NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2020

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.


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.

Could Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad once again become a salary-cap casualty? (Photo via NHL Images)

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.


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.

THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell believes Oilers veterans Kris Russell, James Neal, and Alex Chiasson could be among the Oilers squeezed out to make room for younger talent.

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.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2020

Leon Draisaitl reaches 100 points, David Pastrnak gets closer to 50 goals, Steven Stamkos sidelined six-to-eight weeks, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl became the first player this season to reach 100 points as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. Draisaitl led the way with two goals and an assist, giving him a league-leading 102 points. The Oilers (76 points) move into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division, while the Jets (72 points) remain just outside the Western Conference wild-card picture.

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl reached 100 points for the second straight season (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring injury or a slump, Draisaitl is well on his way to winning the Art Ross Trophy and should be considered a serious contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He stepped up his game during captain Connor McDavid’s recent absence due to injury.

David Pastrnak tallied his 47th goal and Tuukka Rask turned in a 25-save shutout as the Boston Bruins down the New York Islanders 4-0. Charlie McAvoy had a three-point performance for the Bruins (94 points), who hold a seven-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and overall standings. Before the game, the Islanders honored Butch Goring by retiring his No. 91. Isles winger Cal Clutterbuck returned to action for the first time since suffering an injured wrist on Dec. 19.

After taking a 3-0 lead, the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Earlier in the day, the Lightning learned captain Steven Stamkos will be sidelined six-to-eight weeks as he undergoes surgery on Monday to repair a core muscle injury. With 87 points, they sit second to the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings. The Flames, meanwhile, hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 73 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos could return in time for the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ryan O’Reilly’s shootout goal gave the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force the overtime and shootout frames. It was the Blues’ seventh straight win, giving them 88 points and a three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference. The Stars (81 points) slip four behind the second-place Avs in the Central Division.

The Avalanche picked up their eighth straight road win and sixth consecutive victory by beating the Nashville Predators 3-2. Pavel Francouz made 30 saves for the win. The Avs (85 points) sit three behind the first-place Blues in the Central Division, while the Predators (72 points) hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with three games in hand over the Winnipeg Jets.

Martin Jones made 30 saves as the San Jose Sharks blanked the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0. The Penguins (80 points) are third in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ve dropped six straight games.

Martin Marincin’s first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. Auston Matthews tallied his 45th goal of the season for the Leafs (78 points), who’ve won three straight and hold a five-point lead over the fading Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Canucks (74 points) remain in third place in the Pacific Division.

The Panthers, meanwhile, suffered their sixth straight defeat by dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Chicago Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist in regulation and scored one of the Hawks’ two shootout goals. Mike Hoffman also had a goal and an assist for the Panthers (73 points), who sit five back of the Maple Leafs. Earlier in the day, the Blackhawks announced Andrew Shaw (concussion) and Zack Smith (hand injury) are done for the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those moves the Panthers made at the trade deadline have done nothing thus far to improve their performance. If they don’t snap out of their funk soon, they can forget about reaching the playoffs, and general manager Dale Tallon could start worrying about his job security.

The Montreal Canadiens blew a 3-0 lead to the Carolina Hurricanes but won the game 4-3 on an overtime goal by Jeff Petry. With 75 points, the Hurricanes are one point behind the idle Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card spot.

Clayton Keller tallied twice and collected an assist to lead the Arizona Coyotes to 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The Coyotes (72 points) are sitting just outside the Western Conference wild-card spots. Sabres rookie Victor Olofsson left the game with an injured right leg.

Artem Anisimov scored two goals and the winner in a shootout as the Ottawa Senators nipped the Detroit Red Wings 4-3, handing the latter their fifth straight loss.

Adrian Kempe scored in overtime as the Los Angeles Kings edged the New Jersey Devils 2-1.

CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins was diagnosed with a concussion, but isn’t expected to be out of the lineup for long. Defenseman Ryan Murray will return to action today against the Canucks. He’s been sidelined by a back injury since Dec. 14.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 23, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 23, 2019

The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Russell, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Dustin Byfuglien understands the club suspended him for not reporting to training camp was “absolutely procedural” and he was fully aware of it. The club made the move to protect their roster and salary-cap flexibility while Byfuglien’s on his leave of absence pondering his future.

