issue depending on how things go during the club’s first training camp and preseason games.