NHL Rumors: Rask, Penguins, Waivers, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, we look at the Minnesota Wild’s plan for Victor Rask, Sidney Crosby’s injury, and the latest waiver transactions. Plus, are the Pittsburgh Penguins close to dealing Jack Johnson?

Related: NHL Rumors: Blues, Islanders, RFAs, More

Rask’s Role with Wild

Since the Wild acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes last season, Victor Rask has been been a letdown, with only 3 points in 23 games post-trade. Considering that Nino Niederreiter, the player the Wild dealt for Rask, had 30 points in 36 games with the Hurricanes, the trade was abysmal and it is part of the reason the Wild fired general manager Paul Fenton. Now the Wild are stuck with an underperforming player who has a $4 million cap hit through 2021-22.

Wild center Victor Rask
Wild center Victor Rask (David Berding-USA TODAY )

According to NBC Sports’ James O’Brien and Minnesota Star Tribune writer Sarah McLellan, Rask may not have a roster spot to start the season. McLellan reported on Sep. 27 that Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau listed Rask as being behind four other centers on the depth chart:

At this moment, I would say that there are four centers ahead of him [Rask] now that we’ve seen that [captain Mikko Koivu’s knee] is fine and he can play…

Bruce Boudreau, (from ‘Victor Rask currently not among Wild’s top 12 forwards,’ Minnesota Star Tribune, 09/27/2019)

O’Brien points out that if the Wild are interested in trading Rask, the best thing to do would be to put him in the best situation to succeed by playing him, thus improving his trade value. However, because the Wild are determined to compete this season, it seems more and more likely that he won’t be in the starting lineup to start the season.

By not playing Rask, the Wild are left with few options of how to proceed. In order to trade him, they’d have to add a sweetener to any deal or absorb a large percentage of his salary. They could also buy out his contract but would be stuck with a $1.3 million cap hit for each of the next four seasons. It’s safe to say the Wild are in a bit of a tough situation regarding Rask.

Will Crosby Miss the Start of Season?

After being hit in the skate in the Penguins’ final preseason game on Sep. 28 against the Buffalo Sabres, Sidney Crosby has been sidelined with an injury. The Penguins captain is officially listed as “day-to-day” but was absent from the team’s practice on Sunday, according to Trib Live reporter Seth Rorabaugh. Rorabaugh mentioned that Crosby was able to skate before practice on Sunday and quoted head coach Mike Sullivan who described Crosby’s progress as “encouraging.” (from ‘Crosby, Galchenyuk, Rust remain sidelined for the Penguins,’ Trib Live, 09/29/2019) Why does this matter?

Sidney Crosby
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/File)

Besides the fact that Crosby is one of the game’s best players, the Penguins still find themselves in a salary cap crunch, although that has been alleviated by placing goaltender Casey DeSmith on waivers. More on that later. But, if the Penguins don’t want to rush Crosby back and feel he may not be ready for the team’s season opener on Thursday, they could place him on injured reserve and get the relief from doing so, buying them time to sort out their cap situation.

Penguins Close to Trading Johnson?

In other Penguins news/rumors, Rob Yohe of The Athletic is reporting that GM Jim Rutherford is close to trading defenseman Jack Johnson. It’s been mentioned countless times, including in recent Rumors posts, that the Penguins aren’t happy with Johnson’s performance and getting out from under his contract is of interest to them. For a team experiencing a cap crunch like the Penguins are, his $3.235-million cap hit (through 2022-23) sticks out like a sore thumb.

Pittsburgh Penguins Jack Johnson Casey DeSmith
Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Jack Johnson and goaltender Casey DeSmith (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand)

For several days, it appeared that Rutherford was trying to move a goaltender to get under the salary cap, but according to Yohe, Johnson is the most likely player to get moved. Yohe even went as far as to quote an unnamed source who said that Johnson has been told that a trade within the next 48 hours is possible.

Although a trade isn’t certain, Rutherford, according to sources, wanted to be transparent with Johnson about the situation and warned him that a trade within the next 48 hours is quite possible.

Josh Yohe (from ‘Sources: Penguins are getting closer to trading Jack Johnson,’ The Athletic, 09/29/2019)

Of course, given Johnson’s struggles in recent seasons, it’s almost impossible that the Penguins shed his contract without taking a bad contract back, retaining some salary, or sweetening the deal with picks/prospects. None of those scenarios are good for the Penguins, a team with a bad farm system and without the flexibility to absorb another bad contract.

Notable Waiver Transactions

Tomorrow, Oct. 1, at 5:00 pm ET is the deadline for teams to become cap compliant to start the season while today is the last day for teams to place players on waivers and have them clear before rosters are submitted.

As a result, we are seeing a flurry of transactions taking place today, with some notable names being placed on waivers as teams cement their rosters for opening day and attempt to get below the salary cap. Some interesting names include:

Sven Baertschi – Placed on waivers by the Vancouver Canucks. This indicates that prospect Adam Gaudette is likely to make the NHL roster.

Casey DeSmith – Penguins placed him on waivers. This is interesting because it was thought that DeSmith was going to back-up Matt Murray while the Penguins potentially looked to trade Tristan Jarry. This move helps the team get below the salary cap and DeSmith is an interesting option for any team looking to add goaltending depth.

Thomas Hickey – Veteran New York Islanders defenseman was one of the players blocking prospect Noah Dobson from making the NHL roster. Hickey was viewed as a potential trade option for the Islanders, but with him being placed on waivers, it appears that Dobson will get an extended look to start the season.