Canucks On The Brink Of Collapse
The Devils sign Corey Crawford, the Flames land Chris Tanev, the Lightning place Tyler Johnson on waivers, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils last night signed goaltender Corey Crawford to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.9 million. The move came a day after the Devils bought out netminder Cory Schneider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable move by the Devils to boost their goaltending depth by providing an experienced mentor for Mackenzie Blackwood. I’m surprised that Crawford’s former club, the Chicago Blackhawks, didn’t sign him to a similar deal. Perhaps their offer was less than what he ultimately got on the open market from the Devils.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed defenseman Chris Tanev to a four-year, $18-million contract. Cap Friendly indicates the annual average value is $4.5 million. The deal also includes a modified no-trade clause in which Tanev submits a 10-team no-trade list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the second former Canuck the Flames added via free agency, having signed goaltender Jacob Markstrom yesterday. This deal is one year less than Tanev’s previous contract and slightly higher than his previous AAV ($4.45 million). He’ll replace T.J. Brodie, who signed yesterday with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the decline in Tanev’s performance and his injury history could be cause for concern among Flames fans.
Note: My list of yesterday’s notable unrestricted free agent signings can be found here.
TSN: The Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday placed winger Tyler Johnson on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A surprising move by the Lightning that suggests a whiff of desperation to shed salary. We’ll learn at noon ET today if any club claims him.
Johnson has a full no-trade clause but it doesn’t prevent him from being placed on waivers. He has four years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $5 million. TSN’s Frank Seravalli wondered if the Detroit Red Wings might claim him, given general manager Steve Yzerman’s ties to Johnson when he was GM of the Lightning.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks re-signed restricted free agent winger Dominik Kubalik to a two-year contract with a $3.7 million AAV and goaltender Malcolm Subban to a two-year extension with an $850K cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kubalik, a Calder Trophy finalist, was coming off his entry-level contract, giving Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman leverage to ink him to an affordable bridge contract. The Blackhawks still need a reliable starting goaltender as Subban is strictly a backup. I expect they’ll address that need via free agency or trade.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Bryan Little won’t play next season on the recommendation of the team’s doctors. He suffered serious head trauma after being struck in the head by a puck during a game last November and hasn’t played since.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are expected to place Little on long-term injury reserve for 2020-21. That will provide them some wiggle room to exceed the salary cap if necessary by the equivalent of his $5.291 million cap hit. However, the greater concern is for Little’s future as an NHL player. This injury could cut short his playing career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Joe Thornton confirmed he’ll return for his 23rd NHL season. However, he’s in no rush to sign with the San Jose Sharks or another club at the moment. He also indicated he might play in the Swiss League prior to the scheduled Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars are uncertain about the future of defenseman Stephen Johns, who missed the final 23 games of the club’s playoff run. Johns was sidelined for nearly two years by post-traumatic headaches before returning to action for 17 games last season.
NEWSDAY: New York Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows violated terms of the AHL/Professional Hockey Players’ Association performance-enhancing substances program. The matter has been dealt with and he will be allowed to play whenever the NHL or AHL are able to start their seasons.
The NHL’s free-agent market opens at noon ET today. Check out the latest speculation on Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Torey Krug and many more in today’s rumor mill.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was ready to go to market as of yesterday afternoon. He’s up to visiting with interested clubs that are willing to have him travel. It could take a couple of days until he reaches a decision on his destination and next contract. The Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs could be among the interested parties.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports it could take moving a high-profile Leaf or two, such as William Nylander or Frederik Andersen, to free up cap space to sign Pietrangelo. He feels general manager Kyle Dubas has hinted that’s not going to happen, giving Andersen a vote of confidence while staying out of the Matt Murray trade market.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi expects Pietrangelo will be too costly for the Philadelphia Flyers. He suggests more affordable options like Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, Boston’s Torey Krug or Calgary’s T.J. Brodie.
TSN: Darren Dreger said the Arizona Coyotes might not be able to meet the Friday trade deadline set by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’ll only waive his no-movement clause for the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report the Canucks appear the more interested buyer for Ekman-Larsson.
