Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 20, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 20, 2020

Possible free-agent destinations for Alex Pietrangelo, plus the latest on the Islanders and Canadiens in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

WHERE COULD PIETRANGELO GO VIA FREE AGENCY?

THE SCORE: Joel Wegman listed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers as possible destinations for St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if he hits the open market next month. Contract talks between Pietrangelo and the Blues broke off last week as the club advised him to pursue free agency.

Wegman acknowledged the salary-cap constraints of the Leafs and Oilers mean they’d have to shed a salary or two to sign Pietrangelo. The Bruins’ logical need is for a scorer (Wegman suggests Arizona’s Taylor Hall) but he doesn’t rule out general manager Don Sweeney signing Pietrangelo and shopping Brandon Carlo or Connor Clifton for a left-side defenseman.

The Flames would have to overpay but they have $17 million in salary-cap room. The Avalanche have plenty of cap room and Wegman suggests they could shop Ian Cole and Erik Johnson to make room for Pietrangelo and create long-term cap space to re-sign Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some interesting suggestions from Wegman. The Leafs have been tied to Pietrangelo in the rumor mill for months. Signing him, however, requires some nifty salary-cap gymnastics by Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, which could include acquiring a player on permanent LTIR to allow them to spend over the cap ceiling.

The Oilers must improve their goaltending and add a reliable right-wing scorer. I don’t think they’ll get into the Pietrangelo sweepstakes. The Flames could try but GM Brad Treliving could be reluctant to overpay for his services.

Boston and Colorado are the intriguing ones on this list. Perhaps Sweeney gets creative as Wegman suggests, but the Avs’ Joe Sakic seems in prime position to strike. I think he should pursue an experienced starting goalie, but Pietrangelo could be that missing piece of the championship puzzle.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE ISLANDERS?

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker looked at the roster issues facing the New York Islanders next season. She expects UFA goalie Thomas Greiss will be replaced by promising Ilya Sorokin. UFA defenseman Andy Greene and winger Matt Martin might have to take pay cuts to stay with the Isles. Forward Derick Brassard was a healthy scratch at times during the postseason.

Center Mathew Barzal and defensemen Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock are restricted free agents. GM Lou Lamoriello said earlier this year he’d match any offer sheet for Barzal and it isn’t his intention to allow negotiations to reach that point.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross believes the Islanders need a top-six scorer or two who can improve their power play. Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, or Arizona’s Taylor Hall could be good initial targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $72.5 million invested in 20 players. Barzal’s new contract will eat up most of that remaining $8.9 million even if he agreed to an affordable bridge deal. GM Lou Lamoriello will have to shed salary just to re-sign Barzal, Toews and Pulock, which could mean bidding farewell to Martin, Greene and Brassard.

Lamoriello could get creative to add a scoring forward. However, I don’t see him being able to acquire a sniper such as Laine or sign an expensive UFA winger like Hall or Hoffman.

LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION

TVA SPORTS: noted Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin recently said he’s interested in landing a big forward who can help his club’s offensive attack. The site listed Chicago’s Brandon Saad, Detroit’s Anthony Mantha, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, Carolina’s Nino Niedereitter, Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway and Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi as power forwards who might be enticing to Bergevin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks must shed salary to re-sign RFAs Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome as well as re-sign or replace UFA goalie Corey Crawford. They could move Saad and his $6 million cap hit for next season but could be reluctant to go that route unless they get a more affordable replacement. Some Habs fans might suggest Max Domi, but the Blackhawks are set at center with Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome, and might not see Domi as an effective substitution for Saad.

Anderson has potential but his season-ending shoulder injury could be cause for concern. Niederreiter tends to be inconsistent and at $5.25-million annually for the next two seasons would be an expensive gamble.

Puljujarvi has proven nothing yet at the NHL level. Unless the Oilers are willing to dump him for a song, Bergevin should consider more established options. I don’t believe Mantha or Greenway are available.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 19, 2020

A look at TSN’s list of 10 contracts potentially on the move in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel, St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak, and Edmonton Oilers winger Andreas Athanasiou top Frank Seravalli’s list of 10 contracts potentially on the move in the offseason, based on the financial or salary-cap implications facing each club.

