NHL Rumor Mill – December 21, 2016
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.