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.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 22, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 22, 2020

Check out the latest Sabres speculation and updates on Torey Krug in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE SABRES

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox has some questions for the Buffalo Sabres in the wake of their mass firings among their management, scouting, and minor-league coaching departments last week.

Noting former Sabres general manager Jason Botterill considered Rasmus Ristolainen a core player, he wonders if Kevyn Adams (Botterill’s replacement) feels the same.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen recently suggested he could be among the first players moved if then-GM Botterill opted to shake up the roster. However, he also indicated he enjoyed playing for head coach Ralph Krueger, whose opinion could determine whether Ristolainen has a future in Buffalo.

He’s also curious how Adams will handle the different negotiations for restricted free agents Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, and how much patience there is for Casey Mittelstadt or Dylan Cozens to develop into a second-line NHL center.

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

Reinhart and Olofsson both have arbitration rights. The former, however, has several NHL seasons under his belt while the latter completed his rookie campaign. Reinhart could get a lucrative long-term deal while Olofsson could get a one- or two-year “show me” bridge contract.

Lastly, Fox wonders where captain Jack Eichel‘s “fed-up rating” will be a year from now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another lost season will certainly generate speculation over Eichel’s future in Buffalo. And speaking of the Sabres franchise player…

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens and Lisa Dillman acknowledged there’s no indication Eichel wants out of Buffalo. If he ever does, however, they examined what it would cost the Anaheim Ducks to pursue him.

Finding a way to absorb Eichel’s $10 million annual average value would be difficult. It could also cost the Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm, a top prospect like Trevor Zengras, and the Ducks 2021 first-round pick as part of a potential five-piece package.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If COVID-19 ends up scuttling the league’s return-to-play plan, we could see a lot of Eichel trade scenarios floated by bored pundits over a long off-season. If the day should come within the next couple of years when Eichel decides he wants a trade, I think we can all agree the asking price will be massive.

UPDATE ON KRUG

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports there’s some real uncertainty over whether Torey Krug will remain with the Bruins following this season. The 29-year-old defenseman is an unrestricted free agent in the off-season. Uncertainty over the salary cap for next season and the need to re-sign other Bruins such as Zdeno Chara and Jake DeBrusk could complicate efforts to keep him in Boston. Haggerty believes Krug could command around $8 million annually on the open market.

DJ Bean acknowledged Krug would have to take a discount to stay in Boston. Nevertheless, he explored ways the Bruins could free up further cap room to re-sign Krug, suggesting trading defenseman John Moore ($1.8 million) or forward Nick Ritchie ($1.5 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins, like most NHL clubs right now, won’t re-sign key players until they know what next season’s salary cap will be. There’s talk it will remain at $81.5 million, but that’s not a certainty.

Krug could command big bucks on the open market, but a flat cap could mean fewer teams bidding for his services in the off-season. That could work in the Bruins’ favor.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 18, 2020

The latest on Kyle Palmieri, a busy off-season faces Sabres new GM Kevyn Adams and a brief note on Chris Tanev in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PALMIERI HOPES TO REMAIN A DEVIL

New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri (Photo via NHL Images).

NORTHJERSEY.COM/NJ.COM: Nick Gantaifis and Randy Miller report Kyle Palmieri hopes to remain part of the New Jersey Devils’ rebuilding plans. The 29-year-old winger is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Without a doubt,” Palmieri said Tuesday in a media conference call. “I do love being in New Jersey. I love being close to home. And I have a ton of belief in this organization moving forward as to what we’re building, and I hope to be a part of it.”

Gantaifis notes Palmieri and the Devils might ordinarily open contract extension talks on July 1. Given the uncharacteristic and premature start to the off-season, that target date remains uncertain.

It’s a big unknown,” Palmieri said. “Obviously, the calendar and important dates haven’t really been set yet. There’s so much up in the air and so much to figure out as far as the return to play and figuring all that stuff out.”

Miller suggests Chris Kreider would be a good comparable for Palmieri. The New York Rangers winger signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension in February. Both are the same age and have roughly similar stats. Kreider’s averaged 23 goals and 46 points over the past five seasons, while Palmieri’s averaged 26 goals and 50 points since 2015-16.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kreider is a fair comparison for Palmieri. With over $36 million invested in eight players for 2021-22, the Devils can easily afford to pay Palmieri over $7 million annually.

Of course, that figure will rise this year because of their anticipated re-signings of key free agents such as Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt. It could go significantly higher if they bring in talent via trades or free agency in the off-season A flat salary-cap for 2021-22 could also affect the Devils cap room.

Palmieri’s contract talks also remain in limbo because ownership hasn’t decided if interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald will stay in that role on a full-time basis. A new GM could have a different opinion of Palmieri’s value. If so, we could hear his name mentioned a lot as the 2021 trade deadline rolls around.

NEW SABRES GM FACES A BUSY OFF-SEASON

THE SCORE: John Matisz examined a lengthy to-do list for Kevyn Adams, who was named earlier this week as the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.

Re-signing winger Sam Reinhart and goaltender Linus Ullmark to fair deals, being cautious with pending UFAs like Wayne Simmonds and Michael Frolik, and sorting out the future of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen are among the key issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart and Ullmark are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. As one of the Sabres’ leading scorers, Reinhart will likely seek a multi-year deal worth around $6 million annually. Ullmark has less of an established body of NHL work on his resume, giving Adams more leverage in negotiations.

Matisz pointed out Adams has no previous ties to Simmonds and Frolik. He could opt to cut them loose and pursue better UFA options.