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the parameters of a deal with the Canucks would include “a draft pick of some magnitude, an inefficient contract from their bottom-six and a prospect.”
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: cites TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting the Bruins don’t like Arizona’s asking price. The Coyotes are believed to prefer the Bruins’ prospects over the Canucks.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report there’s some talk Coyotes winger Taylor Hall would consider a reunion with the Edmonton Oilers. It would be difficult to achieve that unless the Oilers shed some salary.
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers suggests Hall would be a perfect fit for the Colorado Avalanche’s second line. He’s open to a short-term deal, perhaps a one-year contract that could pave the way for a longer contract in free agency after next season.
THE ATHLETIC: With the Columbus Blue Jackets shedding salary yesterday, Aaron Portzline wonders if they might get into the bidding for Hall. Other options could include Florida’s Mike Hoffman or Evgenii Dadonov or Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli.
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the Vancouver Canucks remain confident of re-signing Jacob Markstrom despite persistent rumors linking the goaltender to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Oilers are among the teams that could be interested in Markstorm if he goes to market today.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman reported the Flames, Detroit Red Wings and Oilers (despite their salary-cap constraints) could pursue Markstrom.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples doesn’t see how the Oilers could afford Markstrom, who could seek $6 million annually on a long-term deal.
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson believes Markstrom should be the Flames’ top target in the UFA market. He feels Markstrom could become the high-end goalie they’ve been missing since Miikka Kiprusoff retired.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks listed the Minnesota Wild as a possible destination for Markstrom if he goes to market.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sarah McLellan also included Markstrom among possible Wild UFA targets. Other options could include Washington’s Braden Holtby and Chicago Corey Crawford.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the Vegas Golden Knights have put trading goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the side burner for now. His no-trade clause and $7 million annual average value makes him difficult to move.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is garnering interest from the Oilers.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild could be interested in Holtby.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report of increased chatter suggesting the Red Wings could pursue Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. He was raised in a Detroit suburb and seeks long-term security. The Wings have the cap space to make a lucrative offer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman would like to address his blueline issues with one or two defenseman signings. It remains to be seen if he’ll pursue Krug. Yzerman said he expects to be “relatively conservative” in the free-agent market.
TSN: Goaltender Anton Khudobin is heading to market after talks broke off with the Stars. The Flames could be interested, along with the Canucks if they fail to re-sign Jacob Markstrom or the Golden Knights if they can move Marc-Andre Fleury.
TOFFOLI AND TANEV
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Chris Tanev are heading to market.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Toffoli tops Brian Witt’s list of possible free-agent targets for the San Jose Sharks.
BRODIE AND HAMONIC
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Flames renewed contract talks with defenseman T.J. Brodie. Dreger also believes Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic would sign with his hometown Winnipeg Jets but there’s not a lot of interest at the moment. The Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Oilers could be among Hamonic’s suitors.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman reported the Oilers could have an interest in Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie as a short-term replacement for sidelined blueliner Oscar Klefbom.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss could draw interest from the Canucks if they fail to re-sign Markstrom or Vegas if they trade Fleury.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggested Greiss or Cam Talbot could be a fit with the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The opening hours of the free-agent period tend to be very busy with the best available players being quickly signed. However, it will be interesting to see how the flattened salary cap affects the market and the pace of the signings.
Some potential destinations for Alex Pietrangelo plus the latest on the Penguins and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD LEAFS, GOLDEN KNIGHTS OR FLAMES TARGET PIETRANGELO?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun wonders if the St. Louis Blues will consider trading Alex Pietrangelo’s rights if they don’t re-sign the pending free-agent defenseman before Oct. 9. The acquiring team could sign him to an eight-year deal, lowering the annual average value, Pietrangelo would get more money under that scenario, while the Blues could get a good asset in return. LeBrun suggests the Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Calgary Flames as possible destinations if Pietrangelo hits the open market.
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski acknowledged the Leafs need for a top-shelf blueliner like Pietrangelo, but finding the cap space to sign him will be challenging for general manager Kyle Dubas. They have over $6 million in cap space and would have to shed salary to make it work.