Dustin Byfuglien was aware the Winnipeg Jets would suspend him and the reasons why (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bang goes the theory that this move would drive a wedge between Byfuglien and the Jets.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Kris Russell has been cleared to participate in training camp after spending the last two weeks in concussion protocol. He was injured following an accidental collision with a teammate during a pre-camp skate.

TSN: The Dallas Stars released Scottie Upshall from his professional tryout offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Upshall reportedly had a good training camp but the Stars are tight on contracts. Perhaps he’ll land with another club seeking forward depth before the start of the season.

CALGARY SUN: Tobias Rieder is looking for a fresh start with the Flames. He’s currently on a professional tryout offer.

THE SCORE: Former NHL defenseman Eric Gryba has announced his retirement after 289 games over seven seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, and New Jersey Devils.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Gryba in his future endeavors.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators demoted Eeli Tolvanen to their AHL affiliate yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tolvanen was considered among the Predators’ top prospects, but the 20-year-old winger has had difficulty cracking their roster.


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 21, 2019

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 21, 2019

The latest Flames, Oilers, Bruins and Devils speculation in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup. 


NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien reports the Calgary Flames saw little salary-cap savings ($500k) for this season by shipping James Neal to Edmonton for Milan Lucic. They have around $9.7 million in cap space but that’ll evaporate quickly with restricted free agents such as Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, and David Rittich to re-sign. O’Brien speculates it could cost a combined $10 million to get Tkachuk and Rittich under contract. 

Could T.J. Brodie become the next Calgary Flames trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

O’Brien examines some potential cost-cutting options for Flames general manager Brad Treliving, One is buying out defenseman Michael Stone ($3.5 million for 2019-20). Another is trading Bennett’s rights. They could also shop a salaried player like T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million), Michael Frolik ($4.3 million) or Travis Hamonic ($3.875 million). 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Bennett and Rittich filing for arbitration, Treliving’s cost-cutting move could be determined by the outcome of those contract hearings. Bennett’s is slated for July 27, Rittich for July 29.

They could trade Bennett but a more likely course of action is buying out or trading Stone or another salaried player. O’Brien points out Brodie was part of a proposed pitch to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nazem Kadri before he was shipped to Colorado. Frolik was part of a failed attempt to acquire winger Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild at the February trade deadline. 


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers have around $2.4 million in salary-cap space following the Lucic-for-Neal trade. He believes signing “a free-agent third-line C, preferably a right-shot, seems a reach.” 

Matheson’s colleague David Staples isn’t sure the Oilers want to or should trade defenseman Kris Russell. “Maybe if you can trade for a 2nd line winger or 3rd line centre. But Russell is defensively sound d-man, good on bottom pairing, OK if asked to play in Top 4 due to injury — & 77 oft-injured.” The 77 being blueliner Oscar Klefbom. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Oilers GM Ken Holland has up his sleeve. He’s earned kudos for the Lucic-for-Neal swap. Perhaps he’s got something planned to address that third-line center position.

It’s anticipated a promising young defenseman like Evan Bouchard, Ethan Bear or Caleb Jones could crack the roster this season. If so, perhaps Holland will try to move Brandon Manning or Matthew Benning to free up some space. 


NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Following the Lucic-for-Neal swap, Joe Haggerty pondered the possibility of the Bruins pulling off that deal by offering up David Backes for Lucic. He believes it’ll be very difficult for the Bruins to move the 35-year-old Backes in a similar trade for another problem contract where the Bruins aren’t taking on more years to the player they’d receive or giving up a “sweetener” in return. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As we’ve seen this summer, such moves are possible but they will come with a cost to the Bruins. With over $8 million in salary-cap space and Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo to re-sign, they’ll face a cost-cutting scenario before the season opens in October.

They could bury a couple of contracts in the minors. Depending on the combined cost of McAvoy and Carlo, they could be forced to make a trade. If it’s Backes, they’ll either have to retain some salary, take back a toxic contract, or give up a high draft pick or a top prospect. 


NJ.COM: Chris Ryan recently listed three realistic roster moves for New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero.  One would be acquiring winger Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. Gusev and the Knights are said to be $2 million apart in contract talks and Vegas is reportedly shopping him. Ryan thinks Shero was likely among the GMs to contract the Golden Knights. 

