Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

An update on Mathew Barzal and some recent Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s efforts to re-sign Mathew Barzal got easier with defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s playing career coming to an end. Boychuk will be placed on long-term injury reserve for the final two years of his contract, giving the Isles $6 million in potential salary-cap relief per season.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

That cap flexibility will be placed toward signing Barzal. The 23-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Gross doubts he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Industry expectations suggest he’ll sign a two- or three-year bridge deal from the Islanders worth an annual average value of around $7 million.

The Islanders still have to announce its deals with unrestricted free agents Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Gross expects Schneider will most likely try to resurrect his career with the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $3.9 million in cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR allows them to exceed the cap by the equivalent of his $6 million AAV. Lamoriello could be waiting to find out when the season will begin before finalizing the Barzal contract and formally announcing the deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider.

An offer sheet for Barzal is possible but unlikely given the few teams with sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant offer. Lamoriello informed his rivals he would match any offer. I don’t see any of them trying to call his bluff.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined potential trade options for the Buffalo Sabres if they once again find themselves outside the playoff picture during 2020-21.

Winger Taylor Hall could be a valuable trade chip if the Sabres are out of contention by the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause in his one-year contract but could approve a deal if the Sabres sink in the standings. Veteran center Eric Staal is also under contract for the coming season. His affordable $3.25 million cap hit could make him enticing in the trade market.

If things go south for the Sabres, O’Brien wondered if this could be the season they trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He also doesn’t rule out moving winger Sam Reinhart but considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are a contender this season those players won’t be going anywhere even at the risk of losing Hall to free agency next summer. Another disappointing performance, however, will see them become sellers at the trade deadline.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 31, 2020

Could the Flyers or Blues attempt to sign Mike Hoffman? What’s the deal behind the Sabres’ recent short-term RFA signings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall noted a recent report by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicating a “dozen or so” teams have expressed an interest in Mike Hoffman. However, a source told Hall the Flyers aren’t among the clubs pursuing the unrestricted free-agent winger.

Free-agent winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).

Hall notes Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher likes his club’s prospects on the wing and he still has defenseman Philippe Myers to re-sign. They’re also hoping for a better performance by veteran winger James van Riemsdyk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have $4.8 million in cap space, which will shrink after Myers is signed. Unless they make a cost-cutting move to clear room for Hoffman, don’t expect to see him suit up for the Flyers in 2020-21.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong wouldn’t rule out adding a player like Hoffman. However, such a move would have to make sense dollar-wise for the Blues.

Rutherford noted the Blues already sit $1.2 million above the $81.5 million salary cap with restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn to be signed. They can put sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen (combined AAV of $13.25 million) on long-term injury reserve next season to exceed the cap by that amount, but they must also be cap compliant when those players are ready to return to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It doesn’t look like the Blues will be among Hoffman’s suitors. Rutherford reported Armstrong wants to give more playing time to forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. The Blues GM also remains confident Tarasenko will return at some point in 2020-21.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Buffalo Sabres signing Sam Reinhart, Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour to one-year contracts, as well as their acquisition of Eric Staal, who has a year left on his contract.

O’Brien considers those “prove it” moves in which the players will have to justify longer deals through their performance in 2020-21. He also points out the flexibility it gives the Sabres at the 2021 trade deadline.

If the Sabres are non-contenders by then, they could peddle Hall to wherever he’s willing to accept getting dealt to. O’Brien also doesn’t rule out the possibility of shopping Reinhart by inflating his value, trading him before they have to pay up, and coming out on the better side of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres could use the same approach with Staal and Montour. Of course, that depends on how next season shakes out. If the Sabres are contenders, they won’t be sellers even at the risk of losing Hall, Staal and Montour to next year’s UFA market.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2020

The Sabres avoid arbitration with Sam Reinhart and Linus Ullmark, the Red Wings and Tyler Bertuzzi await an arbiter’s decision, and Martin Hanzal retires. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

Buffalo Sabres winger Sam Reinhart (NHL Images).

