NHL Rumor Mill – February 12, 2019
The latest on Jonathan Huberdeau and Jeff Skinner plus updates on the Lightning, Predators, and Golden Knights in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE PANTHERS PART WITH HUBERDEAU?
TSN: Noting speculation tying the Florida Panthers to Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Frank Seravalli wondered if they might offer up left wing Jonathan Huberdeau in a package deal. It’s believed the Jackets want a return that keeps them in the playoff race while adding future assets.
Huberdeau, 25, is at a nearly point-per-game pace this season (52 points in 54 games) and is signed through 2022-23 with a reasonable $5.9-million annual average value. His no-movement clause kicks in on July 1. To pull this off, Seravalli believes the key might be allowing Panthers general manager Dale Tallon to speak with agent Paul Theofanus, who represents Panarin and Bobrovsky, regarding new contracts for his two clients.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie claimed a source informed him Huberdeau wasn’t available. “What I’ve been told today – and take a deep breath – is that it’s not on the market,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Landing someone like Huberdeau in a package deal would certainly attract the interest of Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. However, that depends on Tallon’s willingness to part with him.
Huberdeau’s steadily developed into a quality playmaking winger and is on pace for a career-high 80 points. If Tallon is considering moving Huberdeau in a blockbuster deal to acquired Panarin and perhaps Bobrovsky, he needs assurances he can re-sign the duo. Trading away his best winger for two players who could depart in July would be a huge embarrassment.
If Tallon can’t get them to do a sign-and-trade or “trade-and-sign” scenario, this deal shouldn’t be made. Better to keep Huberdeau and wait until this summer to pursue Bobrovsky and Panarin via free agency.
WHAT DO THE LIGHTNING NEED?
THE ATHLETIC/TAMPA BAY TIMES: With the trade deadline approaching, Joe Smith and Diane C. Nearhos examine the Tampa Bay Lightning’s needs and what they might do to address them. Both agree the club doesn’t really need anything, pointing to their dominance in the standings, their deep and healthy forward lines and defense, their solid goaltending plus their strong special teams.
Smith suggests perhaps adding a right-side defenseman given the turnover on the blueline expected this summer with Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn, and Dan Girardi slated to become UFAs. He also proposes perhaps upgrading at fourth-line center though it’s not a priority with Cedric Paquette playing well in that role.
Smith and Nearhos both suggest perhaps the Lightning could use a physical forward. Smith listed Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Carolina’s Micheal Ferland as possible options while Nearhos cited a recent TSN report indicating the Lightning may have inquired about the two. Both note the Lightning aren’t able to use their first- or second-round picks as trade bait because they owe a conditional second-rounder to the New York Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning can afford to pursue a rental player if they wish. Considering how well they’ve played this season they don’t have to do anything. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if they went after a depth rental forward or blueliner as insurance for the postseason.
Maybe they add Simmonds or Ferland but the asking price for Simmonds could be too expensive. The Hurricanes supposedly wanted a first-round pick for Ferland, who they might retain now that they’re in the playoff chase.
WILL THE PREDATORS MAKE A BIG DEADLINE DEAL?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Nashville Predators need to go all-in at this year’s trade deadline. With their rivals more competitive and the rental market robust, this could be their best opportunity to make a big move that bolsters their Stanley Cup hopes this season. While Columbus winger Artemi Panarin would be the big catch, the best fit could be Ottawa’s Mark Stone, who’d provide invaluable two-way skill at right wing. Larkin notes Predators GM David Poile has parted with his first-round pick for stretch-run acquisitions in the past.
THE TENNESSEAN: In a recent mailbag segment, Paul Skrbina doesn’t expect the Predators to pull off a Panarin-type deal though he can see them at least looking into it. Asked about the possibility of Poile acquiring Panarin straight up for top prospect Eeli Tolvanen, Skrbina believes the Blue Jackets asking price would be much higher. He points out they “don’t have a ton of assets that aren’t already on the roster.” Skrbina suggests a more realistic option could be Anaheim Ducks winger Jakub Silfverberg or New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Poile has a history of making big moves in-season to boost his roster. He’s already made a couple of recent depth moves by adding forwards Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod and I don’t think he’s done dealing. Maybe he’ll pull off a blockbuster that lands Panarin or Stone but I can see him also considering more affordable rental options. Kreider has a year left on his contract and wouldn’t be a rental but I don’t see the Rangers parting with him.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is said to be working the phones as the trade deadline nears. However, McPhee said he’s in no rush to make move. Without any glaring roster issues this season, NHL Network’s Brian Lawton tells Schoen he believes the Golden Knights GM is more likely to add depth rather than go “big-game hunting” at the deadline. He feels McPhee might want to shore up the right defense and the backup goalie positions.
Schoen points out the Golden Knights have over $16 million in salary-cap space, giving them plenty of room if they want to pursue a rental such as Ottawa’s Mark Stone or Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds. Washington’s Andre Burakovsky could be a more affordable option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McPhee said his inclination is not to take on a rental player. That might make Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who was drafted by McPhee during his tenure as Capitals GM, a more enticing option but he won’t address that need for a backup and a right-side blueliner.
UPDATE ON SKINNER
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Speaking on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, Elliotte Friedman said he thinks the Buffalo Sabres are willing to risk going past the trade deadline without a contract extension for pending UFA winger Jeff Skinner. He feels the Sabres will take that chance in hopes of negotiating a contract extension before July 1.
Meanwhile, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reminded everyone Skinner’s no-movement/no-trade clause carried over with his move to the Sabres, meaning the winger still has full control over the situation. Unless he demands a trade, LeBrun feels Skinner won’t be part of the trade deadline coverage.