NHL Rumor Mill – January 20, 2020
Should the Canadiens re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk? Will the Leafs shop for a defenseman? Could Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich become available? What’s the latest on the Red Wings? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SHOULD THE CANADIENS RE-SIGN KOVALCHUK?
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd believes the Canadiens should re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s tallied eight points in as many games since joining the club on a one-year, $700K contract earlier this month. Todd feels the 36-year-old winger could continue playing at a high level for the next two seasons. While acknowledging there’s risk in re-signing Kovalchuk, Todd feels it’s pointless to trade him for a draft pick when the Habs are already well-stocked in promising young players.
TVA SPORTS: Pat Brisson, Kovalchuk’s agent, said it’s too early to talk about a new contract for his client. He said Kovalchuk is very happy playing in Montreal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand the excitement some Montreal observers are feeling about Kovalchuk’s performance thus far. If he continues playing well, regardless of where the Habs are in the standings, perhaps general manager Marc Bergevin will consider re-signing him. However, he could also receive a tempting offer from a rival club before the trade deadline.
As we saw with Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov, Bergevin has shown reluctance to re-sign 30-something stars. If he decides to keep Kovalchuk, he doesn’t have to lock him up to an expensive long-term deal. Given the winger’s age, he could make it a one-year, bonus-laden contract. Of course, that depends on how much interest there is in Kovalchuk heading into this summer’s free-agent market.
SHOULD THE LEAFS SHOP FOR A DEFENSEMAN?
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has to have a defenseman of some caliber in his sights, even if Rasmus Sandin proves himself as an NHL regular. Acquiring a blueliner would also have to make sense for the cap-strapped Leafs.
Rental players include New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, San Jose’s Brenden Dillon, and Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson. However, Dubas has shown he’s willing to add a player who’s not on an expiring contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Dubas pursues a blueliner, it’ll likely be a dollar-in, dollar-out deal. There’s a growing sense it’ll cost the Leafs a good, young forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot to bring in a decent top-four defenseman.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks observed Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich hasn’t generated much offense of late. He’s managed just one goal and three assists in his last 13 games, and two goals and four assists over the last 23 contests.
Brooks speculates Buchnevich “is certainly to be a topic of conversation in the executive suite as Feb. 24 approaches,” regardless of where the Rangers sit in the standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks pointed out Buchnevich has battled flu-like symptoms for the past week, but that doesn’t account for the decline in his production since late November. The 24-year-old winger tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season and 43 points as a sophomore in 2017-18.
Buchnevich is signed through 2020-21 with an affordable $3.25-million annual average salary. He would attract interest if the Blueshirts shop him at the trade deadline.
LATEST ON THE RED WINGS
DETROIT FREE PRESS: In a recent mailbag segment, Helene St. James was asked what Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman will do at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. She notes Yzerman’s intention to add more picks to the eight he already holds in the 2020 NHL Draft but could be hard-pressed doing so. Struggling pending UFAs such as Mike Green, Trevor Daley, and Jimmy Howard will have limited value in the trade market
Andreas Athanasiou scored 30 goals last season, but the decline in his production this season has tarnished his trade value. St. James feels it’s pointless to move the 25-year-old Athanasiou unless the return boosts the rebuild. The Pittsburgh Penguins might consider him after losing Jake Guentzel to shoulder surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is probably Yzerman’s best trade chip. I don’t see him shopping a young core player like Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, or Filip Hronek, and Robby Fabbri has fit in well after being acquired from St. Louis earlier in the season.