Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
Latest on the Nylander standoff
With the Dec. 1 deadline for getting William Nylander under contract fast approaching, there’s mounting speculation over what the Toronto Maple Leafs will do with the restricted free agent.
Last Thursday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculated at least one-third of the league have contacted the Leafs about Nylander’s status. In a recent column for The Athletic, he listed the Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche as possible destinations.
The Hurricanes have been linked to Nylander for weeks. Carolina GM Don Waddell admitted he’s interested in the 22-year-old forward but believes the Leafs still intend to re-sign him. LeBrun’s colleague Bob McKenzie said their priority remains to get the winger under contract.
LeBrun believes the Leafs face three options. They can re-sign Nylander before Dec. 1, trade him prior to that date, or attempt to move him at the trade deadline if they don’t get a suitable trade offer by the December deadline.
Under the last scenario, Nylander would be ineligible to play this season. However, LeBrun thinks he could be attractive to non-playoff clubs looking to get an early start on retooling their roster for next season.
Another option would see the Leafs let Nylander sit out the season and attempt to re-sign him over the summer. According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, they’re comfortable with that scenario if unable to re-sign or trade him by Dec. 1.
Considering the Leafs are riding high in the Eastern Conference standings without Nylander, or sidelined center Auston Matthews for that matter, this could be their most preferable course of action. It also shifts more pressure upon the Nylander camp. Rather than risk losing one of his prime earning years to a contract standoff, perhaps he’ll consider accepting a short-term bridge contract.
More Moves Coming for Penguins?
After a couple of weeks of speculation, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger on a trade last week, shipping left wing Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings for left wing Tanner Pearson.
So far, however, the move hasn’t snapped the Penguins out of their current skid. With just two wins in their last 11 games, they’re sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Rutherford might not be done dealing. Friedman’s colleague Johnston noted young winger Chris Sprong and defenseman Olli Maatta have surfaced in the rumor mill. He also claimed there were, “renewed whispers about Phil Kessel’s availability,” but considers that move unlikely because Kessel remains among the Penguins’ leading scorers.
Phil Kessel makes his youth coaches proud by going to the net.
That is 81’s team-leading 10th goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/jS55mtB4qR
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 20, 2018
Much of the recent speculation suggests Sprong is the likely trade candidate, though Rutherford could be reluctant to move him for fear he’ll blossom elsewhere. Maatta’s been in coach Mike Sullivan’s doghouse this season and might benefit from a move. Forwards Bryan Rust and Riley Sheahan could also become trade chips if Rutherford feels a further roster shakeup is in order.
Flames Goaltending a Concern
The ongoing struggles of starting goaltender Mike Smith is a growing concern among Calgary Flames followers. Entering this week, the 36-year-old won just five of 13 starts, sporting a bloated 3.48 goals-against average and a .876 save percentage.
During an appearance last Friday on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, Friedman was asked about possible goaltending options via the trade market. Among those mentioned were Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, and Jaroslav Halak of the Boston Bruins.
However, Friedman doesn’t see Bobrovsky waiving his no-trade clause to come to Calgary and Schneider is struggling to regain his form following offseason hip surgery, which doesn’t make him an attractive option. As for Halak, Tuukka Rask is going through a difficult start to the season and Friedman doubts the Bruins will part with their backup.
Howard, on the other hand, could be an intriguing option. He’s playing well of late and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. While there are rumors the 13-year veteran — all with Detroit — is looking at signing a short-term extension with the Wings, Friedman believes “that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
Considering how Howard’s recent performance helped the rebuilding Wings recover from a sputtering start, they’re unlikely to move him right now. Perhaps at the trade deadline, though that talk of a short-term extension could become reality if he keeps them in playoff contention.
Fortunately for the Flames, backup David Rittich (seven wins in 10 games played with a 1.93 goals-against average and .931 save percentage) is playing well. GM Brad Treliving will likely remain patient in hopes Rittich can buy time for Smith to regain his form, take over the starter’s job full-time, or for the goalie trade market to improve.