Although we're just five days into the NHL free-agency cycle, many of the biggest moves have already been made. But even so, there will be no shortage of big moves upcoming before things get underway in preparation for 2014-15.
Jason Spezza has finally settled with the Dallas Stars and James Neal headed to the Nashville Predators, while a number of notable free agents have relocated as well. But there are still so many moves to make for a handful of the 30 teams that are looking to make improvements before unleashing their squads for next season.
Let's take a look at the latest NHL trade rumors.
Maple Leafs Looking to Trade Reimer, Add Khabibulin
It's been a few years since Nikolai Khabibulin was an effective part of a two-deep goaltending rotation, but the Toronto Maple Leafs look interested in giving him that chance in 2014-15.
Per SportsNet's Josh Rimer, Toronto has some interest in adding the veteran:
Hearing that Maple Leafs have some interest in signing Nikolai Khabibulin to back up Bernier. It may not happen but told there's interest.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 4, 2014
In order to clear the way for Khabibulin as the backup, the Maple Leafs are looking to deal 26-year-old James Reimer:
If the Leafs sign Nikolai Khabibulin that means they would have to trade Reimer first.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 4, 2014
Khabibulin has proved to be a force between the pipes for years with the old Winnipeg Jets, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning. But since 2012-13, he's served as a backup.
Should the Maple Leafs add Khabibulin?
Now 41, Khabibulin is not only one of the league's oldest active goalies, but he is also coming off surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, per ESPN's Scott Powers. And he gave up more than five goals per game on average in his four starts last season.
However, in 2013-14, Reimer posted the worst goals-against average of his career at 3.29. His 12 wins were the lowest of his four-year career and his 16 losses the most.
Building for a playoff run, the Maple Leafs look to be turning to experience over youth in terms of backing up obvious starter Jonathan Bernier.
Preds Not Done Chasing Lecavalier
In a desperate attempt to field a playoff roster in 2014-15, Predators general manager David Poile has been one of the biggest hitters in the offseason. After trading for James Neal and nearly getting Jason Spezza, Nashville has been linked to Philadelphia Flyers veteran Vinny Lecavalier.
The Preds' quest for a top-line center seemed to end when they signed Olli Jokinen to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, but that's apparently not the case, according to Philly.com's Frank Servalli:
According to a source, (Flyers general manager Ron) Hextall and Predators GM David Poile revisited the idea of swapping Lecavalier yesterday afternoon. No deal appeared imminent, according to talks, but the Predators remain interested - especially after watching other division opponents bulk up on Tuesday.
Of course, Philadelphia and Nashville "nearly" came to a deal for the 34-year-old just after the draft and before free agency, per CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio. The main problem in the deal falling through, per Panaccio, was that the Preds were only interested in taking two of the four years of Lecavalier's current deal.
Nashville may be an afterthought for many NHL fanbases, but the reality is that even after one of the franchise's worst seasons, the Preds finished just three points out of a playoff spot. With new coach Peter Laviolette—who has ties to Lecavalier from Philly—in town, a new era could be in store.
The Preds already have a franchise star in Shea Weber and a wealth of young talent that is coming to fruition. Now, they look to be all-in on adding top talent to bolster the offense.
Oilers Looking to Get into Center Market
Few teams join the Preds in search of a top-flight center, as many have already filled their holes. But the Edmonton Oilers could be one.
Per the Edmonton Journal's David Staples, the Oilers aren't looking to rush their youngsters—specifically, recently drafted Leon Draisaitl—into the fold. Instead, as Staples and Oilers insider Bob Stauffer explore, they could sign a mid-level center to compete for the back few lines.
Staples explains why:
The real issue is whether or not the Oilers bring in another veteran centre, because if that doesn’t happen Draisaitl will likely then be expected to make the team to fill a hole. If that hole(s) is filled with a veteran, with Arcobello or with Lander, Draisaitl can still bull his way in there, but he won’t have to do so out of necessity.
It's not surprising to see Edmonton chasing a player to avoid throwing a youngster into the fire, especially given where the franchise currently stands. Edmonton finished last in the Pacific Division by all of 10 points, finishing with the fewest points in the Western Conference and the third-fewest in the entire NHL. The Oilers are certainly in no rush, especially with young talent that is a few years away from flourishing.
If the Oilers aren't close to contending, there's no reason to rush any of the younger players into things. Instead, trade for a veteran to bolster the latter lines—that likely gives the team the best chance to win off the bat, anyway.
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