The latest on the Canadiens and Sharks plus updates on Jeff Carter and Erik Gustafsson in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
COULD THE CANADIENS SHOP KOVALCHUK, DOMI OR TATAR?
SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports the Montreal Canadiens are very pleased with the performance of Ilya Kovalchuk. Earlier this month, they signed the veteran winger to a one-year, prorated $700K contract. He’s got eight points in as many games, including four goals. As the Canadiens get healthier coming out of the upcoming All-Star break and with the Feb. 24 trade deadline getting close, Johnston believes Kovalchuk could become a trade asset that lands the Habs a draft pick.
Will the Montreal Canadiens shop Ilya Kovalchuk for a draft pick at the trade deadline? (Photo via NHL Images)
Earlier in the week, Johnston’s colleague Eric Engels observed Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin faces some difficult decisions in the coming weeks. If leading scorer Tomas Tatar’s value in the trade market is high, Engels suggests Bergevin should explore the winger’s value in the trade market. He also feels the same about defenseman Jeff Petry, but acknowledged it would take a significant offer to tempt Bergevin as youngers blueliners Cale Fleury and Josh Brooks are at least a couple of years away from becoming top-four blueliners.
If the Canadiens can’t find a suitable return for Kovalchuk, Engels proposes attempting to re-sign the veteran winger.
TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie believes the Canadiens will be sellers leading up to the trade deadline. He feels they should move Kovalchuk if he can fetch a second-round selection. He also thinks a team willing to do a “problem swap” could come calling about Max Domi. Lajoie lists Nick Cousins, Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, and Brett Kulak as other trade candidates.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Jonathan Bernier also ponders what the Habs could get for Kovalchuk in the trade market. He reminds us that the New Jersey Devils traded Brian Boyle last season to the Nashville Predators for a second-round pick. In 2017, the Detroit Red Wings sent winger Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for a third-round and Dylan McIlrath, while the Colorado Avalanche got a conditional fourth from the LA Kings for Jarome Iginla.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk’s thriving thus far in Montreal. If the Canadiens somehow surge back into the playoff chase in a month, they could hang onto him for the remainder of the season. If not, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to suggest they could get a second- or a third-round in return if he maintains his point-per-game pace.
Domi’s name has surfaced a couple of times in recent speculation. While there’s been some grumbling in the Montreal media over his temper, consistency, and supposedly selfish play, the 24-year-old reached a career-high 72 points last season and is on pace for a respectable 55 points. I’m not convinced that he’s in any danger of getting traded.
Tatar, meanwhile, has another year remaining on his contract. Bergevin doesn’t have to shop the 29-year-old winger this season, but it might not hurt to gauge his value in the trade market.
COULD CARTER HIT THE TRADE BLOCK?
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall wonders if LA Kings center and former Flyer Jeff Carter might be available at the trade deadline. The 35-year-old Carter is under contract through 2021-22 with an annual average salary of over $5.2 million. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a four-time 30-goal scorer who’s on pace for 23 goals this season.
Hall’s colleague John Clark said the Flyers discussed the possibility of trading for Carter. While he has fond memories of his years in Philadelphia, Carter said he doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles. “I love playing in L.A. and being a part of this team,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter surfaced in the rumor mill midway through last season. A report claimed he could retire if traded, but he denied it. Carter lacks no-trade protection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rebuilding Kings looked into moving him.
Nevertheless, his age and annual average value are significant stumbling blocks. An interested club might insist on the Kings picking up a healthy portion of his salary-cap hit. Given the Flyers’ limited cap space, they can’t afford his full AAV.
BLACKHAWKS LISTENING ON GUSTAFSSON?
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers recently reported the Chicago Blackhawks have spoken with other clubs about Erik Gustafsson. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He and Hawks GM Stan Bowman declined to comment regarding a possible contract extension.
A league source believes they’re checking the market value and could circle back before the trade deadline. They were asking mostly about prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Powers that how the Blackhawks fare in the coming weeks will also determine what happens with Gustafsson. If they climb back into the playoff picture, they could hang onto the blueliner for a run at the postseason.
UPDATE ON THE SHARKS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports there’s word San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson is embarrassed the first-round pick he gave up as part of the deal for Erik Karlsson could turn into a lottery selection. As a result, he’ll try to get a first-rounder back before the trade deadline. He’ll have to sweeten the pot because none of his pending UFAs (including Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson) will fetch a first-rounder.
Garrioch speculates teams could call about Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns. He also claims New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is sniffing around for a defenseman and should give Wilson a call.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson’s reportedly let it be known he’s not interested in moving a core player. Of course, that could change if someone were to make a significant offer, but I doubt that type of deal takes place before the deadline.