NHL Rumor Mill – October 4, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – October 4, 2023

Check out the latest on Alexis Lafreniere, the Oilers’ goaltending, Patrick Kane, Marc-Andre Fleury, a couple of Leafs’ trade candidates and more in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Stan Fischler and Stefen Rosner with a roundup of trade and free agent rumors this week. Among the notables:

Alexis Lafreniere’s struggles with the New York Rangers don’t seem to be letting up and it might be best for both sides to part ways soon. The 21-year-old former first-overall pick should still fetch plenty in a trade and he could be a good fit with the Montreal Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have tried playing Lafreniere on right wing during this preseason (and in previous seasons) but the results have been underwhelming. It’s still too early to hit the panic button as general manager Chris Drury could prefer seeing how he performs in the upcoming regular season.

New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere (NHL Images).

Nevertheless, Drury’s patience could run out if Lafreniere doesn’t improve as the coming campaign progresses. The Canadiens could be among the interested clubs though they’re going to give 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky as well as Rafael Harvey-Pinard plenty of looks as their middle-six left wingers. Still, Habs president of hockey ops Jeff Gorton could contact Drury if Lafreniere became available. Gorton drafted Lafreniere while serving as Rangers GM in 2020.

There will be clubs willing to bet on Lafreniere benefitting from a change of scenery and an opportunity to earn full-time second-line minutes in his natural position at left wing. However, his trade value for the Rangers will suffer if his play shows no sign of real improvement.

The onus is going to be on Stuart Skinner to backstop the Edmonton Oilers into the Stanley Cup Final. If he struggles this season, however, Oilers GM Ken Holland could be forced into the trade market. Jack Campbell cannot do the job full-time despite his $20 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner played well enough last season to become a finalist for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year but he wilted under the heat of playoff pressure. Meanwhile, Campbell struggled through his first season with the Oilers but played well spelling off Skinner in the postseason.

Campbell has solid stats in previous playoff competitions with a career 2.28 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. If he can wrest back the starter’s job this season, maybe he can carry them to the Final.

For now, the Oilers’ goalie situation remains a question mark. If Campbell and Skinner both struggle this season, Holland could have a difficult time finding a suitable short-term starter by the March trade deadline.

It’s possible Patrick Kane could end up with the Rangers this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule it out but their limited cap space will make it difficult to outbid other clubs.

Maybe Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois is thinking about Marc-Andre Fleury now that Andrei Vasilevskiy is sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury isn’t going anywhere. Even if he agreed to waive his no-movement clause, his $3.5 million cap hit is too expensive for the cap-strapped Lightning to absorb. The Wild have no reason to peddle Fleury. He’ll serve as Filip Gustavsson’s backup and mentor for the coming season.

The Athletic reportedly has Calle Jarnkrok or T.J. Brodie getting traded this season by the Toronto Maple Leafs to relieve their cap issues. The Anaheim Ducks are one reported destination.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brodie currently skates alongside Morgan Rielly on their top defense pairing so I doubt he gets shopped. Jarnkrok is their utility forward on their checking lines. He’d be the more likely trade option but the Leafs could consider other cost-cutting choices.

The Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks are supposedly talking.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if Shane Pinto or Mathieu Joseph are the subjects of their conversations. The Senators are believed to be peddling Joseph to free up cap room to sign Pinto.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 14, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 14, 2022

The Avalanche point streak reaches 19 games, Jeff Skinner scores four goals against the Canadiens and Sidney Crosby reaches a multi-point milestone. Details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche’s points streak reached 19 games (17-0-2) after blanking the Dallas Stars 4-0. Darcy Kuemper turned in a 23-save shutout, Gabriel Landeskog scored twice and Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist in his return to action after being sidelined since late January by a concussion and broken nose. With 72 points, the Avalanche opened a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings. The Stars (52 points) remain three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner (NHL Images).

Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner scored four goals and collected an assist to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Teammate Alex Tuch picked up three assists. The Habs have lost 10 in a row. Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot missed this game and was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and is expected to miss one week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A one-week absence isn’t likely to dampen interest in Chiarot in the trade market or hurt his value. It could perhaps hasten the Canadiens’ efforts to find a suitable trade partner for the pending free-agent defenseman.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had two assists as his club doubled up the New Jersey Devils 4-2. It was Crosby’s 409th career multi-point game, moving him into 11th on the all-time list. Bryan Rust, Brian Boyle and Mike Matheson each had a goal and an assist. With the win, the Penguins move into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 68 points.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg kicked out 33 shots to upset the Washington Capitals 4-1. Brady Tkachuk and Connor Brown each had a goal and an assist for the Senators. The Capitals have lost five straight home games and hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 61 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have struggled of late with goaltending being one of the issues behind their slump. That’s sparked speculation over whether they’ll pursue an upgrade like Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury before the March 21 trade deadline.

