The NHL’s Most Unassailable Records
8:30 pm ET: St. Louis Blues sign Torey Krug to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract.
7 pm ET: Toronto Maple Leafs sign T.J. Brodie to a four-year contract ($5 million AAV).
4 pm to 5 pm ET: Calgary Flames sign Jacob Markstrom to a six-year, $36-million contract.
3 pm to 4 pm ET: Anaheim Ducks sign Kevin Shattenkirk to a three-year contract ($3.9 million AAV)
Washington Capitals sign defenseman Justin Schultz to a two-year, $8 million contract.
2 pm to 3 pm ET: Florida Panthers sign Alexander Wennberg to a one-year $2.25 million contract.
New York Rangers sign Jack Johnson to a one-year, $1-million contract.
Nashville Predators sign Mark Borowiecki to a two-year, $4-million contract.
In other contract news, the Ottawa Senators sign Matt Murray to a four-year contract with an annual average value of $6.25 million. The Senators acquired Murray, a restricted free agent, on Wednesday from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
1 pm to 2 pm ET: Vancouver Canucks sign Braden Holtby to a two-year deal ($4.3 million AAV)
Minnesota Wild sign goaltender Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11-million contract.
Dallas Stars sign Anton Khudobin to a three-year contract ($3.5 million AAV)
Edmonton Oilers sign center Kyle Turris to a two-year contract ($1.65 million AAV)
12 pm to 1 pm ET: Washington Capitals sign goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs sign winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $1.5-million contract with a full no-movement clause.
Detroit Red Wings sign winger Bobby Ryan to a one-year, $1-million contract.
Winger Pat Maroon (two years, $900K AAV) and defenseman Luke Schenn (one year, $800K) are returning with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Florida Panthers sign defenseman Radko Gudas to a three-year contract ($2.5 million AAV).
In other news, the Tampa Bay Lightning placed winger Tyler Johnson on waivers. He has four years remaining on his contract with a $5 million annual cap hit and a full no-trade clause.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson will remain with the Arizona Coyotes. His deadline to be traded to either Boston or Vancouver came and went without a deal.
A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.
The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.
Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.
I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.
Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.
Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club.
Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.
Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.
New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.
Could the Rangers shop the first-overall pick? Are changes coming for the Penguins? What’s the latest on the Leafs and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE RANGERS LISTEN TO OFFERS FOR FIRST-OVERALL PICK?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton will spend the coming weeks deciding if he’ll use the first-overall pick to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere or shop it for the No. 2 center his club badly needs.
The Rangers already have left-wingers Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, making it difficult for Lafreniere to be an immediate fit in their roster. Garrioch expects Gorton will find a place for the youngster unless he gets an offer too good to refuse. He believes the Ottawa Senators (with the third and fifth overall picks), Montreal Canadiens, and Detroit Red Wings could come calling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators, Canadiens, and Red Wings lack the type of center the Rangers would want as part of the return. I think Gorton will listen to offers but he might not get one to his liking. He could also surprise us by taking Quinton Byfield instead of Lafreniere with that pick, but I believe he’ll stick with the time-honored adage that you take the best available player.
CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford indicated changes are coming during his end-of-season press conference yesterday.
Team sources indicate there could be an assistant coach change at some point this week. Rutherford indicated no changes are coming to the roster core. He expressed disappointment in defenseman Justin Schultz’s performance, an indication perhaps the pending free agent won’t be re-signed.
The Penguins GM also spoke about goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. The pair are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Rutherford acknowledged it would be difficult to keep both. He also feels his roster needs to get younger.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Penguins are leaning toward keeping this year’s first-round pick (15th overall) and sending next season’s first-round selection to the Minnesota Wild. As per conditions in the Jeff Zucker trade last February, the Penguins have seven days following the lottery to reach a decision.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s comments should put to rest recent suggestions that Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang should hit the trade block. Unless he can free up salary-cap space, he’ll have to choose between Murray or Jarry. I expect he’ll take the younger, affordable option with Jarry.
It won’t be surprising if Schultz doesn’t return. He hasn’t been the same since fracturing his leg last season.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas must decide if he’ll re-sign goaltender Frederik Andersen to a long-term deal given his recent history of giving up soft goals in the playoffs.
“Do the Leafs really want to tie into Andersen for the long term? Can they afford to? Do people really think the Leafs will turn into Stanley Cup contenders if Dubas acquires Matt Murray?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To answer those questions in order: No, they shouldn’t. No, they can’t. No, they won’t. Andersen has a year left on his contract. Unless better options appear via the trade market or free agency (provided Dubas can free up sufficient cap space), best to ride it out with Andersen for one more year and see what becomes available during next season or next summer.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports his understanding of Dubas’ no-trade promise after re-signing William Nylander last season was that it was solely for the immediate aftermath of the agreement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever Dubas promised Nylander, the young winger could soon find out that a general manager’s promises are easily broken for the good of the team or the GM’s ongoing employment.