Kessel is owed just $5.95 million in total real dollars through 2021-22. Despite the drop in his production this season, a re-energized Kessel could be helpful to a Cup contender.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel’s $5-million signing bonus for 2020-21 has already been paid out, which explains why his actual salary will be so low. His full cap hit is $8 million but the Coyotes are only carrying $6.8 million because the Toronto Maple Leafs are picking up $1.2 million in retained salary as the condition for trading him to Pittsburgh in 2015.

That might make Kessel enticing for clubs seeking experienced scoring depth on right wing. However, he has a reputation as a high-maintenance player, which could hurt his trade value almost as much as this season’s sudden decline in his production.

Bozak could be a trade candidate in a retained salary transaction if the Blues decide to shed salary to re-sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli’s list was published before last night’s report indicating contract talks between the Blues and Pietrangelo had broken off. While they still could attempt to move Bozak to give them some additional wiggle room, there won’t be as much urgency to do so if Pietrangelo departs.

Seravalli reports the Oilers are trying to trade Athanasiou before he’s due a $3 million qualifying offer on Oct. 7. However, teams think GM Ken Holland could let him walk, which would hurt Athanasiou’s trade value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples believes Holland is in a bind given he parted with two second-round draft picks to acquire Athanasiou. He’s not worth $3 million, and Staples thinks Holland believes he can find a better winger than Athanasiou at a lower price. If so, he might have to let him walk and try to replace those two draft picks via the trade market.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher and center Brandon Sutter, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist, and Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop fill spots four through seven on Seravalli’s list.

Stecher is a restricted free agent who could become a UFA if the Canucks opt not to qualify his rights. The Canucks would like to keep him but their pipeline of promising blueliners and salary-cap constraints could rule out a long-term commitment. Sutter, meanwhile, could be easier to move than Loui Eriksson if the Canucks are willing to retain a bit of his $4.375-million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could re-sign Stecher if they part ways with pending UFA blueliner Chris Tanev. Given GM Jim Benning’s failed efforts last year to move Eriksson, I agree that Sutter could become a trade candidate. He carries a 15-team no-trade clause, which will hamper those efforts.

Seravalli considers Hornqvist the odd man out for the Penguins as a third-line winger with a $5.3 million AAV, but noted the remaining three years on his contract could be an issue. He feels they might have to retain salary to make that work.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. I don’t see many clubs interested in picking up that full cap hit for the next three years. Another sticking point is Hornqvist’s full no-trade clause for 2020-21, though perhaps he might waive it for the right team.

Seravalli wonders where Bishop fits into the Stars’ plans, pointing out he seems to be injured when it matters most. He thinks they could find a taker for Bishop as he’s owed just $8 million in real cash over the remaining three years of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That low actual salary could be enticing, but Bishop’s injury history also screams, “Buyer beware!” He also has a 10-team no-trade list, plus a no-movement clause over the remainder of his contract, meaning he’d have to be protected in next year’s expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson, Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky round out Seravalli’s list.

Johnson could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal, though he has a full no-trade clause. Saad could also be a cost-cutting casualty as the Blackhawks need to re-sign Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome plus find a starting goalie. A chronic wrist injury has likely ended Dubinsky’s career but his $5.85-million cap hit for next season could be attractive for clubs looking to use long-term injury reserve to manipulate their salary cap.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson’s NTC could rule him out as a trade candidate. Most of the speculation surrounding the Lightning suggests it could be Alex Killorn (who has a modified no-trade) who could be on the moves.

Saad has a year remaining on his contract and a 10-team no-trade list. He’d be attractive to rival clubs seeking a top-six winger, but The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus said in a recent mailbag segment he’s not convinced the Blackhawks could trade him. He felt they could find extra cap room by trading or buying out Olli Maatta and Zack Smith.

The Jackets could indeed attempt to move Dubinsky’s contract to a club either looking to use LTIR to go over the cap to add another player or by a budget club looking to reach the cap floor. He’s got a 10-team no-trade list but that shouldn’t be an issue if his playing days are over.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2020

Updates on the Jets and Leafs, plus the latest speculation about Matt Dumba and Brandon Saad in today’s NHL rumor mill.

JETS TRADE OPTIONS

WINNIPEG SUN: Ted Wyman believes the Jets have money to spend in this offseason with Dustin Byfuglien and Dmitry Kulikov off the books and the uncertainty over center Bryan Little’s future following last season’s serious injury. He feels they don’t have to trade away a young star like Patrik Laine or Nikolaj Ehlers unless they’re getting a star player without a no-trade clause or a big-minute defenseman and a two-way, top-six center in return.

