NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.

Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.

Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.

THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.

If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.

And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.

ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.

Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”

THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.

SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.

TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2020

The 2020 NHL Draft completes its second and final day, Taylor Hall is heading to free agency, the Blue Jackets re-sign Max Domi, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The 2020 NHL Draft is now history following a marathon second day in which it took over seven hours to complete rounds two through seven.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the results for each round by clicking the above link to the NHL draft tracker. As for how long it took to go through yesterday’s rounds, the general managers and their staffs were drafting from home instead of at an arena in a host city as is usually done. That gave them a lot more time to evaluate which prospects they intended to select and to move up or down the draft order by swapping picks with other clubs.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said Taylor Hall is heading to tomorrow’s unrestricted free agent market.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall is heading to free agency on Friday (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes gave up three prospects and two draft picks (including a first in this year’s draft) to acquire Hall in a trade with New Jersey last December. Hall played well for the Coyotes, with 10 goals and 27 points in 35 games, but his addition did little to significantly improve his new club. Their limited cap space made it almost impossible to re-sign him. His departure could ease the pressure from Armstrong to move captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a cost-cutting trade before the defenseman’s Friday deadline.

THE SCORE: One day after being acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Montreal Canadiens, Max Domi signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with his new club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a sensible signing by the Jackets. Domi gets a raise over two-year, $6.3-million of his previous deal. The Jackets get a reasonable period of time to evaluate their new center’s performance to determine if he’ll be worth a longer-term deal.

Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Jackets with just $1.725 million in cap space with first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois to re-sign. However, Dubois’ coming off his entry-level contract and could get an affordable bridge contract. The Jackets could also place Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million) on long-term injury reserve as a chronic wrist ailment has likely ended his playing days, providing more cap space for DuBois’ next contract.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators placed center Kyle Turris on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. He had four years and $24 million remaining on his deal. The buyout will count as $2 million annually against the Predators’ salary cap through 2027-28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Turris’ contract turned into a costly mistake for Predators GM David Poile. Desperate to free up cap space, he had little choice but to buy out that deal following unsuccessful attempts to trade the 31-year-old center.

THE SCORE: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed forward Chandler Stephenson to a four-year, $11 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephenson fit in well with the Golden Knights after he was acquired from the Washington Capitals last December. However, his new contract pushes Vegas’ cap payroll over the $81.5 million cap by $2.8 million. They are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, but that will complicate any plans to be active in the upcoming free-agent market. A cost-cutting trade or two will be necessary before the start of next season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have decided to let winger Anthony Duclair become an unrestricted free agent after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. Duclair was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and wasn’t given a qualifying offer by yesterday’s 5 pm deadline. GM Pierre Dorion declined to go into details but said Duclair chose to represent himself in contract talks. He added the club offered the winger a substantial raise over his previous salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A puzzling development. Duclair made $1.65 million on a one-year deal last season. Dorion didn’t shut the door on the winger possibly returning to Ottawa. Maybe the Senators were concerned Duclair would get more via arbitration.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets re-signed defenseman Dylan DeMelo to a four-year, $12 million contract. DeMelo was slated to become a UFA on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good, affordable signing by the Jets. DeMelo joined the Jets before the February trade deadline and quickly adapted to his new team.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers’ long contract standoff with Jesse Puljujarvi is over, re-signing the 22-year-old winger to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $1.175 million. Puljujarvi spent all of last season playing in Finland hoping to force a trade by the Oilers.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers traded center Lias Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings for the 60th pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Andersson was the seventh-overall pick in the 2017 draft but struggled to crack the Rangers lineup and spent the second half of last season playing in Sweden.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The stock of both young forwards really dropped over the past two years. There was even speculation at one point last season suggesting the two could be swapped for each other in a trade. Both players need a reset if they hope to salvage their NHL careers.

CBC: Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur has undergone a second surgery to address a recurrence of lung cancer just two months following quadruple bypass surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lafleur for a speedy and complete recovery.