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with winger Sam Reinhart and goaltender Linus Ullmark. Reinhart agreed to a one-year, $5.2 million contract while Ullmark inked a one-year deal worth $2.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both are affordable short-term contracts that could lead to more lucrative deals for both players following next season. Reinhart, 24, exceeded 40 points in each of his five NHL seasons, including 65 points in 2018-19 and 50 points in 69 games last season. Ullmark, 27, took over as the Sabres’ starting goaltender last season, finishing with 17 wins in 34 games with a 2.69 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and Tyler Bertuzzi had their virtual salary-arbitration hearing yesterday and now await the arbiter’s decision. The Wings offered $3.15 million while Bertuzzi sought $4.25 million. The 25-year-old winger led the club with 21 goals and finished second in points with 48.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi is the first player among the 26 who filed for arbitration this year to go before an arbiter. The report also notes the arbiter’s decision will be handed down within 48 hours of the hearing’s completion. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the team and the player can no longer continue to negotiate once the hearing is completed.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks opted not to use their second buyout window on Sunday to buy out the remaining season of Brandon Sutter’s contract. He’s earning an annual average value of $4.35 million. General manager Jim Benning cited the 34-year-old center’s leadership and defensive skills as justification for retaining him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks are $1.5 million above the $81.5 million salary cap. The report suggested Benning has other options to become cap compliant for next season, such as putting Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to start next season. He could also demote a player or two to the minors.

THE SCORE: Martin Hanzal announced his retirement citing three back surgeries. The 34-year-old center spent 12 seasons in the NHL, with nearly 10 of them with the Arizona Coyotes. Traded to the Minnesota Wild at the 2017 trade deadline, he spent his final two seasons with the Dallas Stars, though injuries limited him to just 45 games. Hanzal finished his NHL career with 127 goals and 338 points in 673 games, as well as 13 points in 28 playoff contests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hanzal in his future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 25, 2020

More details on what next season might look like, update salary-arbitration schedule, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks provides more tidbitS on what next season might look like following the NHL’s meeting with general managers on Friday.

When will the NHL return with full arenas? (NHL.com)

The objective remains to start on Jan. 1 and playing a full 82-game schedule with full arenas but the league knows that’s unlikely. It will continue monitoring the course of COVID-19, travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, and regulations regarding large indoor gatherings to determine which teams could allow fans in arenas and how many.

A shorter schedule and playing in several hub cities require authorization from the league and the NHL Players’ Association. Players and staff wouldn’t be segregated from the general public but could be expected to follow protocols similar to those of Major League Baseball during their 2020 season.

Groups of teams could shuttle into designated hub cities for two-three weeks, then return to their home cities for a week of practice before heading to the next hub. There could be a geographical realignment of divisions, including an all-Canadian division.

Training camps would be 14 days and limited to 35 players. The seven clubs that didn’t qualify for the 2020 return-to-play would have an additional seven-to-10 days. Each team would play three to four exhibition games.

Brooks also reported team facilities are currently allowed to be open under Phase 2 restrictions for up to 12 players on the ice at the same time. Players would be tested twice weekly and are asked not to skate in other arenas once they’re “in-market”. Most players have yet to be “in-market” because they’re training at home awaiting definitive word on the training camp schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing has been decided yet for training camp or next season’s schedule. That’s to be determined by a return-to-play committee involving the league and the PA which is expected to begin meeting soon. Brooks’ report, and those from TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic since Friday give us at least some idea of what’s under consideration.

NHLPA: Twelve of the 26 players who filed for salary arbitration have avoided hearings by reaching agreement on new contracts with their respective teams. Those still scheduled for hearings include Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi (today), Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark, Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, Colorado’s Devon Toews, the New York Rangers’ Ryan Strome and the New York Islanders’ Ryan Pulock. The final date of hearings is Nov. 8.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday reported Ullmark seeks $4.1 million while the Sabres countered with $1.8 million. Big gap to close there.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed free-agent winger Josh Leivo to a one-year, $875K contract. He joins former Vancouver Canucks teammates Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Louis Domingue who signed with the Flames this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ladies and gentlemen, your Calgary Canucks, er, Flames!










NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

Check out recent Flames and Canucks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): During a recent mailbag segment, Scott Cruickshank was asked about recent trade rumors swirling around Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. The 26-year-old has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

There was some speculation suggesting Gaudreau won’t re-sign with the Flames but Cruickshank believes he’s not necessarily gone once his contract is up. He doesn’t think general manager Brad Treliving is actively shopping the winger but believes he’d be nuts not to entertain all offers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Gaudreau’s production this season combined with last spring’s poor playoff performance (a lone assist in five games) gave rise to the trade whispers. A better effort in the upcoming playoff tournament could put some of that talk to rest. Still, the Gaudreau trade chatter could ramp up if the Flames make another early playoff exit.

Cruickshank was asked what it would take for the Flames to acquire Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, as well as Casey Mittelstadt and/or Sam Reinhart. All three are restricted free agents with Montour and Reinhart carrying arbitration rights.

