Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 21, 2021
Will the Rangers go shopping for a forward? Have they started contract talks with Ryan Strome? What moves could be in store for the Sabres after trading Jack Eichel? Check out the latest in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup
LATEST RANGERS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple took note of TSN’s Darren Dreger’s recent report claiming the New York Rangers are in the market for a middle-six forward to replace Sammy Blais after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He also felt they could pursue a defenseman but that could be a move made closer to the March 21 trade deadline.
Staple believes the Rangers can’t afford to take on players with term remaining on their contracts as new deals will be required next summer for Blais and restricted free agent Kaapo Kakko plus they’ll also require a second-line center and a backup goalie.
Looking at players on expiring contracts, Staple suggested the Seattle Kraken’s Calle Jarnkrok or Marcus Johansson, the Ottawa Senators’ Chris Tierney, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Nino Niederreiter, the Arizona Coyotes’ Phil Kessel, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Dylan Strome, the Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen and the Los Angeles Kings’ Gabriel Vilardi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt Niederreiter will be available. The Hurricanes are among the NHL’s best teams and have little reason to ship him out for a draft pick or prospect. If they were to move Niederreiter, it would be to bring in a player to address a different roster need.
The Los Angeles Kings aren’t a struggling club like the others listed here but they could become a seller should fall out of the playoff chase as the season rolls along. Vilardi was recently demoted to the minors and could become a trade chip at some point. Staple’s colleague, Lisa Dillman, speculated the former first-round pick might be at the point in his career where a trade could help get his career back on track. She proposed the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rebuilding Coyotes as possible destinations for Vilardi.
Kessel would be an expensive addition unless the Coyotes retain part of his $6.8 million cap hit. Teams with an interest in the veteran winger could prefer waiting until the trade deadline to pursue him.
The Blackhawks tried shopping Strome since last season but couldn’t find any takers. The interim management probably won’t have any better luck. He’s been skating on their checking line but is best suited on the second line with better wingers.
As for the Kraken, Senators and Canadiens, they’re going to be among this season’s sellers but they don’t have to dump expiring contracts right now. They’ll likely wait until the second half of the season in order to find the best return possible.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy wondered if the Boston Bruins might try to entice the Rangers into taking winger Jake DeBrusk off their hands. He had a strong preseason but has been inconsistent thus far this season. DeBrusk remains a mainstay in the rumor mill among NHL scouts and executives but there’s no indication the Bruins and Rangers are talking trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk might still be a topic of trade chatter in some NHL circles but there’s doesn’t seem to be much interest in him. The media speculation about the 24-year-old winger’s trade status has died down since the summer.
NEW YORK POST: Speaking of the Rangers, Mollie Walker reported there haven’t been any contract extension talks between management and Ryan Strome. The 28-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Given their recent signings of Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox plus Kakko due for a new contract, Walker believes the Rangers probably can’t afford to re-sign Strome.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with over $70.8 million invested in 16 players for 2022-23. Strome will seek a higher annual average value than his current $4.5 million. He’ll likely hit the open market next summer unless the Rangers shed some salary to re-sign him.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE SABRES?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked if the Sabres would pursue a starting goaltender via next summer’s free-agent market. He doesn’t see them going that route with promising Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on the cusp of the NHL.
If Luukkonen is ready for the job next season, the Sabres could bring back Dustin Tokarski or sign a reliable veteran on a short-term deal. Lysowski recommends going the trade route if Luukkonen isn’t ready.
Lysowski was also asked which of the Sabres pending UFAs could be shopped at the trade deadline. He felt Colin Miller’s value as a right-shot defenseman puts him at the top of the list.
Others could include Vinnie Hinostroza, Drake Caggiula, Cody Eakin, Robert Hagg, Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski but he doesn’t expect the Sabres will trade them all. He speculated they could attempt to bring back Mark Pysyk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have made their big moves after trading Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen since April. Any major moves between now and March 21 will likely be to move out some pending UFAs for draft picks.