NHL Rumor Mill – December 27, 2016
A roundup of NHL trade & free-agent rumors from the last three days.
FANRAG.com: On Dec. 23, Chris Nichols cited an appearance by TSN’s Darren Dreger on Buffalo’s WGR 550 discussing the plight of the floundering Colorado Avalanche. While speculating over the future of Joe Sakic as the Avs’ general manager, Dreger also thinks Sakic might have to make a move following the holiday trade freeze, perhaps involving a young core player such as center Matt Duchene or left wing Gabriel Landeskog.
Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie, appearing the same day on Toronto’s TSN 1050, also weighed in on the Avalanche. He thought their offseason coaching change and efforts to address their blueline would improve the club this season, but so far that’s not the case. If the Avs are to move out a core player such as Duchene, Landeskog or Nathan MacKinnon, McKenzie said they better ensure they get a good return. He also thinks there’s a sense of urgency for the Avs to change something. He doubts they want to move MacKinnon, adding he hasn’t heard of anything brewing over Duchene or Landeskog.
BSN DENVER: Stick tap to “Justin”, who sends in this link with the following: “AJ Haefele reports on his podcast that he spoke with an Avalanche exec and that Montreal has expressed interest in Avs D Francois Beauchemin, as are two other teams. They go on to say Avs are interested is some of Montreal’s young guys (no names mentioned) and discuss how that doesn’t seem possible with Montreal’s limited cap space but apparently it came from inside the Avs organization.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs are top of the trade-rumor charts right now. They’re in free fall and there’s anticipation a big move could be coming involving Duchene or Landeskog. The problem, as always, is pulling off a good hockey trade in-season when most NHL clubs have limited salary-cap space. The swap would have to be dollar-for-dollar to make it work. That could force the Avs to wait until the offseason to find a suitable deal.
Only four teams – Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes – have over $6 million in cap space to absorb Duchene’s $6 million annual cap hit or Landeskog’s $5.57 million this season. The Avs would obviously want a top-quality defenseman in return. The Sens, Panthers and Devils lack the suitable available blueline assets. The Hurricanes need scoring and have plenty of good young blueliners, but unless they’re willing to part with Justin Faulk, I don’t see a fit there.
I’ve heard it suggested the Avs dangle Duchene to the Blues to bring back Kevin Shattenkirk, but unless the latter’s willing to sign a long-term extension, moving Duchene for a pending UFA is a foolish move. A swap of Landeskog to the Anaheim Ducks for Cam Fowler might work, provided Sakic is willing to retain some salary. Of course, that’s just spitballing on my part.
As for the Habs interest in Beauchemin, that also depends upon his willingness to waive his no-movement clause to return to the team where he began his NHL career. Even then, I don’t see how this is a good fit. The Habs have to move considerable salary, plus they lack significant available blueline assets that help the Avs now and in the future.
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle makes the case for the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade left wing James van Riemsdyk. Among the factors cited by Mirtle include the high cost of re-signing the 27-year-old van Riemsdyk ( who’s eligible for UFA status in 2018) and how it could affect the Leafs efforts to re-sign rising young stars Auston Matthew, William Nylander and Mitch Marner within the next couple of years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs need a skilled top-four defenseman and van Riemsdyk is their best trade chip to land that return. Such a move, however, is likely to happen in late-June or early-July, when most trades involving notable players take place.
ESPN.COM: Responding to recent questions from his readers, Craig Custance doesn’t see the Winnipeg Jets entertaining the notion of shipping defenseman Jacob Trouba to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury plus a pick or prospect. He thinks the Jets still believe in promising Connor Hellebuyck as a starter. While he think the Jets will trade Trouba before his bridge contract expires in 2018, Custance said the Jets still have plenty of time to find the perfect deal, which doesn’t include an aging goalie such as Fleury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve recently suggested, the best option (provided Fleury waives his no-trade clause) is shipping him to the Dallas Stars for Antti Niemi (who would also have to waive his no-trade). The move frees up some additional cap space for the Penguins and gives them a backup with Stanley Cup experience, while the Stars get an experienced upgrade in goal. While some scoff at the latter point by bringing up Fleury’s inconsistent play this season, he was outstanding throughout most of last season before his concussion and had a good start to this season until Matt Murray returned from injury. I think Fleury will be fine once he’s playing for a club where he’s the undisputed starter. The Stars could give him that opportunity.
As for how the Chicago Blackhawks free up salary-cap room next summer to re-sign winger Artemi Panarin, Custance suggests moving either defenseman Brent Seabrook or goaltender Corey Crawford. He proposes shopping Crawford to the Dallas Stars and sticking with the more affordable Scott Darling as their starter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Crawford makes the most sense, but would the Blackhawks really want to ship him to a division rival, where he could come back to haunt them four or five times a season? It’ll have to be a healthy return, such as one or two of the Stars’ promising young defensemen, to tempt the Hawks management. Crawford must also agree to waive his no-trade clause.
Regarding the possibility of Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray pursuing a top-six forward, Custance doesn’t rule it out, but cites a source claiming the Ducks intend to sit tight for now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cam Fowler to the Avalanche for Gabe Landeskog, anyone?
Custance believes the St. Louis Blues will trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the March 1 trade deadline. He’d love to see them add a center such as the Arizona Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal, but doubts they’ll have interest in a short-term acquisition like Shattenkirk, who’s a UFA next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues GM Doug Armstrong rarely trades away pending UFAs before the trade deadline. Like Custance, I doubt the Coyotes will part with Hanzal for a player who will skate away come July 1.