 

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2020

Ratings were down for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Lightning celebrated their championship in Tampa Bay plus the latest on Corey Crawford, Oscar Klefbom, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Michael Traikos reports ratings were down in Canada and the United States for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Rogers Sportsnet report 1.081 million Canadian tuned in for Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars, dropping to just 841K for Game 2. Traikos cites sources indicated Sportsnet drew 1.3 million viewers for Game 6 and never came close to eclipsing an average of 2 million viewers in the entire playoffs. The most-watched series was the qualifying round between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, averaging 1.8 million viewers.

The timing of the playoffs (summer), an absence of fans in the arenas, the elimination of Canadian teams and of big-market clubs, the absence of well-known players such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, and competition from the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays (whose ratings rose compared to last year) account for the low ratings.

The ratings in the United States weren’t any better. Only eight percent of the Tampa Bay market followed the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final with the Stars as their opponent compared to 15 percent in 2015 when they played the Chicago Blackhawks.

Overall ratings for this year’s Stanley Cup Final dropped 61 percent compared to last year’s Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. Competition from the NBA, MLB and NFL, as well as the absence of big market clubs and household name players contributed to the overall US ratings decline. It was the least-watched Final since the Anaheim Ducks-Ottawa Senators Final in 2007 and only the second time in 13 years viewership dropped below 3 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given those factors, it’s not surprising the ratings were down. There just wasn’t that much buzz for a Stanley Cup Final between two Sun Belt teams. The ratings in Canada would’ve been much higher had a Canadian team reached the Final, and higher in the States had one of the big-market clubs got that far.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (NHL Images).

  TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of the Lightning, they celebrated their championship with their fans with a flotilla parade up the Hillborough River through downtown Tampa and concluding with a celebration at Raymond James Stadium.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman remains optimistic about re-signing Corey Crawford. The 35-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9. All accounts suggest the two sides remain significantly divided on salary. The Blackhawks prefer something between $3.5 million to $4 million, while the Crawford camp prefers something between $4.5 million to $5.5 million. He made an annual cap hit of $6 million on his previous deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Blackhawks could be forced to make a cost-cutting move or two to re-sign Crawford. Maybe the two sides can come down to $4.25 million. Failing that, Bowman will have to go shopping for a goaltender via trade or free agency.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom is reportedly considering surgery to address nagging injuries that could sideline him for months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might explain recent rumors linking the Oilers to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, though that would be a very expensive long-term move to address Klefbom’s absence. The Journal’s Jim Matheson suggests Oilers GM Ken Holland could be in the market for a one-year replacement for a cap hit comparable to Klefbom’s $4.167 million.

Speaking of the Oilers, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports of possible progress in contract talks with winger Jesse Puljujarvi. He speculates it could be a one-year deal within a $1.25 million to $1.5 million range.

RDS.CA: Former NHL player Simon Gagne will appear in a Quebec City courthouse today facing impaired driving charges.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has agreed to stiffer penalties for fighting in exchange for $20 million in pandemic relief from the Quebec government.

Players who fight will receive a 10-minute misconduct along with a five-minute major, while the instigator will also be slapped with an additional two-minute penalty. Players who accumulate three fights will receive a one-game suspension, with an additional game for each fight thereafter.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2020

The latest on the Oilers, Kings, and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill

OILERS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined several potential trade targets for the Oilers. He suggested Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper would be an attractive option given his salary-cap hit ($4.5 million) for the next two years and solid save percentages (.920 or higher) over the last three years.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins expects the Oilers focus will be on their goaltending rather than on defense or a third-line center. He notes speculation suggests Darcy Kuemper could be available but feels he’ll go to a goalie-poor club with draft picks to spend like the Calgary Flames. He also considers Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract is too expensive.

Leavins argues for upgrading Mikko Koskinen’s goalie partner rather than seeking a true starter. He points out Koskinen’s save percentage (.917) is similar to Toronto’s Frederik Andersen and comparable to Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom (.919) and Vegas’ Robin Lehner (.921). Re-signing Mike Smith to a one-year, $1-million deal would make sense if Smith accepts playing 20-25 games per year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly reports the Oilers have $70.9 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They seemingly lack the cap room to bring in an established starter, but recent rumors indicate they had talks with the Penguins about Matt Murray but balked at parting with a first-round pick. Maybe Oilers general manager Ken Holland attempts a dollar-for-dollar deal to add a goalie or dumps salary in a separate trade.

