NHL Rumor Mill – September 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 20, 2021

Check out the latest on Tomas Hertl, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Tracey Myers recently reported Tomas Hertl isn’t concerned about his future with the San Jose Sharks. He’s an unrestricted free agent next July but claims his focus is on the upcoming season.

San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl (NHL Images).

Hertl, 27, said he’ll see if there will be any contract discussions with management once he reports to training camp this week. If not, he said he’s not going to worry about it because he wants to avoid worrying about his contract year.

For me, it doesn’t matter because I think I’ve proven I can be a good player,” said Hertl. “I’ve shown I can be a leader and I just want to do that and not think about my next deal.” He added he wants to play his best hockey and help his teammates, hoping to be as supportive to his younger teammates as former Sharks Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski were to him earlier in his career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hertl might not be thinking about his contract status but others will be, especially if the Sharks are out of playoff contention as the March trade deadline draws near. A healthy and strong performance on his part will generate plenty of conjecture over his future once the calendar flips to 2022.

Hertl’s already become the subject of trade speculation. An internet rumor floating around last month linked him to the Ottawa Senators but they reportedly have had no discussions with the Sharks. Some observers in Boston think Hertl would make a fine replacement for recently departed center David Krejci.

STLTODAY.COM: In a recent mailbag, Tom Timmermann was asked about the status of Robert Thomas. The 22-year-old restricted free agent forward remains unsigned but was skating in development camp sessions, which suggests he expects to join his teammates in training camp this week.

The Blues are pressed against the $81.5 million salary cap. With Oskar Sundqvist expected to go on long-term injury reserve to start the season, they’ll have around $3.5 million to work with as they attempt to sign Thomas. However, they’ll have to free up cap room once Sundqvist is ready to return to action. Timmermann also suggests this gives the Blues a little more time to find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were reports earlier in the offseason suggesting Thomas wanted a contract similar to Jordan Kyrou’s two-year, $5.6 million deal. It doesn’t sound like he’s going to get that much, perhaps a one-year deal for at most $2 million. They’ll likely clear cap space on Sundqvist’s return by demoting one or two extra skaters.

Trading Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual cap hit would free up cap room for Thomas’ new deal and leave much more room for other moves if necessary over the course of the season. However, general manager Doug Armstrong said he anticipates Tarasenko will be on their opening-day roster next month. Given the winger’s high cap hit, it could take months until a suitable trade partner is found.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 19, 2021

Jack Eichel to travel to Buffalo for Sabres’ pre-training camp medical, Vladimir Tarasenko expected on Blues’ opening-day roster, Zdeno Chara signs with the Islanders, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: cites an Associated Press report indicating Jack Eichel is expected to travel to Buffalo for the Sabres’ pre-training camp medicals on Wednesday. The 24-year-old center has been sidelined since March with a herniated disk in his neck.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Treatment of the injury has created an impasse between Eichel and the Sabres’ front office. He prefers artificial disk replacement while management is against that procedure because it’s never been done on an NHL player before.

If Eichel fails his medical, the Sabres have the option of placing him on injured reserve or long-term injury reserve as his condition is hockey-related. They’ve been trying to trade him this summer but haven’t found any takers yet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if Eichel passes his medical. If he fails as expected it will prevent the awkward situation of having an unhappy player in camp while management is trying to trade him. However, this won’t be the end of the saga. There’s no indication which procedure Eichel will undergo let alone when it will take place.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes there’s a good chance Vladimir Tarasenko will be on the club’s opening-day roster. The 29-year-old winger requested a trade early in the offseason because he was reportedly unhappy over how the club’s medical staff handled his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Armstrong said he spoke with Tarasenko about his trade status and the winger understands the situation. He mentioned the flattened salary cap and the limited amount of playing time Tarasenko saw over the last two years as a result of his shoulder surgeries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The best opportunity to move Tarasenko was before the free-agent market opened on July 28. There weren’t many teams with the cap space to take on his $7.5 million annual salary cap hit once the dust settled from the usual frenzy of free-agent signings.

A trade could still materialize before the start of the season but a move around the March trade deadline seems more likely. Interested parties would prefer letting Tarasenko burn off most of this season’s cap hit while taking the time to evaluate his performance.

NEW YORK POST: Zdeno Chara’s NHL career has come full circle as he signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but it’s presumably a plus-35 deal with bonuses.

