NHL Rumor Mill (Part Two) – March 19, 2022
Check out the latest on the Golden Knights, Rangers, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Wild and Capitals in Part Two of today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ARE THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS INTERESTED IN VARLAMOV?
NYI HOCKEY NOW/VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner and Owen Krepps cite sources claiming Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon is “pushing hard” to acquire goaltender Semyon Varlamov from the New York Islanders. Vegas starter Robin Lehner’s been hampered by injuries while backup Laurent Brossoit has struggled of late.
The Isles’ asking price is reportedly a first-round pick. Vegas traded their 2022 first-rounder to the Buffalo Sabres in last November’s deal for Jack Eichel but have their first-round picks for 2023 and 2024.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Varlamov carries a $5 million cap hit through 2022-23 so he wouldn’t be a rental player. However, he also has a 16-team no-trade list, though Vegas might not be on it. With Ilya Sorokin playing well as the Isles starter and GM Lou Lamoriello needing to shed some salary for next season, perhaps a Varalmov deal is possible. Whether it’s with the Golden Knights remains to be seen.
IS ANOTHER TRADE COMING FOR THE RANGERS?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks speculates Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell could be a good fit alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad on the Rangers’ top line if the price is right. A first-round pick could be asking too much though Brooks believes Rangers GM Chris Drury is keeping an open mind about that. The better of the Rangers’ two second-rounders should be on the table but more would probably be needed to acquire Rakell.
Brooks also cites sources reporting the Rangers have Seattle Kraken defenseman Mark Giordano on their radar. However, the price for rental players is high this year. It’s unclear if the Rangers could get Giordano and Rakell without dipping into their pool of prime assets.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple also indicated the Rangers are kicking tires on the Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Max Domi and the Arizona Coyotes’ Phil Kessel, though the latter two are low on their list. GM Chris Drury also called the Montreal Canadiens about Artturi Lehkonen but his improved play under coach Martin St. Louis could see him staying put. Drury could also see if a team is willing to take a flier on the Rangers struggling backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drury is sitting on nearly $32 million in trade deadline cap space and has plenty of tradeable assets to swing a deal for one or two of those aforementioned players I’ll be surprised if his recent acquisition of Frank Vatrano is his biggest deadline move.
WILL THE BLACKHAWKS MOVE KUBALIK AND DE HAAN?
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently reported the Blackhawks were making progress on a trade involving winger Dominik Kubalik, whose production has significantly declined this season. The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks appear the front-runners.
Pope also anticipates Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan will be on the move by deadline day. Sources suggest the club could get the second- or third-round pick they’ve set as their asking price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kubalik is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. His annual cap hit is $3.7 million but he’s earning $4 million in actual salary. I didn’t post this rumor earlier because it appeared a trade was imminent. So far, however, there’s no indication yet that the Blackhawks are any closer to moving Kubalik.
Meanwhile, de Haan is an experienced stay-at-home blueliner slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He should be an affordable acquisition for a playoff contender.
COULD THE CANADIENS MOVE LEHKONEN OR KULAK?
TSN: Darren Dreger yesterday reported there is “high interest” in Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. He could continue to produce for the Habs for the next four-five seasons, which is being measured against his trade value.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan recently reported Canadiens GM Kent Hughes isn’t looking to stage a fire sale leading up to deadline day. He indicated he’s not trying to move defenseman Brett Kulak, who became the subject of recent media trade chatter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes also said he wasn’t looking at trading Tyler Toffoli until he got a deal too good to pass up from the Calgary Flames. He could do the same with Lehkonen or Kulak but only if it meets his price. Hughes won’t trade them just for the sake of it.
Lehkonen is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. If he’s only willing to commit to a one-year deal to take him up to UFA status they should trade him for the best possible return.
LATEST ON THE WILD AND CAPITALS
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin recently indicated he’s not trying to trade his way out of his club’s roster problems but is instead trying to make the team better. Though it seems like the Wild were in the market for a star player a few weeks ago, that market seems to have dried up with Joe Pavelski re-signing with the Dallas Stars, Tomas Hertl staying with the San Jose Sharks, and Claude Giroux linked to the Florida Panthers.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo recently reported the Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes are showing interest in Jack McBain. The prospect center has indicated he’s not going to sign with the Wild because he doesn’t see a center position opening for himself on their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin sending Nico Sturm to Colorado for Tyson Jost earlier this week indicates he’s willing to make a move to bolster his roster if the right deal can be found. I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of him adding another player, perhaps one who’ll have more impact than Jost, by deadline day.
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir expects the Washington Capitals to get in on the action if Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury becomes available in the trade market provided the asking price is palatable. They’re also not interested in goalies who are in the “good-but-not-great” tier.
GM Brian MacLellan isn’t willing to part with his first-round pick or a top prospect for a rental player. Rumors have linked the Capitals to Blue Jackets forward Max Domi. MacLellan is working the phones and we shouldn’t rule anything in or out at this point. He’s in the market for a middle-six forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would be a great story if Fleury joined the Capitals given his history playing against them during his years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. At this stage, however, it’s hard to say if Fleury’s going anywhere.