Rumor Roundup: Trade dominoes will fall once Jets decide what to do with Byfuglien, Ladd

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

With the Feb. 29 trade deadline looming, many observers are focused upon what the Winnipeg Jets will do with pending free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, whatever decisions the Jets make with those two will directly affect the trade market in the coming weeks.

The duo have become the most-discussed players of late in the rumor mill. Byfuglien, 30, has already been linked to the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. USA Today’s Jimmy Hascup lists the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins as additional possible trade destinations.

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Three up, three down: Rangers improving puck possession numbers make them contenders

New York Rangers  (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the end of the all-star break, the NHL season has reached it’s unofficial halfway point, making a great time to look at which teams have been hot (or not). Most people would take that to mean who got the most points during January, but with the NHL’s new numbers movement we can dig a little deeper than that. What’s more interesting to me is which teams actively improved (or degraded) their game regardless of results and identifying which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction.

Most people generally use shot rates to measure that as they’re good indications of a teams true talent level. They do fluctuate a bit throughout the year and that movement is worth keeping an eye on. That’s what this trend report is all about because how a team is playing lately is usually a good indication of what’s to come in the future.

With that being said, here are three teams that are going in the right direction, and three teams that are trending the other way.

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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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Youngsters dazzle at the AHL’s All-Star skills competition

Eric Comrie (Photo by Graig Abel Collection/Getty Images)

While John Scott was being carried on the shoulders of his all-star teammates in Nashville (I can see the reports now: Joe Pavelski, day-to-day, hernia. Brent Burns, day-to-day, hernia…), the American League’s finest were having their skills competition at their all-star festivities in Syracuse. And there were some pretty nice performances for fans of a couple NHL franchises.

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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: 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.)

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Jets’ Byfuglien tricks Coyotes’ Domingue with fake dump in, scores from red line

Jared Clinton
Dustin Byfuglien. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien taught Coyotes rookie goaltender Louis Domingue a lesson Tuesday night, and that’s that he better be sure of himself when he leaves his net to play the puck.

Domingue learned the hard way, too. In the second period of Tuesday’s game, Byfuglien skated the puck to safety out of the Winnipeg zone and glided into the neutral zone. With linemates ready to chase a dump in, Byfuglien wound up, put his head down and appeared to be set to dump the puck around the boards. Instead, he pivoted his body ever so slightly and hammered the puck on goal.

Domingue, who was expecting the dump in, began to leave his net when Byfuglien shot the puck, and he couldn’t get back quite in time to stop the slapshot from center ice: Read more

Five ideal teams to pursue an Andrew Ladd trade

Matt Larkin
Andrew Ladd (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The strange thing about the tough decisions facing Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff all year: they’ve gradually become easier. Entering 2015-16, his team was fresh off a playoff appearance, with an elite farm system. The arrow pointed decidedly upward. Dealing with his two prominent unrestricted free agents, left winger Andrew Ladd and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, was a daunting proposition. Winnipeg needed both players if it wanted to remain a playoff contender, so Cheveldayoff would have to ponder retaining them through the trade deadline, even if he hadn’t re-signed them by then, which would risk losing them for nothing in July.

Flash forward to late January, and Winnipeg’s season looks grim. The Jets are closer to last overall in the NHL than they are to a playoff berth. They have games in hand on Western Conference wild-card occupiers Minnesota and Colorado, but a 10-point deficit will be difficult to overcome. Byfuglien and Ladd suddenly look like much more realistic trade options, especially when each would fetch a first-round pick and then some.

Ladd expressed interest in re-signing with the Jets earlier in the year, and negotiations with Big Buff were infrequent, but the tide recently reversed. Talks have broken off or at least stalled with Ladd and resumed with Byfuglien. Ladd, even as team captain, appears more likely to move by the Feb. 29 deadline. What teams are the best fits for his extremely valuable services? Consider these five.

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