NHL Rumor Mill – February 15, 2018
Reviewing The Athletic’s list of Eastern Conference trade deadline buyers and sellers in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun examined the potential buyers and sellers in the Eastern Conference leading up to the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline. First, the Metropolitan Division:
The Washington Capitals are considered “moderate” buyers. They’re unlikely to go big this year as they did last season when they acquired Kevin Shattenkirk. LeBrun believes their top need is for a veteran defenseman at a moderate price and wonders if Ottawa’s Johnny Oduya would make sense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe they’ll also look at the New York Rangers’ Nick Holden or Columbus’ Jack Johnson, though the latter could be more costly.
Pittsburgh Penguins still want to add but have limited salary-cap space. LeBrun wonders if they’ll try to bring back Matt Cullen from Minnesota.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: General manager Jim Rutherford could also perhaps attempt to shed salary in a trade for a center younger than Cullen. With the Penguins having improved in recent weeks, he might be reluctant to tinker too much with his roster.
With goaltender Brian Elliott sidelined five-to-six weeks, the Philadelphia Flyers could be moderate buyers. LeBrun wonders if Buffalo’s Chad Johnson, Detroit’s Petr Mrazek or Toronto’s Calvin Pickard would make sense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers are currently third in the Metropolitan Division. I think GM Ron Hextall will keep an eye on the market but he’ll see how his club performs leading up to the deadline before deciding if he has to add a goalie.
LeBrun expects the New Jersey Devils will be careful buyers, perhaps for a top-nine forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun points out the Devils are still rebuilding and have exceeded expectations this season. GM Ray Shero could add to his roster but he could seek a hockey trade comparable to his swap of Adam Henrique to Anaheim for Sami Vatanen in November. He might not be keen to chase expensive rental players.
Word is the Carolina Hurricanes are open to adding a top-six or top-nine forward in a hockey trade, not a rental deal. GM Ron Francis is also shopping center Marcus Kruger and is willing to absorb part of his cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have considerable depth in defensemen to draw upon for trade bait if they wish to pursue a forward. As per Cap Friendly, Kruger’s cap hit is $3.083 million through 2018-19. He also has a seven-team no-trade list.
The Columbus Blue Jackets would love to acquire a top-six forward. Defenseman Jack Johnson has requested a trade, and it’s believed a low first-round pick is on the table. LeBrun speculates it could take multiple transactions to land a forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, perhaps Johnson gets dealt for a low first-round pick, which is then flipped to another club for a forward.
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow doesn’t want to spend his extra first- and second-round picks in this year’s draft on a rental player. However, he could face pressure to make a hockey trade that bolsters his club’s playoff hopes. LeBrun believes they need help on the blueline more than they need a goaltender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The goalie market is pretty thin right now. If Snow goes shopping he’ll have better luck looking for a defenseman. I don’t see the Rangers shipping someone such as Ryan McDonagh to their archrival, but maybe they’d part with Nick Holden? Detroit’s Mike Green could be available but he’d have to waive his no-movement clause to accept a trade to the Isles. Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole popped up in the rumor mill earlier this season but that chatter has died out with Cole and his teammates improving of late. Vancouver’s Erik Gudbranson could be a shutdown option if the Canucks fail to re-sign him before the deadline.
New York Rangers are sellers. LeBrun expects pending unrestricted free agents Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and Nick Holden to be dealt by the deadline. Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider have also popped up in trade rumors. He feels Rangers GM Jeff Gorton should try peddling McDonagh to Tampa Bay or Boston and Nash to the Nashville Predators.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much depends upon how much Gorton seeks for those players. Right now, the Lightning, Bruins and Predators aren’t in any hurry to make moves. If they’re looking at those players they’re hoping the asking prices become more reasonable as the deadline nears. Gorton can also remain patient finding a suitable deal for McDonagh, who’s signed through next season. If he doesn’t find one now, he can wait until the offseason.
