Calling Fact or Fiction on NHL Speculation as the 2016 Trade Deadline Approaches
The NHL's Feb. 29 trade deadline is just around the corner. As the big day approaches, notable stars such as New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (pictured above) are being mentioned as possible trade candidates.
Most of the trade speculation focuses on pending unrestricted free agents like Okposo. Some, however, target players under contract beyond this season, like Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Others focus upon which struggling teams, like the Montreal Canadiens, might become sellers by the deadline.
The following slideshow examines the latest NHL trade speculation to determine those with basis in fact or fiction. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.
Will the Montreal Canadiens Become Sellers?
The rumor: On Feb. 7, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Montreal Canadiens were listening to offers for several of their unrestricted free agents. Among the notables are forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, along with defenseman Tom Gilbert.
Analysis: In free fall since early December, the Canadiens have dropped out of a playoff position. Though the Habs have improved of late, management could decide to get a head start on re-tooling the roster for next season.
Fact or fiction: If the Habs fall further out of playoff contention, it's a fact they'll start shopping the free agents they don't intend on re-signing.
Could the Edmonton Oilers Trade Justin Schultz?
The speculation: On Feb. 9, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested defenseman Justin Schultz's time with the Edmonton Oilers could be drawing to a close.
Analysis: Since joining the Oilers as a free agent in 2012, the 25-year-old Schultz has struggled to become a top-four blueliner. Friedman claimed nothing's "imminent" but thinks it's only a matter of time until the two sides part ways. Schultz is a restricted free agent this summer.
Fact or fiction: Fact. As Friedman suggested, it's just a question of when. Despite Schultz's difficulties, he could improve playing on a deeper blue line. Playoff contenders seeking defensive depth could view Schultz as an affordable rental player.
St. Louis Blues Could Pursue a Scoring Forward
The rumor: On Feb. 5, Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is believed to be seeking a scorer. The Blues were once linked to Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. Other trade possibilities include Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell, New Jersey Devils right wing Lee Stempniak and Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd, per Rutherford.
Analysis: Armstrong could wait and see how long it takes recently returned left winger Jaden Schwartz to regain his scoring touch. According to TSN's Frank Seravalli, there was talk of shopping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for a scoring forward. However, blueliner Alex Pietrangelo's knee injury spells the end of that speculation.
Fact or fiction: Fact. Despite Schwartz's return, Armstrong could keep an eye on the trade market for an affordable rental forward.
Could the Detroit Red Wings Trade Jimmy Howard?
The speculation: On Feb. 7, MLive.com's Ansar Khan responded to a reader's question regarding the future of Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. Noting Petr Mrazek has taken over the starting goalie role, Khan believes the Red Wings' only option is to trade Howard after this season.
Analysis: Some Red Wings fans probably prefer Howard to be shopped at the trade deadline. However, the 31-year-old has three years remaining on his contract at an annual average salary of over $5.291 million, per General Fanager. He also carries a no-trade clause. Khan suggested the Wings might have to pick up part of his salary or take back another club's unwanted contract.
Fact or fiction: It's a fact the Wings will try to trade Howard, but it's fiction to believe they'll move him at the Feb. 29 deadline. They still want him around as insurance for the rest of this season in case Mrazek struggles or gets hurt.
Could the Arizona Coyotes Trade Mikkel Boedker?
The speculation: On Feb. 3, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported on the contract status of Arizona Coyotes right wing Mikkel Boedker. He believed contract talks were underway for the 26-year-old Boedker, who's eligible this summer for unrestricted free agency. Should Boedker remain unsigned by the trade deadline, LeBrun wondered if the Coyotes will trade him.
Analysis: Boedker's in his playing prime and among the Coyotes' best forwards. As LeBrun pointed out, the Coyotes have an exciting young team and Boedker could be part of their future. They're also currently battling for their first playoff berth since 2012.
Fact or fiction: Fiction. While the Coyotes could shop Boedker, they need him as part of their short- and long-term plans. Unless he's determined to test this summer's free-agent market, the Coyotes won't move him.
Kyle Okposo to the Minnesota Wild?
The speculation: On Feb. 3, NHL.com's Dan Rosen replied to a reader's question over which players might fit best into the struggling Minnesota Wild's system. He suggested New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, who's from Minnesota and would make an effective rental player to help the Wild reach the playoffs.
Analysis: The slumping Wild are in danger of falling out of the playoff race. A lack of scoring depth is one of the big reasons behind their slide. Okposo, 27, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. He's also the Islanders' leading scorer and is invaluable to their efforts to retain a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Fact or fiction: Fiction. The Wild will have to look elsewhere for offensive help. While Okposo would undoubtedly be a good fit with the Wild, the Islanders won't trade one of their leading scorers now. They'll retain him for the rest of the season, even at the risk of losing him to free agency in July.
Boston Bruins Could Trade Loui Eriksson for a Defenseman
The speculation: On Feb. 6, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa speculated over possible returns the Boston Bruins could get by trading Loui Eriksson.
Analysis: Eriksson, 30, is the Bruins' best right wing. However, he's also eligible for unrestricted free agency and could be too expensive to re-sign. Shinzawa suggested Eriksson could be dealt for a defenseman, perhaps by targeting a team looking to move a salary.
Fact or fiction: Fact. The Bruins aren't a Stanley Cup contender this season. One reason is their lack of skilled young defensemen. Eriksson could be on the move for a top-four blueliner who carries a reasonable contract.
Winnipeg Jets Could Trade Andrew Ladd
The speculation: On Feb. 8, Sportsnet's Mark Spector suggested the Winnipeg Jets re-signing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien clears the way to trade left wing Andrew Ladd. He believes the Jets having one player who'll turn 31 later this year on an expensive, long-term contract is enough.
Analysis: The Jets re-signed Byfuglien to a five-year deal worth an annual average salary of $7.6 million, per General Fanager. That's a steep salary-cap hit for the cost-conscious club. With restricted free agents such as defenseman Jacob Trouba and center Mark Scheifele also due for raises this summer, Ladd could become the odd man out.
Fact or fiction: Fact. According to the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe, Ladd is reportedly seeking a six-year contract worth over $6 million per season. That's too rich for the Jets' blood. Expect Ladd to be peddled near the trade deadline for the best possible return.