NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2021
COULD ZIBANEJAD’S STRUGGLES TURN RANGERS TOWARD EICHEL?
Zibanejad is having a horrible follow-up thus far to last year’s 41-goal effort. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2021-22. The decline in his production will affect potential contract extension talks.
Brooks suggests Eichel could be ripe for the picking with the Sabres once again struggling in the standings. The 24-year-old center has five years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $10 million.
If the Rangers go that route they’ll have to include 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere as part of the return. “The Sabres aren’t moving their captain to New York for a handful of expendable parts,” writes Brooks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad’s early-season woes are concerning for the Rangers. He’s shown little sign thus far of breaking out of his slump. Whatever’s behind it, be it a medical issue, putting too much pressure on himself, or struggling to cope with heightened expectations, Zibanejad’s play this season is hurting the Rangers’ playoff hopes and will impact his contract extension talks this summer.
The Rangers are well-positioned to make a competitive bid for Eichel if they choose to go that route. They’ll have sufficient cap space to take on his $10 million AAV plus they’re loaded with promising young talent to tempt the Sabres. Lafreniere or 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko will have to be part of the package.
SHOULD THE CANADIENS TARGET ERIC STAAL?
TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie recently suggested the Montreal Canadiens should consider targeting Eric Staal before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. He speculated the 36-year-old Sabres center might be tempted to leave the struggling club. Staal also appears at ease playing in Montreal, tallying 45 points in 50 career games against the Canadiens in their home rink.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal could accept a trade to a playoff contender if the Sabres decide to become sellers leading up to the deadline. Whether it would be the Canadiens remains to be seen given his a 10-team no-trade list.
The Habs are struggling right now but general manager Marc Bergevin might not be ready to shake things up just yet. Any player he acquires from an American-based team must self-isolate for two weeks after crossing the US-Canada border before joining the Canadiens.
LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Adrian Dater was asked about the Avalanche’s backup goaltending. With Pavel Francouz week-to-week with a lower-body injury, they’re making do with Hunter Miska and Adam Werner backing up starter Philipp Grubauer. Dater wonders if San Jose Sharks goalie Devan Dubnyk might be available if GM Joe Sakic decides to shop for help between the pipes if Francouz remains on LTIR.
Dater also believes the Avalanche could use a little more muscle, pointing out that they were pushed around during last year’s series against the Dallas Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic will likely remain patient but that could be tested if Grubauer should be sidelined. For now, it seems he’ll stick with his current goalies and wait for Francouz to return.