Kuemper would be a solid addition if Holland seeks a reliable starter, but I agree with Leavins that he could end up with a club that has the tradeable assets to tempt the Coyotes if they’re looking to rebuild. That would be draft picks, prospects or young NHL-ready players.

If Holland’s going to upgrade Koskinen’s partner he should pass on Smith. There should be better options available in what’s expected to be a flooded goalie market. Dallas’ Anton Khudobin is due to become a UFA but his playoff heroics will price him out of the Oilers’ range. The New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.913) could be an option.

Leavins colleague David Staples looks into whether it would be worthwhile for the Oilers to pursue Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While he considers the Coyotes captain a very good defenseman, his stats indicate he’s not an elite one. He doubts the Oilers can afford Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25-million annual average value plus he could be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to come to Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication Holland is interested in Ekman-Larsson. I daresay those points raised by Staples ensures the blueliner won’t be coming to Edmonton anytime soon.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also suggested Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk would be an attractive trade option for the Connor McDavid line. DeBrusk is a restricted free agent and could cost around $5 million annually to sign. The Bruins asking price could be prospects and draft picks, though Mitchell suggests the Oilers’ first-round pick might come into play.

Mitchell’s colleague Jonathan Willis believes the Oilers won’t get fair value in any trade involving Jesse Puljujarvi. While some observers suggest swapping the winger for another underachieving young player, Willis believes that could be simply exchanging one problem for another. He suggests they follow the Tampa Bay Lightning’s example with Jonathan Drouin and hope Puljujarvi can build up his value if he returns to the Oilers next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Bruins don’t re-sign Torey Krug they’ll have the cap room to re-sign DeBrusk, though that could go off the rails if the winger seeks more than they’re willing to pay. I think they intend to re-sign DeBrusk and remain patient with him. He’s only 23 and was on pace to exceed 20 goals for the second straight year and 40 points for the third straight year before COVID-19 prematurely ended the regular season.

I agree with Willis’ take on Puljujarvi. Shipping him out for another struggling youngster doesn’t guarantee improvement. Best to bring him back and give him an opportunity to build up his game.

KINGS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman doesn’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to pursue any big-name talent via free agency. If they do look toward the UFA market it could be for affordable options. Oilers winger Tyler Ennis, Nashville Predators winger Craig Smith, and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon were among Dillman’s suggested targets.

Dillman also pointed out the Kings carry over $19 million in salary-cap space, putting them in a good position to acquire a player from a cap-strapped club who can provide immediate help if they’re willing to part with draft picks and prospects. Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and fellow Coyotes blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson could be available. The St. Louis Blues could look to move winger Jaden Schwartz to clear cap room to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap it was expected Kings GM Rob Blake would wait until next summer before getting into the UFA market as the 2021 pool of free-agent talent is deeper than this year’s. We don’t know if the current economic landscape has changed his mind.

Dillman isn’t saying Blake will pursue a big-name player via trades or free agency. She’s simply looking at possible moves if the Kings GM were inclined to get involved. Blake could make a move or two but I’ll be surprised if he makes a big splash in this year’s trade or free-agent markets. He could stick with his plan of rebuilding with youth but I see him adding a reasonable price veteran or two.

CAPITALS

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan wonders if the Washington Capitals need to trade a defenseman. If they re-sign Brenden Dillon they’ll be overloaded with left-shot blueliners as they’ll also have Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny and Jonas Siegenthaler, as well as prospects Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. He speculates that could leave one of them expendable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lot will depend upon whether Dillon re-signs. Even then, there’s no rush to ship out one of those blueliners. If they do I suspect it would be Kempny or Siegenthaler.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup, there’s more fallout from last week’s Kasperi Kapanen trade, including speculation the Leafs could take a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Read on for the latest.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins is one factor that could make it possible for them to sign Alex Pietrangelo via free agency in the offseason.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Alex Pietrangelo if he tests the UFA market? (NHL Images)

Fox points out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas traded Kapanen to clear salary-cap space, speculating he might not be done making cost-cutting moves. He also observed St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be reevaluated for his latest shoulder surgery for at least five months, suggesting it could give Blues GM Doug Armstrong pause to make another major investment in his blueline by re-signing Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo indicated he wants to stay in St. Louis and Armstrong said he wants to keep him. However, Fox reminds us that the Blues GM also acquired and re-signed defensemen Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella this season.

