NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2017
Latest on Claude Giroux, Jordan Staal, Andreas Athanasiou and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman writes Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall laughed off trade rumors at this year’s NHL draft suggesting Flyers center Claude Giroux was available. He still occasionally surfaces in the rumor mill.
Friedman said Hextall wouldn’t comment this time but a couple of rival GMs say they haven’t heard him bring up Giroux. “The captain has five more years on his contract at an $8.275-million cap hit and a no-movement clause.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Giroux’s production over the last two seasons led to concern that his game has diminished. There was some talk during the draft weekend linking him to the Montreal Canadiens. However, as Friedman notes, those rumors were quickly shot down by Hextall. I don’t believe Giroux is available, but another sub-par season could see him resurface in the rumor mill.
Noting the contract standoff between the Detroit Red Wings and winger Andreas Athanasiou, Friedman wonders if there isn’t more to this story, perhaps how he’s used or his role on the ice. He believes there are teams interested in the 23-year-old forward, guessing the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks could be among them. He thinks those teams will wait and see if the Wings might consider a trade before considering an offer sheet.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer this stare down between the Wings and Athanasiou continues the more speculation will grow over his future in Detroit. The Wings are a cap-strapped team so an offer sheet is possible, but I think a trade is a more likely scenario. Still, don’t rule out the possibility of Athanasiou eventually re-signing with the Wings.
Friedman also notes the Pittsburgh Penguins are resuming their search for a third-line center. He said they waited long enough to try and work out a deal with the Wings, citing the Athanasiou contract impasse. He thinks they asked the Carolina Hurricanes about bringing back Jordan Staal but the Canes refused.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford isn’t ruling out adding a third-line center but he’s indicated he’ll wait for the right deal. For now, he seems content with Greg McKegg and Carter Rowney centering his checking lines.
As for Staal, I don’t doubt the Pens would love to bring him back and he might waive his no-movement clause if the opportunity were presented to him. However, I don’t see how Pittsburgh can fit his $6 million annual cap hit into their budget. The Canes would have to pick up half his annual cap hit and I don’t think GM Ron Francis wants that dead cap space on his books.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, Friedman notes head coach Bill Peters acknowledged the speculation suggesting his club should draw upon their depth in good young defenseman to add a scoring forward. However, Peters said he likes his defense the way it is. Friedman said it’s no secret teams like Colorado would love to land one of the Canes blueliners. Peters feels the offseason additions of forwards Marcus Kruger and Justin Williams could help.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Hurricanes struggle once again to stay in the playoff chase, they could consider shopping one of those rearguards for a scorer. However, GM Ron Francis stated back in July that he has no interest in parting with an asset for one that could depart in a year or two via free agency. In other words, if you want one of those d-men, be prepared to part with a quality long-term asset.
Friedman considers the Columbus Blue Jackets to be in the same position as the Washington Capitals two years ago. He believes their window of opportunity to win a championship is now before contracts start dictating change. “They’re going to go for another scorer,” he writes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Since July, the Jackets were linked to Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. I think the two sides could have a framework of a deal in place but the Avs have to lower their asking price to get it done. We’ll see how things shake out over the course of the season. If the Jackets can’t land Duchene, they’ll find other options before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
The Nashville Predators are looking for a forward. “Maybe a center, maybe a scorer.” However, they prefer not to give up anyone from their current roster. Friedman wonders if rival clubs might ask about promising prospect Eeli Tolvanen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Preds were briefly linked to Duchene earlier this summer. However, the Avs reportedly wanted one of their top-four defensemen and that was a deal breaker.