NHL Rumor Mill – January 4, 2019
Latest on the Avalanche, Jets, and Maple Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
AVALANCHE MUST ADDRESS LACK OF SCORING DEPTH
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Colorado Avalanche possess a lethal first line in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, but Jared Clinton believes it’s masked the club’s lack of secondary scoring. which has contributed to their current 2-5-3 skid. He suggests it’s time to consider making some noise in the trade market.
Clinton wonders if now might be a good time to shop goaltender Semyon Varlamov and his expiring contract, or listen on blueliner Nikita Zadorov or shopping pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Patrick Nemeth. He also proposes entertaining the option of shopping one of their two first-round picks in the 2019 draft, one of which belonged to the Ottawa Senators and could become the first-overall pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t hurt to see what Varlamov, Zadorov or Nemeth might fetch in the trade market, but I doubt any of those three can bring the type of return that would provide immediate help to their secondary scoring.
Varlamov is frequently injured and inconsistent, Zadorov (who’s currently sidelined with a lower-body injury) has struggled to establish himself as a reliable top-four blueliner. Nemeth is a third-pairing rearguard.
If general manager Joe Sakic seeks scoring punch, he’ll have to dangle one of those first-round picks.
SUGGESTED JETS TRADE TARGETS
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff should bolster his club’s depth at center and on the left side of the blueline. He points out Cheveldayoff made a big splash at last year’s trade deadline by acquiring rental center Paul Stastny, who played a significant role in the Jets’ march to the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
McIntyre’s suggested trade targets include Ottawa Senators center Matt Duchene, Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes, and St. Louis Blues rearguard Jay Bouwmeester.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duchene and Muzzin are the best options on McIntyre’s list. The Senators are trying to re-sign Duchene but he could become available before the trade deadline if they cannot hammer out an agreement on a new contract. He’d also be the most expensive on McIntyre’s list to acquire. Muzzin, meanwhile, is under contract for one more season at an affordable $4 million cap hit. The Kings, however, will want a decent return, preferably a promising young player.
Staal could be more affordable but the Wild could hang onto him if they’re still in playoff contention. He also has a 10-team no-trade list and could veto a move to Winnipeg. Like Duchene, Hayes is a pending UFA but the Rangers could still try to re-sign him.
Bouwmeester would be the most affordable of this bunch but at 35 he’s no longer a reliable top-four defenseman. The Jets would be better off looking elsewhere.
LEAFS STILL SEEKING A GOALTENDER?
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski reports Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said yesterday following a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild that his club might still be in the market for a goaltender. Starter Frederik Andersen and backup Garret Sparks are currently sidelined, resulting in GM Kyle Dubas’ recent acquisition of Michael Hutchinson from the Florida Panthers and calling up Kasimir Kaskisuo. They’d prefer returning Kaskisuo to the minors, which could put them in the market for another goalie with NHL experience.
“I don’t know what’s going on, we were just talking about maybe finding another goalie,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “We’d like (Kaskisuo) to get playing, we don’t want him to be sitting around. So maybe we’ve got to find another goalie and go from there.”