NHL Rumor Mill – January 18, 2022
Will the Flyers trade Claude Giroux? Will the Oilers pursue a goaltender with term on his contract? What could the Flames and Ducks do? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen recently examined four NHL clubs facing critical roster decisions over the remainder of this season.
Boylen believes real questions about the Philadelphia Flyers’ core have to be asked. He cites colleague Elliotte Friedman recently saying they have questions about their identity and where they’re headed after last summer’s moves failed to bring about any improvement this season.
Friedman believes Flyers captain Claude Giroux could be traded to a Stanley Cup contender with the possibility of returning to Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Boylen also speculated pending UFA defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen seems likely to be moved by the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the question to be asked is whether Chuck Fletcher is the right general manager to fix this club. They showed some promise in 2019-20 but have since been on the downslide.
Fletcher was applauded for acquiring Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators last summer and cannot be faulted for Ellis missing most of this season to injury. However, he gave up a first-round pick to acquire Ristolainen.
Giroux could agree to be moved to a contender by the trade deadline but one wonders if he’ll want to return to a club that’s been spinning its wheels for most of the last 10 years. He could decide to finish his playing career elsewhere.
The Flyers also need a new coach. They continue to flounder under interim Mike Yeo after firing Alain Vigneault several weeks ago.
Boylen also explored the Edmonton Oilers’ current season-threatening tailspin. Given their precarious position in the standings, he doubts GM Ken Holland will pursue a rental player, citing his unwillingness to part with a first-round pick or one of his top prospects for a quick fix.
Holland could prefer adding a player with term remaining on his contract. Boylen believes adding a defenseman like Jakob Chychrun isn’t a pressing need when they require a reliable starting goalie. He points out someone like the New York Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov or Montreal Canadiens’ Jake Allen makes a lot of sense on the surface.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland has to be feeling the heat from ownership and fans to do something to reverse his club’s fortunes. However, he’s aware he’s dealing from a position of weakness and will have to give up more than he’s comfortable with to address his goaltending.
The Islanders and Canadiens are in worse straits than the Oilers right now but their respective managements probably aren’t feeling the same pressure as Holland. I doubt Isles GM Lou Lamoriello is being goaded to move Varlamov or Canadiens hockey ops VP Jeff Gorton is being pushed to shop Allen. That doesn’t mean those goalies aren’t available but acquiring either one could cost a draft pick or prospect that Holland would prefer to keep.
Boylen also wondered what the Calgary Flames will do with pending UFA Johnny Gaudreau. The winger is having a terrific season so it might make sense to extend him how. However, if they do that and the Flames miss the playoffs or get bounced in the first round again, they’re right back where they started. If they wait and he plays well in the postseason he could decide to test the market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boylen believes much of what the Flames do with their roster will depend on their performance this season. Another disappointing effort could see Gaudreau hit the open market this summer. Gaudreau’s declined to talk about his contract and his agent and Flames management are maintaining a cone of silence on the matter.
The Anaheim Ducks have several veterans like Hampus Lindholm who are slated to become UFAs this summer. However, they’re also contributing to the club’s better-than-expected effort this season. They also have an interim GM in Jeff Solomon while they search for a full-time replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks could retain those UFAs if they’re still in the thick of the playoff chase. However, they’ve struggled in recent weeks and could slide out of contention if they don’t get back on track soon. A slide down the standings could lead to guys like Lindholm, Josh Manson and Rickard Rakell hitting the trade block by the March 21 trade deadline.