NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2021

More Jack Eichel trade speculation plus the latest on the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EICHEL

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports multiple sources said Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel had a contentious exit interview with the organization. It’s believed he’s exploring an artificial disk replacement in his neck on the advice of his medical team. The Sabres, however, aren’t thrilled with that option because of the lack of evidence of its effectiveness on elite-level athletes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That resulted in Eichel’s surprising comments about his future during his season-ending media conference call on Monday.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images)

Eichel may have played his final game for the Sabres. He will attract plenty of interest in the trade market despite his medical treatment.

The Rangers are the obvious suitor given their interest in Eichel last year. They weren’t willing to part with their 2020 first-round pick because it was first overall but that could be an option this time around unless they win the draft lottery again. Friedman wonders if the Sabres would ship Eichel to New York but also mused over whether they would say no if the Rangers made the best offer.

Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets could try but Friedman wonders if they have the pieces. He thinks the Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings could do it. The Ottawa Senators could too but it doesn’t make sense for them. So could the Montreal Canadiens.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun also believes the Rangers could be a suitor for Eichel, as well as the Minnesota Wild. The latter have to re-sign Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek so they have to make the money work.

Frank Seravalli doubts the Sabres would want to trade Eichel to a division rival and risk facing him six to eight times a season. He thinks California teams like Anaheim and Los Angeles would be better destinations. Ducks general manager Bob Murray wants to make a splash while the Kings reportedly had a cursory conversation with the Sabres about Eichel before last month’s trade deadline.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun asked several NHL team executives about a potential Eichel trade sweepstakes and received a wide range of views. Despite some concerns about Eichel’s injury history and character, LeBrun has no doubt that the center will be too tempting for teams to pass up.

Michael Russo believes the Minnesota Wild would have to shed salary to fit Eichel’s $10 million annual average value within their salary cap. He wondered if the Sabres would be interested in an offer of Kevin Fiala and Matt Dumba. However, they could prefer a first-line center or blue-chip center prospect as part of any return for Eichel.

Hailey Salvian thinks Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving could look into acquiring Eichel. She speculates Matthew Tkachuk would have to be part of a package offer.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White doesn’t see the San Jose Sharks winning a bidding war for Eichel. The Kings and Ducks can outbid them and they have more cap space to work with.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still believe the Rangers and Kings would be the front-runners in the Eichel sweepstakes if they choose to pursue a trade. They have the depth in assets to make a strong pitch.

Ducks GM Bob Murray did attempt to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois in January before he was traded to Winnipeg. However, the Sabres will ask for promising Trevor Zegras and perhaps defenseman Jamie Drysdale as well. Murray didn’t want to part with either guy for Dubois and could be reluctant to do so for Eichel.

The Blue Jackets have the cap room but I don’t see them outbidding the Rangers or Kings. Cap Friendly shows the Flyers with over $69 million invested in 17 players for next season. They must shed cap space to make room for Eichel’s $10 million cap hit and I doubt they can tempt the Sabres into helping them.

The Senators have the depth in promising assets and plenty of cap space. However, they seem happy with how their current roster is developing and could be reluctant to mess that up with a big splash in the trade pool. The Canadiens have the assets but, like the Flyers, lack the cap space to pull it off.

Wild GM Bill Guerin could kick tires on Eichel. While Joel Eriksson Ek has blossomed into a solid two-way center but they still lack a genuine first-liner. However, I think Guerin will consider more affordable options to address that need.

Treliving of the Flames could also inquire but I don’t believe he can meet the Sabres asking price or outbid other clubs He could, however, look at Eichel’s teammate Sam Reinhart. Friedman suggested Reinhart, a West Vancouver native, could attract interest from the Western Canadian NHL teams.

COYOTES

AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan believes the Arizona Coyotes’ biggest need is a No. 1 center but believes they’ll have to draft and develop one as rival clubs are reluctant to trade such commodities. If GM Bill Armstrong pursues a center it’ll likely be a middle-six option.

Morgan also believes the Coyotes need a physical top-four defenseman with a right-hand shot. Addressing that need is a priority for Armstrong.

