Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Image by: Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Blue Jackets missed out on Duchene, the Oilers need to turn things around and the Sabres have a major trade chip in Evander Kane, making Columbus, Edmonton and Buffalo three teams to watch.
The blockbuster three-team trade that sent Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche to the Ottawa Senators and Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators shook up the NHL trade market. That move hampered the Columbus Blue Jackets' efforts to land a scoring center.
Speculation linking the Jackets to Duchene stretched back to early July. With Turris also off the market, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes there's no obvious alternative trade targets to bolster their depth at center.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports the Jackets hope to land a top-six center before the Feb. 26 trade deadline. In a recent mailbag segment, his colleague Aaron Portzline proposes Alex Galcheyuk of the Montreal Canadiens and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers as two potential options. Galchenyuk's slow start this season sparked suggestions he could be available. So far, however, the Habs are resisting the temptation to move him. Were he to be shipped to the Jackets, his struggles at center could test the patience of coach John Tortorella.
Nugent-Hopkins is a better option but he carries a $6-million annual salary through 2020-21. With over $5 million in cap space, the Jackets would have to make room to absorb his contract or convince the Oilers to pick up a portion of his cap hit. The Oilers lack of offense at right wing suggests the asking price could Cam Atkinson or Josh Anderson.
Currently jockeying for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets aren't under any pressure to swing a major trade right now. The same, however, cannot be said for the Oilers.
After reaching the playoffs last season for the first time in a decade and coming within a game of advancing to the 2017 Western Conference Final, the Oilers were projected by some observers as possible Stanley Cup contenders this season. But going into Saturday's game against the New York Rangers, they're mired near the bottom of the Conference with just six wins in 15 games.
The Oilers' struggles has some pundits believing they could be looking for help. Friedman thinks they could be the next team to swing a deal, though not on the same level as the Duchene blockbuster. USA Today's Kevin Allen agrees, noting they need a scoring winger to boost their anemic offensive depth.
With the lengthy Duchene trade watch finally over, the focus also shifts to notable players who could become the next potential trade candidates. Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane topped Jared Clinton's list, as well as TSN's compilation of trade bait.
TSN's Darren Dreger said the belief around the league is the 26-year-old Kane will get dealt, citing his eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July and the difficulty the Sabres face to re-sign him. Allen, meanwhile, thinks Kane could be a good fit with the Oilers, claiming they can afford to part with future assets for immediate help.
Kane is coming off a 28-goal performance with a struggling Sabres team in 2016-17. Entering Friday's contest against the Florida Panthers, he's at a point-per-game pace and on track to exceed his career high of 57 points. His annual salary-cap hit is $5.25 million, though in actual salary he's earning $6 million for this season. It'll likely cost the Sabres at least $6 million annually on a seven- or eight-year contract to keep Kane in the fold. That might prove be too costly for their long-term plans. However, if they can climb into playoff contention by the new year, they could retain him for the remainder of the season and take their chances.
Kane could bolster the Oilers depth at left wing, but their main concern is on the right side. With over $60 million invested in just 13 players for 2018-19, they'll have to create some cap room to re-sign him. Perhaps the Oilers could see if the Sabres have interest in Nugent-Hopkins, but they're already deep enough at center with Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly in the top-two spots.
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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