Latest on the Lightning, Flyers and Sabres – February 21, 2017
A look at possible moves by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres in your NHL rumor mill.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith reports the Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent improvement could complicate things for general manager Steve Yzerman leading up to the March 1 trade deadline, particularly involving pending free agents such as goalie Ben Bishop and center Brian Boyle. The Bolts are now only five points out of a wild-card spot. Yzerman said he’s not staging a fire sale and will make moves only if it makes sense for his club.
Smith assumes Yzerman seeks help for his blueline, noting the Bolts and defense-rich Nashville Predators recently scouted each other. However, Yzerman isn’t seeking a rental player. If the Lightning can move a contract like Valtteri Filppula’s or Jason Garrison’s, it would free up additional cap space to re-sign key forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. A high number of teams with limited salary-cap room makes trades difficult, as does concern over the expansion draft in June.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets reportedly have interest in Boyle. Smith recently said things are quiet on the Bishop trade front. of late he’s been playing his best hockey of the season. That should boost Bishop’s trade value, but could also make him invaluable to the Bolts’ playoff hopes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tough situation for Yzerman. Does he become a buyer and go for a playoff spot, hoping the eventual return of sidelined captain Steven Stamkos puts them over the top? Or does he look to get the best return he can for Bishop and Boyle? Their performance in their remaining games leading up to the March 1 trade deadline could determine which direction Yzerman takes.
COURIER POST: David Isaac believes the Philadelphia Flyers need a scoring winger or a second-line center. Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene could fill both roles but the Avs asking price is expensive. While Flyers GM Ron Hextall could afford to part with a young defense or goalie prospect, Isaac speculates he’s unwilling to move his first-round pick, though this year’s draft isn’t that strong. As for pending UFA defensemen Mark Streit, Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto, Isaac thinks Hextall will keep one at most. One of their goalies (Steven Mason and Michal Neuvirth) could fetch something in return at the deadline.
CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Panaccio believes there’s no moves Hextall can make to improve his club without mortgaging the future. He believes the Flyers GM has to be a seller at the trade deadline. Panaccio suggests Streit and Del Zotto could help other clubs. Given the Avalanche’s high asking prices for Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, he’s not surprised that Hextall won’t get into the bidding. Panaccio also dismisses calls from some Flyers followers for captain Claude Giroux to be dealt, saying there’s no indication from Flyers management that this is even being contemplated.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers are only three points out of a wild-card spot. I think Hextall waits to see how his club perform leading up to the deadline. If they lose more ground in the standings, I expect he’ll be a seller. Streit, Del Zotto, Schultz, Mason or Neuvirth could hit the block.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl observes that Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane’s trade value has never been higher, thanks to his run of 21 goals in his last 36 games. He feels Sabres GM Tim Murray should trade Kane only if he’s unwilling to re-sign a contract extension. Kane is signed through next season and eligible for UFA status in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres need skilled top-four depth on their blueline. If Murray gets an offer of a good young defenseman for Kane, he could seriously consider it.