Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 10, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 10, 2021

An early look at this season’s pending unrestricted free agents, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is working the phones and the Canucks are shopping Olli Juolevi. Check it out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently looked at which of this season’s high-profile unrestricted free agents could sign contract extensions within the next month or two. He wouldn’t be surprised Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg is signed by midseason though there’s work to be done. The Boston Bruins signing Patrice Bergeron is a no-brainer if the 36-year-old center wants to return for another season.

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).

There haven’t been any real contract discussions between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Evgeni Malkin as he focuses on recovering from offseason knee surgery. LeBrun expects those talks could begin later in the season. He also believes the Penguins want to avoid lengthy deals they could regret for Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang. The latter could be willing to see how the season plays out.

LeBrun believes the San Jose Sharks haven’t given up hope of signing Tomas Hertl but thinks the 27-year-old center is unlikely to do so. He could become a big name potentially available at the March 21 trade deadline.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had preliminary talks with Morgan Rielly and lines of communication remain open. This could be decided in June depending on the Leafs freeing up sufficient cap space to sign him or Rielly going to market because they can’t afford him. LeBrun expects he’ll be in the $8 million per season club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with LeBrun’s take on all but Klingberg. He’s in the final season of a seven-year deal worth an annual average value of $4.25 million and could seek something comparable to Dougie Hamilton’s $9 million AAV with the New Jersey Devils.

As The Dallas Morning News’ Matthew DeFranks observed, the Stars already have $8.45 million annually invested in Miro Heiskanen, $5.8 million annually in Esa Lindell and $3.65 million in Ryan Suter. Assuming Klingberg accepts something in the $8 million range, the Stars will have one of the NHL’s most expensive bluelines.

Unless the Stars shed salary or decide not to re-sign other pending UFAs like Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov, they could be unwilling to ink Klingberg to an expensive long-term extension.

THE ATHLETIC’s Arthur Staple reports New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t quite finished assembling the roster. He may be looking to trade some of their extra players. NEWSDAY’s Andrew Gross reports Trotz said the Isles GM is still working the phones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those “extra guys” likely include defenseman Thomas Hickey and winger Richard Panik as they were placed on waivers yesterday. If they clear, Lamoriello could attempt to peddle them elsewhere.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston confirms a report in The Athletic that the Vancouver Canucks are shopping defenseman Olli Juolevi. The former 2016 first-round pick has tumbled down the Canucks blueline depth chart.

If they can’t find a trade and they decide to send Juolevi to their AHL affiliate, he’ll have to be placed on waivers today. Given his pedigree, Johnston anticipated he’d be claimed by another club.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2021

Are the Buffalo Sabres finally closing in on a Jack Eichel trade? What’s the latest on Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Nick Suzuki and Morgan Rielly? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST EICHEL SPECULATION

TSN: Darren Dreger reports there could finally be some progress on the Jack Eichel front. Sources told him ongoing discussions between Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and clubs interested in acquiring the 24-year-old center have become more serious in recent days.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Much of that is due to those teams having access to Eichel’s medical records specific to the impasse between the center and the Sabres regarding treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. Speculation suggests one of the interested clubs is a West Coast team like the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks though sources from those teams are downplaying their interest. Turning to Eastern clubs, New York Rangers sources say they’re not among them.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported in his latest “32 Thoughts” column there’s a real push to reach a solution because Eichel’s displaced disc can’t be allowed to just sit on the nerve. It’s difficult to determine if he’ll be traded first or gets surgery, returns to health and plays some games for the Sabres to regain his trade value. There’s a growing belief there are clubs willing to allow Eichel to undergo disc replacement surgery but they have to be able to make a trade first.

