In today’s NHL rumor rundown, what are the chances Ilya Kovalchuk returns to the Montreal Canadiens? In Toronto, is there any truth to the whispers that the Maple Leafs might have cohesion issues with their two-tier salary structure? Why are the Detroit Red Wings avoiding an offer sheet? Finally, there are a few updates on some pending unrestricted free agents.
Kovalchuk Not Likely To Return to Canadiens
Eric Engels of Sportsnet took a closer look at buzz the Montreal Canadiens might have an interest in brining back Ilya Kovalchuk to the team after a successful run with the organization this past season. There are reports this option is still a possibility.
Engels said he would be “shocked” if Kovalchuk returned. Noting he’s a better fit on a team that isn’t as deep for league minimum, the one reason that might change is if “the Canadiens got to camp and suddenly suffered a couple of injuries up front,” Engels said. Still, it would be a longshot.
Maple Leafs Salaries Shouldn’t Be An Issue
One reader asked James Mirtle of The Athletic if the Toronto Maple Leafs could have salary structure issues based on the fact there is a clear tier at the top and a clear tier at the bottom with so many league-minimum deals. Mirtle doesn’t think so.
Having one group of players make so much more than the other group is not new in the NHL. Mirtle cited a time when Paul Kariya made more than 28% of the Anaheim Ducks’ team’s total salary in 1999. He wasn’t the only example. Mirtle explained the Leafs should be fine. He said:
Where I think it’s fine in Toronto is, for the most part, the players are making what they should based on what they’ll contribute to the team. The low-cost veterans they’re adding like Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza are happy to play for what they’re getting if it means being a part of the organization.source – ‘Mirtle mailbag: Should the Leafs play at BMO? Plus Eric Joyce, line combos, more’ – James Mirtle – The Athletic – 11/08/2020
Leafs Looked Into Lehner
Mirtle also says that while salaries might not be an issue, the goaltending will be. He notes that Frederik Andersen will be watched closely and his play dissected from every angle. He adds the Leafs tried to find a replacement and noted, “My sense is they at least liked Robin Lehner, but Vegas wasn’t going to let him go.”
Red Wings Won’t Offer Sheet Lightning Players
There’s been talk that the Detroit Red Wings aren’t done making moves, but according to Toronto Sports media journalist Steve Simmons, don’t expect them to tender an offer sheet… at least not to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The suspicion around is that Yzerman has too much respect for Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, whom he worked with for many years, to move in this direction. Tampa Bay has salary-cap issues, the Red Wings don’t: The timing would be perfect for an offer sheet. Just not so long as there are friendships involved.source – ‘SIMMONS: Where does loyalty fit in with VanVleet’s free agency?’ – Steve Simmons – Drayton Valley Western Review – 11/07/2020
Latest NHL UFA Updates
According to Emily Sadler of Sportsnet, there are some updates on the latest rumors and notes on the top unrestricted NHL free agents. She confirms reports of Mike Hoffman being patient. With Mikael Granlund, there’s not much talk surrounding the player. With Travis Hamonic, she notes the Calgary Flames might consider bringing him back and the Winnipeg Jets could be an option. Finally, with Erik Haula, there was buzz around the Vegas Golden Knights but they don’t have the cap room.
The marketplace right now is fairly quiet. Any big deals will need to wait until salary moves around and players go on LTIR. Shorter-term deals could still pop up.
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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.”