NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

by | Feb 20, 2021 | Rumors | 43 comments

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.


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.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

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.


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. 


  1. If I’m Nashville I get someone other than Poile to start my rebuild … he’s done enough damage.

    • I couldn’t agree more Ed. The most I’d let Poile do is handle trading their ufas at the deadline. Hire another GM in the offseason and let him handle everything else moving forward.

  2. Considering that everybody knows that the Predators need to leave Ekholm exposed and will probaby lose him to Seattle is he really the best trade chip?

    A 3rd pairing D that could stay unprotected could be the centre-piece of a trade with a draft pick to nibble into their cap.

    • Geez habfan I agree with you again today. I would say it would be a trade deadline deal and treat it like he’s going to be a UFA. So the price to aquire him would be lower.

    • Habfan30 that’s a fair point. If your not protecting him, you may very well lose him in the expansion draft.

      Depending on the package it still maybe worth it.

      If Boston where to trade for him and push Zboril out of the lineup, this may not be a bad thing.

      According to Capfriendly Zboril needs to play 13 more games to be eligible for the expansion draft.

      By sitting Zboril for most games would mean they wouldn’t have to protect him.

      Unless I’m reading it totally wrong.

      With all that said Ekholm would be a solid addition to the Bruins.

      • @Caper Boston needs to expose 1 defenceman that`s played at least 27 games this year/70 games over the past 2 seasons and is under contract for 2022/rfa. Right now Boston only has 3 dman that meets that requirement Carlo McAvoy and Grzelyck. I`m sure Boston doesn`t want to expose any of those 3. The 13 games is what Zboril needs to play to meet that requirement. Moore needs 25 games and Boston needs to have a lesser dman meet those requirements than Carlo McAvoy and Grzelyck. Zboril does have to be protected regardless

      • Bob, personally I’m ok exposing Grizz if need be.

        Connor Clifton just needs 7 games to be exposed.

        I rather sit both Lauzon and Zboril, then lose them in the expansion draft.

        Play Clifton until 10 games left, then play Zboril and Lauzon.

      • Caper, Zboril isn’t close to being adequate in trade for Ekholm other than an added piece.

        Nashville has Josi, Borowiecki and Tinordi as LD that’s it. They’ll need a roster D plus something in a trade but I doubt anything really solid would go to them.

        Purely biased….I’d offer up Brett Kulak , he’s three years younger, more mobile, cheaper, unlikely to be claimed.

      • Habsfan30 i didn’t say Zboril for Elkhorn.

        I said dont play him so you don’t lose him in the expansion draft.

        The fact your saying Nashville would want a LD back in return defeats the purpose of trading him if your only going to have to expose that newly acquired asset in the expansion draft.

        With that said, I would think Nashville wants players or prospect that don’t need to be protected.

    • maybe Nashville should consider protecting 4 D + 4F. Josi , Ellis , Ekholm and Fabbri
      Forsberg, Arvidsson, Kunnin and one of Sissons, Jankrok or Cousins
      leave Duchesne and Johansen unprotected with hopes of getting an 8million anchor contract off the books.

      • Nice! Now that’s linear thinking.

      • Or something like that.

      • I ment nonlinear. It’s a good idea,Fergy.

      • I know Poile has faltered in the recent past but whenever I hear Poile , Nashville , trade I think of how he stole Filip Forsberg from Washington for Martin Erat.

  3. I agree with the above statement from Ed van impe very much ..Poile has been with Nashville for a long time and accomplished nothing ..
    But , in the meantime , maybe Poile can make a deal with Toronto for Nylander, and send back a defense man or a power forward and a pick , just to add to collections of errors !

    • I believe there would be a deal to be made between NSH and TOR.

      I think Nylander is their most traceable asset that would get them what they need. Not that he’s not a good player but you have to give to get.

