In today’s rumor rundown we take a look at developments on the Milan Lucic front, which front-runner for a buyout might not actually be bought out, the Maple Leafs are digging their heels in one of their stars and a potential team has pulled ahead in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes.
Oilers Not Trading Lucic For Peanuts
When word came out that the Edmonton Oilers were looking to trade Milan Lucic, it was immediately assumed that the team had seen his terrible 2017-18 season and said they had made a huge mistake. Insiders believed the team would ship him to any club willing to take him and add pieces to sweeten the deal. All of that may not necessarily be true.
Pierre LeBrun mentioned on TSN on Thursday that the Oilers are shopping Lucic, but telling teams they want to make a “hockey deal”. It’s not that the club has given up on the player but more that he may want a change of scenery and that the Oilers would keep him knowing he’s going to rebound.
“There are absolutely trade conversations happening between the Edmonton Oilers and other clubs but when I talk to some clubs around the league the impression I get is that it’s not Peter Chiarelli, the general manager, saying I need to dump this player and this contract, it’s Chiarelli saying are you interested in making a hockey deal. And that gives me the impression that this isn’t so much as Edmonton trying to get rid of Lucic as perhaps more Lucic suggesting a change of scenery – although everyone connected will not confirm that. I will say this: a lot of people are connecting the dots to the Montreal Canadiens because they were runners up in trying to sign Lucic two years ago. I’m told there’s no way the Canadiens aren’t interested at this point in Lucic.”
Barry Trotz Wants to Return
Tarik El-Bashir of NBC Sports Washington suggests that Barry Trotz wants to return to the Washington Capitals as head coach but no deal has been worked out yet. This deal is a first priority for GM Brian MacLellan and it sounds like the owner will be very much involved in the decision. Trotz will likely wind up the highest-paid coach in the NHL by the time things are said and done.
Spezza Staying Put
Jason Spezza’s production has declined and it’s clear he makes far too much money for where he slots on the Dallas Stars’ roster but the rumors that he will be bought out by the club appear not to be true.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports that though Spezza is one of the first names to come up when insiders are talking about buyouts, he will not be bought out by the team and instead play out the final year of his contract. The buyout window opened Friday in the NHL and his $7.5MM cap hit for one more season made financial sense to consider as a buyout option.
That doesn’t mean the club won’t look to trade the player.
Bruins and Kovalchuk a Possibility
Ilya Kovalchuk was linked to as many as eight teams over the week and the Boston Bruins were one of them. GM Don Sweeney confirmed the interest today, telling NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin that the organization will have formal talks with Kovalchuk right away. The rumor is that the Bruins are looking to replace Rick Nash with Kovalchuk and see him as a better fit with potentially more scoring ability.
It won’t come cheap and will likely cost more than Nash would have as Kovalchuk has had teams like the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Dallas Stars show interest as well. There is bound to be a bidding war here which will see Kovalchuk get more than two years and $5 million per season.
Rumors are that Kovalchuk is also looking to make a decision before the NHL Entry and Draft and well before July 1. This is good for everyone as many teams are holding off on making moves for a player like Jeff Skinner until Kovalchuk has decided where he wants to go.
Tavares Won’t Make it to Free Agency
The hottest free agent this summer is easily John Tavares and there are a number of teams ready to make a huge pitch for the player when he becomes available. Only, he might not.
Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Tavares has been in constant communication with GM Lou Lamoriello, and is focused on signing an extension. Clearly, the deal is not there yet and there is a possibility negotiations fall apart but Dreger speculates that a deal could come together quickly. Tavares may wait until the interview period which opens up before free agency just to see what the landscape looks like. He may want to know what he’s potentially passing up by seeing what other teams are offering.
Mitch Marner Could Be Expensive
Darren Dreger also noted that negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner could get interesting. It is believed that the Leafs and forward Auston Matthews will get a deal that comes together quickly knowing that the team will have to pay handsomely to get him long term. However, it sounds like the club believes they should be getting Marner at a much lower cost even though his stats and analytic numbers are not far off from the best players in the league.
Marner’s camp is prepared to dig their heels in to get a deal done and it could take some time as both sides try to work things into a best-case scenario for themselves. Marner wants to be paid the way his number suggests he should but the Leafs don’t want to pay him what the top level players are making. Dreger said:
“The Toronto Maple Leafs may be looking for a discount on Mitch Marner and that seems highly unlikely to happen. We all know who the big fish in the Toronto pond is and that’s Auston Matthews. It’s been speculated that maybe Matthews comes in at $11.5 and around that target. Mitch Marner has the productivity and the statistics to back him up to upwards of Jack Eichel at $10 million plus. I get the sense that although there’s a willingness to negotiate with Auston Matthews, there’s a battle ahead from the Marner camp with the Maple Leafs.”
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”