Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
NHL trades in August are a rare occurrence, especially those involving a noteworthy player. The Hurricanes shipping three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Skinner to the Sabres last week certainly caught most observers off guard.
The Skinner trade was the latest move by the Hurricanes’ new management in their ongoing roster shakeup. During the 2018 NHL draft in June, general manager Don Waddell traded Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox. Waddell also signed former Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan last month to a four-year contract.
TRADE GRADES: Sabres buy low on Jeff Skinner’s high-end scoring help
With Skinner finally moved, the focus of Hurricanes trade speculation shifts toward defenseman Justin Faulk. Like his now-former teammate, Faulk’s been the subject of offseason media chatter. Rumors linked him to the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Oilers and Maple Leafs.
Shortly before the Skinner trade, the Raleigh News & Observer’s Luke DeCock noted the acquisition of Hamilton led to the assumption Faulk could become expendable. While DeCock didn’t rule out the possibility of the 26-year-old blueliner returning with the Hurricanes, he pointed out that a reduction in his defensive duties could make the rearguard a prime trade candidate.
Waddell sees the situation differently. Following the Skinner trade, the GM said his club never stated they wanted to trade Faulk, adding that was merely speculation following the Hamilton trade. Waddell praised his blueline corps, calling it one of the best in the league, but didn’t rule out the possibility of moving Faulk if another team “steps up to the plate.”
Waddell might not be shopping Faulk but he could change his mind if the Hurricanes’ offense fails to improve in 2018-19. Carolina was 23rd overall in goals for per game (2.74) last season and the return received from the Sabres (forward prospect Cliff Pu and three draft picks) won’t replace Skinner’s offense. Faulk could become Waddell’s best trade chip to land a scorer.
Do Mark Stone, Senators have a future together?
The Senators avoided salary arbitration last week with Mark Stone, re-signing the 26-year-old right winger to a one-year, $7.35 million contract. While GM Pierre Dorion is confident this could be a stepping stone toward a long-term extension with Stone, some pundits aren’t so sure.
TSN’s Ian Mendes believes the one-year deal raises more questions about Stone’s future in Ottawa than it answers. The earliest the Senators can open contract extension talks is Jan. 1. With Stone and teammates Erik Karlsson and Matt Duchene slated to become UFA next July, Mendes suggests the Senators could face a major rebuild if those players depart.
The Ottawa Sun’s Ken Warren shares Mendes’ concern. If the Senators cannot get Stone, Karlsson or Duchene under contract this season, Warren speculates they could be shopped by next February’s NHL trade deadline.
Given the Senators’ well-documented state of disarray since last season, The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy feels there’s little incentive for those three to stick around. If Dorion ends up peddling them, he must get the best possible return to help the club rebuild.
The fate of Stone — and of Karlsson and Duchene — could be determined by the Senators’ performance in 2018-19. A repeat of last season’s disastrous meltdown could mean the departure of Karlsson by the trade deadline if he hasn’t already been dealt by then. It could also kill any hope Dorion has of re-signing Stone and Duchene.
Artemi Panarin pining for Chicago?
The reluctance of high-scoring winger Artemi Panarin to sign a contract extension with the Blue Jackets raised eyebrows around the league. It’s also made him the subject of recent trade rumors.
Panarin is slated to become a UFA next July. If he hits the open market, The Athletic’s Scott Powers cited a source claiming the 26-year-old left wing could consider returning to the Blackhawks, where he began his NHL career. Last summer, the Blackhawks dealt Panarin to the Blue Jackets for winger Brandon Saad.
While such a move would take what Powers considers “serious cap managing” by the Blackhawks, he feels it’s possible to pull it off. Assuming an $82 million salary cap for 2019-20, Powers suggests they could re-sign Panarin for $9 million annually and still have enough to re-sign young center Nick Schmaltz to a $6 million-per-season raise.
If Panarin is keen to return to Chicago next summer, the Blackhawks could be interested in signing him. However, he could seek more than they can comfortably afford.
Another 80-plus point campaign on his part could push his salary demands over $10 million annually. If they agree to pay that much it could leave them with insufficient space to address their already-thin defense corps.