Zwolinski suggests Alexander Kerfoot and Andreas Johnsson as trade candidates, and also felt William Nylander would have to be considered. The risks of acquiring another high-priced player would be high under a flattened salary cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Leafs will inquire if Pietrangelo becomes available. As per Cap Friendly, they’ve already handcuffed themselves with over $40.4 million tied up in just four players: Nylander ($6.9 million), Mitch Marner ($10.8 million), John Tavares ($11 million) and Auston Matthews ($11.8 million). Adding Pietrangelo could push that figure to almost $50 million, leaving little room to bolster their depth as needed throughout the rest of the roster. Unless they’re moving out Nylander, they should consider more affordable blueline options.
I don’t see the Golden Knights in the market for Pietrangelo. They have $76.5 million tied up in 18 players. If they re-sign Robin Lehner, they’ll have to shed salary by moving out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury or someone else, leaving little room for a big-ticket defenseman.
With $64.5 million committed to 14 players, the Flames have the cap space to sign Pietrangelo, but that move could push them to $73 million invested in 15 players. That won’t leave much to find a possible replacement for Cam Talbot if he’s not re-signed, let alone fill out the rest of the roster.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe report multiple league sources claim Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has received several inquiries about winger Bryan Rust. Rutherford isn’t shopping Rust and prefers keeping the top-six winger, but wouldn’t rule out trading him if the return was significant, such as at least an NHL-ready player and a top-six prospect.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Rust remains a Penguin.
They also cite multiple sources claiming Rutherford is attempting to clear enough salary-cap space to sign Chris Tanev if the Vancouver Canucks defenseman hit the open market on Oct. 9. The Penguins GM isn’t concerned about Tanev’s age (30) and is willing to offer a five-year contract concurrent to the final five years of brother (and Penguins forward) Brandon Tanev. Chris is said to be seeking a raise over the $4.45-million AAV of his current contract. A Penguins source claims they’d prefer keeping the AAV to $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s not a good idea. Tanev’s performance has declined over the last couple of years as the wear-and-tear of his style of play are taking a toll on his body. A short-term deal (two years) might be worth the gamble, but five years at $5 million per is too risky. Meanwhile, TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Canucks have yet to make Tanev a contract offer.
Rossi and Yohe also report the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin’s camp have expressed interest in a three-year contract extension allowing Malkin to retire as a Penguin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: But…but…Malkin’s supposed to be unhappy as second fiddle to Crosby. No, wait, he’s getting traded to the Kings. Or was it he’s retiring and returning to Russia at the end of his current contract? Dammit, it’s difficult keeping these Malkin rumors straight!
The Pens aren’t against acquiring a third-line center but are content to keep recently re-signed Jared McCann in that role. It doesn’t appear they’ve approached Patric Hornqvist about waiving his no-trade clause.
BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS FOR THE CAPITALS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Tarik El-Bashir lists the New York Islanders Thomas Greiss, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and Calgary’s Cam Talbot as free-agent backup goalie options for the Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Braden Holtby’s expected departure via free agency, the Capitals will need an experienced backup for promising Ilya Samsonov. Greiss, Khudobin and Talbot would be fine choices, though Khudobin’s playoff heroics could put him outside the Caps’ price range. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got $72.6 million invested in 17 players.
The latest on the Leafs, Canucks and Blues in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports the Maple Leafs haven’t been actively shopping goaltender Frederik Andersen, but it behooves general manager Kyle Dubas to listen to offers. A high number of goalies potentially available via the trade and free-agent markets could affect Dubas’ final decision on Andersen. Koshan expects Andersen will still be a Leaf when next season opens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So do I unless Dubas can find a replacement who’s as good or better than Andersen.
Michael Traikos believes the Leafs shouldn’t waste their time pursuing an expensive defenseman such as St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo. Instead, he suggests signing a more affordable physical option like Mark Borowiecki, who’s heading to the free-agent market after several seasons with the Ottawa Senators. While Borowiecki isn’t the right-shot blueliner the Leafs seek, he would add a much-needed element of toughness to their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Dubas can’t find that top-pairing right-side rearguard, he might be forced to consider one or two affordable depth alternatives. Someone like Borowiecki could be among those options depending on how much cap space Dubas can free up.