Fox thinks the Blues will make an offer to Pietrangelo but it’ll be lower than what he could get on the open market. Maybe the defenseman takes the hometown discount, but perhaps he’ll go elsewhere if he wants to maximize his contract. 

Dubas likes big-game hunting (signing John Tavares) and making bold moves (the Nazem Kadri trade) and is backed by the deep pockets of MLSE. Such a move, however, could mean shedding someone like William Nylander and signing the 30-year-old Pietrangelo to more term than makes sense. Still, Fox feels Dubas should at least look into it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course Dubas should look into signing Pietrangelo if the Blues captain heads to free agency. Any GM worth his salt should do so. Freeing up the cap space to sign him without weakening the roster, however, is another matter.

The Leafs need for a top-four, right-side defenseman is well-documented. Yes, Dubas is known for making big signings and creative trades. But how well did the Tavares signing and the Kadri trade work out for the Leafs? Tavares is a great player, but the Leafs didn’t need him, and the $11 million they’re paying him for the next five years should’ve been put into shoring up the defense. That’s what led to the Kadri trade, which didn’t pan out as Dubas hoped. 

Pietrangelo would address that glaring blueline need for the Leafs. Freeing up sufficient cap room to land him, however, will hurt their depth elsewhere, not to mention they’ll be tying up far too much cap payroll in a handful of players. That’s not a wise move given the current economic landscape.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons isn’t ready to declare the Leafs the winners of the Kapanen deal until he sees what the Leafs do with the first-round pick (15th overall) they received in the deal. It depends upon who they select with that pick and how that player pans out, whether they trade the pick, and what they do with the money they free up by sending Kapanen to Pittsburgh.

Simmons also touched on the recent trade speculation regarding Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. He doesn’t feel Andersen is the Leafs biggest problem but the feeling around the hockey world is his time in Toronto is coming to an end. Trading him won’t be easy in a flooded goalie market but there are many options to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will those options be better than Andersen? He’s played well behind one of the league’s worst defensive teams over the past four years but has become a scapegoat for the club’s recent woes for some Leafs fans. If you can land someone like Robin Lehner, it might be worthwhile. If it’s someone whose stock has declined like Braden Holtby, it might be wiser to stick with Andersen. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike DeFabo was asked what other moves he sees the Penguins making after acquiring Kapanen. He feels either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be traded. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents and GM Jim Rutherford indicated he’s likely to move one of them.

Murray could be the likely trade candidate because he’d be more expensive to re-sign. The Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames could be in the market for a goaltender.

As for the potential return, DeFabo indicates the third-line center position has been an issue for the past several years. He also expects changes are coming to their blueline as they need a better right-shot defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray seems to be the guy Rutherford is shopping but he could be getting more interest in Jarry. He’s younger, more affordable, and doesn’t have Murray’s injury history.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks interest in Kapanen before he was shipped to the Penguins suggests GM Bob Murray isn’t interested in a roster tear-down. He could instead be looking for players who can provide immediate help. Possible targets could include more affordable options like Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, or Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen might’ve ended up with the Ducks had Murray been willing to part with his first-round pick (sixth overall) in this year’s draft. If that was Dubas’ asking price, Murray was wise to pass.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 22, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 22, 2020

What next for the Canadiens and Blues now that their seasons are over? Is Jesse Puljujarvi close to re-signing with the Oilers? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANADIENS

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Julian McKenzie believes the Montreal Canadiens have good reason to be optimistic over their future following their surprising performance in the 2020 postseason. Nevertheless, they have some issues to address. They must land a proven scoring forward and a reliable backup goaltender for Carey Price.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Canadiens must reevaluate core forwards Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, and Phillip Danault. He wonders if they’ll move any of them to make room for promising youngsters like Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He feels they need more size on the wing and must sort out the left side of their blueline.

