NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2017
Updates on Rick Nash, several teams seeking forwards and the latest on the Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
NASH HOPES TO REMAIN A RANGER
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports winger Rick Nash understands his eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July creates uncertainty over his future with the New York Rangers. Brooks suggests Nash’s greatest value to the Rangers could be as a “blue-chip rental property to exchange for futures as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches.” However, if Blueshirts general manager Jeff Gorton believes the Rangers have a playoff run in them, Brooks doubts Nash will be traded, even at the risk of his departure via free agency.
The Rangers could re-sign Nash, whose preference is to stay in New York. He’s in the final season of an eight-year, $62.4 million contract. The 32-year-old won’t garner that much on his next deal. Brooks wonders if a four-year contract worth between $5 – $5.5 million annually is realistic considering J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei are restricted agents this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Rangers are a playoff contender by the trade deadline, Nash won’t be going anywhere. Yes, they could lose him for nothing to free agency but that’s a risk I believe Gorton will take.
However, if they fall out of contention they’ll likely field offers for the aging forward. With those younger players all due for new contracts and with over $51 million invested in just 11 players, I have my doubts they’ll re-sign Nash. If they have sufficient cap room, I suspect they’ll look toward younger, more affordable UFA options.
SEVERAL TEAMS SHOPPING FOR FORWARDS
TSN: In the latest edition of “Insider Trading,” Bob McKenzie reports trade talk has increased since the Matt Duchene trade earlier this month. He said the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers are in the market for a center and the Florida Panthers have stepped up their search for a scoring winger of late. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning are also seeking forwards.
Pierre LeBrun adds the Lightning need a top-nine winger to skate alongside Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn on their third line. They’ll look to within their organization to fill that role. If that doesn’t pan out, GM Steve Yzerman could look toward the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers already made a move to bolster their scoring depth by acquiring Mike Cammalleri yesterday from the Los Angeles Kings. The Blue Jackets, like the Ducks, Habs and Rangers, are believed seeking a center and were among the clubs with interest in Duchene before he was dealt to the Senators. The Bruins could use a scoring winger as injuries have decimated their forward ranks.
With the standings still tight, most of those clubs could be forced to wait until more teams start falling out of playoff contention. Unlike most of the teams on that list, the powerhouse Lightning can afford to wait until then.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Sam Werner was asked what the Pittsburgh Penguins might do to address their ongoing need for a third-line center. Riley Sheahan, acquired earlier this season from the Detroit Red Wings, has been OK defensively but he’s still struggling to score.
As for players the Penguins could dangle as trade bait, Werner doubts they’ll deal pending UFA forward Patric Hornqvist but thinks GM Jim Rutherford would be interested in moving winger Carl Hagelin’s $4 million salary from his books. Given Hagelin’s sub-par production this season, Werner feels finding a trade partner will be difficult. Tom Kuhnhackl could be a more realistic trade chip, especially if promising winger Daniel Sprong joins the roster in the near future.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Pittsburgh Penguins have a need for an experienced backup goaltender. He wouldn’t be surprised if they add one for insurance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins could find it easier to land a backup goalie than a third-line center. As noted above, they could be forced to wait until more clubs start falling out of playoff contention to address their center needs.
They’re not trading Hornqvist. Indeed, if they can free up sufficient cap room, I can see them re-signing him before July 1. Hagelin is signed through 2018-19 and I don’t see any takers unless they absorb part of his salary or take on another toxic contract. Kuhnhackl on his own might not fetch a third-line center until closer to the trade deadline.