NHL Rumor Mill – February 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 24, 2021

The latest on Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins plus updates on the Predators, Sabres, Coyotes, Kings, Red Wings and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman cited Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley appearing on Andy Strickland and Cam Janssen’s podcast where he said he doesn’t want goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to be traded. “He never came close to be part of a deal,” said Foley. “I would’ve had a big problem with it if that had been presented to me.” Friedman believes the Pittsburgh Penguins tried to reacquire Fleury through another team and they thought they were close to a deal.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman indicated if Foley doesn’t want Fleury traded then that’s the end of it. The 36-year-old goaltender becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Friedman believes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay with the Edmonton Oilers and management wants to keep him. The biggest challenge is the economic landscape is recovering more slowly than expected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the salary cap is likely to remain at $81.5 million for next season, affecting how much the Oilers can comfortably afford to invest in a long-term extension for Nugent-Hopkins.

Following up on his Saturday report regarding the Nashville Predators’ trade speculation, Friedman said their deep respect for aging goaltender Pekka Rinne means they want him to retire in their uniform. They have no desire to move defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. They’re willing to listen to trade offers but it will be difficult to pry away Filip Forsberg and Dante Fabbro.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators most likely to be traded are pending unrestricted free agents like Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula or those on affordable contracts (Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok) that expire at the end of 2021-22. They’ll entertain offers for expensive underachievers such as Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen but I doubt there will be much interest in either guy.

The Buffalo Sabres are making Brandon Montour available. The 26-year-old defenseman is eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer.

The Arizona Coyotes are looking for a center. They could also be interested in a rental player like Montour or a winger like the Vancouver Canucks’ Tanner Pearson if he becomes available.

Don’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to become buyers if they remain in playoff contention by the trade deadline. General manager Rob Blake intends to stick with his rebuilding plan.

UPDATES ON THE RED WINGS AND FLAMES

TSN: Frank Seravalli believes three Detroit Red Wings – Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening and Marc Staal – could draw attention from rival clubs as the Apr. 12 trade deadline approaches. Pierre LeBrun, meanwhile, said the Calgary Flames’ recent slump sparked speculation whether GM Brad Treliving was up to something. However, it seems all’s quiet on the Flames front.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Ryan, Staal and Glendening could be playing elsewhere by Apr. 12. As for the Flames, Treliving is remaining patient with his roster but his hand could be forced if they don’t show significant improvement. Complicating things, of course, are the COVID protocols and travel restrictions for any players acquired from American teams.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 23, 2021

Analysis of a list of early potential trade-rental candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the potential trade-rental candidates among this year’s NHL cellar-dwelling teams. He considers the pickings slim for those pending unrestricted free agents who could become available at the Apr. 12 trade deadline.

The notable names on the Buffalo Sabres include Taylor Hall, Eric Staal and Brandon Montour. Bobby Ryan and Marc Staal are among the Detroit Red Wings’ pending UFAs. Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Pekka Rinne are the noteworthy Nashville Predators while the Ottawa Senators’ list includes Derek Stepan and Ryan Dzingel.

Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).

Hall is the standout in this group and Fox is skeptical he’ll sign an extension with the struggling Sabres. He feels Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams must move Hall if he hasn’t re-signed by Apr. 11.

Eric Staal must submit a 10-team no-trade list. Centers are always in demand and he carries a reasonable $3.25 million salary-cap hit. Brother Marc, meanwhile, could help clubs in need of a dependable, stay-at-home defenseman.

Fox feels Stepan and Haula could help a contender seeking a third-line center. Montour, a right-handed shot, is only 26 and should still have better days ahead.

Granlund could be more successful playing sheltered minutes on a good team’s third line than trying to produce on a bad team’s top line. If the Toronto Maple Leafs were willing to take a chance on Alex Galchenyuk then someone should be willing to take a chance on Dzingel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Fox’s assessment of the limited trade options available for contenders seeking quality playoff rental options. Nevertheless, I’d like to add a few points.

Fox published this list of pending UFAs prior to Friedman’s report last Saturday listing Rinne among the Predators’ three untouchables along with Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. It sounds like Nashville GM David Poile wants the 38-year-old to finish his NHL career with the only team he’s ever played for. His age, $5 million cap hit and declining performance would significantly hurt his trade value even if he was available.

Ryan could be an affordable gamble for a club seeking an experienced depth forward. He’s on a $1 million contract and has nine points in 19 games with the rebuilding Red Wings. He turns 34 next month and his best years are behind him. However, a playoff contender could gamble on him rising to the occasion the way Corey Perry did for the Dallas Stars in last year’s postseason.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last week linked Granlund with the Leafs, noting they tried to sign him last fall but couldn’t make the dollars fit. Perhaps they’ll try to acquire him if they still want to add a top-six forward before the deadline.










