NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Nashville Predators
Some Central Division speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently posed one offseason question for each NHL Central Division team.
He wondered how far the Chicago Blackhawks can go with their current roster. Given his limited salary-cap space, general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t have many options to bolster the roster. He also doesn’t have a goalie under contract for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having recently received a vote of confidence from team owner Rocky Wirtz, I expect Bowman will continue retooling his roster by adding younger, affordable players. As for the goaltending, I suspect he’ll re-sign Corey Crawford to a cost-effective, short-term deal. He could also shop winger Brandon Saad if the return fetches a young, NHL-ready player.
Noting the Colorado Avalanche’s plentiful salary-cap space, O’Leary wondered if GM Joe Sakic might pursue Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall via free agency. He acknowledged it’s probably a “pie-in-the-sky fantasy,” but felt it was feasible enough.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall was linked to the Avs in this season’s trade-rumor mill. Nevertheless, I don’t think they need to blow a lot of money on a big-ticket UFA winger when Gabriel Landeskog does a fine job filling the first-line left-wing role. It wouldn’t make sense to overpay for Hall to play a second-line role. Yes, they could move Landeskog down to the second line, but it’s not a good idea to break up his chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon and Miko Rantanen.
O’Leary wondered if Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill will get creative to find a goal scorer. Veterans Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov have had down performances this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill could address that issue by peddling a defenseman like Esa Lindell, John Klingberg, or Miro Heiskanen. However, I doubt he’ll make such a bold move. He could be forced to find more affordable options through free agency or within his system.
With the Minnesota Wild having replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach with Dean Evason on an interim basis, O’Leary wondered if they’ll splurge on a new bench boss. Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette are all available, but GM Bill Guerin said he won’t interview candidates during the league’s hiatus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin didn’t rule out sticking with Evason as the full-time replacement. Nevertheless, we can’t rule the possibility he’ll speak with some of those more experienced coaches.
Could this season be Pekka Rinne’s last in goal for the Nashville Predators? He’s been outplayed by Juuse Saros this season. He also has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That depends on Rinne and GM David Poile. I suspect Rinne will be back. He’s carrying a plus-35 contract, meaning a buyout wouldn’t provide any cap relief. He also has a no-movement clause preventing his demotion to the minors and a 10-team trade list.
Rinne could be a compliance buyout candidate if the league and the PA implement that option for this offseason, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Poile kept him around for one more year.
O’Leary wonders if St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo will hit the open market. He’s the heart-and-soul of the club, but he’s also in a position to command between $8 million and $10 million annually. With limited salary-cap space, GM Doug Armstrong might have to shed salary to re-sign Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Veteran forward Alexander Steen ($5.75 million annual average value) has come up in the rumor mill as a trade candidate, but he’s 36 and also carries a full no-trade clause through Feb. 1, 2021. They could have better luck shopping goaltender Jake Allen, who’s signed through next season with an AAV of $4.35 million.
Will the Dustin Byfuglien saga be resolved?
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, a resolution could come soon. “Now the Players Association, the league, the player and the Winnipeg Jets are all aligned on the termination agreement but it hasn’t been executed yet and because of that the Winnipeg Jets aren’t in a position to announce but the detail work between the league and the Winnipeg Jets is expected to be ironed out in the near future.”
Tony DeAngelo ties a Rangers record, David Pastrnak extended his points streak, Pekka Rinne tallied his first goal, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo scored a hat trick and added two assists in a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. DeAngelo tied club records for defensemen for most goals and most points in a single game. Rangers rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin made 46 saves for his second win in as many starts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 11 goals and 36 points in 43 games, DeAngelo is on pace to reach 20 goals and 70 points by season’s end. After being forced to accept a one-year, $925K contract last summer, he’s got terrific leverage entering this summer with salary arbitration rights.
David Pastrnak tallied a hat trick to lead the Boston Bruins over the Winnipeg Jets 5-4. Pastrnak extended his points streak to 12 games and widened his lead in the league goal-scoring race (35) by four over Toronto’s Auston Matthews. Jake DeBrusk also scored twice for Boston. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed the game due to an abscess in his surgically-repaired jaw unrelated to his fight with Nashville Predators forward Yakov Trenin on Tuesday. Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov returned to action for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Nov. 29. They also placed Logan Shaw on waivers.
