NHL Rumor Mill – December 21, 2016

by | Dec 21, 2016 | Rumors | 73 comments

Could the New York Rangers shop Derek Stepan for a defenseman?

Some trade and free agent predictions for 2017 and an update on the Ottawa Senators in your NHL rumor mill. 

USA TODAY: Kevin Allen includes some trade and free-agent speculation in his 10 NHL predictions for 2017:

Beginning next summer, he expects New York Islanders center John Tavares will receive the same treatment as Steven Stamkos got when it comes to his pending free agency in 2018.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That treatment will include breathless coverage out of Toronto linking him to the Maple Leafs. As I recommended throughout last season, the Leafs should stick with their patient rebuild around young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Don’t go blowing their brains out signing Tavares to a whopping great contract only to handcuff themselves when they must re-sign their young guns. Besides, Tavares could prefer to avoid the Toronto fishbowl and sign elsewhere. If the Leafs are to pursue a top free agent in 2018, it should be a skilled defenseman such as John Carlson, Cam Fowler or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, provided they’re still available by then and if that’s still a pressing need. . 

The Vancouver Canucks will commit to a full rebuild. They will ask the Sedins how they want their future to be handled. Perhaps they might accept a trade. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sedins have never given any indication that they want to move on. Canucks GM Jim Benning said his policy is not to ask players carrying no-trade clauses to waive them. It’ll be up to the twins to ask for a trade next summer.

Given the New York Rangers’ depth at forward, they will trade center Derek Stepan for a defenseman before his no-trade clause kicks in next summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stepan’s also carrying a $6.5 million annual cap hit through 2020-21, which can be almost as effective as a no-trade clause. One shouldn’t fully dismiss the possibility of the Rangers trading the two-way Stepan, but that move could leave them a bit thin at center with Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as their top-two centers. Shopping a winger might be a better option.  

The Dallas Stars will trade for a goaltender. If Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop isn’t possible, perhaps they’ll look at lesser lights such as the NY Islanders’ Thomas Greiss or Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Stars’ limited cap space, I don’t see how they can bring in Bishop unless they send either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi to Tampa Bay, or ship them elsewhere in a separate deal. Even if they acquire a more affordable option such as Greiss or Neuvirth, they’ll still have to move one of their current goalies to avoid an unnecessary logjam between the pipes. 

St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will be next summer’s top unrestricted free agent. The Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are among the clubs in need of a puck-moving defenseman. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shattenkirk could very well become next summer’s hottest free-agent ticket. Speculation suggests he could sign with an Eastern Conference club, preferably one in the American Northeast. That would put the Bruins and Rangers at the top of the list. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators general manager Pierre Dorion won’t rush into acquiring a forward until he gets an update on winger Clarke MacArthur, who’s recovering from concussion symptoms. MacArthur will be tested this week to determine if he can return to action. If he received clearance, January 7th is his target date for his comeback. With the Sens playing well and in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Dorion isn’t feeling pressure to swing a deal once the current roster freeze is lifted at midnight on Dec. 27. 


  1. I could not agree with you more Lyle on your position regarding the Leafs and Tavares; don’t even enter the fracas! As for Vancouver; trade the Sedins and any other player that can net you a return, Miller included; pardon the pun! And yes the Sedins can be traded; Armstrong was, in fact, on the moon and Gretzky was traded! I don’t see why people are so adamant that this cannot be done, so long as the Sedins accept the possibility. It boggles my mind that players like the Sedins and Doan don’t consider the possibility of a Cup run. Especially the Sedins after that missed opportunity.

    • Wow people are slow on the uptake today! I was eagerly anticipating a variety of comments regarding my take on the Sedins. The group who post on here aren’t usually this silent. Let’s get the ball rolling fellas!

      • The problem with moving the Sedins is that if you do so you basically have to move them together. Each one has a heavy cap hit. Taking both on, even though they have lots of skill, is a heavy task cap wise which very few teams can swing. The only way is if there’s a large cap retention by the Canucks or some really bad contracts going back the other way. What team would be in contention though with some large really bad contracts and cap room? none. Holding salary would certainly enhance their return in the deal and could realistically load them up the prospect pool for the future.

