NHL Trade Rumours: Montreal should sell; Leafs’ Polak has suitors

The storm is yet to pass the Canadiens as they lost another one.

Twenty-five days till deadline.

With the all-star break in the rear-view, teams’ next 10 games or so will be critical in determining who’s a buyer, who’s a seller.

This is the final stretch for players who want out of bad situations (or those who wish to stay in good ones) to showcase their value, as the Feb. 29 trade deadline awaits.

Here is a rundown of some of the latest names popping up in the NHL’s trade rumour mill.

Buff is a homebody
After a lukewarm endorsement of his current employer during All-Star Weekend—“I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you. I don’t mind Winnipeg at all”—Dustin Byfuglien, arguably the most desirable player who might actually be on the block later this month, sounded more enthused about the Jets when he got home this week.

Byfuglien said he would “love to” remain a Jet.

“I’ve met a lot of good people and have some really good friends,” he clarified. “I’ve been here for a long time. You never want to leave home. I’ve been here long enough. Family’s been here, and I’ve had two kids here. It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”

Byfuglien was originally looking for an eight-year, $55-million extension, according to a leaked contract demand, but the Jets would like to shorten that term.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Los Angeles Kings have kicked tires on Byfuglien.

The Jets delved deeper into negotiations with Byfuglien’s agent, Ben Hankinson, in January, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, which could put fellow UFA-in-waiting Andrew Ladd in play.

Ladd’s agent, J.P. Barry, told the Press Tuesday that he and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff chatted at the Prospects Game in Vancouver last weekend, “but nothing has changed in terms of hammering out a new deal.”

Captain Ladd found himself stapled to the bench during the third period of the Jets’ most recent loss, and coach Paul Maurice explained said it was not due to injury. Ladd has one point in his last six games.

“I had the guys I wanted on,” Maurice said.

Polak the most desirable Maple Leaf on the market?
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock threw down a challenge early this week.

“If you’re not [motivated], you won’t be here. How’s that?” he told reporters Monday. “We’ve got tons of kids coming [from the minors and juniors], so we’re going to end up have some of those guys on the team.”

Will Toronto for-sale forwards such as Shawn Matthias, P.A. Parenteau and Michael Grabner really fetch a decent return? Not as much as a proven, minutes-logging tough nut like Roman Polak.

The 29-year-old, stay-at-home defenceman is months away from free agency and carries a reasonable $2.75-million cap hit. Perfect low-risk, shot-blocking playoff rental material. The guy is a plus-10 on the second-worst team in the NHL.

And the Leafs appear to be showcasing him a bit. Polak has played more than 20 minutes per game in each of his last seven outings. Teams are calling, and the Sharks have been suggested as a good fit.

Time for the Habs to give up?
It wasn’t yet another home loss, this one to the woeful Buffalo Sabres, Wednesday that made us decide it’s over. It was that cringe-worthy footage of a padless Carey Price skating like a wobbly novice on what appears to be a torn-up knee.

Shut your MVP down, Marc Bergevin, and reload for 2016-17.

“I think the Montreal Canadiens are going to be sellers by the end of the month,” TVA’s Renaud Lavoie told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. “I don’t expect Andrei Markov to be traded as of right now. Could change in a week. There are some guys that are going to be moved.

“All the UFAs—Tom Gilbert, Dale Weise, maybe Tomas Fleischmann—those guys are going to be traded.”

Who’s got extra draft picks to dangle?
NHL Network producer Matt Sitkoff fired out this handy chart, which shows which teams have extra draft picks that could be used to buy real players (and, conversely, which teams might want to hunt more high picks).

Interesting to note that buyers such as San Jose, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh don’t have a 2016 first-rounder to offer. The Boston Bruins, which in my mind are caught in that middle ground, have two first-rounders and two second-rounders — great currency should GM Don Sweeney decide to go for it.

Hem and haw over Hamhuis
Vancouver is committing to youth—bye-bye Brandon Prust—so where does the club stand on impending UFA defenceman Dan Hamhuis, who is returning from injury this week and is the type of player who could fetch a solid return via trade.

Well, GM Jim Benning maintains that he’s focused on getting Vancouver into the playoffs, even if the club’s odds of making it are below 40 per cent.

“My biggest focus is helping our team win and putting Jim Benning in a place where he can become a buyer and make a good run in the playoffs,” Hamhuis told The Province.

“We’ve had key injuries and now we’re healthy. It would be good to go on a run here and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs, and instead of thinking about trades and selling, we look at buying and building a team for the playoffs.”

Benning admitted that improving his club’s blue-line will be difficult.

“Good defencemen are hard to come by, and there’s a premium on top-four defencemen. You have to draft and develop them yourselves, that’s what it seems to me,” Benning said. “There are some guys in free agency this summer that we could take a look at, which includes re-signing Dan.”

Liles to a contender?
The versatile John-Michael Liles, the eldest member of the Carolina Hurricanes defence core, is quietly having a productive season for a club that should be a seller: five goals, seven assists, steady work on both special-teams units.

Agent Rick Curran, who represents Carolina’s marquee UFAs-to-be, Eric Staal and Cam Ward, told The News & Observer there is “nothing new to report” this week.

But dealing Liles, who has a modest cap hit ($$3.875 million) and is the final year of his deal, could be an easier deal to strike.

“I’ve felt better on the ice in terms of my stamina, my wind, my explosiveness,” Liles, 35, told the paper.

Coyotes won’t be buyers
Despite their surprising success in No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith’s absence, do not expect the Arizona Coyotes to stock up on rentals for a playoff run.

Coach Dave Tippett appeared on Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday and said the organization is sticking to the plan: draft, develop, rebuild. Smart, realistic move.

Happy birthday, Lee! Welcome to the rumour mill!
New Jersey Devils forward Lee Stempniak turned 33 today. He is one of the league’s best bargains, making $850,000 on a one-year pact.

That he’s enjoying his best season in a decade (38 points in 51 games) could make him a nice rental if the Devils fall out of contention.

“You never know what is going to happen,” Stempniak told Rich Chere of NJ.com. “Last year in New York I was traded and [the Rangers] ended up winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Things happen and they’re sort of out of my control. I really hadn’t thought about this at all until I was asked the last two days. So it’s not weighing on my mind very much.

“I’m not really focused on it. There is a lot of hockey left to be played. I’m trying to play the best I can and help the team win games. If we’re in the playoff hunt, I think they’ll be looking to keep guys and maybe add a player or two, so I think that helps me sticking around.

“I would like to stay, but I have no idea what’s going to happen. A lot can happen in the standings over the next month and you never know what direction Ray [Shero] is going to take with the team.”

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