Senators forward Austin Watson missed this game and will miss his club’s next contest after receiving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Boston Bruins defenseman Jack Achan on Saturday.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 9, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 9, 2021

Check out the latest on Evander Kane, Alex Edler, Patrick Maroon and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka examined possible ways an NHL player could “throw” a game. San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is facing allegations from his estranged wife that he conspired with bookies to fix games.

San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane (NHL Images).

Taking unnecessary penalties, a reduction in ice time and a lack of offense are three ways a skater could throw a game. While Kane took 28 penalty minutes in his first 13 games last season, he drew only 14 in his final 43 games. He was also the Sharks’ highest-scoring player and led all their forwards in ice time, playing in all situations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pashelka interviewed a former NHL player about the allegations. He doubted a skater could throw a game because there are too many variables involved, adding the only player capable of doing so would be the goaltender.

The league is investigating the allegations leveled at Kane which it intends to complete before training camp opens next month.

THE PROVINCE: Steve Ewen reported former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler said he received a contract offer from the club but didn’t get into the details. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He admitted the past season played a part in his decision to move on. “For me and the team, I don’t think anyone was happy with last year,” he said. “I think it was just a weird year. I didn’t have as much fun as I’ve had before playing hockey.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ewen reminded us that the Canucks lost several key players last fall to free agency, the club struggled through a COVID-19 outbreak and they struggled in the standings, failing to make the playoffs.

THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Patrick Maroon believes his club can win a third straight Stanley Cup next season. “It depends on our health, how guys are feeling, our attitude,” he said. “But we’ve been texting together as a group and thinking, we’ve brought our top two lines back, our big four on D, the best goalie in the world.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Salary-cap constraints have chipped away at the Lightning’s depth this summer. They lost Yanni Gourde to the Seattle Kraken to the expansion draft, Tyler Johnson to Chicago in a cost-cutting trade, and David Savard, Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, Luke Schenn and Curtis McElhinney to free agency. They brought in cost-effective veterans such as Corey Perry, Zach Bogosian, Brian Elliott and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to plug the gaps. Nevertheless, they’re going to have to rebuild their third line from within while relying more heavily on their top players.

Still, it would be folly to dismiss the Lightning as a serious Cup contender this season. Led by their core of forwards Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, defensemen Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, they’re in a very good position to become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups since the 1981-82 New York Islanders.

SPORTSNET: Anders Nilsson announced his retirement due to post-concussion symptoms and neck problems. He spent seven seasons with the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. In 161 games played, he had a record of 59 wins, 74 losses and 15 overtime losses, with a 3.06 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and six shutouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Nilsson in his future endeavors. Here’s hoping his health eventually improves.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed goaltender Stuart Skinner to a two-year, two-way contract worth $750K per season at the NHL level.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2021

Shea Weber faces career-threatening injuries, Jeff Skinner waives NMC for the expansion draft, Patrik Laine ties his struggles this season to John Tortorella, and the latest on Gabriel Landeskog, Steven Stamkos, Brandon Carlo and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Various injuries threaten to end Shea Weber’s playing career. The Canadiens captain could miss all of next season, if not more. He’s been hampered by foot, ankle, knee and thumb injuries in recent years. As a result, the Habs might not protect the 35-year-old defenseman in the upcoming expansion draft.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the left ankle and foot injuries are what could derail Weber’s career. He’s been dealing with those issues since 2018. His medical history creates a legitimate case for him to go on long-term injury reserve if he cannot play again. The league will make that determination and the process, which also involves Weber, his agent, the Canadiens and the NHLPA, is underway.

Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a devastating blow for Weber and the Canadiens. Despite his age, he’s been their unquestioned leader and the linchpin of their blueline. He’s played through injuries that would sideline most players but that wear and tear could be catching up with him.

Weber has five years remaining on his contract. He could retire if his ankle/foot injuries prevent him from playing again, but that would result in a huge salary-cap recapture penalty for his former club, the Nashville Predators. They matched the offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. Placing him on permanent LTIR would enable the Predators to avoid that penalty while also providing the Canadiens with over $7.8 million in annual cap relief if needed.

For now, it appears Weber could miss all of next season, including the playoffs. That will push the Canadiens into the trade or free-agent market for a replacement, though finding someone of Weber’s caliber will be a daunting challenge.

Weber’s status makes it unlikely the Seattle Kraken will select him if he’s left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft.

Speaking of the Canadiens, they signed assistant coach Luke Richardson to a three-year contract extension.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner has agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft. It’s extremely unlikely the Kraken will select Skinner, who’s carrying a $9 million annual salary-cap hit over the next six seasons. The move will instead enable the Sabres to protect another player in the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per expansion draft rules, players with NMCs must be protected unless they agree to waive the clause. The deadline to ask players to waive those clauses was two days ago. Players asked to do so must reach a decision by Friday.