      • I think I have made my position on the Sedin’s pretty clear. Coles Notes version. I’d like them to stay in Vancouver, resign for 2 to 3 years at 4 to 5 mil, start assuming less significant roles eventually & retire Canucks.

        That said if they wish to try & win a cup let them do so. Just like Bourque going to Colorado. Broke my heart but I was happy for him. Ha-ha!

    • I wouldn’t trade anyone on Vancouver, unless a deal was mind blowing, Bo Horvat looks like he could be a #1 C. Jake Virtanen projects as a solid #2 RW, with upside. As previous guys have indicated, the Sedins with a $14 M cap hit won’t be moved unless VAN eats a lot of that hit.

      Doan….who knows, maybe he likes tex mex BBQ too much to leave Arizona.

      • Noel, I’m not seeing Virtanan projecting as a solid 2nd line player in the NHL.

        He has played 55 games in the NHL and amassed only 14 points. In 10 games this season, one point.

        Having been sent down to Utica, he’s put up only 6 points in 16 games.

        Compare that to Kasperi Kapanen. He has 25 pts in 25 games for the Marlies at the same age.

        That is a player that projects as a potential top nine in the NHL, IMO.

        Now I admit, I haven’t seen much of Virtanen outside of the World Junior and a few NHL so maybe you’re seeing something I’m not.

      • You’re talking about the NHL team Vancouver Canucks right Noel? I mean Horvat is a 2nd line center in the league, not a 1st, won’t ever be a 1st. His high point ceiling wise would be a guy like Kadri I would say.

        Virtanan is a dud. I look at him the way I way I would Nikolai Kulemin. Guy was projected to be much higher than he actually is. He’s a 3rd liner at best who under some strange circumstance could move up in the lineup on a bad team.

        Bottom line is, the Canucks are the biggest mess in the NHL and should have a full on yard sale yesterday. Their on ice is a mess, their management is a mess, their everything is one. big. mess

    • Steven, im quite certain they will hold there ground and continue with the Shan-a-plan. will they inquire, most likely but just out of respect for John. My opinion obviously!

    • Net you a return. Hahaha. You killed me with that one Steven. I agree with you on the sedins. I believe their hardest thing will be that they need to be traded together. But honestly who wants just one sedin?

  2. @Steven , I Agree with Lyle and T.O should avoid Tavares. Even my Leaf Homer friends agree. With JT money you get 1-2 Shut down D and a strong Offensive D. After that the Leafs are off to the races. For the Sedins it is called Cap Space , no team has 14 Million dollars in Cap Space.

    • Good luck getting 2 top dmen they will be a hot commodity during free agency! I think Tavares will stay with the islanders but read an article regarding Montreal being an option, but like Lyle says Tavares doesn’t seem like the type of guy that wants to be in a fishbowl

      • Some comments about top-2 defencemen are questionable to say the least. They don’t grow on trees, they usually don’t go to free agency and they are hard to pick up in trades. The best answer, and it needs a long view, is to draft and develop them. For many, many teams, including the Leafs, this needs to become a priority.

    • Exactly right James! The money for JT could go far to helping the defense in TO. I see no need to chase Tavares. AS for the Sedins, the Canucks eat 2 mill per in a trade to leverage the possibility of getting good picks in return, plus a roster player or two. It’s only year of pain (after this year) against the cap, and the Canucks will be horrible with or without the Sedins. In my opinion, the real barrier to a deal is the Sedins themselves. They seem loyal to a fault!

      • To me it seems obvious that the Leafs won’t go after JT, it doesn’t match the strategy.
        From what I have heard, often on this site by posts, is that the Sedins want to stay in Vcr for family reasons. I get that. All the power to them if the Canucks want to do the same.
        But if they do decide they want to win a cup, I would not assume that they need to play together. That thought process seems to sell the Sedin’s short. Is it because they are insecure? I doubt it. Is it because they are selfish and if I can’t play with my brother I am not going to play at all? I doubt it.
        I would assume many of us have brothers, do you have to work with him? Probably not. Do you live and work in a different city? Entirely possible.
        While they likely prefer to play together, this assumption that they have to play together seems far fetched to me. They seem like normal people to me.

