NHL Rumor Mill – December 28, 2016
Latest on the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild in your NHL rumor mill.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Lazerus acknowledged a reader’s suggestion of the Blackhawks trading goaltender Corey Crawford to free up salary-cap space to re-sign winger Artemi Panarin. However, Lazerus believes such a move would be a big mistake, citing Crawford’s playoff success and his place among the league’s elite goaltenders.
Re-signing Panarin could cost over $6 million per season, and Lazerus admits the ‘Hawks must shed salary to free up sufficient space to keep him. Leaving center Marcus Kruger exposed in the June expansion draft might help, but they’ll still need to trade another player. They could try to trade defenseman Brent Seabrook, but he’s in the first season of an eight-year deal with a no-movement clause and is having his best season in years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks also risk losing backup goalie Scott Darling to next summer’s UFA market. With over $60 million tied up in 14 players, the Hawks won’t have much room to re-sign Panarin and Darling and still ice a competitive roster. They could do what they did with Brandon Saad and trade Panarin for an affordable return of talent. If they can’t move a high-salaried star such Crawford or Seabrook, trading Panarin could be their only reasonable option. Either way, e such a significant trade won’t take place now. If it happens, it’ll be in late June.
FANRAG.COM: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Pierre LeBrun yesterday telling Ottawa’s TSN 1200 to keep an eye on the Florida Panthers now that Dale Tallon has taken over a bigger role. He claims the Panthers aren’t happy with where they are in the standings, speculating they’re a club that could add to their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun didn’t get into specifics over what moves Tallon could make. The Panthers are among the league’s lowest-scoring clubs, so he could look at boosting their offense. However, first-line left wing Jonathan Huberdeau’s anticipated return from injury in January could address that issue. As long as the Panthers remain in the playoff chase, I think Tallon will wait and see if Huberdeau’s return sparks an improvement in their play.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun speculates over what moves the Minnesota Wild could make in preparation for June’s expansion draft. If they opt to protect three defensemen they risk losing a good young blueliner such as Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin , but if they protect four d-men, they risk losing a forward such as Nino Niederreiter or Jason Zucker.
LeBrun suggests Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should contact Las Vegas GM George McPhee as the draft approaches, ask McPhee which player he intends to target and attempt to work out a trade. He also recommends trying to convince aging winger Jason Pominville to waive his no-movement clause in order to expose him in the draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fletcher’s decision could also be determined by his club’s performance over the remainder of this season. So far, the Wild are flying high and in no need to make any significant moves right now. Should the club go into free fall in the standings between now and the March 1 trade deadline, perhaps Fletcher might attempt moves that could affect which players he protects in the expansion draft. Most likely, Fletcher will wait until June to address that issue.