NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2021

An early look at possible offseason moves by the Jets, the Sabres are getting calls about Jack Eichel, plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE JETS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Winnipeg Jets must focus on addressing their defense in the offseason. They’re expected to protect Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and Neal Pionk in the expansion draft, meaning they risk losing Logan Stanley to the Seattle Kraken.

He pondered if they’ll finally give more playing time to promising blueliners like Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola or stick with stopgap measures Tucker Poolman, Derek Forbort and Jordie Benn. He also wondered if they’ll use their $14.9 million in cap space to bolster their top-four.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe also weighed in on the Jets’ potential offseason plans. He doubts head coach Paul Maurice or general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be shown the door, but believes the roster requires an upgrade.

Like Wyshynski, Wiebe believes they must enhance the defense corps. He also cited promising youngsters Heinola and Samberg could be ready for full-time duty. Despite the emergence of Stanley this season, the Jets could go shopping for an experienced blueliner via the trade market or free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once their strength, the defense corps has become a weakness for the Jets. It’s been an ongoing issue for the last two years and cannot go unaddressed for a third season.

Heinola and Samberg should help, as could Stanley if he’s not snapped up by the Kraken. Nevertheless, they also need an experienced top-four defenseman, preferably one who skates on the right side.

Teams are reportedly calling the Buffalo Sabres about captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

TEAMS CALLING SABRES ABOUT EICHEL

TSN: Darren Dreger reports teams are contacting the Buffalo Sabres expressing interest in several of their players, including team captain Jack Eichel. Dreger believes those conversations will increase ahead of the NHL draft weekend on July 23-24.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel raised eyebrows last month suggesting a “disconnect” between himself and management over treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. That generated considerable speculation over whether he’ll be traded this summer.

The report also indicated there’s been speculation about the futures of Sabres center Sam Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Reinhart, a restricted free agent, was noncommittal about his future in Buffalo during his end-of-season press conference. Ristolainen, meanwhile, said he’d be fine with a trade or remaining a Sabre. Blueliner Colin Miller could also draw interest in the trade market.

Buffalo fans would probably love to see their club shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner ($9 million annual average value through 2026-27) and Kyle Okposo ($6 million AAV through 2022-23), but I doubt they’ll be moved in an offseason with a flattened salary cap.

LATEST ON THE PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports a well-placed source within the Penguins organization said the club intends to protect goaltender Tristan Jarry and center Evgeni Malkin in next month’s expansion draft. Malkin has a no-movement clause but he’d only waive it to go to Florida, where he and his family reside.

Kingerski also indicated the Penguins seek a veteran goaltender with playoff experience and could have an eye on Toronto’s Frederik Andersen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t seem to want to give up on Jarry. He could benefit from an experienced mentor to help him split the duties for the next year or two. Andersen’s critics will snort with laughter over the thought of him backing up Jarry but he does have a solid resume over most of his tenure in Toronto. He could also benefit from a lighter workload compared to what he endured with the Maple Leafs.

No surprise Malkin has no interest in waiving his NMC to go to Seattle. He’s made no secret of his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. While he might welcome a trade to the Florida Panthers, they have no reason to acquire him when they’re planning to pay captain Aleksander Barkov a lot of money to stay put.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

Jack Eichel’s remarks during his end-of-season conference call sparked speculation over his future with the Buffalo Sabres. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl believes Buffalo Sabres stars Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are ready to play elsewhere following their remarks during their end-of-season conference calls with the media on Monday.

Jack Eichel’s days with the Buffalo Sabres could be numbered (NHL Images).

Eichel is unhappy over the way the Sabres are handling his treatment for a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He once again expressed his weariness over the club’s inability to become a playoff contender. “I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason,” said Eichel. “There’s a lot that I have to consider.”

Reinhart is also tired of six years of constant losing and another last-place finish. “No one wants to go through a rebuild, especially going into next year turning 26 at the start of it,” he said.

Vogl points out Eichel has five seasons left on his contract while the Sabres control Reinhart’s rights for one more season. If they aren’t willing to buy into a rebuild, why would anyone else on the roster?

