NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Arizona Coyotes
Jonathan Huberdeau enjoys a four-point performance, John Tortorella loses it with the officials, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice and set up two others as his club held on for a 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Panthers center Aleksander Barkov also scored two goals. Canadiens rookie Nick Suzuki collected three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 53 points in 38 games, Huberdeau’s on a 115-point pace. He’s the Panthers’ leading scorer and sits sixth among NHL scorers.
Patrick Kane’s shootout goal lifted the Chicago Blackhawks over the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2. Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo was sidelined during the shootout with an injury. During a post-game press conference, Columbus head coach John Tortorella ripped the officials for an apparent clock error that cost his club the winning goal in the dying seconds of overtime. That drew the ire of NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, who spoke with Tortorella. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said the league is dealing with it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella’s outburst could cost him a fine or a suspension. He’ll likely learn his fate later today.
Jaden Schwartz scored twice as the St. Louis Blues downed the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. The Blues (58 points) have won eight straight and hold an eight-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference.
Tanner Pearson and Tyler Myers each scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks snuffed out the Calgary Flames 5-2. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk had two assists. The Canucks have won five straight and sit in second place in the Pacific Division.
Jake DeBrusk scored two straight power-play goals as the Boston Bruins held off the sagging Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Bruins winger David Pastrnak netted his league-leading 29th goal of the season. Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
The Philadelphia Flyers nipped the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on an overtime goal by Kevin Hayes. Jakub Voracek collected two assists. The Flyers have won five of their last six contests.
Third-period goals by Ryan Pulock, Matt Martin, and Tom Kuhnhackl lifted the New York Islanders to a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. It was the Isles’ first regulation win in eight games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on a third-period goal by Brayden Point. The Wings have dropped all but two of their last 20 games (2-16-2).
A four-goal third period carried the Dallas Stars over the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Coyotes center Derek Stepan is in concussion protocol following a high hit from Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.
Jack Hughes netted his first career NHL overtime goal in a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen collected three assists.
Constructing the best lineup with the remaining UFAs plus the latest Rasmus Ristolainen and Derek Stepan speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton recently listed the top remaining unrestricted free agents and attempted to compile the best “All-UFA” lineup. Joe Thornton, the best available center, is expected to return for another season with the San Jose Sharks. Clinton also considered Brian Boyle and Derick Brassard as a toss-up for second-best. Soon after this article appeared, Brassard signed with the New York Islanders.
Left-wing options are a toss-up between Patrick Marleau and Thomas Vanek. Justin Williams, the top right wing, is expected to return to the Carolina Hurricanes. Clinton considered it odd that right wing Patrick Maroon remains unsigned. He speculates Maroon is working toward returning to the St. Louis Blues or waiting to see where the best fit could be elsewhere.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains the top blueliner. His future somehow seems tied to the Leafs efforts to re-sign winger Mitch Marner. Clinton considers Ben Hutton the second-best rearguard. As for goaltenders, he wonders if we’ve seen the last of Scott Darling. Chad Johnson would be the next best option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton’s returning to the Sharks. If Williams doesn’t retire, the Hurricanes are believed the only club he’ll skate with.
Gardiner’s situation got a little more intriguing this week when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the Arizona Coyotes are thought to be interested in the former Leaf. He also wondered if the Buffalo Sabres would come calling if they trade Rasmus Ristolainen. And speaking of Ristolainen…
UPDATE ON RISTOLAINEN
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently reported there’s doesn’t appear to be a large trade market for Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. General manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Kruger aren’t completely against the idea of the 24-year-old blueliner returning to the lineup this season.
Harrington feels the Winnipeg Jets need help on their blueline and could be a good destination for Ristolainen. However, the Jets can’t do anything until they get restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor under contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres loading up on the right side of their blueline this summer seemingly sets the stage for trading Ristolainen. The Jets could certainly use someone like him but the Sabres could seek a top-six forward (preferably a right winger) in return.
The notion of swapping Ristolainen for Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers has been bandied out. However, Ehlers skates on the left side and has earned a reputation as a playoff underachiever.
LATEST ON STEPAN
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked if he sees the Arizona Coyotes signing center Derek Stepan after this season. Stepan is signed through 2020-21 and Morgan doesn’t expect the Coyotes will do anything about his contract after this season.
What happens to Stepan long-term depends upon the development of players like Barrett Hayton, Nick Schmaltz, and Christian Dvorak and whether he can regain his previous 50-plus point form. Morgan doubts the Coyotes shop the veteran center if they’re in the playoff chase this season. If not, they could consider it, but must also keep in mind the contracts of centers Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg expire next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alate-season leg injury could account for the decline in Stepan’s production in 2018-19. He was still the Coyotes best all-around forward.
Maybe the toll of his two-way style is starting to catch up with him but his numbers could rebound if he’s got some decent wingers. Another missed postseason, however, could force Coyotes management to consider moving Stepan while his value remains high and he still has some time left on his contract.
