This a weekly feature that rounds up news, rumours, and interesting things happening around the NHL.
The NHL season is over a quarter done. Could we start seeing more trades as teams separate into playoff hopefuls and cellar-dwellers? Probably not, but at least we have some more juicy rumours to hold us over until the actual moves are made!
Nail Yakupov scored with 0.1 seconds left on the clock in the second period against Dallas Wednesday night. It was a sweet goal, and Yakupov is finally using his shot more effectively. He’s on pace for 29 goals and 41 points, but he’s scoring on nearly 20 percent of his shots. That’s probably not going to last, but Yakupov’s playing only 12 minutes a game. He could get more time if he keeps producing, and then 40 points doesn’t seem ridiculous with power play time. Maybe it’s not what people hoped for when he was selected first overall by Edmonton in 2012, but a 40-point winger who could get around 20 goals is just fine for $875k.
Alex Petrovic said he doesn’t think Florida’s coaches have any confidence in him. Petrovic is averaging the lowest minutes per game since he became an NHL regular. Florida’s new coaching stuff clearly aren’t fans of him, but the Panthers should have no problem finding a taker for a tough, right-handed defenceman who played over 18 minutes last season. He hasn’t asked for a trade yet, but a move is probably best for both sides.
Doesn’t Erik Gudbranson for Alex Petrovic make some sense? The Panthers are reportedly interested in him still, and tried to get Gudbranson back for Demers last summer. Florida seems like a team who would accommodate Gudbranson’s free-agent needs, too. Vancouver could get more at the deadline for him, but Petrovic is an interesting player. Team’s are always looking for right-shot defenceman, so Petrovic shouldn’t be stuck in Florida much longer.
Elliotte Friedman speculates about both Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson in his latest 31 Thoughts column. Friedman thinks Coyotes general manager John Chayka still wants to sign the stud defenceman, as they traded for his friend, Hjalmarsson, in the off-season. There’s been some friction between OEL and new coach Rick Tocchet, but a trade seems like an extreme solution. Imagine both OEL and Hjalmarsson on the market? Hjalmarsson has had a tough start in Arizona, but he’d still draw a ton of interest.
An OEL trade would be a mammoth move. The number of suitors would be incredible, given that every team could use a player like him. Toronto is the obvious connection, but Bob McKenzie threw cold water on that when the Coyotes played there Monday, explaining that neither Arizona nor Toronto has any desire to move their star players (OEL and Torono’s big three). What about Buffalo? They’re desperate for defence and have an elite center prospect in Casey Mittelstadt that Arizona would want.
Speaking of Buffalo, Darren Dreger discussed the futures of Evaner Kane and Sam Reinhart on TSN’s Insider Trading Tuesday. Kane’s an unrestricted free-agent after this season, but Dregers says nothing suggests that Sabres general manger Jason Botterill is inclined to make that move at this time. Kane’s having an incredible season, with 21 points in 22 games so far. Buffalo already has Jack Eichel, Kyle Okposo, and Ryan O’Reilly signed to big, long-term contracts. Signing Kane adds as a fourth. Kane is quick and scores goals. After scoring 28 last season, he’s on pace for 45 this year. He probably won’t hit that, but Kane’s a monster shot generator so a career year isn’t out of reach. Staying healthy has a been a problem, but if you want a shooter then Kane’s your guy.
Reinhart’s had an up-and-down start to his career. He’s on pace for almost 10 less points than he had last season, and playing less under new head coach Phil Housley. Dreger states that people wonder about Reinhart’s future in Buffalo, but the Sabres will wait until the season finishes and evaluate then. Reinhart would be a really interesting trade candidate. He’s young, right-handed, and can play some center and wing. He’s also very disciplined: Reinhart’s has 20 penalties in his 189 NHL games, including 18 minutes of his three full seasons. Only William Karlsson has taken less since the 2015-16 (minimum 150 games played).
The Oilers are looking for defence, but the options aren’t game-changing. Petrovic was mentioned earlier, same with Gudbranson, but McKenzie also mentioned Ryan Murray’s name Tuesday, and Peter Chiarelli was scouting the Blue Jackets. Those don’t feel like the kind of defencemen Edmonton needs, especially with Andrej Sekera out. Edmonton has plenty of defensive defenceman in the fold, in fact they’re paying one four million to play on the bottom pairing this year. The Oilers need another guy who can skate and pass the puck up the ice, but those guys are hard to get mid-season.