Eichel could generate a good haul for the Sabres, perhaps a player, draft picks and prospects. Reinhart’s stock is high and he could at least fetch a comparable player with more term on his contract.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes Eichel’s comments yesterday indicate his relationship with the Sabres front office is broken beyond repair. He also noted the apparent unwillingness of Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to face another rebuild at this stage in their respective careers. “I can’t go for another rebuild,” said Ristolainen, adding he’d be fine with general manager Kevyn Adams trading him this summer.

Eichel’s been with the Sabres for six seasons, Reinhart for seven and Ristolainen eight. They’ve yet to skate in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox also believes Eichel wants out of Buffalo even if the Sabres captain didn’t come right out and say it. As proof, he pointed to the 24-year-old center’s four words (“Wherever that may be”) when talking about where he’ll be playing hockey next season.

Fox speculates the New York Rangers could come calling. They previously explored acquiring Eichel, are rich in prospects and have an owner eager to accelerate his club’s rebuild.

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets have glaring holes at center and the cap space to absorb Eichel’s $10 million annual average value. The Los Angeles Kings could attempt to fast-track their rebuild while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty remain difference-makers.

While other centers, such as Calgary’s Sean Monahan and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, could be shopped this summer, none have the talent and potential of Eichel.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks is skeptical the Rangers will pursue Eichel. He doesn’t feel the Sabres captain checks the boxes of veteran leadership, a successful team resume or the ability to play a physical game. If the Rangers re-sign Mika Zibanejad, Brooks believes it could cost them $8 million annually. That would take up significant cap space if they already have a $10 million center in Eichel on the books.

THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman examined the pros and cons of the Kings potentially acquiring Eichel. The pros include his established place among the league’s top centers and the excitement he could generate among Kings’ fans. The cons include concern over his neck injury and the expensive return which would have to include promising Quinton Byfield.

Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins could have sufficient salary-cap space to acquire Eichel if they don’t re-sign David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. However, the Sabres asking price could be too expensive, with one league source suggesting a return of at least Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak and someone like Trent Frederic in a package deal. McAvoy and Pastrnak are two players the Bruins aren’t giving up.

Shinzawa noted the trade deadline deal that sent Taylor Hall from Buffalo to Boston. However, he feels Sabres GM Adams will draw better offers for Eichel than what he got for Hall. With Eichel lacking no-movement protection until the end of next season, Adams can entertain multiple offers. The Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles and New Jersey Devils could be among the bidders.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes there’s no need for the Senators to pursue Eichel. They have the assets and ability to make that trade. However, he feels it doesn’t make sense for them right now because they’ve built their roster from the ground up. Rookie Josh Norris played well as their first-line center while promising Shane Pinto could fit into the second-line role.

The Sabres’ asking price could be a center, a first-round pick in 2021 and at least a couple of prospects. There aren’t many teams that can make that kind of swap. Garrioch included the Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, Bruins and Kings among them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel, Reinhart and Ristolainen could be on their way out this summer. They’ve endured a lot during their time with the Sabres with no sign the club is any closer to becoming a playoff contender. Trading them for pieces to put toward a rebuild is the best option.

Trading Reinhart and Ristolainen, however, could prove easier to do than moving Eichel. They would be much more affordable for other clubs to acquire.

I’m not suggesting Eichel can’t or won’t be traded. However, his $10 million AAV over the next five years plus the Sabres’ asking price will limit the number of serious bidders for his services.

The Sabres won’t “win” an Eichel trade in the short term. They could even lose it long term if the draft picks and prospects they receive fail to pan out as hoped. Nevertheless, they will set a high price aimed at long-term improvement.

Unlike the Hall trade where they had to accept a lesser offer, they aren’t dealing with a struggling veteran using his no-movement clause to determine his trade destinations. Eichel’s in his playing prime whose lack of no-trade protection this summer gives the Sabres a wider number of possible trade partners. That improves their chances of receiving a very good return.

As for where Eichel could go, the Rangers and Kings seem best suited in terms of cap space, draft picks and prospects to make the most competitive bids assuming they’ll pursue a Eichel deal. Whether they want to remains to be seen.

The Red Wings and Senators could get into the bidding but I think those clubs will continue to remain patient with their respective rebuilds. The Blue Jackets have the cap room but they could lack sufficient prospects to outbid other clubs.

