NHL Rumor Mill – October 21, 2017
Updates on the Red Wings, Capitals and Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland must clear over $1.3 million in salary-cap space to make room for Andreas Athanasiou’s new one-year, $1.387 million deal before it becomes official. Options include trading center Riley Sheahan ($2.075-million cap hit), who was linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins during offseason trade chatter. They could also demote forward David Booth ($700k) in conjunction with another player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Wings will make their move – be it trade, demotions or maybe a combination of both – at some point in the coming week. They want to get Athanasiou back in the lineup as soon as possible.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes it’s time for the Washington Capitals to mortgage some of their future for immediate help on the blueline. The Caps are in “win-now” mode but are trying to make do with journeymen (such as Taylor Chorney) and untested youngsters (Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos) to replace departed veterans Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmdit. They’re also missing Matt Niskanen, who’s currently on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
Larkin thinks they should peddle highly touted goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov, who has no chance of supplanting Braden Holty as the Caps starter, along with some “B-plus pieces”. He suggests they target Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, anyone of the Vegas Golden Knights or Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan disagrees with Larkin. He doesn’t believe history will be kind to the Capitals if Samsonov goes on to become a top goaltender elsewhere in the league, especially if they only get back a short-term return. He also points out moving Samsonov won’t help the cap-strapped Capitals bring in assets that helps them right now. While Regan acknowledges the Caps need to improve their defense, trading away a potential franchise goalie seems shortsighted.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larkin and Regan both raise good points. Right now, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan isn’t under pressure to make a major move. Finding a suitable trade partner this early in the season isn’t easy. as he and his peers are still evaluating their rosters. As long as the Caps remain on the happy side of .500 and hold a playoff berth, MacLellan will make do with what he has until Niskanen’s return in early-November.
Over the course of the season, however, the Capitals GM could be forced to go shopping for more experienced depth. As Regan points out, however, doing so also means shedding salary as the Caps are pressed against the $75 million cap ceiling. Trading young assets won’t help them in that regard. It’ll be interesting to see how MacLellan handles this.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie appearing Friday morning on Montreal’s TSN 690 examining some Canadiens-related trade chatter. Acknowledging colleague Darren Dreger’s report on Thusday speculating the Pittsburgh Penguins might have interest in Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk, McKenzie notes the Pens had some interest in the young Habs forward in the past and maybe, in the right circumstances, could look at him in the future.
For now, however, McKenzie doesn’t think it’s a front-burner issue. He notes it would be a mistake to assume Galchenyuk is the only forward the Penguins have an eye on. Since the summer, the Penguins have been in the market for a third-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Two problems with the Galcheyuk-to-Pittsburgh speculation. One, the Penguins carry just over $2 million in cap space and must either convince the Habs to pick up part of his $4.9 million annual cap hit (which they won’t do without getting something worthwhile in return) or ship out a salaried player or two as part of the return. Second, Galcheyuk hasn’t proven himself as an NHL-caliber center, especially in a third-line position where he’ll be required to play a more defensive role, something he hasn’t excelled at with the Canadiens.
McKenzie also took note of recent reports observing Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin scouting some New York Islanders games. He doesn’t think there’s anything new there and scoffed at the notion Bergevin was pursuing John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders aren’t trading Tavares right now, if at all. And even if they were, the Habs don’t have the assets to land him. The Isles aren’t going to just give Tavares away. They’ll seek a king’s ransom. If the Habs harbor any hope of acquiring Tavares, they’ll have to wait until next July when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, provided he hasn’t re-signed with the Isles by then.
Nichols also cites Dreger’s Friday appearance on Buffalo’s WGR 550 where the subject of the Canadiens came up. He said he’d had a couple of teams ask him if he felt the struggling Habs could reach the stage where they might consider trading captain Max Pacioretty. While Dreger admits they could at some point reach that stage with any player outside of Carey Price, he doesn’t feel the Habs have reached it with Pacioretty.
Dreger speculates the Habs winger could be a good fit with teams in “win-now” mode such as Anaheim or Los Angeles. He also thinks the New York Rangers “would probably move heaven and earth” to get Pacioretty if he ever become available. Pacioretty is signed through 2019 and lacks no-trade protection.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Canadiens decide to go into teardown mode Pacioretty could be shopped. But I don’t see that happening this season. Next summer? Perhaps, depending on how this season shakes out and if there’s any changes in the Habs front office by then.
Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman appearing on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 expressing doubt the Canadiens have sufficient assets to acquire Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene.
SPECTORS’ NOTE: I’ve been saying this for months. Based on the Avs’ reported asking price (young, established top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot, a top prospect and a high draft pick), the Habs lack the assets to outbid other interested clubs. Unless Avs GM Joe Sakic lowers his price, forget about Duchene getting dealt to Montreal.