Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 17, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 17, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, the potential cost for the Rangers to re-sign Adam Fox and the Stars’ contract talks with John Klingberg in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports one of the biggest hurdles to getting a Jack Eichel trade done is the Buffalo Sabres’ unwillingness to retain any portion of his salary. They’re willing to take back some contracts in return but it’s still difficult with the 24-year-old center having four more years with an annual average value of $10 million remaining on his contract.

Friedman believes the Colorado Avalanche made a call to see if they could make it work but the Sabres’ unwillingness to take salary stopped discussions. Jeff Marek said the Vegas Golden Knights were in conversation with the Sabres but were unwilling to part with young center Peyton Krebs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame the Sabres for not wanting to retain salary. They don’t want to carry what would likely be a significant chunk of dead cap space for the next four seasons. Maybe they might budge a bit if this issue becomes the only sticking point but I think owner Terry Pegula wants Eichel completely off his books.

I’m not sure how much salary the Avalanche would want the Sabres to absorb but it would have to be a healthy chunk given their limited cap space. They’re already using LTIR right now and have over $55.7 million invested in 12 players for 2022-23 with the cap expected to rise by just $1 million to $82.5 million.

New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (NHL Images).

As for the Golden Knights, Eichel would be an ideal fit there but they too don’t have much cap room and would need the Sabres to retain some salary in the deal to make it work. Their unwillingness to move Krebs also seems a deal-breaker.

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker believes 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox is inching closer to a massive contract extension with the New York Rangers. The current price-point for talented young defensemen when Cale Makar inked a six-year extension this summer with the Avalanche worth $9 million annually. The Boston Bruins signing Charlie McAvoy last week to an eight-year extension worth an AAV of $9.5 million will also be duly noted by the Fox camp.

After signing Mika Zibanejad to an eight-year deal, Walker believes the Rangers face some salary-cap challenges for next season. While it’s possible Fox could accept a hometown discount to ensure the club can build around him, he would also be within his rights to seek between $9.5 million and $10 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even a hometown discount of, say, $8 million will still take a big bite out of the Rangers cap payroll. I’ll be shocked if he accepted that.

Some readers here speculate he might accept a one-year contract for considerably less but I doubt he’ll go that route considering he’s coming off a season that saw him join Bobby Orr as the only sophomores in NHL history to win the Norris. He may have grown up as a big Rangers fan but they’re still going to have to pay a lot for the privilege of having him on their roster.

SPORTSNET: Jeff Marek said the Dallas Stars want John Klingberg to stay and the 27-year-old defenseman wants to remain with the Stars. However, his asking price could make it difficult to re-sign him. Marek reports Klingberg seeks an eight-year contract between $62 million and $66 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s an annual average value between $7.75 million and $8.25 million. It’s less than what teammate Miro Heiskanen got on his contract ($8.45 million AAV) and well below the $9 million Dougie Hamilton got as a UFA this summer from the New Jersey Devils.

Nevertheless, that could be a difficult number for the Stars to absorb. With Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter already earning a combined $17.9 million annually, Klingberg’s asking price would push that to around $25 million invested in just four defensemen.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 15, 2021

The Kraken get their first victory, impressive opening-night performances by Anze Kopitar & Tyler Bertuzzi, the Blue Jackets honor the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a big win, my take on the Senators finally signing Brady Tkachuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken picked up their first-ever NHL victory by holding off the Nashville Predators 4-3. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Jared McCann and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist. Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists for the Predators.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar (NHL Images).

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar had a historic night in his club’s 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He matched his single-game career-high (five points) with three goals and two assists, joined Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri as the third King to score a hat trick on opening night and became the oldest player (34 years, 51 days) in league history to collect five points in a season opener. Teammate Drew Doughty had a four-point night. It was a tough loss for the Golden Knights as captain Mark Stone left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period.

Detroit Red Wings center Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals but it was the Tampa Bay Lightning emerging victorious with four unanswered goals in a wild 7-6 overtime victory with Ondrej Palat tallying the winner. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman each had four points and Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning.

The Columbus Blue Jackets honored the memory of the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a pregame ceremony, then went on to thump the Arizona Coyotes 8-2. Elvis Merzlikins made 36 saves for the win while Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied two goals and two assists and Max Domi collected three points.

Two unanswered third-period goals by Aaron Ekblad set the stage for Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Penguins forward Jeff Carter tallied his 400th career goal.

Andrei Svechnikov scored twice and added an assist to power the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Islanders 6-3. Frederik Andersen made 25 saves for his first victory with the Hurricanes.

