NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2021

In today’s NHL Rumor Mill: more moves could be in store for the Sabres, the Canadiens might not be done dealing plus the latest on the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets.

ARE MORE MOVES IN STORE FOR SABRES?

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports the Buffalo Sabres are open for business after shipping Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens yesterday for two draft picks. The Sabres also retained part of Staal’s salary and are allowed to retain salary on two more players this season to facilitate trading pending unrestricted free agents such as Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour.

Will Taylor Hall become the next player traded by the Buffalo Sabres? (NHL Images)

Hall has a full no-movement clause. However, he has indicated his willingness to discuss trade options with general manager Kevyn Adams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports Adams has spoken with multiple teams about Hall. His colleague Pierre LeBrun said he’s heard a first-round pick is part of the asking price for Hall but it could be difficult for the Sabres to find that in this buyer’s market.

Hall will draw plenty of interest if the Sabres agree to pick up half of his $8 million annual average value for this season. The same goes for Montour and his $3.85 million AAV. The asking prices for those two will be draft picks and prospects.

It’ll be interesting to see if Adams attempts to move any players carrying term on their contracts or one of his restricted free agents. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen fits into the former category and Sam Reinhart the latter. Both have surfaced in recent trade speculation. Those moves could be made in the offseason if Adams doesn’t receive any decent offers by the April 12 trade deadline.

CANADIENS NOT DONE DEALING?

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin isn’t done dealing after parting with two draft picks for Eric Staal yesterday. Bergevin didn’t meet with the press following the announcement of Staal’s acquisition, sparking speculation he could be trying to free up more salary-cap space.

The Habs don’t have much cap space ($486,095) to add another player, including promising prospect Cole Caufield whose college season ended yesterday. Engels speculates the Habs can wait and accrue more cap space to sign him because he’s on their reserve list and there’s no deadline to put pen to paper.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs could use another skilled left-side defenseman. Cap Friendly indicates he’s got $2.33 million in trade deadline cap space and 12 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft to draw upon as trade bait, including 10 between rounds two and five.

LATEST ON THE HURRICANES AND BLUE JACKETS

NHL.COM: cites Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell telling The Athletic he could consider trading one of his goaltenders. Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer have split the goalies duties since Petr Mrazek was sidelined earlier this season with a broken thumb. Mrazek is now close to returning to the lineup.

Waddell pointed out his club has limited salary-cap space, suggesting he could use one of his goalies as a trade chip if he decides to add to his roster before the trade deadline. He also didn’t rule out retaining all three netminders for the playoffs. Waddell suggested he’d like to add a right-shot defenseman to his blueline corps.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams in need of goalie depth with pending UFA right-shot defensemen include the Sabres (Brandon Montour) and Ottawa Senators (Erik Gudbranson). Reimer and Mrazek, however, are also UFAs and could be unwilling to sign with either club.

The Colorado Avalanche could still be in the market for a reliable backup for Philipp Grubauer. Greg Pateryn is a pending UFA right-shot rearguard but might not be what Waddell is looking for. I don’t see the Avs parting with any of their top-six plus they don’t have many right-shot defensemen to spare.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline said he could see Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen attempting to acquire a center if his club remains in the playoff race. He anticipates it would be a depth center with at most a year left on his contract for a mid-to-late-round draft pick.

Portzline rules out Kekalainen being a big-game hunter at the deadline as he was two years ago. He doubts the Jackets GM will mortgage too much of the future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any efforts to acquire a first- or second-line center will likely take place in the offseason. That could involve shopping one of his goalies.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 13, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 13, 2020

Check out the latest on the Hurricanes, Predators, and Blues in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently observed the Carolina Hurricanes opted to stand pat with goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer rather than pursue an upgrade between the pipes. Nevertheless, he wondered if they could pursue an experienced starter at this season’s trade deadline. O’Brien proposed perhaps moving one of them in exchange for a goalie with an expiring contract like Arizona’s Antti Raanta, Boston’s Tuukka Rask, or Vega’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

Could the Carolina Hurricanes attempt to replace a goalie like James Reimer during the coming season? (NHL Images)

  THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Sara Civian was also asked about the possibility of the Hurricanes swinging an in-season trade to improve their goaltending. She wondered if Fleury could become available if it’s determined Robin Lehner is completely healthy. Civian also advocated pursuing Arizona Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most observers (including myself) believe the Hurricanes need to upgrade their goaltending to become Stanley Cup contenders. Mrazek and Reimer are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. One or both could hit next summer’s open market.

