NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 21, 2021

Updates on the notable unsigned restricted free agents as training camps approach in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Ottawa Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk and Minnesota Wild right winger Kirill Kaprizov are among the notable restricted free agents still without contracts as training camps open later this week. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlen and St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas are also among those without contracts.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

  THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Canucks fans probably won’t see Pettersson and Hughes when training camp begins on Thursday in Abbotsford, BC. General manager Jim Benning maintains they’re continuing to have good dialogue and hopes to get something done sooner rather than later. Kuzma wonders if bridge deals for the young stars might be palatable for both parties.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal cited sources in Pettersson’s camp saying the young center has departed Vancouver and flown to Michigan to be with Hughes. Both are close friends and represented by agents Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. They will remain in Michigan preparing for the upcoming season while awaiting a resolution in negotiations.

It’s expected the Canucks will sign Pettersson first because Hughes isn’t eligible to receive an offer sheet. While the threat of an offer sheet is remote the club doesn’t want to take any chances. Of the two, Hughes could be the more likely to ink a long-term deal. The Canucks have up to $16 million in cap space if necessary to sign both but would ideally prefer $14.5 – $15 million.

There’s also speculation whatever Kaprizov gets with the Minnesota Wild will affect how much Pettersson receives from the Canucks. However, that’s considered remote within the industry. The Wild face a unique salary-cap crunch in the near term so inking Kaprizov to a bridge deal has little benefit for them.

The comparables for Pettersson could be the bridge deals signed by Tampa Lightning center Brayden Point ($6.75 million annual average value) and the New York Islanders Mathew Barzal ($7 million AAV).

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the lines of communication remain open between the Senators and Tkachuk but the two sides remain at a stalemate. While things can change with one phone call, it’s expected the Senators will open training camp tomorrow without the 22-year-old left winger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of these players could be under contract by tomorrow morning. Then again, negotiations could drag on through the opening days of their respective camps.

The Canucks probably won’t get Pettersson and Hughes under contract for less than a combined $14 million. Pettersson could come in at $7.5 million and Hughes close to $7 million. By the sound of things, Pettersson could end up with a bridge deal.

It’s been reported the Senators have an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually on the table for Tkachuk. Maybe his representatives are pushing for $9 million or perhaps they seek a shorter term in hope of cashing in on a more lucrative deal in three or four years’ time.

Kaprizov will miss the opening week of training camp. Even if signed today, he would reportedly face a seven-day quarantine period before joining his Wild teammates. His side wants a short-term deal in order to qualify for UFA status as soon as possible while the Wild prefer between five and eight years. It’s believed he’ll eventually get a five-year deal worth an annual average value of $9 million.

Not much to report on Dahlin and Thomas. Talks are said to be ongoing between the Sabres and the 21-year-old blueliner but no word on possible contract terms. Thomas, meanwhile, took part in the Blues’ development camp sessions last week. He’s said to be seeking more than teammate Jordan Kyrou’s $2.8 million AAV on a two-year deal.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021

The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at possible goalie trade candidates this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked which club makes the most sense for the Buffalo Sabres to trade Jack Eichel to get the best return.

Assuming Eichel eventually gets healthy and returns to form, Duhatschek feels it’ll take a team willing to make a bold move in order for the Sabres to get full value for him. He rules out the Los Angeles Kings as too conservative and unwilling to part with prospect Quinton Byfield. Also ruled out are the Boston Bruins as there doesn’t appear to be a fit in salary or the player/draft choice combination heading the other way.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Duhatschek feels the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen and the Minnesota Wild’s Bill Guerin are two general managers with the courage to wade into an Eichel deal. Both clubs need a genuine No. 1 center. He also considers the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks as long shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never with the Kings but I agree with Duhatschek’s take. Anze Kopitar is still their first-line center and the signing of Phillip Danault suggests they’re buying time until Byfield and Alex Turcotte are ready to join the roster on a full-time basis.

The Bruins certainly could use hometown boy Eichel but there just isn’t a fit there unless GM Don Sweeney gets very creative by bringing in a third team to pull off the swap. He could instead set his sights on a more affordable short-term option such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.