      To TOR: Ekholm, Granlund
      To NSH: Nylander

      • That is a huge overpayment by the preds, nylander might be the most one dimensional player in the league! You have seen how Tavares numbers have dropped from playing with nylander instead of marner

      • I think it’s an overpayment by the Leafs.
        Not gonna trade a 24 yr old close to pt a game player on a decent contract for a pending UFA and a D man with a year left. If Ekholm was the same age on a fair deal with 4 years left, then OK.
        But he ain’t.
        I wouldn’t want to play the Leafs in the playoffs this year.
        Not sure what the odds are but I would wager $100 they make the final 4.

  4. I listened to the Treliving interview and it was the first time I have ever heard him sound so stressed. I think there is something else going on within the club.

    Bennett rumours could pick up again because Jeff Ward benched him for the 3rd period last night.
    Personally I think Ward will be the first coach fired this year. The flames are not playing very well and there seems to be a real “don’t give a crap” mentality within the club.

    Maybe Treliving sounding stressed was because he is on the hot seat. He will be coming up on 7 years as the Flames GM

  5. Bennett had a few games playing on Calgary’s top line yet he has only 3 points in 16 games and is -6. Virtanen has played on the 3rd and 4th lines and has 1 point in 16 games and is -2. Seems to me they are both busts yet some feel Bennett has trade value and Virtanen is a buyout candidate.

    • Gored1970 it’s because Bennett is a known playoff performer.

    • I think Travis Greene should be the first coach fired, huge difference between last year and this year, what’s up?

      • Compare the lineups, Frank, the problem might be upstairs.

  6. Virtanen would be a good Bruins project, definitely potential. Gamble. Wouldn’t want to give up too much though, Bjorks skill level has been showing at times and especially lately, and DeBrusk is too much, even though he’s limited.

    • Frank b, the Canucks problems are not linked to Greene. Scotty Bowman couldn’t do better. The issue is the precipitous drop off in forward talent after the top 6, and a weak D.

      Their prize D is Quinn Hughes, a jitterbug who is weak defensively. He is a sparkling – 13 this year.

      Virtanen to the Bs? Are you mad at Boston? Virtanen has 1 goal this year. His fitness and work ethic have been questioned by the Canucks. Let’s think about that for a minute: a young player in and out of the line up who has fitness and work ethic issues.

  7. Monahan 4 points. Gaudreau 17.
    I think we know who has to move and it’s not Bennett.Monahan potentially on the move ? Ironic because they did not look as good without him last night but something has to happen

    Poile was GM of year not too long ago
    Up until last year Nashville was perennial playoff favourite. I believe he will be allowed to fix it. However if they are burning it down around Josi then it won’t be Poile.

    • DeBrusk for Bennett straight up?

  8. Was looking at yesterday’s comments, and to add to today’s. Johansen, like Eichel would be of interest to Rangers. As was Debois. For
    Shoreorrpark: my feathers weren’t ruffled. Strome is mentioned in rumors due to fact he’s holding 2c spot that all Ranger fans agree is our number 1 need. When any center gets mentioned in rumors, Rangers are the team with biggest need. Most feel Strome isn’t in long term plans and acquiring an upgrade will probably require getting his salary off books. As far as your question yesterday about assets? Rangers currently have youngest roster in league, and according to every outlet that rates prospects, they’re usually ranked in top 2-3. DeAngelo will be mentioned for obvious reasons. He’s been sent home and will either be traded or bought out at end of season. Hard to imagine that a 24 year old dman who had more points than Dubois last season doesn’t have “any trade value”. So, same as Dubois, Virtanen, and Bennett, his name will pop up in most trade talks as long as other teams have players who have also become an issue with their teams.

    • Ok. But you still only mentioned DeAngelo and Strome as assets. Who would you offer for either Eichel, or as you mentioned Johanson out of Nashville?

