Buying or Selling the Latest NHL Rumors on Trades and Free Agency

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2021

Buying or Selling the Latest NHL Rumors on Trades and Free Agency

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    With the calendar flipped to August, the NHL free-agent market has been picked almost clean of high-end talent. Meanwhile, activity in the trade market has slowed to a crawl, as many teams invested much of their salary-cap space in previous trades and free-agent signings.

    That hasn't stopped the NHL rumor mill from churning about possible trade destinations for Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The fates of notable unrestricted free agents such as Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri continue to stoke conjecture among hockey insiders.

    How much of this chatter should we believe? Read on as we attempt to determine whether you should buy or sell the latest trade and free-agent buzz. Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section.

Joonas Korpisalo to the Edmonton Oilers

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    On July 31, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reported speculation suggested that the Oilers offer up Mikko Koskinen in a package deal to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Joonas Korpisalo. That rumor seems to have originated among Oilers fans unhappy with the 33-year-old Koskinen's performance backing up Mike Smith over the last couple of seasons.

    Korpisalo, 27, is younger than Koskinen. While both are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer, his $2.8 million cap hit for 2021-22 is cheaper than Koskinen's $4.5 million. Although he's a good goalie, Matheson pointed out Korpisalo never played more than 38 games in a season while Koskinen has had a better save percentage (.908 to .901) over the past three seasons.

    Matheson indicated Korpisalo was being shopped by the Blue Jackets to make way for promising Matiss Kivlenieks to back up Elvis Merzlikins this coming season. Kivlenieks' tragic death last month, however, has changed those plans. On July 25, The Athletic's Aaron Portzline reported the Jackets intend to keep the Korpisalo-Merzlikins tandem intact to at least start the season.

    For now, there's no indication the Oilers are planning any changes to their goaltending. It appears they'll start this season with Koskinen backing up Smith and Alex Stalock as their third-stringer.

    Verdict: Sell

Kyle Palmieri and Zach Parise to the New York Islanders

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The pickings are slim in the free-agent market following the usual opening-day frenzy. Nevertheless, a few notable names remain available, including wingers Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri.

    On July 30, The Athletic's Arthur Staple predicted Parise and Palmieri had already been signed by the New York Islanders. He thinks the reason we haven't heard about it yet is general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn't want other clubs to know how much salary-cap space he's got right now. Staple also expected Casey Cizikas and perhaps Travis Zajac to be back in the Isles camp.

    Lamoriello has a well-earned reputation for keeping his cards close to the vest. He took the same tactic last offseason by waiting until almost the start of this season before his signings of Matt MartinAndy Greene and Cory Schneider were officially revealed.

    Cap Friendly shows the Isles' projected cap space at $17.7 million. Perhaps Lamoriello is concerned a rival club will try to poach a restricted free agent such as Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech or Ilya Sorokin with an offer sheet. Maybe he's gearing up to make a significant trade to improve his club's offense.

    Whatever the reason, it's notable that there's been no speculation linking Parise and Palmieri to other teams. Don't be surprised if we eventually learn both signed multi-year deals with the Islanders.

    Verdict: Buy

Vancouver Canucks Lose Elias Pettersson to an Offer Sheet

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    The unrestricted free agent market is cleaned out of top-level talent but there's plenty of restricted free agents still unsigned. Some, such as Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, could be tempted by a rival club with an expensive offer sheet.

    That was the concern among Canucks followers heading into free agency. On July 28, The Province's Ben Kuzma reported general manager Jim Benning was wary but unworried about the 22-year-old Pettersson receiving an offer sheet. “I don't think people should be concerned,” said Benning. He expressed confidence in getting a deal done, citing constructive talks with the Pettersson camp.

    Several things work in the Canucks favor. They have $14.1 million in projected cap space, more than enough to match an offer for Pettersson. The young center would have to be willing to sign an offer sheet but there's no indication of that. There's also the fact offer sheet signings rarely occur. The last successful one occurred in 2007 when the Edmonton Oilers signed Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks.

    The biggest sticking point is the compensation owed to the Canucks if a team successfully signed away Pettersson. Any offer over $6 million would mean several draft picks going to the Canucks, with the most expensive ($10.276 million or more) costing four first-round picks.

    Given those factors, it's unlikely a rival club will make the attempt with Pettersson.

    Verdict: Sell

Vladimir Tarasenko to the New Jersey Devils

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    The New Jersey Devils pulled off the biggest surprise of the opening day of free agency by signing top defenseman Dougie Hamilton. They could attempt another by trying to swing a trade for St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

    On July 29, The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford listed the Devils and Carolina Hurricanes as two destinations that made sense for Tarasenko. He pointed out the Devils still have plenty of salary-cap space ($21.2 million) and general manager Tom Fitzgerald would like to add a top-six winger.

    Following the Blues' signing winger Brandon Saad, Rutherford wondered if they might absorb part of Tarasenko's $7.5 million cap hit to facilitate a trade to the New York Islanders. He also suggested it might spur Blues GM Doug Armstrong to engage in trade talks with the Devils and Hurricanes.

    The Devils are in a better position to acquire Tarasenko if they wish. Not only do they have the cap space, they also have considerable depth in prospects and young NHL-ready players to tempt the Blues. Perhaps they'd part with a winger such as Janne Kuokkanen or Yegor Sharangovich in a package offer for the former 30-goal scorer.

    Verdict: Buy

Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights

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    Heading into this offseason there was anticipation the Buffalo Sabres would trade Jack Eichel. However, the 24-year-old center's hefty contract, the Sabres' expensive asking price and ongoing concern over treatment for a herniated disc in his neck remain significant stumbling blocks.

    Nevertheless, media speculation persists over potential trade destinations for Eichel, with the Vegas Golden Knights thought to be in the mix. On Sunday, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported they were still believed to be interested in the Sabres center despite limited cap space.

    Brooks indicated Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon was preparing to send assets to the Sabres for Eichel even while he was acquiring winger Evgenii Dadonov from the Ottawa Senators. Perhaps they were winger Reilly Smith, prospect Peyton Krebs, young defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick as reported on July 27 by The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy.

    On July 28, however, McCrimmon told David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he wasn't likely to be involved in other trade discussions, citing in part his club's limited salary-cap space. Even after trading Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves last week in separate cost-cutting deals, the Golden Knights enter this week $37,439.00 over the $81.5 million salary cap.

    Anything's possible, of course, and we shouldn't fully dismiss the notion of the Golden Knights landing Eichel. Doing so, however, means shedding considerably more than the combined $5.791 million of Smith's and Hague's cap hit to fit his $10 million cap hit within Vegas' payroll.

    Verdict: Sell

    Salary info via Cap Friendly and PuckPedia.