NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2020

The latest on the Canadiens and an update on Tyson Barrie in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked what he thought Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was doing in Colorado before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic dismissed the speculation at the time, pointing out Bergevin’s daughter attends Colorado University, but Engels indicated that didn’t explain why Canadiens’ assistant GM Scott Mellanby accompanied him on that trip.

Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi (Photo via NHL Images).

Engels believes something was brewing between the two clubs before the deadline, though he’s not certain what might’ve been discussed. “What I would say, however, is that some seeds were likely planted and we could see something materialize between these teams at some point this off-season,” he said. “There are multiple scenarios that make them good trading partners.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin’s visit to Colorado sparked plenty of wild speculation before the trade deadline. Canadiens like Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Jeff Petry, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, and even Carey Price were bandied about in the rumor mill, while Philipp Grubauer, Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves, and Nikita Zadorov were mentioned as potential Avs trade candidates.

Maybe the Canadiens and Avalanche will hammer out a major deal before next season, or maybe their rumored trade talks in February will come to nothing. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Asked about the possibility of the Canadiens bringing back Mikhail Sergachev by signing the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman to an offer sheet, Engels thinks it would be too expensive, perhaps costing around $8 million annually plus the loss of a first, a second, and a third-round pick as compensation if the Bolts didn’t match. Instead, the Habs could keep an eye on which players the Lightning might shop in a cost-cutting deal to free up the cap room to re-sign Sergachev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev would have to be receptive to signing an offer sheet in the first place. If he isn’t, it’s a waste of time pursuing that plan. As Engels points out, the Habs could instead look at acquiring someone like Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, or Tyler Johnson if the Bolts put one of them on the trade block. Those four, however, have no-trade protection, meaning one of them would have to agree to be traded to Montreal.

Engels was asked about the long-term futures of Domi and Tatar in Montreal. He feels if Domi, a restricted free agent, was trending toward a one-year deal before the season was paused, it’s difficult to imagine he’ll get a longer-term offer now. Tatar, a UFA next summer, may have been on his way to pricing himself out of Montreal, but a flat cap beyond next season could make it difficult for him to get that type of deal. Engels likes the chances of both staying in Montreal next season.


THE SCORE: Matt Teague reports Tyson Barrie admitted he’s facing uncertainty following this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent, but the current pause of the schedule means it’s yet to be determined when he’ll be heading to market. “It’s a weird time to be heading into free agency,” Barrie said, adding his current focus is on helping the Leafs make a playoff run whenever this season resumes.

Regarding possible destinations as a free agent, Barrie indicated he’ll be seeking a team looking for a defenseman with his skills. “A good team headed in the right direction and a good organization,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of right organizations that tick those boxes.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Vancouver Canucks could be one of those clubs. Barrie was born in Victoria, BC, and makes his off-season home there. He was linked to the Canucks before the trade deadline.  He could be a fit as a right-side defenseman if they part ways with Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher in the off-season.



NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Tampa Bay Lightning


NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2020

Possible Lightning trade candidates, Jeff Carter’s future with the Kings, and the latest Predators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Smith believes the Tampa Bay Lightning’s salary-cap crunch for 2020-21 will see Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, and Yanni Gourde surface in trade rumors. The Bolts must free up salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev.

Could Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson become an off-season cost-cutting candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

Killorn will have a modified no-trade clause starting in 2020-21, while Johnson and Gourde have full no-trade clauses. If teams are granted compliance buyouts this summer and the Lightning get desperate, Smith could see Johnson and Gourde among the candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve read some pundits suggesting teams with lots of picks, prospects or affordable young players should make trade proposals for Cirelli or Sergachev. Some have also suggested signing one or both to offer sheets.

We can’t dismiss these options, but I don’t see either one happening. The Bolts don’t appear interested in trading Cirelli and Sergachev, and those two might not be receptive to offer sheets.

Smith isn’t saying Killorn, Johnson, or Gourde will be traded. He’s merely suggesting they’ll pop up in off-season speculation. Nevertheless, something’s gotta give for the Lightning to re-sign Sergachev and Cirelli.

Killorn would be the easiest to move, freeing up $4.45 million in cap space. Johnson or Gourde might be willing to accept a trade, but I daresay they’ll have only a handful of preferred destinations. Compliance buyouts are possible, but they’re not a certainty at this point.


NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently reported a core muscle injury will keep Jeff Carter out of the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup if the regular season resumes this summer. He wondered if the constant losing of the last three seasons is wearing on the 35-year-old center as much as the physical wear-and-tear, suggesting perhaps a “soft retirement” via long-term injury reserve.

Carter’s annual cap hit for the next two seasons is $5.275 million, but his actual salary is $2 million per season. Trading his contract to a budget team would be a logical way for the Kings to free up additional salary-cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will be up to Carter. If he wants to keep playing beyond this season, the LTIR option is out. He lacks no-trade protection but could be reluctant to uproot himself and his family, hence last season’s speculation suggesting he might retire if traded. 


THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked about the chances of the Nashville Predators moving on with Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith next season. Both forwards are unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

Should the salary cap remain at $81.5 million, Vingan believes the Predators probably won’t have enough cap room to re-sign both. He feels it would be easier to re-sign Smith as he won’t cost as much as Granlund.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 28, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Canadiens, Rangers, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked about backup goaltender options for the Montreal Canadiens. The Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin a prime target but would the Canadiens pay more than the $2.5 million AAV he currently earns when they’re paying Carey Price $10.5 million annually? Engels thinks they have the cap flexibility to do it.

Engels felt the Canadiens should consider trading Brett Kulak because they’ve got Alexander Romanov coming next season. Kulak’s affordable contract ($1.85 million AAV through 2021-22) could net the Habs some help elsewhere on the roster. He also feels it’s all but assured winger Ilya Kovalchuk rejoins the Canadiens in the off-season as an unrestricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I also believe the Canadiens should make a serious effort to sign Khudobin. They need a skilled, experienced backup to spell off Price over the next couple of seasons under promising Cayden Primeau is fully ready for prime time.

Kulak might not fetch much, but with some teams potentially looking to shed salary under a possible flat cap next season, maybe he could fetch a decent depth player. Kovalchuk should be an affordable, short-term signing on a one-year, bonus-laded deal.

TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie still believes the Canadiens should bring back former Hab Mikhail Sergachev by signing the young Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman to an offer sheet.

Should the Rangers buy out Henrik Lundqvist if the NHL allows for amnesty buyouts in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning has over $76 million invested in 16 players for next season, which explains why Sergachev could be a tempting offer-sheet target. However, that’s assuming he’s willing to listen to offers from rival clubs. If he’s not, it’ll be a waste of time. Besides, it’s assumed the Lightning could move a veteran like Alex Killorn in the off-season to make room to re-sign Sergachev.


NEW YORK POST: In a recent mailbag segment, Larry Brooks was asked If Henrik Lundqvist or Marc Staal would be the target of an amnesty buyout if the league allows such buyouts before next season. Buying out Lundqvist would free up $8.5 million for next season, compared to $5.7 million for Staal. “Sentiment aside, I do not think this would be a difficult choice,” replied Brooks.

Brooks admitted the possibility Lias Andersson could be in the Rangers’ 2020 training camp, but it would require a lot of work to breach the differences between the unhappy young winger and the organization, particularly with head coach David Quinn. He felt Andersson could be traded in the off-season as part of a bigger deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If amnesty buyouts are permitted this off-season, shedding Lundqvist’s cap hit makes the most sense. It would be a sad way for his career with the Blueshirts to end, but this is a business decision that would allow them salary-cap flexibility for 2020-21. As for Andersson, I’ll be surprised if he’s still with the Rangers’ organization next season.


THE MERCURY NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Curtis Pashelka was asked if Martin Jones would keep his job as the San Jose Sharks’ starting goalie next season. His guess is Jones will be back, but he also felt the Sharks must seek a goalie with NHL experience who can play 35-40 games. Braden Holtby could be out of their price range, but perhaps Robin Lehner or Cam Talbot fits the bill. Pashelka also doesn’t rule out Aaron Dell returning if Lehner or Talbot proves too expensive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby will be in the market for a lucrative long-term deal. Lehner could be more affordable, but he’ll also want some long-term security. Talbot might be the best option, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he remains with the Flames.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 11, 2020

Check out the recent Montreal Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Montreal Canadiens’ long-term needs. He feels they need to pay a handsome fee to bring in a suitable backup goaltender for starter Carey Price. The market could include such notables as Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, and former Habs playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.

Could next season be Brendan Gallagher’s last with the Montreal Canadiens? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Canadiens also lack proven snipers and more NHL-ready defensemen. O’Brien wondered if they should at least try a mini-reboot and sell off the likes of Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, and perhaps Brendan Gallagher.

THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu and Marc-Antoine Godin recently suggested the Canadiens are in a good position to take advantage of a potentially flat salary-cap for 2020-21. They would have flexibility other clubs wouldn’t have, making it possible to target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary before next season. They could also attempt to sign a rival club’s top restricted free agent with an offer sheet.

TVA SPORTS: Louis-André Larivière recently wondered if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might target Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev with an offer sheet. Bergevin traded Sergachev three years ago to the Lightning for Drouin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, with restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete their only notable players to be re-signed. Assuming both are inked for a combined $7 million, Bergevin will have around $11 million at his disposal. He could have more if each club gets a compliance buyout because of the effect upon league revenue by the coronavirus, or if the league and PA agree to a slightly higher artificial cap.

