NHL Rumor Mill – January 15, 2018
Latest on Thomas Vanek, Evander Kane, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin and Bobby Ryan in your NHL rumor mill.
VANEK LIKELY TO BE DEALT
THE PROVINCE: Jason Botchford recently reported Thomas Vanek hopes to remain with the Vancouver Canucks, but he could be moved by the trade deadline if the club remains out of playoff contention by then. A pending free agent in July, the 34-year-old winger is on pace for a 57-point season. Botchford believes the Canucks need draft picks to continue their rebuild and suggests Vanek could fetch a second- or third-round draft pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vanek is no stranger to being moved at the trade deadline. While he has solid numbers this season, he also has a reputation for coming up small in the heat of postseason competition. That could hurt Vanek’s trade value. Still, I expect the Canucks will get some calls from postseason contenders seeking scoring depth. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks could be among the suitors.
CHANGING NHL COULD AFFECT KANE’S TRADE VALUE
SPORTSNET: Damien Cox speculates the Buffalo Sabres might not get back as much in an Evander Kane trade as some believe, citing the decline of power forwards as the NHL puts emphasis on speed and skill. While Kane has those attributes, his physical skills (strength, size and fighting ability) aren’t as important as they once were. He feels Kane is not a franchise player but more of a complementary winger.
Kane could fetch the Sabres a first-round pick but Cox doubts it’ll be one in the top-ten of this year’s draft. He suggests the Sabres could get something comparable to what the Toronto Maple Leafs got in the Phil Kessel trade (prospect, late first-rounder and a third rounder) two years ago. He also suggests some teams won’t touch Kane because of his personal baggage, which included clashes with teammates and off-ice brushes with the law.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cox makes some valid points here. However, never underestimate the ability of a desperate or championship-hungry NHL general manger to overpay for a player. Kane remains the best player believed available in the trade market and should bring the Sabres a decent return.
MOVING JOHNSON COULD BE CHALLENGING FOR BLUE JACKETS
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline examines the challenges facing the Columbus Blue Jackets in honoring defenseman Jack Johnson’s trade request. He notes the Jackets, despite their recent struggles, are expected to be buyers at the deadline, not sellers. While Johnson has struggled and his playing time reduced this season, he remains an important part of their blueline.
With the Jackets in “win now” mode, Portzline doubts they’ll want a draft pick in return, likely preferring a defenseman. It’s also unclear if there are playoff contenders who see Johnson as a big-minute, top-four rearguard while non-contenders usually aren’t in the market for pending UFAs.
Portzline suggests perhaps the Jackets look at swinging a deal with another playoff club with potentially available UFAs. He notes the Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of blueline help and suggests center Tyler Bozak as a possible trade target.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Portzline is merely speculating with his suggestions of a Johnson-for-Bozak swap. He’s not saying it’s going to happen. Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will be looking for a deal that can help his club this season. Swapping his pending UFA defenseman for a pending UFA center could be the best solution.
UPDATE ON MARTIN
THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks defenseman Paul Martin and his agent Ben Hankinson have been working with GM Doug Wilson to find a trade for the blueliner. Martin is finally healthy after missing most of this season to an ankle injury but he’s been unable to crack the Sharks’ defense. Hankinson said there’s been interest from “some pretty good teams, some top teams,” and they’re trying to work something out. If a trade can’t be completed soon, Pashelka said Martin could be placed on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin’s age (36) and cap hit ($4.85 million) for this season and next could hurt efforts to move him. The Sharks might have to pick up some salary or take back a contracted players to make this work. The New York Islanders could be a suitor. Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello drafted Martin back when he ran the New Jersey Devils so maybe there’s a fit there.
COULD THE SENATORS SHOP RYAN THIS SUMMER?
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek ponders the possibility of the Ottawa Senators finding a creative way to move winger Bobby Ryan or defenseman Dion Phaneuf to free up sufficient salary-cap room to re-sign franchise player Erik Karlsson, who’s eligible in 2019 for UFA status. Both players carry annual cap hits of $7 million.
Noting the Senators left Ryan exposed at last year’s expansion draft, Duhatschek wonders if they might be able to tempt the Vegas Golden Knights this summer if James Neal and/or David Perron depart via free agency. If one or both sign elsewhere, Vegas will be in need for a top-six scorer and will have cap flexibility to find one. Perhaps if the Sens picked up half of Ryan’s $7.25-million cap hit it might make him worth the gamble for Vegas.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duhatschek floats an interesting theory but it depends upon whether the Golden Knights lose Neal and/or Perron to free agency and if they see Ryan as a suitable replacement for either guy. It could also depend upon whether Ryan, who has a 10-team no-trade list, accepts being dealt to Vegas.