Jack Eichel’s Future A Hot Topic In The NHL Rumor Roundup

Jack Eichel’s Future A Hot Topic In The NHL Rumor Roundup

 










NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2021

Could the New York Rangers pursue Jack Eichel? Should the Canadiens target Eric Staal? What’s the latest on the Avalanche? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD ZIBANEJAD’S STRUGGLES TURN RANGERS TOWARD EICHEL?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders if Mika Zibanejad’s poor play through the first quarter of this season will make them consider pursuing Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel at some point.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Zibanejad is having a horrible follow-up thus far to last year’s 41-goal effort. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2021-22. The decline in his production will affect potential contract extension talks.

Brooks suggests Eichel could be ripe for the picking with the Sabres once again struggling in the standings. The 24-year-old center has five years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $10 million.

If the Rangers go that route they’ll have to include 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere as part of the return. “The Sabres aren’t moving their captain to New York for a handful of expendable parts,” writes Brooks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad’s early-season woes are concerning for the Rangers. He’s shown little sign thus far of breaking out of his slump. Whatever’s behind it, be it a medical issue, putting too much pressure on himself, or struggling to cope with heightened expectations, Zibanejad’s play this season is hurting the Rangers’ playoff hopes and will impact his contract extension talks this summer.

The Rangers are well-positioned to make a competitive bid for Eichel if they choose to go that route. They’ll have sufficient cap space to take on his $10 million AAV plus they’re loaded with promising young talent to tempt the Sabres. Lafreniere or 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko will have to be part of the package.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS TARGET ERIC STAAL?

TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie recently suggested the Montreal Canadiens should consider targeting Eric Staal before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. He speculated the 36-year-old Sabres center might be tempted to leave the struggling club. Staal also appears at ease playing in Montreal, tallying 45 points in 50 career games against the Canadiens in their home rink.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal could accept a trade to a playoff contender if the Sabres decide to become sellers leading up to the deadline. Whether it would be the Canadiens remains to be seen given his a 10-team no-trade list.

The Habs are struggling right now but general manager Marc Bergevin might not be ready to shake things up just yet. Any player he acquires from an American-based team must self-isolate for two weeks after crossing the US-Canada border before joining the Canadiens.

LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Adrian Dater was asked about the Avalanche’s backup goaltending. With Pavel Francouz week-to-week with a lower-body injury, they’re making do with Hunter Miska and Adam Werner backing up starter Philipp Grubauer. Dater wonders if San Jose Sharks goalie Devan Dubnyk might be available if GM Joe Sakic decides to shop for help between the pipes if Francouz remains on LTIR.

Dater also believes the Avalanche could use a little more muscle, pointing out that they were pushed around during last year’s series against the Dallas Stars.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic will likely remain patient but that could be tested if Grubauer should be sidelined. For now, it seems he’ll stick with his current goalies and wait for Francouz to return.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 21, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 21, 2021

More Jack Eichel speculation, almost everyone on the Predators could be available in the trade market, and Ethan Bear’s trade value in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

LATEST EICHEL SPECULATION

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Jack Eichel era is heading toward a cliff in Buffalo. The Sabres captain was disgruntled over the club’s direction before last year’s front-office purge, the team isn’t scoring and Larkin expects rival clubs could soon start making trade offers for their franchise player.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel remains a hot topic for trade conjecture (NHL Images).

Larkin cites recent comments by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicating Eichel was unhappy over his situation last summer. While he didn’t request a trade, rival teams did make inquiries. Larkin wonders how much more Eichel will endure before he wants out.

Eichel’s no-movement clause doesn’t kick in until after the 2021-22 season, giving the Sabres a window of opportunity to trade him to any team. They would get significant offers because the 24-year-old center is in the prime of his playing career.

Larkin acknowledged the idea of moving Eichel and pending free agent winger Taylor Hall hurts. However, if the Sabres aren’t improving with those two in the lineup it might be best to hit the reset button.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos also wonders if it’s time for the Sabres to trade Eichel. He points to this being the center’s sixth season in the league with a team showing no sign of progress. Traikos pondered the possibility of Eichel following the same path as Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois and ask his agent to request a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see the Sabres shopping Eichel before the trade deadline if they haven’t climbed into playoff contention by then. However, I expect ownership and management will sit down with their captain to discuss the club’s situation and his future in Buffalo.

The Sabres will hang onto Eichel if he’s willing to stay put. If one side or the other believes it’s time to move on, an offseason trade makes the most sense. That’s when teams have more cap space and a willingness to make blockbuster moves.