Bergevin must use that cap space to improve his roster. There will be teams looking to sell in the off-season. He would be wise to exploit that opportunity. Landing a quality player probably won’t cost a roster player. The Canadiens have considerable depth in draft picks to draw upon for trade bait. They hold 13 picks in rounds two through seven of this year’s draft, and seven picks in rounds three through five in 2021.

I agree with O’Brien regarding the need for a reliable backup. They’ve gone cheap in that department in recent years and it’s cost them whenever Price was struggling or sidelined. They cannot make that mistake again. Signing one of those UFA goalies listed by O’Brien would address that need.

Bringing back Sergachev via trade or offer sheet would go a long way toward boosting the Canadiens’ defense corps. However, I doubt Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has any intention of parting with him. An offer sheet only works if the targeted player is interested. Sergachev probably prefers playing on a Stanley Cup contender in a warm-weather, low-tax state. 

Bergevin resisted the temptation to shop Tatar and Petry at this year’s trade deadline. If the Canadiens are still outside the playoff picture before next season’s deadline, those two will likely hit the trade block. Gallagher, too, if the Habs aren’t willing to pony up big bucks to keep him in the fold. Drouin’s struggles and $5.5-million AAV through 2022-23 won’t be easy to move.

I believe 2020-21 is a make-or-break season for Bergevin. If the Habs aren’t in playoff contention by the middle of next season, he could be out of a job. Team president Geoff Molson has been very patient but I daresay he could reach his limit if the Habs remain outside the postseason picture.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 9, 2020

Off-season questions for several Atlantic Division clubs in the NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently posed one off-season question for each NHL Atlantic Division club. Among them:

Can the Boston Bruins afford to re-sign defenseman Torey Krug? (Photo via NHL Images).

What will the Boston Bruins do with Torey Krug? The 28-year-old defenseman is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s averaged 53 points per 82 games in his career. Krug is earning $5.25 million annually on his current contract but could receive upward of $7 million per on his next deal. The Bruins have over $22 million in salary-cap space but have other free agents (including winger Jake DeBrusk) to re-sign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug hinted earlier this season he wants to stay in Boston and was open to a hometown discount. I assume that could mean around $6.5 million annually. That would push the Bruins’ to nearly $68 million invested in 18 players, leaving around $13 million to re-sign (or replace) DeBrusk, Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, and Anders Bjork.

General manager Don Sweeney could use DeBrusk’s lack of arbitration rights to sign him to an affordable short-term deal, which could free up sufficient space to re-sign most of the others. Still, it could be a tight fit if the cap remains at $81.5 million.

Wegman wondered which defenseman the Buffalo Sabres could move, and how they’ll acquire a second-line center. This year’s UFA market won’t address the latter. The Sabres have plenty of depth in right-side defensemen, including Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour. Ristolainen seems the most likely to be shopped, but he won’t fetch that second-line center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wegman feels GM Jason Botterill will have to get creative. With over $47 million invested in 10 players, Botterill must also re-sign restricted free agents Montour, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Linus Ullmark, and Dominik Kahun.

He should have sufficient cap space to add a second-line center via trade. It might not cost him a defenseman if he targets a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary.

Citing a March edition of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, Wegman speculated over the possibility of the Florida Panthers breaking up their core. The club continues to struggle to reach the playoffs.

Wegman considers trading Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Aaron Ekblad as seemingly unthinkable, while blueliner Keith Yandle has a no-movement clause. Letting Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov depart via free agency might be as dramatic as it gets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Defenseman Mike Matheson could be shopped. He surfaced in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Panthers could revisit testing his value in the trade market during the off-season.

If owner Vinnie Viola wants to cut costs, Ekblad and Barkov lack no-trade protection. Unless those players want out of Florida, I don’t see them being moved.

Wegman pondered the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens attempting to sign another club’s top restricted free agent to an offer sheet. They have the cap space to sign someone like the New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal or the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens made a half-hearted attempt to sign away Sebastian Aho from the Carolina Hurricanes last summer. Unless GM Marc Bergevin is willing to make a truly mind-blowing offer, I doubt he’ll pry Barzal or Sergachev from their respective clubs. That’s assuming either guy is willing to sign an offer sheet in the first place.

How will the Tampa Bay Lightning get cap compliant? They have over $76 million invested in 15 players with five pending RFAs including Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli.

Wegman considers it unlikely Ondrej Palat or Tyler Johnson will waive their no-trade clauses. Winger Alex Killorn could become a cap casualty, as his full no-trade becomes a 16-team no-trade list following this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that Killorn seems the likely trade option. It’ll be interesting to see how Lightning GM Julien BriseBois handles this situation.

Wegman wondered how the Toronto Maple Leafs will address their defense with their limited cap space. RFAs Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev need to be re-signed, while UFA blueliners Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci must be replaced. He speculates they could shop a winger like Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen as part of a package for a top-four defenseman, but it won’t be easy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has no intention of shopping one of his top-four forwards (Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander), peddling Johnsson or Kapanen could be his only option to address his blueline situation.