NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2018
Latest on the Rangers and Maple Leafs in your NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE RANGERS BE BUSY IN THE TRADE MARKET THIS SEASON?
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz speculates the New York Rangers could once again be active in the trade market. Citing their ongoing rebuild and the possibility they could miss the playoffs again, he feels it’s possible the major roster shakeup will continue this season. He suggests winger Mats Zuccarello, center Kevin Hayes and forwards Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov could be players worth watching this season.
Zuccarello and Hayes are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. Spooner and Namestnikov are both under two-year deals each worth $4 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After Hayes and the Rangers agreed to a one-year contract this summer, his departure by next July seems a certainty. GM Jeff Gorton appears reluctant to make a long-term investment in Hayes.
Zuccarello turns 31 next month and while he’s averaged 49-or-more points in each of the last five seasons he probably doesn’t have a lengthy future with the Rangers. Both could be useful trade chips for the Blueshirts before the trade deadline.
Spooner and Namestnikov may be considered stopgap players but strong performances on their part could make them worth retaining.
HOW WILL THE LEAFS ADDRESS THEIR DEFENSE?
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle believes the Toronto Maple Leafs may have kicked tires on possible trade or free-agent options to improve their defense. However, he feels they may well end up sticking with what they currently have, including perhaps promoting from their AHL farm club. Given their weakness at right defense, however, Mirtle doesn’t rule out the possibility of Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas swinging a deal before the February trade deadline to address this issue.
Mirtle also reported goaltender Calvin Pickard could be the starter for the Leafs’ AHL farm team this season. However, he is being offered around the league by the Leafs. Pickard played for the Toronto Marlies during their 2018 Calder Cup championship run.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The defense options are slim in the free-agent market while the asking price for a top-four right-side defenseman is likely one of the Leafs’ promising young forwards. Given their scoring punch and the wealth of youthful talent on the roster, Dubas can afford to be patient here. He’ll assess his blueline through training camp, preseason and perhaps during the season.
If there’s no notable improvement on right D, Dubas will have to address it by the deadline. They simply cannot go into the playoffs with a blueline corps playing like they did a year ago and expect a lengthy playoff run.
As for Pickard, I can see teams in need of goaltending depth keeping an eye on him. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s dealt before the start of the regular season.