Ian Cole Image by: Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Sabres’ Evander Kane continues to be the center of attention in trade talk, but he’s joined now by the Penguins’ Ian Cole, whose pending free agency makes him a target. Meanwhile, the Sharks could be hunting for additional scoring.
Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane remains a fixture in the NHL trade rumor mill. With the 26-year-old forward eligible in July for unrestricted free agency and the rebuilding Sabres still floundering in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, most insiders expect he'll be dealt by the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports the Sabres haven't yet reached the point where they'll move Kane, expecting they're about six or seven weeks away from starting serious trade talks. John Vogl of The Buffalo News reports Sabres GM Jason Botterill remains undecided if he'll re-sign Kane or trade him.
For some time, Kane was linked to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in the rumor mill. With the Ducks on Thursday shipping defenseman Sami Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi, they could be out of the Kane trade sweepstakes. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the San Jose Sharks could also express interest. LeBrun's colleague Bob McKenzie suggests the Tampa Bay Lightning as a possible suitor.
LeBrun notes the Sabres are telling interested clubs with limited salary-cap space that they're willing to pick up part of Kane's $5.25-million cap hit if it'll facilitate a trade. Should Botterill commit to moving the winger, the asking price could be a decent top-four defenseman with some term left on his contract.
That could give the Kings an advantage. Earlier this season, there was talk they might consider moving Alec Martinez or Jake Muzzin (both are under contract beyond this season) to bolster their scoring. However, they could wait for Jeff Carter's return from a leg injury in late-December or early-January before deciding if they need another forward.
SHARKS KEEPING AN EYE ON JETS?
If the Sharks don't get into the bidding later this season for Evander Kane, they still must address their lack of depth among their top-six forwards. With a 2.61 goals-for per game entering Friday's game against the Florida Panthers, they're near the bottom of the league in that category. GM Doug Wison still hasn't suitably addressed the July departure of winger Patrick Marleau to Toronto via free agency.
The Mercury News' Paul Gackle notes the difficulty facing the Sharks in finding a scorer at this point in the season. However, he feels the Winnipeg Jets could be a suitable trade partner. Citing the Jets' depth in young, swift, skilled forwards, Gackle feels they can afford to part with one without hurting their depth up front. He also believes they could use some blueline help with veteran defenseman Toby Enstrom sidelined for the next seven weeks.
Wilson has depth in young rearguards to perhaps tempt Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Gackle proposes a package consisting of defenseman Tim Heed or Joakim Ryan and a prospect forward like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc or Danny O'Reagan. He acknowledges Cheveldayoff takes a conservative approach to roster moves, admitting the Jets would probably have to start dropping some games to force him into the trade market.
Gackle doesn't specify which Jets forward Wilson should target. It's a safe bet, however, that Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers aren't available, and certainly not for a couple of prospects. Center Bryan Little recently signed a six-year contract extension so he's not going anywhere.
That leaves rookie left wing Kyle Connor, who's skating on the Jets' top line with Scheifele and Wheeler. With 15 points in 20 games, he's on pace for a 60-point campaign. Given Connor's chemistry with those forwards, it's unlikely Cheveldayoff will part with him.
For now, the Jets seem content with their blueline. If they avoid one of their usual lengthy swoons, Cheveldayoff won't feel pressured to move one of his forwards for defensive help.
Wilson is usually busy each season in the NHL trade market and this season shouldn't be any different. At some point he'll likely swing a deal to add a top-six forward, but it's doubtful he'll pry one away from the Jets.
PENGUINS' COLE COULD BE NEXT TO GO
Despite the three-team swap on Nov. 5 involving centers Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris and Thursday's Vatanen-for-Henrique deal between Anaheim and New Jersey, it still remains difficult at this point in the season for teams to swing significant trades. It's a time when a depth player, such as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole, can garner considerable attention in the rumor mill.
On Tuesday, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cited multiple sources claiming the Penguins were actively shopping the 28-year-old Cole, who's eligible next July for UFA status. Mackey thinks the blueliner could double his $2.1-million annual cap hit, making him too expensive for the Pens to re-sign. The Athletic's Josh Yohe reports Cole's agent, Kevin Magnuson, was part of the discussions. He speculates the rearguard could sign a contract with his new club when traded.
Mackey lists the Vegas Golden Knight, Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs as the “primary suitors” for Cole. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wonders if the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers could come calling. Yohe subsequently reported Rutherford didn't deny Cole could be dealt but indicated he wouldn't be moved just for the sake of making a deal. He also denied earlier reports suggesting the blueliner was being held out of the lineup pending a trade.
TSN's Bob McKenzie said the Penguins are prepared to trade Cole only if they get a “prime asset” like a quality center in return. Getting that type of player, however, could prove difficult.
It's no secret the Penguins need additional scoring punch, especially at center, as the depth at that position drops sharply beyond Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Cole's an effective shutdown defenseman, but Rutherford might have to package him with a pick or prospect to land a third-line center with decent offensive skills.
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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