NHL Rumor Mill – August 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 13, 2020

Teams eliminated from the postseason can now make trades, plus the latest on the Canadiens, Leafs, Oilers, Jets, Wild, and Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the trade market is now open for the eight teams eliminated from the qualifying round. That also includes the seven teams that didn’t qualify to participate in the Return-to-Play plan.

LeBrun believes some of those teams could wait until all 31 clubs are able to take part in the trade market following the playoffs. Nevertheless, he wonders if some might make some calls in the limited market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of those clubs could start calling each other, and perhaps there might be a fit for a deal or two. Most will likely wait until the end of the playoffs. That’s when I expect we’ll see the biggest moves as teams pressed for cap space next season look to shed salary.

DOMI’S DAYS NUMBERED IN MONTREAL?

TVA SPORTS: Michel Bergeron recently observed Max Domi playing on the Montreal Canadiens’ fourth line. He believes the center’s days with the Habs are numbered.

Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens coach Claude Julien indicated he had Domi on the fourth line to spread out the skill in his roster as he rolls four lines. However, their popgun offense could see the 25-year-old forward make a full-time return among the top-six forwards soon.

Domi’s future in Montreal has been a hot topic among Montreal pundits throughout this season. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Much will depend upon how contract talks go with Habs management.

TIDBITS FROM FRIEDMAN’S RECENT 31 THOUGHTS

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman wondered if there might be a fit between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers regarding the Leafs’ wingers. He pointed out Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl need help. The two clubs were close on some things in the past, like Connor Brown before he went to Ottawa.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Making the cap dollars work will be an issue for the Oilers. With over $71.3 million invested in 17 players, they can’t afford to take on a salary like William Nylander’s $6.9 million AAV without clearing out some cap room. Kasperi Kapanen’s $3.2 million AAV would probably be more to their liking. Whether there’s a fit remains to be seen. The Leafs need blueline depth but the Oilers don’t have much to spare in that department.

Speaking of the Oilers, Friedman said it sounded like they thought a signing was close with Jesse Puljujarvi but the winger didn’t seem to think so. A trade is still possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just spitballing but maybe Puljujarvi in a package deal to Toronto for Kapanen? On his own, his value is pretty low. However, he wouldn’t address the Leafs’ blueline needs.

Friedman believes the Winnipeg Jets will seek some beef on their blueline. The absence of Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers caught up with them in their qualifying-round series with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. That lack of big-bodied depth on the defense hurt the Jets all season.

There were times earlier this season when Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin indicated a willingness to listen to offers on Jonas Brodin and/or Matt Dumba, but other clubs said he wasn’t in a hurry to move either guy. Friedman believes Guerin now has an idea of their market value if he decides to go that route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba’s not going anywhere. His play improved as the season went on. Remember, he was still recovering early in the campaign from last season’s pectoral surgery. Brodin could be moved but it’ll take a significant offer to tempt Guerin.

Friedman wondered if the Nashville Predators will hang onto Kyle Turris for one more season and see what happens around next summer’s expansion draft, or buy him out and have $2 million of dead cap space each year for the next eight seasons.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 9, 2020

Check out the latest on the Penguins, Wild, and Predators in this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.

PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel examined several pressing questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their elimination from the playoff qualifying round.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (NHL Images).

He wondered if Matt Murray will return, believing it’ll come down to how much the restricted free agent will seek on his new contract. Backup Tristan Jarry is also an RFA and showed potential as a starting goalie this season.

Murray was also on Vensel’s list of Penguins who might not return next season. Unrestricted free agents such as Patrick Marleau and Justin Schultz probably skate away, while Conor Sheary will have to accept a bargain-basement deal to stay.

Vensel suggests Nick Bjugstad and Jack Johnson as cost-cutting trade options, though moving the latter could prove difficult. He also proposed shopping Kris Letang after the emergence of John Marino.

The Pens must find two new defensemen to plug into their top-six, with promising Pierre-Olivier Joseph as an option. They also need to sort out their third-line center position and their bottom-six forwards.

It’s unlikely they’ll consider trading Evgeni Malkin unless he asked to be traded. So far, he’s given no indication he wants to move on.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $68.2 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Unless Murray’s taking a hometown discount for a year or two with the promise of bigger bucks down the road, or the Penguins shed salary to make room for his new contract, I don’t see how they can afford to keep him and Jarry.

Unless Malkin wants out, he’ll be back with the Penguins next year. So will Johnson, who’s earning an annual average value of $3.25 million through 2022-23 and isn’t capable of being a decent third-pairing defenseman anymore. They’ll have to package him with a sweetener to make him palatable, but his age (33) and the remaining years on that contract are serious sticking points.

