Check out the latest Bruins speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment Fluto Shinzawa was asked about the odds of the Boston Bruins trading for a second-line center and the cost of acquiring someone like the San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl. He believes the Bruins will turn to outside help if they can’t suitably address that issue internally. Someone like Hertl could cost at least a first-round pick and a prospect.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s also going to be the cost for every team interested in Hertl if the Sharks decide to move him before the March 21 trade deadline. The Bruins could get outbid by teams carrying a deeper prospect pool.
Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (NHL Images)
Shinzawa expects the Bruins will keep the door open for Tuukka Rask. The veteran goaltender’s recovery from offseason hip surgery, how much he’ll seek on a new contract, the club’s position in the standings and the playoff of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are among the variables to be considered.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ullmark’s shaky preseason has some Bruins followers concerned and looking forward to Rask’s return. His regular-season play, however, could be key to Rask’s future with the Bruins.
One reader asked if the Bruins might attempt to trade Ullmark for a second-line center if Swayman plays well and Rask is healthy. “No chance,” replied Shinzawa, pointing out the 28-year-old old Ullmark has a full no-movement clause for the next two seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Bruins decide to bring back Rask for another season, Ullmark becomes his backup and Swayman gets demoted regardless of performance because he’s waiver-exempt this season.
It’s doubtful the Bruins pursue Jack Eichel. There are too many questions about the health of the Buffalo Sabres captain. “It would be irresponsible to give up assets if he is at significant risk of a bad outcome,” writes Shinzawa.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That applies to every other team that expressed some interest in acquiring Eichel. They could all be waiting until he finally undergoes disc replacement or neck fusion surgery and makes a full recovery before making serious bids for him.
The Blues express interest in Zdeno Chara, the factor that enticed Joe Thornton to the Florida Panthers, breakout candidates for 2021-22 and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports a league source said the St. Louis Blues expressed interest in unrestricted free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara. The former Boston Bruins captain spent last season with the Washington Capitals.
Free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara (NHL Images).
Rutherford believes the Blues landing Chara is a long shot. A source said the 44-year-old blueliner has yet to decide where he’ll play this season. His family remains in Boston and he intends to remain close to them this season. The option remains for Chara to return to the Capitals for another season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland tweeted he was told the Blues aren’t an option for Chara. If he plays, his focus is to stay in the East to be close to his family.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers general manager Bill Zito credited his players for helping to lure Joe Thornton to the club. The 42-year-old center recently signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Thornton cited how good the team looks and how well they played last season. He believes they’re close to Stanley Cup contention. Zito also said Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Roberto Luongo spoke with Thornton.
ESPN.COM: Blues winger Pavel Buchnevich, Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland and Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark are among Greg Wyshynski’s breakout candidates for 2021-22.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Cole Sillinger to a three-year entry-level contract. Son of former NHL center Mike Sillinger, the 18-year-old was selected 12th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights will be participating in next month’s Rookie Faceoff tournament. Their rookie squad will face off against those from the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings from Sept. 17-20 in Arizona. There was no tournament last season because of the shortened schedule and lack of a preseason.
SPORTSNET: Wayne Gretzky recently launches his first NFT collectibles on the new DraftKings platform.
Reviewing Some Recent Notable NHL Trades & Free-Agent Signings
July 25 to 31 was a busy week in the NHL following the entry-draft weekend with the annual free-agent market opening on July 28.
I noted the top UFA signings of the opening day of free agency for Bleacher Report. Here’s a quick look at several other notable free-agent signings, plus some interesting trades that caught my eye over the past week.
Bennett quickly meshed well with the Panthers following his acquisition from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. He’ll provide them with solid second-line depth in their quest to become a Cup contender.
The Golden Knights had to shed salary to improve their roster depth. With a younger Robin Lehner under contract for four more years at $5 million per season, the 37-year-old Fleury and the remaining year of his contract ($7 million) had to go. Unfortunately, he found out about it on Twitter before the club could inform him. His omission of team owner Bill Foley and general manager Kelly McCrimmon in his farewell statement to the team and the fans spoke volumes.
