The NHL’s trade deadline looms just a month and a half away.
The Seth Jones–Ryan Johansen blockbuster and the Jonathan Drouin trade request have whet fans’ appetite for hockey deals, and more general managers are coming out to say whether they’re buyers or sellers.
With that in mind, we take a look at some of the latest chatter in the NHL’s trade rumour mill.
Drouin deal close?
TVA’s Renaud Lavoie put us all on high alert Thursday evening when he reported that a Drouin trade could go down within 24 hours, and that the St. Louis Blues were the front-runner.
Lavoie clarified his report Friday morning:
On Sportsnet 590 The Fan Friday, Elliotte Friedman named the Blues, Ducks and Predators as the favourites to land Drouin.
Teams calling for James van Riemsdyk
The rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs, flush with players on short-term deals, will surely be deadline sellers again. The team has repeated loud and clear that it wants to stock draft picks.
But which Leafs are not for sale?
Head coach Mike Babcock dropped some clues on Hockey Central at Noon Thursday, when he specifically named seven players who have impressed him through the first half of the season.
“Van Riemsdyk, I think other teams would love to get their hands on him.,” Friedman said. “I’ve had a couple of teams tell me that they’ve asked and been told he’s not available. So the price is very high for him.”
The 26-year-old JVR, who carries a $4.25-million cap hit, is on a fair deal through 2017-18, so there is no urgency to move him. He’s no rental.
Bozak was shopped by the team last season, but he’s raised his stock through his performance this season and leads all Leafs with 18 assists.
“The hardest thing to find in this league is centres,” Friedman said. “If you trade him, you’re going to be looking for him.”
Flyers be buyers
Clearing a chunk of salary-cap room with the Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn trade, Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall is considering spending some of the $4.1 million that separates his club from the ceiling.
“If we can improve our team in any way without mortgaging the future, we’ll look at it,” Hextall told Philly.com. “I mean, if young players can make us better, of course we’ll look at it.”
Writer Sam Carchidi reports that the GM will consider adding a forward and suggests Drouin as a target. Philadelphia has struggled to score this season, yet a four-game winning streak has it back in the playoff hunt.
Hextall wants to hang on to his defensive prospects.
“My job is to look at everything that’s out there, look at the whole landscape, and to the best of my ability, make our team better,” he said.
“So you can never say never with everything, but we’re not going to deal our young players for middle-aged or older players.”
Hmmm… that’s not the Flyers philosophy we’re accustomed to.
Boston wants a Dougie Hamilton–type defenceman
Bruins voice Jack Edwards pulled no punches last month when discussing the Boston Bruins blue-line depth, which took a massive hit after the Dougie Hamilton trade.
“The D core is in a crisis right now as far as a mid- to long-term outlook,” Edwards told us. “There’s no alpha dog on the way.”
Bruins GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week that he would not be aggressively pursuing a forward but would like to snatch a puck-moving defenceman.
“[The defence] is still a work in progress, to be honest. Obviously, Adam [McQuaid] is out now. We have nights when I think it’s OK,” Sweeney said.
“It’s not an easy thing to acquire. I think you have to be of a mindset to grow it. That may seem counterintuitive to a player we traded in that light [Hamilton], though circumstances may have dictated otherwise.
“But I firmly believe we have players in the pipeline and we’re going to look to continue to improve that, be it through trade, be it through free agency, or whatever way.”
It’s only been, oh, about five months since Matt Carle‘s name hit the rumour mill.
Not that he’s awful, but the Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman’s high salary ($5.5 million) through 2017-18 and modified no-trade clause make him a burden as GM Steve Yzerman tries to juggle the books.
Carle told The Tampa Tribune he would rather stay in Tampa and has not been approached about a trade since submitting a list of acceptable destinations before the season.
A frequent healthy scratch, Carle has dropped to seventh on the Lightning blueline depth chart.
“A lot of things can happen over the course of a season, and we’ve been fortunate with injuries on the back end — everyone has been healthy, and that’s been great — but you never know when those things will happen,” Carle said. “So, I do feel like I’m a veteran on this team that can play an integral part on and off the ice.”
Wild have plenty of trade chips on D
After trying in vain to Johansen, who went instead to a division rival in Nashville, and inquiring about Drouin, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher recognizes he has yet to address his defensively sound squad’s need for scoring.
Fletcher met with his brass in South Florida to discuss among other things, trade-deadline strategy.
“You don’t want to just make trades for the sake of making trades,” the GM told TwinCities.com. “At this time of year, what we try to do is take stock of where we’re at, not just where we sit in the standings, but what are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? Where do we need to improve as an organization?”