NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2017
Updates on Alex Ovechkin, Jordan Eberle, Ilya Kovalchuk and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector took note of remarks by Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan in his recent press conference leaving open the slight possibility of trading team captain Alex Ovechkin at some point “if there’s a legitimate hockey deal.” MacLellan also said such a move makes no sense “from an organizational point of view,” adding that Ovechkin remains “a big part of our franchise, a big part of our history.”
Spector considers an Ovechkin trade nearly impossible for the Capitals to make. He cites the winger’s contract ($9.5 million annual salary-cap hit for four more seasons with a 10-team no-trade clause), the possibility of a decline in performance now that he’s in his early-thirties (32) and the fact such a move would have to be approved by team owner Ted Leonsis as factors working against such a move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trust “Cousin Mark” to toss cold water on the Ovechkin speculation by using common sense. Yes, any player can be traded and yes, MacLellan’s comments certainly caused a ripple of excitement among NHL insiders. But let’s be honest, Ovechkin’s not going anywhere.
MacLellan was merely responding to a question from a reporter suggesting a hypothetical scenario where Ovechkin might be dealt. And while many folks focused on his remark about moving his captain if a legitimate hockey trade offer was made, the fact of the matter is there’s no offer coming for Ovechkin that will improve the Capitals’ championship hopes for next season.
MacLellan made that clear in his response. “He’s been a big part of where we’re at as an organization and just to casually say, ‘Let’s trade him?’ For what? For who?” Bottom line is the Capitals still believe they can contend for the Cup next season and they believe their chances are better with Ovechkin in the lineup.
The only scenario in which I see Ovechkin being shopped is if the Capitals decide to blow up the roster and rebuild. That certainly doesn’t seem to be their plan heading into this offseason.
TSN.CA: In a recent interview with Pierre LeBrun, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli admitted he’ll eventually have to move a salary to free up cap room to re-sign Leon Draisailt and Connor McDavid. While Jordan Eberle ($6 million cap hit) was a frequent topic of trade chatter this season, Chiarelli stopped short of saying the winger could be moved. Indeed, the Oilers GM feels Eberle has been unfairly portrayed in the media.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarelli isn’t going to publicly admit he’s shopping Eberle or anyone eise on his roster. He also doesn’t have to move anyone this summer, but he will have to make a move by next summer to clear cap room for an expensive contract extension for McDavid. Eberle, Ryan Nuguent-Hopkins ($6 million annually) or Benoit Pouliot ($4 million) could become trade candidates, though moving their contracts won’t be easy.
NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero said Ilya Kovalchuk’s possible return to the NHL comes down to the winger. Shero said Kovalchuk still wants to return to the league, but Shero isn’t holding his breath waiting for a decision. Kovalchuk has permission to speak with other clubs about a potential sign-and-trade scenario with the Devils, who own his NHL rights. He cannot sign a new contract until July 1 and is exempt from the expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some media speculation linked Kovalchuk with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. There’s no indication his representatives have actually spoken with those clubs yet.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports there’s speculation Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning could be looking at moving up in the draft order. The Canucks currently hold the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes there’s been discussions between the Canucks and the Dallas Stars, who hold the third-overall pick, but such a move could be difficult for Benning to pull off. The Stars are carrying three goalies and Johnston wonders if they could be convinced to package their pick with Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks reportedly hope to bring back Ryan Miller next season. Johnston also doesn’t rule out a trade to bring in a goalie. However, it’s unlikely they’ll want Niemi or Lehtonen and I doubt the Stars will agree to package their first-rounder in such a deal.