The Maple Leafs make Wayne Simmonds available in the trade market plus the Jets enter what could be a consequential season. Check out the details in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LEAFS SHOPPING SIMMONDS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Toronto Maple Leafs are making Wayne Simmonds available in the trade market. The return is not as important as “doing right by the player.” Friedman indicated the 34-year-old winger is in good health and very much hopes to play this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds (NHL Images).
Simmonds is in the final season of a two-year contract with an annual average salary of $900K, though in actual salary he’ll make $1.050 million this season. He also carries a 10-team no-trade list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds was once among the best two-way forwards in the game. However, his performance has been in decline in recent seasons. He lost his job to Zach Aston-Reese, who signed a one-year, $840K contract yesterday with the Leafs.
Simmonds could have value for a club seeking affordable leadership, experience and toughness in their lineup. The Leafs placed him on waivers yesterday but their willingness to trade him indicates they’re expecting he’ll go unclaimed today.
So why would a team trade for Simmonds when they could’ve plucked him off waivers for nothing? Perhaps an interested club sitting high up in the waiver order prefers to save that spot for a better option. Maybe there’s a team that’s also looking to offload a player via trade. There could be a team hoping to squeeze an extra asset from the cap-strapped Leafs to take Simmonds off their hands.
JETS FACING A CONSEQUENTIAL SEASON
NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Dan Rosen agreed with a reader that the Winnipeg Jets face a “make-or-break” season. Changes to their roster core could be coming next summer if they miss the playoffs again or make another first-round exit.
Former captain Blake Wheeler, center Mark Scheifele and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck could be part of that roster shakeup. Each is slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2024. Rosen suggested management could try to get ahead of things by trading them, especially if Pierre-Luc Dubois declines to sign a long-term extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is a restricted free agent next summer who will be a year away from UFA eligibility if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal.
I agree with Rosen that it could be time for a major roster shakeup if the Jets stumble again this season. They’ve been slowly declining since reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2018. It could be time to move out some of the veterans and instead build around players like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Dubois if he stays for the long term.
Jakob Chychrun hopes the Coyotes trade him to a contender, the Blackhawks insist they have had no trade talks regarding Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, plus the latest on the Jets in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
CHYCHRUN WANTS TO BE TRADED TO A CONTENDER
ARIZONA SPORTS: Tom Kuebel reports Jakob Chychrun said he’s hoping the Coyotes will trade him to a playoff contender as the club prepares for another rebuilding season. The 24-year-old defenseman said he’s had constant communication with management. He also had lots of discussions with his family before making his trade request.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (NHL Images).
Chychrun made his remarks during a press conference yesterday. He’s been the subject of trade speculation for some time but it’s believed the Coyotes have set a high asking price.
Now in his seventh season with the Coyotes, Chychrun observed that he hasn’t yet had a really good shot at not only the playoffs but also the Stanley Cup. He believes management is on board with trying to move him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been plenty of speculation suggesting the Coyotes seek a return heavy on futures. That includes at least a first-round pick and either a top prospect or a good young NHL player as part of the deal.
This is the first time that Chychrun has publicly indicated his desire to be traded. Whether that puts pressure on general manager Bill Armstrong to find a suitable trade partner remains to be seen. Armstrong continues to remain patient waiting for the right return but no one has stepped forward yet with a suitable offer.
Chychrun’s comments will ensure he remains a fixture in this season’s rumor mill leading up to the March 3 trade deadline.
NO TRADE TALKS REGARDING KANE AND TOEWS, SAYS BLACKHAWKS GM
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Charlie Roumeliotis reports Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said he’s had no trade discussions regarding Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The two long-time Blackhawks stars are due to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Kane, 33, has regularly surfaced in the off-season rumor mill. However, Davidson said there have been no conversations about moving him. He insists the focus is on Kane and Toews being part of the team right from the opening day of the regular season.
Davidson claims he hasn’t thought about trading either of them during this season. He also said the pair didn’t have any intentions of going anywhere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Davidson also said if it comes to a trade of either player they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. In other words, it probably won’t happen early in the season but things could change as the schedule goes on.
There were reports claiming the Blackhawks were getting lots of calls about Kane from interested teams. However, there’s been nothing from Kane or Toews to suggest they want out. Davidson’s been consistent for weeks now that both players are looking forward to the season and seeing how things play out.