  3. @Bigbad , Yeah I know D’s a re a hot commodity , but they can develop , trade (as long as they do not pull Oilers ) Shut down D (They have quite a stash of picks and prospects) . Regardless I am not looking to only next year but the next 3-5 years.

    • James ya definitely 3-5 yrs down the road

      • Agree with BigBruin, it’s a long road developing young Dmen and the bad news is we really don’t have any great prospects in the system.

        Valiev and Loov are the closest, but those two project as bottom pair defenders (if they make it) which are easily acquired anyway.

        The one hope I have is that Andrew Neilsen who put up Provorov points in junior with a 6’3″ frame that is still filling out.

        As a 20 year old, he has put up 19 pts in 25 gp in the AHL this year – that’s a great start. That’s a great start, but he needs at least another year to improve his skating and defensive work.

  4. Hey Lyle!
    I’m not a leaf’s fan, but I miss the old Toronto – Montreal rivalry. I really like the direction the Leaf’s are taking, coming from someone who is a Hab’s fan that is an honest opinion. I think they should forget about JT, stick to their plan, and become a young, fast, skilled, and exciting hockey team. That is the direction I see them going in, and I for one am looking forward to some great match-ups with the Habs in a few years. They do need defense but how is the prospect pool? I’m not familiar with the defense prospects for Toronto.

    • zaitsev / gardiner are tradeable
      so it leaves only reilly as nhl playing, propect the moment

      They have 2 decent top 3 – 6 dman prospects in Nielson / Dermott

      I personally like the late 2016 picks: greenway & middleton

      Overall very thin but with lots of assets to trade and develop in 2 years…plus they might pick up a top 2 dman this year in the draft

  5. Right, the Leafs shouldn’t sign one of the best centers in hockey as a free agent because it would give them too many expensive star players. The richest team in the league. It would handcuff them financially!

    • Salary cap??

      • Which is why I hardly ever comment. People respond before thinking.
        How will the Leaf’s re-sign Matthews, Marner etc, if they are committed to JT for 10M over 8Yrs, because that’s what it will take. The Habs are pretty rich too and it’s going to be a problem to fit Price, Chucky and Radulov under the cap.

      • Stop acquiring great players. How will they all fit under the salary cap?!?

        I hope they don’t win the draft lottery this year. They’ll never be able to afford Nolan Patrick in the long term!?!

        I’m sure that was the thinking of Pittsburgh leading up to their most recent Stanley Cup. We have Crosby, Malkin and Letang. We should target only cheap periphery players.

      • Of course CO, if Tavares gets to free agency and expresses an interest in coming to Toronto and paying more than half his salary in tax, then the Leafs will put together a reasonable offer like they did for Stamkos – it’s automatic, whether he fits ideally in the obvious plan Lyle set out or not. You simply don’t pass on opportunities like that.

      • I believe his point is worry about icing the best team first, then worry about then worry about the cap. Not sure the Lightning were more worried about losing Kucherov because they signed Stamkos. Same goes for any other team that gives out big contracts like JT will receive. I’m not saying he is leaving or he is worth the money but people worrying about the cap before any of these guys are even close to needing new contracts seems like putting the cart before the horse.

      • The biggest difference is these teams are already established the leafs aren’t they will have a lot of holes to fill and might need that Tavares money elsewhere

      • Exactly Shticky, i don’t think they should be worried yet about having too many star players. That would be a good problem to have. And one easily remedied through trades.

      • You leaf fans can’t tell me they aren’t gonna have to dump a bunch of salary into defense? They’re weak now and the cupboards are bare off dmen prospects

    • your both right but its a hard choice

      Do you pass up on a ppg player that you really need right now and the future or do you keep away and upgrade everyone 25 years an older with a long rebuild.
      If they pass on tavares then JVR Kadri Gardiner are goners @ first decent prospect / pick

  6. I think the chances for the Leafs to get a 1-2 Dman are very slim. They wont be able to make a trade and get one out of the gate but could get someone who is a strong prospect who will likely develop into one over time or who is playing behind a stacked team with a log jam (Anaheim or St. Louis). The other way is to draft one. There are lots of options in mid first round this year that should fit the bill.

