From Hockey News
With the NHL trade deadline a little over a month away, Toronto fans and pundits are speculating over which Maple Leafs could hit the trade block. Much of their focus is upon the Leafs’ pending unrestricted free agents.
The most notable include goaltender James Reimer, defenseman Roman Polak and forwards P-A Parenteau, Shawn Matthias, Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes. Anyone expecting a big return for those players, however, will be disappointed.
Sportsnet’s Jonathan Willis speculates each could fetch a draft pick, though he doesn’t anticipate any first-rounders coming to the Leafs. The Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski was a little more optimistic about Reimer’s value, believing a first- or second-rounder was possible.
The Leafs could also dangle one or two players with term remaining on their contracts. Zwolinski thinks agitating winger Leo Komarov could draw a second-round selection, while winger Joffrey Lupul might attract a pick between the third and fifth rounds.
Komarov, 29, is carrying an affordable $2.95-million annually through 2017-18. With 16 goals and 31 points in 46 games entering this week, his trade value has never been higher. However, Leafs management could consider his experience and leadership worth retaining.
The Leafs reportedly tried to move Lupul last summer. With an injury history and a $5.25-annual cap hit, they’re unlikely to find any takers.
IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT, CANUCKS FACE BIG DECISIONS
The Vancouver Canucks face some tough decisions regarding their pending UFAs in a month’s time. Forwards Radim Vrbata and Brandon Prust, along with blueliners Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber, could test the open market on July 1.
GM Jim Benning has attempted to rebuild whilst maintaining a playoff-contending roster. Entering this week, the Canucks remain in the hunt for a postseason berth. Should they stay in contention by the trade deadline, Benning could retain his best UFAs. On the other hand, if they slide further out of contention in a month’s time, he could start the fire sale.
With this summer’s UFA market expected to be the deepest in years, Jason Botchford of The Province wonders if Benning shops a veteran or two with term remaining on their contracts. By doing so, the Canucks GM will free up additional cap space to take a run at a bigger free-agent talent.
Botchford suggests goalie Ryan Miller ($6-million cap hit) and winger Alex Burrows ($4.5 million) as trade candidates. Miller could have some value for clubs seeking experienced goaltending, but his cap hit and age (35) hurts his trade value. As for the 34-year-old Burrows, the steady decline in his production in recent years won’t attract many suitors.
OILERS SHOULD SWING BIG DEAL WITH COYOTES
Approaching the upcoming NHL all-star break, the Edmonton Oilers once again find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. If they remain there by season’s end, it will improve their draft lottery odds.
Should the Oilers once again win the first-overall selection, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson suggests offering it to the Arizona Coyotes for top defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He believes that could be tempting for the Coyotes, giving them the opportunity to select anticipated top prospect (and Arizona native) Auston Matthews.
It’s an intriguing suggestion. The Oilers would finally land an established two-way defenseman in Ekman-Larsson, while the Coyotes would have a marketable local player in Matthews centering young rookie wingers Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. While Matheson believes it’s “win-win” for both clubs, Ekman-Larsson’s departure would leave a significant gap on the Coyotes blueline.
Of course, this all depends upon the Oilers winning the draft lottery. If they don’t, they could still end up with a top-five selection to shop for a quality defenseman. Anything less than first overall, however, won’t fetch a blueliner of Ekman-Larsson’s caliber.
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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