Of the Coyotes’ pending unrestricted free agents, Morgan believes Alex Goligoski is the only one who might be brought back. He feels Goligoski would get a one- or two-year deal.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman speculates the Coyotes could trade winger Phil Kessel for draft picks and prospects. He was among the top-30 in goals this season and is due for a $5 million bonus for next season followed by $1 million in base salary. Friedman also shot down a rumor suggesting the Coyotes would buy out Nick Schmaltz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel would certainly fill that first-line center need for the Coyotes. They have the cap space but I don’t see them getting into the bidding given the reports earlier this season of ownership’s financial woes.

Kessel still has his 8-team no-trade list but that still gives the Coyotes a decent number of possible destinations if they wish to move him. Any interested parties, however, will wait until he’s received that bonus payment.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill: the Flames face some big offseason decisions, it might be time for the Sharks to consider trading Timo Meier or Kevin Labanc and Nikita Zadorov’s uncertain future with the Blackhawks.

TSN: Salim Valji examined the seven-year tenure of Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving and the big decisions he faces in the offseason. He pointed out the perception of the Flames as a flawed team has grown, suggesting it’ll take more than a handful of transactions to turn this disappointing club into a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

Winger Johnny Gaudreau’s no-trade clause kicks in after this season and he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Team captain Mark Giordano could be exposed in the expansion draft. Under-performing winger Matthew Tkachuk will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights requiring a $9 million qualifying offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving took responsibility for the Flames’ discouraging performance this season but that’s cold comfort for their fans. There could be growing calls for a new GM but Valji points out Treliving has two years remaining on his contract.

Gaudreau’s future could be Treliving’s biggest decision. The 27-year-old winger is a whipping boy for the Flames’ woes as his production has declined over the last two years. He could be their best trade chip but interested parties will want to know if Gaudreau will sign a contract extension before committing to a trade. He’d have more value if he’s under contract beyond next season.

Exposing Giordano in the expansion draft is a calculated risk. The Seattle Kraken could select him but could prefer another option given his age (37) and UFA eligibility next summer.

Tkachuk disappointed this season but the Flames could be reluctant to part ways with the pesky 23-year-old winger. He’d attract plenty of interest in the trade market but some teams will balk at that hefty qualifying offer.

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz points out it’s not just the San Jose Sharks’ veterans who are playing poorly of late but also their younger players. Most concerning is Timo Meier (24) and Kevin Labanc (25) aren’t performing to the level expected of players with their contracts.

Kurz wonders if it might be time to trade one or both but that won’t be easy. While they lack no-trade protection, Labanc has a $4.725 million cap hit for the next three seasons while Meier’s is $6 million annually for the next two.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their trade value at this point would also be affected by their play this season. Factor in those cap hits and getting a worthwhile return for either guy this summer seems unlikely.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope suggested the Blackhawks’ signing physical defenseman Riley Stillman to a three-year contract extension casts more doubt over Nikita Zadorov’s future in Chicago. He speculates Zadorov’s RFA rights could be traded in the offseason.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman listened to offers for Zadorov at the trade deadline but set a high asking price. He might have to lower it to move the blueliner this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stillman’s $1.35 million annual average value and age (23) makes him a younger, more affordable option for the Blackhawks than the 26-year-old Zadorov, who’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights. He’s also got arbitration rights this summer, making him perhaps more difficult to move this summer.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl was asked if Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula intend to sell the franchise. He said the club isn’t for sale but that hasn’t stop prospective buyers from calling. He doesn’t think the Pegulas have any plans to sell.

Could Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel get traded this summer? (NHL Images)

Asked about Jack Eichel’s contract, Vogl said the captain’s no-movement clause kicks in with the 2022-23 season. That would limit where the Sabres could trade Eichel if things reached the point where he had to be moved.

Asked if Eichel’s played his final game with the Sabres, Vogl guesses no. The clock isn’t ticking this summer on trading their captain. They can take this summer if they wish to weigh offers, see what happens with Eichel and the team next season, and decide his fate after that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if some clubs make inquiries this summer about Eichel’s availability and the asking price. Perhaps one of them will make a pitch too good to pass up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume it’s a certainty Eichel will be traded unless the Sabres captain wants out.