An overtime goal by Miro Heiskanen lifted the Dallas Stars over the New York Rangers 3-2. It was a costly win for the Stars as defenseman John Klingberg left the game twice with an apparent leg injury while goaltender Braden Holtby was sidelined by dehydration with 11:53 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin stepped in and stopped all six shots he faced.

The Buffalo Sabres got off to a good start to this season with a convincing 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Victor Olofsson and Zemgus Girgensons each had a goal and an assist.

Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg made a career-high 46 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators opened a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a third-period rally by the Leafs, who also lost goaltender Petr Mrazek with an apparent injury to his left leg late in the second period.

HEADLINES

OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Senators, they finally signed Brady Tkachuk after he missed all of training camp and their season-opener. The 22-year-old left winger agreed to a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. The annual average value is over $8.33 million for this season, followed by an AAV of $8.205 million for the remainder of the deal. It also pays him $10.5 million in actual salary during the third, fourth and fifth seasons of the deal, and includes a full no-movement clause in the final three seasons. There are no signing bonuses.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a significant signing for the Senators, getting one of their best forwards under a long-term deal without ponying up any money upfront in each season. It’s still a good deal for the winger, making him the club’s highest-paid player in terms of annual average salary.

The Tkachuk camp had reportedly sought a three-year deal but general manager Pierre Dorion said what impressed him was the winger’s desire to stay in Ottawa for the long term. This move sends a positive message to the club’s long-suffering fans that they can retain their best young players.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL approved the Montreal Canadiens’ request to place Shea Weber on long-term injury reserve. The league will continue monitoring the defenseman’s health and injuries but he legitimately cannot play right now. This move also allows the Canadiens to activate Carey Price when the goaltender returns from the league’s player assistance program.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics believe Weber could return to the Canadiens’ lineup in time for the 2022 playoffs when his cap hit no longer applies. While that’s possible, everything I’ve heard and read coming out of Montreal suggests it’s also unlikely. Weber is reportedly recovering from three different injuries (knee, ankle, thumb) that could bring his career to an end.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog received a two-game suspension from the league’s department of player safety for boarding Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach on Wednesday.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Emil Bemstrom is out four-to-six weeks with a left oblique strain suffered during practice on Tuesday.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals claimed defenseman Dennis Cholowski off waivers from the Kraken.

SPORTSNET: According to Sportico, the Toronto Maple Leafs has the highest value of all NHL franchises. The New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins round out the top five. In last place are the Arizona Coyotes.

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 26, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 26, 2021

Check out the latest on Mika Zibanejad plus some Dallas Stars speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker recently reports Mika Zibanejad isn’t giving anything away about his contract extension talks with the Rangers or allowing it to get in the way of his preseason preparation. The 28-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (NHL Images).

Walker speculates Zibanejad could be in line for a seven- or eight-year extension. It’s believed his camp’s initial ask is $10 million annually while Rangers management will likely look at something in the $7 million to $9 million range.

THE ATHLETIC: Rick Carpiniello wondered if Rangers general manager Chris Drury will play a game of chicken with Zibanejad if he can’t get him signed before the March trade deadline. There’s also the Rangers’ unstated wish to upgrade at center, including rumors of their interest in Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. Carpiniello doesn’t believe the Blueshirts can afford two high-priced centers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad told reporters he’s happy in New York and likes the team’s direction. How long he remains part of it remains to be seen.

The Rangers will either commit to a long-term deal for Zibanejad or turn to the trade market or free agency next summer to replace him. It’s as simple as that.

Carpiniello’s correct in his assessment that they cannot afford to carry two expensive centers, especially with 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox becoming a restricted free agent at the same time. Talk of Zibanejad and a healthy Eichel on the Blueshirts was a pipe dream. It’s either one or the other. 

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks’ 10 questions facing the Dallas Stars this season included speculation over John Klingberg’s future with the club. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July after completing a seven-year contract with an annual average value of $4.25 million.

Considering how much several notable defensemen (including teammate Miro Heiskanen) received this summer, Klingberg could prove too expensive for the Stars. With Heiskanen earning $8.45 million annually, Esa Lindell making $5.8 million and Ryan Suter $3.65 million, re-signing Klingberg would give the Stars one of the most expensive bluelines in the league.

