NHL Rumour Roundup: Slavin extension, Laine trade interest

Elliotte Friedman joins the Jeff Marek Show to discuss the possibility of the Buffalo Sabres buying out veteran forward Jeff Skinner and what a buyout would mean for the Sabres going forward.

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Eric Tulsky has a busy summer ahead of him after officially having his interim tag removed on Tuesday.

As we approach the start of free agency on July 1, Jake Guentzel, Brett Pesce, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Martinook are among the Hurricanes’ UFAs who could be headed elsewhere, while Seth Jarvis and Martin Nečas are the most notable RFAs also in need of new contracts for the 2024-25 season.

But, from the sounds of it, this summer’s free agents are not the only priority for Carolina. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman first reported on June 12, the Hurricanes are currently working to get a long-term extension done for Jaccob Slavin.

The 30-year-old defenceman is about to head into the final year of his seven-year, $37.1 million contract, and in the latest edition of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Friedman had some additional details to share.

“We have talked about Slavin and the fact that the belief is he will have an extension done July 1. I don’t know about structure or anything like that, but I have heard the word is Slavin, whose extension is going to kick in after next season when he is 31 years old, is going to come in around eight (years) x 6.5 (million).”

Through 81 games this past season, Slavin nabbed six goals and 31 assists for a total of 37 points, the second-most in a single season in his career. The Colorado native also led the Hurricanes in ice time during their 2024 post-season run, recording a goal and three points before their elimination in the second round.

“I’ll say this, it’s really interesting that Carolina really hedges against age,” added Friedman. “I always say you know your player the best, and that says to me that Carolina really believes in him.”

Who could be interested in trading for Laine?

During an appearance on The Jeff Marek Show last week, Friedman reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets have been working to trade Patrik Laine since early last season.

The 26-year-old forward played just 18 games in 2023-24 before being sidelined with a broken clavicle in mid-December. He checked into the NHL/NHLPA’s player-assistance program during his recovery, which ultimately kept him out of game action for the remainder of the season.

Originally acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets during the 2020-21 season, Laine signed a four-year, $34.8 million contract with the team in July of 2022. With two years remaining on his contract at $8.7 million per year, along with his modified no-trade clause, finding a new home for Laine comes with some obstacles.

But since we now know a move is likely coming, Marek asked Friedman during the podcast where Laine might be headed.

“One of the players we’re wondering about lately, and we’re all trying to figure out where the right fit is, is Patrik Laine of the Columbus Blue Jackets — or should we say soon-to-be-ex of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Do you have any sense lately on what teams might be warm to him?”

According to Friedman, the Seattle Kraken are one team who may have Laine on their radar.

“I have a few people who said to me, ‘You have to watch Seattle on this one.’ And that doesn’t come as a surprise, because the Kraken have been looking for scorers, right?”

Laine has scored 30-plus goals in three of his seasons in the NHL, including a 44-goal season in 2017-18. Though his production has dipped in recent years, perhaps a change of scenery will be the necessary spark to get his offensive output back on track.

“The other thing, too, is that Seattle can do it. Like they’re a team that can do this deal,” added Friedman.

“(Kraken general manager) Ron Francis is not crazy about wild contracts, and we’ll have to see what Columbus has to do to make this work. But (Laine’s contract) is not insane for the Kraken, and it’s not insane for Ron Francis.

“I think the other thing here, too, is that — as we talked about with the coaching change there from Hakstol to Bylsma — there is a real push in that organization to be more aggressive. And I see Laine as something that makes sense there for the people who want to be more aggressive, and the people who prefer to be a little conservative, because I don’t think his contract breaks you or is overly risky.

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Could a Skinner buyout end up working out for both him and the Sabres?

Another rumour that was expanded on Wednesday by Marek and Friedman was the possibility that the Buffalo Sabres could be planning to buy out Jeff Skinner.

“I do think it’s possible,” Friedman said on The Jeff Marek Show on Tuesday. “Obviously, nobody here is talking… but there have been some rumblings around the league that that is a possibility.”

The 32-year-old forward is heading into the fifth year of his eight-year, $72 million contract that carries a full no-move clause.

“So this is something that has been floating around hockey circles for probably — at least it reached my ears about — three or four days ago. And the tough thing is that the Sabres aren’t saying anything,” Friedman elaborated Wednesday.

“(Skinner is) represented by Don Meehan, and (he) is keeping quiet about it. And what someone else said to me was that you have to be careful because the buyout window doesn’t begin until 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, so things can always change. But I do think it was going to get out; it was something that more and more people were talking about.”

Skinner, a former Calder Trophy winner, is coming off a down season during which he scored 24 goals and 46 points over 74 games. Across his 1,006 career regular-season games, he has accumulated 357 goals and 670 points.

“Now someone said to me, why don’t the Sabres ask him to waive his no-move clause? And the thing is, if you’re Jeff Skinner in this situation and you know the Sabres may want to move on from you, you want to control things,” Friedman said.

“Unless you’re absolutely convinced that Buffalo can trade you to a place you want to go, it’s probably better for you to say, ‘No, just buy me out and let me go to a place that I want to go.’

“Secondly, his contract is $9 million (per year). If we go to a situation where he’s an unrestricted free agent, he can take his buyout, which is two thirds of $22 million over six years, and he can pick it at whatever salary he wants. Skinner has much more control over the situation as (a UFA), getting to pick his destination at his salary. So I think that’s why Buffalo is kind of in this position.”

Here is how the potential buyout would count against the Sabres’ salary cap, according to CapFriendly.

After accounting for the buyout, the Sabres will have more than $30 million in salary-cap space to make additions to their roster this summer as they try to snap the longest playoff drought in the NHL, which stands at 13 seasons.

“For next year, his cap hit would be under $1.5 million and so it would give Buffalo an extra $7.5 million of cap room,” explained Friedman. “And next year is a huge year for the Sabres. … So it’s a really, really interesting move by the Sabres that will give them a ton of flexibility for next year — should it happen. I always try to be careful with what I say unless I 100 per cent know, so I can’t say 100 per cent it’s gonna happen, but it’s definitely out there.”

Is interest building around Arvidsson?

With the expiration of his seven-year, $29.7 million contract with the Kings, Victor Arvidsson heads into the summer as an unrestricted free agent, and there’s no doubt there will be plenty of interest in a player of his skillset.

The 31-year-old missed the majority of the 2023-24 season after undergoing back surgery in October, resulting in him being out for the first 50 games of the season. He later suffered a lower-body injury just four games into his season debut and went back on the long-term injured reserve.

Across the 18 games he did play in this season, Arvidsson recorded six goals and nine assists for a total of nine points. He added another three assists in five playoff games prior to the Kings’ first-round exit at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

Over 546 career games with the Kings and Nashville Predators, Arvidsson has recorded 179 goals and 183 assists for a total of 362 points.

“I think there’s a lot of interest,” Friedman said. “We talked earlier about the Dakota Joshuas, the Jordan Martinooks, the Stefan Noesens — those kinds of players who are going to be valuable. I had someone say, ‘You better throw Arvidsson in there.’

“He’s another one of those guys that fills that kind of role, can play up and down the lineup. The issue has been health, but when he was healthy, the Kings were a very different team. I’m hearing quite a bit of Arvidsson out there in that same group of players — that there’s a lot of interest in a guy like that. It’s just a question of where he ends up.”

“Guy can score. No doubt about that, the guy can score,” added Marek.

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