NHL Rumor Mill – February 19, 2021
The Jack Eichel trade speculation flares back to life as the Sabres continue to struggle, plus the latest on Taylor Hall, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Binnington in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE LATEST SABRES SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday giving WGR 550 a quick “yes” when asked whether he sees the possibility of the Buffalo Sabres trading Jack Eichel. Friedman pointed to the Sabres’ performance coming out of their COVID-19 protocol break “has started a lot of talk about what could be happening.”
While the Sabres’ recent play isn’t enough to spur a franchise-changing move, Vogl took note of the fact Eichel hates losing and there’s been little change in the club’s fortunes despite recent changes. The Sabres captain is also off to a slow start after suffering an upper-body injury during training camp.
The Sabres’ ongoing woes have given rise to speculation over Eichel’s future in Buffalo. He’s in the third year of an eight-year deal with the final four years containing a full no-movement clause. Moving him before that clause kicks in 17 months from now would give the Sabres a broader trade market.
Vogl speculates the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could be best-positioned to make a competitive pitch for Eichel. Both have considerable depth in promising youth and the cap space to take on Eichel’s $10 million annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Eichel trade conjecture first surfaced last year when he voiced his unhappiness over the club’s performance. Few observers seriously entertained the notion of the Sabres star getting traded then. However, Vogl and Friedman pointed out the longer the club continues to stumble the more questions will be asked about Eichel’s future.
Another failed season could force a discussion this summer between Eichel and the Sabres’ ownership and management over the team’s direction. I don’t see them trying to move him if he wants to stay. He’s the guy they’ve been trying to build around since drafting him in 2015. But if Eichel decides it’s time to move on, trading him before his NMC kicks in makes the most sense.
Every NHL club would love to have a player like Eichel in their lineup. As I noted last September, finding a suitable trade partner willing to take on his big contract and pony up what will be an expensive asking price won’t be easy. Just because the Rangers and Kings have the cap space and assets to make a competitive offer doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports there’s mutual interest between Taylor Hall and Sabres management in discussing a contract extension when the time is right. Both sides can start those discussions on March 12, one month before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s widely assumed Hall could be moved before the trade deadline if the Sabres fail to re-sign him by then. That’s still a possibility. If they can re-sign him, however, it could help alleviate some of the potential concerns Eichel might have about the club’s plans going forward.
UPDATES ON GETZLAF, NUGENT-HOPKINS AND BINNINGTON
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports teams have a lot of interest in Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. The 35-year-old center is slated to become a UFA this summer. Seravalli indicates the Ducks have no plans to ask Getzlaf about a trade unless he asks to be moved to a contender before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf is among the greatest players in Ducks history. They’re not going to force him out the door if he’s non-committal about returning next season or doesn’t fit into their future plans. They’ll give him all the time he needs to make a decision.
Ryan Rishaug took to Twitter on Tuesday reporting no resumption of contract talks between the Edmonton Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 27-year-old forward is due to become a UFA this summer. He wants to stay and the club wants to re-sign him but working out term and dollars on a new deal during a flat-cap COVID environment has proven tricky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rishaug points out Nugent-Hopkins isn’t an asset the Oilers want to risk losing for nothing to free agency this summer. It’ll be interesting to see if talks resume before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I don’t expect them to move Nugent-Hopkins while they’re in the midst of the playoff race but perhaps that changes if they tumble in the standings.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said his goal is to sign Jordan Binnington to a new contract. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become a UFA this summer and is off to a strong start to this season.
Armstrong cited Binnington’s accomplishments in the short time he’s been with the Blues. He also pointed out the club would have to find a replacement for him if he departs via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues don’t have anyone in their system who can step up and fill Binnington’s skates. There aren’t many suitable options to replace him via this summer’s UFA market.
Tuukka Rask could be available but it’s expected he’ll re-sign with the Boston Bruins. Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen has a solid regular-season record but hasn’t accomplished much in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Devan Dubnyk of the San Jose Sharks are past their prime.