NHL Rumor Mill – April 8, 2019
An update on Connor McDavid and Jeff Skinner plus the latest on the Canadiens and Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
MCDAVID DISMISSES TRADE SPECULATION
NBC SPORTS: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid shot down trade speculation that arose from his recent comments expressing his frustration over the club’s performance and lack of overall improvement. He said he wanted to be part of the solution and if he didn’t want to be in Edmonton he wouldn’t have signed an eight-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That won’t stop some in the media from trying to read into McDavid’s comments and body language for proof of growing unhappiness in Edmonton and perhaps a desire to be traded.
Everyone knows the Oilers are a mess right now and need probably at least two or three years of proper management and coaching to turn things around. Of course, McDavid’s going to be frustrated and upset over the club’s regression in the last two years. Yes, the Oilers risk wasting the best seasons of his career. But that doesn’t mean McDavid wants out at this point or the Oilers intend to shop him this year.
Unless McDavid demands a trade, and we’ll hear it if he does as someone will probably leak that news, the Oilers aren’t moving him. They’ll continue trying to build around McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
TIME FOR CANADIENS TO SPEND?
GLOBAL NEWS: Brian Wilde believes it’s time for the Montreal Canadiens to spend on talent after three seasons of leaving $10 million in salary-cap space on the board. “Compete, for god’s sake,” he implored. “Spend some money!”
Wild points out several quality players available via free agency this summer, including Columbus left wing Artemi Panarin and center Matt Duchene, San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson and Toronto blueliner Jake Gardiner. He urges the Habs to pursue one of those players, even if it means overpaying to compensate for Quebec’s high taxes. Other suggested options include Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner, Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds, the Islanders’ Anders Lee, Dallas’ Mats Zuccarello, Carolina’s Micheal Ferland or Columbus’ Ryan Dzingel.
He suggested the Habs get creative by attempting to sign Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point or Toronto’s Mitch Marner to an offer sheet. He also believes they should try to move underachieving winger Jonathan Drouin and move on from Antti Niemi, Jordie Benn, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Jordan Weal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens must bolster their left-side defense, their backup goaltending, and their scoring depth. However, they should be careful about how they invest that cap space.
If there’s a chance Panarin or Karlsson will come to Montreal, it’s certainly worth exploring. Duchene is a skilled center and it’s rumored the Habs looked into acquiring him at the trade deadline. Perhaps there’s a fit there. Skinner or Lee would also be worthwhile.
Just because Simmonds, Zuccarello or Ferland could be available doesn’t mean they’re worth the investment. Simmonds has slowed significantly since his pelvic surgery last year. Zuccarello turns 32 in September and his best seasons are probably behind him. Ferland could seek Tom Wilson money. Gardiner possesses terrific offensive skills but his well-publicized defensive breakdowns can be troubling.
As for offer sheets, the targeted player has to be willing to sign one. Point or Marner could prefer staying with their respective teams.
Bergevin could also look at making trades to improve the roster. He’s got a good recent record in that regard, bringing in Max Domi and Tomas Tatar last year. Maybe Drouin could be dangled as a trade chip, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the Habs GM remains patient with the 24-year-old forward.
LATEST ON JEFF SKINNER
WGR 550: Paul Hamilton reports Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill acknowledged his club relied too much on Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart for the bulk of their offense. He stressed his club will continue developing their young players and will look for additional scoring depth. Botterill said there’s still a real possibility Skinner, an unrestricted free agent in July, will re-sign with the Sabres.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl suggested a fair contract for Skinner would be an eight-year, $64-million deal ($8 million annual average value). However, Mark Stone’s eight-year, $76-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights ($9.5 million AAV) could have an effect upon Skinner’s negotiations with the Sabres.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner holds all the leverage with the Sabres. Yes, his production declined over the second half of the season, but he still tallied a career-high 40 goals, has terrific chemistry with Eichel and expressed a willingness to stay in Buffalo.
He also knows the Sabres could be desperate to retain him. Don’t be surprised if he gets an offer from the Sabres similar to Stone’s contract.
LATEST ON THE RANGERS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Rangers GM Jeff Gorton will make Columbus winger Artemi Panarin his primary target in this summer’s UFA market. He believes Panarin could command at least $11 million annually on a seven-year contract.
Brooks also thinks Gorton and his staff will have to reach a decision on winger Chris Kreider, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. If they don’t believe he’s worth re-signing, Brooks advocates trading him this summer rather than bringing him back as a rental property to be moved at next year’s trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing really new here from Brooks but it’s still worth keeping in mind as the Rangers head into the offseason. I agree with him that the Rangers must make a decision one way or the other with Kreider. If they’re going to keep him, get him re-signed this summer to a contract extension. If not, put him on the trade block by the NHL Draft weekend in June and get the best possible return.