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger recently expressed his wish to coach Ristolainen again next season. We’ll find out soon enough how much sway he has with his new boss.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 17, 2020

What next for the Sabres after their management purge? What are the Capitals’ off-season trade targets? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BIG DECISIONS FACE THE SABRES’ NEW GM

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders if the Buffalo Sabres replacing Jason Botterill as general manager with Kevyn Adams will be enough to fix the struggling club.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (Photo via NHL Images).

He feels Adams will have “lots of runway” to re-sign key restricted free agents Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, and Linus Ullmark. He’ll also have plenty of time to fill out the roster for next season. The Sabres currently have 10 players (four forwards, five defensemen, and a goalie) under contract for 2020-21.

Adams could dramatically reshape the Sabres for next season. Larkin, however, wonders how much agency he’ll have to do so.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also weighed in on the key decisions facing Adams. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen could be their most notable trade candidate. He’s frequently come up in trade rumors for some time, leading O’Brien to wonder if Botterill sought too much for the blueliner or was his market value really that cold. He suggests the Sabres might be better off cutting their losses with Ristolainen even at a discount rate.

O’Brien also wondered if Adams will stick with the goalie tandem of Ullmark and Carter Hutton or plunge into a pretty promising UFA market. He could then attempt to trade Hutton or send him to the minors.

The Sabres have lots of salary-cap room next season. Adams could attempt to go big in the UFA market by targeting St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo or Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall. However, O’Brien notes the Sabres have been burned before with expensive UFA signings. He also suggested perhaps targeting a cap-strapped team, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Pegulas apparently slashed their management and scouting staffs in part to cut costs. Perhaps that mindset also extends to next season’s salary-cap payroll.

Cap Friendly indicates they have over $47 million invested in next season’s roster. That will obviously rise as they re-sign RFAs like Reinhart, Olofsson, and Ullmark, and perhaps Brandon Montour or a UFA like Wayne Simmonds. Nevertheless, they must still spend to get over the $60 million cap floor and ice a competitive roster.

Adams could surprise us by chasing one or two big-name UFAs, but I think he’ll make modest dips into that pool. I can see him trying to pry away a decent player or two from clubs looking to shed salary. Perhaps he dangles Ristolainen to a team that’s deep in scoring forwards but in need of blueline depth.

CAPITALS OFF-SEASON NEEDS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Tarik El-Bashir was asked about any possible off-season trade candidates or targets for the Washington Capitals.

El-Bashir said he doesn’t get the sense that Capitals management is eager to move anyone under contract for next season. As for possible options to address next season, he believes they’ll need a veteran top-four defenseman and doesn’t rule out re-signing Brenden Dillon. They’ll also need a third-line left wing to replace Ilya Kovalchuk and a proven goalie to back up Ilya Samsonov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are several quality backups potentially available in this summer’s free-agent market. The notables include Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, and Cam Talbot.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the one question facing each non-playoff club

SPORTSNET: Josh Beneteau recently looked at the most important question facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs.

Kicking off with the Detroit Red Wings, Beneteau wondered how many of their free agents will be brought back. RFAs Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are the priorities. UFAs like Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson won’t be back, while RFAs Brendan Perlini and Adam Erne aren’t expected to return. Some, like Robby Fabbri and Alex Biega, probably earned themselves contract extensions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi, Mantha, Fabbri, and Biega will be back with the Wings next season.

Looking at the Ottawa Senators’ 13 potential picks in the 2020 draft, Beneteau wondered what general manager Pierre Dorion will do with all of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion will likely use most of those picks in the draft, but I expect he’ll use a few as trade bait, perhaps targeting a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary. He’ll probably consider that option if he can land a young, affordable NHL-ready player who can help the Sens’ rebuild.

Beneteau wondered if this is the end of an era for the current San Jose Sharks roster. GM Doug Wilson seems intent for now on keeping the group intact and trying to figure out what went wrong this season. Nevertheless, he has a history of making blockbuster moves.

Could Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick become an off-season trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We certainly can’t rule out the possibility of Wilson surprising us with a big move or two. Trying to move one or two of his veteran core, however, will be difficult. All of them carry expensive contracts with varying degrees of no-trade protection.

Turning to the Los Angeles Kings, Beneteau noted they shipped out Tyler Toffoli before the trade deadline and wondered if long-time Kings like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick will return. Beneteau acknowledged the trio are declining and have at least two years remaining on their contracts with annual cap hits of $5.2-million or more. Moving one of them, however, could fetch some sort of future asset while opening a spot for a younger player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings could be forced to pick up part of the salary-cap hit to move Brown, Carter, or Quick. Otherwise, they might have to include a good young asset in the deal, which this rebuilding club will be unwilling to part with.

Looking at the Anaheim Ducks’ anemic offense, Beneteau wonders who’s going to score next season. He speculates they could move one of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft to land a scoring forward through the draft or via trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay teams will be more interested in the Ducks’ pick than the one they got from the Boston Bruins. I don’t see GM Bob Murray moving his pick, especially if the Ducks win the draft lottery.

With the New Jersey Devils still undecided over whether to retain interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine, Beneteau wonders who’s going to make the roster decisions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the unusually long off-season facing the Devils, they have plenty of time to address that issue. They reportedly interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, while Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens are said to be among their coaching candidates.

Beneteau closes by wondering which players will be part of the solution for the Buffalo Sabres. He thinks upgrades in goal and on the forward lines are coming and won’t rule out big trades involving defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and RFA winger Sam Reinhart.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger expressed support for Ristolainen. It appears they’re also keen to keep Reinhart in the fold. Then again, we can’t rule out the possibility of one or both being moved before next season.