NHL Rumor Mill – January 31, 2018
Latest on the Canadiens, Canucks and Jets plus an update on John Tavares in your NHL rumor mill.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Montreal Canadiens could continue fielding calls about left wing Max Pacioretty up to the trade deadline but there’s no certainty they’ll move him. It depends upon whether a team will step up with an offer that includes a young center as part of the package. Otherwise, they could retain him and look at reaching a decision on his future in the offseason. Pacioretty is eligible in July 2019 for UFA status.
LeBrun also reports it’s possible the Canadiens could attempt to re-sign pending UFA center Tomas Plekanec if they can get him re-signed for a cheap deal that makes sense. LeBrun still feels there’s a good chance Plekanec could be dealt by the deadline.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Listed the Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks as possible trade destinations for Max Pacioretty.
The Predators have some attractive prospects, such as KHL forward Eeli Tolvanen and Boston University defenseman Dante Fabbro. Sharks forward Tomas Hertl and young center Josh Norris could interest Habs general manager Marc Bergevin. The notion of acquiring sidelined Blues winger Robby Fabbri isn’t far-fetched as the Canadiens are out of playoff contention, plus the Blues also have offensive prospects such as Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Klim Kostin.
The Jets have promising youngsters such as Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Chase De Leo, Nic Petan and Logan Stanley. Flames young forward Sam Bennett can skate at center but he’s been slow to develop. They also have prospects Jusso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson in their system.
Kings prospects Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Kale Clague could be trade chips, but they’re unlikely to part with Gabriel Vilardi. The Ducks have promising youngsters in center Sam Steel and defenseman Jacob Larsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While it’s possible one of those clubs could make a tempting pitch for Pacioretty at the trade deadline, I’ll be surprised if they actually do so. At this stage I think most of them are more interested in playoff rentals. If the Sharks go shopping it’ll be for a center, not a left wing, as Joe Thornton is currently out for at least several weeks with a knee injury. Pacioretty being eligible next summer for UFA status could make some teams leery of parting with assets for a player who could depart in 2019 via free agency.
As for Plekanec, maybe he stays on a one-year deal but it’ll have to be worth much less than his current $6 million cap hit. I can see him being moved at the trade deadline.
UPDATE ON TAVARES
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox listed several factors that suggest center John Tavares could end up re-signing with the New York Islanders. Eight years of contract security could be comforting for a player who’s suffered two season-ending injuries in the past four seasons. Tavares has said contract talks are always open and “they’ve been great so far.” The transition toward a new arena in Belmont Park marks a return to the club’s geographical heart. Tavares has said that could factor into his decision.
The Isles captain has plenty of praise for head coach Doug Weight and for the club’s depth in promising young talent. Tavares also doesn’t seem bitter about seeing peers such as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar winning multiple championships while he’s only gotten to the second round once.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Paul Gackle noted the rumors linking the San Jose Sharks to “Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, Evander Kane of the Buffalo Sabres and Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators in the rumor mill.” However, he believes the cost of acquiring one of those players could be a couple of their promising prospects, which could undermine the club’s efforts to transition toward a younger roster whilst remaining a contender in the Western Conference.
Gackle also suggests the Sharks might be better off waiting until this summer, when John Tavares might be available via free agency. If Tavares leaves the Islanders, Gackle suggests the Sharks are among the few clubs with sufficient salary-cap space to sign him to a long-term deal worth over $10 million per season while also giving him a viable shot at winning the Stanley Cup. He acknowledges, however, landing Tavares is no guarantee.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if the Islanders fail to reach the playoffs this year, that’s no certainty that Tavares will hit the open market. I think he’ll need assurances that the club is heading in the right direction and intends on building toward Cup contention. It could also come down to how many teams are in position to pay him top dollar while still giving him a shot at winning a championship. As Gackle notes, there aren’t many clubs in that position. Tavares’ status will remain a hot topic through late-June and will likely ramp up once the playoffs end.
JETS COULD BE BUYERS
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Chevaldayoff will be a buyer leading up to the trade deadline. “He’s willing to move futures before this deadline if a deal makes sense. The Jets are playoff-bound and he wants to help them,” write LeBrun.
SPORTSNET: In the wake of news Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba will miss six-to-eight weeks with an ankle injury, Elliotte Friedman said the Jets feel they can get by without the sidelined blueliner. He notes Trouba will return later this season plus they also have Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the right side. Instead, he thinks they could look for a left-side blueliner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman points out, the Jets are a very good team this year and they know they’re a contender. I expect Cheveldayoff will make a move or two to improve his club’s chances for a deep playoff run.
UPDATES ON THE CANUCKS
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the intentions of Vancouver Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin might not be resolved until season’s end or perhaps the summer. The twins are eligible for unrestricted free agent status in July. Don’t expect them to be moved at the trade deadline as both carry no-movement clauses in their contracts.
Regarding pending UFA defenseman Erik Gudbranson, Bob McKenzie reports the Canucks’ first priority is try to negotiate a contract extension. Discussions are expected to pick up between the two sides over the next week or two. If they can’t work out a new deal, he could become a playoff rental at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sedins aren’t going anywhere at the trade deadline and I wouldn’t be surprised if they return next season on on-year, incentive-laden contracts. I agree with McKenzie that Gudbranson will become a playoff rental if he and the Canucks fail to work out a contract extension before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.