NHL Rumor Mill – October 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 26, 2020

A look at potential destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examines some possible landing spots for unrestricted free agent forwards Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, Dominik Kahun and Carl Soderberg.

Could Mike Hoffman sign with the Nashville Predators? (NHL Images)

Gretz suggests the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets as two clubs that could use Hoffman’s offensive skills, but both clubs lack sufficient salary-cap space. The Bruins also have restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to re-sign while the Blue Jackets need to sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Nashville Predators are a more likely candidate as they’ve shed considerable cap space and need a scoring forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators appear to be the best destination for Hoffman. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $12.9 million in cap space with restricted free agent Luke Kunin to re-sign, so they’ve got plenty of room. I think Predators general manager David Poile could be trying to out-wait Hoffman in the hope the winger will lower his rumored asking price of a $6 million contract for next season.

Other clubs with salary cap room (Detroit, New Jersey, Ottawa) could also use more scoring punch. However, they’re not playoff contenders like the Preds and could be unwilling to invest in a player they’ll only have for one season. Given Hoffman’s messy departure from the Senators, I doubt he’ll be returning to Ottawa except as a visiting player.

Gretz suggests two options for Duclair. He could sign a short-term deal with a rebuilding club like Detroit or New Jersey where he’ll get big minutes and could be moved to a contender by the trade deadline. Another is signing a short-term deal with a contender like the Dallas Stars, who could use a little more offense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with Hoffman, I wonder if the Red Wings and Devils would be keen to sign a player like Duclair to a one-year deal if they’re only going to move him for a draft pick or prospect at the trade deadline. The Wings are already well-stocked with draft picks for 2021 with six in the first three rounds, including three second-rounders.

The Stars could use a little more punch at left wing but they’ve only got $4.1 million in cap space with Roope Hintz to re-sign. Adding another forward, even one on an affordable deal, would be a tight fit.

Gretz suggests the Blues Jackets as a fit for Granlund. He also thinks Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has an opportunity to correct his mistake of trading away Kahun last season by bringing him back as a free agent to bolster his club’s bottom-six forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will have to accept a significant pay cut to sign with the Jackets. They’ve got $12.9 million in cap space but a big chunk of that will be taken up by Dubois’ next contract.

The Penguins have $1.3 million in cap space. They could squeeze in Kahen for under $1 million but that won’t leave much wiggle room for other moves as needed during the season. However, they could free up space by demoting one of the four forwards they currently have who are earning $750K or less for next season.

The Vancouver Canucks would be a good destination for Soderberg provided the Canucks could free up some salary by finding a way to dump Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle. Teams that need depth at center like Minnesota or Nashville could also be landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rule out the Canucks for Soderberg. They’re over the cap by $1.5 million. GM Jim Benning declined to buy out Sutter over the weekend, citing his leadership and defensive skills. Beagle carries a five-team no-trade list and a $3 million cap hit for the next two seasons. I don’t see him going anywhere.

The Wild have plenty of depth centers since acquiring Marcus Johansson, Nick Bjugstad and Nick Bonino. What they need is a true first-line center, which Soderberg isn’t. Maybe the Predators turn to him if they lose out on Hoffman.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 21, 2020

The latest on the notable remaining unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Mike Hoffman remains atop the list of players still available in the 2020 unrestricted free agent market. The 30-year-old winger tallied 29 goals and 59 points in 69 games last season with the Florida Panthers.

Mike Hoffman remains atop the list of the best remaining NHL unrestricted free agents (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Adam Vingan reports Hoffman’s agent claims 13 teams are interested in his client, with five or six that he considers serious. However, he feels those clubs are paralyzed a bit by the flattened salary cap. He also said the winger has no issue signing a one-year contract.

Vingan speculates the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators could be among those suitors. He thinks Hoffman could draw a salary between $5 million and $8 million on a one-year deal.

NBC Sports’ James O’Brien, however, lists Hoffman among his “buyer beware” players. He suggests his offensive impact is overstated while he contributes little defensively.

Center Erik Haula and wingers Corey Perry, Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair round out the top five. Defensemen Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara, winger Andreas Athanasiou, center Carl Soderberg and defenseman Travis Hamonic complete the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Brien also includes Duclair and Athanasiou in his “buyer beware” category, saying teams will be getting some offense at the expense of abysmal defense from those players. Granlund, however, is considered a safe free-agent bet.

