NHL Rumor Mill – June 6, 2017
In today’s rumor mill, the latest on Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane and former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Craig Morgan reports Coyotes general manager John Chayka denied recent speculation suggesting he’s shopping goaltender Mike Smith and trying to start a bidding war.
“We’re taking calls on players every year. I don’t think anyone is untradeable but like we talked about last year with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, he’s up as high on that list as anyone,” said Chayka. He adds Smith’s value to the Coyotes is “extremely high but if someone wants to pay an even higher value for him, that’s the industry.” Morgan notes trading away Smith would leave the Coyotes without a proven starting goalie.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman’s appearance yesterday on NHL Network speculating the asking price for Smith could be expensive. If Smith is available, Friedman sees the Calgary Flames being among the suitors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Smith’s solid performance last season, several teams could be inquiring into his trade status. If he wants out of Arizona, that would certainly hasten a deal. But Chayka’s comments indicate that’s not the case, and I daresay his asking price would be more than most could comfortably afford.
Unless the Coyotes GM has a potential replacement for Smith already in place, the Coyotes have no reason to move him, especially if their goal is to become a playoff contender next season. Some might scoff at that notion, but in 2015-16 the Coyotes were in contention for most of the season. They’d hoped to build on that in 2016-17 but injuries to several key players scuttled those hopes. With a healthier roster and Smith at his best next season, they could challenge for a playoff berth.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports on the recent return of Sabres winger Evander Kane into the trade rumor mill, noting he’s been linked to the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. Kane is a year away from unrestricted free agency, leaving the Sabres’ new GM Jason Botterill to decide if he’ll re-sign the winger or trade him while his value is high right now.
The Sabres need defense and Harrington believes Vancouver’s Chris Tanev or Los Angeles’ Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez could be intriguing. He also notes Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula were furious with Kane over an incident in a Buffalo bar last June. While Botterill could justify moving Kane, replacing his offense would be an issue.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman’s appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 yesterday discussing the Kane trade rumors. He believes the Kings have interest and said someone also mentioned the Anaheim Ducks to him. Friedman believes it comes down to the Sabres’ need for defense and thinks they’re interested in making a deal.
Bob McKenzie also spoke about the Kane trade chatter during his appearance Monday on Montreal’s TSN 690. He believes Kane is likely to be dealt and wouldn’t be surprised if goaltender Robin Lehner started popping up in the rumor mill.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill could be dangling Kane in the trade market to determine his worth. If he can get a quality defenseman in return I think he makes that move. The Kings certainly need scoring so there could be a fit there, but they’re also carrying limited salary-cap space and must re-sign forward Tyler Toffoli this summer. They could ask the Sabres to pick up part of Kane’s $5.25 million cap hit for 2017-18.
Knowing that he has to find a replacement for Kane’s offense, Botterill could also be looking around for a scoring winger, perhaps by targeting clubs that must either shed salary for next season or those that risk losing a scorer in the expansion draft.
NEW YORK POST’s Larry Brooks reports the Columbus Blue Jackets are interested in former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
TSN: On Sunday, Brooks included the Leafs in his list of teams reportedly with interest in Kovalchuk. However, Darren Dreger reports that’s not the case, as they haven’t reached out to the New Jersey Devils (who own Kovalchuk’s rights) or to the winger’s agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Leafs ongoing rebuild with youth, adding the 34-year-old Kovalchuk would’ve been a questionable move. As for the Jackets, they have over $70 million invested in next season’s payroll and must re-sign RFA forwards Alex Wennberg and Josh Anderson and perhaps UFA forward Sam Gagner. They’ll also need a backup goaltender. Unless they’re planning to ship out Wennberg and Anderson (highly unlikely) or shed considerable salary, they probably can’t afford Kovalchuk.