NHL Rumor Mill – December 21, 2017
Latest on the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Senators, Hurricanes and more in your NHL rumor mill.
COULD BRASSARD BE A GOOD FIT IN COLUMBUS?
SPORTSNET: Noting the Columbus Blue Jackets’ search for a center, Elliotte Friedman suggests a reunion with the Ottawa Senators’ Derick Brassard. He points out Brassard played well for Jackets head coach John Tortorella during their time with the New York Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting suggestion from Friedman. Brassard could be a good fit in Columbus. The Jackets have the cap space to absorb his $5 million annual cap hit, especially if they send a salaried player to Ottawa. Such a move, however, depends upon whether the Jackets are on his no-trade list, as well as the Senators’ asking price. Maybe the Jackets offer up Alexander Wennberg, who tallied 59 points in 2016-17 but is struggling this season and might benefit from a change of scenery.
LATEST ON THE PENGUINS
Speaking of Brassard, Friedman also notes Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was Tortorella’s assistant during that time and the Pens are also in the market for a center. Some opposing team executives consider the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent acquisitions of Jamie Oleksiak and Michael Leighton “the tip of the iceberg.”
NBC SPORTS: In the wake of the Pittsburgh Penguins acquisitions of Oleksiak and Leighton, James O’Brien wonders who the Penguins should trade for next. He mentions Toronto’s Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman or Derick Brassard, and Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist or Andreas Athanasiou as possible fits, but doubts those Eastern rivals would want to enrich the Penguins’ roster.
O’Brien also suggests several players on expiring contracts. They include Buffalo’s Evander Kane, Vegas’ James Neal or Jonathan Marchessault, Florida’s Radim Vrbata or Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon or Ryan Strome.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the Penguins would jump at the opportunity to land Brassard from the Senators. However, they’ll have to clear sufficient room for his cap hit or convince the Sens to pick up part of it. If Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion decides to move Brassard, I suspect he’ll wait until the trade deadline in hopes of sparking a bidding war for the center.
Unless the Leafs tumble out of the playoff race I don’t see them moving Bozak or van Riemsdyk, even if it means possibly losing them for nothing to free agency in July. The Senators and Wings could be reluctant to deal with an Eastern Conference club but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it if the Penguins were to make a better offer. The Wings could be willing to move Nyquist but they likely see Athanasiou being part of their unspoken rebuild.
Kane’s a possibility but he won’t address the Pens’ need for a third-line center. Ditto Maroon and Strome. Golden Knights GM George McPhee recently said he wouldn’t stage a fire sale at the trade deadline if his club remained in playoff contention, so don’t expect Neal or Marchessault to be available.
HOW WILL THE HURRICANES IMPROVE THEIR OFFENSE?
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun wonders if the Carolina Hurricanes might shop a defenseman in hopes of adding an impact forward. While it’s believed they kept tabs on Matt Duchene before he was traded by Colorado to Ottawa, LeBrun doubts they were heavily involved in pursuing him.
LeBrun believes adding a piece up front has to be a priority before the Feb. 26 trade deadline. While they could draw upon their depth on the blueline as trade bait, they don’t want to risk addressing one problem while creating another. He thinks the Canes want to keep their defense corps intact. “Perhaps there’s another way to upgrade up front at some point before Feb. 26.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading one of their defensemen for a scoring forward could create a hole on the blueline that’s tough to fill. Then again, perhaps they can fill that gap from within their system, via waivers or with a cheap trade pickup. If they’re unwilling to take the gamble by moving one of their blueliners, they’ll have to consider shopping their first-round pick and/or one or two of their top prospects.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S “31 THOUGHTS.”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports some teams inquired about Senators forward Mark Stone but were told he’s not available. He suspects there will be interest in forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mike Hoffman, Cody Ceci and Zack Smith. Senators GM Pierre Dorion could be seeking young NHL players, draft picks and/or prospects.
Friedman has a hunch the Vancouver Canucks could make an increased effort to trade pending free agent defenseman Erik Gudbranson. He also speculates the Edmonton Oilers could move forward Anton Slepyshev.
Friedman thinks some teams have asked Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergervin about his plans for goaltender Charlie Lindgren. While it’s difficult to know because Bergevin doesn’t discuss trade possibilities, “the fact nothing’s happened tells you something.”
The Winnipeg Jets sent a note around the league last week indicating forward Shawn Matthias is available.