Top Three NHL Prospects For Each Central Division Team
The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Dumba and MacKenzie Weeger in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON BYFUGLIEN AND DUMBA
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo considers it the notion of Dustin Byfuglien signing with the Minnesota Wild a long shot. The 35-year-old defenseman has shown no interest in returning to action after missing last season and terminating his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
Talk of Byfuglien joining the Wild was sparked in part by speculation they were on the verge of trading Matt Dumba. However, Russo reports the Dumba trade talk has quieted while the Wild’s cap space has shrunk to $1.775 million.
Russo feels if Wild general manager Bill Guerin attempted to trade the blueliner now he won’t get a first- or second-line center in return. Teams aren’t moving those types of players right now, Dumba’s coming off a down year and the expansion draft is slated for next summer. Guerin isn’t in any rush to trade the rearguard, who’s got three years remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly also indicates Dumba carries an annual average value of $6 million, which is now tough to move with only seven teams carrying over $6.9 million in cap space. As for Byfuglien, Russo also noted his agent remains hopeful his client might one day decide to sign with the Wild. For now, however, the big blueliner doesn’t seem keen to return to NHL action.
UPDATE ON WEEGAR
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked about the trade speculation regarding MacKenzie Weegar. Richards said the Florida Panthers were working to sign the restricted free agent defenseman to a four-year contract before his arbitration hearing on Nov. 7. He acknowledged the Panthers are listening to offers but teams thinking they can get him for nothing will be disappointed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Richards expects Weegar will return on the top defense pairing alongside Aaron Ekblad. The blueliner’s hearing would be the last one in this year’s arbitration schedule.
The Islanders avoid arbitration with Ryan Pulock, Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist has shoulder surgery, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: The New York Islanders avoided arbitration with Ryan Pulock as the 26-year-old defenseman agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract. The annual average value is $5 million, but Pulock will earn $3.34 million in actual salary this season and $6.66 million in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pulock will be an unrestricted free agent in two years’ time. He’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next contract.
Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Islanders with $3.9 million in cap space with Mathew Barzal still to sign. That’s raising speculation over what general manager Lou Lamoriello will do to free up cap space for Barzal. I’ll have more about that later this morning in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist underwent surgery on his left shoulder. His anticipated recovery period is five-to-six months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nyquist’s absence is a big hit for the Blue Jackets’ anemic offense. He finished second among Jackets’ scorers last season in assists (27) and points (42) and fourth in goals with 15.
That’s sparked conjecture over how they’ll offset Nyquist’s absence. You can read about that later this morning in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reported the New York Rangers have asked an arbitrator for a two-year contract in Brendan Lemieux’s case at $950K and $1.075 million. Lemieux seeks $2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: His hearing is slated for Nov. 6.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year, two-way contract with an annual average value of $725K.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed defenseman William Lagesson to a two-year contract worth $725K annually. It’s a two-way deal during the first season.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins promoted director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin to assistant general manager.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild extended their ECHL affiliation with the Allen Americans for 2020-21.
A look at potential destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examines some possible landing spots for unrestricted free agent forwards Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund, Dominik Kahun and Carl Soderberg.
Gretz suggests the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets as two clubs that could use Hoffman’s offensive skills, but both clubs lack sufficient salary-cap space. The Bruins also have restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to re-sign while the Blue Jackets need to sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Nashville Predators are a more likely candidate as they’ve shed considerable cap space and need a scoring forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators appear to be the best destination for Hoffman. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $12.9 million in cap space with restricted free agent Luke Kunin to re-sign, so they’ve got plenty of room. I think Predators general manager David Poile could be trying to out-wait Hoffman in the hope the winger will lower his rumored asking price of a $6 million contract for next season.
Other clubs with salary cap room (Detroit, New Jersey, Ottawa) could also use more scoring punch. However, they’re not playoff contenders like the Preds and could be unwilling to invest in a player they’ll only have for one season. Given Hoffman’s messy departure from the Senators, I doubt he’ll be returning to Ottawa except as a visiting player.
