NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Morgan Rielly, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Eric Staal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports it’s difficult to pinpoint a timeline when the Buffalo Sabres could trade Jack Eichel. His new agent, Pat Brisson is on good terms with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and there are ongoing discussions between the two.

Eichel and the Sabres remain at an impasse over which medical procedure he’ll undergo to repair the herniated disc in his neck. It’s possible Eichel gets traded to a club willing to allow him to undergo the disc replacement surgery he favors but there’s no guarantee and no sign a trade is close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As they say in the Army: “SITREP: no change.” This will probably drag on for months and perhaps cost Eichel the entire season until a suitable trade partner is found. Even then, his $10 million annual cap hit over the next five seasons plus the Sabres’ expensive asking price could make any interested club leery of taking that gamble.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly’s camp quietly engaged in preliminary contract discussions over the summer. LeBrun doubts anything will be settled quickly. A lot of it has to do with what next summer’s market will be for unrestricted free-agent defensemen after Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this summer worth $9 million-plus per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculates Rielly negotiations could drag on into next June. They could eventually reach a point where they decide to shelf those talks until the offseason. I think Rielly and his representatives saw those hefty offseason signings and believe they can get the same.

Some Leafs fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season. I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline.

Dreger believes it’s all about the term and less about money in the Vancouver Canucks’ negotiations with restricted free agent defenseman Quinn Hughes. With training camp underway and Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov under contract, Hughes and teammate Elias Pettersson are hoping to find common ground soon with Canucks management.

Negotiations are also ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Dreger feels the main hurdles here are structure and protection. He wonders if a shorter-term deal might become an option if talks drag closer to the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No real change here from reports earlier in the week. Nevertheless, they could be signed at any time. We began this week with six notable RFAs and are now down to those three.

LeBrun reports unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal is committed to playing another NHL season but has yet to find a new club. His preference is to find a good fit with an American club.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 22, 2021

Updates on Jack Eichel, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, Johnny Gaudreau and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman believes Jack Eichel will attend Buffalo Sabres training camp but won’t pass his physical and thus won’t be cleared to play. He also believes the club will remove his captaincy.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

The 24-year-old center remains in a standoff with Sabres management regarding which medical procedure he’ll undergo for a herniated disc in his neck. Friedman heard some trade talks a couple of weeks ago but he thinks teams want to hear what the doctors say.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless a team is willing to take a chance on Eichel’s wish to undergo a disc replacement procedure (which the Sabres are against), there’s no end in sight for this impasse. One side or the other will have to bend or Eichel won’t be playing this season.

Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and center Elias Pettersson and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk are the four restricted free agents to watch now.

Regarding Tkachuk, Friedman believes the Senators have talked about a long-term contract but he wonders if a short-term deal is necessary to get things done. He doesn’t think they’re far apart in dollars but the Senators’ reluctance to give bonuses could be an issue. A no-trade/no-movement clause near the end of the deal could also be a sticking point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports out of Ottawa claim the Senators tabled an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually for Tkachuk. Signing bonuses are likely the main sticking point here as that’s money the player gets upfront each season.

It appears the Canucks face a bit of a stalemate with Hughes and Pettersson. It’s thought the club is thinking short-term but Friedman wonders if a six-year deal might be the solution here. There’s also pushback to rumors the Canucks might make a cost-cutting trade to free up salary for those two with Tyler Motte remaining sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Canucks with over $10.6 million cap space. They will get another $3.5 million if necessary by placing Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve to start the season. Motte would give them another $1.225 million if he ends up on LTIR. As I noted yesterday, I doubt they’ll get Hughes and Pettersson for less than a combined $14 million.

Friedman said the Dahlin rumors are all over the map. At first, it sounded like things were going well. However, the Sabres want a short-term deal not because of anything he did or didn’t do but because of overall frustration and an unwillingness to commit to a long-term agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dahlin’s development in Buffalo has been hampered in part by a revolving door of coaches. A short-term deal could set the stage for a messy arbitration battle down the road.

There were teams with interest in Robert Thomas. However, Friedman thinks St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told teams he wasn’t interested in trading him.

