What’s next for the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Carolina Hurricanes now that they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered if the Arizona Coyotes will re-sign winger Taylor Hall, whose efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract could be affected by the flat salary cap for next season. Team ownership met with the pending UFA before the postseason began, but the club only has $1.51 million in cap space for next season.
Has Taylor Hall played his final game with the Arizona Coyotes? (NHL Images)
Wyshynski wondered if the Nashville Predators might be interested as they need a shakeup following another disappointing postseason. He also noted the Coyotes need to bolster their anemic offense.
AZCOYOTESINSIDER.COM (subscription required): Craig Morgan suggests the Coyotes flawed, tapped-out roster could need another rebuild, pointing out they were overmatched in skill and scoring in the playoffs. They lack a true No.1 center, scoring punch, and physicality at forward and on the blueline.
Efforts to acquire young talent will be hampered by a lack of a first- and third-round pick in this year’s draft. Morgan doesn’t expect pending UFAs Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg will return and speculates players with one year on their contracts, such as Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, and Alex Goligoski could be shopped.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Difficult decisions await new general manager Steve Sullivan. They must attempt to convince Hall to re-sign, but even if he won’t get as much as he would’ve before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap, the Coyotes must shed salary to keep him.
Hall will likely test the market if the Coyotes opt to rebuild again. However, I don’t see him landing with the Predators unless they can dump some salary. They’ve got over $72 million committed to 17 players.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Chicago Blackhawks could face another off-season salary cap crunch with veteran starting goalie Corey Crawford an unrestricted free agent and RFAs Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome due for raises. She also said there’s some buzz around the league that this could be it for general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the goalie situation remains murky, the defense has some talent but little cohesion, and their bottom-six forwards were sub-par.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Phil Thompson believes the Blackhawks will be hard-pressed to go anywhere without Crawford. They have no one in their system capable of taking over as their starting goalie.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers wondered what the future holds for Brent Seabrook in the wake of two hip surgeries and shoulder surgery earlier this year. He has an unmovable contract worth $6.875 million annually for the next four seasons. Trying to trade him would mean including a key young player they cannot afford to give up. Andrew Shaw also faces an uncertain future as concussion injuries mount for the 29-year-old forward.
Lazerus and Powers expect Olli Maatta and Zack Smith to be bought out, freeing up a combined $5.5 million for next season. They also wondered about Alex Nylander’s place in the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 19 players next season. If Seabrook and Shaw both start next season on long-term injury reserve, it would give them over $10.7 million in cap flexibility, enough to re-sign Crawford, Kubalik, and Strome and still leave a little wiggle room for other moves.
Seabrook, however, remains determined to return, as could Shaw if he feels he can continue his playing career. That could lead to buyouts for Maatta and Smith.
Crawford seems willing to finish his playing career in Chicago. The 35-year-old netminder could ink a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary ($2.5 – $3 million) to provide the Hawks with a bit of breathing space. Kubalik and Strome will get raises but could be signed to affordable short-term deals with promises of bigger rewards ahead.
Upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round and the emergence of young players like Kubalik, Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Adam Boqvist could give Bowman and Colliton a reprieve. Nevertheless, the front-office shakeups earlier this year suggest they’re on notice.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Carolina Hurricanes could part ways with one or two of their pending UFA defensemen like Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson, or Trevor van Riemsdyk. She also wonders if Justin Williams has played his final NHL game and expects the budget-conscious Hurricanes to stick with their affordable goalie tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer for one more season. Both are signed through 2020-21.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock also wondered if the 38-year-old Williams has come to the end of his playing career. He feels the Hurricanes lack an intimidating presence on their blueline. He thinks they’re built to make the playoffs but the Boston Bruins have shown them in successive postseasons what it takes to become a Stanley Cup contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Hurricanes have over $72 million invested in 16 players, with RFAs Warren Foegele and Haydn Fleury also due for new contracts.
Those two will be affordable short-term signings, as could Edmundson if they want to retain some snarl on defense, but they won’t have enough to go shopping for an established starting goalie or to bring in some physical leadership. They could make it work for Williams if he wants to come back but I think this was his last hurrah.