NHL Rumor Mill – January 2, 2019
The latest on the Senators and Blue Jackets plus updates on the Oilers and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SENATORS AND BLUE JACKETS IN THE SAME BOAT WITH FREE AGENTS.
OTTAWA SUN: Following Monday’s games between the Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, Ken Warren observed the two clubs have big decisions to make regarding their top unrestricted free agents. Senators forwards Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel are slated to become UFAs in July, as are Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Artemi Panarin.
Stone recently said he expects contract talks with the Senators to resume within the next couple of weeks. He added he wants to stay because he loves the team and the city. Duchene remains uncertain over his future but said it would be a great situation if it all works out. Meanwhile, Panarin’s agent Dan Milstein said he intends to speak with his client about his plans during the All-Star break later this month.
If those pending UFAs make it clear they intend to test the market in July, Warren believes the two clubs will be forced to move those players before the Feb. 25 trade deadline for the best possible returns. The biggest difference, however, is the Blue Jackets are in the thick of the playoff chase while the Senators postseason hopes are fading.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bobrovsky and Panarin aren’t going anywhere before the trade deadline. While both appear non-committal about re-signing, they’re also focused on helping the Jackets reach the playoffs. Both will be crucial to the Jackets hopes for a long postseason run this spring. Barring a major collapse by the Jackets between now and late-February, I don’t see either guy hitting the trade block.
Of the three Senators UFAs, Stone appears most keen to stay put and I don’t doubt management wants to keep him. Duchene’s indicated he’s open to re-signing but hasn’t been as publicly eager as Stone. Dzingel would be the most affordable of the trio.
The wild card is whether quick-tempered owner Eugene Melnyk is willing to invest in keeping them in the fold. If they’re not under contract by late-February, they could all end up on the trade block.
OILERS STILL NEED BLUELINE HELP
THE ATHLETIC: After the Edmonton Oilers acquired depth defenseman Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning on Sunday, Pierre LeBrun speculates general manager Peter Chiarelli could attempt more meaningful moves leading up to the Feb. 25 trade deadline. While a right winger could be among the desired options, LeBrun believes adding a top-four defenseman remains the top need, though it won’t be easy to address.
LeBrun believes the Oilers have had the odd chat with the Carolina Hurricanes in recent weeks but doesn’t think those discussions went very far. If Chiarelli asked for Justin Faulk or Brett Pesce, LeBrun feels the Hurricanes will ask for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in return, something the Oilers GM would be reluctant to do.
Perhaps Chiarelli would be interested in upgrading the blueline in exchange for futures if the Oilers remain in playoff contention. “Would Los Angeles, for example, look at a picks/prospects package in exchange for Jake Muzzin?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun was expounding on his Dec. 31 report on TSN regarding the Oilers’ plans. The Hurricanes desperately need scoring so an asking price of Nugent-Hopkins for Faulk or Pesce makes sense on their part. I agree with LeBrun that Chiarelli won’t make that move as it’ll only address one problem while creating another.
Maybe a picks/prospects package for a defenseman like Muzzin will work, but as LeBrun noted, only if the Oilers are still in playoff contention. Even then, another club could swoop in with a better offer.
LATEST ON FROLIK
LeBrun also reports player agent Allan Walsh, who represents Calgary Flames winger Michael Frolik, spoke with Flames GM Brad Treliving several times about his client in recent weeks before posting a recent tweet blasting coach Bill Peters for making Frolik a healthy scratch. The winger subsequently returned to the lineup in a top-six role.
Nevertheless, LeBrun suggests this situation could bear watching. If Frolik continues to bounce around the lineup, Walsh could pressure Treliving to move him, if he hasn’t already done so. LeBrun speculates the Flames GM could pursue a third-pairing, left-shot defenseman before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun isn’t saying Frolik will be shopped for a defenseman, though you can’t dismiss the possibility if his role gets reduced again. Right now the Flames are rolling along as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. As LeBrun points out, Treliving doesn’t have to rush into anything right now.