NHL Rumor Mill – February 23, 2022
Will the loss of Jake Muzzin send the Leafs into the trade market? Could Zdeno Chara be shipped to a playoff contender? What is the latest on the Canadiens? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
TSN: Darren Dreger points out the Toronto Maple Leafs could free up over $5.6 million in salary-cap space if sidelined defenseman Jake Muzzin (concussion) ends up on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Dreger suggested options such as the Anaheim Ducks’ Hampus Lindholm, the Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg, the Montreal Canadiens’ Ben Chiarot or the Seattle Kraken’s Mark Giordano, though he called them “pie in the sky options” right now. He also said the Leafs would like to add a top-six forward to compliment the second line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know yet how long Muzzin could be sidelined. If he goes on LTIR, there’s no certainty he’d be out for the remainder of the regular season. He’d have to be for the Leafs to take on one of those blueliners without it causing a salary-cap headache if he returns before the postseason.
Dreger’s colleague Pierre LeBrun indicated the Ducks have reached out to Lindholm’s agent regarding a contract extension so he might not be available by the March 21 trade deadline. Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman (stick tap to The Hockey Writers’ Kevin Armstrong) recently said the Leafs had considered Klingberg but they don’t want to part with a first-round pick or one of their top prospects for a rental.
Speaking of Friedman, he thinks things could get interesting for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas if he’s willing to use that LTIR space. “I’m on the J.T. Miller train,” said Friedman, referring to the Vancouver Canucks center. Miller wouldn’t be a playoff rental as he has a year remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.25 million. However, I don’t think they could win a bidding war with teams like the New York Rangers that have lots of cap space and promising young players to draw upon for trade bait.
CHARA ON THE TRADE BLOCK?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports teams are calling the New York Islanders expressing interest in Zdeno Chara. The 44-year-old New York Islanders defenseman lacks a no-trade clause but it’s though GM Lou Lamoriello could approach him to see if he wants to move.
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner cites a league source claiming the Islanders will explore the trade market for Chara once he breaks the league record for most games played by a defenseman later this week. Rosner wonders if Chara could return to the Boston Bruins or if the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs might take a flier on him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara has slowed considerably but there appear to be clubs interested in him for his leadership in a third-pairing role. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s keen for one more crack at the Cup.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently musing over whether the Montreal Canadiens would consider trading Josh Anderson. Friedman said he’s getting mixed reactions over whether the Canadiens will keep the 27-year-old winger. Murphy feels they should retain Anderson, suggesting he has the look of a future Habs captain.
Marco D’Amico, meanwhile, took note of recent speculation by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun linking the Canadiens to the New York Rangers, citing the ties Canadiens hockey ops executive VP Jeff Gorton has with his former team. LeBrun felt the Habs would prefer prospects over draft picks and pointed out the Rangers’ depth in that department.
D’Amico suggested Vitali Kravtsov could be on their radar, pointing to the Habs’ recent hiring of former Rangers director of European Scouting Nick Bobrov as their new co-director of Amateur Scouting.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Judging from social media, trading Anderson wouldn’t go down well with Canadiens fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Habs are listening to offers on most of their players but Anderson could be someone they prefer retaining going forward. Then again, I said the same thing about Tyler Toffoli. Anderson, however, is younger and bigger than Toffoli and those factors could keep him in Montreal.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Canadiens acquired Kravtsov, who’s been playing in the KHL this season awaiting a trade. The 22-year-old was unhappy with his playing time with the Rangers and would get plenty of opportunities to prove himself with the rebuilding Habs.