Bjugstad has a year remaining at $4.1 million. If he hasn’t recovered from spinal surgery they could place him on long-term injury reserve to start next season. They can’t buy him out as long as he’s still recovering from surgery.

As I noted yesterday, trading Letang won’t be easy. He has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the oft-injured rearguard is 33 and carries a $7.25 million AAV through 2021-22.

PREDATORS

THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina wondered what the Nashville Predators will look like next season following their qualifying-round elimination.

He suggested buying out Kyle Turris’ contract, though that would cost $2 million annually against their salary cap through 2027-28. They could also let Craig Smith and/or Mikael Granlund depart via free agency and replace them with prospects such as Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Rexrode advocates buying out Turris and bidding farewell to Granlund. However, the hard part is figuring out if a major trade is necessary to push the Preds back into relevance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Predators GM David Poile intends to make a big move, the question becomes which player hits the trade block? Not Filip Forsberg or defensemen Ryan Ellis and team captain Roman Josi. Rexrode doubts Poile will shop Matt Duchene only a year after signing him to a long-term contract. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson comprise the Predators’ best line alongside Forsberg, but there’s been some grumbling over Johansen’s reliability as a first-line center.

Poile has a history of making big moves that no one saw coming. If he considers going that route again, my guess is Johansen becomes the trade candidate, provide a taker can be found for his $8 million AAV through 2024-25.

WILD

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sara McLellan suggests Kirill Kaprizov could address some of the Minnesota Wild’s scoring woes. He’ll make his NHL debut next season, but other reinforcements might be necessary.

It remains to be seen what happens to captain (and pending UFA) Mikko Koivu. McLellan feels the Wild need better depth on defense and wonders about the status of their goaltending after Alex Stalock replaced Devan Dubnyk as their starter. Both are under contract for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $65 million tied up in 17 players. With Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin coming off entry-level contracts, GM Bill Guerin could ink them to affordable bridge deals to ensure sufficient space for other moves.

Unless Koivu’s willing to accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary, the 37-year-old probably played his final game for the Wild, or as an NHL player. They’ll probably stick with the Dubnyk-Stalock tandem and see how things shake out next season. Stalock’s signed through 2021-22 while Dubnyk is a UFA next year.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 8, 2020

Check out the latest Penguins, Panthers, Oilers, and Predators speculation as they head into the off-season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PENGUINS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski examined some off-season keys for the Pittsburgh Penguins following their qualifying-round exit. The Pens must decide between restricted free agent goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. They also need to shore up their blueline and are expected to re-sign most of their young RFA forwards.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vendel wondered if the Penguins will move on from Murray just three years after choosing him over Marc-Andre Fleury. Given their limited salary-cap space, he also speculated over whether general manager Jim Rutherford might dangle veteran defenseman Kris Letang in the trade market to shake up the core or perhaps think even bigger.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers think the decision to start Jarry over Murray in that crucial fourth game against the Canadiens indicates the latter could hit the trade block following the post-season. Murray will be more expensive to re-sign than Jarry. With the cap remaining flat, that could seal Murray’s fate.

Cap Friendly indicates Letang has a list of 18 preferred trade destinations.  Moving a 33-year-old defenseman carrying an annual average value of $7.25 million on a contract with two seasons remaining won’t be easy in this new economic environment.

PANTHERS

ESPN.COM: Kaplan and Wyshynski wondered what will become of Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon after reports emerged Friday saying the club would soon part ways with him. They need to build up their roster depth but they’re also reportedly planning to cut payroll for next season.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin speculates winger Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov could be departing via the unrestricted free agent market as it could cost a combined $15 million to re-sign them. Larkin believes improving the blue line should be the Panthers’ priority. 

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Rob Simpson noted defenseman Mike Matheson was scratched from the Panthers’ lineup following his poor performances in the first two games of their qualifier against the New York Islanders. Matheson could draw some interest in the trade market, where his affordable $4.25-million AAV would be a good selling point. His modified no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tallon attempted to improve the Panthers’ defense corps before the trade deadline but didn’t find any deals to his liking. The decline in Matheson’s performance saw him briefly surface in this season’s rumor mill. Maybe a change of scenery will do him good, depending on how much interest he draws in the trade market.  Dadonov and Hoffman could be moving on If the Panthers are planning to cut payroll.

OILERS

ESPN.COM: Kaplan and Wyshynski believe the Edmonton Oilers must provide more support for superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Both carried the bulk of the offensive load in their qualifying series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Oilers need two-way forwards, they must sort out their defense, and upgrade their goaltending.

THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman feels adding another offensive forward and a top-four defenseman should be imperative for the Oilers. He also recommends adding a bottom-six forward and a replacement in goal for Smith.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers could stick with the promising young defensemen within their system. They must find a reliable starter. Mike Smith is aging and Mikko Koskinen is inconsistent. Affordable two-way forwards should be available via trades or free agency. With over $71.3 million invested in 17 players, finding sufficient cap space could be an issue.

PREDATORS

ESPN.COM: Kaplan and Wyshynski believe the Nashville Predators must decide if they can afford to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith or determine which one to keep. They also wonder if center Kyle Turris will factor into their plans. He’s struggled in Nashville but his $6-million annual salary through 2023-24 makes him difficult to move.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell wonders if it’s time for the Predators to promote GM David Poile and bring in a new look to their front office. They’ve been on the decline since reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Campbell points out, scoring depth has long been a problem for the Predators. Cap space will be an issue as they’re carrying over $72.2 million committed to 17 players. Shedding Turris would help but his salary and performance won’t be palatable to other teams this summer. Poile is the only general manager in Predators’ history, but it could be time for a fresh outlook.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

A look at how the expansion Seattle Kraken could build their roster and coaching staff, plus the latest Predators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BUILDING THE KRAKEN

TSN: Following yesterday’s reveal of Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise as the Kraken, Darren Dreger examined how they could build their coaching staff and roster. He said Kraken general manager Ron Francis still intends to take his time finding the right bench boss.

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis (NHL.com)

There’s speculation linking former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to the Seattle franchise. Dreger feels it’s safe to assume Gallant is in the mix.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant’s performance during the Golden Knights’ record-breaking inaugural season earned him the Jack Adams Award as the 2017-18 NHL coach of the year. He’ll be a tempting option for Francis.

Dreger also believes a flat salary cap of $81.5 million could work in the Kraken’s favor when building their roster next year. Francis could take advantage of the tough decisions some cap-strapped teams could face heading into 2021-22.

Some of those clubs could try to interest Francis in taking a high-salaried player off their hands. He could also take advantage of arbitration cases where a team rejects the arbiter’s award or those that walk away from qualifying offers for their restricted free agents.

Dreger’s colleague Travis Yost believes the Vegas Golden Knights have provided the Kraken a blueprint for building a successful expansion roster. They got secure goaltending by selecting Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, swung several trades to obtain key players such as Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and William Karlsson, and loaded up on promising young assets through the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis will have his own ideas for building his roster, but I don’t doubt he’ll also attempt to follow the Golden Knights’ template. The flat cap provides him with perhaps better opportunities to land quality talent through next summer’s expansion draft or via the trade and free-agent markets.

I’ve avoided the expansion draft guessing game some writers played during the interruption in the NHL schedule by COVID-19. A player that could be available today might be protected next year, while limited cap space could leave a supposed untouchable player unprotected. Still, it will be interesting to see what opportunities unfold for the Kraken come next summer.

COULD THE PREDATORS BUY OUT TURRIS?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked about the likelihood of the Nashville Predators buying out Kyle Turris’ contract to free salary cap space to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. The two forwards are slated to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

Buying out Turris would save the Predators $4 million annually through 2024. Vingan isn’t sure if they’ll do t but believes they should give it serious consideration. Even then, he feels the likelihood of re-signing both Granlund and Smith is low.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: PuckPedia indicates buying out Turris will also leave the Predators with $2 million in annual dead cap space through 2027-28. With the cap expected to be flat for perhaps the next two seasons and growth to be slow after that, it still might not be a bad idea to remove the bulk of Turris’ cap hit.

As per Cap Friendly, the Predators have over $72.2 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Buying out Turris would reduce that to $68.2 million, providing a little extra wiggle room to re-sign Granlund or Smith, or to perhaps consider more affordable options via trade or free agency.

Whether GM David Poile goes that route is another story. He could attempt to move Turris’ entire contract, but that could mean packaging the center with a high draft pick and/or a top prospect.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2020

Some potential Red Wings trade targets, the Predators’ cap crunch, and the latest on Ilya Kovalchuk in today’s NHL rumor mill.

POSSIBLE RED WINGS TRADE TARGETS

THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan lists several potential trade options for the Detroit Red Wings. With only $46.2 million invested in 11 players next season, they have enough room to re-sign their key free agents and target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary.

