NHL Rumour Roundup: Rangers looking to make room for Kane, Capitals taking calls on UFAs

Jamal Meyers joins The Jeff Marek Show to discuss the possibility of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane joining the New York Rangers prior to the March 3 trade deadline, discussing how the three-time Stanley Cup champion would fit on the roster.

For most of this season, Patrick Kane has been considered the most intriguing player to watch ahead of the trade deadline — and he’s been busy all week reminding us why.

In his last four games, Kane has seven goals and 10 points (including a hat trick against the Maple Leafs on Sunday). There’s no clearer way to send a message to those doubting your ability to help a contender than that.

As noted by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman during Friday’s edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast (recorded Thursday), Kane’s agent, Pat Brisson, has been quoted as saying the winger “hasn’t made a decision yet” about where he’d like to be moved.

The 34-year-old is in full control and, much like we saw last year with Claude Giroux (who also had a NMC as a pending UFA) informing Philadelphia he’d only go to the Florida Panthers, it appears that Kane may only have eyes for one club: the New York Rangers.

Can New York make space? They’re currently sitting out two players, forwards Vitali Kravtsov and Jake Leschyshyn, for what they’ve called “roster management reasons.” (Between Kravtsov’s $875,000 cap hit and Leschyshyn’s $2.3 million, those two players account for about $3M.) Here’s how Friedman explained his understanding of the situation:

“I heard that Chris Drury was calling teams and asking if there was a way he could move about $1.6 million in cap room. And if he can’t do that in a trade, I think we all need to watch the waiver wire on Friday. And that’s going to tell us what exactly is going on here,” said Friedman. “So, the fact that Brisson is still being quoted, as we tape this podcast on Thursday night, as saying that Patrick Kane has not made his decision, it says to me that the mechanism is slowly turning and everything has to get into place before anyone’s making any pronouncement here.”

What if it’s not New York…? The Rangers, after all, are far from the only interested party.

“It’s not just Vegas and Dallas and the Rangers and Carolina. It’s a whole bunch of teams now, this week, reaching out and saying, ‘Look, does he want to come to us? Because if he does, we’ll see if we can find a way to make it work,’” said Friedman. “I think the list of interested teams actually grew. However, I’m not sure his list of teams he’s interested in grew by very much. And I think we all know, if the Rangers can get it done, they’re the favourites. If the Rangers actually do this and get the room and he doesn’t go there, jaws are going to drop.”

Should Pittsburgh be in on Chychrun? Sullivan says yes.

Not since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season in 2005-06 have the Pittsburgh Penguins missed the playoffs. And while they’re far from out of this gridlocked wild-card race in the East, Thursday’s performance at home against the Edmonton Oilers didn’t exactly stir up much confidence that this roster is prepared to keep that 16-year streak alive.

Not according to the fans, anyway, who could be heard chanting “Fire Hextall!” and raining boos down on the home team after the second period of what was eventually a 7-2 loss. The Penguins present a fascinating case study in contention, and that’s especially true right now. After years of going all-in at the deadline to surround Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang with a winning supporting cast, the Penguins’ prospect pantry is looking pretty sparse. And yet, when you’ve got that trio still leading your lineup the focus should always be fixed on the Cup, not the cupboards.

According to Rob Rossi of The Athletic, and as discussed on Friday’s 32 Thoughts podcast, Sullivan wants his GM to trade for Jakob Chychrun (a.k.a. the league’s longest-running most eligible defenceman) but Ron Hextall doesn’t want to give up future first-round picks to get him. Acquiring him would certainly indicate the Penguins’ intentions to make a run this year while also building for the long run — at just 24 years old and with a team-friendly $4.6-million AAV through 2024-25, he’s an ideal candidate for teams looking to skip the rebuild and retool on the fly.

Of course, that’s also what makes the Coyotes’ asking price so high — too high, according to reports, for Hextall.

On the podcast, Friedman floated an idea about whether Pittsburgh could be a buyer and a seller at this year’s deadline. With multiple holes to fill throughout the lineup and very little draft capital to address them, it’s worth wondering if Pittsburgh tries to sell some of their pending UFAs first and then goes for Chychrun in a way that won’t deplete their pile of picks.

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Is Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz available?

Chychrun is getting the biggest headlines when it comes to Coyotes most likely to be traded in the coming days, but there’s some noise that’s started to circulate around forward Nick Schmaltz.

Schmaltz has been a really good offensive presence for the Coyotes with an interesting contract situation. The 27-year-old is signed through 2025-26 at a $5.85 million cap hit. (His salary tells a different story: he’ll earn $4.5M this year, $7.5M next, up to $8.45M including bonuses in 2024-25 and $8.5M in base salary the final year of his deal.) He’s also got a limited no-trade clause that comes into play as of July 1.

Friedman suggested the Carolina Hurricanes as a team that could potentially make sense as a destination for Schmaltz — they often seek term, and Schmaltz has that — and noted Shayne Gostisbehere (pending UFA) as another current Coyote that could be on the move.

Blue Jackets, Bruins had “very different opinions” on Gavrikov trade talks

If you were surprised to see Thursday’s trade between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals, which saw defenceman Dmitry Orlov and depth winger Garnet Hathaway Boston-bound, you weren’t alone. Take the Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, who according to Friedman “believed there was some kind of verbal commitment there,” between the Blue Jackets and Bruins.

Per Friedman, Columbus and Boston had “very different opinions” on the status of their trade talks around sending rearguard Vladislav Gavrikov to the Bruins and whether or not it would get done.

Friedman said he believes Boston also checked in on other potential trade targets, including Chychrun in Arizona and Blackhawks like Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty.

“Columbus thought they had a commitment. Boston felt it was never there,” said Friedman.

With Gavrikov still on the market and several contenders in need of blue-line depth, the Blue Jackets are back to the drawing board. And if no other pressing suitors appears, perhaps Gavrikov — who was sidelined for trade reasons — gets his wish to be back to the lineup.

Washington listening on other UFAs

Leading up to Thursday’s trade with Boston, it was unclear whether Washington would be buying, selling, or standing pat at the deadline. Now, with two pending free agents shipped off, that raises questions about the long list of other Caps players on expiring contracts.

“I think they’ve made it very clear they’re willing to listen on their UFAs,” said Friedman.

Pending UFAs include Lars Eller, Conor Sheary, Marcus Johansson, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Erik Gustafsson among others.

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