NHL Rumors: Oilers, Senators, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Capitals, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, media and NHL insiders took a look at the future for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton and wondered if the Oilers will hang on to the forward. Meanwhile, there is talk the Ottawa Senators might be interested. There is buzz about who the Chicago Blackhawks might be looking at in free agency, discussion about which goaltender the Columbus Blue Jackets will trade, and the general manager of the Washington Capitals essentially confirmed that he’s open to trading Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Has Nugent-Hopkins Played His Last Game in Edmonton?

The Edmonton Journal’s Derek Van Diest was among many who wondered if Nugent-Hopkins’ time with the Oilers is over. The forward spoke with media on Tuesday and said he claims he’s not thinking about free agency but his goal is to stay in Edmonton. Van Diest writes that Edmonton is looking at somewhat of a rebuild this offseason, adding to the core of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse and there are questions about whether or not Nugent-Hopkins will be a part of that.

The report notes:

Where Nugent-Hopkins fits in that future remains to be seen. He’s completed a seven-year, $42-million contract, which paid him $6-million annually. Nugent-Hopkins was the Oilers’ third-highest paid forward behind Connor McDavid ($12.5-million) and Leon Draisaitl ($8.5-million) and had 16 goals and 35 points in 52 games for the Oilers this season.

source – ‘Nugent-Hopkins set to become free agent after decade with Edmonton Oilers’ – Derek Van Diest – Edmonton Journal – 05/25/2021

Could the Senators Be Interested in Nugent-Hopkins?

There will be other teams interested in the player. Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun writes that the Senators should give Nugent-Hopkins a long look. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, he could be a good fit centering the Senators’ second line alongside winger Tim Stuetzle.

Warren writes:

If Smith intends to stick with The Kid Line of Tkachuk, Norris and Batherson, Nugent-Hopkins could step into the depth chart as a centre for Tim Stuetzle…. If Norris is struggling, or there are potential difficult opposition matchups — that has been a significant reason for the Senators road struggles for the past several seasons — Nugent-Hopkins would serve as another option for Smith.

source – ‘WARREN: If Nugent-Hopkins’ time is up in Edmonton, the Senators should take a long look’ – Ken Warren – Ottawa Sun – 05/25/2021

Warren notes that the team would be willing to offer between $5 million to $5.5 million range per season on a long-term contract. One would also have to assume the Oilers would be willing to go that high, meaning Ottawa would need to come in at no less than $6 million to encourage Nugent-Hopkins to leave the Oilers.

Related: McDavid Says Oilers Don’t Need to “Re-Right The Whole Ship”

Blackhawks Free Agent Targets

Phil Thompson of The Chicago Tribune took a look at some possible free agent targets for the Blackhawks and named a interesting players. While contemplating whether or not defenseman Dougie Hamilton or Tyson Barrie would be on their radar, he also suggested the team would love to take a run at Toronto’s Zach Hyman or Florida’s Alexander Wennberg.

Vinnie Hinostroza Chicago Blackhawks Andrej Sekera Dallas Stars
Vinnie Hinostroza, Chicago Blackhawks and Andrej Sekera, Dallas Stars (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

But, there is one target that would be highest on the Blackhawks priority list. It’s someone the organization already has in house. Thompson writes:

The first unrestricted free agent to consider is Vinnie Hinostroza. He came via trade from the Florida Panthers, and he posted four goals and eight assists and a plus-2 rating (third best on the team) in 17 games. He had a $1 million cap hit this season.

If the Blackhawks aren’t looking to spend much, targets could include Arizona’s Michael Bunting, Boston’s Mike Reilly, Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Detroit’s Luke Glendening.

Blue Jackets Weighing Trade Options on Korpisalo or Merzlikins

Aaron Portzline of The Athletic writes that the Columbus Blues Jackets need to make a big decision this offseason and decide which goaltender they are going to trade – Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he thinks the market will determine which goalie to move and they believe both are fairly equal in terms of talent.

Kekalainen notes:

“If there’s a huge difference (in the trade return), and we don’t think the difference between the goaltenders is as big as the difference in the market, then that could steer us one way or the other way. It’s hard to say what the market will look like,”

“We think both of them are good. I have to listen to the goalie experts. I have to listen to my gut feeling about the upside of the guys and their character and drive and battle level. They’re two completely different personalities.”

source – ‘Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo? Experts say the Blue Jackets face a tough call’ – Aaron Portzline – The Athletic – 05/18/2021

Capitals Open to Kuznetsov Trade

When asked, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he’d entertain trading Evgeny Kuznetsov this offseason. “I think we’re always open to trading people if it makes sense for what’s going on. If it’s going to make our team better, I think we’re open to it.”

When a follow-up question was asked about his comments, he said, “I don’t think anybody’s off the table. We’re not going to trade Ovi or Backy and those type of people, but I think you have to be open on anything. We would talk to anybody about any player.”