NHL Rumor Mill – October 4, 2023
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Stan Fischler and Stefen Rosner with a roundup of trade and free agent rumors this week. Among the notables:
Alexis Lafreniere’s struggles with the New York Rangers don’t seem to be letting up and it might be best for both sides to part ways soon. The 21-year-old former first-overall pick should still fetch plenty in a trade and he could be a good fit with the Montreal Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have tried playing Lafreniere on right wing during this preseason (and in previous seasons) but the results have been underwhelming. It’s still too early to hit the panic button as general manager Chris Drury could prefer seeing how he performs in the upcoming regular season.
Nevertheless, Drury’s patience could run out if Lafreniere doesn’t improve as the coming campaign progresses. The Canadiens could be among the interested clubs though they’re going to give 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky as well as Rafael Harvey-Pinard plenty of looks as their middle-six left wingers. Still, Habs president of hockey ops Jeff Gorton could contact Drury if Lafreniere became available. Gorton drafted Lafreniere while serving as Rangers GM in 2020.
There will be clubs willing to bet on Lafreniere benefitting from a change of scenery and an opportunity to earn full-time second-line minutes in his natural position at left wing. However, his trade value for the Rangers will suffer if his play shows no sign of real improvement.
The onus is going to be on Stuart Skinner to backstop the Edmonton Oilers into the Stanley Cup Final. If he struggles this season, however, Oilers GM Ken Holland could be forced into the trade market. Jack Campbell cannot do the job full-time despite his $20 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner played well enough last season to become a finalist for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year but he wilted under the heat of playoff pressure. Meanwhile, Campbell struggled through his first season with the Oilers but played well spelling off Skinner in the postseason.
Campbell has solid stats in previous playoff competitions with a career 2.28 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. If he can wrest back the starter’s job this season, maybe he can carry them to the Final.
For now, the Oilers’ goalie situation remains a question mark. If Campbell and Skinner both struggle this season, Holland could have a difficult time finding a suitable short-term starter by the March trade deadline.
It’s possible Patrick Kane could end up with the Rangers this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule it out but their limited cap space will make it difficult to outbid other clubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury isn’t going anywhere. Even if he agreed to waive his no-movement clause, his $3.5 million cap hit is too expensive for the cap-strapped Lightning to absorb. The Wild have no reason to peddle Fleury. He’ll serve as Filip Gustavsson’s backup and mentor for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brodie currently skates alongside Morgan Rielly on their top defense pairing so I doubt he gets shopped. Jarnkrok is their utility forward on their checking lines. He’d be the more likely trade option but the Leafs could consider other cost-cutting choices.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if Shane Pinto or Mathieu Joseph are the subjects of their conversations. The Senators are believed to be peddling Joseph to free up cap room to sign Pinto.