As teams such as the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche begin to slide in the standings, the trade winds circling the NHL have started to pull in some marquee names.
Here is a roundup of the speculation and conjecture flying around the league this week. Consider this the smoke before the fire.
Matt Duchene responding well to trade chatter
If the purpose of floating Duchene’s name out there was to get the forward going, well, mission accomplished. The young centre has caught fire, throwing up five points in the last two games.
Colorado writer Adrian Dater reported that the Avalanche, on pace to finish last in the NHL’s toughest division, are looking to make a deal.
“Any moves I might make… won’t be for a quick fix,” general manager Joe Sakic told Dater. “We’ve got some good young players. Our moves are going to have to make sense down the line as well. It’s tough to make deals in a cap world.”
The Avs’ blue line is thin, with trust trailing off once you look beyond Francois Beauchemin, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, and Colorado does have forwards that could be coveted by contending clubs.
Dater has pointed out that Jarome Iginla, a gun-for-hire in the late stages of his career, is not interested in a mid-season trade for family reasons. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman told Dean Blundell & Co. Friday that he could see Iginla accepting the right trade come summer.
LISTEN: Elliotte Friedman talks Matt Duchene and Patrick Marleau rumours
If for no other reason than his Ontario birth certificate, Duchene’s name has been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators in the rumour mill. (Fun fact: Duchene was actually a massive Avalanche fan growing up.)
Blundell tossed out the idea of the Maple Leafs packaging Tyler Bozak and another player to acquire Duchene.
“They’ve been looking for a young defenceman for a while,” Friedman said of the Avalanche, spitballing a trade scenario. “Now, if your decision is you’re going to trade [Jake] Gardiner, are you going to do it for Duchene?”
Friedman notes that Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock does have a relationship with Duchene from Sochi but is not certain the player will be moved at all.
The Ottawa Sun‘s Don Brennan makes the case for the inconsistent Senators to take a run at Duchene.
“He’s expensive now, but that $6 million could very well be a bargain before his contract expires,” Brennan writes. “Unless Sakic is being unrealistic — or there’s another GM more desperate than Murray to light a fire under his team — the Senators should do what they can to roll out the welcome mat for Duchene.”
Patrick Marleau trade pushed to back burner
Due to cap restrictions, a limited trade destination list and a lack of urgency, the consensus is that a potential trade involving Patrick Marleau might have to wait.
“His reputation is good,” Friedman said Friday. “If he plays hard, there’s going to somebody at the end of the year who’s going to look at it and say, ‘Maybe this guy can help us win the Stanley Cup.’ That’s when I think things will heat up as we get closer to the trade deadline.”
And Marleau could expand his list of acceptable destinations beyond the New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings once new contenders emerge.
The New York Post‘s Larry Brooks argues that a player of Marleau’s age and contract term is a poor fit for the Blueshirts. Top-tier UFAs-in-waiting Eric Staal, Shane Doan, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd would all be better fits in New York as pure rentals, according to Brooks.
Steven Stamkos‘ agent speaks
With no known offers on the table, Stevens Yzerman and Stamkos have remained tight-lipped regarding negotiations (or lack thereof) on an extension for the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s leading scorer. But Stamkos’ agent, Don Meehan, did discuss the situation with a Toronto radio station this week.
“We have a great rapport and an excellent professional relationship with Steve Yzerman and these are some issues that Steven and I dealt with at the end of the year. That we’ve talked about,” Meehan told 1050-AM (via the Tampa Tribune). “All that we’re really doing at this point in time is taking a little bit more time.
“But we’re engaged with Steve Yzerman. And as I say, we have a great relationship with him. And when you get to a point in a career where you have professional decisions to make like this – as you know, the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t really afford you this kind of opportunity that often. And the Collective Bargaining Agreement is a give and take process, and it’s something that you – for this kind of a decision and this kind of player, I really think that you have to practice due diligence to the Nth degree.”
Feel free to read between the lines, folks.
Columbus Blue Jackets closer to a deal?
“There was good conversation,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch‘s Aaron Portzline upon returning from the GM meetings in Toronto. “It is so hard to make deals in the league right now, but I think you’re going to start to see some movement here soon.”
Kekalainen has already fired a head coach and now wants to improve his defence. But he won’t be cavalier about it.
“I’m not going to do something stupid just to say I’ve tried something,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for the organization, always.”
Keith Yandle uncertain to re-sign in New York
Twenty-nine-year-old defenceman Keith Yandle’s current contract with the Rangers, which carries a $5.25-million cap hit, expires July 1, but neither side appears to be in a rush to ink an extension.
“We haven’t had any discussions with the Rangers,” Yandle’s agent, Jerry Buckley, told The New York Post on Tuesday. “There is no timetable as far as we are concerned.
“I know Keith likes it in New York and likes the team, but his entire focus is on having a good year and winning. I don’t anticipate there being a deadline for Keith to sign during the season,” he said.
“Both sides will have a clearer idea of how they want to proceed at the end of the year.”
Yandle said he’s just having fun and wants to win, something the Rangers have done to the tune of seven straight games heading into the weekend.