Chara began his big-league career with the Islanders in 1997-98, spending four seasons with them until traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2001.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 44-year-old Chara will become the first player in NHL history to go 20-plus years between games with one franchise.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed restricted free agent winger Kailer Yamamoto to a one-year, $1.175 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Very affordable signing by the cap-strapped Oilers but Yamamoto will be in line for a more lucrative deal next summer if he has a good performance this season. We’ll take a look at the implications in today’s Sunday rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators signed center Logan Brown to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2021

Updates on Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas while several notable unrestricted free agents could become tryout targets. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek was asked about St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s status in a recent mailbag segment. He doesn’t consider the 29-year-old’s contract as untradeable because this summer’s proved there’s no such thing, pointing to Tyler Johnson, Andrew Ladd and Loui Eriksson getting moved for a price.

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 12: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season on September 12, 2019 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tarasenko has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million. However, Duhatschek points out the winger will earn $9.5 million in actual salary this season, dropping to $5.5 million next season.

Despite Tarasenko’s trade request, Duhatschek speculates the winger will report to the Blues if he’s not moved when training camp opens next week. He feels the two sides will “make nice” and coexist while his salary-cap dollars click off and teams get an opportunity to evaluate his skill level following his third shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the window for moving Tarasenko during the offseason has closed. Concerns over his thrice-repaired shoulder and his contract have made teams leery of meeting what could be an expensive asking price from the Blues. Most teams have also invested most of their cap space into the coming season’s rosters.

As Duhatschek points out, things could change quickly and perhaps Tarasenko gets traded before camp opens. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spends this season with the Blues and gets traded next summer. Teams will have more cap space and a willingness to take on his lower actual salary for 2022-23.

Jeremy Rutherford reports the contract standoff continues between the Blues and restricted free agent Robert Thomas. The 22-year-old forward is coming off his entry-level deal with little leverage except if he signs an offer sheet with a rival club.

The Blues have almost no cap space left for the coming season. If a team signed Thomas for between $2.055 million and $4.11 million and the Blues declined to match, they’d receive a second-round pick as compensation.

Rutherford suggested the Arizona Coyotes as a possibility. General manager Bill Armstrong knows Thomas well, having drafted him when he was the Blues director of amateur scouting. He also has five second-round picks in next year’s draft. So far, however, there’s no indication Armstrong will make that move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Armstrong doesn’t want to cross his former team. Perhaps he’s not that keen on Thomas. Or maybe he intends to use those picks as trade chips for better options between now and next year’s draft.

As for Thomas and the Blues’ cap situation, they’re expected to place sidelined Oskar Sundqvist on long-term injury reserve to start the season. That’ll give them sufficient room to sign Thomas for perhaps $2 million on a one-year deal. They’ll have to shed salary when Sundqvist returns but other ways could be found to accomplish that. Maybe a deal for Tarasenko will have emerged by then.

NOTE: My original note incorrectly stated Bill Armstrong was related to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. I apologize for any confusion my error may have caused. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Right wing James Neal, center Travis Zajac, and defenseman Jason Demers are among Steven Ellis’ list of 10 noteworthy unrestricted free agents who might get the call for professional tryout offers.

The others include right wing Alex Chiasson, defenseman Sami Vatanen, left wing Alex Galchenyuk, center Tyler Ennis, left wing Nikita Gusev, goaltender Devan Dubnyk and blueliner Erik Gustafsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary has taken its toll on the UFA market. Several of those veterans would’ve landed affordable short-term contracts with NHL clubs by now. Some of them could avoid the PTO route by inking one-year deals for under $1 million. Others, however, could find themselves waiting in vain for any type of NHL offer.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 12, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 12, 2021

What could the Sabres do if Jack Eichel isn’t traded? What’s the latest on the Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko? What kind of contract could Kailer Yamamoto get from the Oilers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl examined what the Buffalo Sabres might do if Jack Eichel isn’t traded before the start of the season.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Asked by a reader if Eichel would be placed on long-term injury reserve, Vogl points out the Sabres aren’t near the upper limit of the salary cap. Eichel would simply go on injured reserve and his $10 million annual average value would still count against their cap payroll.

Vogl projects they’re at $48.1 million (including Cody Hodgson’s buyout) without Eichel and restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in the lineup. That puts them $12.1 million under the cap’s lower limit.

If Eichel isn’t traded and goes on IR, his cap hit puts the Sabres within $2.1 million of the lower limit. A new contract for Dahlin would make them cap-compliant.

