The  NHL holiday trade freeze may be in effect, but the trade rumors persist. Get the latest on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the stagnant trade market, the Flyers soon facing a decision on defense and an update on Zack Kassian. 

Predators interested in Nugent-Hopkins.

Nashville Predators could be interested in Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Nashville Predators could be interested in Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

SPORTSNET (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Elliotte Friedman believes Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was among the centers (Columbus’ Ryan Johansen and Colorado’s Matt Duchene being the others) the Nashville Predators recently inquired about regarding their availability. The Predators are in need of skilled depth at center, but Friedman claims they’re unwilling to part with one of their top-three defensemen (Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones). He believes they’re more willing to part with Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples speculates as to what the Oilers could get from the Predators if they’re willing to move Nugent-Hopkins. He doubts the Oilers could land Weber or Josi, and suggests Jones would be their obvious target. Ultimately, Staples hopes the Oilers retain the two-way center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Oilers hope to land a potential top-two defenseman, or at least a solid number three, they’ll have to part with Nugent-Hopkins (and perhaps something else, like their 2016 first-round pick, to land a top blueliner) to do so. However, if the Predators aren’t willing to move Jones, and they obviously won’t part with Weber or Josi, then the Oilers have to settle for Ellis or Ekholm, and I don’t think GM Peter Chiarelli will be willing to part with RNH for either guy. 

Factors behind the stagnant trade market.

SPORTSNET: Damien Cox lists salary-cap limitations, parity among NHL teams and notable players with no-trade/no-movement clauses like San Jose’s Patrick Marleau, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Carolina’s Eric Staal among the chief factors behind this season’s stagnant NHL trade market. While New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic is available, the Isles insistence on landing a comparable player makes moving him almost impossible this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits stlll act as though limited early-season trade action is a surprise. It’s been this way now for several years and won’t change anytime soon. As always, the trade market will pick up in the New Year, especially in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. 

Updates on the Flyers and Canadiens.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the Philadelphia Flyers will soon face a decision regarding their defense when Mark Streit comes off LTIR following the current holiday trade freeze. They must move a defenseman to make room for Streit’s cap hit, but their only waiver-exempt rearguard is rookie Shayne Gostisbehere, who’s provided a significant boost to the Flyers (he’s earned a point in 14 of his 18 games played thus far) since being called up in November.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Short of a trade or placing another player on waivers, Hextall could have little choice but to return Gostisbehere to the minors, which would be a shame. The Flyers have been a better team since “The Ghost” arrived.  And no, he can’t place Vincent Lecavalier on waivers, as the aging center has a full no-movement clause. 

TVA SPORTS: Several teams have reportedly expressed interest in Montreal Canadiens winger Zack Kassian, who’s been demoted to their AHL affiliate. It’s unlikely Kassian will be recalled by the Habs anytime soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay those rival clubs want to see Kassian get in a few games in the minors first to determine if he’s worth seriously pursuing via trade.