Appearing Monday on the Jeff Marek Show, Friedman said the Calgary Flames were among the teams that “really tried” to acquire Eichel this summer. He also indicated not once did anyone say to him that Eichel wouldn’t go to Calgary. He also didn’t think the Sabres could swing a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights because the latter didn’t want to part with promising center Peyton Krebs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The biggest sticking point could be whether those teams interested in Eichel want to acquire him first and then allow him to have the disc replacement procedure done. The other will be the Sabres’ asking price. If it remains high, teams will be reluctant to take that chance.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”

Regarding the investigation into whether Evander Kane used a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, Friedman isn’t sure where this is going to go. However, he isn’t under the impression that transgression could jeopardize the winger’s contract with the San Jose Sharks if proven true.

Speaking of the Sharks, Friedman feels Tomas Hertl could fetch the best return if they decide to bring in new blood.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be interesting to see how things play out for Kane if that investigation into his COVID card (or the one into allegations of spousal abuse) turns out to be true. For now, the club is reportedly planning to start the season without him while the investigations continue.

As for Hertl, his future in San Jose depends on the Sharks’ performance this season. He’s hinted at a willingness to entertain a hometown discount but he also wants to play for a winner. If the Sharks are out of contention by the March trade deadline, Hertl could be playing elsewhere by then.

Friedman predicts the Montreal Canadiens could attempt to sign center Nick Suzuki to a contract extension sooner rather than later to avoid any more offer-sheet shenanigans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That depends on whether Suzuki and his agent are willing to sign a new contract before next summer. He’ll be coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The possibility of an offer sheet would give Suzuki some leverage he otherwise wouldn’t have.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could let the season play out before making a decision on Morgan Rielly. It’s not just about how much it’ll cost to sign him but what else they need to do cap-wise if they sign him. His performance, and theirs, could determine the outcome here. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if the Leafs and Rielly play well, re-signing him is still going to force them to shed some salary. Cap Friendly shows them with $67.7 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23.

Assuming Rielly accepts a modest raise in his annual average value to $6 million to stay in Toronto, the Leafs won’t have sufficient space to re-sign fellow UFA Jack Campbell, RFA defenseman Rasmus Sandin and still fill out the rest of the roster with quality talent.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2021

The latest on Brady Tkachuk’s contract talks with the Senators and some speculation about Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly’s next contract in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports all eyes are on Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk after Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes re-signed with the Vancouver Canucks over the weekend. Tkachuk is the sole notable restricted free agent.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion remains in constant contact with Tkachuk’s agents and both sides hope to get this resolved as soon as possible. It’s believed the Senators have pitched an eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $8 million. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Friday the Tkachuk camp seeks north of $8.4 million.

No one knows what effect Pettersson’s three-year bridge contract with the Canucks will have on Tkachuk’s negotiations. St. Louis broadcaster Andy Strickland said the Senators prefer a seven- or eight-year deal while Tkachuk seeks a bridge deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Tkachuk signs for three seasons, he’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and can seek a much higher annual average value. It’ll also bring him within one year of eligibility for unrestricted free agency.

The Senators obviously want to avoid that scenario. For now, there’s no indication the two sides are getting closer to an agreement though that could change quickly with the start of the season fast approaching.

TSN: Darren Dreger talked about Morgan Rielly’s contract situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Asked what a hometown discount would be for Rielly, Dreger speculates it would be north of $8 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With several notable defensemen inking big-money contracts this summer, Rielly is going to seek a comparable deal. A hometown discount would be at least $8 million annually.

The Leafs have over $67 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23. Even if Rielly accepted $7 million annually, it would still take a big chunk out of their cap payroll with goalie Jack Campbell also slated to become a UFA and defenseman Rasmus Sandin a restricted free agent. In other words, unless the Leafs shed salary they’re going to have a difficult time keeping Rielly beyond this season.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Morgan Rielly, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Eric Staal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports it’s difficult to pinpoint a timeline when the Buffalo Sabres could trade Jack Eichel. His new agent, Pat Brisson is on good terms with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and there are ongoing discussions between the two.

