NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2017
Latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tuukka Rask plus updates on the Canadiens, Oilers & Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reports Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka is nowhere close to trading defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Chayka’s always said his intention is to re-sign Ekman-Larsson, who’s eligible in 2019 for unrestricted free agency. Unless the blueliner decides he wants out, Friedman believes Chayka still wants to retain him.
Depending on what happens this season, Friedman speculates Coyotes rearguard Niklas Hjalmarsson could be a trade chip. He think a contender would love to land Hjalmarsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekman-Larsson has also said all the right things about wanting to stay in Arizona. Unless he changes his mind or if he proves too expensive to re-sign, he could stay put. If things don’t work out, however, the earliest I see him hitting the trade block is next summer, when teams have more cap room and willingness to make trades.
Hjalmarsson, on the other hand, seems more likely to be moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Like Ekman-Larsson, he’s eligible for UFA status in 2019. Though he has a full no-movement clause, that’s to prevent him getting demoted to the minors. He carries a 10-team no-trade list. However, he’s good friends with Ekman-Larsson and that could ensure he stays in Arizona for the rest of the season.
Despite speculation the Montreal Canadiens could make big changes, Friedman believes it might take time. He feels they go for the playoffs this season until they know they can’t make it. He thinks the Pittsburgh Penguins might keep an eye on Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty if he becomes available. Friedman also sees a situation where Canadiens goalie Carey Price gets traded. ” If someone walked up to you this second and claimed Price wanted out, could you blame him? I would protect my family at any cost.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman seems to be alluding to recent speculation by so-called Canadiens “insiders” suggesting Price’s wife Angela was unhappy in Montreal and wanted a divorce, prompting her to take to social media dismissing those rumors. It’s one thing to speculate about a player’s trade status, but engaging in baseless conjecture about his personal life crosses the line.
If the Canadiens making some sweeping changes, that could happen if they’re out of playoff contention by February. As for possible interest in Pacioretty by the Penguins, their biggest need remains depth at center, but they could use some scoring punch on left wing.
MORE OILERS AND CANADIENS SPECULATION
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Darren Dreger’s appearance Tuesday on Toronto’s TSN 1050 and Montreal’s TSN 690 discussing trade possibilities. He notes the Edmonton Oilers need a defenseman and there’s plenty of speculation concerning Columbus Blue Jackets rearguard Ryan Murray. With the Jackets in the market for a center, Dreger wondered if a swap of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Murray was possible. He doesn’t think the Oilers are keen to move Nugent-Hopkins and the asking price for Murray could be too high right now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Oilers aren’t willing to move Nugent-Hopkins, I don’t see a trade going down with Columbus. Unlike Oilers general manage Peter Chiarelli, Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t under pressure to make a big move right now. I think he’ll wait until the trade deadline if necessary to find a suitable center for the right price.
Dreger also said he was asked by a team last weekend if the Montreal Canadiens might part with pesky winger Brendan Gallagher. Unless the Habs could get a big defenseman that can provide immediate improvement, he doesn’t see them moving Gallagher.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallagher’s been the Habs best forward of late. They’re not moving him.
SHOULD THE BRUINS SEEK A REPLACEMENT FOR RASK?
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty notes the decline over the past three seasons in the play of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. He feels the Bruins cannot contend for the Stanley Cup with Rask as their starter. “Rask is being paid as a $7 million-a-year franchise goalie, but he’s not playing like one. And there’s four years beyond this left on the contract,” writes Haggerty.
Of late, Rask is riding the pine behind backup Anton Khudobin. Haggerty believes they’ll have to play Rask “and pump up his value if they any hopes of trading him in the future.” He believes the Bruins must “draft, sign or trade for Rask’s heir apparent” and pave the way for that goalie to be in Boston in two year’s time when they should be ready for a Stanley Cup push.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether the Bruins are ready to push for the Cup in two years’ time remains to be seen. It could also be a little hasty to give up on Rask. Granted, his performance hasn’t been good this season, but he won 37 games last season (eight of those were shutouts), with a solid 2.23 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. He also exceeded 30 wins in each of the last four seasons. He could return to form as this season progresses.
If the Bruins were to put Rask on the trade block at some point, his contract could prove difficult to move. He also carries a modified no-trade clause over the final years of that deal.