NHL Rumor Mill – February 16, 2018
A review of The Athletic’s list of Western Conference buyers and sellers at the trade deadline in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun examined the Western Conference buyers and sellers leading up to the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline. First, the Central Division:
LeBrun considers the Nashville Predators to be buyers. General manager David Poile already made a notable trade earlier this season (Kyle Turris) and former captain Mike Fisher has come out of retirement to rejoin the roster. However, Poile might not be done dealing as they’re “all-in” this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Poile won’t make a reckless move, but I agree that he’ll be aggressive in the trade market in search of a scoring forward. The Preds came close to winning the Stanley Cup last season and want to go all the way this year.
Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is calling around looking for a forward and a defenseman. LeBrun believes Cheveldayoff inquired about Ottawa center Derick Brassard. He also wonders if Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson might be a fit with the Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Darren Dreger believes the Jets are among the clubs interested in Edmonton Oilers winger Patrick Maroon. They won’t part with a first-round pick but they have the depth in young assets to tempt the Oilers. The Sens’ reported asking price for Brassard (first-round pick, top prospect, third asset) should send Cheveldayoff looking for other options. They’ve also been linked to the Rangers’ Rick Nash but I don’t see the Jets GM overpaying for him. Maybe he seeks more affordable players like Nash’s teammate Michael Grabner.
St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong would prefer a hockey trade to add a forward rather than giving up assets for a rental player. LeBrun wonders if Armstrong could have interest in Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman or Montreal’s Max Pacioretty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Landing Hoffman or Pacioretty will be expensive. Armstrong might be forced to consider an affordable rental addition and look ahead to this summer to land a long-term asset.
The Dallas Stars have been suggested as a destination for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash, but LeBrun doesn’t believed GM Jim Nill has a big desire to pursue an expensive rental. He could prefer adding a forward for a moderate price. The health of defenseman Marc Methot will also be a factor in the Stars’ trade-deadline plans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ties to Nash were based on Stars bench boss Ken Hitchcock having coached the winger when they were with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I don’t doubt Hitchcock and Nash think highly of each other but Nill doesn’t seem like he’s keen to go after the veteran winger.
LeBrun also suspects the Minnesota Wild would prefer a player-for-player deal. It’s doubtful GM Chuck Fletcher will part with his first-round pick after doing so last year in the Martin Hanzal deal. He also lacks a second-round pick but has three third-round selections.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing defenseman Jonas Brodin for a month to a broken hand could have Fletcher eyeing the market for an affordable depth defenseman. There’s also rumblings he might ship center Matt Cullen back to Pittsburgh. Much will depend upon his club’s performance in the days leading up to the deadline.
Where the Colorado Avalanche are in the standings by the deadline could determine if they’re buyers or sellers. If there’s a deal for a top-nine forward to be had, they might consider it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Joe Sakic garnered a measure of respect for his three-way trade earlier in the season that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa. His club is exceeding expectations this season, which could tempt him to look for an affordable forward.
The Chicago Blackhawks could be sellers, though they don’t have any obvious parts to sell off. They’ll be careful with their future assets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve seen some unhappy Blackhawks fans calling upon GM Stan Bowman to dump the expensive contracts of veteran defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Both have obviously declined this season, but they’re also still the best blueliners the Blackhawks have. Besides, their lengthy deals are difficult to move. Factor in their respective full no-movement clauses and they’re not going anywhere. Maybe they’ll try to shop pending free agent forward Patrick Sharp if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause.
In the Pacific Division, LeBrun believes it’s yet to be determined if the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will be buyers or sellers. Though there’s a risk of losing forwards James Neal and David Perron to free agency in July, it’s one they’re willing to take. GM George McPhee could be content to keep the current roster intact. He could also be reluctant to part with draft picks for a rental player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering how well the Golden Knights are playing, standing pat might be the best option for McPhee. Why tinker with a good thing? They weren’t expected to reach the playoffs, let alone dominate the Western Conference. Probably best to leave them be and see what they can do in the postseason.
LeBrun also think the San Jose Sharks aren’t eager to chase any high-end rental players. GM Doug Wilson could make a move for a moderate forward but will ensure he leaves sufficient cap space to use this summer to boost his roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks are transitioning with young players and Wilson wants to save his cap space to make a big splash either in this summer’s trade market or via free agency. I don’t expect any major moves on his part right now.
The Calgary Flames lack first- and second-round picks in this year’s draft, leading LeBrun to suggest prospect goaltender Jon Gillies as a trade chip for the right price. He also feels winger Mike Hoffman would be a great fit in Calgary but not at the high price the Senators have set for him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could explain why the Flames are being linked to the Rangers’ Michael Grabner.
Having acquired a veteran defenseman in Dion Phaneuf, the Los Angeles Kings could be in the market for a “mid-level skilled/scoring winger.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think Blake’s done dealing. There was talk earlier this season that he could move a blueliner like Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez for a scoring forward. With Phaneuf on the blueline, maybe he’ll consider moving Muzzin or Martinez for a scorer. Then again, he could be content to wait for sidelined forward Jeff Carter to return to the lineup by month’s end.
Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray could need a little more time to determine if he’ll be a buyer or seller. His club could use more speed at forward and LeBrun suggests New York Rangers winger Michael Grabner as an option. However, it might not make sense to add a rental player if they’re uncertain of reaching the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As of today, the Ducks sit just one point out of a wild-card berth. If they can push into a postseason spot in a week’s time, Murray could be tempted to become a buyer.
The Edmonton Oilers are shopping forwards Mark Letestu and Patrick Maroon. LeBrun considers Letestu a goner for sure but Maroon’s status has yet to be determined. GM Peter Chiarelli will have to weight the value of the best trade offer against re-signing Maroon and at what price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Oilers move Maroon, LeBrun believes they’d prefer to get a top prospect, someone who’s closer to reaching the NHL and having an impact on their roster. However, the door remains open for the two sides to reach an agreement on a new contract.
LeBrun’s colleague Darren Dreger believes Chiarelli also hopes to add a winger who can skate with Connor McDavid, a defenseman to help their transition game and a goaltender who can push starter Cam Talbot. Obviously, he won’t be able to address all those needs at the deadline, but maybe he can find a solution to one of them.
Vancouver Canucks forward Thomas Vanek is “up for grabs”, while a decision has to be made over whether to re-sign or trade defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vanek’s been linked to the Jets and Boston Bruins. I’ll be surprised if he’s still a Canuck on deadline day. If the Canucks haven’t reached an agreement with Gudbranson on a new contract in a week’s time, I expect he’ll hit the trade block.
The Arizona Coyotes aren’t shopping winger Max Domi, but LeBrun believes they’re willing to listen to a serious offer that makes sense. Same goes for everyone on the Coyotes except untouchables Oliver Ekman-Larsson and rookie Clayton Keller.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think the Yotes are going to get a serious offer for Domi that makes sense right now. Interested clubs are hoping to buy low because he’s struggled this season. Best to hang onto Domi, re-sign him to a two-year bridge contract and give him time to regain his form. I also believe the Coyotes want to re-sign pending UFA goalie Antti Raanta. However, if he’s keen to test the market they could shop him by the deadline.