NHL rumour roundup: Canucks kicking tires on Sabres defencemen?

HC at Noon chat with Jeff Marek and Brian Burke, on predicting a lot of trade activity surrounding this year’s NHL Draft.

The season is over, the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions and hardware is about to be handed out at the NHL Awards, but there’s no time for hockey fans to sit back and relax.

The 2019 NHL Draft begins Friday with free agency right around the corner and, as we’ve seen in recent days, general managers around the league are keeping busy with trades, contract extensions, buyouts and much more to come.

During a conference call after signing Erik Karlsson to an extension Monday, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson told reporters: “There’s been more conversation and communication between GMs in the last month than maybe ever since I’ve been a GM.”

Is it mostly smoke with little fire? Or is this off-season shaping up to be one to remember?

Complicating matters are the rumblings that the salary cap ceiling might not be quite as high in 2019-20 as teams expected it would be.

With that in mind, here’s some of the latest trade buzz from around the league.

‘NOT EASY’ FOR CROSBY TO HEAR PENGUINS TRADE TALK

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang aren’t likely to be traded this summer, however Penguins GM Jim Rutherford wouldn’t describe either player as untouchable during a recent interview with radio station 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. Rutherford also said he’s “not actively looking to trade” Phil Kessel but would mull any legitimate offer that comes his way – as any competent GM would.

“There’s been great players traded in this league,” Rutherford said earlier this week. “If somebody comes along with a package that makes sense for the Penguins, we have to look at it.”

All the hypothetical situations and conjecture can be fun for fans and pundits at this time on the hockey calendar, but it can be downright stressful for players involved in trade rumblings and their teammates.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was asked about the rumours surrounding his team.

“I don’t think you can get caught up in the chatter too much, but I think it’s definitely tough, especially when you are talking about guys who have been involved with the team for a really long time,” Crosby said. “It’s not easy to hear those rumours, but that being said, we all have to be professional about it and find a way to make sure we’re ready and we’re better next year.”

The Penguins currently have more than $55 million committed to players through the 2021-22 season – and that’s after trading Olli Maatta who has three years left on his contract with an AAV of more than $4 million.

“We were getting ourselves to a point where we might have been in a little [salary cap] trouble,” Rutherford told Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was going to be either [Jack] Johnson or Maatta to open up the necessary cap space and open up the logjam at defence. And as it turned out, it ended up being Olli.”

Rutherford has consistently been one of the most aggressive GMs in hockey so the Pens in all probability aren’t done making moves.

CANUCKS KICKING TIRES ON SABRES DEFENDERS

Bolstering the blue line is priority No. 1 for Jim Benning and his Vancouver Canucks. They’re expected to target Jake Gardiner and Tyler Myers if those two pending UFAs make it to the open market, while the team is also working to extend Alex Edler.

If the Canucks decide to explore trade options to upgrade the back end, Buffalo GM Jason Botterill might be receiving a call since Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650 is hearing the Canucks could be interested in either Rasmus Ristolainen or Zach Bogosian – both big, right-shot defencemen.

Bogosian, 28, has one year left on his contract ($5,142,857 cap hit, but $6 million in dollars owed), while Ristolainen, 24, has three years left at $5.4 million per.

Dhaliwal also suggested the Canucks could put feelers out for Nikolay Goldobin, but he expects the team to tender a qualifying offer to the pending RFA.

Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy adds Benning isn’t looking to part with draft picks and would be shocked if he moved the 10th-overall pick.

SENS AND CECI READY TO SPLIT?

The Ottawa Senators are hoping to hit the reset button after a disastrous 2018-19 campaign.

Defenceman Cody Ceci is a restricted free agent and Sens GM Pierre Dorion has been in contact with his agent discussing both shorter and longer deals, but Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen reports Dorion is “seriously exploring the trade market” for the 25-year-old.

HURRICANES WILLING TO SWAP DEFENCEMAN FOR FORWARD

The Carolina Hurricanes were a terrific puck possession team this past season but only put up middle-of-the-pack offensive numbers with a below average power play, so GM Don Waddell is hoping to be active on the draft floor later this week.

Carolina has depth on defence that could possibly be leveraged to add a quality forward.

“It’s one of the things that if it’s the right type of forward, we might look at it,” Waddell told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. “If not, if we don’t do anything in the next week, then maybe it’s through free agency.”

Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Calvin de Haan, Brett Pesce and Trevor van Riemsdyk make up the Hurricanes blue line at the moment. Faulk is the only one in the bunch who has a modified no-trade clause.

TOREY KRUG STAYING IN BOSTON?

As he gets set to enter the final year of his contract, Torey Krug’s name was briefly circulating on the rumour mill.

If you’re a Bruins fan who wants to keep Krug, this response from Don Sweeney should ease your nerves:

“If somebody blew us away, every player has to be looked at in that way,” the Bruins GM told reporters earlier this week. “When you’re an organization, you just have to, you’re doing a disservice if you don’t. But it would take a pretty unique opportunity for us to part with Torey. We think he’s a big part of the fabric of our group. He’s kind of that next wave of leadership that we talk about.”

Krug ranks 10th in scoring among defencemen since the start of the 2013-14 season with 286 points in 459 games.

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