Rumor Roundup: Oilers still in need of help on defense, eye Hamonic, Vatanen

Travis Hamonic (Al Bello/Getty Images)

How the Edmonton Oilers address their longstanding need for a top-two defenseman remains an ongoing topic of interest among NHL pundits. The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples cites 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer claiming the Oilers could try to upgrade at right defense by replacing Justin Schultz, listing the New York Islanders’ Travis Hamonic and the Anaheim Ducks’ Sami Vatanen as possible targets.

Stauffer’s guest, Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman, didn’t doubt the Oilers could pursue the 25-year-old Hamonic, who requested a trade to be closer to his Manitoba home last summer for family reasons. Friedman believes the Oilers could soon reach the point where they shop one of their good young forwards, like right wing Jordan Eberle or center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, for a blueliner.

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Rumor Roundup: Will Steven Stamkos end up in Toronto?

Lyle Richardson
Steven Stamkos (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning stoked more speculation of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos joining the Leafs in the near future. Stamkos, who turns 26 in February, is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency. While he and Lightning management decline to discuss contract talks with the media, his future in Tampa Bay remains a hot topic.

While some Leafs fans are imagining Stamkos coming to Toronto via trade or free agency, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wonders if the Markham native is doing the same. The Leafs are a rebuilding club, which was painfully evident at times during that loss to the Lightning. If Stamkos was sizing up the Leafs in that game, Spector suggests he didn’t see much of a comparable to his current club.

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Rumor Roundup: Yandle, Hudler and McGinn will draw interest at deadline

Keith Yandle (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers enter the all-star break sitting second in the Metropolitan division and third in the Eastern Conference standings. However, some Rangers followers are grumbling over the club’s inability to dominate the Conference as they once did. Only four points separates the Blueshirts from the New Jersey Devils, who sit just outside the Eastern playoff picture.

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post recently observed Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turns 34 in March. That means the Blueshirts don’t have a lot of time to take advantage of his greatness before his inevitable decline.

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Rumor Roundup: Will Bruins be forced to trade Loui Eriksson?

Loui Eriksson. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The contract status of Boston Bruins’ right wing Loui Eriksson continues to draw media attention. Eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, the Bruins hope to re-sign the 30-year-old right wing, who’s been among their best two-way players this season. Doing so, however, could cost more than they’re willing to pay.

Eriksson’s current annual cap hit is $4.25 million. Given his value to the Bruins over the past two seasons, The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa believes the veteran right wing is justified in seeking $6 million per season. The Bruins will have the cap space to accommodate that, but not if he’s seeking a lengthy extension.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty doubts Bruins GM Don Sweeney will hand Eriksson a five- or six-year deal at $6 million per. Eriksson is represented by agent J.P. Barry, and Haggerty points out Sweeney last year traded away Barry clients Carl Soderberg and Dougie Hamilton.

Shinzawa and Haggerty agree Eriksson could fetch a first-round pick and a top prospect, but the Bruins need a return that helps them now and in the future. They speculate Sweeney could offer up Eriksson to the Minnesota Wild for a young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba. Haggerty also suggests the Anaheim Ducks or Winnipeg Jets as potential destinations.

The Wild and Ducks could be the best fit. Both clubs are deep in young blueliners and need scoring punch to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Jets, however, are fading in the postseason race and are unlikely to acquire a rental player.

JETS FOCUSING ON SIGNING BYFUGLIEN, TRADING LADD

With the Winnipeg Jets mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, there’s growing speculation over GM Kevin Cheveldayoff ‘s plans for pending UFAs Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. As their playoff hopes fade, Cheveldayoff could re-sign one and shop the other by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Recent reports suggests the focus is shifting toward re-signing Byfuglien. TSN’s Gary Lawless claims contract talks between the Jets and Ladd recently broke off. He suggests uncertainty over the contract status of their captain is contributing to the Jets’ struggles this season.

It’s believed Ladd, 30, seeks a six-year deal worth over $6-million annually, which Lawless doesn’t believe the left winger will get from the Jets. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman guesses Cheveldayoff won’t go over $6 million.

If the Jets part ways with Ladd, his leadership, experience and Stanley Cup pedigree (championships with Carolina in 2006 and Chicago in 2010) makes him an attractive playoff rental. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun suggests the Florida Panthers as a good destination, though he’s unsure if the Panthers have the assets to swing it.

Ladd carries a modified no-trade clause, but maybe he’ll be receptive to joining the Panthers. They’re surging in the standings and he knows Panthers GM Dale Tallon from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Tallon who brought Ladd from Carolina to Chicago at the 2008 trade deadline.

LEAFS TRYING TO DEAL BERNIER, WINNIK

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ trade candidate guessing game continues. While it’s anticipated the Leafs will peddle most of their pending UFAs, The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle reports players with term remaining on their contract could be shopped. He claims forward Daniel Winnik and goaltender Jonathan Bernier are available.

Winnik, 30, has one season remaining on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $2.25 million, while the 27-year-old Bernier carries $4.15 million for 2016-17. Mirtle acknowledges their poor performances this season makes those contracts difficult to move.