Possible destinations for Eichel could be rebuilding teams with plenty of salary-cap space to absorb his $10 million annual average value and with sufficient assets to help the Sabres rebuild. The Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers fall into that category and could be among the suitors.

FEW UNTOUCHABLES AMONG THE PREDATORS.

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Elliotte Friedman reports word is there are only three untouchables – Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne – on the Nashville Predators. He believes they could be willing to listen to trade offers on almost everyone else, including winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Dante Fabbro.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman points out Rinne is among the untouchables because he’s coming to the end of his contract. I doubt there would be much of a market for the 38-year-old goaltender given his fading performance and $5 million annual average value.

Just because the Preds are willing to listen to offers on guys like Forsberg and Fabbro doesn’t mean those players will be traded. Those two are among their better players and I doubt they’ll be moved unless there’s a mind-blowing offer for either guy.

The most obvious trade candidates are pending UFAs such as Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Brad Richardson. Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Cousins could also be available as they each have a year remaining on their contracts with affordable salary-cap hits.

Ekholm has been often mentioned in recent days as perhaps their most desirable trade chip. That would change, of course, if guys like Forsberg and Fabbro are available.

COULD THE OILERS SHOP ETHAN BEAR?

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently observed the notion of the Edmonton Oilers shopping Ethan Bear has been floating around. Willis doubts they will move the 23-year-old defenseman because they lack a proper replacement for him, weakening their blue line. He feels any assessment of Bear as a trade chip only makes it clear how important he is to the Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t argue with Willis’ assessment. Sure, the Oilers could use him as a trade chip to address another roster issue but doing so would then leave a hole to be addressed on the defense.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 20, 2021

The latest Predators speculation plus updates on Sam Bennett and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS TANK THE SEASON?

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes it’s time Nashville Predators general manager David Poile consider making some roster moves that could put his club in a better position to secure a top-five pick in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images)

Kennedy suggests there could be some blue-chip forward prospects (Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sweden’s William Eklund, or the University of Michigan’s Matty Berniers and Kent Johnson) who could address the Predators’ need for more scoring punch. 2022 draft prospects could include Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, the USHL’s Matthew Savoie or Finland’s Brad Lambert.

It will be difficult to move struggling Predators forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They lack no-trade protection but their expensive contracts would mean trying to package either guy with other assets and/or absorbing part of their annual salary-cap hits. Kennedy believes affordable depth players such as Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula would be easier to move in return for draft picks and prospects.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as trade destinations for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old left side defenseman has a year remaining on his contract with an affordable annual average value of $3.75 million. He believes Ekholm is their move desirable trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are showing little indication they’re about to right the ship. Mired near the bottom of the standings, they’re running out of time to avoid falling completely out of this year’s playoff race.

Assuming Poile isn’t in danger of losing his job, he must soon decide if he’s going to be a seller. Moving expensive underachievers like Duchene and Johansen won’t be easy but it’s worth looking into if for nothing else than to try to get as much of their annual cap hits off the books as possible. Players on one-year contracts like Granlund, Jarnkrok and Haula are obvious trade candidates.

Ekholm is their best trade chip and could fetch a decent return. All those clubs listed by LeBrun would be prime destinations though it could involve the Predators taking back a contract as part of the return or shedding a salary in a separate deal. He suggested John Moore from the Bruins, Mathieu Perreault from the Jets, Nick Jensen from the Capitals or Shayne Gostisbehere from the Flyers. Those clubs would also have to take into account what effect acquiring Ekholm could have upon their expansive draft protection lists this summer.

UPDATES ON BENNETT AND VIRTANEN

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cited comments made by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to Sportsnet 960 on Friday regarding Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old forward’s agent took to the media earlier this month claiming his client might prefer a change of scenery. Treliving indicated he’s not going to pressured into moving Bennett.

We’ll determine – whether it’s Sam or anybody else – what their scenery is and when it’s going to change, and until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames and he’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames.”

Treliving called Bennett “a hell of a player,” adding he expects he’ll be “a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade request sparked considerable speculation over possible destinations for Bennett but that chatter has since petered out. Treliving isn’t saying he’s not going to trade Bennett but he obviously won’t have his agent try to force the issue.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes buying out Jake Virtanen would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks. The 24-year-old winger is believed to be on the trade block but rumors suggest there’s not much interest because of his poor performance this season.

An interested club might insist the Canucks take back an inefficient contract in return. Buying out Virtanen this summer would save $2.5 million next season with only $50K counting against the cap, and $500k toward their 2022-23 cap payroll.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Dayal that buying out Virtanen this summer might be the best option if they cannot trade him. Best to get him off the books as soon as possible.