Predators No Longer Sellers In NHL Trade Market?
A look at several noteworthy names on TSN’s updated trade bait list plus updates on the Penguins and Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ANALYSIS OF TSN’S UPDATED TRADE-BAIT LIST
TSN: Mattias Ekholm remains atop the updated trade-bait list. Pierre LeBrun recently reported the Nashville Predators seek three assets (including a first-round pick and a top prospect) for the 30-year-old defenseman.
Meanwhile, winger Mikael Granlund rises to No. 3 as Frank Seravalli reported he’s the Toronto Maple Leafs’ primary target ahead of the April 12 trade deadline. Seravalli also pointed out the Predators’ recent surge in the standings have them in wait-and-see mode.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No mention of Nashville blueliner Ryan Ellis on TSN’s list. The Athletic’s Adam Vingan observed Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondering if Ellis might be available. Vingan weighed the pros and cons of trading either defenseman. He also pointed out the Preds are under no obligation to do so given their recent improvement in the standings and the term remaining on both rearguard’s contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No mention of Coyotes winger Conor Garland on this list. A recent report by Elliotte Freidman speculating over Garland’s availability has BostonHockeyNow’s Joe Haggerty and NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss suggesting the winger would be a good trade target for the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pierre LeBrun, in his column for The Athletic, suggested Foligno or Palmieri could be targeted by New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello if they become available. He and Elliotte Friedman both reported the Bue Jackets could be reluctant to part with Foligno. With the Jackets back in the playoff race they could also retain Savard. It remains to be seen, meanwhile, whether the Devils will trade or re-sign Palmieri.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Washington listed Bernier and Dubnyk among possible goalie trade targets for the Washington Capitals. Others include Buffalo’s Carter Hutton, Arizona’s Antti Raanta, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Calgary’s David Rittich.
Given the Capitals’ limited cap space, any deal they make will be dollar-in, dollar-out. I rule out Rinne because of his no-movement clause and desire to finish his career with the Predators. I don’t see the Flames moving Rittich as long as they have a shot at a playoff spot.
SPECTOR’ S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch considers it doubtful Dzingel will get traded. He feels teams will be more interested in getting blueline help before the deadline, suggesting Braydon Coburn, Mike Reilly and Erik Gudbranson could be targeted by playoff clubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal carries a 10-team no-trade list but it’s believed he could be willing to waive it to go to a contender. However, The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski recently reported Sabres GM Kevyn Adams hasn’t asked Staal about it. Maybe Adams is waiting until the deadline draws closer. Then again, maybe no one’s called the Sabres about the 36-year-old center.
UPDATES ON THE PENGUINS AND FLYERS
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe reports Brian Burke, the Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations, dismisses speculation this year’s trade deadline could be a quiet one around the league, suggesting business could soon pick up. He said general manager Ron Hextall is working the phones as they’ll try to add at the trade deadline if they can. Burke indicated he and Hextall would like to bring some size to their roster.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall reports Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher took accountability for his club’s struggles this season. He cited his inability to replace retired defenseman Matt Niskanen as a significant factor. Fletcher said he’s not looking at selling right now, adding the trade market is very quiet. He indicated he’s willing to upgrade his team if a deal makes sense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins are rising in the standings, emboldening their front office to try to augment their lineup at the trade deadline. The Flyers, meanwhile, could go either way, which explains Fletcher’s position. They’re still in the playoff chase but must gain ground over the next couple of weeks for their GM to consider investing futures for immediate help.
LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Nashville Predators could face a decision between trading Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis, who is currently sidelined. The latter was considered among their untouchables but there could be considerable value in the highly-regarded defenseman.
Players with Ellis’ contract (six years remaining with an annual average value of $6.25 million) are difficult to move now but Friedman suggests the Preds blueliner could be an exception. He believes Ellis could be a good long-term fit with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Friedman is also curious about what the Predators might do with Calle Jarnkrok. He has one season remaining on his contract worth $2 million and was last week’s NHL player of the week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Ellis would attract plenty of interest if Predators general manager David Poile is willing to listen to offers. However, I don’t believe they can move him during the trade deadline with so many capped-out clubs seeking affordable rentals. If Ellis is to be traded that move probably happens in the offseason when interested clubs have more cap space.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Mattias Ekholm remains the big name on the trade bait list. Sources tell LeBrun the Predators are seeking three assets in return: a first-round pick, an elite prospect and a third asset that could take on different forms.
Part of the reason behind that asking price is Ekholm’s under contract for another year. They must determine if the best offer they’ll get is at this trade deadline or after this summer’s expansion draft when interested clubs no longer have to worry about protection lists.
Frank Seravalli believes Predators winger Mikael Granlund is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ primary target in their search for a top-six forward. However, there are some complicating factors.
The Leafs are awaiting clarity on whether the current 14-day quarantine period for players from American teams joining Canadian clubs will be reduced to seven games. There could also be some hesitation by the Predators to sell as they’re gaining ground on the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Discover Central Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Poile isn’t under pressure to move Ekholm at this trade deadline. Interested clubs could be more willing to pursue him in the offseason following the expansion draft.
Granlund is probably the most affordable forward linked to the Leafs in terms of return and salary. If that quarantine period isn’t reduced they’ll have to acquire him before the end of this month if he’s to be effective for them over the remainder of the season.
TRADE RUMORS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Leafs have checked around on goalies (“Arizona makes sense”) but doesn’t see a long list of potential healthy options to acquire in a sensible trade. He also dismissed the rumors linking the Leafs to Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Darcy Kuemper is a terrific starter but the Coyotes netminder remains week-to-week with a lower-body injury. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports Kuemper’s certain to be back before the trade deadline but there’s no certainty he’ll be moved before the trade deadline. He’s under contract for another season and Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be reluctant to move him. Oft-injured backup Antti Raanta was recently placed on injured reserve.