LATEST ON THE JETS
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen weighed in on why the Jets didn’t trade Blake Wheeler despite off-season rumors suggesting he wouldn’t mind a change of scenery. He assumes it was because general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sought too much in return for the 36-year-old winger or asked his trade partners to take on too much of his salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could also be a little of both. Wheeler remains an effective top-six winger who netted 60 points in 65 games last season. However, his production was streaky during that time plus he missed time due to injuries. Interested parties could be leery of giving up too much for an aging asset.
Wheeler has two years remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $8.25 million. That’s a hefty cap hit for most teams to take on. They could prefer the Jets retain up to half of it. He also carries a five-time trade list which significantly reduces the number of potential trade partners.
The Jets strip Blake Wheeler of his captaincy, the Sharks reach a settlement with Evander Kane regarding his contract termination, the latest on David Pastrnak’s contract status, the date for the 2023 trade deadline is revealed, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets announced Friday they have stripped the captaincy from Blake Wheeler. Several players will instead wear the “A” as alternate captains for 2022-23, though they have yet to be determined. The club called the move “leadership restructuring”.
Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler (NHL Images)
Wheeler said he knew the move was coming as he had been informed beforehand during his first conversation with new head coach Rick Bowness. According to Bowness, this was in line with the new coaching staff taking over and the intention to change the way the Jets play the game.
Bowness also denied that Wheeler was standing in the way of younger Jets growing into leadership roles. He insisted that he wants to have everyone working together as a team toward the same goal.
Wheeler said he was grateful for the opportunity to be the Jets captain but insisted he’ll still be a leader on this team. As for trade talk that surfaced about him during the offseason, he said he couldn’t give a straight answer about it because he doesn’t make those decisions. “I’m here and I’m committed to this team and motivated to have a great season.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move shocked Jets center Mark Scheifele, who questioned the timing of the announcement while claiming Wheeler has the full support of his teammates. It’ll be interesting to see if Scheifele will be among the alternate captains for the coming season considering he was part of the leadership core of last season’s squad.
Jets beat writer Murat Ates of The Athletic believes it would’ve been better for Wheeler had they traded him during the summer. However, he admitted moving a 36-year-old winger carrying an annual average value of $8.25 million through 2023-24 was a tough sell.
This isn’t the first time a team has removed the captaincy from a popular star. In 2009, the San Jose Sharks did the same thing to Patrick Marleau and again in 2014 with Joe Thornton.
Both instances gave rise to trade speculation and talk of undermining the club’s performance. Instead, both players stayed put and the Sharks’ play didn’t suffer other than missing the playoffs in 2014-15 only to rebound and reach the Stanley Cup Final the following year.
Critics blamed the Jets’ leadership for the team’s inconsistent effort in 2021-22, claiming the dressing room was divided. This decision will motivate this club into a bounce-back performance following last season’s disappointing effort or it will make matters worse.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Sharks, they reached an agreement with Evander Kane on a settlement related to his contract termination in January.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported Kane will receive a one-time payment from the Sharks and the cap penalty will be applied to last season’s salary cap. They finished last season just under $5 million beneath the cap. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated Kane’s original contract was worth $19 million over the next three seasons. His current deal with the Edmonton Oilers is worth $16.5 million over the same period. The settlement would offset the difference.
In other words, the Sharks will pay Kane $2.5-million annually from 2022-23 to 2024-25 without incurring any salary-cap penalties going forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will give the Sharks the cap relief they were counting on when they terminated Kane’s contract without having to go through an arbiter to settle the issue. That procedure might not have gone in their favor and could’ve created a big cap headache for them.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: David Pastrnak remains hopeful that he and the Bruins can reach an agreement on a contract extension at some point during the upcoming season. The 26-year-old winger is in the final season of a six-year, $40 million deal and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Pastrnak indicated his priority is staying in Boston. He cited how happy he and his family were living there and is putting his focus on helping the team win this season. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Pastrnak’s agent and Bruins management are in discussions but there’s nothing close yet.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pastrnak is among the NHL’s elite scorers. He could receive over $10 million annually on a long-term deal in next summer’s free-agent market. Perhaps he’ll accept a little less than that ($9.5 million) if the Bruins offer up an eight-year deal as the most he’ll get on the open market is seven years. Either way, he’s going to make big money on his next contract.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the 2022-23 NHL Trade Deadline will be Friday, March 3, 2023, at 3 pm ET. The 2023 NHL Draft will be held on June 28-29 in Nashville while the annual free agent market returns to July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t recall the last time the NHL Trade Deadline was on a Friday. It’s usually held on a Monday or Tuesday.