I’ve also suggested the Blue Jackets as a destination. They have over $10 million in cap space, carry potentially two first-round picks in next year’s draft and have some promising players in their system (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy) that could tempt the Sabres. Kekalainen has made bold moves in the past but I’m not sure he’s willing to pursue a big fish like Eichel.

The Wild’s cap space will shrink considerably once winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract unless Guerin pulls a swerve and becomes willing to part with the young winger in a package for the Sabres’ center. While the Wild need a bonafide first-line center, I don’t think they’ll pursue Eichel.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving reportedly looked into an Eichel swap but it doesn’t appear things got too far. Unless Treliving intends on a dramatic roster shake-up this season I don’t see Calgary as a serious bidder. The Ducks have lots of cap space and promising youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale but GM Bob Murray probably won’t part with those guys.

Duhatschek was also asked which goaltenders could surface in the trade rumor mill by the Olympic break in February. He points out the Dallas Stars’ depth between the pipes could make them the first place to call, especially if Ben Bishop returns from knee surgery. He doesn’t see Jake Oettinger getting moved as he’s their future starter but Braden Holtby could be an affordable option.

Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo could also get moved. He and Elvis Merzlikins are unrestricted free agents next summer but Merzlikins is the better goalie. Others could include Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Stars’ goalie situation shakes out. The uncertainty over Bishop’s career is why they brought in Holtby. They could go with him and Anton Khudobin as their tandem to start the season and send Oettinger down to the minors as he’s waiver-exempt. They could also put Khudobin on the trade block.

It’s expected the Blue Jackets will retain Merzlikins and move Korpisalo by the March trade deadline. It was assumed Korpisalo would get shopped this summer but that plan was shelved by the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks in July.

Greiss and Koskinen are UFAs this summer and could become rental players at the deadline. Quick, however, has another season on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. Given his age (35) and injury history, there might not be many takers for him.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 17, 2021

The latest on Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Morgan Rielly in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Brady Tkachuk has yet to join his Senators teammates in Ottawa in preparation for the start of training camp on Sep. 22. He’s still back home in St. Louis as his agent and Senators management continues to work on a new contract for the 22-year-old left wing.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Garrioch cited TSN’s Gord Miller recently saying he felt a deal between the two sides could come quickly. It’s believed the Senators offered up an eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $8 million. The two sides could fall back to a three-year deal if a long-term agreement cannot be hammered out in time.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma took note of the apparent lack of progress in contract talks between the Vancouver Canucks and young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. He feels the negotiation pressure point of missing the start of training camp next Thursday could adversely affect their regular-season performance.

Kuzma also speculates the Canucks could be forced to shed some salary if Pettersson and Hughes each pocked $8 million annually on their new deals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the start of training camp fast approaching, most of the focus in the rumor mill will be on the contract talks of notable restricted free agents such as Tkachuk, Pettersson, Hughes and the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov.

Plenty of time remains for those players to be signed before their respective training camps open but the clock is ticking. It may be more pressing for the Wild and Kaprizov, as the latter reportedly requires a work visa and would have to spend a week self-isolating from his teammates once he arrives in Minnesota.

Cap Friendly shows the Canucks with a projected $10.6 million in cap space. Signing Pettersson and Hughes would push them over the cap. If necessary, they can get an additional $3.5 million in cap relief by placing sidelined winger Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve. As Kuzma points out, however, they would have to free up more room depending on what their combined cap hit turns out to be.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the Maple Leafs shouldn’t trade Morgan Rielly this season. He acknowledged the 27-year-old defenseman is due for a big raise next summer. However, he feels they shouldn’t move their annual leader in ice time unless they’re certain of getting equal or greater value in return. “And that’s not going to happen,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koshan was responding to recent reports speculating over Rielly’s future with the Leafs because of his unrestricted free agent status next summer and the club’s limited cap space.

