NHL Rumor Mill – January 14, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 14, 2023

Have the Sharks set an asking price for Erik Karlsson? Are teams calling about Timo Meier? Will the Wild trade Matt Dumba? What’s the latest on the Panthers and Penguins? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng cited Edmonton Oilers color commentator Bob Stauffer saying he’s heard the Sharks seek three first-round picks for Erik Karlsson. Stauffer also said they would retain 18 percent of the 32-year-old defenseman’s $11.5 million cap hit through 2026-27.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

Peng believes the Sharks asking for three first-rounder seemed wild. He checked with his sources and they’ve heard nothing about this. “That doesn’t seem like a serious request if you want to trade Karlsson,” writes Peng. “Even getting a single first-rounder seems questionable, unless the Sharks retain a lot more than 18 percent, all things considered.”

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports Sharks general manager Mike Grier declined to get into his asking price for Karlsson. He didn’t consider Stauffer’s report to be totally accurate.

Whatever his price would be, Grier said it would have to be a return that makes the Sharks stronger in the future and gives them the ability to turn things around quickly. He also said he’s not in any hurry to move a defenseman who’s currently on pace for 100 points this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be fair to Stauffer, what he heard may have been Grier’s initial ask or perhaps it was speculation from a Sharks source. Three first-rounders for a defenseman at Karlsson’s stage of his career is pretty steep despite his performance this season. Retaining only 18 percent of his cap hit means that an interested club has to pick up around $9.5 million annually for the next four seasons.

I don’t doubt that Grier’s getting calls about Karlsson. However, I don’t think this is a trade that happens this season given the limited cap space among potential suitors that Karlsson would consider acceptable trade destinations. It seems like it would have to be a three-team deal to spread the dollars around. That might be easier to pull off during the offseason.

Grier also told Pashelka that he’s had some preliminary discussions with Timo Meier’s agent regarding a new contract, although there’s been nothing substantial yet regarding offers and counteroffers.

Meier, 26, is a restricted free agent this summer. He carries an annual cap hit of $6 million but is earning $10 million this season in actual salary. That’s what it’ll cost the Sharks to qualify his rights unless he agrees to accept a new contract with a lower average annual value.

Grier indicated Meier is another player that other GMs have inquired about this season. However, he’s indicated he’s had some good talks with the winger regarding his situation and the team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier’s unique situation could also make him a rental player for playoff contenders if they’re unable or unwilling to re-sign him to an AAV of $10 million.

With Meier and Karlsson, Grier isn’t facing pressure to move one or both by the trade deadline. Given their respective contract statuses, he can wait until the offseason to see how things shake out.


OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports sources claimed that the Ottawa Senators have an interest in Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. The Wild aren’t sure they want to risk losing the pending unrestricted free agent for nothing this summer. Minnesota GM Bill Guerin is said to be open to a deal even though his club is in a playoff position.

Garrioch also reports the Wild are among the teams that have contacted the Arizona Coyotes about blueliner Jakob Chychrun. He speculates that might be the reason why Guerin is open to trading Dumba. If he can get a quality asset for Dumba, he could include it in an offer for Chychrun or another defenseman on the market.

SPORTSNET (Stick tap to NHL Watcher): On his latest “32 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman said Guerin isn’t going to move Dumba just to get something for the pending UFA defenseman.

Friedman said the Wild believe they can win the Stanley Cup this season. Guerin won’t do anything that will weaken the team. The Senators and Vancouver Canucks have called about Dumba but there’s nothing close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t fully dismiss the notion of Guerin trading Dumba based on the scenario envisioned by Garrioch. Still, it won’t be an easy move to make, especially if he’s planning on going after Chychrun.

Dumba’s 10-team no-trade clause can also be a sticking point. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still with the Wild following the March 3 trade deadline.


FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards believes the Panthers could become sellers by this season’s trade deadline if they’re not in playoff position by that point.

Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported Panthers GM Bill Zito has a “deal in his pocket” to trade Sam Reinhart and/or Sam Bennett. However, Richards writes that there’s nothing in the works regarding either forward. He also indicated management doesn’t have a firm plan yet regarding the trade deadline.

If the Panthers become sellers, Richards anticipates pending UFAs like Eric and Marc Staal and Patric Hornqvist could be shopped. He wondered if they would trade or attempt to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Radko Gudas.