I didn’t miss the annual free-agent frenzy on Canada Day. It was nice to spend the past couple of years quietly enjoying that day with my family in my backyard.
LeBrun also reported the Carolina Hurricanes quietly signed general manager Don Waddell to a new contract over the summer.
SPORTSNET: Duncan Keith has joined the Edmonton Oilers in a player development role. The former NHL defenseman (and future Hall-of-Famer) retired at the end of 2021-22 after 17 seasons.
Dubois, 24, was a restricted free agent earlier this summer with arbitration rights. He agreed to accept a one-year, $6 million offer from the Jets.
Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (NHL Images).
Ates observed Scheifele “looked disengaged defensively” and “sounded deeply frustrated” by season’s end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and will be 31 by that point. Dubois is also eligible to become a UFA in 2024.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois became a fixture in the rumor mill for several weeks earlier in the offseason after his agent suggested his client might one day hope to join his hometown Montreal Canadiens. Dubois also attended the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal back in July, sparking speculation suggesting he was going to be traded to the Canadiens but the deal fell through.
Dubois denied all of this in the press conference on July 25 announcing his new one-year contract, stressing that if he wanted out of Winnipeg he would’ve asked for a trade but that thought never crossed his mind. His name hasn’t surfaced in the rumor mill since then but it’s probably only a matter of time if the Jets struggle again this season.
Scheifele downplayed his remarks several weeks following the end of the regular season as did general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Perhaps playing under new head coach Rick Bowness will provide Scheifele with the spark that seemed to be missing last season. Another sub-par effort on his part, however, will bring the trade rumors roaring back.
Meanwhile, Ates said it was his understanding the Jets looked into trading Blake Wheeler. However, his $8.25 million cap hit through 2023-24 proved too cumbersome to move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler is another forward worth watching under Bowness’ coaching this season. The 36-year-old Jets captain struggled with consistency last season and is at the stage in his career where a decline in skills is inevitable.
His age as much as his hefty cap hit makes him very tough to move in the trade market. The Jets would have to retain a big chunk of his contract to make him more enticing to rival clubs.
Virtanen, 26, spent six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015-16 to 2020-21 until bought out of his contract after he was accused of sexual assault. He spent last season in the KHL and in July was found not guilty in a British Columbia court.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen’s personal issues aside, I wonder why there are NHL teams interested in his services? He was a disappointment as a Canuck and managed just 16 points in 36 games in the KHL.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
First, there was word earlier in the off-season that the restricted free agent was only interested in a new contract taking him up to unrestricted free agent status in 2024. That was followed by Dubois’ agent indicating his client would love to play for the Canadiens one day.
Dubois reportedly attended the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal anticipating a trade but Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sought a hefty return. The latest twist saw the 24-year-old center opting against salary arbitration, leaving him open to offer sheets from rival clubs. The Jets, meanwhile, didn’t file for club-elected arbitration.
It’s possible Dubois accepts his one-year, $6 million qualifying offer from the Jets by Friday’s deadline. He could reject it and attempt to negotiate a better deal.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy speculates Dubois could stage a contract holdout. It could put more pressure on Cheveldayoff to work out a trade with Canadiens GM Kent Hughes.
Murphy’s colleague Marco D’Amico assumed the Jets asked the Canadiens for Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield as part of the return for Dubois. That would be a no-go for the Canadiens, but he wondered if recently-acquired center Kirby Dach might be a trade chip that entices the Jets.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd doesn’t see the Canadiens parting with Suzuki, Caufield or a promising prospect such as Kaiden Guhle. He believes if Hughes was really interested in Dubois he wouldn’t have gone through so much trouble to acquire Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friesen recommends that Cheveldayoff put his best offer on the table and let Dubois accept it by the December deadline or sit out the season. The only leverage Dubois has now is to withhold his services but that’s not going to help his trade value or reputation.
Cheveldayoff doesn’t seem interested in trading Dubois this summer unless he gets an irresistible offer. It’s assumed he’ll sign the center to a one-year contract and spend the coming season trying to convince him to ink a long-term deal next summer.
