NHL Rumor Mill – December 2, 2023
Could the Maple Leafs be the Flames’ next trade partner? Could the Bruins pursue Noah Hanifin? What next for the Canadiens after re-signing Sam Montembeault? Is Jakub Vrana playing his way out of St. Louis? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
COULD THE LEAFS PURSUE CHRIS TANEV?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Toronto Maple Leafs could make Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev a trade target. Tanev, who turns 34 on Dec. 20, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He carries a cap hit of $4.5 million and a 10-team no-trade clause.
Friedman isn’t sure how hard the Leafs will pursue pure rentals this season. However, Tanev is what Friedman called “a Toronto guy”, noting that Leafs general manager Brad Treliving signed him to his current contract when he was the Flames GM. He also feels they’re “pretty confident” that they could keep him beyond this season.
The Flames’ resurgent play in recent weeks prompted some to wonder if they might pump the brakes on any trade talk. However, Friedman thinks trading Nikita Zadorov earlier this week to the Vancouver Canucks indicates they’re willing to entertain strong offers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With John Klingberg, Mark Giordano and Timothy Liljegren sidelined by injuries, the Leafs’ battered blueline needs shoring up. If Klingberg is out of the season, that will provide Treliving with sufficient wiggle room to acquire a suitable replacement. The question then becomes how much they’re willing to part with to make it happen.
The Flames only got a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick and a 2026 third-rounder from the Canucks for Zadorov, but the latter punched his ticket out of Calgary with a public trade request that reportedly didn’t sit well with some of his Flames teammates. They could seek more for Tanev, who has gone about his business without making any demands (that we know of) for a trade.
COULD THE BRUINS STILL PURSUE HANIFIN?
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: James Murphy wondered if a report by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun suggesting the Flames could agree to a sign-and-trade scenario involving Noah Hanifin might tempt Bruins GM Don Sweeney into pursuing him.
Like Tanev, the 26-year-old Hanifin is eligible for UFA status next summer unless the Flames re-sign him. LeBrun indicated the two sides were close to an eight-year contract extension worth $7.5 million annually but the deal was pulled by the Flames after Hanifin indicated he wanted to wait and see how the season unfolded.
An NHL source close to the situation told Murphy that the Flames would be willing to do a sign-and-trade with Hanifin. He also thinks the Bruins could be interested if that came to pass.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been interested in Hanifin for some time. His club will have the cap space to take on Hanifin after this season but they currently lack the space to absorb his $4.95 million AAV for this season unless they shed a comparable salary in the deal or in a separate trade.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE CANADIENS AFTER SIGNING MONTEMBEAULT?
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: That’s the question posed by Marc Dumont specifically aimed at their goaltending situation. They’re currently carrying three netminders in the recently re-signed Sam Montembeault, veteran Jake Allen (who has a year remaining on his contract) and young Cayden Primeau who continues to struggle at the NHL level.
One way to address this is to place Primeau on waivers and send him back to their farm team in Laval. The risk of losing him to another club is the reason the Canadiens are still carrying him on their roster. However, his sporadic starts and .875 save percentage might not be that enticing to other teams.
The Canadiens could trade Allen but he won’t fetch much of a return for him at this career stage. Dumont also suggested the possibility of trading Montembeault now that he’s under an affordable three-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I mentioned in today’s Morning Coffee Headlines, I don’t believe the Canadiens intend to trade Montembeault. They signed him to that extension to bring stability between the pipes for their rebuilding roster over the next three years
I think it’s between Allen and Primeau, neither of whom has much trade value. At this point, I believe the Canadiens will take the risk and put Primeau on waivers.
ARE VRANA’S DAYS NUMBERED IN ST. LOUIS?
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford recently pondered Jakub Vrana’s future with the St. Louis Blues. He’s been a healthy scratch in four games (five since Rutherford’s piece was published) and has just six points in 17 games.
Rutherford doesn’t see this ending well for Vrana, who is now on his third NHL club. He’s not a Craig Berube-type player and could eventually be moved if anyone’s interested.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vrana has shown the ability to score but not the consistency. In recent years he was plagued by injuries and spent some time last season in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program.
Traded to St. Louis last season by the Detroit Red Wings, he had a strong finish with the Blues, netting 10 goals and 14 points in 20 games. However, he hasn’t followed that up this season as hoped.
Vrana, 27, is eligible for UFA status next July. The Blues could shop him if they become sellers by the March 8 trade deadline but there might not be much interest in him.