Pietrangelo, Hall, Krug Top The Latest NHL Free Agent Speculation
Entering the second day of the 2020 Draft, here’s a look at the latest trade and free agent speculation in the NHL rumor mill.
EKMAN-LARSSON SETS TRADE DEADLINE
THE SCORE: Brandon Maron cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the agent for defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will stick with the Arizona Coyotes if a trade to the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks doesn’t materialize by Friday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t give Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong much time to hammer out a deal with the Bruins or Canucks. It could also affect what type of return he could get. Depending on how much pressure Armstrong’s getting from Coyotes ownership to move Ekman-Larsson’s contract, he could end up getting a lot less than he hoped.
Coyotes insider Craig Morgan believes Armstrong seeks a combination of draft picks and prospects for Ekman-Larsson. He cites two sources claiming Armstrong sought goalie Thatcher Demko as part of the return from the Canucks but that’s a non-starter. Morgan also noted the Bruins have two good young players in winger Jake DeBrusk and defenseman Brandon Carlo that could interest the Coyotes if they’re looking to do more than just shed salary and look for a brighter future down the road.
LAINE LINKED TO FLYERS
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall notes the latest trade speculation linking the Flyers to Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine but he thinks we should pump the brakes on that speculation. He believes it could cost the Flyers a good young defenseman such as Travis Sanheim or Philippe Myers or possibly a good young center off their roster or in their system. The economic uncertainty facing the league going forward could also make it difficult for the Flyers to re-sign Laine, who’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher probably inquired into Laine’s availability but he could face paying a steep price. The Jets need a second-line center and a top-four defenseman and the asking price for Laine could include one or both of those pieces. The young sniper could also seek a significant raise over his current $6.75 million cap hit.
LATEST ON STAMKOS AND JOHNSON
TSN: Pierre LeBrun acknowledged the speculation that Steven Stamkos isn’t listed among the Tampa Bay Lightning’s untouchables. However, he considers it unlikely Stamkos will be moved, citing his expensive contract (with a full no-movement clause) and his value to the Lightning as their captain.
However, the Lightning are pressing on with other possible moves. LeBrun reports Tyler Johnson’s agent has presented general manager Julien BriseBois with five or six teams he’d waive his no-trade clause for, though nothing is currently imminent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Stamkos is traded. Johnson, on the other hand, sounds more of a trade possibility now that he’s provided Bolts management with a list of preferred trade destinations. Now BriseBois has to determine if any of those teams are interested in Johnson, who has four years left on his contract with an annual average value of $5 million. The Lightning are looking to shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev.
UPDATES ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Frank Seravalli reports moving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is the No.1 priority for the Vegas Golden Knights. GM Kelly McCrimmon is trying to shed salary and he’s been engaged with a number of teams (including the Carolina Hurricanes) to act as a third party to take on some of Fleury’s salary to facilitate a trade to another club. The Golden Knights are willing to offer up a second-round pick to that third team if they’ll eat up to half of Fleury’s salary, but Seravalli believes that price would have to be a first- and a second-round pick.
Seravalli also reported the Golden Knights had had trade talks regarding defenseman Nate Schmidt over the weekend. They could also consider moving Paul Stastny or Jonathan Marchessault.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They could have an easier time moving Schmidt, Stastny or Marchessault than they would shipping out Fleury if it takes a three-way trade to do so. Trying to put together that deal would be a complicated endeavor at the best of times. It’s more difficult now under a flattened salary cap. The Golden Knights will either have to add more sweeteners or pick up part of Fleury’s salary themselves and then make another cost-cutting move involving a different player.
IN OTHER RUMORS…
LeBrun said he’s keeping an eye on Buffalo Sabres winger Wayne Simmonds, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday and is likely headed to market. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are said to be interested in Simmonds for the right price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun claimed the Canadiens were still interested in Simmonds despite the acquisition yesterday of Josh Anderson. The right price could be a one-year contract worth around $1.5 million.
Seravalli also wondered if the Columbus Blue Jackets will buy out center Alexander Wennberg before the contract buyout window closes at 5 pm ET on Thursday. A buyout would save the Blue Jackets $10.7 million in actual cash and $4.46 million in cap savings over the next three years.
THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary cites The Athletic’s Craig Custance reporting Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli is likely headed to the UFA market on Friday.
