Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – April 30, 2017
Updates on Jonathan Drouin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Thornton and more in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk “is all but certain” to return to the NHL next season, but not with the New Jersey Devils. While the Devils still hold his NHL rights, Brooks cites sources suggesting Kovalchuk’s return could be via a sign-and-trade deal. He also said he was told to expect significant interest in the 34-year-old winger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering the Devils are rebuilding it’s unlikely Kovalchuk will be interested in returning with them. He could try to sign with another team but that would require unanimous approval of all 31 NHL general managers. The sign-and-trade is probably the best scenario. I can’t see any contract for the 34-year-old being a long-term one.
Brooks also cited “several well-connected sources” claim the Tampa Bay Lightning intend to use left wing Jonathan Drouin as trade bait to land a top-four defenseman, with the Anaheim Ducks “shaping up as the most likely trade partner.”
The Drouin trade speculation first arose in January when there was talk he was offered to the Blues in a package deal for Kevin Shattenkirk. That chatter resurfaced earlier this month when the Lightning failed to reach the postseason. It takes quality to land a good top-four defenseman and Drouin could certainly fetch a solid return for the Bolts. So, too, could center Tyler Johnson if the Lightning prove reluctant to move Drouin.
In his final column for ESPN.com, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculated the coming offseason could be the busiest in league history. He cites the expansion draft and a stagnant salary cap as likely factors to generate considerable player movement.
Noting the likelihood the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild risk losing a quality defenseman in the draft, LeBrun expects they’ll try to swing a side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights or ship a blueliner they can’t protect to another NHL club, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d also add the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils among those clubs.
Regarding the Leafs, LeBrun doubts they’ll pursue a top-four defenseman at any cost, especially if that cost is a good young forward such as William Nylander.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Should the Leafs go shopping for a blueliner, I expect they’ll either trade left wing James van Riemsdyk if they can’t re-sign him to a contract extension this summer, or they’ll draw upon their depth of draft picks and prospects as trade bait for that top-four defenseman.
LeBrun also suggested it’ll be interesting to see what the San Jose Sharks do with aging forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. He doubted the Sharks will go past one year in their offers for either guy. He wondered if Thornton will consider offers from other clubs.