NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

Could the Penguins trade Kris Letang? Are the Blackhawks trying to re-sign Corey Crawford? Could Wayne Simmonds join the Leafs? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE PENGUINS TRADE LETANG?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi reports Kris Letang would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin but feels the club could try to trade him. Neither ownership nor management feels the club would be better without Letang and the return of Todd Reirden as an assistant coach could benefit the 33-year-old defenseman.

Nevertheless, Rossi cites multiple team sources saying Letang expects to be traded. League sources claim Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was gauging the market value of the veteran blueliner but he’s not actively shopping him. Rutherford reportedly confided to associates that the right thing is for Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins-for-life.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t dismiss the possibility of Letang getting traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suiting up with the Penguins next season.

Letang’s contract won’t be easy to move. He has two years remaining on his contract worth $7.25 million per season. He also has an 18-team no-trade list and a no-movement clause preventing him from being demoted to the minors. The flattened salary cap for 2020-21 will also affect his trade value.

I don’t fault Rutherford for exploring the trade market to see what’s out there for Letang. He probably doesn’t think he’ll find a suitable deal but it doesn’t hurt to consider that option. Maybe a club on the blueliner’s list of preferred trade destinations makes an offer too good to pass up.

BLACKHAWKS MAKE OFFER TO CRAWFORD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to have offered Corey Crawford a one-year contract worth around $3.5 million. The 35-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford’s completing a six-year, $36-million contract worth $6 million annually, but he knows he’s not getting that much for an annual average value again. The netminder is also aware of the Hawks’ cap constraints. Maybe he takes the hometown discount on a one-year deal, especially if that $3.5-million offer is the base salary for a bonus-laden deal.

SIMMONDS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOING THE LEAFS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Wayne Simmonds believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team where he could have an impact right away. The 32-year-old winger is a UFA on Oct. 9 and spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. He recently moved his family north of Toronto and spends a lot of time in the city.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds also indicated he’s open to everything as free agency approaches. “Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go,” he told LeBrun. He’s also aware of the cap constraints facing the Leafs and other teams for next season.

Injuries hampered Simmonds’ performance over the past two years, limiting his effectiveness as a power forward. Still, he could be an affordable signing for clubs seeking veteran grit and leadership. Maybe a cap-strapped club like the Leafs comes calling.

THE LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports re-signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom is the top priority for Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning. It’s believed the Markstrom camp seeks over $6-million annually while the Canucks are believed to have countered with $5.5 million per season.

Re-signing Markstrom could affect the rest of the roster. Johnston also points out the Canucks are unlikely to keep Markstrom and promising goalie Thatcher Demko in next year’s expansion draft.

Johnston also reports Jake Virtanen could be shopped in the trade market. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but with Benning hoping to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli, Virtanen would be demoted to third- or fourth-line duty. Benning indicated they’ve been patient with Virtanen but was expecting more production from the winger, especially in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $64.4 million invested in 16 players next season, a deal worth over $6 million annually for Markstrom will bite deeply into the Canucks’ remaining cap space. So will a new contract for Toffoli.

Trading Virtanen would allow money that would’ve gone to him be put toward re-signing Toffoli or another player. However, Benning still must shed salary to absorb new contracts for Markstrom and Toffoli and leave sufficient room for other moves.

Benning’s reportedly attempted to move winger Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually through 2021-22) without success. Brandon Sutter ($4.35 million) could be another trade candidate. The Canucks GM might get some wiggle room if Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million AAV through 2022-23) starts the season on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to make cap room for Ferland’s return.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

Will the Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom? Could the Predators pursue Taylor Hall? What could the Wild do during the offseason?

WHAT WILL THE CANUCKS DO WITH MARKSTROM?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons mused over what the Vancouver Canucks will do with Jacob Markstrom. The 30-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent this fall. Simmons points out they also have promising Thatcher Demko and must expose a goalie in next year’s expansion draft. He wonders if the Colorado Avalanche might pursue Markstrom if he hits the open market.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports the Canucks have $15 million in salary-cap space for next season to spend on six players to fill out their roster. They’ll have to find an experienced backup for Demko if they part ways with Markstrom. If they re-sign Markstrom, Demko could become a fascinating trade chip.

Johnston also wondered what Canucks general manager Jim Benning will do with Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a fan favorite and a restricted free agent, but he has arbitration rights and struggled with consistency. Benning must also prioritize his other free agents, including UFAs like Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev and RFAs Troy Stecher and Tyler Motte.