Bernier’s fate could also depend upon the Leafs’ contract talks with pending UFA James Reimer, who’s been superb this season but plagued by injuries. If the Leafs can’t reach an agreement with the 27-year-old Reimer before Feb. 29, they’ll likely listen to trade offers.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.)

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Rumor Roundup: Lightning begin negotiating with Stamkos as Drouin sits and awaits trade

Steven Stamkos (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

For most of January, the trade request by Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin and his recent holdout overshadowed the contract negotiations between the club and captain Steven Stamkos However, recent talk of a rumored offer by the Lightning pushed those negotiations to the forefront.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports it’s believed the Lightning pitched a deal to the Stamkos camp worth $8.5 million annually. Stamkos subsequently told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times he had no comment about the report, adding his contract discussions will remain strictly between himself and management.

Assuming that offer was the Lightning’s opening bid, the club’s fans probably shouldn’t worry that GM Steve Yzerman is playing hardball. As with most negotiations, the Bolts make a low opening offer. The Stamkos camp likely counters with something much higher, perhaps comparable to the $10.5-million annual cap hits of Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. After that, the two sides negotiate toward a more mutually beneficial number.

Drouin, meanwhile, remains the subject of ongoing trade speculation. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch lists  the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens among the potential suitors. Garrioch also claims Yzerman’s asking price for the 20-year-old left winger has changed from a roster player to a couple of top prospects.

Friedman’s colleague Damien Cox claims the Senators and Lightning had discussions about Drouin. The Sens, however, aren’t parting with defenseman Cody Ceci.

One blueliner the Senators could move is the disappointing Jared Cowen, but don’t expect Yzerman to give up a prized asset like Drouin for an expensive under-achieving blueliner. Garrioch believes the 25-year-old’s actual salary ($4.5 million next season) makes him difficult to move.

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin last week publicly stood by embattled coach Michel Therrien and his staff, shouldering the blame for the club’s free-fall in the standings. Bergevin also noted the difficulty in trying to acquire some scoring punch for his anemic offense.

That doesn’t mean Bergevin stopped trying. Garrioch believes the Habs GM wants to add some size to his forward lines. So far, however, the asking price is young assets.

Center Alex Galchenyuk is attracting interest. Friedman reports a couple of teams made inquiries about the 21-year-old, but were told he’s not on the trade block.

Given the Canadiens’ plight, Bergevin isn’t dealing from a position of strength. His rivals hope he’ll succumb to pressure and try to make a big season-saving deal. While Bergevin has a reputation for pulling off surprising moves, he’s unwilling to sacrifice his youngsters for a quick fix.

BLUE JACKETS NOT DONE DEALING

The Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the hockey world earlier this month by shipping center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones. Ongoing media chatter suggests Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could make other moves before the trade deadline.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie speculates the Jackets’ roster restructuring will continue through the trade deadline and into the off-season. Garrioch claims Kekalainen is working the phones seeking a center to replace the departed Johansen.

Recent Jackets’ speculation suggests they could move out a couple of veterans with term remaining on their contracts. Left winger Scott Hartnell ($4.75-million annually through 2018-19) and defenseman Fedor Tyutin ($4.5 million through 2017-18) recently surfaced as possible trade candidates.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.)

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Rumor Roundup: Kessel, Eriksson potential deadline scoring options, Ducks still looking for help

Loui Eriksson (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s suspension of unhappy left wing Jonathan Drouin has observers wondering about the effect this will have upon his trade value. Prior to suspending the 20-year-old over his refusal to play in the AHL until his trade request is honored, between 12 to 15 clubs reportedly had varying degrees of interest in the youngster.

Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh claims the Lightning informed them a trade was close to completion, prompting their request that he no longer participate in AHL games to avoid injury. According to The Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson, that drew an icy denial from GM Steve Yzerman. “We never said that there was a pending deal or a deal close,” said Yzerman.

The Lightning GM still claims trading Drouin is a priority, but it doesn’t put additional pressure upon him to get a deal done. Yzerman didn’t rule out a reconciliation, but that appears remote right now.

Staging a holdout is the only card the Drouin camp has to play. He’s in the midst of an entry-level contract through 2016-17. However, his actions could hurt his trade value, raising questions about his character. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Struggling Predators looking for even more offensive help

Ryan Johansen (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over two weeks ago, the Nashville Predators surprised the hockey world by shipping promising young defenseman Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen. While the 23-year-old Johansen had seven points in his first six games with the Preds, they’re still struggling to win games.

Since acquiring Johansen, the Predators enter their Jan. 21 tilt against the Winnipeg Jets with only one win in their last six games. They also fell out of a playoff berth, as offensive depth remains an issue.

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Rumor Roundup: Byfuglien and Ladd draw trade interest as Jets struggle to gain ground in standings

Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

As the Winnipeg Jets struggle to gain ground in the Western Conference standings, there’s growing interest in GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s contract talks with defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and left wing Andrew Ladd. The duo are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, prompting questions over their future with the franchise.

Of the duo, the 30-year-old Byfuglien could attract the most interest. With his offensive skills and physical presence, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound blueliner could fetch a quality return if Cheveldayoff decides to trade him.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie claims Cheveldayoff’s fellow GMs anticipate Byfuglien could be available before the trade deadline. They doubt the Jets can afford to re-sign him and promising blueliner Jacob Trouba.

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