Two months into the NHL schedule, several struggling teams are shopping around hoping to find deals to address their respective roster deficiencies. That's sparked an increase in media speculation over which teams are talking trades and which players could be available.
Most of the media chatter comes from respected, well-connected insiders, but some rumors are based on pundits making their best guess about which players could go where. The salary cap is also affecting the trade market. With 23 teams each carrying less than $5 million in cap space, there's not many willing trade partners to be found.
Here's a look at 10 of the biggest NHL trade rumors so far this season, the evidence behind the speculations and a verdict on each.
Evidence: After the Florida Panthers shipped Kris Versteeg to the Chicago Blackhawks last month, some pundits believe center Shawn Matthias will be next on the trade block. Despite never scoring more than 24 points in a season, Matthias' age (25), size (6'4”, 230 lbs), two-way skill and versatility makes him an affordable trade option for cap-strapped teams seeking depth at forward. CBC's Elliotte Friedman believes the Vancouver Canucks are interested in Matthias.
Verdict: The Panthers are once again rebuilding, so the asking price is expected be a promising young player. Considering the Canucks recently started restocking their prospect cupboard, they're unlikely to give up one for Matthias.
Evidence: The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan claimed the Senators were interested in San Jose Sharks winger Martin Havlat, who began his NHL career in Ottawa. Havlat has a no-movement clause, but Brennan claimed he's willing to waive it to return to the Senators. Havlat's agent Allan Walsh denied the rumor, but Brennan's colleague Bruce Garrioch insisted the Sharks are shopping him and that the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers have shown some interest.
Verdict: Havlat's $5 million annual average salary, no-movement clause and lengthy injury history ensures he'll finish this season in San Jose, after which the Sharks could buy him out.
Evidence: Unhappy with his limited playing time, Washington Capitals winger Martin Erat recently requested a trade. CSNWashington's Chuck Gormley noted the Vancouver Canucks had “mild interest” in the unhappy winger. He wondered if a package of Erat, defenseman Dmitri Orlov and backup goalie Michal Neuvirth could pry defenseman Dan Hamhuis out of Vancouver.
Verdict: Erat's declining production, $4.5 million annual salary-cap hit and no-movement clause makes him a tough sell. The Canucks desperately need scoring punch, but they won't part with one of their best defensemen for a package in which Erat is the centerpiece.
Evidence: The Toronto Star's Damien Cox reported the Toronto Maple Leafs have had their eye on Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for the past couple of seasons. CBC's Elliotte Friedman claimed the Leafs revisited trade talks regarding the 23-year-old blueliner. Kulikov's a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at season's end, so the Panthers may be willing to move him.
Verdict: This rumor appears plausible. The Panthers could demand young blueliner Jake Gardiner in return. Leafs general manager Dave Nonis is believed to be reluctant to part with Gardiner, but the ongoing struggles of the Leafs defense could make him reconsider.
Evidence: New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch for five games in November. The New York Post's Larry Brooks claims they've received trade offers for the young blueliner. TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Senators tossed out the names of forwards Eric Condra and Colin Greening, as well as defenseman Eric Gryba, but the Rangers weren't interested.
Verdict: If the Senators were to offer promising forward Mika Zibanejad, it might pique the Rangers' interest, provided they also agreed to pick up part of Del Zotto's $2.55 million salary-cap hit. Otherwise, there's no deal here.
Evidence: An unrestricted free agent at season's end, Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller is a fixture in this season's NHL rumor mill. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Nashville Predators inquired about Hiller, but they're awaiting further word on the status of starter Pekka Rinne (hip injury) before considering other goalie options.
Verdict: A lower-body injury to backup Viktor Fasth will keep Hiller in Anaheim for now. The Predators might revisit their interest in him, but the solid play of backup Marek Mazanec could take them out of the trade market.
Evidence: In November, the Winnipeg Free Press reported a Montreal radio station floated the notion of the Montreal Canadiens shipping winger Max Pacioretty to the Winnipeg Jets for Evander Kane. Teams are also monitoring Kane's apparently tense relationship with Jets coach Claude Noel in case it leads to the winger hitting the trade market.
Verdict: No truth to this rumor. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported teams were inquiring about Pacioretty, but the Habs aren't shopping him. Despite Pacioretty's injury history, he's a vital part of the Canadiens offense. Kane's relationship with Noel must significantly deteriorate for the Jets to move him.
Evidence: The Oilers are willing to part with their first-round pick in next year's draft for a top defenseman. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes their target should be Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber. Matheson acknowledges the price tag would be expensive—perhaps a package that includes Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner or Justin Schultz, plus that first-round pick—but believes Weber is worth it.
Verdict: The Predators need scoring depth, and carrying Weber's hefty contract (14 years, $110 million) is burdensome for their budget. However, the 28-year-old blueliner is the face of the franchise and a tutor for promising defenseman Seth Jones. They won't move him.
Evidence: TSN's Darren Dreger reported the Philadelphia Flyers haven't been actively shopping forward Brayden Schenn but might be willing to listen to offers for the 22-year-old. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos claimed he'd heard rumblings of Schenn going to Edmonton for wingers Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky but didn't expect anything to come of it.
Verdict: Given their recent improvement, they're unlikely to make any major roster moves now. It will take a significant offer from the Oilers—or anyone else—to convince the Flyers to part with Schenn, who's among their leading scorers this season.
Evidence: It's the rumor the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson claims will not die: the St. Louis Blues acquiring goaltender Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres before the trade deadline. The Blues, however, lack the cap space to take on Miller's $6.25 million cap hit. Meanwhile, current St. Louis starter Jaroslav Halak remains steady between the pipes this season.
Verdict: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford claimed the Blues had interest in Miller during the offseason but will stick with Halak for the rest of the season. As long as he's playing well, they have no reason to pursue a replacement.