NHL Rumor Mill – November 15, 2021
A look at the top potential trade targets now that Jack Eichel’s off the market in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy and Matt Larkin examined several possible trade targets now that Jack Eichel is finally off the trade market.
Kennedy kicked things off by suggesting Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel as the most obvious choice. He also wondered what the market would be for defenseman Kris Letang if the Pittsburgh Penguins decide the postseason isn’t in the cards for them this season. Despite his injury history and age, the 34-year-old remains a solid offensive blueliner who could fetch a decent return should the Penguins decide to rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is going to be traded at some point between now and the March 21 trade deadline. He’s an unrestricted free agent next summer who doesn’t fit into the rebuilding Coyotes’ plans and he wants a chance to earn a new contract by playing with a playoff contender this season. He’s being paid only $1 million in actual salary but his $6.8 million cap hit likely means cap-strapped suitors could wait until closer to the trade deadline.
Like Kessel, Letang is a UFA next summer. While his name briefly surfaced in trade speculation over the past couple of years, he has indicated his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. He won’t be going anywhere if management feels the same way.
Kennedy noted that Letang has a modified no-trade clause allowing him to be moved to 18 teams. He’s also earning $7.25 million in cap hit and actual salary, meaning he would be a more likely trade candidate near the deadline if he and the Penguins decide it’s time to move on.
Larkin suggests center Tomas Hertl as a trade candidate if the San Jose Sharks slide out of playoff contention. Another one could be Seattle Kraken defenseman Mark Giordano, prompting Larkin to wonder if the Calgary Flames might attempt to reacquire their former captain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hertl could be the most desirable trade target depending on what the market looks like after the calendar flips to 2022. The 28-year-old center hopes to soon discuss a new contract with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson but there’s no certainty they’ll reach an agreement on an extension before the trade deadline.
The Kraken making Giordano their captain suggests they’re confident of signing the 38-year-old defenseman to a contract extension. If that doesn’t work out, they could consider moving him before deadline day. Maybe the Flames would try to bring him back as a rental but that will depend on what their needs are as the trade deadline approaches.
Returning to the Penguins, Larkin noted Evgeni Malkin is also in the final year of his contract. The 35-year-old center is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Once he returns to the lineup the club will have a better idea of how the standings might shake out. Malkin could be a player they could get a lot for in the trade market if they decide it’s time to move on.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin’s in the same boat as Letang. He’s also hinted that he’d like to finish his career in Pittsburgh. He has a full no-movement clause and is earning $9.5 million in cap hit and actual salary. He would generate plenty of interest if the Penguins shop him but moving that contract won’t be easy.
Larkin also mentioned Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as a trade candidate. He suggested the Edmonton Oilers as a club that might want to kick tires on Fleury or current free agent Tuukka Rask.
Staying with the Blackhawks, Larkin raised the possibility of Patrick Kane as a trade chip, noting he’s got a year remaining on his contract with a $10.5 million cap hit. He acknowledged that would make it difficult to move the 32-year-old winger but he would be appealing as a two-year rental player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury has popped up in recent weeks as a potential trade chip for the Blackhawks later in the season. His $7 million cap hit ($6 million in actual salary) and 10-team no-trade clause would make it difficult for a team with little or no cap space (like the Oilers) to acquire him.
As for Kane, I don’t see the Blackhawks having that conversation with him until the offseason unless he asks to be moved before the deadline. The Hawks need a long-overdue rebuild. Kane and team captain Jonathan Toews could be shopped if they don’t want to be part of it. They both carry identical contracts with full no-movement clauses, which is why I believe any attempt by the Blackhawks to move either guy will have to wait until next summer.