The NHL all-star break is just around the corner, the March 2 trade deadline is only six weeks away, and most NHL teams have taken a glance at the standings and decided if they’re going to be buyers or sellers. Yes, it’s that time of year when change is in the air.
Here is a roundup of some of the most compelling rumours and reports from around the NHL.
Ryan O’Reilly on the trading block
“I do think he’s available,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman told Boomer & Rhett on Sportsnet 960 The Fan Monday. “I think Colorado has kinda decided that they’re going to move on and he’s going to move on, so you might as well get something for him.”
Friedman explained that the catch with O’Reilly is that the team interested in trading for O’Reilly will need assurance it can re-sign the centre, whose contract expires July 1, 2016.
Our own Mike Johnston lists five teams that could be interested in acquiring O'Reilly and some players who could be dealt in return.
Coyotes hang 'for sale' sign
Fourteen points out of a wild-card berth, the Arizona Coyotes are reportedly interested in selling off their expiring assets.
In his weekly column, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch breaks down the suitors for UFA-to-be Antoine Vermette (Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins) and forever-on-the-block defenceman Keith Yandle (Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks).
Defenceman Zbynek Michalek and winger Martin Erat, free agents come July 1, should also be dealt before the deadline, Garrioch writes.
Treliving: Flames won't mortgage future for playoff run
Bubble teams fun to watch
While some clubs are obviously going for it now (St. Louis, Montreal, Anaheim) and others have made peace with rebuilding (Buffalo, Arizona), the most compelling ones to watch this time of year are those who still could rally to make the playoffs or drift to the back of the pack and use their trade chips.
Dallas — just two points out of the wild card and heating up — will have to make a decision on UFA-in-waiting Erik Cole; the veteran is the Stars' third-highest goal-scorer (12). And Florida — an overachieving team that could use the playoff gate — could try to obtain another play-now asset in effort to squeak into the post-season. Boston sits four points up on the Panthers for possession of the East's final wild-card spot, but the Panthers have three games in hand.
Florida's early February stretch — in which the Panthers face the Rangers, Islanders, Kings, Predators and Ducks in a nine-day span — could decide the team's fate quick.
Why would Senators trade Anderson?
Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray appeared on TSN 1200 Monday and shot down the notion of trading goaltender Craig Anderson (12-11-6, .927 save percentage).
“Why would I do that at this point? I mean, we don’t have a third goaltender. Robin [Lehner] is close to ready, but he’s got to play more games and I think with Craig being the credible guy that he is, I don’t know that I have to — if you don’t have goaltending in this league, you don’t have anything," Murray said. "So it’s unlikely that Craig Anderson is going anywhere but the net in Ottawa.”
Wild prepared to deal with three goalies
With new guy Devan Dubnyk impressing early, the Minnesota Wild will have itself a three-goaltender logjam in the crease once Darcy Kuemper comes off injured reserve.
"It’s a little bit tricky in that you have to make sure the person who’s starting is getting the workload and preparation they need," coach Mike Yeo told the Star-Tribune. "And in a lot of ways, how you deal with the other two guys is going to be equally as important as far as their emotional state, making sure they’re ready in case they need to be called upon, and also making sure they’re getting the proper amount of work.”
Dubnyk's comments were refreshingly honest.
“I don’t think it’s ideal for anyone," he said. “I think you’d be lying if anybody said three goalies was good. But sometimes that’s the way the situation is, and the most important thing is to just be there for each other, have good relationships with each other and understand we’re all in the same boat. We’re all fighting for the net and supporting each other."
Kassian's name churning in rumour mill
There's plenty of speculation about the future of winger Zack Kassian in Vancouver. The 23-year-old has five points and 30 penalty minutes in 22 games this season. But he's not ready to walk out the door just yet.
"I'm a Vancouver Canuck. I love it here. Especially the guys here. I'm not thinking too much about that stuff," Kassian told reporters last week. But other people are thinking about it.
With Vancouver GM Jim Benning less than a year removed from Boston, the Bruins are one team being speculated as having interest.
Kessel would fetch interest
Toronto's Phil Kessel is locked up long-term and scores goals with an ease to be envied.
And although there is no evidence (yet?) of the Leafs shopping their offensive star, reports have surfaced that if Toronto decides to, there will be takers. This should come as no surprise.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported on radio Friday that some teams — who requested anonymity — have contacted Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis to express interest should Kessel ever hit the block.
“If they want to move him, there’ll be interest,” a league executive also told the Sun's Garrioch.