Chara was expected to return for another season with the Bruins, but GM Don Sweeney seems to be leaving that up to the big blueliner, whose agent claims other clubs have expressed an interest in his client. No word on what’s going on with Perry but I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns for another season with the Stars.

The Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators have been suggested as destinations for Vatanen but there’s no indication he’s in discussions with those teams. Nothing of note regarding Hamonic, though the speculation linking him to the Winnipeg Jets hasn’t gone away.

Other notables still available include Ilya Kovalchuk, Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik, Colin Wilson, Alex Galchenyuk, Andy Greene and Drake Caggiula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation the Montreal Canadiens would bring back Kovalchuk but their acquisitions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli probably puts an end to that idea. Martin is reportedly in talks with the New York Islanders, who’ve indicated Greene could also return next season.

Sheary, Wilson and Caggiula should land somewhere on inexpensive one-year deals. Frolik and Galchenyuk have declined in recent years and could have difficulty drumming up interest in their services around the NHL.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

A look at the top remaining unrestricted free agents, three potential Canadiens’ trade candidates, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP REMAINING UFAS

SPORTSNET: Winger Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Mikael Granlund and Ilya Kovalchuk, along with defenseman Travis Hamonic top Emily Sadler’s list of the best remaining players in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market.

Winger Mike Hoffman is among the best remaining players in this year’s NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman and Dadonov are the best of the bunch but they could end up signing for considerably less than they hoped given the current economic climate. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested clubs are using the market against both wingers to drive down their asking prices.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reported yesterday Granlund was in discussions with multiple teams and is whittling down his list to find the best fit. He doesn’t know if the Blue Jackets are among them.

Centers Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg, left-wingers Anthony Duclair and Andreas Athanasiou, and defenseman Sami Vatanen fill out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four are on my recent listing of possible bargain signings.

The rest include centers Alex Galchenyuk, Derick Brassard and Joe Thornton, wingers Corey Perry, Colin Wilson, Matt Martin, Patrick Marleau and Conor Sheary and defenseman Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Stars bringing back Perry on another affordable one-year deal. A recent report claimed the San Jose Sharks could bring back Marleau. Thornton could also be back with the Sharks while Chara is expected to return with the Boston Bruins.

POTENTIAL CANADIENS TRADE CANDIDATES

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens’ signing of winger Tyler Toffoli yesterday leaves the club sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $353K. They’ll have to offload over $1 million to become cap compliant before the start of next season. Trade options could include Jordan Weal ($1.4 million), Paul Byron ($3.4 million) and Joel Armia ($2.6 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byron has three seasons left on his contract. TVA Sports noted he has two 20-goal seasons on his resume but his production declined due to injuries over the last two seasons. His cap hit could make him the most difficult to move.

Armia or Weal are more affordable but they probably won’t have as much value as Byron in the trade market. The Canadiens have 14 picks in next year’s draft so perhaps one of those selections could be packaged with one of those players as a sweetener.

The Canadiens also have eight defensemen under NHL contract for next season. Brett Kulak surfaced in recent trade chatter so perhaps there might be a market for him. Kukak is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $1.85 million.

BRUINS INTERESTED IN WEEGAR?

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites three sources claiming the Bruins have shown interest in MacKenzie Weegar. The rugged 26-year-old defenseman recently filed for salary arbitration. Word around the league is the Panthers have been shopping Weegar for some time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy points out Weegar’s a right-hand shot while the Bruins’ biggest need is a left-shot defenseman. He also wonders how the Bruins will address the departure of Torey Krug.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2020

Updates on Jake DeBrusk and Carl Soderberg plus the latest on the Blackhawks free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD DEBRUSK BECOME A TRADE CANDIDATE?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty believes Jake DeBrusk is in line for a raise but it likely won’t come from the Bruins. The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent after this season.

Could the Boston Bruins trade winger Jake DeBrusk in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Haggerty suggests DeBrusk could command between $4.5 million and $5.5 million annually on his next contract. The Bruins have over $63 million invested in next season’s payroll with DeBrusk, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, and several others to re-sign.

With the salary cap expected to remain at $81.5 million for next season, Haggerty speculated Bruins management might have to consider trading DeBrusk if it came down to a choice between the winger and Krug. He believes this would be the time to move him to get back close to the maximum value for a young, still-developing player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s too early to tell what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will do once the off-season begins. Nevertheless, this situation could be worth monitoring.