    In addition there’s Free Agency which is unlikely unless there’s a cap casualty (Alzner). The other option is to scoop up something from Vegas

    • Alzner would be a good fit but I see McPhee going after him in Las Vegas

      • He is a FA at season end and will command a salary in the range of 5m/year. If a player has the choice to go to Vegas, a team which should have some growing pains for the first 4 years or so or a team like Toronto which is on the cusp of being a playoff team, the choice should be an easier one. Especially when the player is 28 and in his prime.

      • I’ve just read a lot about how McPhee brought him in and they remain friends, if he wants to get a big payday Vegas will be able to provide that. If he wants to win now the leafs are close to making he playoffs but there are better options out there aswell

    • Sorry what options? There’s Liligren who might go top three and then Foote that migth be in the Leafs range. I don’t see lots of options, I actually think it’ll be tough for our team to get a good Dman in the 1st round.

      • There’s some great European Dmen that are going to fall in the 14-25 range. Not saying the Leafs will finish there but they could trade down given the circumstances. I do agree though Lilgren is the best option for the draft this year for the Leafs. Fingers crossed for a lotto win to one of the top picks lol

      • Yeah, I’d like to see the team get a higher pick of course, but they don’t have that much to sell at the deadline and truly tank.

        Given the number of 1 goal and OT games they’ve lost (unlucky), I think they probably finish higher than their current 25th position. On goal differential, they’re 19th, which might be more indicative.

        So I’m thinking a 5-10 draft slot, which is not going to land Liligren, injured or not. Trading down, as you say, might be the best option.

      • I think Toronto could potentially sell a ton by the time next season starts & rest assured Toronto will go into it’s 2nd 1/2 swoon as always. Partly by their own creation moving out assets & shutting down injured players at the 1st sign of a hang nail. They will finish in the bottom 3 in the East & bottom 5 to 7 in the league. Again the standings are going to be very tight come seasons end as they are now with only the bottom 2 teams in each conference really being out of it.

        At the trade deadline Polak, Hunwick & Smith will all get flipped for picks. No later than the start of next season at least 1 of Bozak, van Riemsdyk or Komorov will be moved possibly 2 if the right Dman can be had. I assume Bozak & he may be gone by the trade deadline.

        Waiver issues are starting to become an issue & roster spots will need to be created for players like Liepsic, Kapanen, Lindberg, & Johnsson & better quality playing time for the likes of Leivo; has to clear waivers now, Soshnikov, Brown & Hyman. Several players from these above 2 groups along with several picks will be moved to secure some form of young NHL Dman who has top 4 potential if not playing that role for his current team now or better.

  7. I wouldn’t say stay away from JT, after all he’ll only cost money and term. It’s prudent on every team to try and make it better presently and long term. I think we can agree Toronto could use a couple of top level dman. It will be interesting to see how the leafs develop this season and next. How far away are they from contending; maybe the smart money is bringing in JT and trading one of the younger players for that elusive defenseman everyone is talking about, unless your able to sign one. You don’t just walk away from a player who will make your team better without considering all the options and maybe in the end the cost isn’t worth the growth.

    • Indeed. I think they could accelerate things by going down the road you suggest, but I’d rather they keep it in the slow lane and see what opportunities present themselves in the offseason and heading into the expansion draft.

      The group is still developing rather than developed and ready to contend. Look at Reilly (22 / 256 gp), for example. He’s getting matched against opposing top lines and plays every PK, rather than being unleashed on the PP.

      Even Gardiner is developing. He clearly took a big step this year in his defensive game, now putting up great shot suppression/generation numbers and that’s at age 26 with over 350 games played.

  8. The Sedin’s share one brain. Can they play apart ?
    All I want for after Christmas is a material trade by anyone not involving a 14th forward and 8th defence man.