The speculation about the Leafs acquiring Quick sounds like a desperate fever dream from the more deranged of Frederik Andersen’s critics. The 35-year-old Kings goalie is past his prime, carries a $5.8 million annual salary-cap hit for the next two years and has a long injury history.
Acquiring Quick would make the Leafs older, eat up valuable cap space for next season that could be better invested in a younger player, and wouldn’t resolve their goaltending concerns.
Following on his report from last Saturday that the Coyotes could consider moving winger Conor Garland, Friedman said they’re not interested in multiple late-round picks. The Boston Bruins need scoring depth and he speculates they could have interest in the former junior Bruin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garland is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could wait until the offseason if he doesn’t find any suitable offers before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 36-year-old Brown is having a good bounce-back performance from last season’s disappointing effort. He’s got a year remaining on his contract ($5.875 million cap hit) but I don’t think he’s a fit with the Islanders from a contract standpoint.
Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got $75.9 million invested in 15 players next season. Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin are restricted free agents seeking raises on their next contracts.
The Columbus Blue Jackets must decide if they’ll shop pending UFA defenseman David Savard at the trade deadline or hold onto him for the playoffs. The Jackets have risen back into the postseason chase in the Discover Central Division. Friedman also isn’t sure the Jackets want to trade captain (and pending UFA) Nick Foligno.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could move Savard for the right price if his club slides further out of playoff contention. I’ll be surprised if he shops Foligno, who is believed keen to re-sign with the Jackets. Trading their captain at the deadline would be a gut punch to their playoff hopes.
The Vancouver Canucks playoff math isn’t good but they want to compete as long as they can before becoming deadline sellers. They’ve taken calls on pending unrestricted free agent defenders Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic (both have no-move clauses) and Jordie Benn, who has a five-team no-trade clause. There’s been some action on Benn and at least one Eastern American club asked about Hamonic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s assumed Edler could be unwilling to leave Vancouver. The Jets have been linked to Hamonic, who might entertain the opportunity to play in his home province. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the Canucks could soon start contract extension talks with Pearson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming the Flyers are buyers. The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor makes the case that the slumping club hasn’t done much to warrant being aggressive shoppers before the trade deadline. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher might even become a seller if his club doesn’t reverse its fortunes soon.
Recaps of Tuesday’s games, Sidney Crosby on COVID-19 protocol list, the Canadiens fire their goalie coach, stars of the month and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A 5-2 victory by the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Philadelphia Flyers was overshadowed by the news Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier in the day. Kaspari Kapanen scored twice and Tristan Jarry made 40 saves for the win. Joel Farabee tallied both goals for the Flyers (25 points), who are tied with the Penguins but hold fourth place in the MassMutual East Division with two games in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby being placed on the list doesn’t necessarily mean he’s contracted the coronavirus. If he hasn’t returned to the lineup by the end of the week, however, it will be assumed he has it. A long absence by their captain could affect the Penguins’ efforts to clinch a playoff berth. Crosby is one of only three players on the league’s COVID protocol list.
The Montreal Canadiens got their first win under head coach Dominique Ducharme by downing the Ottawa Senators 3-1 to snap a five-game winless skid. Carey Price made 26 saves while teammates Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry each had a goal and an assist. Following the game, the Canadiens announced goaltending coach Stephane Waite was relieved of his duties. Sean Burke takes over as their new director of goaltending.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Waite’s sudden firing comes a week after they replaced Claude Julien with Ducharme. Some of the reactions on social media suggested management wouldn’t have made this move without clearing it first with Price. However, this move could also be a wake-up call from general manager Marc Bergevin to his struggling starting netminder.
Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele each collected three points as the Winnipeg Jets dumped the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. The Jets (29 points) moved in second place in the Scotia North Division, one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his third straight shutout as the Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Dallas Stars 2-0. Ondrej Palat and Yannie Gourde were the goal scorers. The Lightning have won five in a row while the Stars have just one victory in their last 10 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill is not laying the blame for his club’s struggles at the feet of head coach Rick Bowness. “There is no hot seat,” Nill told The Athletic’s Saad Yousef. He praised Bowness’ efforts guiding the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final last year and his handling of what’s proven to be a difficult schedule this season.
The Carolina Hurricanes picked up their third straight win by doubling up the Nashville Predators 4-2. Sebastian Aho scored twice and rookie Steven Lorentz tallied his first NHL goal. Predators goalie Juuse Saros left the game early in the first period after being hit in the head. Before the game, the Predators placed defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward Luke Kunin on injured reserve and center Ryan Johansen on the COVID-19 protocol list. Ellis will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury.
Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist and teammate Zach Werenski collected two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It’s the Jackets’ first win in six games and came after general manager Jarmo Kekalainen gave a vote of confidence to head coach John Tortorella.
New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves as his club held off the New Jersey Devils 2-1. Oliver Wahlstrom and Anders Lee scored for the Islanders while Miles Wood replied for the Devils.
The New York Rangers edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and an assist while teammate Filip Chytil returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrik Kane, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak and San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture are the NHL’s divisional stars for February 2021. Ottawa Senators forward Tim Stutzle was named the league’s rookie of the month for February.
TSN: Speaking of the Senators, the club confirmed center Derek Stepan will require season-ending shoulder surgery.
The NHL department of player safety suspended Edmonton Oilers winger Alex Chiasson one game for cross-checking Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jimmy Vesey at the end of Monday’s game between the two clubs.
AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is slated to appear in his 800th career NHL game tonight against the Los Angeles Kings
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.
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.
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.
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.