NHL Rumor Mill – December 29, 2017
Updates on Kris Letang, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Pacioretty plus the latest Senators speculation in your NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON LETANG
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman’s Thursday appearance on Edmonton’s 630 CHED discussing the recent trade chatter regarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. Friedman agrees with Sportsnet colleague Nick Kypreos that the Pens may have floated Letang’s name in the trade waters to see what other clubs are willing to do. While praising Letang’s abilities, Friedman noted his long injury history plus his contract that runs through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $7.25 million. He believes the Pens are looking at acquiring forwards.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien notes Letang’s previous health issues and his current on-ice struggles means the Penguins would be “selling low,” doubting they’ll get anything close to equal value in return. That won’t help them in their quest to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup championship. “Even a Letang for picks and prospects situation is very, very troubling,” said O’Brien.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford isn’t afraid to make significant moves well before the trade deadline, so I don’t doubt speculation he may have been gauging Letang’s value in the trade market. But as O’Brien points out, it won’t be easy to get a decent return for him right now. The fact he’s currently on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 24 will only heighten those health concerns. Trading Letang at midseason isn’t impossible but getting a return that boosts the Pens’ Cup hopes won’t be easy.
UPDATE ON EKMAN-LARSSON
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka insists there no chance he’ll trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who’s eligible in 2019 to become an unrestricted free agent. While Chayka and the Coyotes hope to re-sign Ekman-Larsson, his agent hints his client will want to see results that things are going in the right direction. While the Coyotes can afford to re-sign the blueliner, Custance feels management’s vision for the future, arena issues and the ability to win the Cup are boxes Ekman-Larsson still needs checked in Arizona.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman telling Toronto’s Sportsnet 590 he believes the Maple Leafs are waiting for the right piece for their blueline to emerge. He noted the rumors linking the Leafs earlier this season to Ekman-Larsson as people wonder if he’ll become available. However, Friedman doubts the Coyotes want to trade him, suggesting they’ll do everything they can to re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The summer of 2018 could determine Ekman-Larsson’s future. The Coyotes can open contract discussions on July 1, but if those talks stall or he decides to test the market in 2019, Chayka could have little choice but to shop him. If so, expect the Leafs to be among the suitors for his services.
CANADIENS NOT SHOPPING PACIORETTY
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites insider Darren Dreger discussing the trade status of Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty with Montreal’s TSN 690. While agreeing with NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire that Pacioretty remains a very valued commodity in the NHL trade market and could fetch the Canadiens a solid return, Dreger said the Habs continue to insist they’re not shopping the left winger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Habs captain is eligible for UFA status in 2019 and carries an affordable $4.5 million annual cap hit. Despite Pacioretty’s offensive struggles this season, he’s a five-time 30-goal scorer. That makes him very attractive for clubs seeking scoring punch. I don’t believe the Canadiens will trade Pacioretty this season, but it could become a possibility next summer. Much will depend upon whether Marc Bergevin remains the GM after this season and whether Pacioretty believes his long-term future is in Montreal.
SENATORS MOVES COMING SOON?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the word in NHL circles is Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion isn’t ready to sell off assets yet, but he’s willing to discuss every player except captain Erik Karlsson and winger Mark Stone. The most popular trade candidates could be “winger Mike Hoffman, centres Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenceman Cody Ceci.” It’s believed several clubs have interest in Hoffman, with the St. Louis Blues considered the frontrunner. Dorion doesn’t want a total rebuild but if they make changes they’ll seek younger players
THE ATHLETIC: James Gordon calls upon Dorion to avoid a “panic teardown”. With the Senators struggling to score, he’s against the idea of trading Hoffman. Gordon instead suggests shopping Ceci and forward Zack Smith and backfill with youth from within their system. He feels moving Ceci could help the Sens recoup some of the young assets they gave up in the Matt Duchene deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators will be sellers in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 26 trade deadline. I don’t see them doing a complete roster overhaul, but I expect they’ll move one or two veterans if they can get a couple of younger NHL-ready players in return. Hoffman could certainly fetch one of them, but as Gordon suggests, moving him weakens an already anemic offense. Despite Ceci’s struggles this season, he could still prove enticing for clubs seeking a promising young defenseman.