    • Hi!
      Well, Henrik got 112 points the only season Daniel missed a bunch of games. So I would assume they can play without each other 🙂

  9. I think the analysis about JT is in error: he would love to play in Toronto, and at age 27 he will be in his prime and that could give the Leafs a major boost..by that time the youngsters will mature, they will have found one or two good d-men…..isn’t that how the Hawks got great? They did not worry about having Toews, Hossa, Keith, Kane et. al. The money will be taken care of… As for the Sedins? The top two overrated players in league history…they have won nothing and their absence form the heat of battle during the Cup final year was a major blow to an otherwise good team. I would urge them to retire after this year, go play in Sweden!

    • Overrated and the sedins should not be in the same sentence lol 2 of the best players to cycle down low and create scoring opportunities and don’t hurt in the defensive zone

      • 2 of the the greatest players to ever play the game. Solid character, they give a ton back to the community. Their ability to cycle the puck is a thing of beauty. Their game was never built on speed, so they should post solid respectable offensive #’s right into their late 30’s even early 40’s should they decide to play that long. 60 to 70 points depending upon deployment; quality & quantity of ice time.

        1st time ballot hall of farmers by the time all is said & done.

    • Not sure I’d say 2 of the best ever to play the game solid even great players and people sure but best ever? Let’s not get carried away. No cups, at their age not yet at 1000 points top 50 all time is close to 1200 with guys like Crosby Ovechkin Malkin and a slew of others likely to surpass what they put up by the time it’s all said and done. Great players definite HOF but not even in the conversation of some of the best ever.

      • greatest ever? really? Maybe greatest Canucks ever

      • You have yours I have mine. Best ever for me is 100’s of players deep. Being 54, I have 40+ years as an NHL hockey fan. Not all about points for me, character is a huge part of it which the Sedin’s have in spades. I would never have put Neely; 1 of my favorite players of all time, Bure; revolutionized skating in the NHL, Lindros; dominated the game in his prime, in to the hall. Careers were to short for me even though at their peaks they dominated the game in various ways.

        These types of opinions are incredibly subjective in nature. I like the Sedin’s a ton. Vancouver is my closest home team & it has been a pleasure to watch them play. I held season tickets for 15 of their current 16 seasons in the NHL in Vancouver. Soft spoken, none confrontational, exceptional clean players; the way the game should be played, that exude character.

        They could easily play at a very similiar level to that there playing now for another 5 years if so inclined, be it in Vancouver, which I hope it is, or else where putting up another 250 to 300+ points & playing over 1500 NHL regular season games. They will comfortably be over a 1000 points, Henrik very soon, he only needs 8 more & Daniel this season as well baring injury, he only needs 36 more.

        2 of my greatest players ever. Easily make my top 50. Henrik has missed 30 regular season games in his career; again in year 16. Daniel not quite as fortunate having missed 53. Not quite Marleauesk; 31 games missed in 19 years, but amazing for any player to stay healthy over so many games & play at such high levels consistently.

      • ya…for sure not overrated but definitely not top 50 all time in the league.

  10. I think JT to the Leafs perfectly fits the strategy if he would resign for Stamkos money. He can make up the difference in endorsements. It would be better to sign him as a free agent but even if they have to use assets to get him it is still worth it. JT, Matthews, Kadri and Gauthier as the centers with Nylander, Marner, Kapeninen, Brown, Hyman, Soshnikov and others on the wings. That leaves Bozak, JVR and Komorov as trade material to get a young defense man. Of course if Hamilton was truly available for Kadri they would have to make that trade even though he has been playing great hockey.

    • Enough with the endorsements! Guys like taveras and stammer don’t care about about that at this point in their career. And the flames would very dumb to trade Hamilton for Kadri?? Lol

    • Hamilton for Kadri? You sure you didn’t mean a three team deal where the Leafs send Kadri for both Hamilton and Tavares? (yes that’s sarcasm)

  11. I could definitely see Shattenkirk not moving between now and the deadline and hitting free agency. If that does in fact happen he’ll be a huge fish for the summer.

    I wouldn’t be opposed to the Bruins making a legitimate offer.