Wyman suggests general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dangle the Jets’ first-round pick (10th overall) in this year’s draft and young players like Jack Roslovic, Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen. He thinks they could get something good, like Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. Failing that, Wyman proposed pursuing unrestricted free agents like Travis Hamonic, Brenden Dillon or T.J. Brodie on defense, Mikhail Granlund, Alex Galchenyuk or Derick Brassard at center.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe listed Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli or Tyler Johnson, Montreal’s Phillip Danault, Florida’s Erik Haula, Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick, Vegas’ Paul Stastny and the New York Islanders Derick Brassard as possible trade targets to address their second-line center need.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Cheveldayoff moves Laine or Ehlers. Wyman’s proposals won’t land a superstar but I agree the Jets could get one or two good players from cap-strapped teams. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports they’re believed to have some interest in Dumba, but they don’t have a top-six center to entice the Wild.

Looking at Wiebe’s list, I don’t see the Lightning trading Cirelli and doubt Cheveldayoff will try to go the offer-sheet route to get him. Johnson, however, could be available but he’ll have to waive his no-trade clause. I don’t see the Canadiens parting with Danault. If they do, they’ll want a scoring winger in return.

Haula has been hampered by injuries. Patrick’s been dealing with a migraine disorder that cost him the entire 2019-20 season. Stastny was effective in his short tenure with the Jets in 2018 but the 34-year-old performance has declined since then. Brassard seems best suited for checking-line duty now.

LEAFS GM MUST GET CREATIVE TO ADDRESS DEFENSE ISSUES

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes there are blue-line options out there for Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, but he’ll have to get creative to acquire them. Given the Leafs limited cap space, he doesn’t expect they’ll sign St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo if he hits the open market.

Koshan assumes Dubas will acquire a right-shot rearguard. Free-agent options include Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz and Chris Tanev. He also wonders if Dubas will take another look at Zach Bogosian, who’s played well for the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s playoffs.

Dubas could make a splash in the trade market by shopping William Nylander but Koshan doubts he’ll do that. Trade chips could include Andreas Johnsson or Alexander Kerfoot, or perhaps the first-round pick he acquired from Pittsburgh. He thinks Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, Anaheim’s Josh Manson or Carolina’s Brett Pesce would look good in a Leafs jersey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild reportedly seek a center for Dumba. I doubt they’ll part with him for a third-line center like Kerfoot. I don’t see Parayko or Pesce going anywhere. The Ducks might listen if a scoring forward is offered up for Manson but Kerfoot or Johnsson won’t do it.

Dubas might have to go the free-agent route to land that right-shot blueliner. He’ll have to shed a little more salary to do it.

UPDATE ON SAAD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Lazerus was asked if the Chicago Blackhawks might trade Brandon Saad before his UFA eligibility next summer. He doesn’t think there will be much of a market for a winger with a year left on his contract and a $6-million cap hit.

Lazerus also doesn’t see trading Saad making the Blackhawks better with the front office still in “win-now” mode. If they do move the left winger it’ll likely be at the trade deadline if they’re out of playoff contention by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Hawks are willing to absorb part of Saad’s contract there would be more interest in him this summer. They could try to peddle him as a cost-cutting move, but they’ll likely have better luck shopping or buying out Olli Maatta or Zack Smith to free up the cap dollars to re-sign Dominik Kubalik, Corey Crawford and Dylan Strome.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 8, 2020

Are the Oilers shopping for a goalie? Will the Blue Jackets get into the market for a center? How could the Blackhawks shed salary? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS SEEKING A GOALTENDER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers seek a goaltender to share the duties with Mikko Koskinen. While they’ve kicked the tires on Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, the Oilers would prefer adding a younger version of Mike Smith for around $2.5 million who can play 35-40 games with Koskinen.

Matheson points out the Oilers only have around $9 million in cap space. He also notes it’s a buyer’s market for unrestricted free agent goalies with such notables as Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss potentially available. Trade options could include Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper, or maybe Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bolstering the goaltending should be the Oilers’ priority. Koskinen cannot be relied upon to carry the bulk of the starts and Smith is clearly past his prime and must be replaced.

Kuemper would be the best trade option if available, carrying a reasonable $4.5 million annual average value over the next two seasons. Korpisalo would be even more affordable ($2.8 million AAV for two years) but has a limited body of work as a starter.

