Latest on the Oilers, Blackhawks & Lightning – May 15, 2017
Updates on Edmonton Oilers winger Jordan Eberle and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger plus possible trade targets for the Tampa Bay Lightning in your NHL rumor mill.
EDMONTON SUN: Dan Barnes recently reported Oilers winger Jordan Eberle “needs to work on his release, core strength and foot speed” to keep up with younger players. Barnes feels Eberle remains a “bona fide commodity”, albeit an expensive one with a $6 million annual salary, averaging 27 goals per 82 games plays as an NHLer. He also believes general manager Peter Chiarelli might not hesitate to find a replacement at right wing that could help them in the postseason.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites TSN’s Craig Button claiming Eberle’s contract will be difficult to move, especially with the winger at a low point in his NHL career. To find the best return, Staples suggests the Oilers must find teams that have a major hole at right wing in need of scoring and with the salary-cap room to absorb Eberle’s salary. He considers the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks as possible options. While Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested St. Louis, Los Angeles and the New York Islanders as potential destinations, Staples doubts they have sufficient cap room to add Eberle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not impossible to move Eberle, but Button’s correct that the winger’s cap hit will make it difficult to find a suitable trade partner. I concur with Staples that the Blues, Kings and Isles lack sufficient cap room.
The Devils and Sabres seem the best options but they could place more emphasis on improving their defense. The Canucks seem a more likely option but they finally seem committed to rebuilding with youth rather than chasing expensive veterans. Unless the Oilers agree to pick up a healthy chunk of Eberle’s contract or agree to take back a toxic contract in return, a trade might not be possible this summer.
Barnes’ colleague Jim Matheson pondered possible moves by the Oilers to add a top-nine center who can win faceoffs. His suggested free-agent options include Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino, Toronto’s Brian Boyle and Minnesota’s Martin Hanzal and Carolina’s Derek Ryan, He believes better options could be found in the trade market, with Dallas’ Cody Eakin as his ideal target.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Stars risk losing Eakin to the expansion draft they could entertain offers for him. Could be worthwhile for the Oilers to make inquiries into his trade status.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: In a recent mailbag segment, Chris Hine suggests the easiest contract for the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks to move this summer is center Marcus Kruger’s nearly $3.1 million cap hit through 2018-19. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4.1 million) could be another but Hine isn’t sure trading him is the right move. He’s also heard center Artem Anisimov’s name thrown around but he’d have to agree to waive his no-movement clause. He also doesn’t see any takers for defenseman Brent Seabrook’s $6.875 million cap hit.
CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: Barry Rozner also speculates Kruger could be on his way out of town and they might have to toss another player into the deal, as they did when they package Teuvo Teravainen with Bryan Bickell in last summer’s deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With a lot of money tied up in a handful of players, the Blackhawks have little wiggle room this summer. They’ve been hemorrhaging talent for several years and it show no sign of stopping this summer, with Kruger the most likely to go.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith believes the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks could provide the solution for the Lightning’s need to add a top-four defenseman this summer. He feels the Bolts will go the trade route this summer to bring in that blueliner, taking advantage of clubs such as the Predators and Ducks at risk of losing a quality defenseman to the expansion draft. If the Bolts offer up a strong enough package, “whether it involves (Jonathan) Drouin or dipping into its deep prospect pool of forwards”, he wonders what type of impact defenseman they could land.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning won’t be the only team looking at the Predators and Ducks, but they could have the edge in terms of what they can offer up as trade bait to pry away a good blueliner from one of them.