NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2017
Updates on Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Jason Spezza in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon reports Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene admits he and many of his teammates were burnt out by last January after the reality they were out of playoff contention set in. He found it difficult to play out the remainder of the year, especially after starting last season on a high by winning the World Cup as a member of Team Canada.
Duchene was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate. He was linked to several clubs, including the New York Islanders, Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens. “It’s up to the management in Colorado,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m not sure who I’m going to be playing for next year, but it doesn’t matter, you come out with the same intensity here and in the gym.”
After managing only 41 points last season, Duchene hopes to silence his critics this season with a bounce-back performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche’s rumored asking price (an established young top-four defenseman, a first-round pick, a top prospect and perhaps more) is the main reason why Duchene hasn’t been traded yet. There remains genuine interest in his services, but so far, no one wants to meet that price. The New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis reports Islanders GM Garth Snow has a stockpile of high draft picks and wants to improve his forward ranks and he apparently still has his eye on Duchene.
NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford believes the Buffalo Sabres face a big decision this season with left wing Evander Kane. He’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency and carries a $5.25 million annual cap hit on his current contract. He was also dogged by off-ice issues in recent years and was a fixture in last season’s trade rumor mill. While that speculation has died down of late, Halford notes Kane’s trade value has never been higher thanks to his solid performance last season.
Kane could decide to test the market next summer. Uncertainty over his future in Buffalo could be a distracting issue throughout the coming season. The Sabres’ performance this season could also be a factor. Halford notes the notion of a sign-and-trade scenario was bandied about in the rumor mill, though it would probably make more sense for Kane simply to go to free agency, allowing him the opportunity to decide where he wants to play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s performance in this coming season will also play a significant part in determining his long-term future. Another strong effort on his part could put pressure upon Sabres management to re-sign him. However, it could cost well over $6 million annually to re-sign him. If Kane plays well but the Sabres once again fall out of playoff contention, they’ll likely entertain offers by the trade deadline.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat with Stars fans, Mike Heika admitted he was puzzled by the club’s decision to sign center Martin Hanzal. That could result in Jason Spezza, who prefers playing at center, being moved to the wing. He carries an annual cap hit of $7.5 million for the next two seasons. Heika feels this move could “directly affects his ability to be a successful player.” If things don’t work out for Spezza this season, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of the veteran getting traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the Stars’ struggles last season, Spezza put up a respectable 50 points in 68 games. If they shift him to the wing, it’ll be up to new head coach Ken Hitchcock to get the 34-year-old veteran to buy into that move.
If Spezza develops strong chemistry with Hanzal as the second-line center, it won’t be an issue. it doesn’t work out, they’ll have to shift him back to center and move Hanzal down to the third-line center spot.
Trading Spezza is possible but also difficult. He carries a 10-team no-trade list, but his annual cap hit is also a substantial stumbling block. His age could also be a factor.