Calling Fact or Fiction on the Hottest NHL Trade Speculation
As we approach the midpoint of the NHL schedule, the March 1 trade deadline is less than two months away. Notable players, such as Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, are appearing more frequently in media trade speculation.
Teams will have different reasons for making moves. Given their fading playoff hopes, the Avalanche could attempt to move Iginla, Landeskog and Matt Duchene as part of a roster shake-up. A playoff bubble team, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, must decide if it will be a buyer or a seller.
This slideshow will determine which aspects of recent NHL trade speculation are based in fact or fiction. As always, you can express your views in the comments section.
Will the Montreal Canadiens Trade Tomas Plekanec?
On Jan. 7, Sportsnet's Geoff Lowe cited colleague Nick Kypreos speculating the Montreal Canadiens could shop struggling center Tomas Plekanec at the trade deadline. With the banged-up Canadiens getting healthy, Kypreos claimed there's a sense the 34-year-old could be dealt if he doesn't improve soon.
After two seasons with 60 and 54 points, respectively, Plekanec has only 17 points in 40 games this season. He's on track for 35 points. That would be his lowest total in a non-lockout season since his 39-point output in 2008-09.
Plekanec, however, is also an effective defensive forward. He's solid in the faceoff circle (50.7 percent) and leads the club in short-handed takeaways (five) and shots (also five). He's also among their leaders in short-handed ice time (two minutes and 18 seconds) per game and short-handed faceoff wins (43).
Fact or fiction?
Fiction. Plekanec's all-around game makes him an important part of the Canadiens lineup. Besides, his $6 million annual salary-cap hit through 2017-18 probably won't attract many takers at the trade deadline.
Could the Colorado Avalanche Shop Jarome Iginla?
On Jan. 3, Wes Gibertson of the Calgary Sun reported Iginla admitted he'd consider waiving his no-movement clause. The following day, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek speculated the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings could be interested in the 39-year-old Iginla.
Mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Avalanche could go into sell mode before the March 1 trade deadline. Iginla's an unrestricted free agent in July and probably doesn't fit into the club's future plans.
With 616 goals and 1,284 career points, Iginla's enjoyed a Hall of Fame-worthy career. However, he's clearly in decline, with only 11 points in 39 games this season. He also carries a $5.33 million cap hit, which could prove difficult to move.
Fact or fiction?
Fact. Despite the decline in Iginla's performance, he remains well-respected for his experience, leadership, big shot and physical play. He should attract some attention from playoff contenders in the trade market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Won't Be Sellers at the Trade Deadline
In his Jan. 5 mailbag segment, The Athletic's James Mirtle addressed the futures of Toronto Maple Leafs forwards James van Riemsdyk (pictured above) and Tyler Bozak. While Mirtle feels "reasonably confident" they don't have long-term futures with the Leafs, he doubts they'll be dealt by the March 1 trade deadline.
The Leafs rebuild is well ahead of schedule this season. As of Jan. 8, they're close a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The experience of veteran players, such as van Riemsdyk, Bozak and defenseman Roman Polak, could provide the Leafs with the necessary depth to remain in postseason contention through the rest of the schedule.
Fact or fiction?
Fact. Barring a stunning collapse between now and the trade deadline, Leafs management won't hurt their playoff hopes by trading away their veterans. They could instead become buyers, looking for affordable rental players to bolster their blue-line depth.
Could Martin Hanzal Be a Good Fit with the Ottawa Senators?
On Jan. 6, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun suggested Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal would be a good fit with the Ottawa Senators. The 6'6", 226-pounder is an unrestricted free agent in July. If the Senators acquire him, Brennan didn't rule out the possibility of the Senators re-signing the 29-year-old.
Hanzal's size and two-way skills would make him a quality addition to the Senators' forward lines. He has two 40-point seasons on his resume and leads all Coyotes forwards in time on ice per game (18 minutes and 13 seconds). He also averages 2:51 in power-play ice time and 1:10 in short-handed ice time.
However, Hanzal is frequently sidelined by injury. The Coyotes could also set a high asking price for his services. If they don't get it from the Senators, they can afford to wait for better offers elsewhere. He'll likely seek a considerable raise over his current $3.1 million annual cap hit on his next contract.
Fact or fiction
Fiction. Despite Hanzal's size and two-way abilities, his injury history could make him too risky for the Senators to pay a potentially expensive price for a playoff rental player.