Turning to the trade deadline, DeFranks suggested players on expiring contracts like Klingberg, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov could become trade bait if the Stars are out of playoff contention by then. If the Stars are close and they retain them past deadline day, they risk losing those players to free agency for nothing next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Stars with over $58 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23 with Klingberg, Pavelski, Radulov and Braden Holtby as their notable UFAs and forwards Denis Gurianov and 2021 Calder Trophy finalist Jason Robertson becoming restricted free agents.

Klingberg’s going to cost at least as much as Heiskanen, probably more. As DeFranks observed, they probably can’t afford to keep him. Pavelski and Radulov are aging and don’t have many productive seasons left while Holtby’s past his prime.

Gurianov has arbitration rights and will seek a substantial raise if he hits 20 goals and 40 points this season. Robertson will be coming off his entry-level contract but a strong sophomore season will result in a hefty raise for him as well.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at possible goalie trade candidates this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked which club makes the most sense for the Buffalo Sabres to trade Jack Eichel to get the best return.

Assuming Eichel eventually gets healthy and returns to form, Duhatschek feels it’ll take a team willing to make a bold move in order for the Sabres to get full value for him. He rules out the Los Angeles Kings as too conservative and unwilling to part with prospect Quinton Byfield. Also ruled out are the Boston Bruins as there doesn’t appear to be a fit in salary or the player/draft choice combination heading the other way.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Duhatschek feels the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen and the Minnesota Wild’s Bill Guerin are two general managers with the courage to wade into an Eichel deal. Both clubs need a genuine No. 1 center. He also considers the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks as long shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never with the Kings but I agree with Duhatschek’s take. Anze Kopitar is still their first-line center and the signing of Phillip Danault suggests they’re buying time until Byfield and Alex Turcotte are ready to join the roster on a full-time basis.

The Bruins certainly could use hometown boy Eichel but there just isn’t a fit there unless GM Don Sweeney gets very creative by bringing in a third team to pull off the swap. He could instead set his sights on a more affordable short-term option such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.

I’ve also suggested the Blue Jackets as a destination. They have over $10 million in cap space, carry potentially two first-round picks in next year’s draft and have some promising players in their system (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy) that could tempt the Sabres. Kekalainen has made bold moves in the past but I’m not sure he’s willing to pursue a big fish like Eichel.

The Wild’s cap space will shrink considerably once winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract unless Guerin pulls a swerve and becomes willing to part with the young winger in a package for the Sabres’ center. While the Wild need a bonafide first-line center, I don’t think they’ll pursue Eichel.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving reportedly looked into an Eichel swap but it doesn’t appear things got too far. Unless Treliving intends on a dramatic roster shake-up this season I don’t see Calgary as a serious bidder. The Ducks have lots of cap space and promising youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale but GM Bob Murray probably won’t part with those guys.

Duhatschek was also asked which goaltenders could surface in the trade rumor mill by the Olympic break in February. He points out the Dallas Stars’ depth between the pipes could make them the first place to call, especially if Ben Bishop returns from knee surgery. He doesn’t see Jake Oettinger getting moved as he’s their future starter but Braden Holtby could be an affordable option.

Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo could also get moved. He and Elvis Merzlikins are unrestricted free agents next summer but Merzlikins is the better goalie. Others could include Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Stars’ goalie situation shakes out. The uncertainty over Bishop’s career is why they brought in Holtby. They could go with him and Anton Khudobin as their tandem to start the season and send Oettinger down to the minors as he’s waiver-exempt. They could also put Khudobin on the trade block.

It’s expected the Blue Jackets will retain Merzlikins and move Korpisalo by the March trade deadline. It was assumed Korpisalo would get shopped this summer but that plan was shelved by the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks in July.

Greiss and Koskinen are UFAs this summer and could become rental players at the deadline. Quick, however, has another season on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. Given his age (35) and injury history, there might not be many takers for him.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

The Canadiens don’t match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi and acquire Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

KOTKANIEMI OFFICIALLY WITH THE HURRICANES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Montreal Canadiens announced yesterday they would not match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens received the Hurricanes’ first and third-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first time a player has been successfully signed away from another club via offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers inked the Anaheim Ducks’ Dustin Penner to a multi-year contract in 2007. While the Hurricanes PR department delighted in taunting the Canadiens on social media, at least there were no threats of a barn fight among general managers.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was pressed for salary cap space, the Hurricanes boxed him in with that offer sheet and he couldn’t justify that investment on a promising but inconsistent young forward. Matching the offer would’ve blown his salary structure apart, leaving the Canadiens with limited cap room for the coming season and create a potential cap headache for next season to qualify Kotkaniemi’s rights.