Hearing CHI/PIT had Matt Murray conversations and the Blackhawks had permission to discuss an extension. Things did not work out, so everyone continues examining their options.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 5, 2020
Could the Penguins trade Kris Letang? Are the Blackhawks trying to re-sign Corey Crawford? Could Wayne Simmonds join the Leafs? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE PENGUINS TRADE LETANG?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi reports Kris Letang would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin but feels the club could try to trade him. Neither ownership nor management feels the club would be better without Letang and the return of Todd Reirden as an assistant coach could benefit the 33-year-old defenseman.
Nevertheless, Rossi cites multiple team sources saying Letang expects to be traded. League sources claim Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was gauging the market value of the veteran blueliner but he’s not actively shopping him. Rutherford reportedly confided to associates that the right thing is for Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins-for-life.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t dismiss the possibility of Letang getting traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suiting up with the Penguins next season.
Letang’s contract won’t be easy to move. He has two years remaining on his contract worth $7.25 million per season. He also has an 18-team no-trade list and a no-movement clause preventing him from being demoted to the minors. The flattened salary cap for 2020-21 will also affect his trade value.
I don’t fault Rutherford for exploring the trade market to see what’s out there for Letang. He probably doesn’t think he’ll find a suitable deal but it doesn’t hurt to consider that option. Maybe a club on the blueliner’s list of preferred trade destinations makes an offer too good to pass up.
BLACKHAWKS MAKE OFFER TO CRAWFORD
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to have offered Corey Crawford a one-year contract worth around $3.5 million. The 35-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford’s completing a six-year, $36-million contract worth $6 million annually, but he knows he’s not getting that much for an annual average value again. The netminder is also aware of the Hawks’ cap constraints. Maybe he takes the hometown discount on a one-year deal, especially if that $3.5-million offer is the base salary for a bonus-laden deal.
SIMMONDS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOING THE LEAFS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Wayne Simmonds believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team where he could have an impact right away. The 32-year-old winger is a UFA on Oct. 9 and spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. He recently moved his family north of Toronto and spends a lot of time in the city.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds also indicated he’s open to everything as free agency approaches. “Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go,” he told LeBrun. He’s also aware of the cap constraints facing the Leafs and other teams for next season.
Injuries hampered Simmonds’ performance over the past two years, limiting his effectiveness as a power forward. Still, he could be an affordable signing for clubs seeking veteran grit and leadership. Maybe a cap-strapped club like the Leafs comes calling.
THE LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports re-signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom is the top priority for Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning. It’s believed the Markstrom camp seeks over $6-million annually while the Canucks are believed to have countered with $5.5 million per season.
Re-signing Markstrom could affect the rest of the roster. Johnston also points out the Canucks are unlikely to keep Markstrom and promising goalie Thatcher Demko in next year’s expansion draft.
Johnston also reports Jake Virtanen could be shopped in the trade market. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but with Benning hoping to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli, Virtanen would be demoted to third- or fourth-line duty. Benning indicated they’ve been patient with Virtanen but was expecting more production from the winger, especially in the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $64.4 million invested in 16 players next season, a deal worth over $6 million annually for Markstrom will bite deeply into the Canucks’ remaining cap space. So will a new contract for Toffoli.
Trading Virtanen would allow money that would’ve gone to him be put toward re-signing Toffoli or another player. However, Benning still must shed salary to absorb new contracts for Markstrom and Toffoli and leave sufficient room for other moves.
Benning’s reportedly attempted to move winger Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually through 2021-22) without success. Brandon Sutter ($4.35 million) could be another trade candidate. The Canucks GM might get some wiggle room if Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million AAV through 2022-23) starts the season on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to make cap room for Ferland’s return.
The latest on Kyle Palmieri, a busy off-season faces Sabres new GM Kevyn Adams and a brief note on Chris Tanev in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PALMIERI HOPES TO REMAIN A DEVIL
NORTHJERSEY.COM/NJ.COM: Nick Gantaifis and Randy Miller report Kyle Palmieri hopes to remain part of the New Jersey Devils’ rebuilding plans. The 29-year-old winger is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
“Without a doubt,” Palmieri said Tuesday in a media conference call. “I do love being in New Jersey. I love being close to home. And I have a ton of belief in this organization moving forward as to what we’re building, and I hope to be a part of it.”
Gantaifis notes Palmieri and the Devils might ordinarily open contract extension talks on July 1. Given the uncharacteristic and premature start to the off-season, that target date remains uncertain.
“It’s a big unknown,” Palmieri said. “Obviously, the calendar and important dates haven’t really been set yet. There’s so much up in the air and so much to figure out as far as the return to play and figuring all that stuff out.”