    • I still think the bruins need a defensive dman and watching shattenkirk this yr he has not looked good defensively

  12. On a side note…

    Not sure if it’s just me but it seems that more and more each offseason we’re talking about bigger names going to free agency. I’m not sure if that has something to do with the type of deals that are seemingly getting bigger and handed out each year or not but I don’t remember the free agency pool ever being that deep or with bigger names. Seemed like a lot of players just stuck with their teams and resigned. Could be a subjected/naked eye type of opinion but that’s what it feels.

    • Hey Chad, In part it’s a result of the CBA. Players gave up some things but now get to free agency a lot sooner than they used to. It changes the dynamic. Of course teams still try to retain their talent but there ends up being a lot more speculation.

  13. I’m inclined to agree with Lyle here regarding Derek Stepan. Although nobody can ever 100% rule out a move… I’d be quite surprised if the Rangers are able to do so. Unless of course they’re willing to eat some of that contract and/or add in some additional shiny pieces.

    I’d put a Stepan trade at or around the same % of a Krejci move.

    • I don’t believe the Rangers have any desire to move Stepan. Who takes his place, Piri? I also don’t see his contact as unmovable or an albatross . He’s a two way center that puts up mid 50s in points. Sure, he’s no Crosby, Malkin, etc. but he also isn’t paid like that type of player either. He makes in or around the same as Kesler, O’reilly , Rnh, etc.

      As for them holding salary, I wouldn’t hold my breath. They have never retained salary in any trade, or buyouts in the cap era. I don’t see them starting now. See Dan Girardi.

      • (Takes deep breath, holds up index finger) “well….”. “No never mind “.

      • He’s no Dave……… Never mind .

  14. Stepan and Nash to NYR for the Sedins =)…both teams hold salary to keep cap compliant…..

    Van gets a Center for when the twins retire

    theTwins play with their Swedish chef (for all you muppet fans) for 1.5 season and a chance at a cup run again with AV.

    • *to Vancouver…my bad

    • No thanks on that! And why in the world would either hold salary? It’s pretty much a wash for both teams.

    • Rangers have been trying to get younger (see Brassard Trade), no chance they go for Sedins in a Stepan move.

  15. Bruins shouldn’t bother with Shattenkirk. Too much money for him.
    Need to continue the semi rebuild.
    I’m not even sure they will have any cap space once Pastrnak and Spooner are resigned.

  16. The Sedins have played their game very well, no doubt: but where is the evidence that they make anyone else on that team better? The team has been mediocre for years, with the twins. And, yes, if they wish, let them go to a contender but the Rangers are already soft……Pittsburgh maybe, but for whom? The Sedins are comfortable where they are and since when did we judge hockey players by their “community involvement”? I admire that they have a sense of giving back, absolutely, but that does not make them great players…..and they cycle really well but to what end for the team as a whole over the years? Top fifty all time? That list in a great topic for long discussions….it’s hard even to agree upon the top five all-time!

    • Just because management hasn’t built anything around them you can’t take anything away from the sedins on ice skill to say they are underrated is a very lame comment or you cheer for another team that is a Canucks rival

      • Agree with that.

  17. The Leafs will have to make some trades or else they will have mistimed their rebuild.

    Defensemen take longer to develop, so even if they draft a few soon it will be years before they could contribute to a contender.

    I still think the Leafs have the pieces to get OEL from the Coyotes.

    • Won’t be OEL but there will be some very good D men available or lost for nothing with expansion. The Leafs will have cap room and the pieces to address the D at some point in the near future.

      • Ehhhh not really that great with expansion it won’t affect teams as much as ppl go on about

  18. Id like to see jt end up in detroit. New arena new center piece. Just saying i think he’d fit good there. I no it would cost the wings more than they’ll want to give up. And has anyone seen an update on martin reway just wondering he was great in the world jrs. Now has a heart condition. Figured one of yinz montrealers would no something.

  19. why would the leafs want to pay that much for a second line C? Matthews will be better than JT next year.

  20. I thought the Bruins had a puck moving Dman in Krug…….I mean they gave him $5.25 mil per for 5 years which now they can’t even trade him…1 goal..13 assist,-5 0.98 shot %