I daresay management has no intention of moving him this season unless they’re well out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. That’s assuming, of course, they have no desire to re-sign him or he plans to test the market in July.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2021

Can the Leafs afford to re-sign Morgan Rielly? What’s the latest on Kirill Kaprizov and Brady Tkachuk? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO STAR: Chris Johnston recently suggested the large contracts signed this summer by several notable NHL defensemen could make it difficult for the Maple Leafs to sign Morgan Rielly to a contract extension. Chicago’s Seth Jones, Columbus’ Zach Werenski, Colorado’s Cale Makar and New Jersey’s Dougie Hamilton inked multi-year deals worth an annual average value of $9 million or more.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Johnston doubts Rielly’s next contract will come in lower than $8 million per season. He and Dallas’ John Klingberg would become next summer’s top unrestricted free agent defensemen if they opt to test the market. Rielly’s averaged roughly the same point percentage as Hamilton and Washington’s John Carlson over nearly the same number of games.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could take a wait-and-see approach to this season before engaging in contract discussions with Rielly. He could also take the same approach as he did last season with Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen by treating the blueliner as an “own rental” for this season and letting him skate away next summer. Johnston points out, however, those players weren’t as valuable as Rielly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston also noted the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them with a projected $67.78 million invested in 14 players. Goaltender Jack Campbell is also slated to become a UFA while promising defenseman Rasmus Sandin is a restricted free agent.

Considering how much those blueliners Johnston mentioned received this summer, we can forget about Rielly accepting a “hometown discount” to stay in Toronto. While the salary cap is expected to rise by just $1 million to $82.5 million for ’22-’23, there will be teams prepared to sign him to a long-term deal worth $9 million annually or more. The Leafs won’t be among them unless they shed some salary first.

The Leafs could trade Rielly but that’s not going to happen unless they’re hopelessly out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. The front office still believes their current roster can stage a deep playoff run and contend for the Stanley Cup but they can’t do it without their best defenseman.

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin admits some obstacles remain in his quest to get Kirill Kaprizov signed before the start of training camp. Part of it involves getting a work visa to travel to the United States, get tested for COVID-19 and undergoing a seven-day quarantine as per NHL protocols before joining the Wild.

Russo believes Guerin and the Kaprizov camp have once again reached a stalemate. Sources say the Wild has offered a variety of terms with an annual average value of $9 million. Guerin doesn’t believe they’re very far apart but acknowledged negotiations can take a while. Nevertheless, he said his club has made “a very fair offer, and that’s just where we are.”

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports talks are continuing between the Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives. While discussions have been cordial they could increase in intensity as the start of training camp on Sep 23 approaches. It’s believed the Senators have offered up an eight-year, $64 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have a better chance of getting Tkachuk into training camp than the Wild with Kaprizov given the number of hurdles the latter would have to clear. Russo speculated the Wild’s unwillingness to include signing bonuses in their contracts could be a sticking point.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 11, 2021

Updates on the notable remaining restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined where things stand with the NHL’s notable restricted free agents.

Term could be a sticking point between the Vancouver Canucks and defenseman Quinn Hughes. His camp sought a deal beyond five years, perhaps comparable to contracts signed this summer by Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen and Colorado’s Cale Makar. Pat Brisson, one of Hughes’ agents, said there was no animosity as discussions continue.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

Teammate Elias Pettersson shares the same representatives as Hughes. They were considering a shorter team for the 22-year-old center. Pettersson wants assurances the Canucks are as committed to winning as he is. It could cost a combined $14 million to get both youngsters under contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were said to be nervous about Pettersson getting an offer sheet after the Carolina Hurricanes successfully signed away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens. That’s a remote possibility given the high cost of compensation to the Canucks and salary for Pettersson.

Talks between the Minnesota Wild and winger Kirill Kaprizov continue. Speculation the 24-year-old winger could sign a one-year deal with KHL club CSKA Moscow came to nothing. The Wild hoped to sign Kaprizov to a seven or eight-year deal but the winger’s camp wanted a three-year contract to bring him up to his eligibility age for unrestricted free agent status. Wild general manager Bill Guerin is reportedly willing to consider a five-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent conjecture suggests the two sides could agree to a five-year contract worth around $9 million per season. Yes, that annual average value is high for a player with just one NHL season under his belt, but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy during that campaign, becoming the first Wild player to receive that honor.

