Latest on the Leafs, Avalanche & Rangers – July 7, 2017
Some suggested trade partners for the Leafs, more Matt Duchene speculation and a look at what’s next for the Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are carrying a glut of forwards, especially wingers. That could make it difficult for promising young players, such as Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo and Nikita Soshnikov to crack the roster.
Fox proposes packaging a forward or two with a draft pick to bolster their blueline, which was only marginally improved by the signing of Ron Hainsey. He notes their recent rumored attempt to dangle winger (and pending UFA in 2018) James van Riemsdyk to the New York Islanders for defenseman Travis Hamonic, who was subsequently deal to the Calgary Flames.
Fox suggests the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Caroilna Hurricanes and Vancouver Canucks as potential trade destinations for van Riemsdyk, noting those four clubs have depth in blueliners. Less complicated options not involving van Riemsdyk include dealing with the Vegas Golden Knights or pursuing one of the remaining rearguards in the free-agent market.
He also suggests simply waiting out through next season, evaluate the current defense, perhaps load up at the trade deadline or pursue better free agents options next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of the Leafs swinging a major trade at some point in the offseason to add a good top-four defenseman. However, I doubt the Ducks are willing to move any of their remaining blueliners after giving up Shea Theodore and Clayton Stoner in the expansion draft. Ditto the Wild, who last week shipped d-man Marco Scandella to the Buffalo Sabres and could reluctant to part with Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba.
Hurricanes GM Ron Francis recently made it clear he’s not parting with assets for players who’ll depart in a couple of years. So unless JVR is willing to sign a contract extension, Francis won’t pursue him via trade. Fox suggests offering picks and prospect to the Canucks for Chris Tanev, but GM Jim Benning likely prefers getting a good young blueliner back as part of the return.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman discussing the trade situation of Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene with Edmonton’s 630 CHED. He notes the Columbus Blue Jackets offered up defenseman Ryan Murray as part of their pitch, but the Avs look at him as a fifth blueliner, not as one of the Jackets’ top d-men. Friedman also thinks the Avs asked for Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators but they’re unwilling to part with him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman took great pains to say he wasn’t trying to insult Murray, only pointing out what he thinks the Avs think of where he sits in the Jackets’ blueline pecking order. Murray still has terrific potential and would be a top-four defender on the Avalanche, but they want a a young guy who’s already established himself in that role.
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have settled nicely into those roles on the Jackets and they’re obviously not going anywhere. They are likely the type of defenseman the Avs want as part of the return for Duchene.
Friedman also said Avs defenseman Tyson Barrie was definitely available. However, he was told it would have to be a hockey trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, they want a good player in return, not draft picks and prospects.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently reported the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk creates a logjam on the New York Rangers’ blueline. He speculated Nick Holden, who’s a year away from UFA status with an affordable $1.65 million cap hit, could become a trade candidate as GM Jeff Gorten seeks a top-six center.