NHL Rumor Mill – December 20, 2018
The holiday trade freeze is in effect but that doesn’t stop the NHL rumor mill. Check out the latest on the Rangers and Maple Leafs.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien examines possible moves by the New York Rangers leading up to this season’s February trade deadline. Players on expiring contracts, such as Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, could attract interest from postseason contenders. O’Brien also doesn’t rule out the possibility of the Rangers bringing back Zuccarello as a free agent this summer on a short-term deal. He also suggests the Blueshirts could retain some of their salary (especially Hayes’) to facilitate a deal to a cap-strapped contender.
Rangers forwards Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are signed through 2019-20 but O’Brien believes they could be attractive to playoff-contending teams. He also brought up the possibility of moving goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, though he admits that’s a far-fetched scenario.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks doesn’t want to see the Rangers deviate from their rebuilding process that began last February by making deals simply to reach the playoffs this season. However, he also doesn’t want them to go into “starting all over” mode. He thinks they shouldn’t move Hayes unless his contract demands become unrealistic or an interested club offers up a young, first-pairing defenseman. “Both of these hypotheticals are unlikely.”
Brooks’ colleague Brett Cyrgalis notes Namestnikov’s improved play in recent weeks has improved his trade value but he’s also become valuable to the Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the Rangers go into sell mode in February, Zuccarello and Hayes are the most likely trade candidates. Hayes is on pace for a career-best 65-point performance and will attract lots of interest in the trade market. The longer he remains unsigned as the deadline approaches the more likely he’ll get shopped.
Kreider or Namestnikov could be moved but there’s less pressure to trade them. General manager Jeff Gorton will be patient with those two. As for Lundqvist, he has a full no-movement clause. As long as he wants to remain a Ranger, he’s not going anywhere.
TSN: Craig Button suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs use their nearly $6 million in cap space this season to improve their Stanley Cup chances this season.
If they seek a defenseman, Button proposes Vancouver’s Alex Edler, Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, and New Jersey’s Ben Lovejoy. Edler has a big shot and can skate big minutes. Leafs coach Mike Babcock knows Kronwall from his coaching days with the Red Wings. Lovejoy has Stanley Cup experience.
Button also suggests Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, Carolina’s Michael Ferland, and Los Angeles’ Trevor Lewis as options who could bring additional grit to the Leafs forward lines. Simmonds and Ferland can also contribute offensively.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if Leafs GM Kyle Dubas doesn’t bring in a rental player or two as short-term fixes for his current roster weaknesses. Perhaps he’ll consider one of Button’s suggestions. Edler has a no-trade clause and could be unwilling to waive it. Kronwall has a modified no-trade clause and there’s talk he’ll retire as a Red Wing. Simmonds seems to have slow a step following offseason pelvic surgery. Ferland recently returned from a concussion. Lovejoy and Lewis also have injury histories.