There’s been whispers the Panthers could trade Anthony Duclair once he’s ready to return to action from an offseason Achilles injury. However, Richards said Duclair enjoys playing for the Panthers and they want to keep him. With a year remaining on his contract worth $3 million, it would be surprising if the winger got traded.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers will be worth monitoring over the next four-to-six weeks. They could become sellers and perhaps they would shed Reinhart or Bennett to free up some much-needed cap space and restock their prospect pipeline.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski believes the Penguins’ primary concern approaching the trade deadline is adding a third-line center.

Potential trade targets could include Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, San Jose’s Nick Bonino, Arizona’s Travis Boyd, and perhaps Florida’s Eric Staal and Chicago’s Jason Dickinson. The Penguins’ limited cap space, however, will be a factor in determining how they choose to address that issue.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2023

Four-point performances from Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Moritz Seider, plus injury updates on Patrick Kane, Evander Kane and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and collected two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4. Jason Zucker had a goal and an assist for the Penguins (21-13-6), who move one point ahead of the New York Islanders into the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 48 points. Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks, who dropped to 17-20-3 and have lost five of their last six games.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov also scored twice and picked up two assists in a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman each collected two assists for the 25-13-1 Lightning as they sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 51 points. Patrick Laine had two assists for the Blues Jackets as they slid to 12-26-2.

The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Winnipeg Jets 7-5 with Moritz Seider collecting four assists while Lucas Raymond had a goal and two assists. Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Neal Pionk each had a goal and an assist for the Jets (26-14-1) to sit in second place in the Central Division with 53 points. The Red Wings improved to 17-15-7 on the season.

Speaking of the Central Division, the Dallas Stars (25-11-6) opened a three-point lead over the Jets for first place (56 points) by nipping the New York Islanders 2-1. Jason Robertson opened the scoring and won the game with a shootout goal while Anders Lee replied for the 22-17-3 Islanders. The Stars also sit in first place in the Western Conference with 22 regulation wins compared to 19 for the Vegas Golden Knights, who have the same number of points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars played without Roope Hintz, who will also miss Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers with an upper-body injury.

The New Jersey Devils gained ground on the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes with a 5-3 victory. Dawson Mercer scored twice and collected an assist while Nico Hischier had a goal and an assist as the Devils improved to 26-12-3. With 55 points, they’re two back of the 25-9-7 Hurricanes, who got a goal and an assist from Sebastian Aho in this contest.

Shootout goals by Kaapo Kakko and Artemi Panarin gave the New York Rangers a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Filip Chytil scored the game-tying goal while Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller each had a goal and an assist as the Rangers (23-12-7) sit two points behind the Devils in third place in the Metro Division. Marc-Andre Fleury made 40 saves in regulation and overtime for the 22-14-4 Wild as they sit in third place in the Central Division with 48 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a costly win for the Rangers as Chris Kreider and Julien Gauthier both left this game with upper-body injuries. They will be evaluated on Wednesday.

The Seattle Kraken picked up their sixth straight win by holding off the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Kraken center Matty Beniers scored for the fifth consecutive game to set a franchise record as he, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz each had a goal and an assist. Sabres winger Alex Tuch scored twice, including his 20th goal of the season. The Kraken (24-12-4) sit two points behind the second-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division with 52 points. The Sabres dropped to 20-17-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju returned to the lineup for the first time since being sidelined on Dec. 9 by a lower-body injury.

Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk scored twice, including the winning goal, to defeat the Colorado Avalanche 5-4. Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist as the Panthers took a 4-1 lead into the third period before the Avalanche rallied to tie the game on goals by Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher. The Panthers boosted their record to 19-19-4 while the Avalanche (20-16-3) sit two points behind the Edmonton Oilers, who hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 45 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Panthers recalled goaltender Alex Lyon to back up Sergei Bobrovsky as Spencer Knight (undisclosed) was placed on injured reserve.

An overtime goal by Robert Thomas gave the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists and Jordan Binnington made 28 saves for the Blues (21-18-3). Andrew Mangiapane had a goal and an assist for the Flames (19-14-9) as they hold the first Western Conference wild-card spot with 47 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues have an identical record as the Edmonton Oilers (21-18-3) but the latter holds the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 19 regulation wins.

Third-period goals by Matt Nieto and Jaycob Megna lifted the San Jose Sharks over the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 4-2. Kevin Labanc had a goal and an assist while Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 27 shots for the Sharks (13-21-8). Jakob Chychrun and Shayne Gostisbehere each collected two assists as the Coyotes fell to 13-22-5.


NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said he’s being cautious with the lower-body injury that has sidelined him for the past two games. He’s hoping to return to action soon.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported it’s a nagging injury that might require a “clean-up” at some point. Kane hasn’t closed the door on that possibility but said it’s not something he’s contemplating for the moment.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lower body could mean hip, groin, knee or ankle. It could affect Kane’s performance as well as his value in the trade market if he agrees to waive his no-movement clause before the March 3 deadline.

TSN: Evander Kane could return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup for either their Jan. 19 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning or Jan. 21 against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s been sidelined since suffering a wrist laceration against the Lightning on Nov. 8. The original prognosis had him returning sometime in late February.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s return won’t help the Oilers’ struggling defense and inconsistent goaltending. However, he will provide an extra measure of offense and some physical swagger to their forward lines that’s been missing during his absence.

Speaking of the Oilers, goaltender Stuart Skinner flew to Edmonton yesterday for the birth of his and his wife’s first child.

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman T.J. Brodie (rib) on injured reserve.

NHL Rumor Mill – January 10, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 10, 2023

Could the Flyers and Ivan Provorov part ways? What’s the market value for the Predators’ Mattias Ekholm? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Ariel Melendez cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculating that we could start hearing Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov’s name come up in the trade market. He believes things just haven’t worked for Provorov with the Flyers for whatever reason.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (NHL Images).

Friedman said there’s a growing sense that Provorov, who turns 26 on Jan. 13, is frustrated with the situation around him and that the team has an equal amount of frustration. Jeff Marek mentioned that the Flyers haven’t found him the right defense partner. Friedman wondered if Provorov might flourish somewhere else.

Marek suggested the Vegas Golden Knights as a trade destination. Provorov would be reunited with Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who coached the Flyers blueliner for two seasons with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings (2014-15 and 2015-16).

Friedman doesn’t think the Golden Knights can make it work. Marek believes Provorov could benefit from playing for Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness, citing how Bowness played a key role in developing defensemen like Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman and Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Flyers’ front office remains intent on its plan to aggressively retool its roster, they’ll need Provorov to be part of it. On the other hand, they could consider shopping him if they decide to rebuild. The blueliner could also force the issue by requesting a trade but there’s no indication thus far that he’s gone that route.

Provorov is signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $6.75 million. He lacks no-trade protection but that salary will be difficult to move in-season unless the Flyers agree to retain a portion of it, which they could be reluctant to do. The other option would be taking back an equivalent salary. Trading him could be something that occurs in the offseason when teams have more cap space to work with.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli recently examined the trade value of defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who reportedly could be shopped before the March 3 trade deadline by the Nashville Predators.

Seravalli considers Ekholm, 32, to be a smart shutdown defenseman who logs big minutes and moves the puck quickly out of the defensive zone. However, there are some concerns over his skating and mobility. Seravalli views him as a reliable 5-on-5 middle-pair defender.

Potential destinations include the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm lacks no-trade protection and would be a good fit with the Oilers, Leafs and Panthers. I believe the Rangers’ bigger priority is addressing their lack of reliable scoring punch on right wing.

Like Provorov, Ekholm’s contract is difficult to move this season. He’s carrying an AAV of $6.25 million through 2025-26, which the Oilers, Leafs and Panthers can’t afford to acquire this season unless Nashville retains a big chunk of it or take back a comparable contract. This sounds like another potential off-season move depending on how this season plays out for the Predators.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2023

Hat-trick performances by the Bruins’ David Pastrnak and the Jets’ Kyle Connor, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson return to the Capitals, the Blackhawks’ Lukas Reichel nets his first three NHL points and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak tallied a hat trick and collected an assist to crush the Anaheim Ducks 7-1. David Krejci collected three points and Jeremy Swayman stopped 28 shots as the league-leading Bruins (32-4-4, 68 points) extended their points streak to 14 games (11-0-3). Trevor Zegras replied for the Ducks as they dropped to 12-25-4.

Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (NHL Images).

Spurred by Kyle Connor’s hat trick and a four-assist performance by Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Winnipeg Jets rolled to a 7-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Nikolaj Ehlers enjoyed a three-point performance for the Jets (26-13-1) as they remain one point behind the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars with 53 points. J.T. Miller had a goal and two assists for the Canucks as they fell to 17-19-3.

Speaking of the Stars (24-11-6), they dropped the Florida Panthers by a score of 5-1. Jason Robertson scored two goals while Jake Oettinger made 27 saves for the win. Carter Verhaeghe replied for the 18-19-4 Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a costly win for the Stars as center Roope Hintz left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury. He is expected to be evaluated on Monday.