Citing Evolving-Hockey.com, Cruickshank indicates Reinhart could get over $8.7 million annually on an eight-year deal, Montour $4.8 million annually for three years, and Mittelstadt $1.17 annually on a two-year deal. Prying those players from the Sabres would mean parting with some core Flames players, high-level youngsters, and draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Sabres moving Reinhart unless he wants out. So far, there’s no indication he’s unhappy in Buffalo or wants a trade.

Montour’s supplanted Rasmus Ristolainen as the most likely Sabres trade candidate because he reportedly doesn’t fit well into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. Perhaps there’s a fit in Calgary if the Flames lose T.J. Brodie and/or Travis Hamonic to free agency at season’s end.

Mittelstadt is a former first-round pick (eighth overall, 2017) whose slow development has frustrated Sabres followers. I don’t think the Flames would be interested unless he’s part of a package involving a much better player coming to Calgary.

Asked which player he’d try to add if he were Flames GM, Cruickshank suggested Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a big, 26-year-old right-winger who tallied 27 goals in 2018-19, but he also missed most of 2019-20 to a shoulder injury and he’s an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cruickshank feels Anderson would be worth pursuing depending on the Blue Jackets’ asking price and the cost of his new contract. Anderson popped up frequently in media-generated rumors before the February trade deadline. The Flames could have plenty of competition if they attempt to acquire him.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnson reports the Vancouver Canucks patience with Jake Virtanen may be running thin. The 23-year-old winger wasn’t part of their lineup for their exhibition game loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Virtanen’s fitness levels and consistency have been questioned in the past. He was also surpassed by more defensively-responsible forwards like Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter, and Zack MacEwen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was enjoying a career-best performance before the pandemic. He was on pace to finish with 20 goals and 40 points (18 goals, 36 points) when the schedule was interrupted. Nevertheless, his fitness, inconsistency, and seeming unwillingness to improve his defensive play knocked him out of the Canucks lineup against the Jets and could relegate him to the press box for their upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild. 

Virtanen’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but it remains to be seen if he has a future in Vancouver after this season. His name could pop up in the rumor mill if he remains on the sidelines during the playoff tournament.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2020

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt believes the San Jose Sharks shouldn’t be ruled out if Jack Eichel demands a trade. The Buffalo Sabres captain recently expressed his unhappiness over the club’s constant losing. That was soon followed by the team’s ownership purging its front-office staff.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

While Sabres ownership hopes the shake-up quickly turns things around, Witt wonders if Eichel could run out of patience and demand a trade. If so, he pondered the possibility of the Sharks getting into the bidding for the young center’s services.

If Eichel sought a trade, Witt believes the Sabres’ asking price would be astronomical. He cited NHL Network’s Mike Johnson suggesting the package would have to include a current young player, a future first-round pick, and two top prospects.

Witt suggests one shouldn’t dismiss the Sharks as long as Doug Wilson is general manager, pointing to his acquisitions of Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and Evander Kane, among others. He speculates a possible Sharks trade package would include Burns, Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen, and a first, and that might not be enough. Burns’ age (35) and three-team trade list would be sticking points. Witt suggested Timo Meier as another option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Eichel hasn’t asked to be traded. I expect he’ll be suiting up with the Sabres for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, another year or two of mediocrity could test his patience.

The Sharks could come calling if Eichel hits the trade block. If Wilson could land a superstar in his mid-twenties I expect he’d do it, especially if he’s looking for a young star to build around quickly. I doubt the Sabres would be interested in Burns, but they could ask for Meier.

Of course, this is all spitballing. It’s a quiet time for pundits covering the non-playoff clubs and they’re going to spend some time speculating over what moves those teams could make. As long as the Sabres continue to flounder among the league’s worst teams, the more speculation will grow over Eichel’s future in Buffalo and the more media musings over where he could go.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked about what type of contract Sam Reinhart might get from the Sabres. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Rosen suggests St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz as a comparable. While Schwartz is three years older, his rate of production during his early years was similar to Reinhart.

He signed a five-year, $26.75 million deal in 2016, with the annual average value ($5.35 million) representing 7.3 percent of the Blues’ cap hit at the time of the signing. A similar percentage for Reinhart would be about $6 million, though Rosen suggests there could be some wiggle room to be between $6-$7 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the recent front-office changes, I don’t see the Sabres passing on re-signing Reinhart. It could be something between four and six years worth around $6.5 million annually.