Updates on Jonathan Drouin, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Staal and Leo Komarov, plus the latest on the Wild in your NHL rumor mill.
Highlight’s from Cox’s “Weekend Takeaways.”
SPORTSNET: Damien Cox reports Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin is struggling with the Lightning’s farm team in Syracuse. He feels Drouin’s difficulties are “certain to give teams a reason to pause as they consider what the third pick of the 2013 draft might be worth in a trade”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin’s difficulties seem tied to his conditioning, which suffered from injuries and limited playing time this season in Tampa Bay. That’s probably why teams are leery of meeting the Lightning’s asking price, which is (depending on your source) is either a player comparable in skill to Drouin, or a defenseman with a right-handed shot and a promising young player with term remaining on his contract.
Rick Curran, agent for Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, is expected to meet with Hurricanes GM Ron Francis this week in hopes of getting some clarity on his client’s status. Staal is eligible this summer for UFA status.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Leo Komarov could be an attractive asset near the trade deadline. He has 16 goals this season and two more years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $2.95 million. Cox suspects the Leafs “would be looking for a first rounder, which might be a stretch”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt the Leafs intend to move Komarov, who’s emerged as a leader on this rebuilding club.
The Kitchener Rangers recently acquired the OHL rights to St.Louis Blues rookie Robby Fabbri. It’s suspected that was done in case Fabbri is traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin. The Rangers could be gambling on the Lightning perhaps returning Fabbri to junior.
Canadiens pursuing Drouin?
TSN: cited CTV’s Brian Wilde claiming “a strong source” indicated the Montreal Canadiens were making a big push for LIghtning winger Jonathan Drouin by putting a more significant offer on the table. Bob McKenzie noted Canadiens assistant GM Rick Dudley recently scouting Drouin and acknowledged the Habs were among a handful of clubs with serious interest in the winger. However, McKenzie claims it’s nearly impossible to guess which club is the front runner or a timeline when Drouin could be dealt. “Only (Lightning GM) Steve Yzerman knows that.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Damien Cox observed, Drouin’s struggles in the AHL could be giving some interested clubs second thoughts about pursuing the youngster. I certainly understand the Canadiens’ interest, but I doubt if Drouin’s the instant missing ingredient for their woeful offense. And of course, there’s the pressure of playing up to expectations in one of the NHL’s most demanding hockey markets. Could be a gamble, especially if they pay a stiff price to get him.
Capitals eyeing Byfuglien?
SPORTSNET 960 (via Today’s Slapshot): Elliotte Friedman noted he reported a few weeks ago how the Washington Capitals might take a run at Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien if Brooks Orpik remain sidelined. “I still think it’s possible, depending on what happens with Byfuglien in Winnipeg, that they could be a target for him.” Friedman believes the Capitals will be looking to add to their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As of Jan. 19, the Capitals will have over $5.4 million in cap space at the trade deadline, but they also have Orpik, John Carlson and Jay Beagle on LTIR. Orpik and Carlson could be back in the lineup before the deadline. If the Caps make any significant additions before their return, they’ll have to clear cap space to accommodate their returning blueliners. So, if they’re going to pursue a big fish like Byfuglien, they’ll have to shed sufficient salary to ensure they can absorb his remaining salary and still have room for Orpik and Carlson upon their return.
Latest on the Wild
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba are having to live with trade rumors. The club is struggling offensively and their names have come up in trade speculation. Brodin was reportedly offered to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen prior to his being deal to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Seth Jones. Dumba’s been lined to Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said he won’t overreact and force a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fletcher’s shown a willingness to make moves to help his team in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, so don’t be surprised if he draws upon his depth on defense as trade bait to add a scorer. There was talk of Brodin being offered up to the Edmonton Oilers for center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but the latter’s hand injury will likely snuff out that speculation.