Washington Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson made their season debuts in a 1-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Darcy Kuemper kicked out 38 shots for the shutout while Erik Gustafsson tallied the only goal for the Capitals (23-14-6) as they sit one point behind the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division with 52 points. Elvis Merzlikins made 18 saves for the 12-25-2 Blue Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals are 13-2-2 in their last 17 games. Backstrom and Wilson were held scoreless in this contest.

The Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 to snap the latter’s four-game win streak. John Tavares and Calle Jarnkrok each had a goal and two assists, Auston Matthews scored his 20th goal of the season and Matt Murray made 34 saves for the Leafs (25-9-7), who hold second place in the Atlantic Division with 57 points. Travis Konecny netted his 21st of the season for the 15-18-7 Flyers.

St. Louis Blues goalie Thomas Greiss made 35 saves to shut out the Minnesota Wild 3-0. Brayden Schenn tallied two goals as the Blues improved to 20-18-3 (43 points) to sit two points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final Western Conference wild-card spot. The Wild (22-14-3) played without winger Jordan Greenway due to a non-COVID illness (flu). They are in third place in the Central Division with 47 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo missed this game to an undisclosed injury suffered on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Pittsburgh Penguins got two goals from Jake Guentzel and two assists from Sidney Crosby en route to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. The Penguins (20-13-6) hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 46 points and hold two games in hand over the New York Islanders, who also have 46 points. Barrett Hayton scored for the Coyotes (13-21-6) as they’ve now lost five games in a row.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The win snapped a six-game winless skid (0-4-2) for the Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Lukas Reichel scored his first NHL goal and collected two assists (the latter on Max Domi’s game-winner) in a 4-3 overtime upset of the Calgary Flames. Alex Stalock stopped 44 shots for the 10-25-4 Blackhawks. Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom was pulled after giving up three goals on 11 shots as his club’s record dropped to 19-14-8. With 46 points, they hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On Saturday, the Flames placed forward Brett Ritchie on injured reserve. He last played on Dec. 29.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 7, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 7, 2023

Recaps of Friday’s games include the Jets welcoming back four sidelined players, plus injury updates on Patrick Kane, Mats Zuccarello and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets picked up their fourth straight win by doubling up the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-2. Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice, Josh Morrissey collected three assists and Kyle Connor tallied the game-winner for Winnipeg (25-13-1), who sit one point behind the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with 51 points. Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov replied for the 24-13-1 Lightning.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets welcomed back Blake Wheeler, Nikolai Ehlers, Cole Perfetti and Nate Schmidt after they’d been sidelined by various injuries. Wheeler’s was particularly painful as he suffered a ruptured testicle (ouch!) in a game last month when struck by a shot by Morrissey.

Meanwhile, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman missed this game as he was in Tampa Bay for the birth of his family’s second child.

Earlier in the day, the San Jose Sharks claimed forward Mikey Eyssimont off waivers from the Jets.

Three first-period goals by Milan Lucic, Blake Coleman and Nikita Zadorov carried the Calgary Flames to a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Jacob Markstrom turned aside 24 shots as the Flames improved to 19-14-7 to hold the first Western Conference wild-card berth with 45. Zach Parise replied for the Islanders (22-17-2) as they hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 46 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders forward Mathew Barzal was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad scored two goals while Eric Staal collected his 600th career NHL assist to nip the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves as the Panthers improve to 18-18-4. Filip Hronek assisted on both Red Wings goals as their record dropped to 16-14-7.

Ryan McDonagh’s first goal of the season for the Nashville Predators was the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. Yakov Trenin scored and collected an assist for the Predators (18-14-6) while Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel replied for the 22-14-6 Capitals, who hold the first wild-card spot in the East with 50 points.

An overtime goal by John Klingberg lifted the Anaheim Ducks past the San Jose Sharks 5-4. Mason McTavish scored twice and set up two others for the Ducks (12-24-4) while Timo Meier tallied twice for the 12-20-8 Sharks.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock kicked out 22 shots to shut out the Arizona Coyotes 2-0. Jake McCabe and Tyler Johnson were the goal scorers as the Blackhawks (9-25-4) ended a five-game losing skid while the Coyotes (13-20-5) lost their 12th straight road game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane missed this game with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. It’s the first game he’s missed due to injury since 2015.


