In today’s NHL rumor rundown, the Toronto Maple Leafs have admitted their interest in a KHL forward, Brady Tkachuk provides an update on how the two Senators players who contracted the COVID-19 virus are doing, and the Edmonton Oilers confirm their interest in forward Anton Slepyshev and two 2016 draft prospects. Finally, there are more names rumored to be among those veteran NHL’ers who might call it a career.
Dubas Confirms Interest in Barabanov
We spoke this weekend about the rumored interest by the Toronto Maple Leafs in Russian forward Alexander Barabanov and Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas admitted at a media availability today that his team is pursuing the player.
Dubas explained to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet that the organization likes the Russian forward’s ability to make plays under pressure. Johnston also notes that there doesn’t seem to be any rush from Barabanov’s side to make a decision.
Once again, Arizona is also in the mix. The Athletic’s Craig Morgan confirmed the Coyotes have interest as general manager John Chayka talked with Barabanov earlier this season when he visited St. Petersburg.
Related: 7 Cool Things About Auston Matthews
Brady Tkachuk Says Sick Teammates Are “Doing Well”
Ottawa Senators star Brady Tkachuk joined fellow Atlantic Division players John Tavares, Zdeno Chara and Dylan Larkin on a conference call with the media yesterday and in speaking on a number of topics similar to other conference calls by the NHL, he had some different news. The Senators are one of two teams to be hit with positive tests for COVID-19 and Tkachuk had updates on his teammates.
“Those guys are doing well,” said Tkachuk. “We’re a tight group so we’re always in contact with one another but I think all of us are just concerned about them and everybody impacted by it.”
This is great news as the NHL is probably lucky only to have four players who have tested positive to date.
Oilers to Make Decisions on International Players
We mentioned in our Oilers news and rumors update that Oilers general manager Ken Holland says he’s got interest in signing Anton Slepyshev to a contract but isn’t willing to compete on money. “If anybody wants to give him $2.5 million to $3 million, we’re not in the game anyways,” Holland said.
The Oilers also have to make decisions on a couple of international prospects they drafted in 2016. Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Sun writes:
Holland affirmed the team is deciding on whether to sign 2016 third-round defencemen Markus Niemelainen (63rd overall), who was with Assat Pori in Finland last season and Filip Berglund (91st), who played with Philip Broberg in Skelleftea last year but has moved to Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League. The Oilers have two months to sign them or they’re free.source – ‘ Oilers only want Anton Slepyshev back at right price’ – Jim Matheson – Edmonton Sun – 03/30/2020
Holland knows both players could decide to stay in Europe but the Oilers have the choice to sign them and bring them over or leave them there. That said, if they don’t sign them, they lose their rights to the players on June 1. “They’ve gotten better, they’ve improved. They do play regular in Sweden and Finland,” said Holland.
Specifically, Holland feels Berglund can play in the AHL right now. The assumption seems to be that Holland is leaning towards signing both players.
More Players to Retire If Season Doesn’t Resume?
Steven Ellis of The Hockey News lists Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu among six pending unrestricted free agents who may be forced into retirement if the NHL season doesn’t resume.
Perry only managed 21 points with the Stars this season which doesn’t bode well for a team giving him another chance and Koivu seems to have no desire to play in any city outside of Minnesota. Injuries are a big concern for the veteran and he’s no longer relied upon by the Wild organization, having moved down their depth chart.
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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.”