Another would be signing UFA  defenseman Jake Gardiner, who could become more affordable the longer he remains available. Ryan also suggests a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They could be in need of shedding salary once Brayden Point is under contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Ryan observed, Shero’s already had a busy offseason. He selected Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick in this year’s draft, traded for all-star defenseman P.K. Subban, and signed rugged winger Wayne Simmonds. Shero could opt to evaluate his roster during training camp/preseason play in September before making another significant roster addition. 

Canada’s Teams: What Will The Edmonton Oilers Do This NHL Off-Season?

Canada’s Teams: What Will The Edmonton Oilers Do This NHL Off-Season?


NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2019

Check out the latest Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman took note of the frustration expressed by Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid after his club was once again eliminated from playoff contention. McDavid noted it was an “insane season” with coaching and management changes and inconsistent play. “We have a lot of crap to figure out. I hope we can put the right man in the spot and can put together a good team. We let (losing) streaks drag on, we let times were we weren’t able to find wins drag on. You have to find a way to stop the bleeding, quick,” said McDavid.

Edmonton Oilers management cannot afford to ignore the frustrations of stars like Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

Friedman doesn’t believe McDavid is looking to leave the Oilers, believing he wants to be part of the solution. However, he feels the club could have a serious problem with their captain if they fail to properly address their issues. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Robert Tychkowski feels the Oilers upper-management must pay attention to the warning signs coming from frustrated stars like McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He points out Nugent-Hopkins, 26, has only been the postseason once since joining the Oilers in 2011 and is watching his career pass by without getting a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s my eighth year and I’ve only been in it once. At this point in my career, it’s about making the playoffs and pushing for the end result. Right now, it’s tough to swallow,” said Nugent-Hopkins. Tychkowski also points out Oilers management has done a poor job surrounding their best players with a solid supporting cast. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No one is saying McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins want out of Edmonton. Not yet, anyway. However, several pundits have already wondered (especially about McDavid) how much more they’re willing to put up with before their patience is exhausted. If things don’t change under the next GM over the next two or three years, that issue could come to a head.

Nugent-Hopkins could be the first out the door. He’s got two more seasons left on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million and he lacks no-trade protection. He’s popped up in trade rumors several times since 2016 and that speculation could grow if nothing improves. At the very least, they risk making it easy for him to depart via free agency in 2021. 

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe hiring the right general manager and head coach, addressing the organizational rot, and improving the forward depth is among the offseason keys for the Oilers. The “old boys network” remains largely intact in upper management and that has to change. They also noted the Oilers offensive production drops sharply beyond Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Wyshynski and Peters believe the next GM must find a way to shed some salary. Trading Milan Lucic and his hefty contract would be difficult and buying him out wouldn’t free up much cap space. Defensemen Andrej Sekera ($5.5 million annually, no-movement clause) and Kris Russell ($4 million per season, NMC) are often mentioned as trade or buyout candidates. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take at two or three years for the next GM to untangle this mess and reverse the Oilers’ long-sagging fortunes. Shedding Lucic’s contract will be very difficult and could involve packaging him with a top draft pick or prospect plus picking up a sizeable chunk of his annual cap hit. That’s assuming he’s willing to waive his no-movement. 

Sekera’s missed most of this season and last season to injuries but when healthy he’s a solid addition to their blueline. I expect they’ll keep him for next season and see how things unfold. Russell’s full no-trade clause becomes a modified no-trade this summer so perhaps there’s a chance of moving him via trade. A buyout would give them over $3 million in savings for 2019-20 but the cap hit jumps up to $3.4 million for 2020-21 before falling off again over the final two seasons. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL’s Jim Matheson recently tweeted he feels the Oilers must sign some forwards this summer. “They need a second-line winger to play with Nuge, a third-line C, and two other bottom-six forwards. Speed with all 4.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To do that, the Oilers must shed salary. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $71 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Fortunately, their only free agents of note are Alex Chiasson and Jesse Puljujarvi and both should be affordable re-signings. Nevertheless, they must find a way to free up cap room to add a second-line winger, a third-line center and two bottom-six forwards.

I would also suggest they bring in an experienced goaltender as I lack confidence in Mikko Koskinen as a starter. Either that or hire a goalie coach who can turn him into a reliable one.