NHL Rumor Mill – February 4, 2017
Latest on Shattenkirk, Duchene, Hanzal, Landeskog, Bishop, Fleury and more in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports the St. Louis Blues are open to doing a “sign and trade” deal with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, but they aren’t finding many takers for the trade part of the deal. He cites sources claiming interested clubs are only interested in acquiring Shattenkirk as a playoff rental, with one source saying fear of a flat salary-cap next season makes many of them leery of taking on a blueliner who could cost $7 million per season. LeBrun feels those clubs prefer to wait until June to see what the cap for 2017-18 will be. He also believes the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins are among the clubs that kicked tires on Shattenkirk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s looking unlikely that the Blues can swing a sign-and-trade for Shattenkirk. If they fall further out of contention, they could peddle him as a rental player. They won’t get as much as they would in a sign-and-trade, but it’ll be better than losing him for nothing this summer to free agency.
LeBrun also reports there’s no shortage of suitors for Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, but the Avs are willing to wait until this summer if necessary to get a high-quality return. He believes the Montreal Canadiens are among the interested parties, but not at a sky-high price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said for weeks, unless the Avs lower their asking price to something more reasonable than a king’s ransom, Duchene won’t be going anywhere by the deadline.
The Los Angeles Kings briefly inquired about Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog but LeBrun doubts there’s a fit there because the Avs want a young, high-end defense prospect as part of the return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings have been clearing cap space of late, recently placing Tom Gilbert on waivers. They have nearly $7 million in prorated cap space at the trade deadline and over $12 million if Jonathan Quick remains on long-term injured reserve.
LeBrun also believes the Canadiens are a good fit for Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, Buffalo Sabres blueliner Dmitry Kulikov could be a good consolation prize for clubs that lose out on Shattenkirk near the trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t sacrifice their future for a short-term fix and doesn’t see the Edmonton Oilers as a fit for Shattenkirk as this isn’t the time to waste assets on a costly rental player.
LeBrun’s colleague Craig Custance believes the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks should be aggressive in this season’s trade market. He notes the Western Conference is wide open for the first time in years, as the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks are no longer the powerhouses they once were while the Blues and Dallas Stars are struggling. The Wild sat out last season’s trade deadline but Custance thinks GM Chuck Fletcher should be pushing this season.
As for the Sharks, he believes they should be all-in this season after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. He notes both clubs could have concerns about making a big move that might upset their current chemistry. Custance reports both clubs expressed interest in Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and speculates Blues center Patrik Berglund could be available if St. Louis falls further out of contention.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the past, Fletcher has proven willing to swing moves near the deadline to help his team. He could do so again this season, but it’s obvious he has no intention of parting with young blueliners such as Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, even if he risks losing one of them to the expansion draft in June. Sharks GM Doug Wilson has seemingly never met a trade deadline he didn’t like, as he’s often active around that time. I expect he’ll be busy again this year.
LeBrun reports Fletcher noted during the All-Star weekend the difficulty this season in making trades. If he does make a move, it won’t involve parting with a defenseman. Fletcher remains committed to keeping his blueline depth intact for the playoffs. LeBrun speculates Fletcher could be interested in a defensive center such as Hanzal or Colorado’s John Mitchell.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith reports the writing’s been on the wall for some time that this season could be goaltender Ben Bishop’s last with the Lightning, as he’s eligible this summer for UFA status. Bishop’s been the subject of trade speculation for months, but Smith said there doesn’t appear to be much of a trade market for goalies this season. He also reports GM Steve Yzerman won’t part with Bishop unless he gets the right price, If he finds it, Bishop isn’t likely to stand in his way.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s not much of a market for goalies. Yzerman is obviously hoping that improves by March 1. While he’d prefer waiting for the right deal, the Lightning GM could be forced to settle for less if he wants to avoid losing Bishop later this summer for nothing to free agency.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie reports Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford prefers to retain Marc-Andre Fleury as goaltending insurance over the remainder of the season and into the playoffs, But with Fleury now relegated to backup status, Rutherford said he’ll listen if the veteran netminder asks to be dealt. Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, recently declined to comment on his client’s status. Bombulie notes Fleury’s $5.75 million annual salary-cap hit through 2018-19 and limited no-trade clause are significant hurdles that could make moving him difficult.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So it all comes down to what Fleury wants. If he’s willing to finish the season with the Pens and approve an off-season move, that’s fine by Rutherford. As for the expansion draft, if the Penguins can’t move him via trade before the 5 pm ET deadline on June 17 to submit the list of protected players, they can buy him out before then. The buyout window opens either June 15th or 48 hours after the Cup is awarded, whichever is later. The latest the Stanley Cup can be awarded this year is June 14th. Plenty of time for the Pens to buy out Fleury if necessary. There’s nothing in the expansion draft rules preventing teams from buying out players before the due date for submitting their protected lists.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports Sabres captain Brian Gionta could attract the most attention if Buffalo GM Tim Murray goes into sell mode by the trade deadline. Pending free agents such as goaltender Anders Nilsson and defenseman Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov could also garner some interest.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Murray’s recent appearance on WGR 550 acknowledging a lot of teams are scouting the Sabres. He said he hasn’t made up his mind yet if he’ll be a buyer or seller, but if he goes the buyer route he won’t “sell off the farm for a one-off playoff shot.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres fail to gain ground in the standings over the next couple of weeks, Murray will be a seller and I can see Gionta, Franson and Kulikov attracting plenty of interest from contenders looking for experienced depth players.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Gregg Krupa reports the Detroit Red Wings have some unrestricted free agents, such as Thomas Vanek and Brendan Smith, that might be enticing to clubs seeking scoring depth or a bit of jump on their blueline. GM Ken Holland stressed he won’t part with future assets for a short-term fix, but also added he didn’t think anyone was untouchable.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James believes the Wings should move out as many veterans as possible for draft picks and prospects, but she doubts there might not be much interest beyond Vanek. She points out defenseman Mike Green carries a $6 million annual cap hit while wingers Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have been disappointing this season. She also doubts the Wings will find many takers for inconsistent goalie Petr Mrazek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland’s indicates Vanek could be re-signed if he’s willing to accept a reasonable deal. The winger could also be dealt at the deadline and return to the Wings as a free agent. There was a recent report claiming the Chicago Blackhawks had interest in Tatar or Nyquist, but it doesn’t appear that’s gone very far.