Game recaps, players and rookie of the month, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his league-leading seventh shutout in a 3-0 blanking of the Anaheim Ducks. William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, and Cody Eakin were the goal scorers, spoiling Ducks goaltender John Gibson’s return after missing three weeks with an upper-body injury.
The Carolina Hurricanes picked up their 13th victory in their last 17 games by downing the St. Louis Blues 5-2. Sebastian Aho, Nino Niederreiter, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Faulk, and Brett Pesce each collected two points.
Following the game, the Hurricanes’ “Storm Surge” celebration featured former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield “knocking out” Jordan Martinook. The Canes (76 points) sit third in the Metropolitan Division, one ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Alex Ovechkin’s 45th goal of the season also proved the game-winner as the Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders 3-1. The Capitals (81 points) move into a tie with the Islanders, who hold first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Conor Sheary scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Buffalo Sabres edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby tallied his 439th career goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for second place on the Penguins all-time goal-scoring list. With the win, the Sabres (68 points) sit seven points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference while the Penguins (75 points) sit just outside the wild-card window.
Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk each scored twice to give the Philadelphia Flyers a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers (70 points) sit five points out of a playoff spot and also set an NHL record by using their eighth goaltender in a season as Cam Talbot made 30 saves for the win.
Joel Armia netted a hat trick and Carey Price made 28 saves as the Montreal Canadiens doubled up the New York Rangers 4-2. With 77 points, the Canadiens hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Kevin Hayes each tallied two points to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators. The Jets (80 points) reclaim the top spot in the Central Division, one point up on the Predators.
Marcus Sorenson scored two goals as the San Jose Sharks held off the Colorado Avalanche 4-3. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog collected three assists as his club sits just outside the Western Conference wild-card berth with 68 points.
It was a good month for right-wing forwards as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov, Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, and the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko are the NHL’s stars of the month for February 2019.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington is the NHL’s rookie of the month for February 2010. He posted a record of 10 wins and one loss, with a 1.44 goals-against average and four shutouts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Binnington is the main reason why the Blues rose from being near the bottom of the NHL standings when the calendar flipped to 2019 into a playoff spot in the Central Division.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes center Derek Stepan will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a knee injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Coyotes jockeying for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, losing Stepan could be a serious setback to their postseason hopes.
Latest on the Bruins, Wild, Canadiens, and Coyotes in your NHL rumor mill.
BRUINS INTERESTED IN COYLE?
THE ATHLETIC: With Patrice Bergeron sidelined at least four weeks with a rib injury, Joe McDonald reports the Boston Bruins are looking at the possibility of trading for a center. That will depend on whether Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson can handle the first-line center role in Bergeron’s absence.
McDonald claims the Bruins could revisit their offseason interest in Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle, with either Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, or Anders Bjork packaged with a draft pick heading the other way. Coyle would be seen as a stopgap measure until Bergeron’s return, providing much-needed depth down the middle for the Bruins for the remainder of the season.
McDonald also suggests St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak or Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan as alternative trade options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyle’s name surfaced last season in the trade-rumor mill. As we’ll see below, he’s considered by some as a potential trade chip for the Wild. If the Bruins are in the market for a center, Coyle seems a more likely trade option than Bozak or Stepan.
The Blues signed Bozak last summer and I don’t think they’re looking at making trades just yet, especially involving one of their recent veteran additions. Given the Coyotes’ lack of depth at center, I don’t think they’re keen to move Stepan unless they’re getting a proven center in return.
WILD TRADE CANDIDATES
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo recently speculated over possible Minnesota Wild trade candidates and if the club could pursue a deal to acquire Toronto Maple Leafs restricted free agent William Nylander before Dec. 1.
He dismissed the notion of the Wild landing Nylander, pointing out whatever interest management may have had a month ago has waned since the Wild 11 of their last 16 (13 of their last 18 since Nov. 23). Russo also cites a source claiming general manager Paul Fenton isn’t going there as it’s too complicated, with the Leafs likely to ask for defenseman Matt Dumba and Nylander reportedly seeking over $8 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Leafs are willing to accept Jared Spurgeon instead of Dumba and if the Wild can convince Nylander to accept a more affordable contract, I don’t see the young Swede continuing his NHL career in Minnesota.
Russo considers Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter among the Wild’s most likely to move candidates. He also suggests they might consider trading pending unrestricted free agent Eric Staal if their season goes off the rails by the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Wild remain in playoff contention Staal isn’t going anywhere. Russo believes Coyle isn’t a finisher and just lacks a killer instinct while Niederreiter’s current struggles have to be troubling for Wild management. Still, I believe there is a market for either guy if Fenton puts one or both on the trade block.
