NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2018
Latest on the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE CANADIENS TRADE THE THIRD-OVERALL PICK?
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey suggests trading the third-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in a package deal might be the best way for the Montreal Canadiens to bring in much-needed depth at center. Hickey notes the club has had “underwhelming” results with their first-round selections in recent years, with only Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban becoming bona fide NHL stars in Montreal.
Hickey notes the difficulty in wooing New York Islanders center John Tavares via free agency and the lack of depth among this summer’s UFA centers. He believes a trade is the best option to bring in a scoring center, perhaps even by packaging Pacioretty with that draft pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With that third-overall pick, the Canadiens are sure to get a high-quality prospect with the potential to blossom into an NHL star. However, the top prospects expected to be available by the time the Habs step to the podium to make their selection are wingers such as the Halifax Mooseheads’ Filip Zadina or Boston University’s Brady Tkachuk. They wont fill the void at center. I’m sure general manager Marc Bergevin will explore his options, including perhaps packaging that pick in a deal for a center.
The problem, of course, is finding the right deal. There’s speculation Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly might be available. Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins frequently surfaced in the trade-rumor mill over the past two years but Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli insists RNH won’t be dealt. The Canadiens were linked to Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle, who can play center and wing, before the trade deadline. However, he’s not worth a third-overall selection.
SHORT-TERM CENTER TARGETS FOR THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: Mike Halford reports the Vancouver Canucks could be busy attempting to shore up their depth at center this summer. “Vancouver will need someone that can drive things offensively, be responsible defensively and provide veteran leadership and insulation while continuing to build a “competitive environment,” writes Halford. He also believes they don’t want to be saddled with an onerous contract.
Free-agent options could include Toronto’s Tyler Bozak, Philadelphia’s Valtteri Filppula, Boston’s Riley Nash, Carolina’s Derek Ryan or Swedish forward Par Lindholm. Halford also suggests the Canucks use their salary-cap space to their advantage by acquiring Jason Spezza from the Dallas Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All would be reasonable short-term pickups for the Canucks. In Spezza’s case, they could also probably pry a decent draft pick or prospect away from the Stars, who could be keen to shed his $7.5-million salary-cap hit. He’s also got just one year left on his contract, which wouldn’t handcuff the Canucks beyond next season. Of course, that depends upon whether Spezza is willing to accept a trade to Vancouver. Cap Friendly indicates he’s got a 10-team “no-trade” list.
LATEST ON THE BLUE JACKETS
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace expects the Blue Jackets will stick with centers Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexander Wennberg, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky next season. He believes it would be too expensive to land New York Islanders center John Tavares if he tests the free-agent market and doubts Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will dabble too much in the UFA market. Kekalainen could rely on a bounce-back performance by Dubinsky and continued improvement by Dubois and Wennberg.
Arace expects Thomas Vanek, Jack Johnson and perhaps Matt Calvert will depart via free agency but thinks the Jackets will try to re-sign defenseman Ian Cole. Restricted free agents Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand should be re-signed. He notes Kekalainen faces big decisions with winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who are both eligible next summer for UFA status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen could explore the trade market for a center this summer but I concur with Arace that he could stand pat with his current centers and hope for improvement next season. There’s questions about Jenner’s future after the drop-off in his offensive production but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s re-signed.
I also expect Panarin and Bobrovsky will be re-upped this summer. Both are too valuable to be allowed to depart via free agency. Yes, it’ll cost a lot to keep them but letting either guy walk away next summer could be a significant setback for the Jackets’ Cup contention hopes.