Jim Benning could also look at a cost-cutting move or two to free up cap space to re-sign key players. Candidates could include Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle or Sven Baertschi.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Thomas Drance also examined the Canucks’ free agent and salary-cap issues for the offseason. If they can free up cap space, he feels they must bring in a top-four, right-handed defenseman and upgrade their third-line center position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an interesting offseason for the Canucks. How Benning addresses his club’s needs and cap issues will have far-reaching consequences. The goaltending is the priority. Simmons makes a good point about the risk of losing one of them in the expansion draft.

Some might argue passing on Markstrom after watching Demko’s playoff performance, but three outstanding games isn’t a large enough body of work to crown him as their starter going forward. On the other hand, this year’s goalie market is a deep one and they could bring in a quality veteran at a reasonable price to tutor Demko if they part ways with Markstrom.

COULD THE PREDATORS SIGN TAYLOR HALL?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required): Adam Vingan was asked in a recent mailbag segment about Scott Burnside suggesting the Nashville Predators as a destination for Taylor Hall because of his connection with coach John Hynes. The Arizona Coyotes left wing is this summer’s top UFA forward and played well for Hynes during their time with the New Jersey Devils.

Citing Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston suggesting Hall could a stable, winning situation where he fits in well over filling up his bank account, Vingan doesn’t see the Predators meeting that requirement. He cautions against signing an aging player at this stage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Predators GM David Poile making a big splash in this year’s UFA market. His club has $72.2 million tied up in 17 players. Poile will try to shed center Kyle Turris’ $6 million per season cap hit through 2023-24 but that won’t be easy. He could be forced to absorb a big chunk of Turris’ cap hit or buy him out and carry $2 million in annual dead-cap space through 2027-28.

LATEST ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked if the Minnesota Wild will do any contract buyouts. He felt there’s a chance, suggesting if they did so for goalie Devan Dubnyk or center Victor Rask it would be to create roster spots rather than clear cap space. He also felt Alex Stalock would only fetch a mid-round draft pick if placed on the trade block. Russo doesn’t believe GM Bill Guerin will pursue Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom if he becomes available in the free-agent market.

In a second mailbag segment, Russo noted the Wild have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon in next year’s expansion draft because of their no-movement clauses. If they decide to protect just three defensemen, this is the offseason to move Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin unless they intend to move one of them before the 2021 trade deadline. Brodin has a year left on his contract and could be the one to get traded if he proves too expensive to re-sign.

Russo is against trading Brodin to Montreal for Max Domi because he doesn’t feel Domi can address the Wild’s need for a first-line center. Asked if Guerin could pursue Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Russo feels the asking price would be steep. If Monahan is available, the Flames will want a first-line center to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Guerin will be busy in the offseason. He indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending and pointed out his club’s need for a first-line center.

He could move Stalock or Dubnyk and promote promising goalie Kaapa Kahkonen. Russo said he could seek them signing Braden Holtby or Cam Talbot to buy Kahkonen some time if they part ways with Dubnyk, but those two could prove expensive signings, especially Holtby.

Some in the Montreal media suggested swapping Domi for Brodin or Dumba. I think Guerin shares Russo’s opinion of the Habs’ center. Domi could be a good second-line center but he’s not the proven No.1 the Wild need. Guerin also sought to tamp down the expectations of Wild fans calling for him to pursue a first-line center, pointing out teams typically don’t part with that type of player.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup, there’s more fallout from last week’s Kasperi Kapanen trade, including speculation the Leafs could take a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Read on for the latest.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins is one factor that could make it possible for them to sign Alex Pietrangelo via free agency in the offseason.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Alex Pietrangelo if he tests the UFA market? (NHL Images)

Fox points out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas traded Kapanen to clear salary-cap space, speculating he might not be done making cost-cutting moves. He also observed St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be reevaluated for his latest shoulder surgery for at least five months, suggesting it could give Blues GM Doug Armstrong pause to make another major investment in his blueline by re-signing Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo indicated he wants to stay in St. Louis and Armstrong said he wants to keep him. However, Fox reminds us that the Blues GM also acquired and re-signed defensemen Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella this season.

Fox thinks the Blues will make an offer to Pietrangelo but it’ll be lower than what he could get on the open market. Maybe the defenseman takes the hometown discount, but perhaps he’ll go elsewhere if he wants to maximize his contract. 

Dubas likes big-game hunting (signing John Tavares) and making bold moves (the Nazem Kadri trade) and is backed by the deep pockets of MLSE. Such a move, however, could mean shedding someone like William Nylander and signing the 30-year-old Pietrangelo to more term than makes sense. Still, Fox feels Dubas should at least look into it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course Dubas should look into signing Pietrangelo if the Blues captain heads to free agency. Any GM worth his salt should do so. Freeing up the cap space to sign him without weakening the roster, however, is another matter.

