NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2018
The latest on Erik Karlsson, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Rick Nash in your NHL rumor mill.
KARLSSON TO THE CANUCKS?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman took to Twitter yesterday claiming trade talks involving Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had recently picked up. He said the likely destinations appear to be in the Western Conference, with the Vancouver Canucks joining those clubs with interest in the all-star blueliner.
Friedman’s colleague John Shannon subsequently reported Canucks general manager Jim Benning said there is no truth that his team has become involved in trade conversations regarding Karlsson.
Iain MacIntyre also weighed in on Benning’s comments, as well as his claim that he’s not trading young players and prospects such as Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. MacIntyre also tweeted that if the Canucks had looked into Karlsson’s trade status it was likely due diligence, something Friedman agreed with. Friedman also believes the Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks remain the front-runners for Karlsson.
MacIntyre also noted Karlsson would have to agree to accept a trade to the rebuilding Canucks. They would also have to pay him something akin to Drew Doughty’s new eight-year, $88-million contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
THE PROVINCE: Even if the Canucks were able to land Karlsson, Ben Kuzma doubts he’ll do much to bolster their popgun defense. He believes it could take “a first-round pick, roster player and two prospects to pry Karlsson out of Ottawa.” Kuzma also reported that recent trade speculation linked the Canucks to Boston Bruins rearguard Torey Krug.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch also reported the Karlsson rumor mill has recently returned to life. Like Friedman, he believes the Golden Knights, Stars and Sharks have revisited their interest in the Senators captain. It’s not known if the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-entered the talks but Garrioch feels it would make sense if they did.
Garrioch said this recent uptick in trade discussions suggests Karlsson might be moved before the start of the season. He also noted Benning’s public denial about the Canucks’ rumored interest in Karlsson but that won’t stop people from speculating.
BSN DENVER’s Adrian Dater said he’s heard nothing regarding any possible involvement by the Colorado Avalanche in the recently reheated Karlsson trade chatter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Benning isn’t going to publicly admit he’s interested in Karlsson as that would constitute tampering, something he got fined for two years ago. Nevertheless, I agree with MacIntyre’s assessment. If Benning did inquire, it was likely to “kick the tires” regading the Senators’ asking price. Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion would almost certainly want one or two of those young players Benning is unwilling to part with. I also have my doubts over Karlsson’s willingness to join a rebuilding club at this stage in his career.
As for the other clubs, I don’t think the Sharks have the available assets to pull this off. We know the Stars and Lightning were reportedly very interested in Karlsson earlier this summer, but the former is unwilling to part with top prospect Miro Heiskanen while the latter must free up sufficient salary to absorb Karlsson’s $6.5-million salary-cap hit.
The Golden Knights were reportedly close to landing Karlsson at the trade deadline. They still have the depth in prospects, young players and cap space to make this happen. The question is, are they still as interested in getting him as they were in February?
UPDATES ON PANARIN, BOBROVSKY AND NASH
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports the chances of the Columbus Blue Jackets trading Artemi Panarin appear slim. There was interest in the 26-year-old left wing earlier this summer but the offers were only for “futures” such as draft picks and prospects.
Panarin hasn’t provided the Jackets with a list of preferred trade options. There’s speculation the New York Rangers are his destination of choice but his agent denies this. Portzline feels the Rangers won’t swing a trade for a player they could sign via free agency next July. He thinks the Jackets could try to work out a deal with another club and then ask Panarin if he’d consider signing a contract extension with that team.
Portzline doesn’t rule out the New York Islanders as a possibility for Panarin, as he’s said to have high respect for Isles GM Lou Lamoriello. The winger’s purchase of a Miami condo raised conjecture the Florida Panthers could be a destination but it’s apparently over an hour away from the Panthers’ arena and is more of a getaway property rather than a permanent address. Still, Portzline feels the Panthers are the obvious trade target for the Blue Jackets. However, if the Rangers get involved, it could dampen interest from other teams.
Portzline also reports there’s been no recent active contract negotiations between the Blue Jackets and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent next July. The gap between the two sides is significant, with Bobrovsky believed to be seeking “Carey Price money”, which would be an eight-year contract worth $10.5 million per season.
Given how the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has struggled in the playoffs, the Jackets could be reluctant to make him the league’s highest-paid goalie. However, Portzline doesn’t see them trading their starting goalie before the start of this season.
There’s a slim hope Bobrovsky and Panarin could re-sign with the Jackets this season. A solid performance by the club throughout 2018-19 could convince both to stay.
Portzline also reports Blue Jacket GM Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson met with unrestricted free agent Rick Nash last month to discuss his future and a possible return to the Blue Jackets. The meeting apparently went well, though the 34-year-old Nash has yet to reach a decision regarding his playing career due to an accumulation of injuries. If he does decide to return to action, Portzline suggests it could be with Columbus or another team with a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless a rival club is willing to step up with an offer of a young scoring forward who can help the Jackets now and in the long term, I doubt Kekalainen will trade Panarin before the season begins. However, he could be forced to reconsider as the Feb. 25 trade deadline approaches, especially if the Jackets slide out of playoff contention by that point. By that point, interested clubs could consider Panarin a rental player and could be unwilling to part with established talent to get him. If the Jackets are still holding down a playoff spot by then, they’ll likely hang onto him and take their chances.
Bobrovsky could also hit the trade block by the deadline if the Jackets are out of the playoff picture by then. Like Panarin, I expect they’ll hang onto him for the postseason and hope to re-sign him before July 1. But if he struggles again in the playoffs, the Jackets could start looking at other options.
As for Nash, returning to the city where his NHL career began and where he had his best seasons would be a nice way to bring his playing days to a close. Given his history of concussion injuries, It remains to be seen if this storybook ending takes place.