NHL Rumor Mill – January 3, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – January 3, 2022

Should the Islanders trade Semyon Varlamov? Is there any help in the trade market for the Oilers? How can the Golden Knights shed salary for Jack Eichel’s return next month? Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner ponders the possibility of the New York Islanders putting Semyon Varlamov on the trade block. It hasn’t been the season the Isles or Varlamov envisioned. The club is well out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference while the 33-year-old goaltender is struggling to regain his form being sidelined through training camp and the opening month of the season.

New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (NHL Images).

Varlamov has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit and a 16-team no-trade clause. Despite his struggles this season, he was among the league’s best goalies in 2020-21 with a 2.04 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and a league-leading seven shutouts.

Moving Varlamov could free up some much-needed cap space for next season. They could then seek a more cost-effective backup for starter Ilya Sorokin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello could start quietly gauging Varlamov’s value in the trade market if his club hasn’t gained ground in the standings by March. It will also depend on whether Varlamov’s performance has improved by then.

Lamoriello could wait until the offseason to make that move. Then again, he could keep his tandem intact for next season provided Varlamov has no issue backing up Sorokin.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: With the Oilers winning just three of their last 12 games, Jim Matheson explored the trade market for help if replacing head coach Dave Tippett isn’t an option.

Matheson feels the Oilers need another top-six forward but there currently aren’t many available. Most teams have little cap space or they’re offering struggling players like Chicago’s Dylan Strome or San Jose’s Evander Kane, who has a myriad of issues. Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk could help but it would cost $4.85 million to qualify his rights this summer.

The Oilers also don’t have many tradeable assets. Matheson suggested maybe winger Kailer Yamamoto, prospect Xavier Bourgault or their 2022 first-round pick. He considers Dylan Holloway a non-starter because they don’t have many blue-chip prospects in their farm system.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers also need a reliable starting goaltender and perhaps a physical shutdown defenseman. Nevertheless, Matheson’s right about their limited possible trade assets. It also doesn’t help that obvious sellers (hello there, Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens) aren’t in any hurry to swing deals.

THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger is the latest to examine options for the Vegas Golden Knights to shed salary ahead of Jack Eichel’s return from neck surgery next month.

One is trading a $5 million forward like Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith or Evgenii Dadonov plus backup goalie Laurent Brossoit. Others include shopping Shea Theodore, William Karlsson or Alec Martinez.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Marchessault, Theodore, Karlsson or Martinez going anywhere. Granger considers moving Theodore highly unlikely but an option nonetheless because he’d fetch the best return. It could come down to Dadonov or Smith with the latter the more likely trade candidate given his UFA status this summer.