The Devils would have to part with Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes to make it work. The Wild could use a proven first-line center but their improvement this season doesn’t put as much pressure on them to make that deal. The Canucks already have two high-quality centers in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. They’d also have to offload a lot of salary to free up the necessary cap space for Eichel.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2021

Who could the Leafs, Flyers, Jets and Islanders pursue leading up to this year’s trade deadline? Read on to find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t have much time to decide if he’ll make any acquisitions by the April 12 trade deadline. While that date is five weeks away any players acquired from American teams would face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Could the Leafs, Flyers or Jets pursue Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm at the trade deadline? (NHL Images)

Traikos feels the Leafs don’t need another skill player such as Buffalo’s Taylor Hall. “It needs more blue-collar players like (Zach) Bogosian and (Wayne) Simmonds. Guys like Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm and Calgary forward Sam Bennett. It needs guys that can push back against Boston and Tampa and Vegas. Guys that can help the Leaf go the distance.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Making the dollars fit is the sticking point for the Leafs. Cap Friendly indicates they have just $130K in projected trade deadline salary-cap space. It’ll have to be a salary-in, salary-out scenario, the selling team retains some salary, or Dubas and his capologist find another creative way to free up the necessary space to make an addition.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked if the Philadelphia Flyers would try to bolster their blue line by acquiring Mattias Ekholm from the Predators. Rosen believes he’d be a good fit and a more well-rounded rearguard than current Flyers left-shot defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Robert Hagg.

However, the Flyers could face competition for Ekholm’s services in what could be a limited trade market. He also has a year remaining on his contract, which could affect their protection list for this summer’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The effect of an Ekholm addition upon the Flyers’ protection list suggests they could opt for a rental player instead. Options could include Detroit’s Marc Staal, Patrik Nemeth or Jon Merrill, Arizona’s Alex Goligoski, Ottawa’s Mike Reilly or Vancouver’s Jordie Benn, though they’re not as good as Ekholm.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Murat Ates was asked if the Jets should acquire a defenseman. While he feels Ekholm would be a good fit he believes the Jets would prefer a right-hand defenseman to pair with Josh Morrissey.

Ates mentioned Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen but his $5.4 million cap hit through next season could make him expensive if he fails to deliver. He also feels acquisition cost could keep the Jets out of the Matt Dumba sweepstakes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Columbus’ David Savard is rumored to be available if the Blue Jackets become sellers at the deadline. Sames goes for the Sabres’ Brandon Montour. They’re UFAs who might serve as good rental options though whether they’d be a good fit with Morrissey isn’t a certainty.

Arthur Staple recently examined possible blue line depth options for the New York Islanders. Given their limited salary-cap space, he anticipates GM Lou Lamoriello will look at affordable options such as the Red Wings’ Jon Merrill, the Senators’ Mike Reilly or Nashville’s Mark Borowiecki.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, the Avalanche and Golden Knights prepare for today’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, Sidney Crosby addresses his future as he approaches his 1000th career NHL game, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A four-goal first period powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each had three points, Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists. The Panthers (24 points) sit in first place in the Central Division, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1) by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Nino Niederreiter scored twice and collected an assist for Carolina while Patrick Kane factored in each goal (one goal, two assists) for the Blackhawks, who sit one point behind the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane has to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s definitely been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They wouldn’t be jockeying with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division without Kane powering their offense.

The Edmonton Oilers won the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1. Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 20 saves for his fourth win since his season debut earlier this month. Jesse Puljujarvi and Gaetan Haas tallied for the Oilers while Rasmus Andersson replied for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was really looking forward to this contest but it lacked the usual fireworks we’ve come to expect whenever these two clubs meet.

Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit turned in a 29-save shutout as his club blanked the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Jets center Mark Scheifele scored to extend his points streak to nine games. The Jets (21 points) sit one back of the second-place Oilers in the North Division.

