NHL Rumor Mill – December 6, 2018
Latest on Phil Kessel and Wayne Simmonds plus an update on the Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.
PENGUINS “TESTED THE MARKET” ON KESSEL
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman cited “multiple sources” claiming the Pittsburgh Penguins “tested the market” on winger Phil Kessel. He adds the Penguins “appear to have decided to hold off on anything involving him for the time being, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be revisited.” He points out the Penguins were last in the Eastern Conference three weeks ago but have since risen to within range of a playoff berth.
Friedman also noted Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford’s already made two notable trades (Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for Tanner Pearson and Daniel Sprong to Anaheim for Marcus Pettersson) and is eyeing more. However, the Penguins don’t have much to trade without significantly altering their roster. Kessel still has a partial no-trade clause in his contract and Toronto still pays $1.8 million of his $8-million salary.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Joe Starkey reports a number of reporters he respects “have put forth the idea that Rutherford has at least been open to a Kessel deal.” Nevertheless, he believes the Penguins would be nuts to trade Kessel. He points to the winger’s offensive consistency, including a 92-point performance last season and having the same number of points this season (29) as Sidney Crosby.
Unless Kessel wants out, Starkey believes trading him would be a bad move. “If the idea is that Kessel is the one tradable piece that could net a big return, what’s your point? Would the return be better than Phil Kessel? Surely, we’re not looking at a rebuild just yet.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether the Penguins are winning Stanley Cups with Kessel or struggling in the standings despite his offensive contributions, there’s always a report or two each year suggesting they’re looking at trading him. Given the Penguins’ current struggles, there could be more creditability to the Kessel speculation this season.
Still, unless Rutherford is giving up on this season and tearing down his roster, it’s doubtful he’ll find a return for Kessel that’ll provide the Penguins with immediate improvement. If that move ever takes place, I’m guessing it’s an offseason deal that signals the Penguins are in rebuild mode.
LATEST SIMMONDS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman wonders if the Philadelphia Flyers’ recent management change might affect Wayne Simmonds’ future. The winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Friedman said former Flyers GM Ron Hextall was fond of Simmonds but was “unwilling to commit term to the 30-year-old.” There were also differing opinions on whether Hextall was shopping Simmonds. “Now we’ll find out what Chuck Fletcher thinks.”
NBC SPORTS: John Boruk notes Fletcher recently said he believes culture “is very important in any organization to be successful.” If so, that might work in Simmonds’ favor. Boruk believes the winger’s future will be “thoroughly discussed” to either reward him with a new contract or trade him for a return that could make the Flyers ” a more well-rounded team defensively.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Fletcher intends to take some time to fully evaluate his roster before deciding what his first roster moves will be. Simmonds’ performance between now and next February will determine if he has a future in Philadelphia. If Fletcher believes Simmonds is too expensive to retain, he’ll be shopped before the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline.
BLACKHAWKS SHOPPING AROUND?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was at the Arizona Coyotes/Los Angeles Kings game on Tuesday. Capologist Kyle Davidson made a rare road-trip appearance, plus the Hawks had “two scouts at Los Angeles/Vancouver last Tuesday, three at Dallas/Calgary on Wednesday and two more the following night for Los Angeles/Edmonton.” Friedman also notes the Blackhawks were interested in Sam Gagner in 2017 and might be thinking about him again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks scouting the Dallas/Calgary game could be because they’re playing the Stars on Dec. 20 and the Flames on Jan. 7. However, they don’t face Edmonton until February and Vancouver, Arizona, and Los Angeles until March. So, maybe they are taking a close look at the Kings for a possible trade.
As for Gagner, The Province’s Patrick Johnston notes he was recently recalled from the AHL for a stint but was recently returned to the Toronto Marlies. Canucks GM Jim Benning declined to comment about the recent speculation linking the Blackhawks to Gagner. He did say he told Gagner he’d keep looking for an NHL club interested in acquiring him. We’ll find out soon enough if the Blackhawks have revisited their interest in Gagner.