Has Max Domi played his final game with the Montreal Canadiens? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All those forwards Wyshynski mentioned lack no-trade protection. I don’t see the Canadiens moving away from Drouin after he developed some chemistry with Suzuki during the postseason. Gallagher is a heart-and-soul guy so he’s not going anywhere. Neither is Danault, who could move down into a third-line center role with Suzuki and Kotkaniemi on the rise. Tatar is an unrestricted free agent next summer and I expect the Habs will keep him for next season and see what unfolds.

That leaves Domi, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was a fixture in the Montreal trade rumor mill throughout this season. That speculation grew louder given his lackluster playoff performance. Granted, he was a late arrival to training camp over COVID-19 concerns given his health conditions. He may have been nursing an injury. Nevertheless, he could become the odd man out.

TVA Sports recently cited The Athletic’s Michael Russo including Domi on his list of possible trade targets for the Minnesota Wild. There’s also some chatter linking Domi to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It remains to be seen if those clubs have any interest in him or if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin intends to shop him. Still, I expect this isn’t the last time Domi’s name surfaces in the rumor mill.

BLUES

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan wonders what the future holds for Alex Pietrangelo now that the St. Louis Blues are out of the playoffs. The Blues captain becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He wants to stay in St. Louis and the Blues want to keep him, but he’s in line for a lucrative new contract. Because of the flat salary cap, Kaplan expects a compromise could be worked out between the two sides.

The cap-strapped Blues will have to move out some contracts to make it work. Kaplan suggested goaltender Jake Allen’s trade value has never been higher. Other veterans could be on the move, such as Tyler Bozak, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, or Carl Gunnarsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $79.4 million invested in 21 players, with Pietrangelo and restricted free agent Vince Dunn to re-sign. Keeping both means shedding some salary even if they’re willing to accept hometown discounts.

Steen has a full no-trade until next February and there probably wouldn’t be much interest in a 36-year-old forward with a $5.75-million cap hit. Schwartz has a modified no-trade but he’s also a valuable part of their core forwards. Bozak is 34 and carries a $5-million cap hit through next season with a 10-team no-trade clause.

Allen’s solid performance this season, his cost-effective $4.35-million cap hit for next season and lack of no-trade protection makes him the most likely trade option. Gunnarsson has a five-team no-trade but the 33-year-old carries an affordable $1.75 million cap hit through next season. Moving those two, however, won’t free up enough room for Pietrangelo and Dunn. GM Doug Armstrong will have to get creative.

OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Bruce McCurdy cites Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reporting there have been quiet discussions between Oilers GM Ken Holland and the agent for unsigned winger Jesse Puljujarvi. After contacting both sides, Spector expects Puljujarvi will sign a new contract with the Oilers and join them in training camp in the fall.

(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: A restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract, Puljujarvi spent last season in Finland awaiting what he hoped would be a trade from the Oilers. Holland, however, reportedly didn’t find any offers to his liking. Looks like Puljujarvi realizes if he wants to continue his NHL career, it’ll have to be with the Oilers.

SPORTSNET: Spector also recently reported Holland isn’t sure yet whether he’ll re-sign Mike Smith for another season or find another goaltender to share the crease with Mikko Koskinen. The Oilers GM has only so many assets and cap space to improve his roster for next season.

Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be available in the trade market. The Blues could look at moving one of their goaltenders to free up the cap room for Alex Pietrangelo.

Spector doesn’t see Holland pursuing Washington’s Braden Holtby via free agency and doesn’t expect the Vancouver Canucks will part ways with Jacob Markstrom. That leaves Vegas’ Robin Lehner as the best under-30 UFA option. 

(AGAIN, NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Oilers should prioritize improving their goaltending depth. Landing Lehner seems unlikely as he’ll want a big raise on a long-term contract. Trading for Allen is one possibility, though his inconsistency throughout his career is a concern. Murray could be peddled by the Penguins but his injury history and consistency issues are red flags. Holtby is far too expensive and Markstrom’s probably not going anywhere.