Speaking of players and no-movement clauses, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle was not asked to waive theirs for the expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pointless to do so when you know the answer is, “Oh hell, no!” Or words to that effect.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine told a Finnish media outlet he laid part of the blame for his disappointing performance this season at the feet of former Jackets coach John Tortorella. Laine said Tortorella didn’t allow him the freedom to be creative offensively because of the coach’s desire for everyone to play a two-way game.

Laine said he understood the need for a tight system and he does what coaches tell him to do. However, he also believes they should give players the opportunity to use their strengths. “I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and do things my way. Everyone should be given the opportunity to be themselves.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what weight Laine’s comments have in his contract negotiations with Jackets’ management. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

The report also noted Laine made a disrespectful comment toward Brad Larsen (then an assistant coach) during a game this season, leading to Tortorella benching the winger. Larsen is now the Jackets’ head coach but the article cited sources saying the incident was quickly resolved with no lingering issues between the two.

THE ATHLETIC: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is unhappy he doesn’t have a new contract yet with the club. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. “I can’t help but be honest with you that I’m a little bit disappointed that it’s gotten this far and it’s had to come to this point,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talks are reportedly ongoing between the two sides but they’re not yet close to a deal. Salary cap constraints are an issue here. The Avalanche must also re-sign Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar and Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed defenseman Brandon Carlo to a six-year, $24.6 million contract. The annual average value is $4.1 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable contract for the 24-year-old Carlo, who’s coming off a two-year deal worth $2.85 million annually. The only concern here is his injury history. He played in just 27 games this season. When healthy, however, he’s an effective shutdown defenseman.

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller announced his retirement after seven NHL seasons, citing health issues after battling injuries the past two seasons. He played 352 games for the Bruins, tallying 72 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Miller in his future endeavors.

TSN: It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could lose two Zachs to free agency on July 28. The Leafs remain far apart in contract talks with winger Zach Hyman while all indications suggest defenseman Zach Bogosian will head to the open market.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $2.2 million.

THE SCORE: Lightning winger Pat Maroon admitted he was the one who accidentally damaged the bowl of the Stanley Cup during the club’s victory celebration in Tampa on Monday. He was attempting to lift the Cup and slipped on the wet stage and fell backward. It was raining at the time of the incident.

NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl was asked if Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula intend to sell the franchise. He said the club isn’t for sale but that hasn’t stop prospective buyers from calling. He doesn’t think the Pegulas have any plans to sell.

Could Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel get traded this summer? (NHL Images)

Asked about Jack Eichel’s contract, Vogl said the captain’s no-movement clause kicks in with the 2022-23 season. That would limit where the Sabres could trade Eichel if things reached the point where he had to be moved.

Asked if Eichel’s played his final game with the Sabres, Vogl guesses no. The clock isn’t ticking this summer on trading their captain. They can take this summer if they wish to weigh offers, see what happens with Eichel and the team next season, and decide his fate after that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if some clubs make inquiries this summer about Eichel’s availability and the asking price. Perhaps one of them will make a pitch too good to pass up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume it’s a certainty Eichel will be traded unless the Sabres captain wants out.

Vogl believes the Sabres will do everything they can to re-sign Linus Ullmark. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doing so could cost $5 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether they re-sign Ullmark or look elsewhere for a starter they better find a reliable backup. Carter Hutton is a UFA and won’t be back. Dustin Tokarski is signed through next season at $725 and has looked ok in an emergency call-up role but can they depend on him over a full season? Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, is in their system but might not be NHL-ready yet.

Vogl doubts there’s a viable way for the Sabres to shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. No club except the Seattle Kraken can afford Skinner’s long-term cap space. Buying out Okposo wouldn’t make sense until 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s signed through 2026-27 with a $9 million annual average value and a full no-movement clause. Okposo’s got two more seasons left at $6 million annually and a 15-team no-trade list.

I don’t see the Kraken having any interest in Skinner even if he agreed to waive his NMC and I doubt they’ll take Okposo off the Sabres’ hands unless there’s a significant sweetener involved.

Maybe the Sabres can get creative by working out a three-way trade where they absorb half of Skinner’s or Okposo’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. However, that would still leave some significant dead cap space on the Sabres books for a long time, especially where Skinner’s contract is concerned.

The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames might be willing to entertain offers for Matthew Tkachuk if they decide to make significant changes to their underachieving roster.

Matthew, however, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer and I believe he’ll be only a year away from UFA eligibility. Any team interested in acquiring him this summer will want to know if he’d be interested in a contract extension. Otherwise, you risk losing him for nothing in two years’ time if he’s unwilling to accept more than a one-year contract next summer.

The Sabres could use a good right-winger. That would allow Victor Olofsson to move to his natural left side.

Five Surprises So Far From the NHL East Division

Five Surprises So Far From the NHL East Division