NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2024

NHL Rumor Mill – February 3, 2024

What’s next for the Canadiens after trading Sean Monahan to Winnipeg? What’s the latest on the Islanders and Senators? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SPORTSNET: Eric Engels praised Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes for a master class in asset management by trading Sean Monahan on Friday to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2027. This after Hughes obtained a 2025 first-round pick from the Calgary Flames in 2022 to take on Monahan’s contract at a time when his trade value was at its lowest.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes (NHL Images).

The Canadiens now have two first-round picks in the 2024 draft and two in the 2025 draft. They also have four more picks in the second round and five more in the third through 2026.

Engels speculates that Hughes could use some of those first-round picks as trade bait. He traded first-round picks in each of the last two drafts to acquire Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes recently spoke of his club’s need to bolster their scoring depth. He could draw upon his cache of high draft picks to bring in an established young scorer who could help accelerate the club’s rebuilding process. The Canadiens GM could do that before the March 8 trade deadline or during this year’s draft.

THE ATHLETIC’s Arpon Basu reported Hughes indicated yesterday that he’s not shopping defenseman David Savard.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Savard is under contract through next season but he had surfaced in the rumor mill as a possible trade candidate. It sounds like Hughes isn’t that keen to move him. Savard brings veteran experience and leadership to the Canadiens’ young defense corps.


NYI HOCKEY NOW: Andrew Fantucchio recently listed three possible trade candidates for the Islanders if they become sellers by the March 8 trade deadline.

Fantucchio listed goaltender Semyon Varlamov, winger Simon Holmstrom and center Brock Nelson as possible trade options, though he considered Nelson unlikely to be moved.

Varlamov, 35, is in the first year of a four-year deal along with a full no-trade clause in the first two years. The 22-year-old Holmstrom is enjoying his best season to date with 12 goals and 18 points.

Nelson, 32, has two years left on his contract and a 16-team no-trade clause but has averaged over 36 goals per season over the last two years and is once again on pace to finish the season as the Isles’ leading goal scorer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fantucchio goes into greater detail regarding the pros and cons of moving those three.

Of the three, Holmstrom would seem the easiest to move but he won’t fetch a big return. Varlamov’s age and NTC should ensure he remains with the Isles this season.

Nelson would draw plenty of attention and bring the best return but I doubt he’ll be traded unless Isles GM Lou Lamoriello decides it’s time to tear things down and rebuild. I don’t think Lamoriello is at that stage given his recent hiring of Patrick Roy as head coach.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Stefen Rosner listed five reasons why the Islanders have placed forward Julien Gauthier on waivers. One of them could be to clear additional salary-cap space for a trade. If Gauthier clears, he’ll be sent to their AHL affiliate and his $785,500 cap hit will be freed up, giving the Isles nearly $5 million in projected trade deadline cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If that’s the reason, it would mean Lamoriello intends to be a buyer before next month’s trade deadline.


OTTAWA SUN’s Bruce Garrioch reports a league executive told him that he wouldn’t be surprised if Senators defenseman Lassi Thomson is traded to another organization before the March trade deadline.

Full Press Hockey’s Murray Pam cited a report out of Sweden suggesting Thomson could be heading to Swedish club Malmo next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As we say on The Face Off Hockey Show, “All roads lead to Malmo”. (Inside joke. Those who regularly follow the show will get it).

Once a highly-touted prospect, the 23-year-old Thomson has struggled to crack the Senators lineup. He’s appeared in just 18 games with the Senators, spending most of his time since 2020-21 with their AHL affiliate in Belleville.