HEADLINES

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights when they tangle later today with the Colorado Avalanche in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday game at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the first outdoor contest for the Golden Knights in franchise history.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to the lineup for this contest after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) will be a game-day decision.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. “I love playing here, and this is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career,” said Crosby, adding“I can’t really control what’s said or rumors and things like that.” Crosby will play his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby was referring to recent media speculation about his future with the Penguins if the club’s new management decides to rebuild. That doesn’t appear to be their intention. It’s worth remembering that he has four years remaining on his contract with a full no-movement clause giving him full control over his situation.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lower-body injury could keep center David Krejci from traveling with the Bruins for Sunday’s outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

TSN: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger believes his club’s fragile psyche is the reason behind their inability to score goals. “They’re fragile right now,” he said. “They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t see themselves celebrating.” The Sabres opened the season 4-4-2 and has dropped three straight since resuming their schedule after it was postponed for two weeks by an outbreak of COVID-19 among their players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are a mess despite their front-office purge and several notable roster changes during the offseason. That sparked recent speculation about captain Jack Eichel’s future in Buffalo. Bigger changes could be in store for the Sabres if they miss the playoffs again. Whether those adjustments would involve their franchise player is anyone’s guess right now.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen revealed to a Finnish newspaper that he suffered chest pains and significant drops of oxygen levels when he was sidelined by COVID-19. He was cleared to resume skating on Wednesday but has yet to return to action. He spent a team-high two weeks on the COVID protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Ristolainen can resume his playing career without any adverse aftereffects from the coronavirus.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announce forward Ivan Barbashev was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

The league also rescheduled March 28th’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to today. The Hurricanes game against the Blackhawks today has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.

TSN: The number of players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list dropped to 11 names yesterday. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Long-time Red Wings masseur Sergei Tchekmarev passed away yesterday at age 65. He’d been with the Wings since 1998.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tchekmarev’s family, friends and the Red Wings’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, another Stars game postponed, the league’s COVID-19 numbers are dropping, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Matthews leads the league with 16 goals while his points streak has stretched to 15 games. Mitch Marner has a goal and three assists while Joe Thornton a goal and two assists. Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and an assist. Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot missed the game with an upper-body injury while Leafs forward Zach Hyman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is making an early case for the Hart Trophy this season.

Kyle Palmieri scored twice as the New Jersey Devils held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored what proved to be the game-winner while Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who lost center David Krejci to a lower-body injury.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal gave his club a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes collected two assists for the Flyers, who were playing their first game since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19. They will also play their upcoming outdoor game against the Bruins with six regulars (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun) sidelined because of the NHL’s COVID protocols.

The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New York Islanders’ eight-game points streak with a 4-1 victory. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves while Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust each had a goal and an assist while Evgeni Malkin collected two assists.

A 32-save shutout performance by Elvis Merzlikins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Cam Atkinson, Max Domi and Eric Robinson were the goal scorers. The Predators have dropped five of their last six contests.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored to extend his points streak to five games as his club downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains sidelined as he works on his conditioning after being sidelined for two weeks by COVID-19.

David Perron scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Brayden Schenn scored the tying goal for the Blues late in the third period, setting the stage for the winning goal by Perron, who had a three-point performance. Torey Krug and Marco Scandella returned to the Blues roster from injuries but Colton Parayko missed the game with a nagging undisclosed injury. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced defenseman Erik Karlsson would miss at least the next two games with a groin injury.

The Los Angeles Kings nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a shootout goal by Gabriel Vilardi. The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout.

Kevin Fiala scored what proved to be the winning goal as the Minnesota Wild beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. It was the Wild’s first win since Jan. 31 when their schedule was paused because of COVID-19 protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars’ Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed due to power outages related to recent storms in Texas. It’s the fourth straight Stars game postponed this week and the eighth of the season. They face potentially playing 44 games in 78 days if the NHL mandates the Stars must play all their remaining games if the regular season ends on May 10 as scheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will also depend on where the Stars are in the standings later in the season. The league could cancel some of their remaining games if they’re out of playoff contention within the final couple of weeks in the season. No point in having them play a pointless game against another non-contender.

ESPN.COM: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list continues to shrink, dropping to 13 players yesterday. The drop coincides with enhanced health and safety measures implemented by the NHL within the past two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The outbreaks earlier this month may have also served as a wake-up call for players and staff, making them more vigilant and adhering more closely to the league’s protocols.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets claimed well-traveled goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. It’s the second straight season the Jets have lost Comrie off waivers only to claim him back again later in the year.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez hopes to have an opportunity to play a game in Mexico City in an effort to expand the NHL’s brand. He’s also hopeful the Coyotes will one day take part in an outdoor game with one of their rivals.










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.