NHL Rumor Mill – December 30, 2022
TRADE PREDICTIONS FOR 2023
TORONTO STAR: Nick Kypreos predicts the bottom will fall out of the trade market leading up to the March 3 deadline because of more big-name players being available than in previous years. He also observed that players carrying no-movement clauses (like Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews) mean they will be “strong-arming” a lot of deals.
Speaking of Toews, Kypreos anticipates he’ll land with the Colorado Avalanche. However, he doesn’t see the Blackhawks getting much more than a third-rounder for him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not as crazy as it sounds given Kypreos’ observations of the talent potentially available in the market leading up to deadline day. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold as March 3 approaches.
Kypreos predicts Patrick Kane will stay with the Blackhawks for the remainder of this season and then test his luck in this summer’s free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s agent and Blackhawks management are expected to meet sometime in January when his fate will be decided. Some observers share Kypreos’ view while others think he’d like to chase a Stanley Cup this season as a playoff rental.
Multiple teams could love to acquire Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat for a playoff push but few can afford to retain him on a long-term contract. Kypreos believes the Boston Bruins are among those who could, suggesting Horvat could help them transition out of the Patrice Bergeron/David Krejci era.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s true at first glance, where the Bruins have $56.9 million invested in 12 roster players for 2023-24. However, the only way I think that’s feasible is if they decide not to re-sign David Pastrnak, who could end up earning $11 million annually or more on his next contract. Horvat could cost over $9 million to sign. That would be potentially $20 million invested in just two players, leaving very little to fill out the rest of the roster.
Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal aren’t ruling out the possibility of the Canucks and Horvat reaching an agreement on a contract extension. However, Horvat’s production this season suggests he could earn more in this summer’s free-agent market than what the Canucks can afford to pay him. They believe management will strongly consider trading him if the right offer comes along.
Finally, Kypreos expects the Florida Panthers will be sellers early in 2023. He predicts they’ll peddle forwards like Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart or Carter Verhaeghe to address their depleted defense corps.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers are pressed for cap space and possess few tradeable assets in terms of draft picks or prospects to address their blueline issues. A one-for-one hockey deal involving one of those forwards could fetch a quality defenseman. Then again, they could move one of those forwards in a cost-cutting deal to free up cap space to pursue a defenseman or two in the offseason.
UPDATES ON O’REILLY AND TARASENKO
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun thinks it’s more likely the St. Louis Blues move Ryan O’Reilly by the trade deadline as the club struggles to stabilize their season. His agent indicated there haven’t been any contract extension talks this season.
LeBrun is also certain that Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be signing a contract extension. The Blues winger requested a trade following the 2020-21 season. Unlike O’Reilly, Tarasenko has a full no-trade clause giving him a say over what happens leading up to March 3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun’s colleague Jeremy Rutherford recently speculated that the Blues would like to re-sign O’Reilly as a middle-third center on an affordable short-term contract. However, that’ll depend on whether O’Reilly wants to stay put or pursue a payday. If it’s the latter, Rutherford thinks they’ll peddle him before the deadline.
THE LATEST ON LAFRENIERE
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple believes the New York Rangers and Alexis Lafreniere are reaching a critical point in their relationship. The 21-year-old winger (and 2020 first-overall draft pick) has been reduced to fourth-line duty and was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now into his third season, Lafreniere has yet to achieve his much-anticipated breakout season. He’s been inconsistent and one NHL scout observed he doesn’t seem to accomplish much with or without the puck.
The Rangers still believe Lafreniere could become the player who showed so much potential during his impressive junior career. However, there seems to be a disconnect between the player he could become and where he is now. If things continue on their current path, they could face the choice of whether or not to keep him or trade him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple duly noted that Lafreniere, a natural left wing, has tried to adjust to playing on the right side as Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider are firmly entrenched as the top-two left-side wingers. However, he also felt the youngster is lacking the determination to do more to earn himself bigger minutes.
I don’t think the Rangers will give up on Lafreniere but he could become the subject of trade speculation if he fails to improve as this season rolls along. He’s certainly not going to earn a big payday from the Blueshirts once his entry-level contract expires at the end of this season. A short-term “show me” bridge deal is in his future.