NHL Rumors: Oilers, Lightning, Penguins, Rangers

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the Edmonton Oilers have asked a couple of their veteran players to make a decision by a certain date. Meanwhile, the team has learned that goaltender Mikko Koskinen has signed to play overseas next season.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be getting great news in time for the Stanley Cup Final and there are updates on the status of negotiations between the Pittsburgh Penguins and two of their big-name pending UFAs. Finally, is Kaapo Kakko likely to sign an offer sheet if things are rocky between him and the New York Rangers?

Keith and Smith Asked to Let Oilers Know Their Plans

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers have asked both veterans Mike Smith and Duncan Keith to let them know what they plan to do (keep playing or retire) before July 1. The expectation is that Keith will not only want to return, but he’s looking at staying in the NHL past this next season, which is his last under contract. As for Smith, he seemed tired at his final presser of the season and said it was too soon to know if he’d be back.

Duncan Keith Edmonton Oilers
Duncan Keith, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Both players are under contract for another season, but if one or both leave, it does help the Oilers solve a couple of their salary cap concerns. The two players make just over $7.7 million combined in 2022-23. If Keith retires, as per Puck Pedia, the Blackhawks would have a $7.5M recapture cap hit, while his $5.5 million cap hit would be removed for the Oilers and they would get a $3.4 million recapture cap credit (negative cap hit).

Koskinen Officially Signs in Switzerland

Hockey Club Lugano has announced they have officially signed Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen. During the postseason, rumors surfaced that a deal was already in place and that the goaltender was leaving the NHL. This announcement confirms it. The deal is for two seasons.

Point Could Be Back for Lightning

Also according to Elliotte Friedman, Jon Cooper says “Brayden Point is “extremely probable” to play in the Final, although he’s not sure about Game 1.” That would be a huge lift for Tampa Bay who is looking to three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions and Point is a big part of their offense.

If he does take the warmup, he’ll be a game-time decision.

Penguins’ Priority is Signing Letang

As per Rob Rossi of The Athletic, multiple sources say the priority for the Penguins this offseason is getting Kris Letang signed to a new multi-year contract. He is a pending UFA, as is Evgeni Malkin.

Related: 3 Penguins’ First-Round Targets in 2022 NHL Draft

Rossi writes:

Discussions between the Penguins and representatives for Letang and Malkin are ongoing, but management wants to know how much Letang will cost before turning its attention more seriously to Malkin, club and league sources said.

source – ‘Penguins’ offseason plans, talks with Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin: What we’re hearing
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby Evgeni Mallkin
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Mallkin (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Meanwhile, Chris Johnston of NorthStarBets.com writes that the Penguins and Malkin are talking about a contract and the belief is that many see these negotiations as an inflection point for the organization. He writes, “Malkin remains close friends with captain Sidney Crosby, who has three years remaining on his own contract, and Fenway Sports Group will at some point have to wrap its arms around a rebuild.”

Could Kakko Sign an Offer Sheet?

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks made an interesting comparison between Kaapo Kakko’s situation in New York and what happened with fellow Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi out of Montreal. Brooks addressed Kotkaniemi’s healthy scratch in Games Four and Five of last year’s Stanley Cup Final in comparison to Kakko’s healthy scratch for the Rangers and said it adds to an already interesting contract negotiation between the two sides.

Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This past offseason, Kotkaniemi went to the RFA market and signed a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes. It was clear he was happy to move on from a Canadiens team that didn’t play him much. Could Kakko do something similar? Perhaps, but the big difference here is the relationship the Hurricanes with the Canadiens motivated that decision by Carolina. It was as much about taking a shot at the Canadiens organization as it was about landing the player.

Brooks writes that Kakko already had leverage in his renegotiations. He explains:

And the leverage is based upon the simple mathematical truth that the Rangers would be helpless if Kakko receives an offer sheet in the range of $4.2 million to $6.3 million that would bring with it nothing more than the Kotkaniemi compensation of a first- and third-rounder.