Those cap constraints cannot be ignored. If they re-sign Krug for between $7-$8 million AAV and DeBrusk to $5 million, it won’t leave much wiggle room for the rest of the roster. Somebody else will have to go if they don’t move DeBrusk.

BLACKHAWKS FREE AGENTS FACE A LONG WAIT

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman earlier this month said he hadn’t started contract talks with his pending free agents. Bowman said it’s far too early to become those discussions given the uncertainty over the salary cap.

The Blackhawks’ notable free agents include goaltender Corey Crawford and forwards Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, and Drake Caggiula. Pope speculates they could end up waiting four months longer than usual to find out their fates.

Crawford is an unrestricted free agent but hopes to re-sign with the Blackhawks. Strome, Kubalik, and Caggiula are restricted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most NHL free agents are in the same boat. The league and NHLPA have an agreement to tentatively extend all expiring contracts to Oct. 31. They can be re-signed by their current clubs before then but most GMs will wait until they know for certain what next season’s salary cap will be. 

COULD SODERBERG INTEREST THE OILERS?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jonathan Willis recently suggested Carl Soderberg could be a useful and affordable short-term free-agent addition for the Edmonton Oilers. The 34-year-old Arizona Coyotes center could fit comfortably among the Oilers’ middle-six forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers could use a more experienced and skilled third-line center, allowing them to drop Riley Sheahan to the fourth line. Soderberg’s at the age where he’s still an effective player but won’t get any expensive long-term offers. For the right price, he could be a decent fit with the Oilers for a year or two.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2020

Some suggested off-season blueline targets for the Leafs, the Rangers’ goalie situation, and the best remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OFF-SEASON BLUELINE TARGETS FOR THE LEAFS

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently looked ahead at this summer’s potential trade and free-agent targets to shore up the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defense corps. He doubts general manager Kyle Dubas can go into next season with Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Duszak as right-side defensemen. He also expected Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will depart via free agency in July.

If Alex Pietrangelo tests the UFA market, can the Toronto Maple Leafs afford him? (Photo via NHL Images)

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo tops this summer’s UFA market for defensemen, following by second-tier options like Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Mike Green, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz, Chris Tanev and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Leafs had previous interest in Hamonic and Tanev.

The thin free-agent market combined with the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space could push Dubas into the trade market. Options could include Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Vancouver’s Troy Stecher, and Buffalo’s Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $77 million tied up in 16 players for 2020-21, the Leafs won’t have much room to bid for the best UFA rearguards unless Dubas sheds salary before the start of next season. Even then, he doubt they could afford Pietrangelo, who could seek over $9 million annually if he hits the open market. Hamonic ($3.857 million) and Tanev ($4.45 million) could be more affordable, especially if they go unsigned beyond the opening weeks of free agency.

Forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot was often suggested as trade candidates for a defenseman this season. I daresay we’ll see their names floated in the off-season rumor mill.

Dumba, Manson and Ristolainen carry annual average salaries of $4 million or more. Montour ($3.387 million) and Stecher (2.325 million) are more affordable trade options. The Sabres could be reluctant to trade Montour to a division rival like Toronto. Stecher was linked to the Leafs before the trade deadline, so perhaps there’s a possibility there.

Fox rules out the possibility of the Leafs pursuing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who could be traded or have his contract terminated this summer.

WHAT WILL THE RANGERS DO ABOUT THEIR GOALTENDING?

Fox also believes New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton must sort out his goaltending situation in the off-season. The Rangers have carried three netminders – Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev – since January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With long-time Rangers starter Lundqvist relegated behind Shesterkin and Georgiev, some in the New York media (hello there, Larry Brooks) believe “King Henrik” could be bought out of the final season of his contract in June.

They could attempt to trade him first, provide Lundqvist is willing to waive his no-movement clause. Even then, the Rangers could be asked to absorb part of his $8.5-million annual cap hit.

TOP 2019 NHL UFAS

Fox also listed his ” All Impending UFA Starting Lineup in 2020″ following last week’s trade deadline.

Taylor Hall–Carl Soderberg–Mike Hoffman

Torey Krug–Alex Pietrangelo

Jacob Markstrom

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall, Soderberg, and Hoffman could be the only ones still available when July 1 dawns. I expect Pietrangelo, Krug, and Markstrom will be re-signed by their respective teams.