As we pass the halfway point of the NHL season and gallop toward the March 2 trade deadline, both the playoff races and general managers’ need to make hard decisions — tank or go for it? buy, sell or stay pat? — intensifies.
Here, in brief, is a look at some of the rumours that made the NHL rounds this week.
Predators GM speaks out in support of Kessel
Remember when Team USA was a-flying during the preliminary rounds of the 2014 Olympics? Phil Kessel was on fire, and one of the architects of that club, Nashville’s David Poile, remains a big fan.
Amidst the Kessel backlash this week — the Maple Leafs’ core is under a microscope now that coach Randy Carlyle has been fired — Poile popped up on TSN radio and defended the sniper’s talents and coachability. This raised eyebrows.
Hate to bring up old news, but it is worth noting that Poile was interested in trading for Kessel way back in 2009, when the star was a Boston Bruin.
Minnesota needs help in net
When Darcy Keumper isn’t letting in goals that can’t go in (coach Mike Yeo’s words) or being placed on injured reserve, Niklas Backstom is posting a .893 save percentage. Josh Harding (AHL Iowa) isn’t healthy enough for a return to the bigs, so will the Wild seek goaltending help to get the club back in the race?
“We’re at a critical point right now. If we fall further back, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get back in if you start getting eight, 10, 12 points back,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Star-Tribune. “Nik is a proven, quality goaltender, and he’s a guy who really hasn’t had a great opportunity this year to play a string of games, so we’ll start [Thursday] and see how it goes and make decisions from there.”
The Wild lost 4-2 Thursday to a division rival, Chicago. The gap widens.
Sources tell the Tribune‘s Michael Russo that the Wild have inquired about Carolina’s Cam Ward (11-16-2, .914 save percentage).
The L.A. Kings must regret not buying out Mike Richards
The depth centre isn’t producing (14 points in 41 games) and might be healthy-scratched Saturday.
Richards still carries a salary cap hit of $5.75 million for five more seasons. The Kings could’ve used an amnesty buyout on him last summer but may have still been giddy off a second Stanley Cup win. Richards is a winner, true, but an expensive one — more so considering the Kings’ cap strain.
“I don’t think you ever count him out, because if you’re a team that thinks you can win and needs an extra piece, I think there are teams that look at Mike Richards and say he has value to be that extra piece,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said Friday. “I don’t know how much interest there is. If they trade him, they’re probably going to have to keep a bunch of money in that particular situation. But I do think the Kings are kind of looking around and they’re testing Richards’ value to see, ‘If we do want to do this, what can we get for him.’
“I’m sure they’re calling and asking teams like Toronto and Winnipeg, where they think that maybe Richards would be willing to go, to test it. But I don’t think it’s going to be a very easy situation for them.”
Senators still want to be buyers
Heading into Friday night’s action, the Ottawa Senators are eight points and three teams away from the final wild-card berth in the East. Also, the Columbus Blue Jackets are breathing down their neck with two games in hand and just one point behind.
Yet players like Clarke MacArthur still believe the club can get on a roll, positioning the Sens to buy come March.
“If you can get four or five wins in a row, then you’re at least back to the No. 8 or No. 9 spot and then you can go from there,” MacArthur told the Ottawa Sun.
Coyotes deliver smackdown to Doan rumours
This is pretty great.
After a local sports Twitter feed threw out gossip of a Shane Doan trade in the works, the Arizona Coyotes’ Twitter account had some fun putting the phony scoop to bed.
Log jam in St. Louis
With No. 1 Brian Elliott healthy again and Jake Allen too talented to try to slip past waivers, veteran Martin Broduer (3-3-0, .899 save percentage) — he of the bonus-heavy contract — could be the odd man out in St. Louis.
Our Mark Spector floats the idea of Brodeur going to Minnesota, a team unafraid of a short-term fix (see: Ilya Bryzgalov, 2014).