Calling Fact or Fiction on the Hottest NHL Speculation as Trade Deadline Nears

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2017

Calling Fact or Fiction on the Hottest NHL Speculation as Trade Deadline Nears

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    The NHL's March 1 trade deadline is over three weeks away, prompting growing speculation over potential deals. St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene are two of the notable players featured prominently in the rumor mill. 

    With so much reported trade chatter, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Factors such as salary-cap space, players' salaries, no-trade clauses and roster needs must be considered when evaluating these rumors.

    Here's a look at the hottest NHL trade speculation, determining those based in fact or fiction. 

Blackhawks Interested in Red Wings' Nyquist or Tatar

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Speculation

    On Jan. 21, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, citing two league sources, reported the Chicago Blackhawks had preliminary discussions with the Detroit Red Wings regarding wingers Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. 

               

    Analysis

    Lazerus noted the Blackhawks are in the market for a top-six winger for center Jonathan Toews' line. Tatar and Nyquist are struggling this season but have previously tallied 20-plus goals and 50 points earlier in their careers. Perhaps a move to a deeper club would reignite their offense.  

    Nyquist carries an annual cap hit of $4.75 million through 2018-19. Tatar ($2.75 million) is a restricted free agent this summer,

               

    Fact or fiction?

    Fiction. There's no reason to doubt Lazerus' sources, but the Blackhawks only have $1.7 million in prorated salary-cap room for the trade deadline. They also have over $66 million invested next season in 15 players. That makes taking on Nyquist's contract or re-signing Tatar difficult fits. The Blackhawks must shed salary to add either guy, or the Wings will have to pick up part of his cap hit to make it work. 

Martin Hanzal to the Montreal Canadiens?

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Speculation

    On Feb. 3, TSN's Darren Dreger said the Montreal Canadiens needed size at center. He suggested the Habs add Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal.

                

    Analysis

    At 6'6" and 226 pounds, Hanzal could be an affordable solution to the Canadiens' problem at center. However, he has a long injury history and only two 40-point seasons on his resume. He's also an unrestricted free agent in July.

    Dreger noted at least 10 teams are interested in Hanzal, allowing the Coyotes to set a high asking price. He doesn't expect Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will hurt his club's future by giving up a top prospect such as Michael McCarron.

                

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fact, provided the Coyotes accept a lower return for Hanzal. Bergevin won't overpay for a playoff rental. If the price remains high, the Habs GM will look elsewhere for help down the middle. 

Could Thomas Vanek Return to the New York Islanders?

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Speculation

    On Jan. 28, Larry Brooks of the New York Post noted the New York Islanders' improvement since replacing Jack Capuano as head coach on Jan. 17 with Doug Weight. He wondered if Islanders general manager Garth Snow might consider pursuing Detroit Red Wings left wing Thomas Vanek. 

                 

    Analysis

    Vanek, 33, played 47 games with the Isles in 2013-14. He netted 44 points playing alongside superstar center John Tavares.

    He has respectable numbers this season with the Wings (32 points in 40 games) and is an unrestricted free agent in July. The Wings could shop him by the trade deadline as a rental player if they are unable to re-sign him. 

                   

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction. While the Isles are back in the postseason chase, Snow could be unwilling to waste assets on a playoff rental. If he does, it's unlikely he'll bring back Vanek.  The Wings, meanwhile, might keep Vanek in hopes of re-signing him before the summer. They could also get better offers from other clubs. 

Shane Doan to a California-Based NHL Team?

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Speculation

    On Feb. 4, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported longtime Arizona Coyotes captain and right wing Shane Doan is willing to accept a trade to a Stanley Cup contender.  He said the San Jose Sharks have been interested in Doan for several years. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are also considered contenders for the winger's services. 

                

    Analysis

    For years, Doan was a reliable, physical scoring winger for the Coyotes. Age and the grind of 21 NHL seasons have caught up with him, though.

    The Kings (2.47 goals per game) and Ducks (2.57) need scoring punch. The Sharks' goal production drops sharply beyond Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.

