Connor McDavid (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
With generational talent Connor McDavid available at the top of the 2015 draft, teams in the sweepstakes for the superstar may look to thin out their roster to improve their chances of landing the phenom.
The floundering Edmonton Oilers appear the favorites to win the 2015 NHL draft lottery and select OHL scoring sensation Connor McDavid as the first-overall pick. However, they could soon have some competition in the McDavid sweepstakes.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer notes the Carolina Hurricanes, basement dwellers of the Eastern Conference, lack the talent to compete with the league's better teams. The Hurricanes last made the playoffs in 2009, and DeCock believes it's time for a major roster overhaul, which includes improving their chances of landing McDavid.
The Hurricanes have frequently appeared in this season's rumor mill, with most of the focus upon captain Eric Staal and top-pairing defenseman Andrej Sekera. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis last month stated Staal wasn't going anywhere and hopes to re-sign Sekera, who's an unrestricted free agent in July.
DeCock, however, advocates moving Staal now if there's a considerable return to be had. He also suggests shopping goalie Anton Khudobin and oft-injured forward Jeff Skinner. Francis, however, isn't likely to follow that advice.
If Sekera prefers testing the free-agent market, Francis could peddle him leading up to the March trade deadline. Other UFAs, like Jiri Tlusty and Tim Gleason, could also hit the trade block in the New Year. Given goalie Cam Ward's improved play this season, Francis could see if there's a market for an experienced starting goalie with one season left on his contract.
The Arizona Coyotes could also be poised for a roster fire sale. They began this week second last in the Western Conference standings with only two wins in their last 10 games. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports of rumors the Coyotes could cut payroll, generating interest in players like captain Shane Doan, center Antoine Vermette, left wing Mikkel Boedker and blueliners Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek.
Of these players, Vermette, Yandle and Michalek appear most likely to move. Vermette and Michalek are unrestricted free agents at season's end, while Yandle has only one season left on his contract. Doan won't be traded unless he requests it, while Boedker is a restricted free agent and a key part of any rebuild.
For now, Coyotes GM Don Maloney must wait until new majority owner Andrew Barroway is formally approved by the NHL Board of Governors before making any significant roster moves. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes that's hampering Maloney's efforts to re-sign Vermette, who could command over $6 million per season on the open market.
The Buffalo Sabres were considered odds-on favorites to win the McDavid sweepstakes, but have won 10 of their last 13 games. GM Tim Murray is reportedly keen to move struggling winger Chris Stewart sooner rather than later. He could also put winger Drew Stafford on the trade block near the March trade deadline.
It's believed Murray could re-sign one of his goaltenders (Jhonas Enroth or Michal Neuvirth) and trade the other. Interest remains high in Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers but MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports he carries a price tag of a top prospect, a good young roster player and/or a first-round pick.
Despite the Sabres recent signs of improvement there's still over half a season to be played. Moving out several pending UFAs in the New Year could have an adverse effect upon their performance, in turn sending them plummeting down the standings.
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.