NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2017
A recent look at some possible off-season moves for several non-playoff clubs in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Matthew Coller recently examined the respective rosters needs that must be addressed by this season’s non-playoff NHL clubs.
He suggested the Buffalo Sabres acquire a puck-moving defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Tim Murray was frequently linked last summer to Anaheim Ducks blueliner Cam Fowler in last summer’s trade rumors. If the Ducks aren’t able to re-sign him (he has a year left on his contract), perhaps Murray will try to pry him out of Anaheim. He’ll also likely target other clubs who, like the Ducks, are deep in young blueliners, such as the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild.
The Florida Panthers need scoring wingers. Coller suggested trying to re-sign trade-deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With only eight points in 15 games, Vanek’s been a disappointment for the Panthers. I doubt he’ll be back, but I do believe they’ll be active in search of a reliable, healthy scoring winger this summer.
Coller felt the Philadelphia Flyers need some tweaks rather than a big off-season move. Goaltending is their biggest issue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers must sort out thei goaltending or they won’t improve next season. Ben Bishop is the big name among this summer’s free-agent goalies, but Chicago’s Scott Darling could be a more affordable and enticing option. Trade targets could include the New York Rangers’ Antti Raanta and Washington’s Philipp Grubauer.
The New Jersey Devils will end up near the top spot in the 2017 NHL draft. Coller suggested they draft a puck-moving defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Devils GM Ray Shero will likely also be active in the free agent and trade markets to shore up his defense and add another scoring forward.
The Carolina Hurricanes need a starting goalie. With seven picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft, Coller also felt they should peddle some of them for forwards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes GM Ron Francis could also pursue Darling, Raanta or Grubauer to improve his goalie depth. Because of their bounty of young defensemen, trade rumors this season linked the Canes to Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Remains to be seen if Francis goes that route, but I can see him peddling some futures for a scoring forward this summer.
Coller also thinks the Detroit Red Wings should try to ship out some of their eight over-thirty players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That won’t be easy. Most, such as Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall, carry no-movement or no-trade clauses. Even if they agreed to waive them, their best seasons are all behind them now.
He also advised the Winnipeg Jets to replace head coach Paul Maurice, as well as find a reliable goaltender and some defensive talent around Jacob Trouba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: See my notes on the Flyers and Hurricanes for possible goalie targets for the Jets. Doesn’t sound like Maurice is going anywhere.
If any club should make a big-splash trade to add a star, Coller thinks it’s the Arizona Coyotes. They hold two picks in each of the first two rounds of this year’s draft and have a highly-ranked prospect system to draw upon for trade bait.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Years of mediocrity and uncertainty over their future have dogged the Coyotes. As a result, finding stars willing to come to Arizona won’t be easy. They’ll have to target those who lack no-trade/no-movement clauses.
Coller advised the Dallas Stars to avoid giving out a bad contract via trade or the unrestricted free agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed, but rumors over the past year linked them to Ben Bishop before he was dealt by Tampa Bay to Los Angeles. If they shed either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi, they might pursue Bishop via free agency. They could, however, look at cheaper targets such as Darling, Raanta or Grubauer.
He also believed it’s time for the floundering Colorado Avalanche to break up its core. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog or Tyson Barrie could each fetch a solid return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: One of those players is likely to be dealt this summer. Duchene’s attracted the most attention in the rumor mill, but the Avs set a ridiculously high asking price of a good young defenseman or goalie, a first-round draft pick and a top prospect and perhaps more. If GM Joe Sakic isn’t careful, he could force clubs with interest in Duchene to consider other options this summer.
As for the Vancouver Canucks, Coller suggested the best course is to continue stocking their system with youth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t argue with that. It’ll be interesting to see if they bring back goalie Ryan Miller for one more season on an affordable deal. Otherwise, I expect they’ll keep bringing in young assets via draft or trade.