Cap Friendly shows the Hurricanes above the $81.5 million cap by over $1.5 million but they’re expected to put defenseman Jake Gardiner on long-term injury reserve for the start of the season. Given their depth at center, Kotkaniemi will likely be a winger on their second or third line.

CANADIENS ACQUIRE DVORAK FROM COYOTES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Canadiens wasted little time finding a replacement for Kotkaniemi, acquiring center Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks.

The Coyotes will receive the highest of the Canadiens’ two first-round picks in the 2022 draft plus a 2024 second-rounder. However, if either or both of the Canadiens’ picks are among the top-10, the Coyotes get the lower of the two picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were linked to the 25-year-old Dvorak throughout last week. He’s a skillful underrated two-way center carrying a $4.45 million annual average value for the next four seasons. Dvorak should prove a worthwhile fit as the Habs second-line center.

Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has been busy this summer rebuilding his club by shipping out veteran assets for draft picks. He now has eight picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft, including three first-rounders. Armstrong could keep those picks but it wouldn’t surprise me if he uses some of them as trade bait to acquire promising young NHL talent.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars head coach Rick Bowness said Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz and Joel Hanley have recovered from the injuries that sidelined/hampered them for much of last season. Goaltender Ben Bishop is skating again but the club remains uncertain if he’ll be available for the coming season. He missed all of 2020-21 recovering from knee surgery.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW‘s Adrian Dater tweeted Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz has returned to full health and is anxious to resume his NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lower-body injury sidelined Francouz for the entirety of last season.

TORONTO SUN: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe will be sidelined four-to-six months following hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild unveiled their jerseys for the 2022 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field on New Year’s Day when they face off against the St. Louis Blues.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 21, 2021

Henrik Lundqvist announces his retirement, the Blues to retire Chris Pronger’s number, legendary Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret to call it a career following this season, the viability of moving the Coyotes to Houston, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist officially announced his retirement yesterday after 15 seasons with the New York Rangers and four with Frolunda in Sweden before that. A heart condition has ended his playing career at age 39.

Former New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has retired (NHL Images).

Lundqvist is the sixth winningest goaltender in NHL history with a record of 459-310-96, a 2.43 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts, along with 61 wins and 10 shutouts in the playoffs. The Rangers immediately retired Lundqvist’s No. 30 and will stage a retirement ceremony later this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist was one of the great goaltenders of his generation and the best in Rangers history. “King Henrik” is their all-time leader in wins, save percentage, shutouts, and game-played by a goalie (887). He’s a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A First Team All-Star in 2011-12 and a Second Team All-Star the following season, Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 and was also a four-time Vezina finalist. He backstopped the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and won Olympic gold for his home country of Sweden in 2006.

Best wishes to Lundqvist and his family in their future endeavors.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues announced they will retire Chris Pronger’s No. 44 on Jan. 17 before a game against the Nashville Predators. The former Blues captain is among their franchise leaders in games played (598), assists (272) and points (356).

A four-time All-Star, Pronger’s best season was 1999-2000, becoming just the second defenseman in NHL history to win the Hart Memorial Trophy and the James Norris Memorial Trophy. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

WGR 550: Long-time Buffalo Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season. This will be his 51st season behind the mike for the Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jeanneret is one of the best in the business. His iconic call of Brad May’s series-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in the 1993 playoffs is among my favorites.

THE ATHLETIC: News of the Arizona Coyotes’ lease agreement with Gila River Arena ending next year prompted some observers to suggest relocating the franchise to Houston. However, Dallas Stars CEO Brad Alberts told Saad Yousef he doesn’t think that’s a possibility, saying there’s been no discussion at the league level about putting a team in that city.

Alberts said he’s heard rumors that Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta wants an NHL franchise in his city but doesn’t know for certain if he does. He acknowledged things can change but doesn’t believe the league intends to abandon Phoenix.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I said yesterday, the league will do everything it can to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. If that’s not possible, moving to a new city requires a wealthy owner with a viable NHL arena. Fertitta was keen to do so two years ago but that was before the pandemic disrupted normal life. He might not be so enthusiastic now.

TSN: The Calgary Flames avoided salary arbitration with Nikita Zadorov by signing the 26-year-old defenseman to a one-year, $3.75 million contract. They also signed blueliner Juuso Valimaki to a two-year, $3.1 million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That leaves Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Travis Sanheim as the only player still scheduled for arbitration. His hearing is slated for Aug. 26 but he’ll probably be signed before then.