NHL Rumours: Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, and More

Headliners of many NHL rumours, Niklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, celebrate a goal; 2019-20 Washington Capitals
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 10: Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) congratulates Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) after his goal during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals on January 10, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NHL Rumours grind on with only a few weeks left to go until the 2019-20 season. Last Word on Hockey remains committed to bringing you fans the most recent NHL rumblings. There are still free agents to pursue, new contracts to extend, and CBA decisions to make. Today’s hot stove looks at talk surrounding the Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Andrei Markov, and the Minnesota Wild.

NHL Rumours

Washington Capitals

Rumour: Tom Gulitti of NHL.com looks at the Capitals salary situation. He also examines what it would take to fit both Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom under the salary cap looking ahead the 2020-21 offseason.

Analysis: Washington is already roughly $1.3 million over the current salary cap of $81.5 million. That likely means someone will get traded before the season starts but not before training camp. The situation could result in trading a pending restricted free agent like Christian Djoos or Chandler Stephenson. Someone under contract for a longer period might also turn into a salary casualty.

Djoos, in particular, might be a smart trade chip. He still has plenty left to give at 25-years-old but has only scored 24 points in 108 NHL games. The team went out and acquired Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas this summer. Both players play much more aggressively than Djoos with the same general offensive output, with the latter having a great 2018-19 season. Djoos will need to demonstrate improvement soon if he doesn’t want to get shipped out.

Washington also has to consider how they’ll clear enough cap room to bring back stars Backstrom and Holtby when they hit unrestricted free agency next summer. Both should command much larger deals as two members of the Capitals current core. Backstrom will turn 32 this season but is still one of Washington’s best scorers and has years of experience with the franchise. Holtby is just 29 and remains a top goaltending option in the NHL. It’s hard to imagine either leaving unless a true collapse happens in 2019-20. With that said, the team’s current cap situation doesn’t make re-signing either player very easy.

Los Angeles Kings

Rumour: David Pagnotta with The Fourth Period reports that the Los Angeles Kings are interested in former Vancouver Canuck and unrestricted free agent Ben Hutton.

Analysis: Signing Hutton would be a curious move for LA given how inactive they have been this summer. The Kings have been content extending their existing crop of free agents. It’s also not clear if Hutton would be a key contributor on a blue that already has Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez as anchors. Derek Forbort, Matt Roy and Sean Walker are also vying for top-four slots.

Perhaps Hutton could force his way onto the second pair to give the Kings slightly more punch from the point. The 26-year-old chipped in five goals and 20 points last year. He also had a respectable 102 blocked shots and 43 penalty minutes. Hutton has 70 points in 276 NHL games

Hutton certainly wouldn’t hurt the Los Angeles cap situation if he chose to sign with the Kings. LA has approximately $8.7 million in cap space, with only forward Adrian Kempe currently unsigned. Hutton only made $2.8 million last year and shouldn’t command anything significantly above that. The Kings are rebuilding, so perhaps they are interested to see how Hutton fits into General Manager Rob Blake‘s plans.

Minnesota Wild

Rumour: Rob Russo with the Athletic Minnesota talks with new Wild GM Bill Guerin about multiple topics including how the organization is handling Kiril Kaprizov.

Analysis: Everyone in the State of Hockey is wondering when they will see one of the Wild’s top prospects on North American ice. The 5’10” Kaprizov had another fantastic season with CSKA Moscow in the KHL last year. He scored 30 goals and 51 points in 57 games before 14 more points in 19 playoff contests. He continues to play some of his best young years abroad despite being NHL-ready now.

The newly-hired Guerin is the third Minnesota general manager since Kaprizov’s 2015 selection. Fans are right to be concerned about that fact. He will have to pry the Russian out of a stable position when the final year of his KHL contract is complete next summer. Kaprizov would slot into the top-six almost immediately should he make the journey to North America for 2020-21. Current stars Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu are quickly fading, so a firm commitment to Kaprizov being part of the next competitive window is key. The Wild have yet to sign Kaprizov to his first NHL contract.

Andrei Markov

Rumour: Former Montreal Canadien Markov is a prominent member of NHL rumours, as he is very interested in making an NHL comeback in 2019-20. The veteran has hired prominent hockey agent Allan Walsh to represent him.

Analysis: Markov hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2016-17 season. The 40-year-old defender has been plying his trade with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL and producing ok numbers. Markov has scored 47 points in 104 games with the Russian team.

It is no surprise Markov would initially want to return to Montreal for what could be his final professional season. However, it appears that Markov is not opposed to other teams. The New York Islanders might look at Markov as the missing piece to a long playoff run. The Edmonton Oilers could make a pitch to the veteran in the hopes he can help claim a long-overdue playoff birth.

In the end, if Markov is available, every team should be interested. While his age has clearly weighed down his game, he’s still looked solid enough to bolster any team’s blue-line. He also adds a tremendous amount of leadership, which teams like the Colorado Avalanche, who boast a tremendously young group of defence, could be very drawn towards. Where Markov will land is up to debate but there’s no doubting he’ll have plenty of options. Expect his name to continuously appear in NHL rumours as the season nears.

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