Blockbuster deals ahead of the draft ramped up speculation that major names would be on the move ahead of free agency. With days to go before July 1, who could be on the move?
Leading up to the opening round of the 2017 NHL Draft, considerable media hype suggested several notable stars could be traded before the end of the weekend.
Major moves leading up to the first round saw the Edmonton Oilers deal winger Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders, the Chicago Blackhawks ship winger Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a multiplayer swap for winger Brandon Saad and the New York Rangers send center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes.
Those trades whetted fans appetites for what was expected to be bigger moves during the draft. Instead, there was little activity involving established players. Only three trades took place, with the most notable seeing the Philadelphia Flyers deal winger Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders ship defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames.
Eberle, Stepan and Hamonic were among the 10 players considered the leading trade candidates entering the draft weekend. Others, such as Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk, remain on the trade board.
Duchene, 26, was the center of trade chatter for most of 2016-17 and into the off-season. On Saturday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Avalanche GM Joe Sakic sought a significant return involving a good young defenseman but couldn't find any takers. Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun subsequently reported Nashville Predators GM David Poile was very interested in Duchene but unwilling to part with one of his top-four blueliners. LeBrun wondered if Poile might try to get a third team involved in hopes of getting a deal done.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is also believed seeking a top-four rearguard as part of a return for Galchenyuk. Sportsnet's Eric Engels reports the New Jersey Devils were among the clubs with interest in the 23-year-old. The Devils were among the league's lowest-scoring club in 2016-17, so it's unsurprising they made inquiries about Galchenyuk. Unfortunately, they're also thin on blueline talent and don't have any to spare that could tempt the Habs.
Bob McKenzie also weighed on Galchenyuk, saying a “juicy rumor” making the rounds linked the Canadiens winger to Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux. McKenzie quickly pointed out it was merely a rumor.
At first glance, that deal would address the Canadiens need for experienced scoring depth at center. However, the 29-year-old Giroux's production has steadily declined since his career-high 93-point campaign in 2011-12, falling to 58 points in 2016-17. Given his full no-movement clause, it's unlikely Giroux's heading to Montreal or anywhere else this summer.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella was frequently mentioned in draft weekend trade speculation. The Canadiens attempted to acquire the 27-year-old prior to the expansion draft roster freeze. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reported the Boston Bruins were among several clubs looking at Scandella during the draft.
TwinCities.com's Dane Mizutani said Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was reportedly getting offers for Scandella but found nothing to his liking. It's believed Fletcher could be in the market for a scorer, preferably a center.
RANGERS CONTINUE SEARCH FOR DEFENSIVE HELP
With the Rangers shipping Stepan and his $6.5-million annual salary cap hit to Arizona and buying out defenseman Dan Girardi, GM Jeff Gorton has $20 million in salary cap space to use in his pursuit of a right-handed top-pairing blueliners. Gorton could target Washington Capitals d-man Kevin Shattenkirk via free agency when the market opens on July 1. However, the 28-year-old could command well over $6 million per season.
Rather that go through free agency, the New York Post's Larry Brooks wonders if the Rangers GM is willing to shop a good young forward, such as J.T. Miller or Chris Kreider, to address his blueline needs. While either player, packaged with a prospect or draft pick, could bring in that much-needed right-side defender, that move could weaken the Rangers' forward depth. With Stepan gone, their top two centers are Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes. Dealing away Miller or Kreider would cost them valuable scoring punch on the wing.
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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