The cone of silence has dropped on Johnny Gaudreau’s contract talks with the Calgary Flames now that training camp has started. He’s told reporters he’s not talking to them about his contract situation. Meanwhile, the club won’t be releasing any updates. The 28-year-old left winger can become an unrestricted free agent next July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will only stoke speculation over his future in Calgary, especially if the club gets off to a slow start this season.

Friedman believes the Edmonton Oilers aren’t done in goal. “Mike Smith will be there, but what happens around him?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not much in the short term. Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock will be Smith’s backups for now. Koskinen carries that $4.5 million cap hit for this season plus a 15-team no-trade list.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

Updates on the notable unsigned restricted free agents as training camps approach in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Ottawa Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk and Minnesota Wild right winger Kirill Kaprizov are among the notable restricted free agents still without contracts as training camps open later this week. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlen and St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas are also among those without contracts.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

  THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks fans probably won’t see Pettersson and Hughes when training camp begins on Thursday in Abbotsford, BC. General manager Jim Benning maintains they’re continuing to have good dialogue and hopes to get something done sooner rather than later. Kuzma wonders if bridge deals for the young stars might be palatable for both parties.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal cited sources in Pettersson’s camp saying the young center has departed Vancouver and flown to Michigan to be with Hughes. Both are close friends and represented by agents Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. They will remain in Michigan preparing for the upcoming season while awaiting a resolution in negotiations.

It’s expected the Canucks will sign Pettersson first because Hughes isn’t eligible to receive an offer sheet. While the threat of an offer sheet is remote the club doesn’t want to take any chances. Of the two, Hughes could be the more likely to ink a long-term deal. The Canucks have up to $16 million in cap space if necessary to sign both but would ideally prefer $14.5 – $15 million.

There’s also speculation whatever Kaprizov gets with the Minnesota Wild will affect how much Pettersson receives from the Canucks. However, that’s considered remote within the industry. The Wild face a unique salary-cap crunch in the near term so inking Kaprizov to a bridge deal has little benefit for them.

The comparables for Pettersson could be the bridge deals signed by Tampa Lightning center Brayden Point ($6.75 million annual average value) and the New York Islanders Mathew Barzal ($7 million AAV).

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the lines of communication remain open between the Senators and Tkachuk but the two sides remain at a stalemate. While things can change with one phone call, it’s expected the Senators will open training camp tomorrow without the 22-year-old left winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of these players could be under contract by tomorrow morning. Then again, negotiations could drag on through the opening days of their respective camps.

The Canucks probably won’t get Pettersson and Hughes under contract for less than a combined $14 million. Pettersson could come in at $7.5 million and Hughes close to $7 million. By the sound of things, Pettersson could end up with a bridge deal.

It’s been reported the Senators have an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually on the table for Tkachuk. Maybe his representatives are pushing for $9 million or perhaps they seek a shorter term in hope of cashing in on a more lucrative deal in three or four years’ time.

Kaprizov will miss the opening week of training camp. Even if signed today, he would reportedly face a seven-day quarantine period before joining his Wild teammates. His side wants a short-term deal in order to qualify for UFA status as soon as possible while the Wild prefer between five and eight years. It’s believed he’ll eventually get a five-year deal worth an annual average value of $9 million.

Not much to report on Dahlin and Thomas. Talks are said to be ongoing between the Sabres and the 21-year-old blueliner but no word on possible contract terms. Thomas, meanwhile, took part in the Blues’ development camp sessions last week. He’s said to be seeking more than teammate Jordan Kyrou’s $2.8 million AAV on a two-year deal.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 19, 2021

Jack Eichel to travel to Buffalo for Sabres’ pre-training camp medical, Vladimir Tarasenko expected on Blues’ opening-day roster, Zdeno Chara signs with the Islanders, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: cites an Associated Press report indicating Jack Eichel is expected to travel to Buffalo for the Sabres’ pre-training camp medicals on Wednesday. The 24-year-old center has been sidelined since March with a herniated disk in his neck.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Treatment of the injury has created an impasse between Eichel and the Sabres’ front office. He prefers artificial disk replacement while management is against that procedure because it’s never been done on an NHL player before.

