NHL Rumor Mill – January 21, 2021
The latest on Aleksander Barkov, Keith Yandle and Patrik Laine in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS (via KUKLA’S KORNER): TSN insider Darren Dreger reports it’s hard to say at this point how seriously we should take trade speculation about Aleksander Barkov. The 25-year-old Florida Panthers captain is due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Dreger said the Florida Panthers and general manager Bill Zito believe they have time. Zito spoke to Barkov’s representative stating they had no interest in trade the center. Barkov has a no-movement clause in his contract for this season and a modified (12-team no-trade list) no-trade clause for 2021-22.
Barkov wants to win and wants assurances the Panthers are on the road toward achieving that goal. If they’re heading in that direction when it comes time to start contract talks, he’s willing to listen. Dreger indicates there are lots of NHL general managers who are eager to let Zito know they’re interested if Barkov becomes available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers cannot open contract talks with Barkov until he’s officially entered the final season of his deal, which will be when free agency begins on July 28. The recent trade speculation arose because some general managers are said to be skeptical that he’ll re-sign with the Panthers.
Barring the unforeseen, this will probably be the last we’ll hear about Barkov in this season’s rumor mill. Don’t be surprised, however, if the speculation over his future in Florida resurfaces this summer, especially if the Panthers have another disappointing season.
Dreger was also asked about Keith Yandle’s status with the Panthers. He called it “curious, at best,” suggesting the 34-year-old defenseman probably isn’t sure about his situation with the club going forward. He was told before the start of the season that he wouldn’t be in the lineup but there was an about-face perhaps because of push-back from his teammates. Dreger wondered if Yandle was seeing action to improve trade interest.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes believes the Bruins should pursue Yandle. Weekes called out the Panthers’ organization for disrespecting the veteran blueliner and believes it’s an opportunity for Bruins GM Don Sweeney to acquire Yandle to bolster the Bruins’ scoring if the Panthers agree to pick up part of his $6.35 million cap hit.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss acknowledged Yandle, a Massachusetts native, is still productive. However, his agent, contract and the Bruins’ need to give their young defensemen a chance to prove themselves doesn’t make Yandle a good fit at this time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Goss. If Yandle were a little younger or had less time remaining on his contract at a more reasonable cap hit, perhaps he’d be a worthwhile trade target for the Bruins.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes the current absence of Patrik Laine (upper-body injury) will give the Winnipeg Jets a good idea of what life will be like without him. The winger asked for a trade during the off-season but Garrioch said the Jets could find a suitable trade partner.
That doesn’t mean Laine is off the market. Garrioch pointed out many observers believe a deal could happen during this season. The 22-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer who could seek over $9 million per season. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could attempt to move Laine before the trade deadline rather than meet Laine’s expensive salary demands.
Garrioch notes the speculations linking Laine to Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois. Like Laine, Dubois has requested a trade, prompting suggestions of a one-for-one swap. Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen would have more than a passing interest in Laine.
Anyone interested in acquiring Laine will have to talk to him about a contract extension. Garrioch lists the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks among the potential suitors. He dismissed rumors linking Laine to the Carolina Hurricanes because he doesn’t believe they’ll shell out big bucks to sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading Laine during the season is possible but only if the Jets have fallen out of the playoff race or they get an offer of an immediate impact player in return. Laine remains a key ingredient in the Jets’ playoff hopes for this season.
The Blue Jackets would certainly need to know if Laine would be willing to sign a contract extension. The Jets, however, could also have concerns about Dubois’ contract status. He’s signed through next season and they could be unwilling to part with Laine for a player who could prove unwilling to commit to a long-term deal with them.
Laine would certainly provide some welcome star power to the Red Wings but their biggest needs remain improving their defense. Ditto the Blackhawks.
The Flyers reportedly kicked tires on Laine but the cost of the return apparently ended those discussions. The Devils could be a good fit as they have the cap space and the assets to acquire and re-sign Laine, provided he’s willing to agree to a long-term deal.