NHL Rumor Mill – September 18, 2021
The latest Jack Eichel speculation and a look at possible goalie trade candidates this season in today’s NHL rumor mill.
Assuming Eichel eventually gets healthy and returns to form, Duhatschek feels it’ll take a team willing to make a bold move in order for the Sabres to get full value for him. He rules out the Los Angeles Kings as too conservative and unwilling to part with prospect Quinton Byfield. Also ruled out are the Boston Bruins as there doesn’t appear to be a fit in salary or the player/draft choice combination heading the other way.
Duhatschek feels the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen and the Minnesota Wild’s Bill Guerin are two general managers with the courage to wade into an Eichel deal. Both clubs need a genuine No. 1 center. He also considers the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks as long shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never with the Kings but I agree with Duhatschek’s take. Anze Kopitar is still their first-line center and the signing of Phillip Danault suggests they’re buying time until Byfield and Alex Turcotte are ready to join the roster on a full-time basis.
The Bruins certainly could use hometown boy Eichel but there just isn’t a fit there unless GM Don Sweeney gets very creative by bringing in a third team to pull off the swap. He could instead set his sights on a more affordable short-term option such as San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.
I’ve also suggested the Blue Jackets as a destination. They have over $10 million in cap space, carry potentially two first-round picks in next year’s draft and have some promising players in their system (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Liam Foudy) that could tempt the Sabres. Kekalainen has made bold moves in the past but I’m not sure he’s willing to pursue a big fish like Eichel.
The Wild’s cap space will shrink considerably once winger Kirill Kaprizov is under contract unless Guerin pulls a swerve and becomes willing to part with the young winger in a package for the Sabres’ center. While the Wild need a bonafide first-line center, I don’t think they’ll pursue Eichel.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving reportedly looked into an Eichel swap but it doesn’t appear things got too far. Unless Treliving intends on a dramatic roster shake-up this season I don’t see Calgary as a serious bidder. The Ducks have lots of cap space and promising youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale but GM Bob Murray probably won’t part with those guys.
Duhatschek was also asked which goaltenders could surface in the trade rumor mill by the Olympic break in February. He points out the Dallas Stars’ depth between the pipes could make them the first place to call, especially if Ben Bishop returns from knee surgery. He doesn’t see Jake Oettinger getting moved as he’s their future starter but Braden Holtby could be an affordable option.
Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo could also get moved. He and Elvis Merzlikins are unrestricted free agents next summer but Merzlikins is the better goalie. Others could include Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Stars’ goalie situation shakes out. The uncertainty over Bishop’s career is why they brought in Holtby. They could go with him and Anton Khudobin as their tandem to start the season and send Oettinger down to the minors as he’s waiver-exempt. They could also put Khudobin on the trade block.
It’s expected the Blue Jackets will retain Merzlikins and move Korpisalo by the March trade deadline. It was assumed Korpisalo would get shopped this summer but that plan was shelved by the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks in July.
Greiss and Koskinen are UFAs this summer and could become rental players at the deadline. Quick, however, has another season on his contract with an annual average value of $5.8 million. Given his age (35) and injury history, there might not be many takers for him.