The Leafs need for a top-four, right-side defenseman is well-documented. Yes, Dubas is known for making big signings and creative trades. But how well did the Tavares signing and the Kadri trade work out for the Leafs? Tavares is a great player, but the Leafs didn’t need him, and the $11 million they’re paying him for the next five years should’ve been put into shoring up the defense. That’s what led to the Kadri trade, which didn’t pan out as Dubas hoped. 

Pietrangelo would address that glaring blueline need for the Leafs. Freeing up sufficient cap room to land him, however, will hurt their depth elsewhere, not to mention they’ll be tying up far too much cap payroll in a handful of players. That’s not a wise move given the current economic landscape.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons isn’t ready to declare the Leafs the winners of the Kapanen deal until he sees what the Leafs do with the first-round pick (15th overall) they received in the deal. It depends upon who they select with that pick and how that player pans out, whether they trade the pick, and what they do with the money they free up by sending Kapanen to Pittsburgh.

Simmons also touched on the recent trade speculation regarding Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. He doesn’t feel Andersen is the Leafs biggest problem but the feeling around the hockey world is his time in Toronto is coming to an end. Trading him won’t be easy in a flooded goalie market but there are many options to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will those options be better than Andersen? He’s played well behind one of the league’s worst defensive teams over the past four years but has become a scapegoat for the club’s recent woes for some Leafs fans. If you can land someone like Robin Lehner, it might be worthwhile. If it’s someone whose stock has declined like Braden Holtby, it might be wiser to stick with Andersen. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike DeFabo was asked what other moves he sees the Penguins making after acquiring Kapanen. He feels either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be traded. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents and GM Jim Rutherford indicated he’s likely to move one of them.

Murray could be the likely trade candidate because he’d be more expensive to re-sign. The Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames could be in the market for a goaltender.

As for the potential return, DeFabo indicates the third-line center position has been an issue for the past several years. He also expects changes are coming to their blueline as they need a better right-shot defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray seems to be the guy Rutherford is shopping but he could be getting more interest in Jarry. He’s younger, more affordable, and doesn’t have Murray’s injury history.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks interest in Kapanen before he was shipped to the Penguins suggests GM Bob Murray isn’t interested in a roster tear-down. He could instead be looking for players who can provide immediate help. Possible targets could include more affordable options like Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, or Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen might’ve ended up with the Ducks had Murray been willing to part with his first-round pick (sixth overall) in this year’s draft. If that was Dubas’ asking price, Murray was wise to pass.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2020

Check out the latest on Joe Thornton and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: During the “Headlines” intermission segment on Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast, Elliotte Friedman reported Joe Thornton could play some games in Switzerland this fall before returning to the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (Photo via NHL Images).

“Every August, he goes to Switzerland. We know the Sharks won’t be playing until December,” Friedman said. “The NHL and NHLPA have allowed players to sign overseas with clauses to come back then. Does Joe Thornton sign overseas in Switzerland to play and be ready, in better shape even, to return to the NHL for his 23rd season?”

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz followed up on Friedman’s report:

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton, 41, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s expressed interest in continuing his NHL career. It could be with the Sharks on a one-year, bonus-laden deal. They’re pressed for cap space, carrying over $66 million invested in 13 players for next season. Nevertheless, if there’s a way to bring back Thornton for another season, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will probably consider it.

Playing overseas during the NHL’s off-season might not be a bad idea for some of the players on the seven non-playoff clubs. Their last meaningful games were in mid-March when the pandemic derailed the regular season, and they’re now facing a longer-than-usual off-season period. If they can find teams willing to sign them to one-year contracts with NHL out-clauses, some of them (including Thornton) could pursue that option.

Jake Virtanen’s future with the Vancouver Canucks remains uncertain.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games, Virtanen seemed to be enjoying a long-awaited breakout performance this season. Nevertheless, it seems like the Canucks coaching staff has grown disenchanted with his efforts.

The 23-year-old winger has been criticized for inconsistency and indifferent defensive play. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. With the Canucks looking to shed salary to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and perhaps Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev, Virtanen could be a trade candidate. 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 2, 2020

Latest on the Ducks and Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently listed five players he thinks the Anaheim Ducks could add from cap-strapped teams in the off-season. They include Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, and Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen.

Could the Anaheim Ducks pursue Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen in the off-season? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens provides an excellent, detailed examination of those players and why they could be available. I’ll just add my two cents here.

