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. 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 31, 2019

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 31, 2019

Check out the latest on the Canucks and Oilers in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup. 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE CANUCKS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe the Vancouver Canucks must invest in secondary scoring and bolster the right side of their blueline this summer. There’s talk they could trade for a young right-handed defenseman but it remains to be seen who they’ll pursue and how much it’ll cost. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks’ defense is indeed quite thin on the right side, which is currently filled by Alex Biega, Troy Stecher and Luke Schenn. A skilled young top-four rearguard is desperately needed there but finding one won’t be easy via trade or free agency.

Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci was a frequent fixture in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline but the questions about his play that sparked those rumors won’t help the Canucks. Salary-cap constraints could force the Winnipeg Jets to trade Jacob Trouba or let Tyler Myers depart via free agency but there’s no certainty either guy will want to go to a rebuilding club. Buffalo Sabres blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen has also popped up in recent media trade chatter but it could cost the Canucks one of their good young forwards to get him. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Harman Dayal examines the performance of Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton, who’s coming off a two-year, $5.6-million contract and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Dayal notes Hutton’s agent could seek a new deal worth in the range of $4 million per season because he’s been deployed as a top-pairing rearguard. Despite the positive buzz over Hutton’s play this season, Dayal concludes he’s actually struggling as a top-four defenseman and recommends the Canucks try to move Hutton while his trade value is high.

Should the Canucks trade Ben Hutton this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The question is, does Canucks general manager Jim Benning also believe Hutton lacks the stuff to become a reliable top-four defenseman? If it appears the Hutton camp will seek more than the Canucks are willing to pay this summer, perhaps that’ll prompt Benning to shop him. 

VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston wonders if Thatcher Demko is the Canucks goalie of the future or if he’ll better serve the club as a trade chip. Given Jacob Markstrom‘s emergence as a reliable starting goalie this season and with promising Mike DiPietro waiting in the wings, Demko could fetch a solid return. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks don’t have to rush into a decision regarding their goaltending this summer. Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, Demko will be an affordable re-signing coming out of his entry-level contract and DiPietro could use at least one season in the minors. 

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Elliotte Friedman reports it sounds like there’s some discussion between the Canucks and defenseman Luke Schenn regarding a one-year contract extension. Schenn has played well for the Canucks since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in mid-January. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schenn is on a one-year, $800K contract so he won’t be expensive to retain. 

LATEST OILERS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allen Mitchell recently examined some affordable options for the Edmonton Oilers to bolster their roster this summer. His proposed goalie targets are Carolina’s Petr Mrazek, Ottawa’s Anders Nilsson or Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott. San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist, Carolina’s Micheal Ferland, Vegas’ Brandon Pirri and the Islanders (and former Oiler) Jordan Eberle are among his suggested forward choices. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $71.7 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20, the Oilers won’t have much room if the cap is set for $83 million as projected. Unless they can shed salary they’ll have little choice but to pursue affordable depth via trades or free agency.

Elliott is more consistent than Mrazek and Nilsson but his age (33) and injury history are a concern. Not sure how keen Eberle would be to return to Edmonton. Ferland is a solid physical presence but his spate of injuries this season sends up warning flags plus he reportedly seeks Tom Wilson money. Nyquist will likely cost over $5 million annually to sign plus he could prefer signing with a contender. Ultimately, the Oilers could be going into the bargain bin for guys like Pirri this summer. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers should resist trading or buying out defenseman Andrej Sekera. He points out Sekera’s improvement since returning to action from injury this season and also notes the Oilers need his puck-moving skills. Sekera also has two years left on his deal with a $5.5 million AAV, a modified no-trade clause starting July 1, and has suffered two serious injuries in as many seasons, which would hamper the Oilers efforts to trade him and would also hurt his value in the trade market.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Staples. Moving Sekera would free up invaluable cap room but their defense is better when he’s healthy and in the lineup. Giving the hindrance of his contract and injury history, the Oilers probably won’t find many takers in the trade market. 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 24, 2019

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 24, 2019

Check out the latest on the Rangers, Leafs, and Oilers in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE RANGERS?

