NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2023
The annual holiday roster freeze is from Dec. 20-27. Check out the latest on the Penguins and Oilers in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
COULD THE PENGUINS CONSIDER MOVING CROSBY, MALKIN OR LETANG?
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski weighed in on how recent comments by Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas sparked speculation about whether he’d consider rebuilding if his struggling club didn’t improve soon.
Kingerski doesn’t dismiss the possibility of Dubas peddling Erik Karlsson, who agreed to be traded to Pittsburgh this summer because he wanted to win. He can also see pending free-agent winger Jake Guentzel getting shopped by the March trade deadline. Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Lars Eller, Noel Acciari or Ryan Graves could be trade bait if Dubas decides it’s time for a change.
However, Kingerski doesn’t see Dubas attempting to move long-time core stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. He believes the Penguins are getting the best out of those three while the rest of the roster is struggling. The only one he thinks might accept a trade is Malkin, as he was ready to move on as a free agent in 2022 because it felt like the previous management didn’t want him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only way I see Crosby, Malkin or Letang getting traded right now is if they ask for it. Maybe one of them might want out in a couple of years. Perhaps Crosby will move on when his contract expires in 2025. However, if they insist on finishing their careers in Pittsburgh, their no-movement clauses will ensure that they stay put.
COULD THE OILERS MAKE ANOTHER BIG SPLASH AT THE TRADE DEADLINE
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell believes the Edmonton Oilers could pull off another big splash at the March 8 trade deadline comparable to their acquisition of Mattias Ekholm before last season’s deadline.
Mitchell suggests the Oilers could do it without having to include Jack Campbell in the deal. They could package a first-round pick, a promising player such as Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway, and a player such as Warren Foegele or Brett Kulak.
Trade targets could include a defenseman such as the Calgary Flames Chris Tanev or the Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Sean Walker, or a goaltender like the Detroit Red Wings’ James Reimer, the Flames’ Daniel Vladar or the Nashville Predator’s Juuse Saros, though Mitchell acknowledged he’d be “an extreme long shot.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Oilers rolling the dice again at the trade deadline if they’re in playoff contention by March 8. They’re in “win-now” mode and could be willing to sacrifice a first-rounder, especially if it’s for a player they could retain beyond this season. Broberg, Holloway, Foegele and Kulak have surfaced in the rumor mill at various times in recent months.
Mitchell’s colleague Daniel Nugent-Bowman believes the Oilers need another goaltender to relieve Stuart Skinner and push him for the starter’s job. They also need improvement among their top-four defense, depth at center and among their middle-six forwards.
As for Mitchell’s suggested targets, trades between the Flames and Oilers are rare but they do happen, with the most notable recent example being Milan Lucic getting swapped for James Neal in 2019. Nevertheless, I see Walker or Reimer seem to be more likely targets than Tanev or Vladar.
Saros isn’t going anywhere. Earlier this season, Predators GM Barry Trotz indicated he wants to open contract extension talks next summer. With his club having battled back into playoff contention thanks in part to Saros, Trotz has no reason to trade his starting goaltender.