Latest on the Coyotes and Predators – March 14, 2017
A look at how the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators might address their depth at center this summer in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Sarah McLellan reports the Coyotes will find it challenging replacing departed first-line center Martin Hanzal this summer. The Coyotes could be in line to land the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but there isn’t a generational talent available as there was last year (Auston Matthews) and in 2015 (Connor McDavid). Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are considered the top prospects.
Trade options are also limited. Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers have surfaced in trade rumors this season. There also isn’t much in this summer’s UFA market, with veterans such as Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators likely to re-sign with their current teams. Other notables include Toronto’s Brian Boyle, Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino, Columbus’ Sam Gagner, Washington’s Daniel Winnik and Edmonton’s David Desharnais.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett believes it’s important for his club to address this issue in the offseason, but that could be easier said than done. They have depth in draft picks and prospects to use as trade bait for a first-line center. Duchene could be the best option, but he’s only under contract for two more years and could bolt via free agency in 2019. Nugent-Hopkins is not a top-line center, better suited for a second- or third-line role.
Thornton and Fisher aren’t going anywhere. As they’re in their late-thirties, it would be a waste of money pursuing either guy. As McLellan notes, the depth in the UFA pool is quite shallow.
Perhaps the Coyotes can target clubs looking to shed salary if the cap ceiling fails to significantly rise. They could also look at teams shopping players they risk losing in the expansion draft.
THE TENNESSEAN: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vignan said he doesn’t expected Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher to retire after this season. He feels the Preds will re-sign the pending UFA following the expansion draft on June 21. First-line center and restricted free agent Ryan Johansen will be in line for a raise over his current $6 million cap hit.
Vignan doubts Mike Ribeiro and Vernon Fiddler will be re-signed and notes Calle Jarnkrok faces an uncertain future, depending upon which players the Predators protect in the expansion draft. He believes the Predators should still explore upgrades at center this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators were rumored to have interest in Colorado’s Matt Duchene prior to the trade deadline. Despite the decline in Duchene’s production this season, I think there are general managers who believe his performance will improve with better linemates on a deeper club. Preds GM David Poile could be one of them.