NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2018

William Nylander’s contract impasse with the Leafs continues plus the Canadiens could be willing to move a forward. Details in your NHL rumor mill.


TSN: Darren Dreger reports being told there’s no progress in the contract impasse between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander. Both sides haven’t moved much from their opening positions, with the Leafs believed offering a six-year deal worth $6-million annually while the Nylander camp’s initial asking price was over $8-million annually.

For the Leafs, anything north of $6.5-million annually will affect contract negotiations with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who will become RFAs next summer.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites Pierre LeBrun discussing the Nylander standoff with Toronto’s TSN 1050 on Wednesday. He was asked if the Anaheim Ducks or Carolina Hurricanes might be trade options if the Leafs decide to go down that road with the 22-year-old forward.

The Ducks’ Brandon Montour and the Hurricanes’ Jaccob Slavin were mentioned by show host Gord Miller. LeBrun replied the Leafs spoke to the Hurricanes during the summer about Justin Faulk but it was a completely different situation that didn’t involve Nylander.  He doesn’t see the Hurricanes parting with Slavin.

No end in sight to William Nylander’s contract standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo via NHL Images)

Bob McKenzie talked about the Nylander situation Wednesday evening on NBCSN, asked if it was possible the Leafs might trade the youngster. McKenzie doesn’t believe they intend to move him as he’s seen as part of their roster core. Nylander doesn’t want to take a hometown discount only to be traded in a couple of years as salary-cap pressures mount for the Leafs.

TVA SPORTS: During a recent appearance on the show Dave Morrissette live, Renaud Lavoie said he believes the Leafs might have to trade Nylander if this standoff drags on.

Lavoie claimed there was a team that told him they would be very surprised if the Nashville Predators didn’t trade one of their defensemen because they’ll eventually have to do it one way or another. He felt they might be a good trade partner for the Leafs. Louis Jean suggests Mattias Ekholm would be the obvious trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There might not be any progress in Nylander’s contract negotiations but we’re already starting to see movement in the media rumor mill as some pundits start spitballing trade possibilities.

As McKenzie reminds us, the Leafs insist they don’t want to move Nylander. Maybe that’ll change when the calendar flips to November and the Dec. 1 deadline to get him signed approaches.

If the Hurricanes pursue Nylander they’ll likely offer up Faulk instead of Slavin. However, they’re off to a strong start and are among the league’s goal-scoring leaders. If that trend continues they won’t have any need to acquire a scoring forward like Nylander.

The Ducks could be worth watching as a possible trade destination for Nylander. They’re off to a better-than-expected start but that’s largely thanks to John Gibson’s goaltending and their penalty killing. Their puck-possession numbers aren’t pretty and key forwards such as Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, and Ondrej Kase remain sidelined. 

As for the Predators, I don’t think GM David Poile intends to break up his top-four defense. They helped the Preds reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and win their first Presidents’ Trophy last season. Granted, things can always change over the course of a long season. Poile has a reputation for making big moves that catch everyone off-guard, but I don’t think a Nylander-for-Ekholm swap is in the cards. 


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has informed teams that he’s available for business in terms of possibly trading a forward. Nikita Scherbak and Tomas Plekanec have been healthy scratches while sidelined forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Jacob de la Rose will be returning soon. The Canadiens could attempt to demote one of them but would risk losing them to another club via waivers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens won’t get much back if they place one of those guys on the trade block. They’ll likely get a draft pick or a minor leaguer. 


Where Do the Carolina Hurricanes Go From Here?

Where Do the Carolina Hurricanes Go From Here?

The Carolina Hurricanes surprised the NHL world last week by removing Ron Francis as general manager and making him president of hockey operations. The question now is, what direction will they take under his eventual replacement?

Francis’ “promotion” follows a similar path by the Florida Panthers two years ago. They kicked long-time general manager Dale Tallon upstairs in the president of hockey ops role and placed Tom Rowe into the GM chair.

That move lasted less than a year, during which the Panthers also dumped Gerard Gallant as head coach early in the 2016-17 campaign. They went on to miss the playoffs after winning the Atlantic Division crown in 2015-16 with a franchise-record 103-point performance. At season’s end, Tallon returned as general manager while Rowe was reduced to an advisory role.

Tom Dundon, who took over as majority owner in January, will try to avoid repeating that scenario. He apparently wasn’t pleased with Francis’ conservative style of team building. With the Hurricanes poised to miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year, Dundon felt the time was right for a management shakeup.

