NHL Rumor Mill – December 7, 2017
Updates on the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.
SABRES GOALIES DRAWING INTEREST
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports Sabres goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson could be attracting interest from clubs with sidelined netminders seeking additional depth between the pipes. He notes Lehner ($4 million) and Johnson ($2.5 million) are on one-year contracts and promising Linus Ullmark could be ready to take over the starter’s job by next season. There are goaltending injuries in places like Edmonton, Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that could lead those teams to look to Buffalo for help.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner could draw the most attention though his salary could be an issue unless the Sabres pick up part of it. GM Jason Botterill could also seek a higher return for Lehner. Johnson, who’s more affordable, has a decent record as a backup. The Oilers and Penguins were reportedly among the clubs with the most interest in those two. Given the struggles of Laurent Brossoit, perhaps the Oilers could take a closer look at Johnson.
SENATORS TO LOOK TO WITHIN?
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports limited trade options could force Senators GM Pierre Dorion to look to within to find help for his struggling club. Garrioch said only “the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are active in the trade market,” and feels the real problem for the Senators is few players are performing up to their full capabilities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With only one victory in their last nine games, the Senators must turn things around soon or risk falling into a hole in the standings too deep to climb out of. They’re five points out of third in the Atlantic Division and nine points out of a wild-card spot.
As for those clubs Garrioch claims are active in the trade market, the Sabres are making minor moves right now, the Jackets could seek a depth center, the Oilers need goaltending help and the Sharks need scorers. Doesn’t appear any of them at this point are good fits for the Sens.
LATEST ON THE BLUE JACKETS
THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline addressed some questions from Columbus Blue Jackets fans regarding possible moves by their club. With the Jackets winning eight of their last 11 games, he doubts they’ll make a trade now simply for the sake of doing so. He expects GM Jarmo Kekalainen could make a move near the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Replying to a reader’s question about including winger Boone Jenner in a trade for a No.1 center, Portzline doesn’t think he’d be out of the question in those type of discussions. However, moving Jenner means the Jackets would lose “a lot of their gumption along the wall and in the corner.”
Regarding the status of struggling center Alexander Wennberg, Portzline feels the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois means moving out Wennberg “is no longer a non-starter.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blue Jackets currently aren’t in any rush to swing a deal. Doesn’t mean Kekalainen isn’t monitoring the trade market, as we know he was interested in center Matt Duchene before Colorado dealt him to Ottawa last month. However, Dubois’ solid play thus far on the Jackets’ first line suggests their need for a No.1 center is no longer a top priority. Instead, they could look at bringing in a skilled No.3 center.
After consecutive 40-plus point seasons (59 in 2016-17), Wennberg is on pace for only 35 points this season. Perhaps he might benefit from a change of scenery. As for Jenner, the return must be significant for Kekalainen to part with him.