Could the Edmonton Oilers Trade Jordan Eberle?
On Jan. 5, TSN analyst Darren Dreger appeared on Edmonton's TSN 1260 (via Chris Nichols of FanRag Sports Network) discussing the future of forwards Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot with the Edmonton Oilers. Noting Eberle was recently dropped to the third line, Dreger speculated the Oilers could get calls about the 26-year-old right winger.
Dreger noted Eberle's frequently popped up in the rumor mill over the last couple of seasons. He said the asking price for Eberle was high because he was considered part of the Oilers' core players. If that's no longer the case, perhaps his trade status could change.
Eberle's on pace for 53 points this season, but he's overshadowed by younger stars such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers dealt away Taylor Hall, once considered a core player, last summer and could do the same with Eberle. His $6 million annual salary-cap hit, however, won't be easy to move.
Fact or fiction?
Fiction, for this season anyway. With the Oilers in serious playoff contention for the first time in years, management isn't under pressure to shake things up by moving a key player such as Eberle. However, the team could test his value during this summer's trade market.
New York Islanders May Have Inquired About Matt Duchene
In a mailbag segment on Dec. 28, Newsday's Arthur Staple said he believed the New York Islanders inquired into Duchene's availability. However, he thinks the cost of acquiring the 25-year-old was too expensive.
The Islanders must find a quality linemate for center John Tavares. Duchene, who can also play on the wing, could be an enticing target. The Avalanche are also struggling and could soon face a significant roster shake-up.
On Jan. 3, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the asking price for Duchene, a high-scoring center with a reasonable contract, will be high. He speculated it would cost good young defensemen or blue-line prospects.
Fact or fiction?
It's a fact the Islanders need someone like Duchene to skate alongside Tavares, but the asking price is probably too costly. They'll have to look elsewhere for a scoring winger.
Are the St. Louis Blues a Possible Destination for Marc-Andre Fleury?
During a Dec. 28 appearance on NBCSN (via Chris Nichols of FanRag Sports Network), TSN's Darren Dreger pondered the possibility of the Pittsburgh Penguins trading goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to the St. Louis Blues.
Dreger acknowledged Jake Allen as the Blues' starter. However, if they feel they're in Stanley Cup contention and have concerns over their goaltending, he wondered if they could consider Fleury as a trade target.
Allen's struggled with consistency this season. Though he's won 17 of 31 starts, his goals-against average (2.63) and save percentage (.904) are among the worst for NHL starters.
Fleury's stats this season (3.07 GAA, .910 save percentage) aren't much better, but he has considerable experience as a starting goalie. He backstopped the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009, winning a championship in the latter.
Fact or fiction?
Unless Allen's performance significantly declines leading up to the trade deadline, this is fiction. The Blues' biggest need is bolstering their depth at center. Fleury also has a modified no-trade clause and probably won't accept a trade to a club where he'll have to compete for the starter's job.
Are the Boston Bruins Pursuing a Deal for Gabriel Landeksog?
On Jan. 5, Bleacher Report NHL columnist Adrian Dater reported hearing the Boston Bruins had talks with the Avalanche regarding Landeskog. Avs general manager Joe Sakic apparently sought defenseman Brandon Carlo, but the Bruins countered with unproven blueliner Jakub Zboril.
The Avalanche are mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. They're in need of a significant roster shake-up and require help on defense. They give up far too many shots against per game (32.4).
On Dec. 31, Sportsnet's Joe Pack cited colleague Elliotte Friedman saying the Avs were willing to listen to offers containing good, young defensemen or prospects for key players such as Landeskog or Matt Duchene.
Landeskog could be a good fit with the Bruins. They lack scoring punch, averaging only 2.40 goals for per game. The 24-year-old Swede has exceeded 50 points in four of his six NHL seasons and doesn't shy away from physical play.
Fact or fiction?
Fact. Dater covered the Avalanche for years with the Denver Post and is well-connected with the club. Landeskog could provide the Bruins with some much-needed scoring depth, while the Avs would receive promising young defensemen to rebuild their blue line.
Whether this deal goes down remains to be seen. Landeskog's $5.5 million annual salary-cap hit is a significant sticking point. On Jan. 5, the Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont observed that the Bruins can't absorb that unless they ship out a player or two.