The Lightning shed Johnson’s contract for the next three seasons. In return, they get the contract of permanently sidelined defenseman Brent Seabrook to put on LTIR. In other words, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois immediately shed $5 million from his books and garnered another $6.875 million in cap wiggle room if necessary.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Points (NHL Images).
July 28: Lightning re-sign Brayden Point to an eight-year, $76 million contract.
It’s a big investment by the Lightning but that’s the price to be paid for keeping a core player who is becoming one of the best centers in the NHL. He’s deadly during the regular season and seems to find another gear when the playoffs roll around.
Starting in 2022-23, the Lightning has almost $45 million invested in just five players. Those five, however, are Point, former league MVP and scoring champion Nikita Kucherov, former Norris and Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman, current Smythe winner and former Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, and team captain and former Richard winner Steven Stamkos. They’re the core that helped win back-to-back Stanley Cups. You can argue they’re paying too much to keep that group intact but at least they’ve got true value for those salary-cap dollars.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic turned immediately to the Coyotes and Kuemper after starter Philipp Grubauer signed with the Seattle Kraken. The 31-year-old netminder has a year left on his contract with an affordable $4.5 million cap hit. He’s a terrific performer but has been plagued by injuries in recent years. Kuemper must stay healthy throughout this season if the Avs hope to win the Stanley Cup next June.
Coleman was an effective and versatile checking-line forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their back-to-back championship runs. His style of play should fit well with head coach Darryl Sutter’s system of grinding defensive hockey. Still, investing that much for six years on a middle-six forward who turns 30 this season could prove costly in the final half of the deal when his skills start to decline.
Ullmark put up decent stats during his four years with the sad-sack Buffalo Sabres. Whether he’ll become a reliable starter on a better club in Boston remains to be seen. It’s an expensive gamble that could go sour. This signing also raises questions about the future of long-time starter Tuukka Rask once he returns from offseason hip surgery in February.
After seeing so many core players depart in recent years, the Blue Jackets had to ensure they could keep Werenski in the fold. The 24-year-old is an excellent puck-moving defenseman but they overpaid to keep him in Columbus. His $9.583 million AAV is higher than that of Colorado Avalanche rearguard Cale Makar ($9 million), who was a Calder Trophy winner in 2019-20 and a Norris Trophy finalist last season.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel also wonders about the futures of Malkin and Letang, as well as that of head coach Mike Sullivan.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).
Based on comments earlier this season by Brian Burke, the Penguins president of hockey operations, Vensel speculates they could try to bolster their goaltending while also adding some size and toughness to the lineup. The shaky performance of Tristan Jarry could send the Penguins into this summer’s trade and free-agent markets in search of help between the pipes.
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille believes Jarry’s goaltending cost the Penguins the series. He wonders if they’ll move around some money to pursue a free agent such as Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier or Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark or look to the trade market for help.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t need to blow up the roster but changes are necessary after three consecutive early postseason exits. Burke and general manager Ron Hextall will likely retool rather than rebuild, bringing in younger players to support their aging stars.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosbyisn’t in favor of breaking up the core. His opinion could carry some weight with Burke and Hextall but the final decisions rest with those two.
Crosby isn’t going anywhere and Malkin won’t be traded unless he requests it. The Penguins could shop Letang but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returns. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred destinations. He also carries a $7.25 million cap hit next season.
Goaltending is their weakness. Jarry was supposed to be an improvement over the departed Matt Murray but he couldn’t handle the pressure as a starter. Finding a suitably experienced starter will be top of the list, followed by adding more size and toughness.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Florida Panthers could lose a good roster player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It could be a forward such as Patric Hornqvist or Mason Marchment, a blueliner like Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas or Markus Nuutivaara, or pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Dave Hyde pondered what promising goalie Spencer Knight’s performance in the final two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning means for Sergei Bobrovsky’s future in Florida. He wondered if general manager Bill Zito will try to move Bobrovsky this summer if someone is willing to take on the veteran netminder’s hefty contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers drafting Knight in the 2019 draft and signing Bobrovsky days later was a topic of recent amusement for some folks on social media. They conveniently overlook the fact that it was former Panthers GM Dale Tallon who made those moves. Zito was left with a headache.
Bobrovksky’s inconsistent play since joining the Panthers, his full no-movement clause and $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 makes him difficult to move, especially with the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season. As per Cap Friendly, a buyout will be an expensive long-term headache.