Dubois will once again become an RFA with arbitration rights at season’s end but will also be a year away from UFA eligibility. If he remains uninterested in staying with the Jets, that’s when Cheveldayoff will likely put more emphasis on moving him.
It’s possible Dubois gets an offer sheet from another club but don’t look for one from the Canadiens. They’re bumping against the $82.5 million cap ceiling and face ongoing uncertainty over the status of Carey Price for the coming season.
UPDATES ON WHEELER AND GIRARD
WINNIPEG SUN: Speaking of the Jets, Friesen’s colleague Scott Billeck reports their best opportunity to trade captain Blake Wheeler’s contract was prior to free agency opening last Wednesday.
Management, however, was stubborn and insisted on interested parties picking up Wheeler’s full $8.25 million cap hit over the two years remaining on his contract. As a result, the market for the 35-year-old winger has cooled.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Wheeler’s not going anywhere unless Cheveldayoff can find someone to take that full cap hit off the Jets’ hands. Good luck with that now that most teams have used up their cap space in the free-agent market.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner took note of the Colorado Avalanche’s efforts to bring back free-agent center Nazem Kadri. Because of their limited salary-cap space, Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater suggested Samuel Girard could be a cost-cutting trade candidate. The 24-year-old defenseman is signed through 2026-27 with an average annual value of $5 million.
Rosner suggested the Islanders attempt to acquire Girard. Dater believes the Avs’ asking price would be a first-round pick but Rosner believes they’re not in a position to get too picky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dater has since tweeted that he doubted Girard gets traded pointing to his value to the Avs. After subsequently speaking with three sources, he now believes there’s a lesser chance of Kadri returning to Colorado.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: van Riemsdyk has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $7 million, though in actual base salary he’ll earn $4 million. He also lacks no-trade protection.
NEW YORK POST: Ethan Sears believes the New York Islanders need a winger like Johnny Gaudreau to maximize center Mathew Barzal’s talent. Limited salary-cap space, however, could hamper their efforts to sign the 28-year-old left winger.
Florida Panthers forward Claude Giroux (NHL Images).
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Senators could also target Giroux’s Florida Panthers teammate (and Ottawa native) MacKenzie Weegar. The Panthers are looking to shed some salary. They’d like to re-sign Giroux, who could also draw interest from the Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks will likely have to retain part of Burns’ $8 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 as the Stars and Hurricanes can’t afford to take on his full contract. Otherwise, they will have to take back a contract of equal value or perhaps attempt a three-team trade to spread Burns’ cap hit around.
Murphy also cited RDS’s Renaud Lavoie claiming the Canadiens were very active in trade talks and a deal could come before free agency begins today.
Pierre LeBrun reports the Canadiens are interested in bringing back pending UFA Brett Kulak. They traded the 28-year-old defenseman to the Edmonton Oilers before the March trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has quickly established a reputation as a wheeler-dealer. Dubois is rumored to be interested in joining the Canadiens when he becomes eligible for UFA status in 2024.
The Canadiens, however, have limited cap space for 2022-23 so they’ll have to ship out some salary to take on Dubois, Kulak or whoever else Hughes might have his eye on. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun claimed the Carolina Hurricanes have been linked to Habs defenseman Jeff Petry, who’s earning $6.25 million per season through 2024-25.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers remain linked to Nazem Kadri but it could prove difficult to sign him. The 31-year-old center could command $7 million per season on a six-year contract on the open market. Brooks suggests the Rangers attempt a sign-and-trade scenario involving a third club like the Arizona Coyotes or Chicago Blackhawks to spread the cost of Kadri’s new contract around.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Creative, but unlikely to happen, though it would be quite the accomplishment by Rangers GM Chris Drury if he could pull that off.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck reports the Jets are still trying to move team captain Blake Wheeler. He anticipates they’ll have to retain a portion of the 35-year-old winger’s $8.25 million cap hit through 2023-24. It seems doubtful they’ll move Nate Schmidt given the defenseman’s contract.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has limited free-agent options to add a backup goaltender with just $6.3 million in cap space and RFAs Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall to re-sign. “Perhaps Ilya Samsonov or Eric Comrie will be a fit.” Koshan believes Dubas’ options could improve if he shed a contract such as Justin Woll ($2 million) or Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weakening depth at one position to improve depth at another isn’t going to improve the Leafs’ chance of winning a playoff round next season or bring their 55-year Stanley Cup drought to an end.