Gretz suggests two options for Duclair. He could sign a short-term deal with a rebuilding club like Detroit or New Jersey where he’ll get big minutes and could be moved to a contender by the trade deadline. Another is signing a short-term deal with a contender like the Dallas Stars, who could use a little more offense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with Hoffman, I wonder if the Red Wings and Devils would be keen to sign a player like Duclair to a one-year deal if they’re only going to move him for a draft pick or prospect at the trade deadline. The Wings are already well-stocked with draft picks for 2021 with six in the first three rounds, including three second-rounders.
The Stars could use a little more punch at left wing but they’ve only got $4.1 million in cap space with Roope Hintz to re-sign. Adding another forward, even one on an affordable deal, would be a tight fit.
Gretz suggests the Blues Jackets as a fit for Granlund. He also thinks Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has an opportunity to correct his mistake of trading away Kahun last season by bringing him back as a free agent to bolster his club’s bottom-six forwards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will have to accept a significant pay cut to sign with the Jackets. They’ve got $12.9 million in cap space but a big chunk of that will be taken up by Dubois’ next contract.
The Penguins have $1.3 million in cap space. They could squeeze in Kahen for under $1 million but that won’t leave much wiggle room for other moves as needed during the season. However, they could free up space by demoting one of the four forwards they currently have who are earning $750K or less for next season.
The Vancouver Canucks would be a good destination for Soderberg provided the Canucks could free up some salary by finding a way to dump Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle. Teams that need depth at center like Minnesota or Nashville could also be landing spots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rule out the Canucks for Soderberg. They’re over the cap by $1.5 million. GM Jim Benning declined to buy out Sutter over the weekend, citing his leadership and defensive skills. Beagle carries a five-team no-trade list and a $3 million cap hit for the next two seasons. I don’t see him going anywhere.
The Wild have plenty of depth centers since acquiring Marcus Johansson, Nick Bjugstad and Nick Bonino. What they need is a true first-line center, which Soderberg isn’t. Maybe the Predators turn to him if they lose out on Hoffman.
Highlights from Friday’s general managers’ meeting, the latest notable free-agent signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reported the draft lottery and free agency dominated Friday’s virtual meeting of NHL general managers.
There was a lengthy discussion about tweaking the draft lottery for the second time in six years after the Detroit Red Wings, which had the worst record last season, slid to fourth overall in the 2020 Draft Lottery. There was also talk about reintroducing an interview period of 48 to 72 hours for unrestricted free agents leading up to the start of the annual free-agent period. Such changes, however, would have to be negotiated with the NHL Players’ Association.
Seravalli also reported the NHL’s target date for opening the 2020-21 season remains Jan. 1, 2021. Whenever the puck drops, it will likely be in a unique setting. The planning for that, however, must wait until the joint NHL-NHLPA committee begins its return-to-play meetings.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also reported Jan. 1 remains the target date for opening next season but there are no guarantees on that. There’s no decision yet on how many games will be played or how far into the summer the schedule could go.
There was talk about opening the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, but that won’t happen in part because of the limited sponsorship opportunities in a federal park. However, the league is still considering starting the season in a unique location.
The draft lottery discussions focused on increasing the odds for teams that finish the lowest in the standings. The Red Wings were clearly upset about ending up with the fourth-overall selection in a season where it was clear they weren’t tanking. While there’s support for the Wings’ position, the league is asking for specific proposals.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reported NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said planning for next season will be more challenging than this summer’s return-to-play postseason.
One of the major obstacles is the Canadian government’s 14-day quarantine period for international travelers. However, there could be some flexibility there as the government is considering a pilot program to test international travelers as a means of relaxing the quarantine rule if they agree to a second test within a week.
If successful, Daly said that would make it “very, very helpful” in the league’s plans for next season. Otherwise, there’s talk the league could begin next season with four hub cities or an all-Canadian division, though Daly said he’s not committed to a specific format right now.
Russo reports the league is continuing to gather information (particularly financial) from its teams to determine what’s feasible for 31 owners who will have minimal revenue if there are no fans in attendance next season. He also suggests it’s possible the NHL could conceivably start next season at a later date if there’s a chance of getting fans in the stands at some point in late winter or early spring.
While the league still hopes for a full 82-game schedule, Russo speculates a shortened season of 48 to 60 games seems likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL is going to take its time to get this right. We’ll learn more details about what next season will look like in the coming weeks once the joint NHL-NHLPA committee begins their return-to-play meetings.