Friedman also believes San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton could be on the Leafs’ radar, depending on what happens with Jason Spezza.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All due respect to Thornton, who’s had a wonderful career, but he’s well past his best-before date. Besides, the Leafs already had an aging former Sharks on their roster in Patrick Marleau and it cost them their 2020 first-round pick to get rid of the final year of his contract. They don’t need to repeat that mistake. Yes, I know, they could get Thornton to agree to a one-year, bonus-laden deal, but he’s not going to make the Leafs a better team next season.
UPDATE ON THE OILERS
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Terry Jones reports Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated he’s got some decisions to make going forward after his club was eliminated from the qualifying round. Noting Holland spoke about the flat salary cap for next season, Jones speculates Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Smith, and James Neal might not be back.
Jones also thinks one of the Oilers’ top-four defensemen other than Ethan Bear could be shopped. He guesses Adam Larsson could be available in a “semi-major trade.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Holland could decide not to qualify the winger’s rights, making him a UFA. The Oilers GM could then attempt to sign him to a more affordable contract, or simply look for a better option elsewhere.
The 38-year-old Smith is no longer an effective NHL starting goalie. The Oilers need a better option to split the duties with the erratic Mikko Koskinen. Neal is signed through 2022-23 and his age (32), the cap hit ($5.27 million) and offensive inconsistency will be difficult to move. A buyout is possible here.
Larsson was acquired four years ago from New Jersey for Taylor Hall. Holland might have to bundle him with a draft pick or prospect or pick up part of his $4.16-million cap hit for next season. Larsson also has a modified no-trade clause.
Check out the recent speculation on the Penguins, Islanders, and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TIGHT BUDGETS LEAVE PENGUINS, ISLANDERS FACING DIFFICULT DECISIONS
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Mike DeFabo recently reported the flat salary cap for 2020-21 ($81.5 million) will leave the Penguins facing some hard choices in the off-season. They have over $68 million invested in next season’s payroll.
All of their top-six forwards and top-four defensemen are under contract for ’20-’21. Unless general manager Jim Rutherford creates some cap room via trade, they won’t have enough to re-sign all their key free agents.
Topping the list are restricted free agent goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. It could take a deal comparable to Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins (two years, $4 million annual average value) to re-sign Jarry. Murray’s playoff record and inconsistent regular-season play could be worth something like the $5.1 million Jimmy Howard makes with Detroit and $6.4 million like Anaheim’s John Gibson. Keeping Murray and Jarry could mean trading a skater.
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz’s season has hampered by injury. Letting him walk could open a big hole on the blueline. It’s uncertain if the reacquisition of UFA winger Conor Sheary was for the short or long term. DeFabo also wondered if trade deadline pickup Patrick Marleau would be willing to return for the minimum salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather than trade a skater, Rutherford could trade Murray or Jarry and call up Casey DeSmith as a full-time backup next season. Schultz indicated he’d like to stay, but he might have to take a pay cut from his $5.5 million to do so.
Marleau could return to San Jose for one more year or retire if he wins the Cup in the upcoming tournament. I think Rutherford wants to re-sign Sheary but that will depend upon what happens with the goaltenders and Schultz.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arthur Staple recently examined the New York Islanders’ options with limited cap room for next season.
Staple speculates their UFAs (Matt Martin, Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andy Greene, and Thomas Greiss) might not return next season. The focus will be on re-signing RFAs Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews.
Going the trade route would mean shopping defenseman Nick Leddy or Thomas Hickey. Staple doubts oft-injured Johnny Boychuk will attract must interest.
Forwards Andrew Ladd and Leo Komarov could also be trade options, but the Isles might have to package either guy with next year’s first-round pick or a top prospect. Komarov also seems the most likely buyout candidate. Staple also doesn’t rule out Ladd and Komarov starting next season on long-term injury reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello has demonstrated his salary-cap creativity in the past to free up sufficient room to address his roster needs. Given the number of clubs with limited cap room for next season, he’ll have to strike fast in the trade market to dump a salary or two. Of the trade candidates listed by Staple, Leddy might attract the most interest, but his $5.5 million cap hit through 2021-22 could be a sticking point.
WILL THE KINGS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FLAT CAP?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman recently reported Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake said back in April his club had flexibility under the flat cap, but he thought the big cap year for his club was a year away. However, he did say they were in a position to look at some things.
The Kings have over $60.7 million invested in their payroll for ’20-’21. Dillman suggested signing Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev or Florida Panthers versatile forward Erik Haula if they test the UFA market at season’s end.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake is expected to resist the temptation of pursuing a big-ticket UFA this year. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t consider adding a veteran or two at a reasonable price. Someone like Tanev or Haula on a short-term deal could provide some experienced depth as the Kings develop their promising youngsters.
Tanev’s performance has declined a bit in recent years. Haula looks like he still hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him most of last season.