NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2017
Latest on the Blues, Oilers, Lightning, Bruins, Canadiens & more in your NHL rumor mill.
STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon believes the recent struggles of the St. Louis Blues runs deeper than just the struggling play of goaltender Jake Allen. He feels GM Doug Armstrong must move defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (“his one big trade chip”) to balance the roster. Gordon considers the Blues deep on defense but “short on catalysts” at forward, lacking the skill, size, grit and experience of departed forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer. He speculates a sign-and-trade scenario with Shattenkirk could emerge, though the blueliner would have to approve the destination and contract. If they move him as a rental player, they could clear cap space and acquire assets for the future.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox cites Armstrong’s appearance yesterday on Hockey Central at Noon talking about his club. ““We’re going to know if we’re buyers or sellers. Right now, it’s obviously not trending the way we need to,” said the Blues GM. He added, “You want to look at your team mid-February till the trade deadline and believe, are you a contender or not?” He acknowledged he didn’t move pending UFAs such as Brouwer and Backes last season because he believed they were a good team a year ago with a chance to win. If his club keeps stumbling, however, Armstrong said all bets are off. “We don’t want to keep players here, hope to sneak into eighth place and get hammered in the first round.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Armstrong is definitely shopping around and could be exploring trade options for Shattenkirk, He also seems willing to be patient and see if his club can improve over the next couple of weeks. If they fall out of a playoff spot, that’ll increase the pressure upon him to shake things up. Shattenkirk is his best trade chip, but he can’t just toss him away. He’ll wait for the best offer and hope he’ll get something that helps his club now and for the future.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols reports NHL insider Darren Dreger told Edmonton’s TSN 1260 he doesn’t anticipate Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli pursuing any big-name talent leading up to the March 1 trade deadline. Dreger notes that the Oilers are playing well so Chiarelli isn’t under pressure to make a significant move. He doesn’t dismiss the possibility that the Oilers GM is keeping an ear open to the trade market, suggesting Chiarelli could have interest in a defenseman or perhaps some depth at center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For all the talk of the Oilers as a potential trade destination by March 1 for St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, there’s really no need for Chiarelli to make a big trade right now. The club is comfortably in the midst of the Western Conference playoff race. I’m not saying Chiarelli shouldn’t try to bolster his roster for the postseason, but at this stage it’s best to look at one or two affordable short-term options. He can try to land a big fish in the offseason, when there could be more trade options available that perhaps won’t come with an expensive seven- or eight-year contract attached to them.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited insider Elliotte Friedman recently telling Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 that a source suggests the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning might not be as active in the trade market as some assume. GM Steve Yzerman could refrain from making any serious moves to boost his roster if he feels those moves won’t help them. If captain Steven Stamkos won’t return from his knee injury this season, Yzerman could decide this isn’t the year to sacrifice his club’s future if they’re not going to win this year.
Friedman did note that St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong recently took in a couple of Lightning games, citing his close friendship with Yzerman. “Could they do a Shattenkirk-Bishop (trade), or is something else cooking?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman could turn from a buyer into a seller if the Bolts don’t climb back into the playoff chase soon. I could see him moving Bishop for a decent return of futures if they don’t climb back into playoff contention over the next three weeks.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the word is the Arizona Coyotes original asking price for center Martin Hanzal from the Montreal Canadiens was center Michael McCarron plus two draft picks, one of them a first rounder and the other conditional.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman notes, that explains why Hanzal isn’t a Canadien.
As the 2017 draft isn’t considered a deep one, Friedman speculates there could be greater willingness by teams to consider trading their first-round picks.
With Ben Smith sidelined, the Toronto Maple Leafs could be looking for a depth center.
The Calgary Flames got a lot of calls last week when center Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch last Thursday. However, teams have been told Bennett isn’t available.
Despite Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner’s angry removal from last Tuesday’s game against the Leafs, general manager Tim Murray said Lehner isn’t on the trade block.
Friedman recently wondered if the St. Louis Blues swapping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop might resolve each club’s current problems. Bishop’s struggling and might not be the answer in goal the Blues need.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If there was a move to be had there, I think both clubs would’ve done it by now. It’s still possible, of course, but as Friedman notes, Bishop might not resolve the Blues’ shaky goaltending.
For all the talk of the New York Islanders getting a winger for center John Tavares, Friedman wonders if perhaps they’re better off getting another center to help Tavares shoulder the load.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the three players – Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin – the Isles lost to free agency last summer, Nielsen is the one they miss the most. They’re lacking depth at center beyond Tavares.
One reason the Boston Bruins probably haven’t fired head coach Claude Julien is GM Don Sweeney would rather make a trade and see how things play out. The Bruins front office also know Julien’s a good coach and could help another team succeed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sometimes a coach can be in one place too long and the players start tuning him out. However, Julien’s had to work with a depleted roster over the last three seasons. Firing him won’t make up for their lack of scoring punch up front and their need to add another skilled top-four defenseman.
The Detroit Red Wings could be trying to move Tomas Jurco, who could be in need of a fresh start elsewhere.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: John Vogl reports Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta has a modified no-trade clause this season. If the Sabres fail to gain ground in the standings, Vogl speculates the 38-year-old could attract some attention in the trade market.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild could be in the market for a fourth-line center.