NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

Check out the latest on the Blue Jackets, Canucks, Hurricanes, and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski’s recent decision to change agents. He has a year remaining on his contract but changing agents suggests he wants to open contract discussions this summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would coincide with the contract talks expected this summer for Seth Jones, Werenski’s defense partner. Jones is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Werenski, meanwhile, will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll cost $7 million just to qualify his rights. The Jackets ownership will have to dig deep for the big bucks to keep their top-two defensemen in Columbus.

Portzline also believes Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must evaluate his current centermen before going shopping for one via trade or free agency. Max Domi, Jack Roslovic, and Alexandre Texier struggled in that position this season. Portzline doesn’t see Kekalainen adding three centers this summer but wonders how many the GM feels he needs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Portzline pointed out, Kekalainen might be lucky to pry away a prominent center from another team. I expect he’ll try to add one experienced center and hope for improvement from Domi, Roslovic and Texier next season, perhaps with a new coach behind the bench if John Tortorella doesn’t return.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Kekalainen will try his best to bring in a top-line center for winger Patrik Laine next season. That would be a costly undertaking during the best of seasons. It could prove more difficult under a flattened salary cap.

Boston’s David Krejci and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the best centers in this summer’s UFA market. At 35, Krejci is at the tail end of his career and best suited for second-line duty. Nugent-Hopkins is a versatile two-way forward but I don’t see him as a first-line center.

Cap Friendly shows the Jackets have $56.5 million invested in 16 players for 2021-22. Kekalainen could target a cap-strapped club trying to shed salary. However, re-signing Laine (an RFA with arbitration rights this summer) will bite deeply into that cap space, perhaps as much as $8 million. It’ll take $7.5 million to qualify his right.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Vancouver Canucks haven’t put a new offer on the table for head coach Travis Green. He wants to stay and the Canucks want to keep him. Green is earning $1 million per season, which is in the lower third among NHL head coaches. LeBrun speculates it could take around $2.5 million to get it done.

Darren Dreger reports the Carolina Hurricanes hope to get head coach Rod Brind’Amour under contract before the playoffs begin. Management seems confident it will get a deal done soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour has turned the Hurricanes into a Stanley Cup contender in just three seasons. They’re on the verge of winning their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.

Dreger also reports Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet could be moving on at the end of this season. His sources indicated Tocchet is more likely to test the open market this summer.

AFTONBLADET: Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could return to HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League after 14 NHL seasons. Hjalmarsson, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He spent three seasons with HV71 before starting his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-08.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report doesn’t rule out Hjalmarsson staying in the NHL if he gets an offer he can’t resist or if the tax situation makes it difficult for him to play in Sweden this autumn.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 15, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 15, 2018

Predators re-sign Ryan Ellis, Oilers’ Andrej Sekera sidelined indefinitely plus the latest on Duncan Keith, Jake Allen, Zach Werenski and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators yesterday announced they re-signed defenseman Ryan Ellis to an eight-year, $50-million contract extension. Ellis was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Nashville Predators re-signed defenseman Ryan Ellis to an eight-year contract extension. (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ellis is in the final year of a five-year, $12.5-million deal with an annual average value of $2.5 million. His new cap hit is a hefty $6.25 million.  Ellis probably would’ve received over $7 million annually on the open market next summer but it appears he’s left some money on the table to get that extra year with the Predators.

A skilled two-way defenseman, Ellis is a key part of the Predators’ blueline corps, which also consists of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. Predators general manager David Poile has invested considerable time, money and assets building up his defense and obviously wants to keep that top-four together as long as possible. They’ll be vital for the Predators’ ongoing pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

The Ellis deal also means captain Josi will also be in line for a substantial raise from the Preds as early as next summer, when he’ll also be a year away from UFA eligibility. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Andrej Sekera is sidelined indefinitely following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon suffered during a recent training session. Sekera played only 36 games last season following a serious knee injury during the 2017 playoffs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing Sekera again for another lengthy period to start the season is a serious setback for their blueline. Prior to his knee injury he filled a top-pairing role but  struggled after returning to action last season. At his age (32), there’s concern this could end his career. It could provide an opportunity for a promising prospect such as Evan Bouchard to crack the roster. It could also send them into the trade or free-agent market for help. 

THE ATHLETIC: Chris Kuc believes it’s not time to write off Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith after one disappointing season. Though the 35-year-old’s offensive numbers were down, his Corsi-For (51.8 percent), shot attempts (347), hits (41) and blocked shots (165) numbers were better than the previous season’s. Former Blackhawks defenseman Sean O’Donnell believes Keith will do whatever it takes this summer to remain an elite player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A bounce-back performance by Keith could be among the key factors that helps the Blackhawks return to playoff contender status in 2018-19. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Despite a busy offseason for the St. Louis Blues, their success next season could rest upon the play of goaltender Jake Allen. Since taking over the starter’s role in 2016-17, the 28-year-old has struggled with consistency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another shaky effort by Allen could force GM Doug Armstrong into the trade market for help between the pipes before the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline. This could be a make-or-break campaign for the Fredericton NB native.

NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski has returned to skating following shoulder surgery on May 3. He’s hoping to be in the lineup for the Jackets’ season-opener on Oct. 4 in Detroit against the Red Wings but won’t rush the recovery timeframe of five-to-six months. 

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils re-signed defenseman Steven Santini to a three-year, $4.25-million contract. 

THE SCORE: Free-agent forward Mark Letestu has accepted a professional tryout offer with the Florida Panthers.