NHL Rumor Mill – March 30, 2021
Will the Panthers seek a defenseman with Aaron Ekblad sidelined? Could the Blues have an interest in Sabres winger Taylor Hall? What’s the latest on the Avalanche, Lightning, Canadiens and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE PANTHERS SHOP FOR A DEFENSEMAN?
NHL.COM: Dan Rosen believes losing top defenseman Aaron Ekblad (fractured leg) for 12 weeks puts the emphasis on the Florida Panthers to acquire a blueliner before the April 12 trade deadline. Options could include the Buffalo Sabres’ Brandon Montour, Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard, New Jersey Devils’ Sami Vatanen and New York Rangers Tony DeAngelo.
Like Ekblad, they’re all right-shot rearguards. Montour, Savard and Vatanen are pending unrestricted free agents while DeAngelo is in the first season of a two-year contract with an annual average value of $4.8 million.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Panthers general manager Bill Zito was already scouting for a top-four defenseman before Ekblad was sidelined.
One option could be the Nashville Predators’ Mattias Ekholm but there’s no certainty he’ll be available with the Predators back in the playoff race in the Discover Central Division. Richards believes Savard would be a good fit if he’s available.
Other targets could include Montour, Vatanen, Sabres blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen, or the Arizona Coyotes’ Alex Goligoski.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no one in the trade market that can replace Ekblad’s role as the Panthers’ top defenseman. If Zito goes shopping it’ll be for a decent depth rearguard capable of playing top-four minutes.
Zito could consider blueliners with term on their contracts such as Ekholm, Ristolainen or DeAngelo but the asking prices for those players could be more expensive than it would be for the UFAs. The Predators asking price for Ekholm is said to be three assets including a first-round pick and a top prospect. I believe Zito will instead look to the rentals.
NOTABLE RUMORS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams was believed discussing something with the St. Louis Blues. He wondered if it might involve Sabres winger Taylor Hall but said he received “pushback” on that notion. Friedman doubts the Sabres can get a first-round pick for Hall unless there’s a bidding war. He also wondered if Casey Mittelstadt could be moved.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Hall is attracting interest in the trade market but his value has declined over the course of this season. Rival GMs will try to get him for a bargain if they can. Adams might have to accept a second-rounder and a prospect.
Friedman believes the Colorado Avalanche could have an interest in David Savard if the Blue Jackets become sellers. He also thinks the Tampa Bay Lightning could be a suitor if they can find a way to fit him under their cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It seems to me that the Avs should be looking for a reliable backup for starting goalie Philipp Grubauer. As for the Lightning, they don’t have any cap room and expect superstar winger Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup in time for the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Julien Brisebois managed to make an addition before the deadline but it would take considerable salary-cap gymnastics to pull it off.
Friedman doubts Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is done dealing after acquiring Eric Staal from the Sabres last Friday. He thinks Bergevin may have had something going with Artturi Lehkonen to create some salary-cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens need an experienced top-four, left-side defenseman. That should be Bergevin’s target if he can make the dollars fit. Lehkonen has come up in Habs trade chatter in recent weeks. He’s got a $2.4 million cap hit and becomes a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. He could become expendable as the Habs look to promote younger players following this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oilers GM Ken Holland wants to add to his roster before the deadline but he only has four picks in this year’s draft, with the highest being a fourth-rounder. I doubt he’s keen to part with his 2022 picks.