The Penguins are trying to cut costs by shopping Murray. The asking price won’t be expensive but his new contract will be, perhaps over $6 million annually. Factor in his injury history and inconsistent play over the last two years, and the Oilers would be wise to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the Oilers will move one of their defensemen to free up cap space for other moves. Matheson’s colleague David Staples suggested shopping veteran defenseman Kris Russell to free up some cap space. He’s got a year left on his contract with a $4 million AAV and a 15-team no-trade list for 2020-21, but his actual salary will be $1.5 million once the Oilers pay his $1 million signing bonus for next season.

WILL THE BLUE JACKETS SHOP FOR A CENTER?

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger reports the 2020 playoffs showed the Blue Jackets need an upgrade at center, specifically on the second line. He indicates there’s a “glaring void” between first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois and third-liner Boone Jenner.

Hedger lists free agency, the trade market and developing from within as the ways general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can address this issue.

The free-agent market is bleak, with Nashville’s Mikael Granlund topping the list with 30 points this season. Kekalainen will explore the trade market as they can draw upon their blueline depth, young forwards, and a pair of goalies in their mid-20s who performed well this season for trade bait. Hedger suggested the Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a trade target, though he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Options from within could include Alexander Wennberg or Alexandre Texier.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The UFA market is very thin for center. Granlund, Carl Soderberg, Tyler Ennis, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula are the best of the bunch. Thornton, Spezza, Koivu and Soderberg are past their prime, Granlund and Ennis are used more as wingers while Haula’s been hampered by injuries in recent years.They could try Wennberg and Texier, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Wennberg is inconsistent while Texier is used mostly on the wing.

The trade market is their best option to address that need, but I don’t think the Oilers intend to part with Nugent-Hopkins. He’s a key versatile part of their forward lines, able to play second-line center or skate at left wing on Connor McDavid’s line.

HOW WILL THE BLACKHAWKS CUT SALARY?

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Charlie Roumeliotis recently examined how the Blackhawks can free up salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Drake Caggiula and unrestricted free agent goalie Corey Crawford.

The Blackhawks can free up $5.56 million if they buy out Olli Maatta and Zack Smith. A more ideal solution would be moving one or both via trade, but that would involve packaging them with sweeteners.

Trading Brandon Saad would shed $6 million. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become a UFA next summer. However, Roumeliotis argues that move would subtract a top-six forward merely to shed salary. Given the current economic climate, he doubts a rival club would take on that full cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buying out Maatta and Smith could also leave the Blackhawks with over $1.7 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons, followed by two more seasons of $680K annually. Nevertheless, that could become their best option to re-sign their key players.

I doubt Smith will have any more trade value. Maatta’s performance in this year’s playoffs might make him enticing for clubs seeking a puck-moving defenseman.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2020

Find out how a flat salary cap could affect the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Brent Seabrook’s contract creates a salary-cap headache for the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old defenseman has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.875 million.

Brent Seabrook’s contract could create some salary-cap difficulties for the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo via NHL Images).

With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, Seabrook’s AAV will make it difficult for the Blackhawks to re-sign some key players. It will also affect efforts to improve their roster.

Seabrook has a full no-movement clause until 2022. It also means he must automatically be protected in next year’s expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it.

A huge portion of his salary is tied up in signing bonuses, rendering any buyout pointless. There won’t be any compliance buyouts under the proposed CBA extension.

Despite his recent surgeries, they won’t be putting him on long-term injury reserve as he appears on track to return to action.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 16 players for next season, with Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, and Drake Caggiula to re-sign.

Seabrook was the topic of trade speculation in 2018-19 but his contract was considered unmoveable even then. If he agreed to waive his clause, the flat cap makes it unlikely the Hawks will find any takers now.

Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad was frequently mentioned in this season’s trade rumors. Don’t be surprised if his name resurfaces as a cost-cutting trade candidate.

THE JOURNAL NEWS: Vincent Z. Mercogliano recently examined the effects of a flat cap for next season upon the New York Rangers. He believes it’ll leave them with around $13.5 million in cap space.

Re-signing Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo are the priorities. Mercogliano speculates each could cost $5 million annually but it behooves the Rangers to get that down to $4 million each or risk losing winger Jesper Fast to unrestricted free agency unless he’s willing to return for a minor raise over his current $1.85 million. RFA winger Brendan Lemieux must also be re-signed.