Turning to the Atlantic Division, LeBrun believes Lightning GM Steve Yzerman wants to upgrade his defense before the deadline, either with a rental like Jack Johnson or Mike Green or perhaps a bigger move involving someone like Ryan McDonagh. The Lightning can draw upon their draft picks and deep well of prospects for trade bait.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Yzerman will acquire a defenseman before the deadline. It’ll be interesting to see if he goes for a rental or a long-term option. He has to be careful not to overpay for someone like Johnson, Green or McDonagh.
LeBrun also wouldn’t be surprised if Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney adds a forward or a defenseman. He wonders if Sweeney will go for a rental defenseman or a long-term option like McDonagh, and if he’ll pursue a winger such as Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon. Like the Lightning, the Bruins are deep in prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sweeney supposedly isn’t keen on moving his promising young players or top prospects. Given his club’s surge toward the top of the league’s standings, maybe he’ll be tempted to change his mind for the right offer. The Bruins will be worth watching in the coming days.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could be buyers for a defenseman, as they inquired about Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen before they were traded to their current clubs. It’s also thought they’ve asked about Columbus’ Jack Johnson. The Leafs are also at their maximum ceiling of 50 contracts so they’ll have to move one or two to free up some room. LeBrun doesn’t expect them to move pending UFAs James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak or Leo Komarov.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs could try to dangle Josh Leivo and Nikita Soshnikov. There’s also talk of moving rugged winger Matt Martin.
The Detroit Red Wings are considered sellers. Pending UFA defenseman Mike Green is a big fish in the trade market and could waive his no-movement clause to join a contender. LeBrun suggests shopping pending restricted free agent goalie Petr Mrazek to the Flyers or Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Lightning come calling for Green he’ll likely have no problem waiving that clause to go to Tampa Bay. Maybe the Flyers or Isles get desperate enough to take a chance on Mrazek, though both clubs could look at other options. There’s also talk the Wings could try to move Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist before the deadline, though the latter would have to waive his NMC. So far, they haven’t asked him to do so.
The Florida Panthers could be sellers but GM Dale Tallon said he won’t be moving any of their core of young talent. Veteran winger Radim Vrbata could be on the market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently suggested the Panthers could be a stealth suitor for Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. However, if Tallon sticks by his word about not moving anyone from his young core, forget about Pacioretty joining the Panthers. The Habs need a scoring center and Pacioretty is probably their best trade bait to get one.
Speaking of Pacioretty, LeBrun doesn’t see the Montreal Canadiens moving him before the deadline unless a rival club is willing to part with a good young center as part of the return. Pending UFA center Tomas Plekanec might be dealt but there’s also talk the Habs could re-sign him. Forward Andrew Shaw has also surfaced in the rumor mill but the Canadiens could be reluctant to move him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also recently told Montreal’s TSN 690 he hasn’t heard Canadiens winger Alex Galchenyuk come up very much in recent trade chatter. Doesn’t mean he won’t get dealt by the deadline. Galchenyuk, like Pacioretty, is under contract beyond this season. The Canadiens can afford to wait for solid offers.
The Ottawa Senators are sellers. Having shipped out Dion Phaneuf to Los Angeles, GM Pierre Dorion is said to be listening to offers on Derick Brassard, Mike Hoffman, Zach Smith and Ryan Dzingel, who are all signed beyond this season. Dorion seeks a first-round pick, top prospect and a third piece for Brassard. It’s also believed he wants more than a first-round pick for Hoffman. The Sens GM can afford to wait until this summer to get the deals he likes for those players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Senators picking up part of Phaneuf’s contract to move him, perhaps they’ll look at doing the same with winger Bobby Ryan. He’s signed through 2021-22 at an annual average value of $7.25 million plus a modified no-trade clause. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports there’s been no mention of Ryan but suggests the Phaneuf trade could make a Ryan deal possible.
As everyone knows, the Buffalo Sabres are listening to offers for left wing Evander Kane. It’s believed they’re seeking a first-round pick, a top prospect and another asset for Kane. However, if the Rangers trade Rick Nash soon, it could set the market value for Kane. The Sabres are also listening on Benoit Pouliot, Jordan Nolan, Josh Gorges and Chad Johnson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if Nash or Kane gets moved first, as one will affect the value of the other leading up to Feb. 26.