To say the next week of the NHL off-season is a crucial one would be a gross understatement. With the deadline for teams to submit their protected lists this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Seattle expansion draft taking place in six days, it's crunch time for teams to sort out their rosters.
And that's not even addressing the free agency rumour mill ahead of the new league year on July 28.
Here's a roundup of some of the big rumours and reports swirling around the NHL right now:
Landeskog 'disappointed' he hasn't re-signed with Avalanche yet
It's tough to imagine the Colorado Avalanche without Gabriel Landeskog. The forward has been in Colorado for 10 years, and has served as captain for nine. But with his contract expiring and the club needing to also sign star RFA defenceman Cale Makar and Vezina finalist Philipp Grubauer among other off-season questions, the Swede is facing an uncertain hockey future for the first time in his NHL career.
“I’ve always known that come September, October, I’m going to pull on that Avs jersey,” he told The Athletic's Peter Baugh in a piece published Wednesday.
In the article, Landeskog opened up to Baugh about his disappointment in having not already signed on the dotted line long ago.
“I can’t help but be honest with you that I’m a little bit disappointed that it’s gotten this far and it’s had to come to this point,” Landeskog, 28, said.
Per Baugh, talks have increased but "the sides are still far away from an agreement, according to a league source."
Landeskog told Baugh, “We’ll see what happens. I’m still hopeful that we can agree on something and come to terms, but if it was up to me, I would have liked it to be done eight months ago, 10 months ago.”
Both sides have been clear they'd like to keep the relationship going, but the timeline now brings a little bit of doubt to the outside eye. Obviously, the elite, physical forward would have no shortage of suitors should he in fact hit the open market.
If Alex Kerfoot's $3.5 million is off the books and Gabe Landeskog doesn't have a deal in Colorado, could we see the Buds pursue the Avs captain?@TheFourthPeriod joined #SNTonight with @AndyMc81 & @RusicSN590 to discuss!#LeafsForever | #NHL pic.twitter.com/upD5WSrdSH
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) July 15, 2021
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that if Colorado doesn't sign Landeskog before the expansion draft, and leaves him exposed, Seattle gets an exclusive window to chat with him before any other club.
Guerin on Kaprizov contract: 'We'll get there'
With the buyout bombshell news in Minnesota comes not only a new era in the State of Hockey, but some new cap space with which to usher it in. Priority No. 1 has been, and still is, signing rookie phenom Kirill Kaprizov. The Calder winner is a 10.2(c) RFA, which means another team can't try to pry him away or force Minnesota's hand with an offer sheet. At 24, he can become an unrestricted free agent as early as the 2024 off-season, and that's got the pressure on GM Bill Guerin to lock up some term. Asked about the status of negotiations on that front during a Hockey Central interview on Wednesday, Guerin had this to say:
"He came in and had a big impact on us last year, it was great to see. We needed it, and we still need him going forward. We're just going through the process right now of negotiating a contract. Me and his agent, we talk on a regular basis and some days we get somewhere, some days we don't. But these things take time, and we've just got to continue to work through it. We'll get there someday. It might not be tomorrow, but we've got time."
Wild still undecided on expansion draft plan
While Kaprizov's importance to the franchise cannot be understated, especially at this time of transition, Guerin's got a few other pressing issues that also need addressing at the moment -- like, oh, the impending expansion draft, for example. This week's big buyouts clear out two protection spots, putting Guerin in good position for skater protection. Goaltending, on the other hand... that's a tough one.
Minnesota's smart signing of Cam Talbot last off-season paid off in a huge way, with the veteran bouncing back and putting up his best numbers since 2016-17. This season also saw the emergence of Kaapo Kahkonen, a strong 1B to Talbot's 1A. Both are expansion-eligible. Both cannot be protected. And based on performance (in Talbot's case) and potential (in Kahkonen's), it would not be surprising to see Seattle scoop up whichever is left exposed.
Asked whether he would be making any side-deals with Seattle to protect both goalies, Guerin said he didn't know yet.
"Yeah, I'm not quite there yet. I don't know if we're gonna be making any sort of deals. We could just be rolling the dice. We're gonna lose a player that we like, and the one thing I don't want to do is kind of overthink it and get myself into trouble and lose two players -- we could trade a player, and then we're definitely going to lose a player, so we'd be out two guys."
Guerin wasn't at the helm of the Wild when they made a side-deal with Vegas that saw Minnesota send Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights so they'd select Erik Haula, protecting key young players like Matt Dumba. But he can learn from that.
"To be honest with you, we're still going through it," he said. "We're still taking a lot of phone calls and seeing what our options are."
Where to next for Suter, Parise?
One more Wild item, courtesy of Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on Tuesday's edition of the 31 Thoughts podcast: Where might Ryan Suter and Zach Parise land? And might they wind up together once again?
