It’s NHL trade rumor season. Each week before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
With the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline less than two weeks away, the Rangers are dominating the rumor mill. The club’s admission last week in a statement to their fans indicating changes were coming fueled speculation over their potential moves leading up to deadline day.
Most of the trade chatter involves veteran forward Rick Nash, who’s due to become a free agent in July. While the 33-year-old winger’s production has declined since his 42-goal performance in 2014-15, he remains a hot commodity in the trade market.
On Thursday, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Nash’s agent spoke with at least 8-10 teams with varying degrees of interest in his client. Dreger said the Predators and Stars could be among Nash’s preferred trade destinations. He also wondered about a possible reunion with the Blue Jackets.
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Nash’s availability could also affect the value of other stars in the trade market, such as Sabres wing Evander Kane. The Sabres have set a high asking price, but Dreger’s colleague Pierre LeBrun speculated whatever the Rangers get for Nash could be used as a comparable by clubs pursuing Kane.
Other teams linked to Nash include the Flames, Penguins, Blues and Jets. There was some skepticism over the possibility he would accept being dealt to a Canadian club, having previously rejected those clubs when he was being shopped by the Blue Jackets in 2012. However, Nash told the New York Post’s Larry Brooks he’s not ruling out Canadian contenders this time around. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports the Maple Leafs are believed to be on Nash’s list.
Brooks considers Nash the most attractive “top-six, complete-game, secondary-scoring winger” available. Rather than accept late first-round picks or mid-level prospects in return, he feels the Rangers should ask for NHL-ready players.
Nash isn’t the only Ranger who could be on the move by deadline day. Brooks reported Sunday the Lightning were “extremely interested” in Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He feels the Blueshirts should seek someone such as blueliner Mikhail Sergachev or one of the Lightning’s top-flight prospects as part of the return. According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, however, the Bolts aren’t willing to move youngsters such as Sergachev or center Brayden Point.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, meanwhile, suggested the Bruins could be a destination for McDonagh. Alluding to the Bruins’ depth in young players and prospects, Friedman feels McDonagh could be a good fit on the left side of their blueline.
Dreger also noted some trade buzz surrounding forwards J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider. With the Rangers looking to get younger, however, they could retain the versatile 24-year-old Miller. Kreider, 26, is expected to return in mid-March from surgery to address a blood clot in his right arm. The speedy 6-3, 224-pounder could be an attractive trade option for clubs that lose out in the bidding for Nash.
Michael Grabner is also due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Rumors link the speedy 30-year-old winger to the Flames and Penguins.
Hurricanes drawing attention in rumor mill
It’s been nine years since the Hurricanes last reached the postseason. Entering this week, the Canes are jockeying with the the Devils, Blue Jackets and Islanders for a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. With the trade deadline approaching, some pundits wonder what general manager Ron Francis has in store for his club.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli raised some eyebrows last week by adding forward Jeff Skinner to his list of potential trade bait. He said the Hurricanes aren’t shopping the 25-year-old left wing, but believes they could entertain offers. Citing growing friction between Skinner and coach Bill Peters as well as the club’s recent change in ownership, Seravalli suggests things could come to a head by the deadline or in the offseason.
Seravalli’s colleague Bob McKenzie isn’t sure the Hurricanes are sellers while they’re fighting for playoff contention. While teams could be calling about Skinner in hopes of buying low, McKenzie doesn’t see Francis wanting to part with the winger.
The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek raised the possibility of the Hurricanes moving a defenseman for a scoring forward. He wondered if Justin Faulk could be a match with the Edmonton Oilers, perhaps for winger Jesse Puljujarvi.
If the Hurricanes collapse and tumble down the standings leading up to the deadline, Francis could go into sell mode. But with New Jersey, Columbus and the Islanders stumbling of late, Carolina has a legitimate chance of securing a playoff berth. It’s doubtful he’ll part with Skinner or Faulk right now. If anything, he could seek affordable rental depth to boost his club’s postseason hopes.