NHL Rumor Mill – January 26, 2017
Latest on the Leafs, Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports speculation the Toronto Maple Leafs are searching for a No. 1 defenseman won’t go away. Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello is publicly noncommittal, saying only that if there’s a deal to be had that can help his club, he’ll pursue it. Lamoriello was also dismissive of media-generated speculation suggesting left wing James van Riemsdyk could be a trade chip to land a top-pairing blueliner.
LeBrun also reports van Riemsdyk has heard the media chatter but is hopeful of remaining part of the club’s future. If the Leafs are to pursue a high-end rearguard, one Western Conference GM told LeBrun that shopping young forward William Nylander could be what it takes.
THE GLOBE & MAIL: David Shoalts believes it’s too early in the Leafs rebuild to think about swinging a major trade for a big-time defenseman. He argues that pursuing a rental player, such as St. Louis Blues defender Kevin Shattenkirk, would cost draft picks and/or prospects that the Leafs shouldn’t part with at this stage. Shoalts feels the Leafs aren’t ready yet to make the final leap toward serious Stanley Cup contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Shoalts. I’m not saying the Leafs shouldn’t consider it if an opportunity to land a young top-two defenseman was presented to them. If, say, the Florida Panthers offered up Aaron Ekblad for van Riemsdyk or Nylander, Lamoriello and company will have to think very carefully about it. But that type of offer isn’t coming to the Leafs.
Let some other club blow their brains out bidding high for Shattenkirk. If there’s a need to add a defenseman by the deadline, look for more affordable short-term options. Right now, making the playoffs would be a terrific step forward for the Leafs, but they’re not a Cup contender yet. They have no need to waste valuable assets on a high-priced rental player.
McKenzie believes the Rangers need a right side defenseman and notes St. Louis Blues rearguard Kevin Shattenkirk would fit the bill. However, he claims the Blueshirts aren’t necessarily in trade mode right now and don’t want to mortgage their future anymore. If the Rangers pursue a rental blueliner, McKenzie believes they’ll consider a less, more affordable option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Rangers are willing to part with center Derek Stepan or a versatile forward such as J.T. Miller in a package offer, I don’t see them chasing a big fish like Shattenkirk at the trade deadline. Like McKenzie, I think they’ll look at more affordable rental options. If they do chase Shattenkirk, it’ll be this summer via the UFA market.
As for the Flyers, McKenzie doesn’t expect they’ll make any big moves by the trade deadline. He notes they’ve got plenty of young blueline talent to give them flexibility if they decide to ship out some of their veterans on expiring contracts. Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz are among their pending UFAs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unlike his predecessors, Flyers GM Ron Hextall believes in building patiently with youth. I don’t see him sacrificing any of his promising young defensemen for a quick fix to reach the playoffs. As McKenzie suggests, Hextall could use those kids to replace any blueline veterans that he could move out at the deadline.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Short of a blockbuster trade for someone like Kevin Shattenkirk before the trade deadline, Gregg Krupa believes the only improvement available to the Red Wings defense is promoting from within. That means Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen should see more playing time with the Wings over the remainder of this season.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports little-used Red Wings forward Tomas Jurco requested a trade this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday reported the Wings could be looking at moving Jurco, who looks like he needs a fresh start with another club. No, Jurco in a package deal won’t bring Shattenkirk to Detroit. While the Wings have been linked to Shattenkirk in recent rumor chatter, I think GM Ken Holland has his eye on younger options, such as perhaps Anaheim’s Cam Fowler or Sami Vatanen, or Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, or Carolina’s Noah Hanifin or Jaccob Slavin. If so, he’ll have to wait until the offseason to get one of them.