Kaprizov’s also the most exciting offensive player the Wild have had since Marian Gaborik’s heyday from 2000 to 2008. They hope to build around this kid for at least the next five years. That’s why it could cost $9 million per season.

Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion described contract discussions with winger Brady Tkachuk’s representatives as positive and productive. The two sides are trying to work out a long-term deal. Tkachuk reportedly won’t travel to Ottawa for training camp until the paperwork is sorted out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tkachuk’s contract talks have garnered increased attention over the last couple of weeks. There have also been conflicting stories with Dorion saying things are going smoothly while other reports claim Tkachuk is growing frustrated it’s taking so long to get a deal done.

The Buffalo Sabres and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin began contract talks on July 21. A three-year bridge deal is possible but Fox wonders if they’ll work toward a long-term agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jack Eichel saga continues to overshadow Dahlin’s contract situation. There’s been no drama thus far but interest in his negotiations could increase as training camp approaches.

Fox also believes Nolan Patrick could get a bridge deal with the Vegas Golden Knights following his unhappy tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Golden Knights from the Nashville Predators as part of a three-way deal. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers and representatives for winger Kailer Yamamoto are said to be grinding away toward a bridge deal.

St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas seeks more than the $2.8 million AAV signed by teammate Jordan Kyrou. He could miss the start of training camp if he’s not offered a suitable deal. The Blues have limited cap space and haven’t been able to unload Vladimir Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz recently suggested Yamamoto as an offer sheet possibility. He considers the 22-year-old winger a good young forward on a team whose cap situation would make it difficult to match a modest $4.1 million offer sheet. Thomas could also be another target, though his struggles last season hurt his chances of getting one.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 11, 2021

The hockey world remembers 9/11 victims Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, Zach Parise signs with the Islanders and the Flames ink Erik Gudbranson and Michael Stone. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Twenty years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the hockey world remembers Los Angeles Kings scouts Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis, who perished aboard highjacked United Airlines Flight 175 when it was deliberately crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis (NHL.com).

Wayne Gretzky shared his memories of Bailey, who mentored The Great One early in his pro career and became his close friend. Mike Bavis recalled identical twin brother Mark’s path to becoming a scout.

Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau talked about how would’ve been on the same flight with Bailey and Bavis if he hadn’t flown to Los Angeles a day earlier to attend a dinner of all the coaches in the Kings’ organization. At the time, Boudreau was the head coach of the Manchester Monarchs, an AHL affiliate of the Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Please spare a thought for the families and friends of Bailey, Bavis, and the other innocent people who perished during the attacks on that terrible day and for the survivors, many of whom still bear the physical and mental scars.

NEWSDAY: The worst-kept secret of the offseason was officially confirmed yesterday as the New York Islanders announced Zach Parise had signed a one-year contract. Financial terms for the former Minnesota Wild winger were not disclosed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Parise recently confirmed he’d signed with the Isles earlier in the season and would soon be on his way to Long Island for training camp.

TSN: The Calgary Flames signed free-agent defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $1.95 million contract yesterday. They also brought back blueliner Michael Stone on a one-year deal worth $750K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gudbranson’s critics believe his style of play no longer fits into today’s fast-paced game. Nevertheless, he keeps finding teams willing to pay for his leadership and physical shutdown game. The Flames are the well-traveled blueliner’s seventh NHL team.

THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins revealed a new mask honoring his late friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who perished in a fireworks accident on July 4.

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo tweeted former Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu will be joining the club’s prospect camp and training camp. It’s believed he’ll eventually have a position within the organization. Koivu announced his retirement in February after 16 NHL seasons.

USA HOCKEY: announced Ryan Kesler will be a volunteer assistant coach for the organization’s National Team Development Program.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows Kesler under contract with the Anaheim Ducks this season. However, he’s all but retired after being sidelined by a hip injury. This announcement indicates Kesler is taking the first step toward what could be a coaching career in the pro ranks.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators announced a proof of vaccination and mask-wearing will be required for fans attending their home games this season.