A pair of captains find themselves in the rumor mill early in the campaign. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog are both potential trade chips in the hunt for improvements on the back end.
Last June, the Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world by shipping defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Shea Weber. For months leading up to that move, Subban was the subject of frequent trade speculation.
Nearly six months after the Subban deal, another notable member of the Canadiens' core surfaced in the rumor mill. The Score's Sean O'Leary includes Habs captain Max Pacioretty among his site's list of six NHL players who should get ready to pack their bags this season.
O'Leary believes the Canadiens must stabilize their blueline beyond Weber. In his opinion, the emergence of Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk makes the 28-year-old Pacioretty “expendable.” After three straight 30-plus goal seasons, the Habs captain has bounced around the lineup. Prior to his two-goal performance in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings, he was on pace for only 17 goals.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos doesn't believe the Canadiens intend to trade Pacioretty, but points out some teams think his situation bears scrutiny. He notes there's some friction between the winger and coach Michel Therrien over his usage this season.
Kypreos echoes O'Leary's comments, claiming a lot of teams wonder if Pacioretty could become a trade chip to boost Montreal's blueline depth. His colleague Elliotte Friedman suggests it could be difficult for the Habs to get equal value.
It's no secret Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman. Despite Friedman's speculation about the type of return Bergevin could receive for Pacioretty, a scorer of his calibre will attract considerable interest in the trade market.
If Bergevin is willing to move Pacioretty, he should get a solid return. Given the winger's $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2018-19, it would likely have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal.
The Anaheim Ducks could be a trade partner. They're loaded with good young defensemen and could certainly use an experienced left winger such as Pacioretty on their scoring lines. Bergevin could cast an eye upon Cam Fowler ($4 million per season) or Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million).
Such a move, however, would leave Montreal thin on left wing and weaken their offense. While the Habs are among the top-10 in scoring, they've struggled of late in that category. Shipping out a proven 30-goal sniper in Pacioretty won't help them. Prior to the Subban trade, many observers (including yours truly) doubted he'd be dealt. Bergevin's shown a willingness to make big moves for the right return, so perhaps a Pacioretty trade isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
AVALANCHE CAPTAIN LANDESKOG MOVED FOR BLUELINE HELP?
The Canadiens aren't the only club that could trade their captain for blueline help. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports of “rumblings” the Colorado Avalanche could move left wing Gabriel Landeskog for a big-minute defenseman.
Like the Habs, the Avs must improve their depth on defense. They enter this week averaging 31.8 shots-again per game, ranking among the league's worst.
This isn't the first time Landeskog, 24, has popped up in the rumor mill. There was some talk last summer linking him to the Ducks and then-unsigned blueliner Hampus Lindholm, though that speculation didn't go very far.
Matheson wonders if the Avs might offer up Landeskog to the New York Islanders for rearguard Travis Hamonic. The Isles reportedly seek a scoring winger for John Tavares' line. In recent weeks, there was also talk of Landeskog's teammate Matt Duchene being peddled to the Isles.
Despite the rumors and the Avs' ongoing struggles, GM Joe Sakic maintains his belief in core players such as Landeskog and Duchene. Following last week's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Sakic told Terry Frei of the Denver Post he still has faith in his core, claiming the club's poor start is a team issue.
Sakic doesn't sound like a GM keen to shake up his roster. That doesn't mean, however, he won't that option. Former coach Patrick Roy can no longer be labelled the bad guy for their poor play. Sooner or later, the core players could pay the price.
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.