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne became the 12th goalie in NHL history to score a goal in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Rinne is also the first netminder to score a goal since Mike Smith in October 2013. It was the Predators’ first win under new head coach John Hynes. Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula returned to action for the first time since suffering a concussion on Nov. 11.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid reached 70 points as his club doubled up the fading Montreal Canadiens 4-2. McDavid picked up an assist while teammates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl each collected two points as the Oilers overcame a 2-1 deficit.
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their ninth straight victory by blanking the Arizona Coyotes 4-0. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves for the shutout while Nikita Kucherov scored twice. Coyotes rookie Barrett Hayton is listed as week-to-week with a shoulder injury suffered playing for Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Noel Acciari scored two goals and Jonathan Huberdeau collected two assists as the Florida Panthers downed the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. The Canucks have given up 14 goals in consecutive losses to the Panthers and Lightning.
St. Louis Blues forwards Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak collected three points and Alex Steen scored two goals in a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Jack Eichel netted the struggling Sabres only goal.
Cam Talbot made 42 saves as the Calgary Flames edged the Minnesota Wild 2-1, handing the latter their fourth loss in their last five games. Derek Grant and Johnny Gaudreau tallied for the Flames while Mats Zuccarello replied for the Wild.
A four-goal first period carried the Los Angeles Kings over the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2. Adrian Kempe led the way with two goals for the Kings.
Ben Bishop turned in a 27-save shutout as the Dallas Stars blanked the Anaheim Ducks 3-0. Roope Hintz scored and collected an assist.
San Jose Sharks winger Kevin Labanc scored and set up another in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, snapping the latter’s nine-game road points streak.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to be sidelined for three weeks.
Game recaps, speculation over the Coyotes relocating to Houston, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brad Marchand scored twice in a four-goal second period for the Boston Bruins as they edged the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. Bruins forward David Backes needed several stitches after being accidentally clipped on the nose by the skate of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson but returned to the game in the second period.
Speaking of the Coyotes, a Fox 26 Sports (Arizona) report cites NHL sources claiming “Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta has met with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and had preliminary talks about buying and relocating the Arizona Coyotes to Houston.” At this point, it appears nothing further has come from those conversations. Fertitta and Rockets chief executive officer Tad Brown declined to comment.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For weeks, there have been rumblings among the NHL punditry linking the Coyotes to Houston. That speculation increased during the league’s process of awarding an expansion franchise to Seattle. It’s believed the Coyotes are currently seeking new owners but no indication they or the league are considering relocation. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction this report generates from the Coyotes’ current ownership or league headquarters.
Jeff Skinner’s overtime goal capped a three-goal rally for the Buffalo Sabres as they squeaked past the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 to snap a five-game losing skid.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander collected his first two points (both assists) of the season as his club downed the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should soothe the jangled nerves of Leafs superfan Steve Dangle, who had an entertaining meltdown following his club’s recent 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.
A three-goal third period powered the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Canucks rookie sensation Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist.
Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick gave the Washington Capitals a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Ovechkin has a league-leading 25 goals and extended his personal points streak to 12 games. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom collected four assists and T.J. Oshie returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a concussion.
A four-goal third period enabled the St. Louis Blues to edge the Florida Panthers 4-3. David Perron tallied twice for the Blues, who played without defenseman Joel Edmundson, who injured his hand in the Blues’ previous game.
Pekka Rinne’s 25-save performance gave the Nashville Predators a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Minnesota Wild went four-for-four on the power play in a 7-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Matt Dumba scored twice while Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund each collected three points. Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi was in net for all seven Wild goals.
Kyle Connor scored twice and Dustin Byfuglien collected three assists as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3, handing the latter their eighth straight loss. Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook became the seventh set of teammates in NHL history to play 1,000 games together.
The Edmonton Oilers picked up their fourth straight win by beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4. Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had three points for the Oilers, who also lost defenseman Oscar Klefbom for what could be weeks with a hand injury. Avalanche wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each had four points.
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: Anaheim Ducks backup goaltender Ryan Miller will be sidelined up to six weeks with a sprained knee ligament. In response, the Ducks claimed goalie Chad Johnson off waivers from the St. Louis Blues.
SPORTSNET: Broadcasting legend Bob Cole’s final NHL game will be the regular season finale on Hockey Night in Canada. between the Leafs and Canadiens on April 6. He will be retiring at the end of this season after 50 years in the CBC broadcast booth.
COURIER-POST: The Philadelphia Flyers have hired former Minnesota Wild executive Brent Flahr as assistant general manager. Flahr worked for years with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher during their years with the Wild.