Based on recent media speculation, my guess is they’ll start up sometime in February aiming at 60 games played in hub cities under modified quarantine conditions. That would mean training camp begins in early-to-mid January, though the seven teams that didn’t make the cut in the 2020 return-to-play plan will have a longer training camp.
Next season could begin without fans in attendance in regional hubs. Should the pandemic fade, teams could return to playing in their home arenas and gradually allow in fans under local health and safety guidelines with season-ticket holders the priority. The playoffs will likely stretch into mid-July, ending before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics open on July 23.
The draft lottery and free-agent interview periods are secondary issues that can wait to be addressed after next season is underway. The priority will be staging as many games as is safely possible in as many arenas as possible with fans in the stands to generate revenue and ease the clubs’ financial burdens.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed defenseman Travis Dermott to a one-year contract worth $874,125.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are over the $81.5 million cap by $1.049 million with restricted free agent Joey Anderson still to sign. However, GM Kyle Dubas has suggested they could garner cap relief next season by shuttling players to the minors.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and winger Tyler Bertuzzi are reportedly just over $1 million apart in contract negotiations. Bertuzzi seeks $4.25 million while the Wings countered with $3.15 million. His arbitration hearing is slated for Sunday.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed free-agent defenseman Nikita Nesterov to a one-year, $700K contract. Nesterov played three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens from 2014-15 to 2016-17 before spending the past three seasons with KHL club CSKA Moscow.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed Marco Rossi to an entry-level contract. Rossi was their first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators hired Todd Richards as an assistant coach. Richards spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The latest on Matt Dumba and Phillip Danault plus an update on the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag, Michael Russo was asked when he thought Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba might be traded. He believes that will happen whenever Wild general manager Bill Guerin gets the return he wants. However, money is tight around the league and he doesn’t see a Dumba trade happening anytime soon.
Russo felt the Vancouver Canucks weren’t really interested and he doesn’t feel the Wild were interested in Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan. He doesn’t see Dumba getting shipped to the Winnipeg Jets because they don’t have the centers.
The Ottawa Senators also weren’t interested while the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on once they knew they weren’t getting Alex Pietrangelo. Noting the Florida Panthers were interested in Pietrangelo, Russo speculated perhaps a trade could be made there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Dumba trade rumors have cooled in recent weeks I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll be moved before the 2021 NHL trade deadline. He’s the only member of their top-four defensemen lacking a no-movement clause, meaning the Wild risk losing him to Seattle in next summer’s expansion draft unless Guerin protects four defensemen or cuts a side deal with the Kraken.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan believes there will be plenty of interest in Phillip Danault if Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin fails to sign him before the center’s UFA eligibility next summer. Cowan speculates the 29-year-old Danault could see a six-year extension worth at least $5 million annually.
Bergevin will be up against the cap ceiling after 2020-21 with Danault, Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia slated to become UFAs while Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen will be restricted free agents. Losing Danault would put pressure on youngsters Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki to face off against the other team’s top line as well as take faceoffs in key situations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have $65.2 million invested in 14 players for 2021-22. I can see them letting the inconsistent Tatar depart via the UFA market. It could go either way with Armia depending on the type of season he has. Lehkonen is currently making $2.4 million and shouldn’t be an expensive re-signing, though he does have arbitration rights. Kotkaniemi is coming off his entry-level deal and could get an affordable bridge deal with the promise of a bigger payday in two or three years’ time.
Those moves could leave enough to re-sign Danault, but Bergevin could attempt to use the flat cap to justify a short-term contract or a longer-term for less than $5 million per season. A lot will also depend on how well Kotkaniemi and Suzuki perform in 2020-21. If they outperform Danault, the coming season could his last with the Habs.
ARIZONA COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan believes Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has opted to stand pat for now. “What you see right now will pretty much be how we open up on opening night,” said Armstrong last Friday.
That means he’s staying patient with goalie Darcy Kuemper, forwards Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller, and veterans Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, Alex Goligoski and Derek Stepan. The latter four are slated to become UFAs next summer. Morgan notes the Coyotes GM had multiple trade talks but wasn’t able to secure fair market value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s probably the best course of action for now. Maybe the trade market improves during the regular season leading up to the trade deadline for some of those UFAs. Armstrong can remain patient with those under contract beyond next season or those who are restricted free agents.