NHL Rumor Mill – January 5, 2022
WHAT WILL THE OILERS DO ABOUT THEIR GOALTENDING?
TSN: Darren Dreger reports Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland is looking at his goaltending as the club has stumbled through a 2-8-2 record in their last dozen games. Available trade options are being considered plus the club is also still searching for a third-line center. Dreger also cited a source claiming head coach Dave Tippett isn’t in immediate danger of losing his job.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Holland has already dismissed rumors linking the Oilers to former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. He wondered if Holland might pursue a rental player like Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury or Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the Dallas Stars are getting some calls about Anton Khudobin, who cleared waivers last month and was sent to their AHL affiliate. The Stars would have to retain part of his $3.33 million cap hit or take back a contract in return. LeBrun wondered if the Oilers might take a chance on Khudobin even though he has another year remaining on his contract and they have zero salary-cap space.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Terry Jones believes goaltending is the Oilers’ Achilles heel right now and feels they have to be finished with struggling Mikko Koskinen while starter Mike Smith remains sidelined. He thinks Holland’s first move of the New Year is to find a new starting netminder.
Robert Tychkowski doesn’t put all the blame for the Oilers’ slump on Koskinen’s shoulders but acknowledges they need help between the pipes. He also cites a lack of goal production beyond superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things are getting really ugly in Edmonton right now. Koskinen’s difficulties over the past month have proven costly, to the point where Tippett blamed the goaltender for their recent loss to the New York Rangers.
Firing Tippett might provide a spark that improves the Oilers’ goal production but it won’t turn Koskinen into a better netminder or magically make Mike Smith a healthy starter. Holland has no choice but to find a suitable solution between the pipes.
The most immediate should be giving Stuart Skinner more opportunities. While he only won four of nine starts this season he put up better stats (2.70 GAA, .916 SP) than Koskinen.
As for those trade options, Fleury is being mentioned because he’s a pending unrestricted free agent playing for a bad team in Chicago. However, there is no indication Blackhawks management is in any hurry to ship out the 37-year-old goaltender, let alone if the Oilers are among his preferred trade destinations.
Khudobin could be an easier option but the Oilers’ limited cap space means Holland will have to get creative to find a way to make the dollars fit. The 35-year-old Stars netminder could be motivated for redemption after his struggles earlier this season sent him tumbling down the pecking order behind Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger.
Maybe Holland puts in a call to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Joonas Korpisalo. Like Fleury, he’s due to become a UFA this summer. He isn’t expected to be back with the Jackets after they signed Elvis Merzlikins to a long-term extension. Korpisalo carries a more affordable $2.8 million cap hit and lacks no-trade protection.
I’ve also read and heard some suggestions about Holland acquiring Carey Price from the Montreal Canadiens but that’s just nonsense at this point. Price hasn’t played a single game this season as he’s still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Even if he agreed to waive his no-movement clause, the Oilers can’t afford his $10.5 million annual average value. I doubt there’s any team willing to be a third-party broker right now to take on part of his hefty cap hit for the next four years.
UPDATE ON CHYCHRUN
TSN: Darren Dreger reports teams are calling Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong and making offers for defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, Armstrong isn’t in a rush to move the 23-year-old blueliner. The asking price is said to be a “Jack Eichel type of return”.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun doesn’t believe a Chychrun deal is imminent but the fact they’re fielding calls suggests the possibility of a deal before the March 21 trade deadline. However, he points out they’re under no obligation to move Chychrun by then. The blueliner carries an affordable $4.6 million annual cap hit through 2024-25.
GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan dismissed a rumor claiming Chychrun and his agent requested a trade. He also believes Armstrong could be doing Chychrun a favor by moving him to a team where he’d have a better chance at success than having him burn through several years of his playing prime with a rebuilding club.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss cited Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos claiming the Bruins were among several teams in the mix for Chychrun. Others include the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong can afford to wait for the right offer for Chychrun. Maybe that comes before the March trade deadline but I think it’s more likely to take place in the offseason when some clubs will have more salary-cap space and a willingness to make big trades to address roster weaknesses.
LATEST ON RASK, GIROUX, GIORDANO AND CHIAROT
NHL.COM: Amelie Benjamin reports Tuukka Rask is making progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery and could make his debut with the Boston Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence this weekend should he receive medical clearance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa wondered what Rask’s contract could be once he signs with the Bruins. He thinks it will most likely be an affordable one-year deal. How much they pay him could depend on whether they can free up some cap space by honoring winger Jake DeBrusk’s trade request.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman doesn’t get any sense of urgency from the Philadelphia Flyers to ship out pending UFA center Claude Giroux as they’re still battling for a playoff spot. He considers it unlikely Mark Giordano will stay with the Seattle Kraken as he’ll have considerable value at the trade deadline. He also wondered if the St. Louis Blues might attempt to acquire Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot.