NHL Rumor Mill – November 25, 2017
WHAT WILL THE STRUGGLING SABRES DO?
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie’s Friday appearance on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 discussing the Buffalo Sabres’ struggles under new general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley. Noting the recent trade speculation regarding supposed core player Sam Reinhart, McKenzie believes the Sabres have to decide between now and either the Feb. 26 trade deadline or next summer if young Reinhart is someone to build around or a trade chip that can bring in pieces to help their rebuilding process.
As for left wing and pending UFA Evander Kane, McKenzie feels the 26-year-old could still fit into the Sabres’ plans to build around younger talent. However, he still feels it’s more likely Kane could be traded. That’s an opinion also shared by Elliottee Friedman, who told Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 Kane will likely be dealt. Friedman sees Kane as a fit with the Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets or possibly the Tampa Bay Lightning.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Amy Moritz reports struggling Sabres veteran winger Matt Moulson’s been a frequent healthy scratch this season. He’s in the fourth season of a five-year, $25-million contract. Moulson’s heard speculation suggesting the Sabres should demote him, buy him out or trade him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While I don’t completely dismiss the possibility of the Sabres re-signing Kane, I agree with McKenzie and Friedman that he’ll likely be dealt by the trade deadline. His trade value is high right now and he could fetch a couple of pieces to help the Sabres, especially on their blueline.
The Kings are slumping right now after a hot start and there was talk they could shop Alec Martinez or Jake Muzzin for a scorer. Both are signed beyond this season and lack no-trade protection. Either guy could provide the Sabres defense with a welcome shot of experience and leadership. The Jackets are more in the market for a center. But if they can’t land a decent scoring center, perhaps they might consider adding a left wing and leave captain Nick Foligno at center for the remainder of the season. The Lightning are deep at left wing and their biggest need right now seems to be a checking-line right wing and perhaps another experienced defenseman.
Reinhart has some trade value and there’s talk some teams are inquiring into his trade status. If the Sabres intend to move Kane, I think they’ll stick with Reinhart for the remainder of this season and see how things go. They could wait and see if he might attract more interest in the offseason. He’s a restricted free agent next summer without arbitration rights, so the Sabres aren’t under any pressure to move him. They could ink Reinhart to a two-year bridge deal and see if he improves next season.
As for Moulson, unless the Sabres are willing to take back a toxic contract they won’t find any takers for the fading 34-year-old winger. If they want to buy him out they’ll have to wait until next June to do so unless they can find a loophole in the CBA to do so. They could demote him but they won’t get much cap relief for doing so.
SHOULD THE PENGUINS PURSUE BOZAK?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin reports the current absence of Evgeni Malkin serves to highlight the fact the Pittsburgh Penguins still need depth at center this season. Malkin is currently listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Larkin notes in the recent past the Pens had the depth at center to offset Malkin’s absences but that’s not the case this season. He feels Toronto Maple Leafs center (and former Phil Kessel linemate) Tyler Bozak would be a perfect fit as their third-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins only have around $1.6 million in cap space right now. With Bozak carrying a $4.2-million cap hit, they’ll have to move salary either in that proposed swap with the Leafs or in another deal. With James van Riemsdyk facing an uncertain future in Toronto, the Leafs could ask the Pens for Conor Sheary in return. Or maybe they try to land a defenseman and ask for Olli Maatta or Brian Dumoulin.
Of course, the Pens won’t part with those guys for a pending UFA. But if they were to inquire about Bozak, you’ve gotta think the Leafs would try to squeeze them for a player who can help them now and beyond this season.