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell decided to stick with the Mrazek-Reimer tandem. Perhaps there simply wasn’t anything to his liking in the offseason trade and free-agent markets to address that need at a reasonable price. Waddell could keep his options open if his club needs help between the pipes before the trade deadline.

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan suggests the Nashville Predators should target Anthony Cirelli with an offer sheet. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning center is a restricted free agent and his club has to clear salary-cap space to sign him to a new contract. Cirelli has the making of a future Selke Trophy candidate with his two-way skills.

Vingan believes the Predators have the necessary ammunition to make a serious offer for Cirelli. They have nearly $13 million in salary-cap space and sufficient draft picks required as compensation for a successful signing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because the Predators have that cap space doesn’t mean they intend to use up a hefty portion with an offer sheet. GM David Poile could also be reluctant to part with his draft picks.

Don’t forget that it takes two to tango. Cirelli likely prefers staying in Tampa Bay with a Stanley Cup champion and could be unwilling to entertain an offer sheet.

STLTODAY.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Jim Thomas was asked if there was any chance of the Blues trading Vince Dunn. While admitting one should never say never, Thomas doubts the 24-year-old defenseman will be moved, pointing out the club already lost blueliner Alex Pietrangelo plus he’s young and affordable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn’s not going anywhere. The Blues will get the restricted free agent signed to an affordable short-term deal before training camp opens next month.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2020

The latest on the Hurricanes and Leafs plus recent speculation about Zdeno Chara’s future in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes will upgrade their goaltending and if they’ll sign defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Netminders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are unrestricted free agents next summer, as is Hamilton.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Gulitti noted Mrazek’s and Reimer’s contract status, pointing out questions linger over whether the Hurricanes need better goaltending to win the Stanley Cup. General manager Don Waddell said he’s “very comfortable” sticking with his goalie tandem through this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mrazek and Reimer weren’t bad last season plus their combined $6.25 million cap hit makes them very affordable for the Hurricanes. Nevertheless, neither goalie has really ever stood out as a starter.

The Hurricanes will stick with this duo for the upcoming season but could go shopping for help if one or both struggle before the trade deadline. Waddell could also be in the market for an upgrade next summer if Mrazek and Reimer fail to carry the club deep into the playoffs.

The Hurricanes would like to sign Hamilton before the start of the season to remove any questions about his future with the franchise. However, the flattened salary cap and economic impact of the coronavirus could affect those efforts. Waddell isn’t ruling out a long-term deal but isn’t ruling out a short-term contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates Hamilton’s in the final year of a six-year, $34.5 million contract with an annual average value of $5.75 million. He could be receptive to a short-term deal but salary and no-trade protection could be the main issues. The Hamilton camp could seek a significant raise for their client, perhaps as high as $8 million annually if he has another Norris-worthy performance.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs lack a typical third-line center. While they have Joe Thornton and Alex Kerfoot, “Thornton can’t play 200-foot hockey anymore and can’t be counted on to play in the defensive zone. Kerfoot is a better winger than he is a centre.” Simmons feels the combination of the two will test head coach Sheldon Keefe’s ability to manage in-games throughout the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could also force Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to seek help before the trade deadline if it becomes a significant issue.

Simmons also wonders if the fact Zdeno Chara still hasn’t signed with the Boston Bruins is an indication the big defenseman is packing it in.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps, though his agent recently said his client is waiting to see what the format for next season looks like. A shortened schedule with limited travel could be to the 43-year-old Chara’s liking.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

Some recent Leafs speculation and a look at Dougie Hamilton’s contract situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what might happen if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs or are eliminated in the opening round. He believes team president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe should be granted one more shot in 2021-22. However, it could spell the end of the “Core Four” of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox noted Dubas has resisted breaking up that core, pointing out the moves made during this offseason doesn’t project a sense of hot-seat panic. Nevertheless, a shakeup could be in store if the Leafs make another early playoff exit or miss the postseason entirely.

Matthews, Tavares and Marner each earn over $10.8 million annually. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. It could be difficult moving one of them under a flattened cap for 2021-22, Nylander could be the more likely trade chip. His annual average value ($6.96 million) is more affordable and he lacks no-trade protection.

Fox believes the Leafs are done for the offseason. He doesn’t rule out professional tryout offers (PTO), noting Dubas said he’s open to anything. However, the club’s lack of cap space makes it unlikely they’ll sign another UFA or go the PTO route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are above the $81.5 million cap by just over $1 million according to Cap Friendly. They have no room for other additions unless Dubas acquires a player on permanent long-term injury reserve for additional salary-cap wiggle room or makes a cost-cutting trade.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes Dougie Hamilton’s next contract is among several big decisions facing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021. GM Don Waddell is interested in negotiating a new deal with him before the start of the season.