Could Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson became a trade target for the Detroit Red Wings? (Photo via NHL Images)

Kulfan suggests Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, and Alex Killorn could interest the Wings. They could also set their sights on Pittsburgh Penguins goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry, St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen and winger Jaden Schwartz, and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson and Gourde each have a full no-trade clause while Killorn carries a modified no-trade. They all know Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman from his days as Lightning GM. That could sway one of them to approve a move to Detroit, but it’s not a certainty.

Schwartz also has a modified no-trade clause. He could be reluctant to include the rebuilding Wings on his list of preferred destinations.

Murray, Jarry, Allen, Kapanen, and Johnsson would be easier targets because they lack no-trade protection.

PREDATORS FACING CAP CRUNCH

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Adam Vingan recently explored how the Nashville Predators could fill multiple holes on their roster with limited cap space next season. They have 17 players under contract for next season with roughly $9.3 million in cap room.

Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith are their notable unrestricted free agents. Vingan speculated the 28-year-old Granlund might be receptive to a two-year deal while the 31-year-old Smith could seek term, though the latter might be open to accepting less money.

Buying out center Kyle Turris could also free up some cap room. He has four years left on his contract worth $6 million annually. A buyout would see the Predators carry $2 million in dead-cap space through 2028. Vingan considered it difficult to believe GM David Poile will pull off a big trade to clear cap space, noting he’s never retained salary in a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Poile is willing to retain part of Turris’ salary in a trade, buying him out could be his only option to free up valuable cap space for next season. A rival club could take on Turris if some salary was retained, but Poile could be squeezed to add a draft pick or a quality prospect in the deal. The remaining four years on his contract, however, could be a deal-breaker.

LATEST ON KOVALCHUK

TVA SPORTS: Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk said he’s stayed in contact with several of his former Montreal Canadiens teammates. Kovalchuk enjoyed a solid bounce-back performance with the Habs after they acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings. He was shipped to the Capitals before the February trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk enjoyed his brief time in Montreal. Speculation persists suggesting Kovalchuk could return to the Canadiens next season on a one-year, bonus-laden contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 20, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at several possible buyout candidates plus some recent Blues speculation.

POTENTIAL BUYOUT CANDIDATES

NBC SPORTS: Sean Leahy recently listed Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner, Anaheim Ducks winger David Backes, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris, and Vancouver Canucks winger Loui Eriksson as five prime off-season contract buyout candidates.

Alzner, 31, spent most of the past three seasons buried in the minors. He has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $4.625 million, plus he’s owed a $1.5 million signing bonus this off-season.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (Photo via NHL Images).

Backes, 36, has battled injuries as his ice time and production declined in recent years. A buyout won’t free up much cap room for the Ducks but would open up a roster spot for a younger player.

The emergence of young goalies Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev put the 38-year-old Lundqvist’s future with the Rangers into doubt. He has a year left at an AAV of $8.5 million. The Rangers could try to trade him but Lundqvist would have to waive his no-movement clause.

Turris was a health scratch at times this season. He’s earning $6 million annually for the next four years.

Eriksson is another veteran forward whose production and ice time have dropped. He has two years left with an AAV of $6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have just over $63 million invested in 16 players, with Max Domi and Victor Mete as their notable free agents. Depending on the cost of re-signing those two, the Habs could have sufficient space under a projected $81.5 million cap next season to add to their roster without buying out Alzner. They could retain him for one more season to work with their minor leaguers and buy out his final season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ducks bought out Backes. The years of physical play have caught up with him. Given his concussion history, retirement would be the best option, but that’s not something he seems to be considering.

Most of the speculation about Lundqvist points to a buyout unless he agrees to be traded or they move Georgiev instead.

Turris was frequently mentioned as a buyout candidate, but that’s something Predators GM David Poile could be reluctant to do. He doesn’t like carrying dead cap space but might not have much choice if he can’t move Turris in a cost-cutting trade.

There’s talk of trading Eriksson to a budget team after he’s paid his signing bonus for next season, as his actual salary will be lower than his $6 million AAV. If that’s not possible, the Canucks might have to go the buyout route.

LATEST ON THE BLUES

STLTODAY.COM: In a recent chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas said he doesn’t see them going shopping in the free-agent market even if Alex Pietrangelo departs after this season. General manager Doug Armstrong would only have enough cap space to re-sign RFA defenseman Vince Dunn.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford said he doesn’t see former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk as a possible replacement for Pietrangelo. Currently with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Shattenkirk is 31 and the Blues don’t need him on the right side when they’ve already got Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues (as per Cap Friendly) have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players next season. If Pietrangelo walks they’ll still have to shed some salary to re-sign Dunn. They won’t have enough to jump into the UFA market.