NHL Rumor Mill – March 16, 2021
Check out the latest on the Predators, Canadiens, Islanders, Blackhawks, Jets and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan reports Pekka Rinne wants to retire as a Nashville Predator. The 38-year-old goaltender is in the final year of his contract and could be in his final NHL season but the thought of joining a contender as a rental player hasn’t crossed his mind. He indicated as of last week there haven’t been any conversations with management regarding his future. He has a modified no-trade clause in which he submits 10 potential trade destinations before the start of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan also noted last month’s report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicating the Predators prefer Rinne finish his career in Nashville. Even if the veteran goalie wanted to be traded his declining performance probably wouldn’t attract many suitors.
Speaking of Friedman and the Predators, he said yesterday on his “31 Thoughts” they sought a “Muzzin-like package” of two prospects and a first-round pick for Mattias Ekholm. He said the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets were in but received conflicting reports about the Montreal Canadiens’ interest (stick tap to “NHL Watcher”).
Friedman also questioned if the Toronto Maple Leafs would be in the Ekholm bidding as that would give them three lefties on their blueline with Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly. He also considered the Philadelphia Flyers as a wild card because of the effect it would have upon their expansion draft protection list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins, Jets and Canadiens have the cap space to acquire Ekholm. The Leafs can’t do it unless the Preds retain part of Ekholm’s cap hit. Even then, they might have to move out a player to clear sufficient cap space. The Flyers won’t be the only club concerned about how acquiring Ekholm could affect their expansion protection lists.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu noted the Canadiens could get some salary-cap relief to pursue a player at the trade deadline by placing sidelined defenseman Ben Chiarot on long-term injury reserve. The problem, however, is uncertainty over how long he’ll be sidelined. He’s listed as out six-to-eight weeks. If it’s the former he’d return before the end of the season, meaning the Habs would have to clear cap space for his return. If it’s the latter, he’d return after the regular season ends on May 8.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie suggests Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Gudbranson could be a good trade target for the Canadiens. He wouldn’t have to be quarantined for 14 days and would bring a measure of toughness and shot-blocking to their roster, “and he speaks French very, very well.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A player who speaks French very, very well is the last thing the Canadiens should look at if they’re trying to bolster their roster. Gudbranson is a right-side blueliner skating on the Senators’ third defense pairing. The Habs need help on the left side of their top-four pairings, hence the rumors linking them to Ekholm.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple listed Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri and Columbus’ Nick Foligno among the pending UFA forwards of his suggested trade targets for the New York Islanders to replace sidelined captain Anders Lee. The Isles recently place Lee on long-term injury reserve, allowing them to exceed the salary cap by the equivalent of his $7 million annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will take his time to consider his options before the April 12 trade deadline. It helps that his club is currently the hottest team in the league and jockeying with the Florida Panthers for the lead in the overall standings. He could pursue a rental forward to replace Lee or consider a more affordable option and look at adding a veteran defenseman.
Staple also included some players with term left on their contracts like Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell. However, I think the asking prices for those players will be more expensive than for rental forwards.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope listed 10 players the Blackhawks could target if they wished to use their LTIR space. They could afford to take on another $21 million in LTIR space for this season and still have quite a bit of space for next season too.
Pope suggested using some of that space to take on another team’s bad contract and get some draft picks and prospects in the deal. His suggested targets include Vancouver’s Loui Eriksson, the Islanders’ Andrew Ladd, Edmonton’s James Neal or Carolina’s Jake Gardiner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are exceeding expectations this season by hanging on for a playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. GM Stan Bowman could have room to take up Pope’s suggestion and have enough to acquire an affordable depth rental player. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with that LTIR space.
SPORTSNET: Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t ruling out making another trade this season if the fit and the dollars are right. In January he shipped Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a draft pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent conjecture linked the Jets to Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Columbus’ David Savard and Vancouver’s Travis Hamonic. One of them could be coming to Winnipeg in the near future. Hamonic said he’d like to stay with the Canucks but that could depend on where that club sits in the standings by deadline day. He’s slated to become a UFA this summer.
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir reports the Washington Capitals are doing due diligence in case the opportunity arises between now and the April 12 trade deadline to add a goaltender in a dollar-in, dollar-out trade. They have no projected trade deadline cap space because they’ve already allocated the relief it gained from placing Henrik Lundqvist and Michael Kempny on LTIR.