Vogl speculates the Sabres could put Eichel on IR and send him home to await a trade. He also points out the Sabres would have to take on salary to reach the cap floor if Eichel gets traded. If he refuses to report, he’d forfeit over $36K of his salary for each day he would be absent without permission.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always, the clubs with an interest in acquiring Eichel are reluctant to do so while he’s still sidelined by a herniated disc in his neck. His hefty contract and the Sabres’ expensive asking price also obstruct a potential trade. Things could get very interesting if Eichel remains with the Sabres when training camp opens later this month.

If Eichel gets traded the Sabres will have to take on some salary from whichever club they send him to. Even that might not be enough, forcing them into the trade and free-agent markets to address that need.

STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas was recently asked by a reader if Vladimir Tarasenko could return with the Blues rather than be traded before the start of this season. He admits it’s becoming more of a possibility as the start of the season gets close but feels the 29-year-old winger’s presence could be a distraction.

Thomas was asked about the rumors linking Tarasenko to the New York Islanders but doesn’t think a trade is possible. The Islanders are over the salary cap now and would have to clear some salary even if the Blues retained part of Tarasenko’s annual average value.

Tarasenko’s $7.5 million AAV also complicates the Blues’ salary-cap payroll. They have limited room and still have to sign restricted free agent Robert Thomas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thomas indicated the Blues could get some cap relief by placing forward Oskar Sundqvist on LTIR but he wouldn’t be there for long. Something’s got to give to free up sufficient space for Thomas, be it Tarasenko or somebody else.

Thomas’ mailbag piece came out before the Islanders announced Zach Parise’s one-year deal. They’ll get cap relief with all-but-retired Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million AAV on LTIR, but not enough to take on Tarasenko even if a significant chunk of his cap hit is retained by the Blues. Maybe if a third team became involved to further reduce what the Isles would take on but even that would be a tight squeeze.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes the bridge-deal negotiations between the Oilers and RFA winger Kailer Yamamoto have as much to do with the club’s limited cap space as the uncertainty over where Yamamoto fits within the roster. “Is the restricted free agent a top-six winger or a third liner?”, asked Matheson.

He doesn’t see the Oilers signing Yamamoto to a deal comparable to the six-year deals in the $30 million range recently signed by Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee or Ottawa’s Drake Batherson. Instead, it could be something similar to Colorado forward Tyson Jost’s two-year, $4 million deal.

NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2021

The latest on Vladimir Tarasenko, the Hurricanes could face a salary-cap crunch next summer, and an update on the Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BALLY SPORTS MIDWEST’s Andy Strickland hosted St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube on his “Cam and Strick” podcast on Sept. 7. Asked about Vladimir Tarasenko’s trade request, Berube doesn’t expect the 29-year-old winger to be moved.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

I expect Vladdy will play for us, and I’m gonna treat him like any other player,” said Berube. He added Tarasenko will continue to fill his role on the team and they’ll deal internally with the trade request.

Strickland followed up on Twitter the next day, suggesting a third team might have to get involved if Tarasenko gets traded. “There’s at least one team willing to retain a portion of Tarasenko’s salary,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could take a third team to make a Tarasenko trade happen at this point. We saw those types of moves at last season’s trade deadline (David Savard, Nick Foligno) where three clubs would share portions of a player’s annual cap hit.

Whether it happens before the start of the season is another issue. Tarasenko could end up waiting until the March 21 trade deadline at the earliest for the Blues to honor his trade request.

Strickland didn’t mention which team is willing to pick up part of Taraseko’s $7.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It could be a rebuilding club with plenty of cap space willing to do so if the Blues or the team receiving Tarasenko kicks in a draft pick. Potential candidates include the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported the Carolina Hurricanes may have put themselves into a bind for the next offseason because of their successful signing of Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet.

Murphy cites an NHL executive suggesting the addition of Kotkaniemi could create difficulty for the Hurricanes to re-sign him and their other key free agents. Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas are restricted free agents while winger Nino Niederreiter and center Vincent Trocheck are unrestricted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Hurricanes with a projected $56.5 million invested in just 12 players for 2022-23. Tony DeAngelo and Ethan Bear are also slated to become RFAs next summer.

A qualifying offer for Kotkaniemi would be $6.1 million but the two sides could agree to a long-term extension for less money in the New Year, depending on his performance this season. The Hurricanes will have to pay raises to Trocheck ($4.75 million AAV) and Niederreiter ($5.25 million) to keep them out of the UFA market. Bear and DeAngelo won’t be expensive to qualify but they possess arbitration rights.