ESPN.COM: With the New York Rangers officially eliminated from playoff contention, Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters looked at the club’s potential offseason plans. While they have plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a big-name unrestricted free agent like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, Kaplan and Peters believe they must be disciplined in their spending. Going the quick-fix route could cause more harm than good. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $61.9 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20, with Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk, Brendan Lemieux, and Anthony Deangelo as their notable free agents. All will be affordable re-signings, leaving enough room to pursue a quality player via free agency. However, that player must be a good fit within their rebuilding roster. The last thing they need is an aging star coming there solely for the money and the experience of living in New York.

They’ve been linked to Panarin, Erik Karlsson, Jeff Skinner, and Matt Duchene. It’s believed Panarin could be their primary focus, but he could cost over $10 million annually. While he puts up good numbers, I don’t think he’s got the leadership qualities the rebuilding Rangers need. Karlsson might be a better fit in that regard, but his recent injury history could be cause for concern plus he might not be keen to join a team in transition. 

Can the Toronto Maple Leafs find a way to move Patrick Marleau this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

MARLEAU’S CONTRACT COULD HURT THE LEAFS

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Patrick Marleau’s contract will be a problem for the Maple Leafs this summer. While the 39-year-old winger is beloved by his teammates and his declining play hasn’t hurt the Leafs’ overall performance this season, his $6.25-million salary-cap hit will make it difficult for management to find enough cap room to re-sign younger, better players.

Marleau’s on a “35-plus” contract, meaning he was over 35-year-old when he signed the deal, thus his cap hit still counts against the Leafs cap payroll if he retires or is bought out. He also holds a full no-movement clause. If he’s unwilling to waive it, the Leafs could be forced to move another player to free up cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $74.2 million tied up in 17 players. They’ll get $5.3 million in cap relief by placing all-but-retired Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve, but that will quickly evaporate when Mitch Marner signs his new contract. Even if it’s under $10 million per season (and I doubt it will be), it’ll push the Leafs’ payroll to around $78 million, with RFAs like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to be re-signed and UFAs like Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey to re-sign or replace. Assuming the cap reaches the projected $83 million, that won’t leave enough for the Leafs to address those needs.

Someone under contract for next season will be moved. That could mean a good player like Nazem Kadri, or GM Kyle Dubas going back on his word and trading Wiliam Nylander or finding a sucker, er, I mean, a taker for Nikita Zaitsev’s contract.

Some have suggested Marleau might accept a trade back to the San Jose Sharks, who have over $57.5 million committed to 14 players. Assuming they don’t re-sign Erik Karlsson, they’ll have plenty of room to re-sign UFAs like Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, as well as perhaps Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi, plus pay the hefty raises for RFAs Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Beyond that, they probably won’t have enough room for Marleau even if they wanted to bring him back.  And if they do re-sign Karlsson, they certainly won’t have enough room for Marleau. 

CAN THE OILERS SHED SOME BIG CONTRACTS? 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined some ways the Edmonton Oilers could trim their salary-cap fat and put the savings toward adding speed, skill, and goaltending depth. Noting how noxious a buyout of Milan Lucic’s contract would be, he suggests packaging a prospect plus picking up part of Lucic’s salary in exchange for a depth draft pick.

Mitchell suggests buying out the final two years of Andrej Sekera’s contract, saving $3 million in each of the next two seasons. He also advocates trading defenseman Kris Russell ($4 million annually through 2020-21). 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those three, the contracts of Sekera and Russell will be easier to shed than Lucic’s. Even by picking up half of his $6-million annual cap hit, his performance has deteriorated so much that I don’t see any takers for the remaining four years of his deal.

