Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson reportedly requested a trade earlier this week leading to speculation about his future. Will he be in Columbus to start the season? Meanwhile, Jaroslav Halak and Alexei Emelin could be two names to watch on the trade market as the season progresses.
As the 2017-18 NHL season draws nearer, the Columbus Blue Jackets appear no closer to re-signing Josh Anderson. The 23-year-old right wing completed his entry-level contract last season and lacks arbitration rights.
On Thursday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Anderson requested a trade. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen quickly denied the story, telling Friedman he's not looking to trade the young forward.
Kekalainen subsequently told Adam Jardy of The Columbus Dispatch he's hoping Anderson will sign soon. Jardy also reports Darren Ferris, Anderson's agent, said negotiations were ongoing and remains hopeful for a resolution.
Jared Clinton examines this story in greater detail. He notes a report claiming only $150K per season separated the two sides from agreement on a three-year deal, and also looked at how re-signing Anderson could affect the Jackets' salary-cap payroll beyond this season.
Shortly after Friedman's story appeared, he was asked about the details of the trade request during an appearance on Toronto's Sportsnet 590. He stressed it didn't come from the Anderson camp, adding he'd heard about it while working on the story about the contract impasse. He said he asked both sides about it but neither was willing to discuss it. He believes that a sign-and trade scenario came up. Noting the Jackets interest earlier this summer in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, Friedman thinks the Avs requested Anderson be included in the return but the Jackets rejected that notion.
Kekalainen holds the leverage in this standoff and can afford to wait out Anderson for the time being. However, if the young winger isn't re-signed by Dec. 1, he becomes ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season. The longer this impasse drags on, however, the more pressure shifts onto Kekalainen to sign Anderson or trade him.
Even if Anderson re-signs he still could be dealt later this season if the Jackets get a solid offer, especially if a need arises to address a roster deficiency. Perhaps the Avalanche might revisit those rumored trade discussions regarding Duchene.
It wouldn't be the first time Kekalainen shipped out a player following contentious contract talks. After re-signing center Ryan Johansen on the eve of the 2015-16 schedule, Kekalainen dealt him three months later to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones.
HALAK GOALTENDER TO WATCH ON TRADE MARKET
A year ago, New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak was a hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. Coming off a solid performance in the World Cup of Hockey, his agent's complaints about the Isles three-goalie system led to reports last October claiming the Isles were shopping the veteran netminder.
Snow couldn't find any takers and Halak's performance subsequently declined. He cleared waivers and spent some time in the minors. He was recalled late in the season, finishing with six wins in seven starts.
The Isles enter this season carrying just two goalies in Halak and Thomas Greiss. Given the former's UFA status next summer, NBC Sports' James O'Brien believes playoff contenders should keep an eye on the veteran netminder. Halak's $4.5-million annual average salary could be a sticking point, though O'Brien points out it won't be an issue if the goalie is moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. If the Isles want to move him sooner, they could pick up part of that cap hit to facilitate a deal.
Much will depend, of course, on Halak's performance and that of the Islanders. If they're in the postseason hunt by the deadline, they'll be less inclined to shop him, especially if he's playing well. Still, this situation could be worth watching over the course of the season.
EMELIN’S TIME COULD BE LIMITED IN NASHVILLE
The Nashville Predators raised eyebrows on July 1 by acquiring defenseman Alexei Emelin from the Vegas Golden Knights. The move briefly generated speculation the Preds might be about to move one of their top-four blueliners to acquire Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene.
Turns out Predators GM David Poile brought in Emelin to offset the absence of Ryan Ellis, who is recuperating from off-season knee injury. Poile expects Ellis to return around the start of 2018.
In a recent mailbag segment, The Tennessean's Adam Vingan said he expects the 31-year-old Emelin to be the odd man out once Ellis returns to action. He believes the Russian rearguard will be pushed to the Preds' third defense pairing and could become a valuable trade chip later in the season should a roster need arise. An experienced physical defender with a mean streak, Emelin could attract some interest if he hits the trade block. His former club, the Montreal Canadiens, are thin on the blueline and could perhaps look at reacquiring Emelin at some point.
PENGUINS COULD FILL CENTER NEED FROM WITHIN
The Pittsburgh Penguins' search for a third-line center was a focus of trade rumors throughout the summer. However, they could end up addressing the issue from within their own ranks.
Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports center Greg McKegg impressed Penguins coach Mike Sullivan during preseason play. Sullivan cited the 25-year-old McKegg's faceoff skill, poise and speed. The Pens coach also employed him in penalty-killing situations. McKegg spent last season split between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. On July 1, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Penguins worth $650K at the NHL level.
The Penguins were linked to Detroit Red Wings center Riley Sheahan in recent trade chatter. The Wings need to free up salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou and there was talk they could move Sheahan and his $2.075-million cap hit. According to Mackey, the Wings' contract stalemate with Athanasiou is what's held up a potential deal. Should McKegg sufficiently address the Penguins' need for a third-line center, the Wings might have to find another potential trade partner.
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