NHL Rumor Mill – December 28, 2017
The NHL holiday trade freeze is over. Here’s the latest on Kris Letang, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Hoffman and Anthony Duclair in your NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman touched again on recent trade speculation regarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who has four seasons remaining on a contract with a $7.25 million annual average value and a modified no-trade clause. He notes the theory the Pens want to free up salary-cap space and the fact they won the Stanley Cup last season without him. Despite Letang’s talent, his health history (which includes concussions and a stroke) remains an issue. Friedman wonders if moving the veteran blueliner could be too complex to pull off during the season.
Friedman sees a trade match with the Montreal Canadiens and believes they’re on Letang’s list of trade destinations. Adding him, however, would mean the Habs would have over $27 million invested in Letang, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Karl Alzner. Friedman also wonders about the Detroit Red Wings “whenever a top defender is available.”
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Despite defenseman Ian Cole being a frequent healthy scratch of late, Jason Mackey reports he remains an attractive trade piece for opposing teams. It’s unlikely Cole finishes this season with the Penguins. Another could be hard-nosed forward Tom Kuhnhackl, who’s behind several young and talented forwards on the Pens’ depth chart.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the trade freeze lifted there’s considerable anticipation the Penguins, who made a couple of small moves before the freeze, could swing a bigger deal to shake things up. Trading Letang would certainly do that. As I observed yesterday, the Dion Phaneuf trade in February 2016 proved a high-salaried defenseman can be moved in-season, but Letang’s long injury history and his current struggles this season could make him a tougher sell than Phaneuf.
If the Canadiens were to pursue Letang (and that’s a big “if” at this point), the Pens could ask for Max Pacioretty or Alex Galchenyuk in return. Pacioretty is mired in a lengthy scoring drought this season, but he has five 30-goals seasons on his resume and should regain his form playing alongside talented centers such as Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. He carries a $4.5 million cap hit, lacks no-trade protection and is eligible in 2019 for UFA status. Galchenyuk is a little more expensive ($4.9 million through 2019-20) but he’s younger than Pacioretty and could blossom on a deeper club.
McDONAGH’S FUTURE WITH THE RANGERS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently suggested the New York Rangers must start considering their options with captain Ryan McDonagh, who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. He believes the Rangers cannot afford to let McDonagh walk for nothing in July 2019. While this hasn’t been McDonagh’s best season, it’s largely due to the lack of a top-pairing defense partner on his right side. Brooks thinks his greatest value could be as a trade chip, either at the Feb. 26 trade deadline or at the 2018 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t believe the Rangers will trade McDonagh this season. However, I don’t rule out the possibility of a move at the draft or in July. The Blueshirts can open contract extension talks with McDonagh on July 1. If it quickly appears both sides are far apart, perhaps a trade takes place soon afterward.
NO FIT FOR HOFFMAN WITH OILERS?
Elliotte Friedman also doubts Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman ends up with the Edmonton Oilers. Hoffman was frequently linked to the Oilers in recent weeks but Friedman said it doesn’t seem like there’s a trade match there. He wonders if the Carolina Hurricanes or St. Louis Blues take a look at him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes could certainly use more scoring punch, but I think their preference is adding a center. With Jaden Schwartz sidelined for several weeks with an ankle injury and Robby Fabbri out for the season with a knee injury, the Blues could make inquiries into Hoffman’s availability. If the Senators move Hoffman I expect they’ll want a young player plus a quality prospect or draft pick in return.
COYOTES SHOPPING DUCLAIR?
Friedman also reports it sounds as though the Arizona Coyotes are working to give struggling young winger Anthony Duclair a fresh start. He believes somebody could take a shot at the 22-year-old Duclair.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After a promising 20-goal, 44-point rookie campaign in 2015-16, Duclair managed only 15 points in 58 games as a sophomore and spent part of the season in the minors. He’s made some improvement this season with 13 points in 29 games but there’s still work to be done. Given his youth and potential, I think the Coyotes shouldn’t have much difficulty finding a trade partner.