Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – January 1, 2017
Latest on the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the struggling Colorado Avalanche are receiving trade inquiries, but they are telling interested parties not to ask about center Nathan MacKinnon or promising right wing Mikko Rantanen. However, they are apparently willing to listen to offers for forwards Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog, provided teams come at them with good, young defensemen or good young defensive prospects.
THE DENVER POST: Terri Frei reports salary-cap constraints will affect any efforts by the Avalanche to shake up their roster, at least in the short term. The Avs have about $52 million invested in next season’s payroll. The buyout of former defenseman Brad Stuart will be completed at season’s end, but Frei suggests other buyouts are possible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Duchene or Landeskog are available, but as Friedman notes, the Avs aren’t going to just give them away. It will take a quality return to land either guy, not draft picks and castoffs. Teams with depth in blueline talent, such as the Anaheim Ducks or Minnesota Wild, could be interested, but they don’t have much room to pick up their annual cap hits. Duchene earns $6 million per season, Landeskog over $5.5 million.
As for contract buyouts, inconsistent starting goalie Semyon Varlamov ($5.9 million annually through 2018-19) could be a candidate, provided he’s healthy during the June buyout period. Forward Blake Comeau ($2.4 million through 2017-18) could be another.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa reports the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets are carrying some bad contracts. Fourth-line winger Scott Hartnell is earning $4.75 million per season, second-line center Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million annually through 2020-21) doesn’t look like a good long-term bet and sidelined winger David Clarkson’s $5.25 million cap hit through 2020 “is just about impossible to scrub from their books.” Shinzawa believes Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will likely have to move a player to free up cap space for pending restricted free agent center Alexander Wennberg’s raise this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wennberg’s coming off his entry-level deal and could seek something in the neighborhood of $6 million per season. The Jackets have over $67 million invested in next season’s payroll. Hartnell seems the most likely trade candidate. However, the Blue Jackets tried to shop him last summer without success. Dubinsky could attract interest, but that cap hit and contract length are serious stumbling blocks. Yes, Clarkson was moved once before, but I doubt the Jackets can find any takers.
Shinzawa believes this season will be the last for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are committed long term to Matt Murray as their starter. With Murray currently sidelined, Shinzawa speculates Fleury “could make a case for his next destination” based on his play in Murray’s absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s widely assumed Fleury will be dealt before the March 1 trade deadline. A market will have to open up for him between now and then, as there’s not much call right now for a starting goalie carrying a $5.75 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 with a no-movement clause. I’ve previously suggested a swap with the Dallas Stars in exchange for Antti Niemi, but that’s just me musing out loud. I have no idea if the Stars and Penguins would consider such a deal.