NHL Rumor Mill – November 24, 2017
Possible trade deadline trade bait, an update on Erik Gudbranson and the latest on the Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.
WHICH CENTERS COULD BE MOVED THIS SEASON?
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman’s appearance Thursday on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 discussing which centers could be on the move by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He acknowledged it’s difficult to foresee right now but took a stab at suggesting some candidates.
Friedman wondered if the Arizona Coyotes might flip center Derek Stepan at some point but wasn’t sure if they would. He notes the Buffalo Sabres aren’t moving Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly. “And unless you think Sam Reinhart is a center, he’s probably not the answer to your question either.”
Friedman also wondered recently about Jason Spezza’s status with the Dallas Stars but observed he’s “starting to go a little bit again” with Martin Hanzal sidelined. He’s also curious about what the Edmonton Oilers might do with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if they’re out of the playoff chase later in the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those mentioned by Friedman (and he’s not saying any of them are available), Nugent-Hopkins seems the most likely trade candidate. He’s among the few brights spots for the Oilers this season and I think they’d like to shed salary before Connor McDavid’s big contract kicks in next season.
RNH’s trade value is probably high right now and I believe there could be considerable interest if he becomes available by the trade deadline. Of course, his $6 million annual salary through 2020-21 is a sticking point, one that makes an offseason move more likely.
LATEST ON GUDBRANSON
Friedman also said he thinks Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson could attract attention in this year’s trade market if he’s healthy. A lot could depend upon the Canucks’ asking price, which Friedman doesn’t expect to be very high because of Gudbranson’s pending UFA status. He thinks the 25-year-old blueliner could work well in the playoffs in a structured system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could move Gudbranson if unable to re-sign him before the trade deadline, but that’s not a certainty. The Canucks are off to a better-than-expected start to this season and are jockeying for a playoff spot. GM Jim Benning recently praised Gudbranson for his toughness and his leadership with their young players. If they’re in playoff contention by February, they could opt to retain Gudbranson for a postseason push.
LATEST BLUE JACKETS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline addressed some questions from his readers regarding possible moves by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He believes they would “absolutely listen to any trade talk involving a top-six center as part of a trade for one of their defensemen not named Jones or Werenski.” Asked if they might move blueliner David Savard for a center, Portzline suggests that would leave the Jackets down to one right-handed defenseman.
Portzline also doesn’t think the Jackets have seen enough from promising Pierre-Luc Dubois to justify moving struggling center Alexander Wennberg. As for acquiring Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he thinks that would cost the Jackets “(Ryan) Murray or (Markus) Nutivaara plus some more “today” help for the Oilers.” He feels Jack Johnson’s UFA status next summer is an impediment to a trade. Still, he thinks the Jackets and Oilers make sense as trade partners.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the Jackets will make a move for a center before this season’s trade deadline. Given their position in the standings right now, they’re not in a rush to do so. As Portzline observes, they haven’t had the right offer yet. I daresay those will come after the calendar flips to January and more teams fall out of the playoff chase.
Nugent-Hopkins could be a good fit with the Jackets but it will likely cost what Portzline suggested to get him. They could opt instead to remain patient and hope a more affordable option appears as the trade deadline nears.