As Friedman indicated, there's widespread belief that Parise will be Long Island-bound. There was almost a deal in place to send him there last off-season, reuniting him with GM Lou Lamoriello. Suter has an interesting connection there, too, with Barry Trotz. Trotz coached Suter for several years in Nashville. Interesting.
As for the likelihood of Suter playing somewhere north of the border, it sounds like we can cross seven teams off his list of possible destinations:
"I think a lot of people would be surprised if Suter ended up in Canada. He's an American guy, he's a Team USA guy, he's always played in the States," Friedman said. "A lot of people think Vegas, a lot of people think Colorado, I've had a few people think Washington -- that those would be the kind of places that he could potentially end up."
Yandle added to list of big-name buyouts
Like Suter and Parise, Yandle's deal also had a no-move clause. He's now a UFA, and the Panthers have themselves one additional protection spot.
Here's an interesting thought...
How much might Hyman earn on next deal?
It's looking more and more likely that the cap-strapped Toronto Maple Leafs and Zach Hyman are heading in different directions, and while that's disappointing for both the club and the hometown forward, it's not at all surprising.
"I just think that Hyman, as much as he'd like to stay, you can't leave millions and millions of dollars on the table just to stay," NHL insider Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff.com said during a Leafs Hour chat Thursday morning.
So, how many millions are we talking?
"The rumblings have been really interesting," Seravalli said. "Talking to another manager yesterday, they were saying that they think Zach Hyman is gonna be in the seven-year, $6-million-per neighbourhood. So that's significant coin."
Per reports, another Toronto Zach is also looking like he'll be hitting the UFA market:
Maple Leafs targeting Kuemper
Another Leaf that appears to be on his way out is Frederik Andersen, who's also a pending UFA.
"It's not out of the realm of possibilities that he comes back, but I'd be surprised," Seravalli said. "The Maple Leafs have done a lot of work on the goaltending market in recent weeks."
Seravalli, who also wrote on this topic Thursday, said Andersen is "further back" on the Leafs' list of goalies in which they're interested -- a list that also includes Linus Ullmark, Petr Mrazek, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Driedger, Jaroslav Halak, Joonas Korpisalo. As for the name atop that list? That's Darcy Kuemper.
"I think Darcy Kuemper would make a lot of sense to play in tandem with Jack Campbell next season if they could pull a trade like that off," Seravalli said.
Kuemper, 31, has one year remaining on his deal with Arizona and carries a cap hit of $4.5 million. Per Seravalli, the Leafs are far from the only team sniffing around the Coyotes crease -- Colorado and Seattle are also believed to have interest.
What does Weber development mean for Canadiens?
Tough news emerged out of Montreal on Wednesday night, with Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reporting that veteran defenceman and captain Shea Weber was staring down an "unclear" future with respect to lingering injuries potentially shutting down his career. The wake of this news is, obviously, massive and touches on a lot of different possible outcomes. First and foremost is the possibility of the end of an excellent career for Weber, a dominant D-man over the course of 16 seasons. Salary cap-wise (for both Montreal and Nashville), a lot will be determined by the league and NHLPA looking into whether his case warrants a move to long-term injured reserve, or whether he might retire.
As far as Montreal's lineup goes, this is a huge development not just in terms of now needing to fill giant skates for next season, but it also means the Canadiens can shift their expansion protection considerations.
"I think at the very least, it solves an expansion draft problem, it creates a big hole on your blue line, and I think Montreal's got to work and figure out what this is all gonna mean for their roster," Friedman said Thursday on Hockey Central.
Here's Friedman discussing the latest on the matter:
Laine hopes he can stay in Columbus
"I hope I can stay in Columbus," Laine told Aamulehti in Finland earlier this week, according to a translation by NHL.com. "This is the starting point, but you can never be sure what happens. I got traded once."
Laine, who landed in Columbus in January in the deal that saw Pierre-Luc Dubois sent to Winnipeg, is due a new deal this summer.
"I really haven't thought about the contract negotiations," Laine said. "At some point they will let me know what the situation is, and they will ask what I think about this proposal. Do I want to take the contract? And then we continue [the negotiations]."
Laine's Blue Jackets tenure saw some rocky moments, including a benching by then-head coach John Tortorella. In the Finnish interview, Laine was critical of his former coach's style:
"Forwards wants to play an offensive style of hockey. If you want to score, you need to take some liberties. This is not possible if the coaches think a different way," he said. "I understand the tight strategy, but every player is different. I don't want to be same kind of player like everyone else. I am what I am, and I do things my own way. Everyone should be allowed to be what they are, but of course you have to stick with the team system."
He spoke positively of incoming head coach Brad Larsen, saying he "knows what he's doing."
"It's hard to say what he will be as a head coach because he never has been a head coach in NHL. Let's hope he refreshes us," Laine said.