Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. We’re just about four weeks into free agency and most players have managed to find a new home or re-sign with their respective teams. However, there are still some quality names left on the free-agent market. Including some high end restricted free agents. Teams are still trying to work around their respective cap situations while they await the start of the 2020-21 season. This, along with the uncertainty of the upcoming season just adds more rumours to the NHL rumour mill. Today, we’ll look at rumours from the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks and the future of Ilya Kovalchuk in the NHL.
All NHL rumours come from their original sources and are subject to change.
New York Islanders
Rumour: In a recent mailbag segment for The Athletic, Arthur Staple was asked about the possibility of more trades coming from the Islanders.
Analysis: There was a ton of questions surrounding this and rightfully so. The Islanders currently have around $9 million in cap space as it stands. However, they have two big restricted free agents to sign in Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock. Those two players will eat up every last penny of that cap space. So the Islanders will certainly be looking to move out cap.
The names that always come up are players like, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd and Leo Komarov. However, Boychuk and Komarov both have modified no-trade clauses making them a little more difficult to move. Not to mention, their regression in play. Staples brought up the fact that Ladd might possibly fail his physical, which would then allow the Islanders to place them on LTIR, which would allow the team to go above the salary cap. If not and all three are healthy, they could waive them, sending them to the minors to save a little more cap. However, that’s not a preferred option, as the club wouldn’t have enough cap space to make any moves or call ups if anyone sustained an injury.
Bailey led the team in scoring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 20 points in 22 games and scored 14 goals and 43 points in 68 games during the regular season. He would certainly be someone a lot of teams would be interesting as his $5 million cap hit wouldn’t be too much for a team to take on and is locked up for another four years. He is also the only forward in the Islanders top-six that doesn’t have a no-trade clause so it would be the easiest player to deal. The only issue is that they’re not dealing from a position of strength, as teams know they’re desperate to move the cap. So they might not get the return they’d like.
Cizikas is another intriguing option. He currently slots in as the team’s fourth-line centre and is one of the best at his job. Many refer to the Islanders’ fourth line as the best in the NHL. Cizikas plays an aggressive in-your-face style of play. Finishing his check every chance he gets and is an extremely effective penalty killer. He’s also a solid faceoff man winning 53.5 percent of the draws he took last season. With the added scoring ability, scoring 30 goals over the past two seasons while playing a fourth-line role, he would certainly be someone teams would like to acquire.
The Islanders may not want to lose either of these players, however, with their cap situation and needing to make room for Barzal and Pulock. They may not have a choice.
Analysis: It’s hard for the Ducks right now to make any significant moves given their cap situation. As well, any move for Johnson is complicated because he has full control over where he ends up. Johnson has a full no-move clause, so he needs to approve any trade he is involved in. Johnson did submit a list of teams to the Tampa Bay Lightning that he would accept a deal to. Are the Ducks on that list? Hard to say.
However, if Johnson would accept a trade to the Ducks, the Ducks would still need to clear some cap space as well to take him on. They are currently over the salary by just under $1 million. Fortunately, for both the Ducks and Lightning, the Ducks have the perfect trade piece to send Tampa in exchange for Johnson. Ryan Kesler.
Kesler’s career is finished. Trading him to the Lightning in exchange for Tyler Johnson clears cap for the Ducks as his cap hit is almost $2 million more than Johnson’s. So the Ducks would be able to fit him in under the cap with cash to spare. In return, it allows the Lightning to put Kesler on LTIR and allows them the capability to go over the cap to help get Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli under contract.
Johnson would provide a stop-gap for the Ducks as they wait for Trevor Zegras to make the jump to the NHL. Johnson is still a solid player, just found himself falling down the depth chart on a stacked Tampa Bay team. He still has the ability to produce offensively and could be a solid acquisition by the Ducks. If he doesn’t work out, they could always expose him to the Seattle expansion draft and allow the Kraken to bring Johnson back to his home state.
Rumour: In his latest piece for The Athletic, Pierre LeBrun interviewed Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk states that he wants to return to the NHL but is in no rush to sign a new contract. He wants to make sure it’s the right fit for everyone.
Analysis: This should not come as much of a surprise. Kovalchuk returned to the NHL for the 2018-19 season after signing a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. However, Kovalchuk’s stay with the Kings lasted less than a season and a half as the two sides agreed to terminate the forward’s contract. This is when Kovalchuk rejuvenated his career by signing with the Montreal Canadiens for the league minimum $700,000.
Kovalchuk fit perfectly with his new team, scoring six goals and 13 points in 22 games. This is what Kovalchuk means when he speaks of finding the right fit. He doesn’t want to come back and have the same thing happen to him that happened in L.A. Kovalchuk loves the game of hockey. He has stated money doesn’t matter to him. He wants to play and he wants to win. Hence why he took the league minimum to go to Montreal last season.
Many believed that Kovalchuk would be going back to Montreal this offseason. However, with all the moves Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has made, there’s just no cap space left to bring back Kovy. Unless of course, he accepts the league minimum again and the Habs move out a larger salary. Which of course is still possible. The Canadiens proved to be a solid fit for Kovalchuk last year and he loved every minute of his time there, so he’d certainly be fine to go back to the Habs. If not, he will wait it out and surely another team will acquire his services. He proved he still has something left in the tank last season. He just wants one more shot to try to win the Stanley Cup. Some team will surely give it to him.