NHL Rumor Mill – January 19, 2018
Updates on the Blackhawks, Sabres, Senators and Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
HOW WILL BLACKHAWKS REPLACE CRAWFORD?
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus reports Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman faces a tough decision regarding his goaltending. Starter Corey Crawford remains sidelined indefinitely with vertigo-like symptoms and there’s growing concern he could miss the remainder of the season. Lazerus sees three options for Bowman: shop for a goalie, improve the defense or stand pat.
Possible goaltending options could include Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Detroit’s Peter Mrazek, the New York Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak or Arizona’s Antti Raanta. Trading for a top-four defenseman would significantly bolster the Hawks blueline, but they won’t be the only club “looking for players such as the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, the Red Wings’ Mike Green or the Penguins’ Ian Cole, among others.”
Noting either move could force the Blackhawks to part with a young roster player, Lazerus expects they’ll stand pat with their current goaltending tandem of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass in hopes Crawford returns later this season.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen lists Lehner, Raanta, Mrazek or Jimmy Howard, Toronto’s Calvin Pickard or Garrett Sparks or sticking with their current goalie tandem of Forsberg and Glass as the Hawks possible goaltending options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For now, I expect the Blackhawks will stick with Forsberg and Glass and hope Crawford returns to action in the near future. However, if Crawford’s done for the season, Bowman could take a look at the trade market, though I doubt he’ll find much improvement there. Perhaps he’ll consider bringing in an affordable blueline rental. Forget about Trouba, he’s not going anywhere.
NO CONTRACT TALKS BETWEEN KANE AND SABRES
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports there haven’t been any contract extension talks between the Sabres and pending unrestricted free agent Evander Kane, leaving the 26-year-old left wing expecting to be moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Kane said he absolutely would’ve entertained negotiations with the Sabres on a new contract had they approached him and his agents.
Harrington reports the salary cap was a major deterrent, as the club already has over $43 million invested in seven players (Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zack Bogosian and Marco Scandella) for next season. Kane could move into the $7 million range on his next deal.
The Sabres reportedly seek as many as four assets, including a first-round pick, for Kane. They’re also willing to pick up part of the winger’s remaining salary “as a way to up the ante for potential trade partners.” Harrington speculates potential suitors could include “Pittsburgh, St. Louis, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Nashville and the New York Islanders.”
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Darren Dreger’s appearance on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 discussing Kane’s trade status. Some teams with interest in the winger are apparently reluctant to part with a first-round pick. Even if Sabres GM Jason Botterill can’t find the four-piece return he seeks, Dreger feels the Sabres GM will still move Kane at the deadline for the best return he can get. Dreger also said the asking price seems to be a moving target, with some teams saying Botterill wants four assets and others saying he wants three.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any lingering hope that the Sabres might retain Kane and re-sign him seems dashed now. With seven high-salaried players eating up considerable cap space, they don’t have enough room to retain Kane. Sure, they could try to move another player to free up cap space for Kane but that no longer seems an option.
As for Botterill’s asking price, you can’t blame him for trying to get the best return possible. However, I doubt he’ll get four assets. I can see him getting a first-round pick, perhaps a second and a prospect or a young player.
LATEST ON THE SENATORS AND RANGERS.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Pierre Dorion admits his team faces long odds to reach the playoffs this season but he’s not ready yet to give up on them just yet. Garrioch said the Sens are getting calls from interested teams. “It’s believed forwards Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have received a lot of attention, while a few teams have called about defenceman Cody Ceci,” he writes. Dorion acknowledged the calls but said he’s not shopping anyone. He also said he hasn’t been given any direction by ownership to shed salary.
Regarding team captain Erik Karlsson, Dorion said his priority is to re-sign the former Norris Trophy winner this summer. While he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a trade (“even Wayne Gretzky got traded”), the Sens GM hopes to ensure Karlsson finishes his career as a Senator.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there’s peripheral interest in Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who carries a $7 million annual cap hit through 2020-21. Phaneuf carries a 12-team trade list. “It’s one of those things where teams are always looking for experienced defencemen, they just don’t like the contract,” said Dreger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson won’t be dealt this season. I don’t doubt Dorion’s sincerity that he wants to re-sign his captain, but that’ll depend upon whether he can convince the superstar blueliner that the Sens are heading in the right direction.
I don’t rule out a Phaneuf trade by the deadline, though the Sens might have to pick up part of his cap hit to get it done. Sens owner Eugene Melnyk may not have told Dorion to cut payroll but re-signing Karlsson could be easier if they can move another high-salaried player or two.
I don’t believe the Sens will stage a fire sale but Dorion could move one or two veterans by Feb. 26. Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith have regularly surfaced as trade candidates in the rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggests if the Buffalo Sabres believe Evander Kane “can bring back a package featuring a first-rounder, a prospect and a roster player,”, New York Rangers winger Rick Nash “should be worth at least that, if not more.” Brooks made those remarks in his summary of the Rangers’ 4-3 win on Thursday over the Sabres, as Nash scored twice while Kane was largely invisibles.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m assuming Brooks was being facetious. Nash has enjoyed a long, productive NHL career, but the 33-year-old is on the downside of his career and on pace for 23 goals and 41 points this season. Kane, 26, is in his playing prime. on track for 30 goals and 65 points and should have several more productive seasons ahead of him. At this point, they’re not comparable in this season’s trade market.