B.S. Meter on the Latest NHL Buzz

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2021

B.S. Meter on the Latest NHL Buzz

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    Jared Silber/Getty Images

    It's been a whirlwind week-plus in the NHL.

    The Seattle Kraken filled out their inaugural roster in the expansion draft, the next generation of stars arrived via the entry draft and dozens of players changed teams on Day 1 of free agency.

    But it's not over yet.

    More movement will come between now and Oct. 12—when the first pucks drop on the 2021-22 season—which means more buzz is set to swirl.

    Some moves will be expected. Some will be stunning. And let's face it, some buzz will contain plain old B.S.

    Which can only mean one thing: It's B.S. Meter time!

    The B/R hockey team got together to scan the up-to-the-minute rumor horizon and apply a tag indicating how close each suggestion is to happening.

    Click through to see what we came up with, and let us know how we did with a line or two in the comments section.

Jack Eichel Gets Wild

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    For a while, it was the biggest thing going

    Disgruntled Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel is widely considered to be finished in Western New York, and a press conference announcing his move to the Minnesota Wild seemed inevitable as rumors swirled.

    Make no mistake: It still seems unlikely that the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft opens the 2021-22 season in Buffalo's blue, white and gold sweaters, but it's also looking far less likely that he will start receiving his fan mail at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, this fall.

    The reported asking price of multiple future assets (equating to four first-round picks) in exchange for Eichel, not to mention his $10 million annual salary for the next five seasons, has soured Wild general manager Bill Guerin on the idea, per The Athletic's Michael Russo. And Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams is at least publicly digging in his heels, telling reporters he feels no particular pressure to get a transaction done before the start of training camp.

    B.S. Meter: It's B.S.

    Eichel is still destined to continue his career elsewhere, but it won't be in Minnesota. The guess here is Vegas.

Marc-Andre Fleury Returns to Pittsburgh

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    Hard as it may be to believe, Marc-Andre Fleury is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the league's best goaltender in 2020-21.

    Not that the veteran and three-time Stanley Cup winner isn't worthy of the status, but instead it's because of the offseason chaos that's followed him since he completed a stellar campaign at age 36.

    Not only did the Vegas Golden Knights trade him to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday for not much more than a bag of pucks, but the decorated goalie also reportedly found out via Twitter, per The Athletic's Jesse Granger.

    So where does that leave us?

    Fleury doesn't want to play with the Blackhawks, per The Athletic's Rob Rossi, Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus. He could retire. Or he could break character and play the aggrieved athlete long enough to force a trade.

    If that occurs, many believe it would be back to Pittsburgh, where he starred for the Penguins for 13 seasons before being selected by the Golden Knights in their 2017 expansion draft. In fact, The Athletic reported "Fleury has long eyed a return to Pittsburgh" and that "high-ranking officials on the business side would 'love it' if [GM Ron] Hextall could bring Fleury back."

    If that's the suggestion, here's the call.

    B.S. Meter: Not B.S.

    Given the Penguins' issues in goal, expect Fleury to team with, or supplant, Tristan Jarry by the time 2021-22 gets started in October.

Vladimir Tarasenko Moves to Manhattan

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    Jared Silber/Getty Images

    It wasn't long ago that Vladimir Tarasenko was a full-fledged NHL superstar.

    The St. Louis Blues winger was one of the league's premier scorers, reaching 30 or more goals for five straight seasons and adding 11 in 26 games as the Blues won a Stanley Cup in 2018-19.

    But it's been more sizzle than steak since.

    Now 29, Tarasenko has been plagued by shoulder trouble for the past two seasons, playing just 34 games and scoring only seven goals since hoisting the Cup.

    He also "feels there's no trust left between him and the organization" because of the way the club handled two of his shoulder surgeries and has requested a trade, per The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford. 

    The problem is, while his market was initially hot and heavy, things have cooled considerably amid reports St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong miscalculated the market, with Rutherford noting that the asking price was too high.

    Only a few teams remain in the mix, including the New York Rangers, per the Fourth Period's David Pagnotta.

    Getting the three-time All-Star would be a big move for new GM Chris Drury and new coach Gerard Gallant, and he would fit in nicely in the top six alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.

    B.S. Meter: Not B.S.

    Could he still wind up elsewhere? Of course. But the Rangers make sense, and with the price seemingly coming down, they would be an ideal landing spot.

Edmonton Stands Pat in the Net

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Ken Holland's been a busy man this summer.

    The Edmonton GM has brought in pieces to complement superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up front and augmented the blue line by keeping Tyson Barrie and acquiring Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci.

    But the goaltending tandem that was in place when the Oilers were swept out of the playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets—namely Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen—is still atop the depth chart.

    Smith, now 39, had a remarkable turnaround season in 2020-21 and signed a two-year deal to remain in Edmonton after his previous one-year pact ended. But the problem lies with Koskinen, who has one season remaining on the ridiculous three-year, $13.5 million deal he signed in 2019.

    Then-GM Peter Chiarelli engineered the contract just days before he was fired, and the Oilers have paid the price since as Koskinen's effectiveness has dipped significantly. He had a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 26 games last season and did not play in the playoffs against the Jets.

    Holland couldn't bring in a goalie during the initial wave of free agency, and though he "attempted to pry Darcy Kuemper loose from Arizona," per The Athletic's Daniel Nugent-Bowman, the Colorado Avalanche beat him to it. 

    "The only way I can get into the goaltending market is if I trade a goalie," he told reporters. "Mike Smith's got a two-year deal at $2.2 [million] and Mikko Koskinen's got a one-year deal at $4.5 [million]. I could not get into the goalie carousel if you wanted me to because of contracts."

    B.S. Meter: Not B.S.

    It's not what Edmonton fans (or McDavid and Draisaitl) will want to hear, but it's hard to imagine Holland being able to move Koskinen before the season begins.

Tuukka Rask Opts for Retirement

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Like Fleury before him, Tuukka Rask is an accomplished NHL goalie.

    He's won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and has a Vezina Trophy too.

    But he stares at the 2021-22 season with question marks about his future.

    Now 34, he had a 2.28 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 24 games in 2020-21 but opted for surgery after the season to deal with a lingering hip issue and likely won't be available to play until December or January.

    The Bruins didn't stand pat in the meantime, jumping into free agency and signing ex-Buffalo starter Linus Ullmark to a four-year deal that will pay him $5 million per season.

    That's not backup money.

    And with youngster Jeremy Swayman already in the fold and coming off a solid debut season, it seems Boston has locked up its future in the net, leaving Rask on the outside. He's indicated no interest in playing for any other team, so there's a legit chance he follows through on comments made in March 2020 and retires instead of haggling over a new deal as an unrestricted free agent.

    "I have one year left in the contract, so we'll see if I even play," he told reporters"We'll see. Always a possibility."

    B.S. Meter: Not B.S.

    Given his age, his accomplishments, the uncertainty around his injury and the Bruins' move to sign Ullmark for big cash, it seems Rask's next appearance will be at a pregame ceremony.

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