If Fast departs, Mercogliano suggests re-signing RFA Phil Di Giuseppe, adding an affordable player via the UFA market as a replacement, or perhaps letting a young forward like Lias Andersson to step into that role.

They could also explore trading Strome or DeAngelo, buy out the final season of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, or entertain trade offers for RFA goalie Alexandar Georgiev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of options to choose from here. Most of the Rangers speculation suggests Lundqvist could be bought out, but that’s not a certainty. There has been some media trade chatter about DeAngelo, Georgiev, and Andersson.

Something’s got to give in the off-season and it’ll be interesting to see what general manager Jeff Gorton has in store. One of those players noted above probably won’t be a Rangers when next season begins.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2020

Check out recent Devils and Blackhawks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FREE-AGENT FORWARD TARGETS FOR THE DEVILS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Corey Masisak recently examined several potential free-agent forward targets for the New Jersey Devils. Among the possibilities was former Devils turned Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestnikov, and Nashville Predators’ forward Mikael Granlund.

Could the New Jersey Devils attempt to bring back Taylor Hall? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak wasn’t saying the Devils will target those players. He’s merely looking at possible options.

He doubted Hall might return to the Devils if he doesn’t find a suitable contract in the UFA market but doesn’t completely rule it out. I believe we’ve seen the last of Hall in a Devils’ jersey. He probably wants to play with a contender, which rules out his former team.

I share Masisak’s view that the lack of impact UFA forwards in this year’s market could put Hoffman and Dadonov out of the Devils’ price range. Toffoli will also probably be too expensive. Namestnikov and Granlund could be more affordable, but their inconsistent play in recent years probably won’t make them a good fit for the Devils.

Bargain options could include Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis, Nashville’s Craig Smith, the New York Rangers’ Jesper Fast, Florida’s Erik Haula, Minnesota’s Alexander Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary, Tampa Bay’s Patrick Maroon, Vancouver’s Josh Leivo, and Detroit’s Sam Gagner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith and Fast seem like the best of this bunch. They would bring experienced, affordable depth to the Devils’ forward lines but not enough to move the needle forward.

Masisak also looked at some short-term veterans like Carl Soderberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Patrick Marleau, Corey Perry, and Brian Boyle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These guys are in the twilight years of their respective careers. Kovalchuk could return to the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs could re-sign Spezza, and Marleau could return to San Jose if there’s a spot available with the Sharks. Like the bargain options, there’s no one in this group who could significantly advance the Devils’ rebuild. 

BLACKHAWKS FACING PIVOTAL DECISIONS

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Paul Thompson reports the Blackhawks still have pivotal roster decisions to make following the 24-team playoff tournament. Here’s a look at several of the notable ones.

Long-time starting goalie Corey Crawford is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. If he re-signs it likely won’t be for the $6 million annually of his current contract. His age (35) and recent concussion history are cause for concern.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hawks might not have much choice. They sent Robin Lehner to Vegas at the trade deadline. Malcolm Subban, part of the return in that deal, is not an NHL starter. Washington’s Braden Holtby could be available but he’ll probably be too expensive for the Hawks.

Winger Brandon Saad is eligible next summer for UFA status and carrying a $6 million cap hit for 2020-21. He was a frequent subject of trade chatter this season and could surface again in the rumor mill. However, Thompson suggests the Hawks could keep him if they decide to build on the current roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $75 million invested in 19 players for next season and Crawford, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, and Drake Caggiula due for new contracts, the Blackhawks must shed salary to accommodate those deals. They could get some cap relief if Brent Seabrook goes on long-term injury reserve next season. Nevertheless, they might still have to move out Saad to clear more space.

Winger Andrew Shaw was frequently sidelined over the past three seasons. Given his injury history, he might be a luxury they can no longer afford. Shaw has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw could also end up on LTIR to start next season. If his concussions are serious enough, he could be there permanently.

Defenseman Olli Maatta is likely a trade or buyout candidate. He’s got two years left on his contract worth over $4.08 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maatta saw third-pairing minutes with the Blackhawks. His performance was going downhill during his final two seasons in Pittsburgh before he was shipped to Chicago. They could try to trade him in the off-season, but the decline in his play could make him tough to move.

Center Zack Smith underwent season-ending back surgery and could be a buyout candidate. He signed through next season with a cap hit of $3.25 million.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: Smith can’t be bought out if he hasn’t fully recovered from surgery whenever the buyout period rolls around.