Rumor Roundup: Sabres’ Chris Stewart drawing major interest

Chris Stewart

Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart frequently popped up in the rumor mill this week as a possible trade candidate. Stewart, who turns 27 on October 30, is earning $4.2 million this season (with a cap hit of $4.15 million) and becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.

On Sunday, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claimed “lots of teams” are interested to see what Sabres GM Tim Murray will do with Stewart, fellow UFA winger Drew Stafford and defenseman Tyler Myers, who’s under contract through 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million.

Garrioch noted the Ottawa Senators were interested in Stewart last season, but the Sabres asking price was “Mark Stone or some other high-end prospect.” If that price hasn’t changed, Garrioch doubts the Senators will do it.

Earlier this week it was suggested in this column Stewart might be a good fit with the Boston Bruins, who are struggling this season to replace Jarome Iginla as their first-line right wing. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Bruins are indeed interested in Stewart, though he didn’t indicate if offers had been exchanged.

Assuming Murray seeks the same return as he reportedly did from the Senators (high-end prospect) for Stewart, he could have interest in center Ryan Spooner, goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman Joe Morrow or right wing David Pastrnak. The Bruins, however, currently possess $3.759 million in cap space, meaning the Sabres must either pick up nearly half of Stewart’s remaining salary or take on a salaried roster player in return.

It’s doubtful Murray will be interested in any of the Bruins potential UFA players. Chris Kelly‘s name has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but he’s a third-line center with a modified no-trade clause signed through 2015-16 at a cap hit of $3 million.

There’s no need for Murray to rush into trading Stewart, Stafford or Myers. He can simply allow this season to play out in hopes the market value for the trio improves leading up to the March 2 trade deadline.

FLIGHTLESS FLYERS SEEK BLUELINE HELP

For the second straight season the Philadelphia Flyers are off to a poor start. With only one victory in their first six games, there’s concern over the state of the Flyers defensive play. They’re 21st in shots-against per game (30.9) and possess the third-most goals-against per game (3.71) and fourth-worst in penalty-kill percentage (73.7).

Flyers GM Ron Hextall has limited cap space ($1.48 million) to bolster his defense. He’s reportedly seeking a defensive blueliner but the pickings are currently slim. Those mentioned in recent trade rumors – Carolina’s Andrej Sekera, Detroit’s Jakub Kindl and Edmonton’s Jeff Petry – aren’t considered shutdown defensemen.

It could cost Hextall one of his good young forwards to acquire a skilled stay-at-home blueliner. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio claims the price among interested teams is Brayden Schenn, who’s in the first season of a two-year contract at an annual cap hit of $2.5 million.

Rumor Roundup: Will the Oilers shop Eberle or Yakupov?

Jordan Eberle (Getty Images)

Though the Edmonton Oilers finally won their first game of the season, their early-season struggles continue to generate trade speculation.

Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry told Sportsnet 590 he thinks the Oilers must trade one of their good young players if they’re to improve in the near future. Cherry expressed concern about the Oilers goaltending, but when asked if they should contact free agent Martin Brodeur, Cherry doubted Brodeur would go there.

Cherry also believes right wing Jordan Eberle would fetch the best return, as he doesn’t feel anyone could be interested in struggling winger Nail Yakupov. However, TVASports’ Renaud Lavoie claims there are teams interested in the 21-year-old right wing. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Could a Yakupov-for-Gardiner swap happen?

gardiner-187909785

The appearance of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis at Rexall Place for Friday’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers raised eyebrows among NHL followers. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wondered if Ben Scrivens performance in that game could affect the whereabouts of Leafs goalie James Reimer.

Evidently, the game’s outcome (a 2-0 win for the Canucks) had no effect on Reimer, who remains the Maple Leafs backup. Still, with the Oilers off to a franchise-worst start (0-4-1 in their opening five games) and the Leafs lurching from the gate with a 2-3-1 record, it’s only natural that Nonis’ appearance at that game would generate trade speculation.

Nonis could be doing some advanced scouting, but as The Score’s Thomas Drance observes, the Leafs don’t play the Oilers or Canucks until December, so an early-October scouting trip seems unusual. If Nonis’ Western swing is to pursue a trade, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes it’ll be a small deal, not a significant one. Read more

Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens supports mental health via special masks

Adam Proteau
Ben Scrivens (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ben Scrivens is one of the more conscientious NHLers of his generation, so it was entirely within character to see the Oilers netminder stand up for mental health Monday by announcing he’d wear a series of goalie masks to raise awareness of the issue.

Scrivens’ “Ben’s Netminders” program, in support of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, is providing a platform for four local artists diagnosed with schizophrenia to design a goalie mask for him that touches on the disease. The masks will be auctioned off to raise funds for the organization – and the first artist selected, Richard Boulet, stressed the words “empathy” and “hope” on his version: Read more

Blink and you’ll miss it: Rangers score twice in four seconds

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Scoring goals is hard enough these days for NHL teams, but the New York Rangers got two in a hurry Sunday against San Jose. In fact, when Rick Nash scored on Sharks goalie Alex Stalock just four seconds after teammate Martin St-Louis did, they set a franchise record for consecutive goals not including an empty-net goal.

In what would eventually end in a 4-0 win for the Blueshirts, St-Louis made it 2-0 for the Rangers late in the second period when he whacked away at the puck from close range and pushed it past Stalock:

Then, off the ensuing faceoff, Nash fires the puck in at Stalock, who comes far out of his crease, misplays the puck and allows the Rangers winger to swat at it and somehow bat it into the Sharks net: Read more

Top 5 early season surprises

Gustav Nyqvist (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The year has just begun, but already we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here’s your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:

5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights

After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.

In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.

So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Eric Staal in Toronto’s sights?

Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In their quest to land a true first-line center, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly cast their eyes south to Carolina and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Maple Leafs held discussions with the Hurricanes during the summer, but the asking price could be “enormous.”

McKenzie speculates such a move could cost the Leafs either Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak (as the Hurricanes would need a center to replace Staal), a first-round pick and perhaps defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he believes it’s a price the Leafs are willing to pay. Read more

Enough, Oilers – latest loss proves it’s time for major changes

Adam Proteau
Jordan Eberle (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Everything written this time of the NHL’s regular season of is legally and morally bound to include the phrase “it’s early, but…”. And it is indeed early, but after seeing the Edmonton Oilers get rolled for the fourth straight game, I think I speak for their fan base – actually, I know I do, because their vocal cords are paralyzed with rage – when I say the following words:

Enough. No mas. Detener la locura.

That’s right – I’m so done watching these Oilers get humbled virtually every time they take the ice, I’m speaking in short bursts of Spanish. This is all affecting us in different ways. But as a writer who isn’t a fan of any team, I have no horse in this race, so I can only imagine how simultaneously furious and defeated Oilers fans must be feeling this morning. Is there a single barf bag available for purchase anywhere within the city limits right now?

This stopped being comically inept a long time ago. It is now tragically inept. And while you never want to make knee-jerk moves after a bad run, at some point you have to jerk the knee to prove you’re not a cadaver. The Oilers are at this stage. Read more