SPORTSNET: Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen and Vancouver’s Troy Stecher are among Luke Fox’s list of 15 intriguing blueline trade targets for the Leafs.
Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Carolina’s Brett Pesce, Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson, Columbus’ David Savard and Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin are also on Fox’s list. The remainder includes Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Chicago’s Connor Murphy, Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar and Edmonton’s Adam Larsson and Matt Benning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt Ekblad, Dumba, Parayko and Pesce are available. Ristolainen was rumored to be on the trade block a year ago but Sabres coach Ralph Krueger loves his game so he’s probably off the market. Manson’s a possibility but the Ducks will want a good scoring forward (preferably a center) in return. Ditto the Wild with Brodin and the Blue Jackets with Savard.
The Coyotes could try to move Hjalmarsson in a cost-cutting deal provided he waives his no-movement clause. The asking price for Ekholm could also be a scoring forward. Stecher is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and could hit the trade block if the Canucks can’t afford to re-sign him.
Larsson, Benning and Murphy have surfaced in offseason trade chatter. The Panthers could cut some payroll but I think they want to re-sign Weegar.
Rory Boylen, meanwhile, wondered if Dubas might flip his recently-acquired first-round pick (15th overall) to upgrade the defense corps, seek out further salary-slicing deals that would involve moving a mid-level contract like Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million), Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million) and Pierre Engvall ($1.2 million), or explore options for Andersen’s replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I won’t be surprised if Dubas flips that first-rounder in a deal for a top-four defenseman. They want to win right now and already have enough youth on the roster.
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports Tyler Toffoli’s willingness to re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks creates another salary-cap headache for GM Jim Benning. Toffoli, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9, along with goaltender Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Chris Tanev. Toffoli earned an annual average value of $4.6 million on his current contract and his next deal could be worth between $5-$6 million annually.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Tanev also wants to re-sign with the Canucks. Unless the club can free up some salary-cap space, keeping the 30-year-old defenseman won’t be easy. Benning remains hopeful of re-signing the long-time Canucks blueliner. Johnston urges caution, pointing out a decade of wear-and-tear have taken a tool upon Tanev’s performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston points out the Canucks have $15 million in cap space. Unless Benning can shed a salary or two, there won’t be enough room to re-sign Markstrom, Toffoli and Tanev. Even then, Tanev would be the odd man out. The combined cost of re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli could be at least $11 million.
Toffoli won’t lack for suitors if he hits the open market. In a recent mailbag segment, The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz suggests he’d be a good target for the San Jose Sharks.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford reported a source claimed the St. Louis Blues offered Alex Pietrangelo a five-year deal worth close to $7 million than $8 million annually. It’s believed the 30-year-old defenseman isn’t happy with the offers he’s received.
It’s believed Pietrangelo could settle for something between $8-$9 million. Rutherford expects negotiations to continue, but sources say if Pietrangelo’s wife wasn’t from St. Louis and they hadn’t started their family there he might’ve already told the Blues he’s moving on.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Pietrangelo won’t come down from his asking price the Blues must shed more salary to re-sign him or bid him farewell. Plenty of time remains until the free-agent market opens on Oct. 9 to hammer out an agreement.
Rutherford acknowledged the trade chatter about Vince Dunn, but he believes the Blues want to keep him. He’s a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, giving the club control over his contract. Barring a holdout, they could re-sign him for next season between $2.5 – $3 million. Maybe they trade him if they cannot re-sign him beyond 2020-21.
Rutherford also expects the Blues will do everything they can to re-sign winger Jaden Schwartz, but if Pietrangelo re-signs, he could become a cap casualty. He’s got a year left on his contract with an AAV of $5.35 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford also touched on the possibility of the Blues getting $7.5 million in cap relief next season if Vladimir Tarasenko is on long-term injury reserve throughout the season. He’s projected for reevaluation of his surgically-repaired shoulder in December or January, but could be sidelined longer. Right now, there’s no certainty he’ll be out for the entire season.