During Francis’ nearly four-year tenure as Hurricanes GM, he cleared up some much-needed salary-cap room and restocked their prospect pool. He also added scoring winger Teuvo Teravainen via trade and drafted winger Sebastian Aho and defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Francis, however, never made a player-for-player trade. He failed to adequately address the Hurricanes’ need for scoring punch, especially at center. Last summer’s acquisitions of goaltender Scott Darling and checking forwards Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris did nothing to improve the club’s fortunes.

The Hurricanes aren’t wasting time finding a replacement for Francis.


Whoever they hire will be expected to make some bold moves starting this summer. Dundon will likely want significant, immediate results for next season.

Determining the fate of head coach Bill Peters could be the first decision. While Peters avoided the ax this time, the new GM could prefer hiring his own coaching staff. Dundon probably won’t stand in his way.

Turning to the Hurricanes roster, Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48.4-million invested in 12 players for 2018-19. Restricted free agents include Hanifin, forward Elias Lindholm and blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk, while long-time Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and winger Lee Stempniak are the noteworthy unrestricted free agents.

The Hurricanes won’t have to break the bank re-signing their key free agents. Hanifin, 21, is blossoming into a solid top-four defenseman and could be in line for a significant raise. As he’s coming off an entry-level deal, the new GM could try re-signing him to a short-term bridge deal. He could also follow Francis’ lead and re-sign the youngster to a lengthy affordable long-term contract similar to those of blueliners Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.

Francis was reluctant to draw upon his blueline depth to bolster his offense, but his successor could be willing to go down that path. Hanifin, Slavin or Pesce could be dangled for an established young scorer. 

The Montreal Canadiens need defensive depth and forwards Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk were fixtures in this season’s trade-rumor mill. Perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs might part with William Nylander or Mitch Marner for someone such as Hanifin.

Another option could be free agency. If Dundon is willing to spend toward what could be an $80-million salary-cap ceiling, the Hurricanes will have plenty of dollars to bid competitively for the best UFA talent. Among their targets could be the New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, San Jose’s Evander Kane, Boston’s Rick Nash, Vegas’ James Neal or David Perron and Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny.

Having the ability to pay big bucks for the top free agents, however, doesn’t mean the Hurricanes will land any of them. It’ll take a considerable sell job to sway those veterans into joining a team struggling to emerge from nearly a decade of mediocrity. 

Goaltending will also be an issue for Francis’ successor. With Darling signed through 2020-21 at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.125-million and carrying a modified no-trade clause, shipping him out this summer could prove difficult. He’ll probably be retained for at least another season and given an opportunity to rebound from this season’s miserable effort. The 34-year-old Ward is well past his best-before date. He’ll likely be allowed to depart as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

This year’s free-agent goalie market, however, isn’t very deep, stocked with aging netminders past their prime (Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Ondrej Pavelec), veteran backups (Jonathan Bernier, Michael Hutchinson) and the once-promising Petr Mrazek. The trade market isn’t much better, with perhaps Buffalo’s Robin Lehner as the best of the bunch.

Dundon and new general manager must avoid the temptation to chase quick fixes via trades or free agency. Whatever moves they make must work for both the short and long term. They can’t fall into the trap of acquiring expensive veterans who become costly long-term busts, eating up valuable cap space and setting back their rebuilding efforts. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2017

Alex Ovechkin nets second straight hat trick, Panthers re-sign Michael Matheson & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin become the first NHL player in 100 years to net back-to-back hat tricks to open a season, scoring four times to lead his club to a 6-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Teammate Nate Walker also made history, becoming the first Australian to both play an NHL game and score a goal. 

Rookie defenseman Will Butcher made franchise history for the New Jersey Devils, collecting three assists to help his club defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1. The Devils got the victory despite losing veteran forwards Drew Stafford and Kyle Palmieri to lower-body injuries. Palmieri left the game following a knee-on-knee hit from Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, but it was ruled unintentional by the league and he won’t face supplemental discipline. 

Third-period goals by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs to a wild 8-5 win over the New York Rangers. Zach Hyman also scored twice for the Leafs, who led at one point 5-1 before the Rangers stormed back to tie the game in the second period. Mats Zuccarello netted four points in a losing cause for the Blueshirts. 

T.J. Brodie had a four-point night as the Calgary Flames downed the Winnipeg Jets 6-3. 

Bo Horvat scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Edmonton Oilers 3-2, holding Oilers captain Connor McDavid off the score sheet. 

John Tavares and Casey Cizikas each scored two goals to lead the New York Islanders to a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Evander Kane also scored twice for the Sabres. 

Anze Kopitar scored twice to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. 

Matt Murray turned in a 26-save shutout performance backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-0 blanking of the Nashville Predators. It was a costly win for the Pens, as defenseman Ian Cole left the game after being struck in the mouth by a Roman Josi shot. 

Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist in the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 thumping of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. 

James Neal was the offensive hero again for the Vegas Golden Knights, tallying in overtime to give the expansion team their second-straight win by nipping the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. 

Wayne Simmonds was the overtime hero as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.

Jake Allen made 38 saves as the St. Louis Blues doubled up the Dallas Stars 4-2. 

Jaccob Slavin’s shootout goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild. 

Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. 

Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad each had a goal and an assist as the Florida Panthers held on for a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the pregame anthem, Lightning forward J.T. Brown held a fist aloft in a silent protest against police brutality toward minorities and racial inequality. 

Before the game, the Panthers announced the signing of defenseman Michael Matheson to an eight-year, $39 million contract extension. The annual average value is $4.875 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Often overshadowed by teammate Aaron Ekblad, Matheson is a skilled puck-moving defenseman. I’d rank him as comparable to Carolina Hurricanes’ blueliner Jaccob Slavin, who also recently signed a lucrative contract extension. The Panthers obviously see Matheson playing a significant role on their blueline in the coming years.

Some might question why they didn’t sign him to a more affordable bridge deal. However, they’re simply following the recent trend of promising youngsters getting lucrative extensions before they’ve completed their entry-level contracts. Should Matheson develop as expected into a reliable top-pairing rearguard, this could prove to be an affordable long-term deal for the Panthers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins fourth-line forward Noel Acciari will be sidelined six weeks after fracturing his right index finger blocking a shot during the Bruins’ season-opener against Nashville on Thursday. 

SME SPORT: Former NHL center Zach Boychuk signed with the KHL’s HC Slovan Bratislava. (Stick tap to Alexander Wirdzek for the link). 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby wins his eighty ESPY Award as the NHL’s top player.

Latest on Sidney Crosby, Jaccob Slavin, Mark Streit and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

TSN: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby won the ESPY Award as the top NHL player, beating out Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky. It’s the eighth time Crosby’s won the award. 

NBC SPORTS: Speaking of Crosby, he said he wasn’t paying attention to those in the media questioning his health after he suffered a concussion during the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Penguins captain said he was focusing on helping his team win the Cup. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Crosby wasn’t following the media during the playoffs. But given how he was constantly questioned by reporters about his health after his return to action, he wasn’t oblivious to it. His concussion history ensures his physical well-being will remain a topic of interest among fans and pundits. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: And speaking of the Penguins, they re-signed Derrick Pouliot to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800K and Josh Archibald to a one-year, one-way deal worth $675K.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes announced they re-signed defenseman Jaccob Slavin to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract extension. The annual average value is $5.3 million and begins in 2018-19. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I love this signing by the Hurricanes. In just two seasons, the 23-year-old Slavin became an elite NHL defenseman and an invaluable core player for the Canes. They now have him under contract throughout his playing prime at a reasonable price. At his current rate of development, this new contract could turn into a bargain for Carolina. 

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens have offered unrestricted free agent defenseman Mark Streit a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The 39-year-old began his NHL career in Montreal, playing three season with the Habs. He split last season between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like Habs GM Marc Bergevin’s getting a little desperate in his search for an experienced defenseman. This could also cast further doubt upon the possibility of Andrei Markov returning to Montreal. 

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets re-signed versatile forward Andrew Copp to a two-year deal worth $1 million per season.  

OTTAWA SUN: Former Senators forward Viktor Stalberg signed a two-year deal with EV Zug in Switzerland. 

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said his club are using the offseason long-term injured reserve. That will give them sufficient salary-cap space to re-sign Connor Brown. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes named Steve Patterson as their new president, CEO and alternate governor. General manager John Chayka was also named their president of hockey operations. 

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Former Sabres coach Ted Nolan was named coach of Poland’s national team. 

TORONTO SUN: Former Maple Leaf Tod Sloan passed away at age 89. He played 13 seasons in the NHL, 10 of those with the Leafs. He was a member of two Stanley Cup champions, one in Toronto in 1951 and the other with Chicago a decade later. He had 482 points in 765 games, including two 30-goal seasons in 1951 and 1956. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sloan’s family, friends and former teammates. 


NHL Rumor Mill – January 27, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – January 27, 2017

The Arizona Coyotes trading Shane Doan isn’t a certainty.

Latest on the Coyotes and Lightning plus updates on Kevin Shattenkirk and Matt Duchene in your NHL rumor mill. 

NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford reports Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka telling an Arizona sports radio station that the recent trade speculation regarding Coyotes captain Shane Doan is “a bit overblown.” Chayka said he’s taken calls about the 40-year-old Doan, but nothing’s imminent. Doan has said he could consider waiving his no-trade clause for the right situation. 

