NHL Rumors Roundup: Wild, Sabres, Senators, Maple Leafs, and top remaining free agents

nhl rumors roundup
Dec 17, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) take a faceoff in the third period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Two big RFA’s were believed close to signing new extension, but it appears that respective fans of those teams will need to wait.

Both Kirill Kaprizov and Brady Tkachuk continue to work on new deals but it sounds like it’s taking longer than expected.

At this point I feel like the Canucks will have both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes done before these two sign.

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NHL Rumors: Wild and Kaprizov

The two sides have been at a standstill since April when Kaprizov rejected an 8 year-deal. Kaprizov, 24, is only interested in a short term deal. The Wild wanted to lock him up at for longer but it appears the two-sides may be close to a new contract with the term being 5 years in length.

Michael Russo of The Athletic wrote at the beginning of the month that Kaprizov became willing to go beyond his initial two year deal. He also believes that the money will still be significant, in the $9 million dollar range.

NHL Roundup
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp about a week away, Kaprizov remains in Russia and the two sides have not spoken in the last week, Russo reports. GM Bill Guerin even admitted that there are still “obstacles” they need to overcome.

Kirill Kaprizov led all rookies in goals (27), points (51) and power-play goals (eight) in 55 games this past season. His totals in goals, assists (24) and points served as records by a rookie in franchise history.

Will Jack Eichel show up to Sabres Camp

The Buffalo Sabres will be opening training camp in less than two weeks. Will Jack Eichel be there?

Considering how contentious things have been between Eichel and the Sabres since he went down with a neck injury, some may think the answer is obvious.

John Vogl of The Athletic provided the most reasonable answers in a recent mailbag.

If Eichel fails to report, the Sabres don’t have to pay him for each day missed. Vogl works that out to about $36K per day.

What will likely happen is Eichel will report, fail his physical and be sent home until a trade is worked out.

Thus far, there’s been no additional confirmation of TSN’s Shawn Simpson’s report that Eichel was scheduled to have surgery and return by December.

Senators and Tkachuk

brady tkachuk contract
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Optimism still remains that a deal between the Sens and Tkachuk will get done, but it sounds like it may take up until the last minute to accomplish.

It’s believed talks are centre around trying to get an eight-year deal in place and those discussions have been ongoing and are continuing. It’s believed the Senators have tabled a eight-year contract offer worth $64 million. That would mirror the extension Thomas Chabot signed in Sept., 2019 that pays him $8 million per-season.

Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Citizen

The general consensus is if a long-term deal can’t be worked out, the two sides seem to be ok with getting a bridge deal done before camp.

Tkachuk, 21, has scored 125 points in 198 career games all with Ottawa. The Sens see him as the face of the franchise along with Thomas Chabot. Either one of them could be named the next captain in Ottawa.

NHL Rumors: Morgan Rielly to hit the market?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a large amount of money locked into four players. Nearly 50% of their total cap space is dedicated to John Tavares ($11.6M), Auston Matthews ($11M), Mitch Marner ($10.9M), and William Nylander ($6.9M).

This has many questioning what will be the fate of pending UFA defenseman, Morgan Rielly.

Rielly, 27, scored 35 points in 55 games last season. For his career, all with Toronto, he’s amassed 305 points in 572 contests. He logs top pair minutes and helps QB the power play.

Many would suggest that Rielly is likely more valuable to retain for next season if the core four fail to produce again in the playoffs.

Back in June, GM Kyle Dubas stated that the two sides have not had many talks regarding an extension. He already shot down speculation that the Leafs would consider anything remotely to what some defensemen got this summer. Considering the Leafs have very little cap space to play with in 2022, his Leafs’ future is rightfully in doubt.

nhl rumors morgan rielly
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto will also have goalie Jack Campbell and forward Ilya Mikheyev hit UFA status. To add to their cap woes, they have some key RFA’s to sign that include Rasmus Sandin and Nick Ritchie. It makes you wonder if they don’t opt to trade one of their top salaries to retain Rielly.

“It’s not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about,” Rielly said after the season about his contract. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But right now, it’s more just trying to deal with what happens on the ice. I have to take care of myself and just prepare for next season and get going. But in terms of the other stuff, that tends to take care of itself over time.”

Will Rielly be back with the Leafs next season? I believe the answer is yes, but it will likely come at the cost of moving Mitch Marner or William Nylander.

Top Remaining Free Agents

NHL Training Camps will open in the less than two weeks. As it draws closer, we should see a few more signings of remaining UFAs or PTOs (professional tryout).

James Neal (F): The 34 year-old had just five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games during his season with the Oilers. Overall, he has 294 goals and 261 assists (555 points) in 13 NHL seasons. To date there’s been little interest from teams in adding him. He is a prime candidate for a PTO.

Jason Demers (D): He’s a right-handed defenseman that can still play third pair minutes. In 41 games, the 33 year-old veteran picked up just 4 helpers for the Coyotes. He’s a prime candidate for an invite to a training camp on a PTO.

Sami Vatanen (D): I am always shocked that a solid right-handed defender like Vatanen continues to be available. He certainly doesn’t put up the offensive numbers as he used to, but he can still help a defense out. He’s only 30 years-old so he should at least get a PTO. The Oilers are rumored to possibly give him one.

Nikita Gusev (F): At 29 years of age, Gusev is already a reclamation project. Highly touted coming out of the KHL, the disappointed Devils terminated his contract. The Panthers signed him mid season, where he finished with 10 points in 31 games split between the two clubs. He could be worth a cheap flyer or at least an invite to camp on a PTO.

Alex Galchenyuk (F): He’s just 27 years-old but has struggled to live up to being the third overall selection in the 2012. Last season, he scored 13 points in 34 games split between the Senators and Maple Leafs. Galchenyuk would be great as a reclamation project. This could be another option for the Penguins and will likely be cheaper than Bozak.

Zdeno Chara (D): The 44 year-old defender isn’t even sure if he will play next season or retire. “I think it’s not always a decision I can make myself,” he said at season’s end. “I have to have a conversation with my wife and children and see where we want to be in the next few days or weeks. After those conversations, I’m going to probably let the emotions settle in and see where I’m at.” If he does play, he’d be a great value add to shore up a team’s bottom pair.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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