MORE OILERS SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson doesn’t expect Oilers GM Ken Holland to go on a massive spending spree this summer to bolster his roster. While Holland will have $28 million in cap space, a portion will be spent on trying to re-sign pending UFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.
Matheson considers Larsson the cheapest and most likely to be re-signed. Nugent-Hopkins will be the most expensive while Barrie could be departing after a year in Edmonton because he’ll want a long-term deal.
Holland said he intends to bring back goaltender Mike Smith for another season. Matheson wonders if Mikko Koskinen will be traded, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or prospect to a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of their young goalies.
Buyouts are also possible. Matheson believes James Neal to be the most likely candidate. Holland didn’t rule out trading a prospect such as Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway for immediate help but he said he’s not doing that for a one-year player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could try to convince Nugent-Hopkins to accept slightly less than his current $6 million annual average value. If RNH signs elsewhere, Holland will use the savings to bring in a replacement via trade or free agency.
I like Matheson’s suggestion of packaging Koskinen to the Blue Jackets for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. Koskinen’s 15-team no-trade list, however, could be a sticking point if he doesn’t want to go to Columbus. Even then, the Jackets could get better offers for one of those goalies.
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.
Taylor Hall scores again for the Bruins, the latest on Steven Stamkos, Adam Lowry re-signed, Zach Hyman fined, and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his second goal in as many games and Jeremy Swayman made 25 saves for his first career NHL shutout as the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Islanders 3-0. Curtis Lazar also tallied his first goal with the Bruins after coming over from Buffalo with Hall before the trade deadline. The Bruins (54 points) sit three back of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the MassMutual East Division.
Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far, so good for the Bruins in the wake of the Hall trade. They’ll be in good shape over the remainder of the season if he regains his offensive touch. It’s also worth noting Mike Reilly, acquired from the Ottawa Senators before the trade deadline, has two assists in his last three games.
Two goals from Tyler Toffoli enabled the Montreal Canadiens to edge the Calgary Flames 2-1. Jake Allen made 28 saves for the win as the Canadiens (47 points) opened a six-point lead over the Flames for fourth place in the Scotia North Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not to take anything away from Toffoli’s timely scoring or Allen’s solid goaltending but the Canadiens caught a few breaks in this contest. They were outplayed but avoided disaster as the Flames clanked three or four shots off the goalposts.
The Vegas Golden Knights moved to within two points of the first-place Colorado Avalanche in the Honda West Division by blanking the Anaheim Ducks 4-0. Robin Lehner turned in a 16-save shutout while Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone each had two points. Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 47 saves.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche (64 points) has had three games postponed as a third player (Joonas Donskoi) tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week. They’re expected to resume action on April 17.
The Minnesota Wild got a goal and an assist from Nick Bonino to nip the San Jose Sharks 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. With 55 points, the Wild sit seven points behind the second-place Golden Knights while the Sharks (40 points) remain four back of the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.
The NHL announced its latest revision to its schedule by extending all North Division games through May 19. This move is being made to accommodate the Vancouver Canucks as they return to action on April 18 after nearly a month following an outbreak of COVID-19.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning still doesn’t know if captain Steven Stamkos’ lower-body injury is related to last year’s core muscle injuries that required surgery. He’s been placed on long-term injury reserve but coach Jon Cooper expects he’ll return to action before the end of the regular season.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed Adam Lowry to a five-year, $16.25 million contract extension. The 28-year-old forward was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. His annual average salary will be $3.25 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable move by the Jets ensuring the big, versatile two-way forward remains on the roster. Cap Friendly indicates the Jets have $60.9 million invested in 13 players for 2021-22.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for high-sticking Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk on Thursday.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark is sidelined week to week with a lower-body injury.
SPORTSNET: Cole Caufield participated in his first practice with the Montreal Canadiens on Friday after being called up from the Laval Rocket. The 2021 Hobey Baker Award winner is on the taxi squad as salary-cap limitations complicate when they can get him into the lineup.
AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes will induct young hockey player and Coyotes fan Leighton Accardo into its Ring of Honor on Saturday. The nine-year-old passed away in November following a long battle with cancer. She was beloved by the players, coaches and staff from when she first spent time with the team.