O’Brien speculates Hamilton will want security after being traded twice. While the 27-year-old rearguard could find next year’s UFA market challenging, O’Brien notes high-end defensemen like Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug received lucrative deals this year. Even lesser blueliners like Chris Tanev, Dylan DeMelo and Joel Edmundson were among those receiving significant terms.

The Hurricanes must also re-sign rising star Andrei Svechnikov plus goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek will become UFAs next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable that Waddell would be interested in signing Hamilton before this season opens. The puck-moving blueliner is in the final season of a six-year deal with an AAV of $5.75 million. Hamilton was in the running for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg. Another Norris-worthy performance in 2020-21 could push his asking price to between $8 – $9 million annually.

The Hurricanes have over $52 million invested in 12 players for 2020-21. Big raises for Hamilton and Svechnikov could use up a combined $15 million. Given the uncertainty over next season and another flattened salary cap, the Hurricanes might not spend to the ceiling for 2021-22. The longer Hamilton goes unsigned, the more his name will surface in the rumor mill during 2020-21.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 4, 2020

A Big Offseason Goalie Market

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TSN: Following the St. Louis Blues trading Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens, Frank Seravalli listed a number of goaltenders potentially available in the offseason.

Free-agent options include Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller, and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.

Possible trade chips include Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Toronto’s Frederik Andersen, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Arizona’s Antti Raanta, and one of Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins.

Among the trade options, Seravalli reports the Penguins are believed to have an offer on the table for Murray. He speculates the Leafs, Oilers, Flames, Senators, Sabres and perhaps the Avalanche could become suitors.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer could be a buyer’s market for goaltenders. Plenty of options to choose from here.

Of the UFAs, I believe Markstrom, Lehner and Crawford will re-sign with their current clubs. The Stars could stick with Khudobin as Ben Bishop’s backup depending on what he seeks in his next contract. The Flyers could bring back Elliott for another year backing up Carter Hart.

Holtby, Greiss and Talbot would be the best available options. However, finding new homes and lucrative deals could be difficult to come by depending on what happens in the trade market.

The trade candidates are a mixed bag. Andersen could be the best of the bunch. He catches a lot of flak from some Leafs fans over his playoff record, but he’s not to blame for his club’s porous defense. It’s to his credit he’s posted up the numbers he has given his heavy workload.

Murray has two Stanley Cups on his resume but he’s also struggled with injuries and consistency over the past couple of years. Raanta is an outstanding netminder when he’s healthy but he’s often sidelined.

Korpisalo and Merzlikins both played well this season, but are they truly ready for full-time starter’s work? Either guy could be a bit of a gamble.

Fleury turns 36 in November and his play during this season in part prompted the acquisition of Lehner at the trade deadline. Lundqvist is past his prime and carries an $8.5 million cap hit next season with a full no-movement clause. I doubt the Rangers will find many takers for King Henrik unless he waives his NMC and the Blueshirts pick up a healthy chunk of his cap space.

Smith, Howard, Miller and Anderson are well past their prime. Maybe Miller returns with the Ducks for one last season. Otherwise, he and the others could face retirement.

THE EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman including goalie Darcy Kuemper among the Arizona Coyotes’ trade chips. Staples feels Kuemper would be worth pursuing by the Oilers if they can clear out some money on defense. The Coyotes are without a first-round pick in the 2020 Draft, leading Staples to wonder if it would be wise for the Oilers to give up a first-rounder when other goalies could be more affordable in contract and return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Based on Kuemper’s performance this season, the Oilers should definitely look into acquiring him. I’m not saying they should overpay, but if what Kuemper did over the past two seasons is an indication of what lies ahead, he could be a big upgrade between the pipes in Edmonton. His performance in this year’s postseason will likely draw lots of interest from other clubs if the Coyotes shop him. As Friedman noted, however, that will depend upon what the next Coyotes’ GM wants to do.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle examined the Leafs options to replace Andersen if they decide to trade him. While acknowledging there’s no guarantee they’ll move Andersen, Mirtle believes they have a legitimate interest in Robin Lehner and could be among the bidders for his services when he becomes a UFA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner will cost a lot more than the $5 million AAV the Leafs are paying Andersen for next season. He’s already making that much on a one-year deal. Yes, the flattened cap will have an effect upon Lehner’s next contract and those of his fellow pending UFAs. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got offers between $6-$7 million annually on a four- or five-year deal. The Leafs will have to shed more payroll if they hope to land Lehner.