While trading Sekera would be a better option, buying him out makes sense. Trading Russell might require retaining some of his salary, but there could be some interest in him as a third-pairing shot-blocking rearguard. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2019

Check out the latest Oilers, Kings, and Coyotes speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

WHAT SHOULD THE OILERS DO THIS SUMMER?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples disagrees with Sportnet’s Brian Burke over how the Oilers should rebuild their roster. Burke recently suggested the Oilers should bundle young winger Jesse Puljujarvi with either Andrej Sekera or Kris Russell to free up some salary-cap space to pursue a No.2 defenseman. He also advocated finding a scoring winger and a character bottom-six forward.

Should the Edmonton Oilers package Jesse Puljujarvi with another player to free up salary-cap space? (Photo via NHL Images)

Staples, however, doesn’t believe the Oilers should try to build via free agency, pointing out they have a rather spotty history of free-agent signings. He also doesn’t see Edmonton as a prime destination for this summer’s top free-agent talent.

Staples doesn’t reject the notion of moving players (except for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) if the return improves the Oilers. Still, he recommends the club should build “by properly identifying young talent, drafting it and grooming it”, pointing out they’ve already made improvement in that area. He also encourages being patient with Puljujarvi, citing his age (20), upside and current limited trade value. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Staples’ take. There’s no easy way for the next Oilers general manager to dig his club out of the hole dug by previous management. Building with youth and exploring a savvy trade or two seems the best route at this point.

With over $71 million invested in 16 players, they should still try to shed some salary, preferably those of underachievers. Easier said than done, of course, but they should at least look into it. 

If they can find a way to shed Lucic’s $6-million cap hit, even if it means absorbing part of it or packaging him with a draft pick or a prospect, it should be done. They could go the buyout route but, as Cap Friendly indicates, they won’t get much in the way of cap savings in the first four years, though it’ll drop significantly to $625K per season over the final four years. 

SHOULD THE KINGS MOVE QUICK AND KOVALCHUK?

ESPN.COM: Finding a new head coach, trading goaltender Jonathan Quick, and determining Ilya Kovalchuk’s future are among Greg Wyshynski’s offseason keys for the Los Angeles Kings.

He doesn’t expect interim bench boss Willie Desjardins will return as their full-time coach. Trading Quick won’t be easy because of his age, injury history and $5.8-million cap hit, but he lacks no-trade protection and the Kings could use the younger assets he might fetch in a trade. He wonders if Kovalchuk is willing to stay or if the Kings believe he might improve under a new head coach. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Quick could be the best trade chip the Kings have this summer, or at least, the best one they’re willing to part with. I think a younger player like Tyler Toffoli would attract more interest but the Kings want to keep him as part of their rebuild. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Colorado Avalanche could be among the clubs with interest in Quick this summer.

As for Kovalchuk, he turns 36 next month and his best seasons are well behind him. If a team show interest and he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause they should trade him, even if it means picking up part of his $6.25-million cap hit.

COYOTES NOT PURSUING YAKUPOV

TSN: A report out of Russia yesterday claimed the Arizona Coyotes were one of three Western Conference clubs with interest in former NHL winger Nail Yakupov, who’s playing for KHL club St. Petersburg. However, The Athletic’s Craig Morgan cited a league source calling that rumor “completely inaccurate.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So, who are the other two Western clubs supposedly interested in Yakupov? Who do you think they might be? Feel free to make your best guess in the comments section below. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 18, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 18, 2019

Game recaps, Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Miller each reach notable milestones and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin reached the 40-goal plateau for the 10th time in his career but his Washington Capitals were beaten by the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. Ovechkin ties Marcel Dionne and Mario Lemieux for second on the all-time list (Wayne Gretzky leads with 12 seasons) and also tied Lemieux for the most 40-goal seasons with one team. Anaheim’s Ryan Miller picked up his 374th career victory, setting the record for American-born NHL goalies. 

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin reached another scoring milestone (Photo via NHL Images)

Vladimir Tarasenko extended his points streak to 12 games with a goal and two assists while Jordan Binnington turned in a 31-save shutout as the St. Louis Blues downed the Minnesota Wild 4-0. For the surging Blues, it was their 10th straight win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild (60 points) remain one point up on the Vancouver Canucks for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. However, they’ve won just three of their last 10 games and seem on the verge of tumbling out of postseason contention.