Eichel and the Sabres remain at an impasse over which medical procedure he’ll undergo to repair the herniated disc in his neck. It’s possible Eichel gets traded to a club willing to allow him to undergo the disc replacement surgery he favors but there’s no guarantee and no sign a trade is close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As they say in the Army: “SITREP: no change.” This will probably drag on for months and perhaps cost Eichel the entire season until a suitable trade partner is found. Even then, his $10 million annual cap hit over the next five seasons plus the Sabres’ expensive asking price could make any interested club leery of taking that gamble.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly’s camp quietly engaged in preliminary contract discussions over the summer. LeBrun doubts anything will be settled quickly. A lot of it has to do with what next summer’s market will be for unrestricted free-agent defensemen after Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this summer worth $9 million-plus per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculates Rielly negotiations could drag on into next June. They could eventually reach a point where they decide to shelf those talks until the offseason. I think Rielly and his representatives saw those hefty offseason signings and believe they can get the same.

Some Leafs fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season. I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline.

Dreger believes it’s all about the term and less about money in the Vancouver Canucks’ negotiations with restricted free agent defenseman Quinn Hughes. With training camp underway and Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov under contract, Hughes and teammate Elias Pettersson are hoping to find common ground soon with Canucks management.

Negotiations are also ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Dreger feels the main hurdles here are structure and protection. He wonders if a shorter-term deal might become an option if talks drag closer to the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No real change here from reports earlier in the week. Nevertheless, they could be signed at any time. We began this week with six notable RFAs and are now down to those three.

LeBrun reports unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal is committed to playing another NHL season but has yet to find a new club. His preference is to find a good fit with an American club.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

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

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

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2021

Should the Golden Knights pursue Jack Eichel? Could the Leafs risk losing more key players next summer? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Steve Carp recently wondered whether the Golden Knights were among the clubs to re-engage with the Buffalo Sabres regarding their interest in Jack Eichel. He believes they should be in the mix for the Sabres captain.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Carp acknowledged the questions and uncertainty over which medical procedure Eichel could undergo for the herniated disc in his neck. Nevertheless, he feels the 24-year-old center is worth the risk. He’d become the bonafide No. 1 center the Golden Knights have lacked since Day 1. He’s also an elite star who’s still young and the chances of a full recovery from whatever procedure he undergoes are in his favor.

Acquiring Eichel would probably mean moving two players from the current roster to free up the cap space for his $10 million annual average value. It could result in getting a third or a fourth team involved to make the dollars fit. The Sabres will also insist on first-round draft picks and a top prospect such as Peyton Krebs as part of the deal.

Despite the expense, Carp feels Golden Knights owner Bill Foley could go for it if he believes Eichel can help the club win the Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres’ asking price from the Golden Knights earlier in the offseason was reportedly Krebs, winger Reilly Smith, defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick. Whether that still stands is unknown at this time.

I believe Eichel could be that final piece of the championship puzzle for the Golden Knights. Absorbing his cap hit could be difficult but not impossible to sort out.

The Golden Knights have surprised us with significant acquisitions such as trading for Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and signing Alex Pietrangelo. It wouldn’t surprise me if they pursue Eichel during this season or next summer.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos wonders how many more players the Maple Leafs could lose because of their limited salary-cap space. Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen departed this summer as free agents. Morgan Rielly could follow them out the door next summer.

After that, who knows?”, asks Traikos. “Maybe it’s Ilya Mikheyev or Jack Campbell. Or someone even more important, like William Nylander.” He also pointed out it wasn’t just money and term or a chance to play alongside Connor McDavid that prompted Hyman to leave the Leafs. “After five years of post-season exits, it sounds like Hyman wanted out. Like he needed a change.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a fair question. How many other good players currently on the Leafs’ roster today won’t be there this time next year due to cap constraints? It’s also fair to wonder how many could get discouraged with the club’s direction if they once again come up short in the playoffs.

Those questions aren’t something the Leafs have to worry about right now. They’ve got a full season ahead of them. Nevertheless, those concerns will dog this club, especially if they slump at any point in the upcoming schedule. Another disappointing playoff exit could lead to big changes and not just on the roster.