Vogl believes the Sabres will do everything they can to re-sign Linus Ullmark. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doing so could cost $5 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether they re-sign Ullmark or look elsewhere for a starter they better find a reliable backup. Carter Hutton is a UFA and won’t be back. Dustin Tokarski is signed through next season at $725 and has looked ok in an emergency call-up role but can they depend on him over a full season? Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, is in their system but might not be NHL-ready yet.

Vogl doubts there’s a viable way for the Sabres to shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. No club except the Seattle Kraken can afford Skinner’s long-term cap space. Buying out Okposo wouldn’t make sense until 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s signed through 2026-27 with a $9 million annual average value and a full no-movement clause. Okposo’s got two more seasons left at $6 million annually and a 15-team no-trade list.

I don’t see the Kraken having any interest in Skinner even if he agreed to waive his NMC and I doubt they’ll take Okposo off the Sabres’ hands unless there’s a significant sweetener involved.

Maybe the Sabres can get creative by working out a three-way trade where they absorb half of Skinner’s or Okposo’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. However, that would still leave some significant dead cap space on the Sabres books for a long time, especially where Skinner’s contract is concerned.

The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames might be willing to entertain offers for Matthew Tkachuk if they decide to make significant changes to their underachieving roster.

Matthew, however, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer and I believe he’ll be only a year away from UFA eligibility. Any team interested in acquiring him this summer will want to know if he’d be interested in a contract extension. Otherwise, you risk losing him for nothing in two years’ time if he’s unwilling to accept more than a one-year contract next summer.

The Sabres could use a good right-winger. That would allow Victor Olofsson to move to his natural left side.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 21, 2021

Should the Flames entertain trade offers this summer for Matthew Tkachuk? How much could it cost the Leafs to re-sign Zach Hyman? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Don Brennan believes a significant shakeup is coming this summer for the struggling Calgary Flames. He believes they should focus on moving underachieving forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan but also felt they should be open to offers for winger Matthew Tkachuk.

Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk (NHL Images).

The 23-year-old Tkachuk has a year left on his contract at $7 million before becoming a restricted free agent. He has 10 goals and 30 points in 45 games, prompting Brennan to claim he isn’t providing the Flames what he’s being paid to give.

Brennan acknowledged trading Tkachuk shouldn’t be at the top of the Flames offseason “to do” list but feels they should be willing to listen to offers. He goes on to suggest the Senators make a pitch to reunite Matthew with little brother Brady in Ottawa, wondering how much more it might cost above a first-round pick and Logan Brown to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brennan’s merely spitballing, of course. We don’t know if the Flames will put Tkachuk on the block or even listen to offers, though nothing should be off the table at this point.

We also don’t know if the Senators would consider making a pitch for Matthew but their first-round pick will certainly be part of the asking price if they do. The Flames will want more than Logan Brown unless another good young player or prospect is also part of the offer. There’s also the question of how much Matthew will want on his next contract and the willingness of the Senators (or another club) to pay it. It will likely be more expensive than his current deal.

I believe the Flames will retain Matthew for at least one more season to see how he responds if Gaudreau and/or Monahan get traded this summer. They have to move quickly on Gaudreau as he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer but there’s no reason to do so with Tkachuk given his RFA status next year.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun canvassed “half a dozen NHL front office executives” to determine how much Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman might get via this summer’s free-agent market. The responses varied between $4.5 million and $5.5 million. LeBrun believes Hyman’s agent could also use Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher ($6.5 million annually) as a comparable in contract talks.

LeBrun believes the number is going to have to start with a four if Hyman wants to stay with the Leafs under a tight salary cap. It’ll start with a five if he tests the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hyman’s completing a four-year, $9 million contract ($2.25 million annual average value). He’s become an invaluable member of their core as a tenacious, versatile forward.

While Hyman and Gallagher play a similar style, the latter has better stats and plays a leadership role. The Leafs winger isn’t getting a contract comparable to the Habs alternate captain.

Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $68.1 million invested in 13 players for 2021-22. In addition to Hyman, they must also re-sign or replace Frederik Andersen, Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Nick Foligno, Jason Spezza, Ben Hutton, Zach Bogosian and David Rittich.

As LeBrun said, if Hyman wants to stay in Toronto he’ll have to accept something between $4 million and $4.99 million.










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