General manager Paul Fenton has reportedly been given permission by ownership to shake things up for long-term gains even at the risk of hurting their playoff hopes this season. Fenton could become a seller leading up to next Monday’s trade deadline.

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang each scored two goals and Sidney Crosby collected three assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins held on for a 6-5 win over the New York Rangers. Mats Zuccarello also scored twice for the Rangers while defenseman Neal Pionk was kept out of the third period as a precautionary measure after taking a stick to the eye. With the win, the Penguins (69 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Aleksander Barkov’s hat trick powered the Florida Panthers to a 6-3 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Antti Niemi gave up three goals on nine shots before being pulled in favor of Carey Price. The Canadiens (69 points) are winless in their last four contests (0-3-1) and cling to the final wild-card spot in the East, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Buffalo Sabres failed to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race, falling 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Kyle Palmieri had a goal and two assists while goaltender Cory Schneider picked up his second straight win. The Sabres (63 points) are six points out of a wild-card spot in the East. Earlier in the day, the Sabres revealed defenseman Marco Scandella would miss the game with an undisclosed injury but he is expected to rejoin the roster later in the week.

Oscar Lindblom tallied twice and Carter Hart made 37 saves for the Philadelphia Flyers to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Detroit Red Wings with a 3-1 victory. Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Like the Sabres, the Flyers are six points out of a playoff spot.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers have recalled defenseman Andrej Sekera from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Sekera has missed the entire NHL season thus far with an injured Achilles tendon.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have assigned center Christian Dvorak to their AHL affiliate for a two-week conditioning stint. He’s recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: After Don Cherry called the Carolina Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks” for their elaborate post-game victory celebrations, the club had “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts made up and ready for sale.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes FTW

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2019

Game recaps, Flyers reach a notable milestone, stars of the week, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers became the second-fastest team in NHL history to reach 2,000 wins by downing the Vancouver Canucks 2-1. Flyers goalie Carter Hart made 41 saves to give his club their eighth straight win, moving them within five points of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler suffered a head injury during a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers (Photo via NHL Images).

Canucks defenseman Alex Edler left the game after falling awkwardly and striking his face on the ice. Edler was sent to a hospital for a CT scan on his face and head. Goalie Thatcher Demko also suffered a leg injury during pregame warmups, while Sven Baertschi was sent back to Vancouver earlier in the day for tests potentially related to a concussion suffered five weeks ago.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing Edler for a significant period would be a devastating blow to the Canucks’ playoff hopes. Meanwhile, the Flyers are clawing their way back into the playoff chase after being given up for dead a month ago. 

Jake Muzzin collected his first points (one goal, two assists) with the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 6-1 drubbing of the Anaheim Ducks, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson scored twice and set up two others. Ryan Kesler returned to the Ducks lineup after being sidelined for five games. 

Tyler Toffoli scored in overtime as the Los Angeles Kings edged the New York Rangers 4-3. Adrian Kempe scored two goals for the Kings while Mike Zibanejad set a Rangers’ record with a point in 10 straight team goals. 

A four-goal third-period enabled the Dallas Stars to squeak by the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 and pick up their fifth straight win. Tyler Seguin tallied the game-winner. Oliver Ekman-Larsson set a franchise record for Coyotes defenseman by scoring his 109th career goal. Stars forward Brett Ritchie was ejected from the game for a dangerous hit on Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski, forcing the latter from the game. 

Winnipeg Jets forward Jack Roslovic, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, and New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 3.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens forward Paul Byron could be sidelined for weeks with an injured left forearm. 

TSN: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrei Sekera has been assigned to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors on a two-week conditioning stint. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals yesterday announced the re-signing of backup goalie Pheonix Copley to a three-year, $3.3-million contract extension.