Necas could be the one to watch here. He’s in the final season of his entry-level contract. If he builds on last season’s promising 41-point performance (in 53 games) he’ll be in line for a lucrative pay raise.

He could become an offer-sheet target depending on what the Hurricanes do with their other free agents and how much cap space they’ll have. Unless, of course, they decide to avoid that hassle and ink him to an extension before next summer.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers could bring in a right-hand defenseman on a professional tryout offer. Most likely candidates include Michael Stone and Jason Demers.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 30, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 30, 2021

An update on the trade status of Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and the effect of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet on the Canadiens and Hurricanes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford provided an update on the trade status of St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. He believes the Carolina Hurricanes remain interested as they need scoring help, especially on the power play. The New York Rangers could also be among the suitors.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

Asked if the New York Islanders are still in the mix, Rutherford believes they are, though you never know with general manager Lou Lamoriello. Some around the league believe he’s signed a few free agents this summer such as Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri, However, he hasn’t announced those deals so no one knows how much cap space he actually has for the coming season.

The odds are 50-50 that Tarasenko returns with the Blues this season but Rutherford feels he’ll be moved. He believes the relationship between Tarasenko and the club isn’t reparable and feels comfortable guaranteeing the winger will be traded.

Rutherford also didn’t dismiss the possibility of shipping Tarasenko in a package deal to the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel. He believes the Blues expressed interest in the Sabres center but it never became serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford published his mailbag before news broke of the Hurricanes signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet. If the Montreal Canadiens don’t match it, the Canes will be out of the Tarasenko sweepstakes. And no, they won’t flip Kotkaniemi to St. Louis in a package deal for Tarasenko. By signing that offer sheet, Kotkaniemi cannot be traded this season.

The Rangers could acquire Tarasenko as short-term depth until young right wingers Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov are better prepared to become full-time top-six forwards. However, they don’t appear in any hurry to make that move.

Given concerns about the Blues defense corps, they could seek a defenseman as part of the return. Rutherford heard the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield mentioned in recent speculation but that doesn’t mean the Isles will part with him. Lamoriello also has to sign Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin. If he’s already signed UFAs like Parise and Palmieri, he probably won’t have enough room to acquire Tarasenko and have enough for Beauvillier and Sorokin.

Tarasenko to Buffalo for Eichel would be a blockbuster deal but I don’t see it happening. The 29-year-old Tarasenko has just two years left on his contract and would probably hit the open market in 2023. The Sabres will want a return that best fits into their long-term plans.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski suggests the Carolina Hurricanes’ signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi could affect the Jack Eichel trade market. If the Montreal Canadiens don’t match it, they’ll receive the Hurricanes’ first-round pick and their third-round pick in next year’s NHL Draft.

With the Canadiens potentially having two firsts and two third-rounders next year, Kingerski wonders if offering up two firsts and a prospect could land them Eichel. He also took note of Eichel hiring Pat Brisson last week as his new agent, pointing out he and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin are close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I observed in today’s morning coffee headlines, the Canadiens’ salary-cap constraints means they’ll likely have to part with a salaried player as part of a deal for Eichel even if they placed Shea Weber and Paul Byron on long-term injury reserve this season.

Weber is expected to miss the entire season but Byron is expected to return to the lineup in January. Unless the Sabres retain part of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit (and I doubt they will), I don’t see how the Habs can fit his contract into their payroll without shedding additional salary.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock acknowledged the salary-cap issues facing the Hurricanes if they successfully sign away Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens. He speculates one way to address it is by placing defenseman Jake Gardiner and his $4.050 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve.

However, the Hurricanes would have to be over the cap by $4 million to take full advantage of it. That would require another move or signing, and Gardiner would have to fail his training-camp physical or be willing, essentially, to retire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly provides complete details of how LTIR works and PuckPedia has a shorter version.

Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet pushed the Canes over the $81.5 million cap by $1.523 million. The Hurricanes could attempt to trade Gardiner to shed his full salary if he doesn’t fail his medical, place him on waivers or demote him to clear some cap room. Demotion, however, won’t clear his full cap hit from their books.

How the Hurricanes clear cap space remains hypothetical until the Canadiens reach their decision whether to match the offer within the seven-day window. GM Don Waddell could already have something else up his sleeve to address that issue. Stay tuned.