Miller suggests Chris Kreider would be a good comparable for Palmieri. The New York Rangers winger signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension in February. Both are the same age and have roughly similar stats. Kreider’s averaged 23 goals and 46 points over the past five seasons, while Palmieri’s averaged 26 goals and 50 points since 2015-16.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kreider is a fair comparison for Palmieri. With over $36 million invested in eight players for 2021-22, the Devils can easily afford to pay Palmieri over $7 million annually.
Of course, that figure will rise this year because of their anticipated re-signings of key free agents such as Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt. It could go significantly higher if they bring in talent via trades or free agency in the off-season A flat salary-cap for 2021-22 could also affect the Devils cap room.
Palmieri’s contract talks also remain in limbo because ownership hasn’t decided if interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald will stay in that role on a full-time basis. A new GM could have a different opinion of Palmieri’s value. If so, we could hear his name mentioned a lot as the 2021 trade deadline rolls around.
NEW SABRES GM FACES A BUSY OFF-SEASON
THE SCORE: John Matisz examined a lengthy to-do list for Kevyn Adams, who was named earlier this week as the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.
Re-signing winger Sam Reinhart and goaltender Linus Ullmark to fair deals, being cautious with pending UFAs like Wayne Simmonds and Michael Frolik, and sorting out the future of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen are among the key issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart and Ullmark are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. As one of the Sabres’ leading scorers, Reinhart will likely seek a multi-year deal worth around $6 million annually. Ullmark has less of an established body of NHL work on his resume, giving Adams more leverage in negotiations.
Matisz pointed out Adams has no previous ties to Simmonds and Frolik. He could opt to cut them loose and pursue better UFA options.
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger recently expressed his wish to coach Ristolainen again next season. We’ll find out soon enough how much sway he has with his new boss.
.@DhaliwalSports suggests Nikita Truamkin would be looking for a one-year deal, in the range of $2-3m.
Rick says uncertainty over the cap is holding it up
Rick also says reports of Chris Tanev being willing to take a one-year deal are incorrect. “Misquoted”
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) June 9, 2020
Should the Oilers re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Which notable players should the Sabres retain? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.
SHOULD THE OILERS RE-SIGN NUGENT-HOPKINS ASAP?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell called upon the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once this season is over. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Mitchell cited Nugent-Hopkins’ improved offensive game skating on the wing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. A big offensive performance next season could make re-signing him more difficult. He suggested inking Nugent-Hopkins to a six-year, $45-million extension, which would equate to an annual average value of $7.5 million.
Mitchell believes the idea of moving Nugent-Hopkins at next season’s trade deadline is noxious to Oilers’ fans. He feels the Oilers will never get full value back by moving him as a playoff rental. He thinks there’s no one in the Oilers’ system to adequately replace the versatile forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the previous two seasons. His solid play this season and the Oilers’ improvement in the standings silenced that chatter for the most part. However, he could resurface in next season’s rumor mill he’s still unsigned as the trade deadline approaches.
As Mitchell observes, the salary cap will determine what the Oilers can afford to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48 million invested in nine players for 2021-22.
Some of that cap room will be taken up this year by re-signing or replacing such notables as Mike Smith, Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Riley Sheahan. Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell will be among those due for new contracts in 2021.
Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2021-22, there should be enough to accommodate a $7.5 million AAV for Nugent-Hopkins. His performance next season will also be a determining factor.
LATEST ON THE SABRES
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski and Mike Harrington weighed in on which notable players the Sabres should retain.
They were split on Rasmus Ristolainen, as Lysowski pointed to the regression in the blueliner’s play. Moving him could fetch some scoring help and free up cap room to sign a free-agent rearguard like Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen often comes up as a Sabres’ trade candidate. However, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger indicated last week they still consider the 25-year-old defenseman among their core players. If so, that suggests Ristolainen won’t be shopped.
Both believe Brandon Montour should be traded. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent and they feel there’s no room for his style of play in Krueger’s system. He could bring the Sabres a second- or third-line forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have depth on the blueline but need more on their forward lines. If Ristolainen isn’t shopped, Montour could become the likely candidate. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility and has arbitration rights this year. Ristolainen, on the other hand, is under contract through 2021-22.
They also split on Jimmy Vesey, with Harrington believing he’s not the scoring winger he was projected to become.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Harrington on this one. A highly-touted college player, Vesey’s struggled in the NHL.
Both believe the Sabres should re-sign UFA winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year deal, part ways with UFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Michael Frolik, and Vladimir Sobotka, and attempt to trade goalie Carter Hutton.