Kyle Dubas had just completed the biggest trade of the NHL offseason, landing defenseman Erik Karlsson in a three-team deal that furthers the Pittsburgh Penguins’ desire to win now, when he was asked if other moves might be in store.
The team’s new general manager and president of hockey operations said he thinks he’s done this summer. Still, he acknowledged: “You can never make any promises. You always want to try and improve the team.”
Rival GM Brian MacLellan of the Washington Capitals is still busy working the phones, not giving up on the hope of landing a top-six forward before NHL training camps next month.
“We’re still talking to agents,” MacLellan said after signing Tom Wilson to a seven-year extension. “We’re still talking to a few teams about a trade, so we’ll see how it pans out at the end.”
For the second time in three years, Evgeny Kuznetsov is in trade talk chatter. The talented but inconsistent Capitals center changed agents after putting up 55 points in 78 games —more than a 30-point drop from the previous season.
Kuznetsov is 31 and has two more years left on his contract at a hefty salary cap hit of $7.8 million. The Capitals, who like the Penguins are trying to get back in the playoffs and remain contenders, aren’t going to give away the player who led them in scoring on their 2018 Stanley Cup run.
But if something makes sense, Washington could move on from Kuznetsov or trade underachieving forward Anthony Mantha.
“I think we had a few discussions at the draft that might carry forward or might not carry forward,” MacLellan said. “We’re comfortable with where we’re at. We’d still like to change. We’ll see where it goes here.”
The Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are also worth watching.
Carolina brought back defenseman Tony DeAngelo following his buyout by Philadelphia and could look to trade Brett Pesce or Brady Skjei to clear a blue-line log jam. Each player has just a year left on his contract.
“My job as the general manager is just to stay on the phone every day and continue to look to see if we can make our team better — hard to do right now,” GM Don Waddell said recently, citing the Hurricanes’ salary cap crunch. “But certainly we’ll continue to talk to different teams and free agents and see what shakes out.”
Elias Lindholm, whom the Hurricanes traded to the Flames in 2018, is entering the final year of his contract. New Calgary GM Craig Conroy has already traded forward Tyler Toffoli to New Jersey as part of the team’s retooling process, and Lindholm could be next.
The Winnipeg Jets have yet to trade two key players a year before they would be unrestricted free agents: 2020 Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and top center Mark Scheifele. They bought out former captain Blake Wheeler in the first step of a roster overhaul, but don’t expect Hellebuyck or Scheifele to stay in Winnipeg too much longer.
Toronto on Wednesday signed one of the veteran goaltenders left on the market, giving Martin Jones a $875,000 contract for next season. Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Aaron Dell are among goalies in their 30s still available.
Phil Kessel, the NHL’s ironman fresh off winning the Stanley Cup with Vegas and getting his name on the trophy for the third time, is also unsigned. The 35-year-old forward was a healthy scratch for the vast majority of the playoffs, though his regular-season streak is intact at 1,064 consecutive games played.
Eric Staal, who reached the final with Florida and turns 39 in October, is another veteran option, as is center Derick Brassard. For teams looking for a defenseman, 36-year-old Nick Holden is out there, along with Seth Jones’ brother, Caleb, was not tendered a qualifying offer by Chicago and is a young unrestricted free agent at 26.
Among restricted free agents, Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras, Philadelphia’s Morgan Frost and Edmonton’s Evan Bouchard are among those who still need a contract.
Kane underwent hip resurfacing surgery June 1, an invasive operation with a recovery time of four to six months. While that rehab continues, rumors have swirled linking Kane to his hometown Buffalo Sabres, who are on the rise and could use a player with three Stanley Cup rings.
The 34-year-old Kane is expected to garner significant interest around the league from teams hoping he can return to All-Star form.
Longtime Chicago teammate Jonathan Toews is also a free agent, though he could decide to retire at age 35 after missing significant time.
AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press