NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – October 2, 2019

A look at this season’s potential trade candidates in the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston compiled a list of potential trade candidates for the coming NHL season. Topping the list is Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, followed by St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn and Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen could be a trade candidate this season (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen, 24, was a fixture in the off-season rumor mill. Speculation linked him to the Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks. He’s signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $5.4 million. With Brandon Montour currently sidelined, Ristolainen probably isn’t going anywhere. As Johnston notes, if the Sabres get off to a stumbling start the Ristolainen conjecture will grow. 

Schenn is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. With over $66 million invested in 16 players and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo also slated for UFA status, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong recently said he’ll have to get creative to re-sign both players. As long as the Blues remain a playoff contender, however, I doubt they’ll move Schenn this season. 

Two inconsistent seasons and a poor outing in a recent preseason game gave rise to rumors suggesting Drouin’s name is “out there”. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin denied it and The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin cited sources claiming there’s no indication Drouin’s being shopped. Another erratic performance, however, could keep Drouin in the rumor mill.

Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Jack Johnson are landed on Johnston’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another poor performance like last season and the Turris trade chatter will certainly increase. Moving him, however, won’t be easy. Cap Friendly indicates he’s signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $6 million. Nashville Predators GM David Poile doesn’t retain salary to make a trade but he might not have any choice in this case.

Hoffman is also slated to become a UFA in July. He enjoyed a career-best 36-goal, 70-point performance in 2018-19. If he comes close to those stats this season and the Panthers are playoff contenders I don’t believe they’ll trade him.

A report over the weekend suggested a Johnson trade was imminent. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports GM Jim Rutherford dismissed that notion. “I’m sorry to see a player have to go through that where there’s things thrown out there publicly that aren’t true”, said Rutherford.

Johnston also included Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker plus New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the Wild’s off-season management change, Johnston doesn’t consider Zucker safe. He pointed out the winger was nearly traded to Calgary and Pittsburgh earlier this year. The Wild’s new GM, Bill Guerin, doesn’t seem as keen as his predecessor to move Zucker. A bounce-back performance will ensure he remains with the Wild.

Pending UFAs Kreider and Namestnikov frequently popped up in off-season trade chatter. If the Rangers are out of playoff contention leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline, one or both could be on the move.

Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, Vancouver Canucks rearguard Chris Tanev, and Dallas Stars blueliner Julius Honka round out Johnston’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli and Tanev are pending UFAs skating with rebuilding clubs this season. That combination usually spells “trade candidate”.

Honka, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent skating in Finland while waiting for the Stars to honor his trade request. The asking price is said to be a second- or a third-round pick or a young player. He could be waiting for a while.