NHL Rumor Mill – February 1, 2018
Latest on John Tavares and Erik Gudbranson plus updates on the Coyotes, Sharks and Jets and more in your NHL rumor mill.
TAVARES AFFECTING TRADE DEADLINE DEAL?
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports the holding pattern on the contract status of New York Islanders center John Tavares is affecting the upcoming NHL trade deadline. Tavares is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. With no sign of a contract extension yet, Custance speculates there are NHL teams keeping salary-cap room open this summer in case Tavares tests the market. That could make those clubs reluctant to make moves at the deadline where they take on players signed through next season.
He cites the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues as examples. Both clubs need scoring but their respective management could be reluctant to endanger their cap space by taking on a player with term (such as Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman) at the trade deadline. That could make other pending UFAs, such as Buffalo’s Evander Kane, more valuable at this year’s deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how much effect Tavares’ contract status has on the market leading up to the trade deadline. Given the fact he’s unquestionably the best player potentially available in this summer’s UFA market, it’s understandable why those clubs want to ensure they’ve got sufficient room to pursue him if he hits the market.
I also think those clubs could still pursue playoff-rental players at the trade deadline but they could find decent deals difficult to come by. They could try to wait out the sellers in hopes the asking prices go down. For example, it’s been reported the Sabres seek four pieces (A young NHL player, a first-round pick, a prospect and another pick) for Kane. I believe the clubs interested in him, which could include those carrying lots of cap room next season, will wait in hope the asking price goes down as the deadline draws near.
CANUCKS RE-SIGNING GUDBRANSON NOT A CERTAINTY
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports defenseman Erik Gudbranson is keen on re-signing with the Vancouver Canucks and GM Jim Benning has expressed interest in keeping the pending UFA but there’s no certainty that’s going to happen. He’s completing a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Contract talks have yet to begin and with the trade deadline approaching a lot of compromise and work will be required on both sides.
Given Gudbranson’s role as a physical third-pairing blueliner, MacIntyre doubts the Canucks will commit more than three years and $12 million to keep him. He believes the most likely scenario is Gudbranson will be traded by the deadline, noting the rearguard’s been linked to several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
THE PROVINCE: Jason Botchford believes the Canucks willingness to retain Gudbranson because of his toughness is short-sighted and unreasonable. He notes some people believe Benning is posturing in hopes of building up more interest in Gudbranson in the trade market but the Canucks GM denies this. If they want more toughness, Botchford feels the Canucks can find more affordable options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good points by MacIntyre and Botchford. The Canucks also value Gudbranson’s leadership, which is a valuable asset for a club transitioning toward a younger roster. Still, it’s not worth overpaying for the privilege. If he seeks a long-term deal worth over $4 million annually, I think he’ll be playing elsewhere by Feb. 26.
UPDATE ON THE COYOTES
ARIZONA SPORTS: Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka isn’t expecting any major moves at the trade deadline. He feels there’s no longer a need to infuse his club with more youth compared to previous years. While he wouldn’t rule out tweaking his roster, he doesn’t think there’s a need for significant change.
Morgan also reported earlier this week the play of goaltender Antti Raanta over the remainder of this season will determine his future with the club. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agent status in July and the Coyotes are still determining if he’s the guy they see as their starting goalie going forward.
While Raanta’s name has surfaced in trade chatter, Chaya dismissed it. “That’s just people making a guess based off his contractual status and he’s at a good cap number but I haven’t had a single realistic discussion on him,” Chayka said. “We’re in need of a good goalie and he’s a good goalie. That’s where I’m at.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In case you’re wondering, the Coyotes still see defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson as an untouchable so he won’t be moving at the deadline. If they’re sticking with Raanta, there’s not very much the Coyotes can offer up as a seller in the trade market. Maybe they shop pending UFAs Brad Richardson and Luke Schenn.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there were some rumblings last weekend speculating Joe Thornton’s knee injury could make San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson more active in the trade market. Friedman, however, doesn’t think Wilson’s guaranteed to do much. The Sharks have over $20 million in cap space next season and Friedman think Wilson won’t tamper with that unless it’s for a cornerstone player. He also doesn’t think the Sharks want to part with their 2018 first-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson last week said he was going to look to within for the time being to address Thornton’s absence. If younger players such as Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Timo Meier step up, the Sharks GM won’t have to make a major move by the deadline. So far, however, the Sharks have dropped four straight. Something to keep an eye on with the deadline on the horizon.
Friedman ponders if there’s a left-shot defenseman available who could make the Winnipeg Jets even better. He also wonders if the Toronto Maple Leafs might be showcasing recent call-up forward Kasperi Kapanen.
With the St. Louis Blues loaded on defense, they might not have room for AHL all-star Jordan Schmaltz. Friedman wonders if he might become an interesting asset near the Feb. 26 trade deadline.