NHL Rumor Mill (Post Trade Deadline Edition) – February 26, 2019
With the 2019 Trade Deadline now history, find out what the future holds for the Canadiens, Islanders, Panthers, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE DUCHENE THIS SUMMER?
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t prepared to pay the high prices asked of the top rental players in this year’s trade market. He was rumored to be interested in Matt Duchene, who was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Noting Duchene is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Cowan suggests Bergevin could take another run at him – or someone else – without giving up anyone from his roster or moving a first-round pick or one of his top prospects. The Canadiens’ improved performance this season could make them an attractive destination for free agents like Duchene.
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports Bergevin was trying to upgrade his depth at center and on defense before the deadline. However, he balked at the asking prices, which included rookie center Jesperi Kotkaniemi and top prospects like Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, and Alex Romanov. “If I would’ve done what I was asked for, you would probably have called me an idiot,” Bergevin said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are exceeding expectations this season. By standing pat, Bergevin did the right thing. He’s keeping his focus on the long-term future.
With $62 million invested in 15 players next season and his core players under contract, Bergevin has the cap room to make a significant move or two via free agency like Duchene, though such players will be very expensive to sign. I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempts to weaponize that cap room by targeting teams with limited cap room looking to shed salary before next season. That doesn’t mean taking on overpaid underachievers or fading veterans but looking at promising young players on reasonable contracts.
ISLANDERS REPORTEDLY PURSUED DUCHENE
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arthur Staple reports the New York Islanders are thought to have made an offer for Matt Duchene before the Senators traded him to the Blue Jackets involving their 2019 first-round pick and young forward Anthony Beauvillier. Staple also feels the Islanders could have a keen interest in Blue Jackets left winger Artemi Panarin if he hits the free-agent market this summer.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes the Islanders turn their focus toward forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, who are all on expiring contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are also doing much better than expected this season and didn’t have to make a big move at the deadline. They have over $47 million invested in 14 players for 2019-20, giving them plenty of room to re-sign their key UFAs (which also includes goalie Robin Lehner) and still pursue a top potential free agent like Panarin or Duchene this summer. I expect they’ll re-sign Lee and Lehner for sure but I’m not so certain Eberle and Nelson fit into their long-term plans.
PANTHERS EXPECTED TO BE ACTIVE IN SUMMER’S TRADE/UFA MARKETS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): George Richards reports Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon made “a substantial offer” to the Ottawa Senators for Mark Stone, who was subsequently traded to the Vegas Golden Knights yesterday. Tallon indicated he’s willing to re-sign pending UFAs Riley Sheahan and Troy Brouwer. Richards notes Tallon has plenty of draft picks and salary-cap space to be active in this summer’s trade and free-agent markets. They could be seeking a top-end forward, defenseman and a premier goaltender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors were rampant leading up to the deadline suggesting Tallon was very keen to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Don’t be surprised if he’s among the suitors for both this summer via free agency.
OTTAWA SUN: In the wake of trading Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will make decisions in the offseason to add some veterans but much of the roster will be made up of youth.
Don Brennan reports Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is happy to land promising defenseman Erik Brannstrom in the trade that sent Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights. Brennan notes Dorion is thrilled about the state of his team and its future but believes the Sens GM is in the dark or in denial over the unhappy mood of the fan base. Brennan also wonders how long the Senators will have defenseman Cody Ceci, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators are well-stocked with draft picks, especially in the 2020 NHL Draft. As Brennan pointed out, however, they have a mixed record with their recent draft history, which includes busts like Jakub Klepis, Brian Lee, Jim O’Brien, Jared Cowen, and Curtis Lazar.
They’ll have plenty of salary-cap space for 2019-20, with $44 million invested in 13 players and a cap minimum expected to rise to over $60 million. However, their status as a rebuilding club with a cantankerous owner won’t make them a destination of choice for the top UFA talent or even for second-tier free agents.
As for Ceci, I think the Senators will try to trade him, probably in the week leading up to the NHL Draft in June. He frequently surfaced this season as a trade candidate and I expect we’ll see his name pop up again.