Strome and Virtanen are restricted free agents, with the latter having arbitration rights. Of the two, Virtanen seems the most likely to be available. He was relegated to the press box during the Canucks tune-up game last week against the Jets. Virtanen has decent offensive skills but his consistency and poor defensive play are ongoing issues. The Canucks could be ready to move on from him following this season.

Raanta puts up solid numbers when healthy. Problem is, he’s been banged up a lot in recent years. He’d make a good backup for John Gibson but also carries a $4.25 million AAV for next season. That would make him a pricey understudy for Gibson. If the Coyotes move Raanta it would be to shed some cap payroll to make room to re-sign Taylor Hall. They won’t be keen to retain part of his salary. 

The Blues must dump some salary to clear space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn. However, I don’t think they want to move Schwartz. Their leading trade candidate could be goaltender Jake Allen.

Kapanen would be a nice addition to the Ducks. He’s signed through 2021-22 with an affordable $3.2 million annual average value. The Leafs don’t want to part with him but could have little choice if management can’t find another way to shed salary for next season.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers could face a difficult decision with Jesper Fast. The popular winger won the club’s Player’s Player Award as voted by his teammates for a record fifth straight year.

Fast is due to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Brooks believes the hardworking winger will seek much more than the $1.85 million annually that he’s currently earning. However, it could be difficulty squeezing that raise into the Rangers’ limited salary-cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Rangers have over $68 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They must also re-sign restricted free agents such as Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev.

Unless they shed significant salary (contract buyout for Henrik Lundqvist, perhaps?), they won’t have enough to keep everyone. Fast could become the odd man out.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2020

Check out recent Flames and Canucks speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): During a recent mailbag segment, Scott Cruickshank was asked about recent trade rumors swirling around Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. The 26-year-old has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

There was some speculation suggesting Gaudreau won’t re-sign with the Flames but Cruickshank believes he’s not necessarily gone once his contract is up. He doesn’t think general manager Brad Treliving is actively shopping the winger but believes he’d be nuts not to entertain all offers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Gaudreau’s production this season combined with last spring’s poor playoff performance (a lone assist in five games) gave rise to the trade whispers. A better effort in the upcoming playoff tournament could put some of that talk to rest. Still, the Gaudreau trade chatter could ramp up if the Flames make another early playoff exit.

Cruickshank was asked what it would take for the Flames to acquire Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, as well as Casey Mittelstadt and/or Sam Reinhart. All three are restricted free agents with Montour and Reinhart carrying arbitration rights.

Citing Evolving-Hockey.com, Cruickshank indicates Reinhart could get over $8.7 million annually on an eight-year deal, Montour $4.8 million annually for three years, and Mittelstadt $1.17 annually on a two-year deal. Prying those players from the Sabres would mean parting with some core Flames players, high-level youngsters, and draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Sabres moving Reinhart unless he wants out. So far, there’s no indication he’s unhappy in Buffalo or wants a trade.

Montour’s supplanted Rasmus Ristolainen as the most likely Sabres trade candidate because he reportedly doesn’t fit well into coach Ralph Krueger’s system. Perhaps there’s a fit in Calgary if the Flames lose T.J. Brodie and/or Travis Hamonic to free agency at season’s end.

Mittelstadt is a former first-round pick (eighth overall, 2017) whose slow development has frustrated Sabres followers. I don’t think the Flames would be interested unless he’s part of a package involving a much better player coming to Calgary.

Asked which player he’d try to add if he were Flames GM, Cruickshank suggested Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a big, 26-year-old right-winger who tallied 27 goals in 2018-19, but he also missed most of 2019-20 to a shoulder injury and he’s an RFA with arbitration rights at the end of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cruickshank feels Anderson would be worth pursuing depending on the Blue Jackets’ asking price and the cost of his new contract. Anderson popped up frequently in media-generated rumors before the February trade deadline. The Flames could have plenty of competition if they attempt to acquire him.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnson reports the Vancouver Canucks patience with Jake Virtanen may be running thin. The 23-year-old winger wasn’t part of their lineup for their exhibition game loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Virtanen’s fitness levels and consistency have been questioned in the past. He was also surpassed by more defensively-responsible forwards like Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter, and Zack MacEwen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was enjoying a career-best performance before the pandemic. He was on pace to finish with 20 goals and 40 points (18 goals, 36 points) when the schedule was interrupted. Nevertheless, his fitness, inconsistency, and seeming unwillingness to improve his defensive play knocked him out of the Canucks lineup against the Jets and could relegate him to the press box for their upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild. 

Virtanen’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but it remains to be seen if he has a future in Vancouver after this season. His name could pop up in the rumor mill if he remains on the sidelines during the playoff tournament.