NHL Rumor Mill – February 13, 2020
Updates on Kyle Connor and Rasmus Ristolainen, plus the latest on the Devils, Panthers, Oilers, Ducks, and Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
UPDATE ON THE AVS’ RUMORED INTEREST IN CONNOR
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman followed up on the recent rumor suggesting the Colorado Avalanche were interest in Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor. The speculation had the Avs offering up defense prospect Bowen Byram as part of the return. Friedman claimed he’d heard it was Connor for Byram and Vladislav Kamenev, but he received multiple denials when he looked into it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater reported the Avs scouted the recent Rangers-Jets game. He thinks they need to find a suitable replacement for sidelined center Nazem Kadri. Connor, however, isn’t a center. Neither is Chris Kreider, who could be shopped if the Blueshirts fail to re-sign him before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
As I said before, Byram has the potential to become a top-pairing NHL defenseman, but he’s yet to play a single game in the big league. The Jets need immediate blueline help. If they’re thinking about moving Connor (and I don’t believe they are), it would have to be for an established No.1 d-man.
SHOULD THE SABRES SHOP RISTOLAINEN?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Travis Yost believes the Sabres should trade Rasmus Ristolainen before it’s too late. The 25-year-old defenseman has attractive individual skills, but Yost indicates the Sabres have been out-scored and out-chanced whenever he’s on the ice.
Nevertheless, he considers Ristolainen’s contract friendly enough to teams around the league that believed the blueliner’s circumstances are largely out of his control. He’s signed through 2021-22 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.4 million. “It’s not working in Buffalo, and getting assets for a player who is having no impact on your team’s performance is always worth consideration,” writes Yost.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen was a frequent topic of conjecture last summer after it was revealed he requested a trade at the end of last season. He reportedly changed his mind, but one wonders how much more losing he can tolerate. His lack of no-trade protection gives Sabres management plenty of potential trade partners.
A Ristolainen deal, however, might have to wait until the summer. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, however, suggests the Sabres are more likely to deal players like Michael Frolik, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, and Conor Sheary.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Florida Panthers have explored the trade market for Mike Matheson and he believes there are teams interested in the 25-year-old defenseman. However, his contract complicates things.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson have an affordable $4.875-million AAV, but it runs through 2025-26. As Friedman points out, his actual salary steadily rises to $6.5 million per season in the final years of the deal. Any attempt to move him would probably have to take place in the off-season.
The Edmonton Oilers have been uninterested in moving their first-round pick, RFA winger Jesse Puljujarvi, or any of the top defense prospects for a rental player. Friedman doesn’t see that changing with captain Connor McDavid sidelined.
Friedman doubts the Anaheim Ducks are keen to move key pieces like Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell. Instead, he sees Ondrej Kase and Derek Grant as possibilities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see why Ducks GM Bob Murray doesn’t want to part with those core players. Depending on what moves he makes between now and the start of next season, as well as the performance of young players like Max Jones, Troy Terry, and Sam Steel, the Ducks could be more competitive in 2020-21.
The Nashville Predators are going to have to decide if they’ll retain or trade pending UFA winger Mikael Granlund.
WHICH DEVILS ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE MOVED?
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan believes Sami Vatanen is most likely to be moved by the trade deadline. The pending UFA is among the top trade options in the market, which could drive up his value as the deadline approaches. They could also move pending UFAs Andy Greene or Wayne Simmonds, but Ryan suggests they could also retain them.
It would take substantial offers to pry away Kyle Palmieri, Blake Coleman or Nikita Gusev. The biggest obstacle to moving defenseman P.K. Subban is his $9-million AAV. Ryan believes Nico Hischier, Travis Zajac, Jack Hughes, and Mackenzie Blackwood aren’t going anywhere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the Devils seek “hockey trades” that will fetch young players to grow with Hischier and Hughes.