NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2020
The NHL schedule may be paused, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over off-season trades and free agency. Check out the latest on the Blackhawks and Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT BOWMAN’S RETURN MEANS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the Blackhawks decision to retain president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton indicates the club remains committed to retooling, not rebuilding. That means retaining their aging (though still productive) core and attempting short-term tinkering instead of a roster teardown.
Nevertheless, Pope believes salary-cap limitations mean jettisoning some salary. He thinks new contracts for Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik will flesh out the Blackhawks’ growing youth corps, which includes Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz is critical of the Blackhawks’ decision, pointing out questionable roster management decisions in recent years have made things worse over the short- and long-term. The Hawks have struggled where similar clubs with high-priced veteran talent (Washington, Pittsburgh) have succeeded.
Gretz cites trading away Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen as part of cap-related moves hurt the Hawks. Lesser deals, such as swapping Dominik Kahun and Henri Jokiharju for Olli Maatta and Alex Nylander, failed to pan out. They also got underwhelming returns on Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only saving grace for Bowman of late is the recent influx of young talent, such as DeBrincat, Kubalik, Strome, Murphy, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach. Otherwise, the Blackhawks’ future would be quite bleak.
Nevertheless, Bowman is once again saddled with a cap-strapped roster. With over $73 million invested in 17 players and free agents like Strome, Kubalik, and Corey Crawford to re-sign, he must once again cut costs.
Winger Brandon Saad surfaced in the rumor mill in the weeks leading up to last month’s trade deadline. He was a cap casualty in the past. With a year left on his contract and an annual average value of $6 milion, I believe he’s their most likely off-season trade candidate.
LATEST OILERS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes Mike Smith has played well enough this season to earn a one-year contract with the Oilers. Since December, the 37-year-old netminder went 12-3-4 and tied for the second-most points accrued by a goalie since Jan. 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers have over $70 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Assuming the cap remains at $81.5 million, they won’t have much cap room unless they can shed some salary to re-sign or replace key players. Smith must accept a significant pay cut to stay in Edmonton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russell is signed through 2020-21 with a $4 million AAV, Neal through 2022-23 at $5.75 million AAV, and Chiasson through 2020-21 at $2.15 million. Chiasson would be the easiest to move via trade. Russell and Neal could be more difficult and might involve taking back a salaried player.
If the league and the NHLPA agreed to a one-time amnesty buyout because of the loss of revenue wrought by the coronavirus, Russell and Neal would be prime candidates.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently cited Jesse Puljujarvi’s Finnish head coach saying the young winger would be best off playing another season in Finland. Puljujarvi is a restricted free agent embroiled in the contract dispute with the Oilers. The 23-year-old Finn opted to play for his hometown club Karpat this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some media chatter after Puljujarvi became ineligible to play in the NHL this season suggesting he could have some value if the Oilers attempted to trade him this summer. It’ll be interesting to see what that assessment by his Finnish coach might have upon his trade value if Edmonton GM Ken Holland decides to shop him.