NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2019
A look at this season’s top-10 trade candidates in the NHL rumor mill.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi, and New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider tops Matt Larkin’s list of this season’s top trade candidates.
Larkin dismissed recent attempts by Sabres general manager Jason Botterill to downplay the Ristolainen trade speculation. He pointed out Botterill loading up with right-side blueliners, Ristolainen’s apparent exasperation with the Sabres, and the club’s need for help at forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve suggested for weeks that the Sabres’ recent acquisitions of Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju set the stage for a Ristolainen trade. Botterill, however, will wait for the right offer. It could happen before training camp, early in the season or at the trade deadline but it should happen at some point this season.
After struggling with the Oilers, Larkin believes Puljujarvi needs a fresh start elsewhere. It’s difficult to see him returning to the Oilers. His low trade value, however, could make it tough for GM Ken Holland to find a suitable deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins observed, Puljujarvi has more value to the Oilers than he does in the trade market. The young winger lacks leverage as he doesn’t have a job lined up in Europe yet. He’s pressing to be traded but Holland can stand firm until he gets a suitable trade offer.
Kreider could be shopped if the Rangers aren’t playoff-bound by the trade deadline. The Rangers insist he’ll be joining them in training camp. Larkin points out they have limited salary-cap space and restricted free agents Brendan Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo to re-sign. He wonders if that could make Kreider a cap casualty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For months, Kreider was the subject of trade speculation. Most of it had to do with his UFA status next summer and the Rangers’ cap space. It seems, however, they want to see how things unfold with him in the lineup this season.
Lemieux and DeAngelo could end up accepting the Rangers’ qualifying offers (over $1.7 million combined), meaning the Blueshirts won’t have to shed that much to become cap compliant.
The pending UFA statuses of Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman could turn them into rental players by the trade deadline. If the Panthers are in playoff contention, Hoffman could be retained as an own rental for the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pageau ($3.1-million annual average value) should be an affordable re-signing for the Senators. But as Larkin points out, they’re in full rebuild mode and could peddle Pageau to the highest bidder. The veteran center could also decide he’s had enough of the Melnyk circus and move on.
Hoffman’s future will depend upon his role with the Panthers and what he seeks on his next contract. He was their leading goal-scorer (36) last season and finished third with 70 points. A similar performance could make him invaluable to the Panthers, especially if they’re in playoff contention.
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is also slated for UFA status next summer. If a new deal can’t be reached, Larkin wonders if the Hurricanes will risk losing him for nothing. Meanwhile, Winnipeg Jets center Jack Roslovic has expressed frustration over his bottom-six role. A restricted free agent next summer, he hasn’t asked for a trade. Larkin suggests he could be used to acquire a defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Faulk’s been a fixture in the trade rumor mill for over a year but remains with the Canes. I’d like to think they could re-sign him but team owner Tom Dundon is something of a wild card. He could become a factor in determining Faulk’s future in Carolina.
Jets management doesn’t seem keen to part with the promising Roslovic. But as Larkin notes, their depth at forward shows how difficult it’s been for Roslovic to crack the top-six. The cost of re-signing Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor won’t give the Jets much wiggle room to take on a salaried defenseman unless they ship out a comparable salary. Roslovic (894k AAV) won’t address that issue.
Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and Detroit Red Wings rearguard Mike Green round out Larkin’s list. All are pending UFAs on rebuilding/retooling teams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another performance by the Kings like last season and they could entertain offers for Toffoli at the deadline.
Spurgeon expressed interest in re-signing with the Wild before their recent management change. That’ll depend upon where new GM Bill Guerin wants to take this team after he’s had time to evaluate their performance this season.
Wings GM Steve Yzerman will likely try to get something for Green by the trade deadline.