                   

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction. In recent years, Doan was often mentioned as a trade candidate but never moved. While he might agree to a trade this year, he's not the physical offensive presence he once was. Teams might kick the tires, but true contenders will likely seek younger options. 

Gabriel Landeskog to the Los Angeles Kings?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Speculation

    On Feb. 3, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche had brief discussions last month regarding Avs captain and left wing Gabriel Landeskog. LeBrun doubted there's a fit there, as the Avalanche seek "a young, high-end defensive prospect" as part of the return. 

                   

    Analysis

    The floundering Avalanche need to rebuild. The Kings need scoring depth, especially at left wing.

    Despite Landeskog's struggles this season (18 points in 39 games), he's exceeded 20 goals and 50 points four times in the last five seasons. While he carries a $5.5 million annual cap hit through 2021-22, the Kings have over $6.9 million in projected cap room for the trade deadline. 

                   

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction. The Kings are probably unwilling to pay an expensive return for Landeskog. They also have over $59 million invested in next season's payroll. Forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are restricted free agents this summer. Taking on an expensive long-term contract could hurt efforts to re-sign those two. 

Marc-Andre Fleury for Kari Lehtonen?

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Speculation 

    On Feb. 3, Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News proposed the Pittsburgh Penguins trade goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury straight up to the Dallas Stars for Kari Lehtonen. He felt the Stars needed an upgrade in the crease to improve their postseason chances. The playoff-bound Penguins could use Lehtonen in order to protect Matt Murray from the expansion draft. 

                   

    Analysis

    Fleury lost the starter's job to Murray. He carries a no-movement clause, meaning he must be protected in the expansion draft. Kennedy speculated he could accept a trade to a promising club such as the Stars.

    Lehtonen has struggled as the Stars' starting goalie but could be a good short-term backup for Murray. He might waive his modified no-trade clause to join a Stanley Cup contender. 

                 

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction. Not that it's a bad suggestion by Kennedy, but Fleury could refuse to be traded to the Stars. If the Penguins fail to trade him, they can buy him out before the June 17 deadline to submit their list of protected players for the expansion draft. The Penguins could consider Lehtonen an inadequate replacement for Fleury. 

Nashville Predators Interested in Matt Duchene?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Speculation

    On Feb. 1, LeBrun, citing sources, reported Nashville Predators general manager David Poile contacted the Avalanche regarding Matt Duchene. 

                   

    Analysis

    With the Avalanche at the bottom of the standings, they need to shake things up. LeBrun reported a long list of teams had interest in Duchene. Poile has a recent history of making blockbuster moves, acquiring Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban last year in separate deals. 

    The Predators possess good, young defensemen to entice the Avs. Rather than risk losing Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm to the June expansion draft, one of them could be dangled as trade bait to land Duchene.

                     

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fact. Given Poile's previous trade history, it wouldn't be surprising to see him keep a close eye on Duchene's status as the deadline nears. Whether he can pull this off is another matter. The Preds GM has the assets to tempt the Avs, but LeBrun also noted he could be leery of upsetting team chemistry right now. 

Kevin Shattenkirk to the Maple Leafs?

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    Rocky W. Widner/Getty Images

    The Speculation

    On Feb. 1, the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan reported Kevin Shattenkirk was finding it difficult to keep track of all the trade speculation he's appeared in so far. Koshan noted the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the teams linked to the 28-year-old defenseman in the rumor mill.

                

    Analysis

    Toronto needs a skilled puck-moving blueliner. Koshan believed Shattenkirk would be a welcome addition to the Leafs or any other NHL club.

    Shattenkirk is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Among NHL defensemen, he's tied for third in goals (11) with Anaheim's Cam Fowler and sits sixth in points (36).  

                 

    Fact or Fiction?

    Fiction. On Feb. 3, LeBrun reported the Blues were open to a "sign-and-trade" deal with Shattenkirk, but interested clubs only want him as a playoff rental. He doubted the Leafs would part with high-end assets for an expensive short-term acquisition. 

                    

    Player stats (as of Feb. 5) via NHL.com. Salary info via CapFriendly.