BS Meter on the Latest NHL Free Agency and Trade Rumors

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIJuly 5, 2022

BS Meter on the Latest NHL Free Agency and Trade Rumors

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    AP Photo/Craig Lassig

    Who doesn't like a good sports rumor?

    It's a particularly hot stretch on the NHL calendar with the approach of the annual entry draft later this week followed soon after by the beginning of free agency on July 13.

    This time of draft picks, trades and free agency wouldn't be complete, though, without rumors.

    As always, some are legit, while others are BS.

    The B/R hockey team sat down to take a look at some of the most prevalent scuttlebutt around the league and fired up the BS Meter to assess the veracity of each rumor.

    Scroll through to see what we came up with and drop a thought or two in the comments.

Gaudreau Waffling Out of Calgary

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    AP Photo/Chris Szagola

    Johnny Gaudreau has some decisions to make.

    He wrapped up a six-year, $40.5 million contract this season by putting up career-best numbers in goals (40), assists (75) and points (115) and ultimately finishing fourth for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.

    The Calgary Flames would certainly like to keep him for the long term, but with 10 other free agents (seven unrestricted, three restricted) to decide upon, it's no easy task for general manager Brad Treliving to find the money to make everyone happy.

    TSN Insider Pierre LeBrun reported the Flames have made an offer to retain Gaudreau's services for the next eight years, but the returning dialogue from Gaudreau and his camp has dried up, leading LeBrun to conclude Gaudreau may want to "take a peek and see what's out there, and that's not ideal if you're Calgary."

    BS Meter: Not BS

    Gaudreau has earned the right to field offers from other teams. He may indeed love Calgary, but his apparent lack of communication makes it look as if he won't stay.

Penguins Finding Comfort with Letang

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    AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a unique situation.

    They're a perennial playoff team and went seven hard games this spring with a team (the New York Rangers) that ultimately reached the Eastern Conference title series.

    Some core players—namely Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang—remain around from the repeat Stanley Cup days of 2016 and 2017, and it's an annual tap dance in the executive offices to decide exactly how far, if at all, that championship window remains open.

    It's a particularly challenging offseason this time around because two of those veteran players, Malkin and Letang, are about to become free agents. And with that, it's on GM Ron Hextall to determine just how much it's worth to keep ether or both around.

    Letang is a vexing case in that he's 35 years old but still clearly in the upper echelon of NHL defensemen after a season in which he had career-highs in assists (58) and points (68).

    He wrapped up an eight-year, $58 million deal and is believed to be seeking at least $7 million annually. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said he was told by an NHL executive that Pittsburgh was willing to go into "what it considers uncomfortable territory" for Letang.

    BS Meter: Not BS

    It's a complicated call given Letang's age, but his numbers suggest he's still an elite player. It'd make sense for the Penguins to retain his services at a reasonable rate and term.

Malkin + Ovechkin = Pittsburgh Nightmare

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    AP Photo/Fred Vuich

    Only a page later, but quite a difference in the situation.

    While it's being reported that the Penguins are trying to find comfort in an arrangement with Letang, finding the right fix isn't so easy when it comes to fellow 35-year-old Malkin.

    Though he's got a pair of scoring titles, an MVP, a Conn Smythe and rookie of the year hardware alongside his three Stanley Cup wins, Malkin has been a much less reliable commodity in recent years thanks to injuries.

    He played just 41 games last season and only 33 in 2020-21 while totaling 28 goals and 70 points across the two. But, like Letang, he's on the verge of free agency after completing an eight-year deal worth $76 million, and given the eight other free agents (besides Letang) that are due for decisions, it's a longer stretch to assume Pittsburgh can meet his requirements.

    Sports Illustrated's Fan Nation was among many outlets to point out that the player and team are "far apart in negotiations," and writer Nicholas Brylansky took it a step beyond by suggesting a handful of places as worst-case scenario free-agent destinations for Malkin from the Penguins' perspective.

    Among them, a tandem with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals.

    BS Meter: BS

    While we're certainly on board with the prospect of Malkin leaving the Penguins, it's a little harder to envision him in a Capitals uniform. The guess here is midtown Manhattan.

Lightning Hero Palat Off to Edmonton

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    AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

    Lightning fans, avert your eyes.

    Winger Ondrej Palat scored 27 goals across the three most recent Tampa Bay playoff runs, capturing a pair of Stanley Cups and reaching the final series again this year while netting the winning goal in three of the team's 14 victories.

    He's been a vital, if underappreciated, member of a team loaded with higher-profile stars, and it's caused no small bit of concern that he'll be elsewhere next season now that a five-year, $26 million contract has come to an end. He's due for a raise, and perhaps not a small one.

    GM Julien BriseBois is pressed firmly against the salary cap as it is, but he's already been moving money around. He locked forward Nicholas Paul down for seven years and $22.05 million shortly after the title-round loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh (four years, $27 million remaining on his deal) was shipped to the Nashville Predators on Sunday.

    Palat is unsurprisingly the subject of rumors amid the tumult, leaving Michael DeRosa of NHL Trade Rumors to pick up on a report by The Fourth Period and link the 31-year-old to the Edmonton Oilers, who might be in need of a top-six forward if Evander Kane leaves.

    BS Meter: BS

    Palat is a mystery at this point. He is loved in Tampa, and BriseBois seems to be making an effort to make it feasible for him to stay. The Oilers simply don't seem to have a place here.

Chychrun Finally Leaving the Desert

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    AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

    Jakob Chychrun is a fixture in rumor-centric pieces.

    The 24-year-old defenseman has spent six seasons with the Arizona Coyotes since they made him the 16th pick in the 2016 draft, but given the team's seemingly perpetual struggles, he's frequently a target of teams who come calling at trade deadlines and draft days.

    It's no different this time around.

    He's signed for three more seasons at $4.6 million apiece, a contract that's easy for GM Bill Armstrong to keep while simultaneously serving as an enticing trade chip to dangle in front of win-now teams. If Arizona wants to go for a rebuild, Chychrun could fetch the draft picks or prospects to build a strong foundation.

    Craig Morgan of GoPhnx.com said Armstrong is still willing to entertain offers for Chychrun, who had 21 points in 47 games last season, and the guess is that those offers could come in faster and more furious as teams seeking blue-line help finalize their draft-day strategies.

    He's also got one more season before a modified no-trade clause kicks in on Chychrun's contract, so the clock is ticking on making an unfettered move.

    BS Meter: Not BS

    It's tough to figure which team will make a move for Chychrun, but there's reason to believe it'll happen. The Coyotes are in position to start their rebuild soon—either at the draft or during the 2022-23 season.

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