POTENTIAL CANADIENS TRADE CANDIDATES
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu lists Charlie Hudon, David Schlemko, Tomas Tatar, Andrew Shaw, and Jordie Benn as possible Montreal Canadiens’ trade candidates, with little-used forward Nikita Schebak as the most likely to go.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien isn’t pleased with Hudon’s defensive shortcomings. Schlemko’s injury history and $2.1-million salary-cap hit could make him difficult to move. Tatar’s play this season has increased his trade value but also his value to the retooling Canadiens. Shaw is having success skating alongside Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin but Basu speculates GM Marc Bergevin might listen if the price is right.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: During an appearance yesterday on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman discussed the Florida Panthers’ potential interest in Montreal Canadiens third-string goaltender Charlie Lindgren. He believes the Panthers had interest in the promising Lindgren last season but believes the Canadiens could set a high asking price.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Canadiens become sellers it’ll likely be in the New Year, probably in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline. Of those who could move, Benn seems the likely option as the Habs will soon have a logjam on the blueline when Shea Weber and Noah Juulsen return from injuries. If call-up Brett Kulak keeps playing as well as he did in last night’s game against Buffalo, it could increase the likelihood of Benn hitting the trade block.
As for Lindgren, he’s in the first season of a three-year contract and the Canadiens aren’t in any rush to move him. Still, they could use him as trade bait at some point to address another roster need.
POSSIBLE COYOTES TRADE CANDIDATES
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan recently listed Brendan Perlini, Richard Panik, Dylan Strome, and perhaps Alex Goligoski as potential Arizona Coyotes’ trade candidates. Perlini is struggling to produce, Panik’s a frequent resident in coach Rick Tocchet’s doghouse, while flaws in Strome’s game raise questions over where he’d be playing if Christian Dvorak weren’t sidelined. Meanwhile, Jakob Chychrun could soon be ready to take Goligoski’s place among the Coyotes’ top-four defensemen.
Possible trade deadline trade bait, an update on Erik Gudbranson and the latest on the Blue Jackets in your NHL rumor mill.
WHICH CENTERS COULD BE MOVED THIS SEASON?
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman’s appearance Thursday on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 discussing which centers could be on the move by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He acknowledged it’s difficult to foresee right now but took a stab at suggesting some candidates.
Friedman wondered if the Arizona Coyotes might flip center Derek Stepan at some point but wasn’t sure if they would. He notes the Buffalo Sabres aren’t moving Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly. “And unless you think Sam Reinhart is a center, he’s probably not the answer to your question either.”
Friedman also wondered recently about Jason Spezza’s status with the Dallas Stars but observed he’s “starting to go a little bit again” with Martin Hanzal sidelined. He’s also curious about what the Edmonton Oilers might do with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if they’re out of the playoff chase later in the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those mentioned by Friedman (and he’s not saying any of them are available), Nugent-Hopkins seems the most likely trade candidate. He’s among the few brights spots for the Oilers this season and I think they’d like to shed salary before Connor McDavid’s big contract kicks in next season.
RNH’s trade value is probably high right now and I believe there could be considerable interest if he becomes available by the trade deadline. Of course, his $6 million annual salary through 2020-21 is a sticking point, one that makes an offseason move more likely.
LATEST ON GUDBRANSON
Friedman also said he thinks Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson could attract attention in this year’s trade market if he’s healthy. A lot could depend upon the Canucks’ asking price, which Friedman doesn’t expect to be very high because of Gudbranson’s pending UFA status. He thinks the 25-year-old blueliner could work well in the playoffs in a structured system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could move Gudbranson if unable to re-sign him before the trade deadline, but that’s not a certainty. The Canucks are off to a better-than-expected start to this season and are jockeying for a playoff spot. GM Jim Benning recently praised Gudbranson for his toughness and his leadership with their young players. If they’re in playoff contention by February, they could opt to retain Gudbranson for a postseason push.
LATEST BLUE JACKETS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline addressed some questions from his readers regarding possible moves by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He believes they would “absolutely listen to any trade talk involving a top-six center as part of a trade for one of their defensemen not named Jones or Werenski.” Asked if they might move blueliner David Savard for a center, Portzline suggests that would leave the Jackets down to one right-handed defenseman.
Portzline also doesn’t think the Jackets have seen enough from promising Pierre-Luc Dubois to justify moving struggling center Alexander Wennberg. As for acquiring Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he thinks that would cost the Jackets “(Ryan) Murray or (Markus) Nutivaara plus some more “today” help for the Oilers.” He feels Jack Johnson’s UFA status next summer is an impediment to a trade. Still, he thinks the Jackets and Oilers make sense as trade partners.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the Jackets will make a move for a center before this season’s trade deadline. Given their position in the standings right now, they’re not in a rush to do so. As Portzline observes, they haven’t had the right offer yet. I daresay those will come after the calendar flips to January and more teams fall out of the playoff chase.
Nugent-Hopkins could be a good fit with the Jackets but it will likely cost what Portzline suggested to get him. They could opt instead to remain patient and hope a more affordable option appears as the trade deadline nears.