NHL Rumor Mill – January 30, 2021
Check out the latest on the Penguins, Ducks and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski addresses some of the conspiracy theories surround Jim Rutherford’s decision earlier this week to step down as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Among them was speculation Rutherford was working on trading center Evgeni Malkin or defenseman Kris Letang but team co-owner Mario Lemieux blocked those moves. Kingerski dismissed that conjecture, pointing out the difficulty in keeping such a trade under wraps, especially involving Malkin, who would have to waive his no-movement clause to make it happen. He pointed out not a single legitimate reporter had a whiff that type of deal was being worked on.
“The last time a team kicked the tires on Malkin, we knew it,” said Kingerski, referring to 2019 when the Florida Panthers made a pitch. The internal conclusions were that Malkin, Letang and team captain Sidney Crosby should retire as Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many trades happen that catch most insiders by surprise. However, in today’s salary cap world where superstars like Malkin a measure of control over where they play because of their no-trade clauses, moving a player of his stature wasn’t something that could be kept quiet.
I agree with Kingerski that Rutherford’s decision to step down had nothing to do with any supposed blocked attempt to trade one of the Penguins’ stars. Rutherford even subsequently dismissed that notion.
Recalling the Malkin chatter during the summer of 2019, it sounded to me like two general managers spit-balling, a “Hey, what would you want in return for Malkin?” kind of discussion. Even then, it still leaked out and was duly noted in the press.
We might someday learn the real reason behind Rutherford’s departure. I doubt it’ll be because of a thwarted attempt to trade a Penguins star.
THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi reports the Penguins’ early shortlist of potential replacements for Rutherford includes New York Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury, Boston Bruins director of player personnel John Ferguson Jr, Los Angeles Kings adviser Ron Hextall, Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, and Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby.
Rossi also reports signing Malkin to a new contract will be the next general manager’s top priority. The Penguins ownership wants Malkin, Crosby and Letang to retire as Penguins but also wants the new GM to prioritize retooling around those aging stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That shortlist provides a good indication of what the Penguins are looking for in their new general manager. Those candidates seem best suited to implement ownership’s plan of building around their veteran stars.
NO BIG MOVES COMING FOR THE DUCKS?
THE ATHLETIC: During a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked if Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray would consider moving one or two core players like Rickard Rakell, Jakub Silfverberg, Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson or Hampus Lindholm for future assets to fit in alongside promising youngsters like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale.
Stephens doubts Murray wants to move players of importance to his roster. He also notes the Ducks lack the salary-cap space to bring in free-agent help, while making cost-cutting deals for prospects and draft picks opens up more holes in the roster. They could be filled with younger players provided they’re ready to do so and be more productive than the players you’ve traded away.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray entered this season believing his club can compete for a playoff spot. He’s not ready to blow up his roster and start rebuilding but wants instead to improve what he’s currently got. That’s why he looked into acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine before they were swapped for each other last Saturday by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets.
Maybe he reaches that point this summer if the Ducks fail to qualify for the postseason. For now, he’s going to stick with his core while transitioning younger players into the lineup.
COULD THE COYOTES PURSUE DUNN?
ARIZONA COYOTES INSIDER: During a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked if the Coyotes would have any interest in St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn. Morgan acknowledged Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has a connection with Dunn from his days as Blues assistant GM.
The problem, however, is the Coyotes would have to move out another blueliner to make room. Dunn is also a left-hand shot and the Coyotes need more right-hand rearguards. There are also questions about Dunn’s commitment to training and his attitude.
Asked about possible moves this season by the Coyotes, Morgan believes they could involve players on expiring contracts who could be shopped at the trade deadline. They include Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Raanta.