      • Shoreorrpark. Do you really wants me to name every prospect in system? Never mentioned DeAngelo as part of trade to Buffalo. They’re already overloaded at RD. So, Lundkvist probably not part of package either unless Sabres move Risto or Montour. Not sure Rangers would want to part with either Kakko or Lafreniere. If they did, I’d only add Strome and picks. Wouldn’t need as much of a package for Johansen

      • Slick, no, bud. Never asked you to name every one of the Rags prospects in their system. Just what you’d offer for Eichel and now Johanson. Looks like you’re down to Strome plus picks? So pretty close to what I was eluding to yesterday.
        Fact is the Rags do have a nice stable of prospects, but nothing close to what Buffalo would demand. As for Johanson, he’s not close to what the Rags need. I guess what I’m saying is, trust Gorton, and stay the course. I figure they’re less than 5 years from being a dominant force in the league again. Rebuilds take time. My Bruins will be in the same position soon enough.

      • Shoreorrpark. As I said. Rangers have plenty of assets. One of best prospect pools in league. If they don’t have nearly enough, who does? I don’t see giving up as much for Johansen and Gorton will wait until Eichel situation plays out in summer. Who knows if either will actually be available. Hard to guess what Buffalo will want at this point. As far as Gorton staying course, he is. But as written about extensively in NY area, they have more wingers in system than could possibly get into lineup. And with all the prospects, they lack centers that can be considered future top 6 guys. They’re loaded on defense too.

      • Your defensemen will fetch you a center In the future if that’s how Gorton wishes to acquire one…..or two. As for the wingers, well they’re all only prospects until they bust loose and score. They have little to no value with regards to tradable assets. Wingers need centers or other playmaking wingers in order to be successful.
        The Rags need to keep drafting defensemen and now more importantly, centers.
        Centers can play wing with little transition. Not so much the other way around.

  9. Remember “trader Phil “as the press used to call him Sweeney’s the complete opposite. Since I’m not that creative I think of Sweeney as a human sloth he never does anything just sits in his chair at TD gardens. Sweeney would make any moves he never does.

  10. Henrique on waivers… WTF?

    • Pengy. Not many teams with 5.8m in cap space. Another 3 years left on contract too. 31 years old. No thanks.

      • Agree

        Don’t see takers at that hit

        But why waive him… can only bury $1.08M AND saves no cash

        Why not try and peddle him at 50% retained …. at that there would be takers

      • Waste paying him $5.8 M for 3 more years after this just to play in AHL

        Buyout costs %~$11.7 M and on books for 6 years

        Retain 50% costs $8.7 M (saves $3M) ; on books for only 3 years (rebuild time when Cap not relevant) and more importantly; will get a return ( pick(s) and/or prospect(s) ) from a team willing to go (and with room for) $2.9 M on a 3C…. there will be takers at that

  11. BigBadBruins

    Tavares currently has 16 points in 18 games. Not far off his pace from previous years. I don’t know how much Nylander has to do with that? Maybe Marner is more of a playmaker and Nylander more of a shooter.

    Keep in mind that Granlund is UFA after this season and Ekholm only has one year after this one. Nylander is only 24 and is not eligible for FA for 4 more seasons.

    Nashville needs scoring and Nylander is good for 60 points a year.

    • Daryl you probably unaware that Bigbadbruins doesn’t possess the sharpest hockey mind and cheers for the Habs, you know the divisional champs.

  12. Daryl has good comments above …..
    Nylander is marketable ..
    The Ekholm and Granlund for Nylander is a FIT
    Nylander May be a detriment to Tavares …..
    Thornton and Simmons were productive , awesome , affordable additions …
    Right now, the Leafs fo not have a second line
    They do have a top line , 3rd and 4th line ….
    Over 20 million tied up with the salary cap, on the second line !!
    Nashville , Buffalo are in a “Funk” and may be vulnerable and feel a change is in order ..
    Leafs can accommodate any team needing a CHANGE !!
    Tavares can take his pyjamas , Nylander – his soother – to a happy new beginning !!

    • JT will never waive his full NTC.
      Nylander is worth more than you’re giving him credit for. I’d keep him. Win the cup between now and the 2nd last year of Matthews contract. If not trade him for what would undoubtedly be a King’s ransom. Like the play on words? It’s funny cause that’s exactly where I’d trade him.