If Eichel fails his medical, the Sabres have the option of placing him on injured reserve or long-term injury reserve as his condition is hockey-related. They’ve been trying to trade him this summer but haven’t found any takers yet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if Eichel passes his medical. If he fails as expected it will prevent the awkward situation of having an unhappy player in camp while management is trying to trade him. However, this won’t be the end of the saga. There’s no indication which procedure Eichel will undergo let alone when it will take place.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes there’s a good chance Vladimir Tarasenko will be on the club’s opening-day roster. The 29-year-old winger requested a trade early in the offseason because he was reportedly unhappy over how the club’s medical staff handled his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Armstrong said he spoke with Tarasenko about his trade status and the winger understands the situation. He mentioned the flattened salary cap and the limited amount of playing time Tarasenko saw over the last two years as a result of his shoulder surgeries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The best opportunity to move Tarasenko was before the free-agent market opened on July 28. There weren’t many teams with the cap space to take on his $7.5 million annual salary cap hit once the dust settled from the usual frenzy of free-agent signings.

A trade could still materialize before the start of the season but a move around the March trade deadline seems more likely. Interested parties would prefer letting Tarasenko burn off most of this season’s cap hit while taking the time to evaluate his performance.

NEW YORK POST: Zdeno Chara’s NHL career has come full circle as he signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but it’s presumably a plus-35 deal with bonuses.

Chara began his big-league career with the Islanders in 1997-98, spending four seasons with them until traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2001.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 44-year-old Chara will become the first player in NHL history to go 20-plus years between games with one franchise.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed restricted free agent winger Kailer Yamamoto to a one-year, $1.175 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Very affordable signing by the cap-strapped Oilers but Yamamoto will be in line for a more lucrative deal next summer if he has a good performance this season. We’ll take a look at the implications in today’s Sunday rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators signed center Logan Brown to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

98 percent of NHL players expected to be vaccinated for the coming season, Sidney Crosby hopes Alex Ovechkin breaks Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, plus the latest on Evander Kane, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimates 98 percent of players will be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the 2021-22 season opens on Oct. 12. That will leave between 10 and 15 players unvaccinated among 700 players on 32 teams.

The NHL and NHL Players Association didn’t impose a vaccine mandate on players, but restrictions (including restrictions at the Canada – US border requiring lengthy quarantine) contributed to the high number of vaccinations. Teams can also suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities as part of its protocols.

Fully vaccinated players will have any positive COVID-19 tests treated as hockey injuries and continue to be paid. Unvaccinated players will have their movements restricted during road trips. Regular COVID testing will remain in place for vaccinated players. Coaches and staff must be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Daly confirmed that teams who suspend players without pay under the terms of the league’s COVID protocols will receive salary-cap relief from that player’s daily salary-cap hit.

Unvaccinated players can be ruled exempt from suspension if they have legitimate medical reasons for avoiding vaccination or if it conflicts with “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Johnston also reported at least one Caucks remains unvaccinated but the team declined to comment citing medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL isn’t fooling around with its protocols this season after a number of game postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks over the course of last season led to a series of scheduling changes. It took a physical toll on the players as they endured multiple games within a much more compressed period of time.

Unvaccinated players will have a more difficult time navigating through those strict protocols this season. Those restrictions could encourage the remainder who lack medical exemption to get vaccinated. The risk of suspension without pay for a positive test is too great over the course of the season.

SPORTSNET: Daly indicated the salary cap for the 2022-23 season is expected to increase by $1 million to $82.5 million.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

  NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has the support of a long-time rival in his quest to break Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said he told Ovechkin he hopes he does it. “It would be awesome. He’s in range, “ said Crosby. “He can score anywhere from insider the blue line.”

Crosby added one caveat. “I just hope that all his goals that he gets are against the other teams as he’s trying to add toward it.” Gretzky has 894 goals while Ovechkin sits at 730 to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s legacy is secure as this generation’s greatest goal scorer and one of the all-time greats. Most of Gretzky’s records are out of reach of today’s players, so the opportunity for the Capitals superstar to break the goal record would be a phenomenal achievement.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Evander Kane remains confident that the league will clear him of allegations by his estranged wife that he gambled on NHL games. In an interview with ESPN’s Linda Cohn, the San Jose Sharks winger called the allegations “incredibly false”, claiming he’s never bet on any NHL games or intentionally altered the way he plays.

The NHL opened an investigation into the allegations in July. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he anticipates it will wrap up soon and to have a full report by the start of training camp.

Kane admitted he has a gambling addiction which led to his filing for bankruptcy in July. He also downplayed reports claiming some of his Sharks teammates don’t want him back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz believes it’s what’s Kane didn’t say during the interview that’s newsworthy. “This was a missed opportunity for him to signal to his teammates/organization that he’s ready to come back, change his ways, and be a solid teammate. Instead, nothing’s changed.”

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price took to the ice yesterday in full equipment with a member of the team’s training staff. It’s believed the first time he’s skated since undergoing knee surgery in July. He spent 10 minutes on the ice doing stretching and skating drills.

TORONTO STAR: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban is an executive producer on an upcoming docuseries entitled, “Black Life: A Canadian History.”

THE ATHLETIC: Andrew Ladd is looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NHL again. He was traded this summer to the Arizona Coyotes by the New York Islanders. He played just 30 NHL games over the past three seasons with the Islanders.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will face off in the 2022 Heritage Classic on March 13 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario.

THE SCORE: Two suspects were arrested in the robbery of a St. Louis Blues prospect and a woman on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. The name of the prospect has not been released.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2021

Should the Golden Knights pursue Jack Eichel? Could the Leafs risk losing more key players next summer? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Steve Carp recently wondered whether the Golden Knights were among the clubs to re-engage with the Buffalo Sabres regarding their interest in Jack Eichel. He believes they should be in the mix for the Sabres captain.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Carp acknowledged the questions and uncertainty over which medical procedure Eichel could undergo for the herniated disc in his neck. Nevertheless, he feels the 24-year-old center is worth the risk. He’d become the bonafide No. 1 center the Golden Knights have lacked since Day 1. He’s also an elite star who’s still young and the chances of a full recovery from whatever procedure he undergoes are in his favor.

Acquiring Eichel would probably mean moving two players from the current roster to free up the cap space for his $10 million annual average value. It could result in getting a third or a fourth team involved to make the dollars fit. The Sabres will also insist on first-round draft picks and a top prospect such as Peyton Krebs as part of the deal.

Despite the expense, Carp feels Golden Knights owner Bill Foley could go for it if he believes Eichel can help the club win the Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres’ asking price from the Golden Knights earlier in the offseason was reportedly Krebs, winger Reilly Smith, defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick. Whether that still stands is unknown at this time.

I believe Eichel could be that final piece of the championship puzzle for the Golden Knights. Absorbing his cap hit could be difficult but not impossible to sort out.

The Golden Knights have surprised us with significant acquisitions such as trading for Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and signing Alex Pietrangelo. It wouldn’t surprise me if they pursue Eichel during this season or next summer.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos wonders how many more players the Maple Leafs could lose because of their limited salary-cap space. Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen departed this summer as free agents. Morgan Rielly could follow them out the door next summer.

After that, who knows?”, asks Traikos. “Maybe it’s Ilya Mikheyev or Jack Campbell. Or someone even more important, like William Nylander.” He also pointed out it wasn’t just money and term or a chance to play alongside Connor McDavid that prompted Hyman to leave the Leafs. “After five years of post-season exits, it sounds like Hyman wanted out. Like he needed a change.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a fair question. How many other good players currently on the Leafs’ roster today won’t be there this time next year due to cap constraints? It’s also fair to wonder how many could get discouraged with the club’s direction if they once again come up short in the playoffs.

Those questions aren’t something the Leafs have to worry about right now. They’ve got a full season ahead of them. Nevertheless, those concerns will dog this club, especially if they slump at any point in the upcoming schedule. Another disappointing playoff exit could lead to big changes and not just on the roster.