ARIZONA SPORTS:  Craig Morgan reports any team interested in Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata must deal with the $1.25 million in bonuses he’s entitled to if he ends up reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He’s also entitled to a $500K bonus for playing 30 games this season and could be in line for another if he scores 20 goals or 40 points. He already has 11 goals and 33 points this season. Morgan adds Coyotes management haven’t had any recent discussions with the Vrbata camp about trading him. He also wonders what Vrbata could fetch in return. While normally a player of his caliber could be worth a pick in the third- to fifth-round range, this isn’t a normal trade market this year. 

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Sarah McLellan reports Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone is trying to regain his form after undergoing knee surgery last year. Uncertainty over his future in Arizona could also be a factor. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July and has yet to have contract discussions with management. If the Coyotes decide to trade Stone,  McLellan cites multiple sources claiming there’s a market for him. 

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK:  Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Darren Dreger telling Montreal’s TSN 690 that he doesn’t fault Chayka for setting a high-asking price for center Martin Hanzal. He believes a team like the Montreal Canadiens could use a big center such as Hanzal.  Dreger believes it’s more likely Hanzal is dealt by the March 1 trade deadline, but the asking price has to come down and he expects it will.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Doan is looking for what he calls the perfect scenario to be moved. One assumes it’s to a Stanley Cup contender. However, not many of those are in the market for an aging right wing whose best seasons are behind him. Not saying Doan won’t attract interest, but there might not be a lot. Vrbata’s bonus clauses will certainly be a stumbling block in efforts to move him. Stone will be considered an affordable rental option, as his struggles this season hurts his trade value.

Chayka must lower his price if he hopes to move Hanzal by the deadline. The young GM must be careful, however, not to wait too long  for the right deal or he could run out of time to find a suitable trade. He should remember what happened to New York Islanders GM Garth Snow at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. Snow waited too long in hopes of finding a club willing to pay a high price for Thomas Vanek. When that didn’t materialize, he was stuck accepting a much lesser return from the Montreal Canadiens. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin lists the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs as the top-five trade destinations for St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Rangers have depth in young forwards such as J.T. Miller to offer and the Oilers could perhaps dangle right wing Jordan Eberle. Larkin suggests perhaps a straight-up swap of Shattenkirk to the Lightning for goalie Ben Bishop. He also suggests the Bruins offer up a package of forward Ryan Spooner and perhaps a prospect such as Jakub Zboril, while the Leafs could offer up prospects or perhaps dangle left wing James van Riemsdyk. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Blues need for depth at center, I believe the Rangers are the only suitable fit. They could offer up Miller or Derek Stepan (unlikely but possible) or Mika Zibanejad, who recently returned from a broken leg. The Rangers must fill the gap on the right side of their blueline and they’ve been linked to Shattenkirk in the rumor mill since last summer. Still, that move’s not a certainty. The Rangers are sitting comfortably in a playoff spot this season and could look at cheaper rental options at the deadline. They could bid wait and bid for Shattenkirk’s services this summer, rather than give up a good roster player to get him via trade.  

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla reports Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene is open to the notion of being traded. ““When I say open to it, I know it’s part of the business, and it’s something that might happen. I’m not hiding from it. I’m not running away. I’m not banging my head. I understand it’s part of what we deal with as pro athletes.” Duchene hasn’t requested a trade but is resigned to the fact it could happen. Kiszla suggests the Avs dangle the 26-year-old center to the Carolina Hurricanes for big 22-year-old blueliner (and Denver native) Jaccob Slavin. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes seem the best fit for Duchene. They need scoring punch and the Avs need a top-four defenseman. The Hurricanes are loaded with good young blueliners and they have the cap space to absorb Duchene’s $6 million annual cap hit. Whether Hurricanes GM Ron Francis agrees, however, is another matter. So far, he’s given no indication if he’s in the market for a scorer.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Tom Jones believes the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning should stand pat at the trade deadline. He argues one bad season after three good ones is no reason to panic and gut the roster or fire the coach. He cites their core of good young players as one reason why the Bolts aren’t a team in decline. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sometimes bad seasons happen. Injuries were certainly a factor this season for the Lightning, especially the loss of team captain Steven Stamkos. Still, the Bolts have over $60 million invested in 14 players next season, with Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in need of big raises. If they’re out of contention by the deadline, they could consider trimming some salary by trying to move someone like Valtteri Filppula to free up cap space for the summer. They’ve already started by shipping defenseman Nikita Nesterov last night to the Montreal Canadiens for a minor leaguer and a draft pick.