Kevin Kurz recently observed the San Jose Sharks need a goaltender to pair with or supplant starter Martin Jones. He wondered if Andersen might be a better fit with the Sharks, noting he played his first three NHL seasons in the Western Conference with the Anaheim Ducks. If the Carolina Hurricanes decide to pursue a top-flight netminder, perhaps the Sharks could bring back James Reimer. He likely wouldn’t cost much beyond a mid-round pick.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 24, 2020

Speculation over Marc-Andre Fleury’s future with the Golden Knights, plus the latest on the Flames, Senators, and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLEURY’S FUTURE

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required) Jesse Granger suggests Marc-Andre Fleury‘s defense of his agent, Allan Walsh, gives the impression the veteran goaltender didn’t disagree with Walsh’s provocative post criticizing his client’s lack of playing time.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

Over the weekend, Walsh posted an image showing Fleury being stabbed in the back by a sword with the name of Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer on the blade. Fleury appeared in just two of the Golden Knights’ games since the NHL returned to action, with trade-deadline acquisition Robin Lehner seeing the bulk of the starts. He’s had Walsh remove the image from his Twitter feed. 

Granger noted Fleury said he speaks regularly with Walsh. The fact Fleury didn’t immediately condemn the image gave the impression the netminder wasn’t that upset over it.

Fleury has two years remaining on his contract while Lehner is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. If the Golden Knights re-sign Lehner to a large contract, Granger believes they could face having between $12 – $14 million invested in the goalie position or they would have to move on from Fleury.

Granger pointed out Fleury has a 10-team no-trade list. Given the flattened salary cap for next season, there might not be many destinations for Fleury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury’s future with the Golden Knights is now a topic of speculation that will intensify the longer he remains Lehner’s backup. As Granger noted, trading him won’t be easy. In addition to his no-trade clause and the flattened cap, his $7.5 million annual average value, his age (35), and inconsistency this season could also become sticking points.

LATEST FLAMES SPECULATION

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson acknowledged Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau’s playoff performance was disappointing. Trading him, however, could be risky. He wondered what the return would be, suggesting they’d have to get someone to replace Gaudreau’s production. Gilbertson mused about perhaps bringing in a blue-chip defenseman with Mark Giordano about to turn 37, or perhaps swapping Gaudreau for picks and prospects and using the cap savings to sign Taylor Hall. The danger would be looking back after the trade and realizing they got little in return.

Gilbertson also pondered if Flames GM Brad Treliving will re-sign Cam Talbot, stick with David Rittich, or pursue a free-agent goalie like Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner or Braden Holtby. He wondered which of their pending UFA blueliners (T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone) will be back. He also thinks Treliving would like to add a Nazem Kadri-type player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving could quietly gauge Gaudreau’s trade value following the playoffs. Maybe he shops him for a more affordable young winger with upside. Maybe he dumps Gaudreau’s salary and goes after Hall, though that comes with its own risks in terms of salary and Hall’s effectiveness as he approaches 30 next year. Maybe he tries to add that young forward and a gritty secondary scorer.

The goaltending is an interest situation. Re-signing Talbot would be merely a short-term solution as Gilbertson points out. Rittich looks less like a future starter with each passing season. Markstrom, Lehner or Holtby might be better options but they’ll also be expensive.

WILL THE SENATORS ADD A GOALIE?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch recently suggested several trade options for the Senators if GM Pierre Dorion wants to add a veteran goaltender.

The New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist could be the biggest name available but he might not want to join a rebuilding team. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray could be another trade target.

Garrioch also noted the Arizona Coyotes have Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper while the Carolina Hurricanes may decide they need to do something with James Reimer or Petr Mrazek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Lundqvist agreeing to be traded to a rebuilding club in what is likely his final NHL campaign. Murray’s injury history and inconsistency make him a risky acquisition.

The Coyotes won’t part with Kuemper, while Raanta also has a long history of injuries. The Hurricanes should upgrade their goaltending but they could stick with their current tandem because of their affordability. Both are signed for next season.

SUGGESTED BLUELINE OPTIONS FOR THE KINGS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman recently listed Carolina’s Joel Edmundson, Chicago’s Olli Maatta, Washington’s Brenden Dillon, Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, and Florida’s Mike Matheson as possible blueline targets for the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edmundson, Dillon, and Tanev are UFAs at season’s end. Maatta is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $4.083 million but Dillman suggests he could be a buyout candidate. Matheson is under contract until 2025-26 with an AAV of $4.875 million.

Kings GM Rob Blake seems content to continue rebuilding with youth but I can see him making an affordable free-agent addition or two this summer. One of those pending UFA options listed by Dillman could be on his list if he can get them to agree to short-term contracts. He could be reluctant to take on Matheson’s deal.