STARTRIBUNE.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello will miss the club’s next two games with an upper-body injury. Teammate Brandon Duhaime returns to the lineup after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens rookie defenseman Kaiden Guhle is expected to miss the next eight weeks with a knee injury though he’s not expected to undergo surgery. The Habs also announced defenseman Mike Matheson (lower-body injury) and center Sean Monahan (injured foot) are expected to return to action in two weeks’ time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing Guhle is a blow to the struggling Canadiens. He’d earned top-pairing minutes this season and was considered to be their best defenseman.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed forward Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level and placed him on waivers for the purpose of sending him to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Kraken assigned Shane Wright to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. They’d loaned him to Team Canada for the 2023 WJC, where he captained them to a gold medal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move wasn’t unexpected. Wright saw limited playing time with the Kraken this season and it was expected that he’d finish the remainder of this season with his junior club.

The Arizona Coyotes have recalled forward Dylan Guenther from Hockey Canada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes loaned Guenther to Team Canada for the 2023 World Juniors. He scored the gold-medal goal for Canada in overtime to defeat Czechia 3-2. He’d already spent 21 games with the Coyotes and collected 11 points.

LA KINGS INSIDER: The Kings placed winger Trevor Moore (upper body) on injured reserve and have loaned defenseman Brandt Clarke to the OHL’s Barrie Colts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clarke being sent back to his Junior team came as a surprise to a number of Kings fans on social media. The expectation was that he would rejoin the Kings after having played nine games with them earlier in the season along with five games with their AHL affiliate.

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2023

Is it time for the Canucks to become sellers? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston believes it’s time for Vancouver Canucks management to start identifying its trade chips that can be used to rebuild the slumping club. They appear headed toward missing the playoffs for the third straight year.

Johnston believes the Canucks have missed their opportunity to re-sign Bo Horvat. His stellar performance this season combined with his $5.5 million cap hit makes him the most coveted player in this season’s trade market. It’s believed the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils are interested in the Canucks captain.

Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche definitely need a second-line center and I don’t doubt that they’d have interest in Horvat. I wonder, however, if they can afford to pay what is likely to be an expensive asking price to get him.

The Devils, meanwhile, already have two young stars at center in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. There’s no room there for Horvat unless the Devils intend to shift Hughes to the wing.

Johnston wonders if there’s any chance of the Canucks trading J.T. Miller, whose new contract with its $8 million average annual value doesn’t begin until 2023-24. He lacks no-trade protection on his current deal.

The cost certainty of Miller’s upcoming new deal could make him enticing to clubs that were nervous about acquiring him last year before he signed that extension. However, he’s struggling to replicate last season’s 99-point performance, which could hurt his market value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those who said the Canucks should’ve signed Horvat before Miller have been vindicated this season. It’s looking more and more like management made a mistake, though it’s easy to judge in hindsight.

Miller had a career-best performance in 2021-22 while Horvat, a reliable 50-60 point two-way center, gave no indication he would be on pace for a 50-goal performance in his contract year. The stalemate in his contract talks seems to have given him additional motivation this season. He’s going to get a big payday, probably more than what Miller got, but it won’t be coming from the Canucks.

Some believe the Canucks should trade Miller and use the savings to re-sign Horvat. While I don’t rule out that possibility, that ship may have sailed.

Brock Boeser has just three points in the 11 games since the Canucks gave his agent permission to speak with other teams. It would improve his trade value if he could pick up his production. He’s carrying a $6.65 million annual cap hit on a three-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boeser’s contract is why I expect he’ll be moved in the offseason instead of by the March 3 trade deadline. Unless they’re willing to retain salary or take back a significant contract in return, there aren’t a lot of teams that can afford to absorb Boeser’s cap hit.

Johnston wondered if New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere is on the trade block. He cited sources saying the Canucks are interested in the 2020 first-overall pick. One NHL observer suggested the Rangers would want size and “win-now assets” in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman have recently reported that the Rangers still believe in Lafreniere and don’t want to give up on the struggling 21-year-old winger. Still, that belief could be tested if a rival club made a substantial offer.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli believes the Florida Panthers will soon have to make a cost-cutting trade. Winger Anthony Duclair is expected to return to their lineup soon and the cap-strapped club will have to shed some salary to make room for him. Patric Hornqvist is also sidelined indefinitely with a concussion so they haven’t been forced to deal with the issue of Duclair’s return just yet as both are on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli doesn’t expect Duclair to be the one who gets traded when he and Hornqvist are ready to return to action. The Panthers would find it difficult to move the aging Hornqvist, who carries a $5.3 million cap hit this season.

Some observers have suggested they could be forced to peddle Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett to free up sufficient room for Duclair. It’ll be interesting to see how they address this situation.