NHL Rumour Roundup: Latest on the Penguins, Blues, Sharks, Canadiens

Chris Johnston goes over a busy day of trades in the NHL and explains what else could happen at the NHL trade deadline.

Sunday, the day before the NHL trade deadline, started off strong with a couple moves, including one of the biggest rentals in Rick Nash shuffled off to the Boston Bruins. But after that the action was turned off as GMs continued to feel out the market ahead of Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

There are still lots of players with term who could go and a long list of rentals who must get traded. Here’s the latest scuttlebutt around the league, touching on Penguins, Sharks, Blues, and the latest around the Canadiens.

THE PENGUINS MAY NOT BE DONE AFTER ACQUIRING DERICK BRASSARD

The Pittsburgh Penguins have every motivation to be aggressive buyers at this trade deadline. The back-to-back champs are on fire and in great position to take a run at becoming the first three-peat champions since the New York Islanders won four in a row in the early-1980s.

Rutherford, the 69-year-old GM of the Pens, talked about the all-in approach he was planning on taking at this year’s deadline in an appearance on Hockey Central at Noon earlier this month.

“Based on what we’re trying to do here and the window we have, we’re certainly willing to put out some futures there,” Rutherford said. “At some point in time down the road four or five years from now there will have to be a rebuild of some kind in Pittsburgh, but with the players we have now and the opportunity we feel we have to win over the next few years, we’re going to do what we have to do to make the deal to add the pieces that give us the best chance.”

Rutherford made a splash on Friday by acquiring Derick Brassard from Ottawa in a complex three-team deal, landing them the third-line centre Rutherford craved. That certainly takes any pressure off the GM to do something to improve his team, but it may not be the last thing Pittsburgh does before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

“We don’t feel the urgency now that we filled the spot that we wanted to fill,” Rutherford told the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette. “But we would be open to doing other things if the right things were available.”

There have been rumours that the Pens would like to find a new home for Matt Hunwick, a fringe third-pair defenceman making $2.25 million against the cap through 2019-20. However, by already sending Ian Cole out the door to Ottawa in the Brassard trade, the Penguins would likely be in the market for another depth defenceman should they find a trade partner for Hunwick.

The Pens have also consistently been tied to centre Matt Cullen, a popular veteran who was part of the past two Stanley Cup championship teams.

SHARKS POTENTIALLY QUIET DEADLINE WITH $20-PLUS MILLION IN CAP ROOM

The San Jose Sharks are a team to watch at the deadline. Currently second place in the Pacific Division, but actually only in a playoff spot by two points, the Sharks are in need of scoring to push ahead. They rank 25th in even strength scoring league-wide, which has led to some past speculation they were in on the likes of Evander Kane, Mike Hoffman, Max Pacioretty…and even Erik Karlsson.

But Kevin Kurz of The Athletic pointed at evidence the Sharks may end up having a quiet trade deadline. San Jose is slated to have at least $20 million in cap space this summer (and even more depending on how much higher the cap rises), which could be used to acquire impact players with term.

“We have a lot of cap space, which will be used in the next six to 12 months,” GM Doug Wilson told Kurz on Thursday.

One of the biggest additions the Sharks could make between now and the end of the regular season could actually come from within. Centre Joe Thornton has been out since Jan. 23 with a knee injury and though there is still no timetable for his return, the expectation is he will be back.

“Do I expect him back? Yes,” Wilson told the San Jose Mercury News last week. “You should never close the door on Jumbo. He’s working hard. He knows his body better than anybody and he knows the phases that he went through last year.”

Although the Sharks are positioned to be buyers, there seems to be a chance they’ll trade playoff hero Joel Ward. The 37-year-old has just 11 points in 46 games this season, but has a long and proven track record as a playoff contributor. He’s a pending UFA and has no-trade protection in his contract, where he can submit a list of six teams to which he would not accept a trade. The Sharks, reportedly, asked Ward for that list on the weekend.

COULD THE BLUES TURN INTO SELLERS?

The St. Louis Blues are still very much in the playoff hunt, sitting just one point out of a wild-card spot. But in the face of a six-game losing streak and an offence that has dried up over the past month (23 goals in 11 games) it appears the team’s deadline philosophy could possibly shift from buyer to seller ahead of Monday’s deadline.

St. Louis has lost five of six games against divisional opponents this season as they have quickly faded as a contender to take the division. With goals evaporating, the Blues were linked to the likes of Hoffman and Pacioretty, though it didn’t seem they were keen on moving their top prospects.

“I think they’re a buyer,” Elliotte Friedman said of the Blues on this week’s 31 Thoughts podcast. “But I’ve heard they’re really not interested in dealing (Jordan) Kyrou or (Robert) Thomas. (Klim) Kostin’s name I haven’t heard. I think Ottawa’s talked to them about (Robby) Fabbri before. I’ve heard Ottawa’s looked at some of his medical stuff. I do believe he’s been a guy teams have talked about.”

One thing Blues GM Doug Armstrong said on multiple occasions was that he wasn’t too interested in paying up to get in on the rental market. In that sense, Rick Nash (now a Bruin) and Evander Kane didn’t seem like a fit.

“I think we’re going to be active on hockey trades more than rental trades,” Armstrong said on Hockey Central at Noon. “The reality is if you’re trading an unrestricted free agent at that time you’re going to get what you can get and sometimes that won’t come until the last second.”

THE LATEST ON PACIORETTY…AND GALCHENYUK?

When it comes to scoring wingers with term left on their contracts, there may be none better and more available than Montreal’s Max Pacioretty.

On Saturday night, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported during HNIC’s Headlines segment that the Los Angeles Kings were the latest team to be making a push for the 29-year-old left winger.

But on Sunday, TVA’s Louis Jean reported that although there were many teams interested in acquiring Pacioretty, there was nothing imminent. The idea behind trading Pacioretty now is that any acquiring team would be able to take two runs at the Stanley Cup with him, since the Canadiens captain has another year with a very team friendly $4.5 million cap hit. But if teams aren’t paying a premium to get him more than a year away from when he hits free agency, why wouldn’t the Habs hang on and explore the trade market again at the draft, when cap implications are less of a factor?

Earlier in the week Renaud Lavoie, also of TVA, joined the Jeff Blair show and said he didn’t believe Pacioretty would be moved by Monday’s deadline.

“He stays. I can’t see him being traded,” Lavoie said. “If there is a trade involving a young centreman that’s got a bright future in front of him, yes it will happen. But I don’t understand why a team would trade a young centreman with a bright future to the Montreal Canadiens right now for Max Pacioretty. Maybe in the summer, but not now. I’ll be shocked if it happens. If it happens, good for the Montreal Canadiens honestly and good for the [acquiring] team that’s going to bring in Max Pacioretty for two playoffs. But what I’ve been told is it’s not going to happen. But, you never know. Between today and Monday, tons of things can happen.”

Jean also tossed out Alex Galchenyuk‘s name as a potential player to move, though that also would be a long shot. The 24-year-old has 12 goals and 34 points in 61 games this season on the wing and the reported asking price is high. He is signed for another two seasons with a $4.9 million cap hit and there’s always the potential for another team to put him back in his natural centre position.

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