NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021
SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.
Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.
It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.
Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.
Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.
UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN
THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.
“We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”
Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.
THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.
An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible.