Calling Fact or Fiction on the Latest NHL Trade Rumors and Speculation

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2015

Calling Fact or Fiction on the Latest NHL Trade Rumors and Speculation

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    The NHL's holiday trade-freeze period (Dec. 19-27) is nearly upon us. That's led to an increase in trade rumors and speculation over where some players, such as Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal (pictured above), could be dealt at some point this season. As always, we must determine whether they're based in fact or fiction.

    Some of the trade chatter concerns potential unrestricted free agents like Staal. A few discussions deal with players due to become restricted free agents next summer, such as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. There are also trade talks regarding players with term remaining on their contracts, like New York Islanders blueliner Travis Hamonic.

    The following slideshow will sift through the latest NHL trade rumors and speculation to determine which ones are based in fact or fiction. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below. 

Will the Florida Panthers Shop Brandon Pirri?

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Rumor: On Dec. 15, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Florida Panthers were receiving inquiries about forward Brandon Pirri. He noted the 24-year-old Pirri netted 22 goals last season, though he's on pace for less than that now. 

    Analysis: The Panthers are currently among the league's lowest-scoring teams. Friedman believes that could make them leery of parting with Pirri. He's a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. There's probably interest in Pirri. However, the Panthers won't part with a potential 20-goal scorer unless they can land a more reliable offensive forward.

Could the Capitals Trade Marcus Johansson?

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Rumor: On Dec. 12, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman (via colleague Joe Pack) reported there are teams that have contacted the Washington Capitals expressing interest in left wing Marcus Johansson

    Analysis: Friedman claimed the Capitals are assessing forward Andre Burakovsky to see if he has top-six potential before moving Johansson. They have limited cap space for this season and in 2016-17. Johansson, 25, is due to become a restricted free agent next summer and possesses arbitration rights. He's making $3.75 million this season and could seek a big raise. 

    Fact or fiction: Fact, though it'll depend on the play of Burakovsky, who is struggling this season. Johansson is a consistent 20-goal, 40-point player. However, the Capitals could use some cap room this season, perhaps for other additions if necessary.

Jonathan Bernier to the Calgary Flames?

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Speculation: Sportsnet's Luke Fox wondered if the Calgary Flames could acquire Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier via trade. He cited colleague Chris Johnston's report a month ago claiming the two clubs discussed a possible deal for Bernier. He also noted Flames president Brian Burke and general manager Brad Treliving attended the Leafs' recent game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

    Analysis: Burke and Treliving couldn't have liked what they saw of Bernier in that game, who gave up five goals on 22 shots. The 27-year-old netminder has yet to win a game this season. He recently spent a couple of weeks in the minors on a conditioning stint. Bernier also has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.15 million. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. Maybe the Flames had some interest in Bernier earlier in the season, but his stock has dropped significantly now. They need goaltending help, but Bernier's not the answer. With a number of key players to re-sign next summer, the last thing the Flames need is to be saddled with Bernier's contract.

Is Anaheim Ducks Defenseman Sami Vatanen on the Block?

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Rumor: On Dec. 13, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported there was talk Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray was listening to trade offers for defenseman Sami Vatanen

    Analysis: The Ducks are this season's lowest-scoring team, prompting speculation they could draw upon their blue-line depth for a scoring forward. The 24-year-old Vatanen is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. He'll be in line for a big raise over his current $1.275 million salary for this season. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. Vatanen's arguably the Ducks' best all-around defenseman this season. Dealing him in a panicky trade for what could be a short-sighted offensive fix will do more harm than good in the long run.

Could the Philadelphia Flyers Trade Mark Streit?

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Speculation: On Dec. 13, the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac suggested the Philadelphia Flyers trade defenseman Mark Streit

    Analysis: Isaac noted the currently sidelined Streit will soon be coming off long-term injured reserve and rejoining the Flyers. His $5.25 million salary-cap hit means they'll have no room to retain rookie blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere, who's been playing very well thus far. Trading Streit would free up sufficient cap room to keep Gostisbehere in the lineup. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. Streit, 38, is signed through next season and carries a partial no-trade clause. It would be difficult to move him at this point in the season. Isaac also suggested the demotion of forward Scott Laughton, who, like Gostisbehere, doesn't have to pass through waivers to be demoted. That's a more likely option than trading Streit. 

Radim Vrbata to the Florida Panthers?

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Speculation: On Dec. 11, NBC Sports' Mike Halford cited a Fox Sports Florida interview with Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon admitting he'd like to add a scorer. Halford suggests Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata could be an option.

    Analysis: Halford noted the 34-year-old Vrbata is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. He also pointed out the two-time 30-goal scorer has ties with Tallon stretching back to their days with the Chicago Blackhawks. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. Though Vrbata tallied 31 goals last season, his production is well down in 2015-16. Tallon could find better options near the Feb. 29 trade deadline. While the Canucks are struggling of late, they remain in the midst of the Western Conference wild-card playoff chase. Unless they fall completely out of contention, Vrbata won't be dealt. 

Could the Columbus Blue Jackets Land Travis Hamonic?

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Rumor: On Dec. 13, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was believed to be trying to see if he could acquire New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic.

    Analysis: Hamonic, 24, requested a trade last summer for personal reasons to be closer to his home in Manitoba. Garrioch notes Kekalainen's been in the market for a defenseman for some time. 

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. Not that Kekalainen probably isn't interested, but the Blue Jackets won't fit Hamonic's needs. Even Garrioch acknowledged distance is an issue. The Islanders also want a comparable blueliner in return, which the Blue Jackets don't have. 

Tyson Barrie to the Vancouver Canucks?

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Speculation: On Dec. 15, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested the Vancouver Canucks could be a good fit for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie if the Avs aren't able to re-sign him. Friedman suggested a couple of package offers from the Canucks with promising forward Jake Virtanen the centerpiece. 

    Analysis: Barrie, 24, is due to become a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. His current salary-cap hit is $2.6 million, but he's earning $3.2 million in actual salary. As the Avs' best puck-moving defenseman, he'll likely seek a big raise. Friedman believes the Canucks are in need of a defenseman.

    Fact or fiction: Fiction. The Avalanche defense corps needs all the help it can get. With forwards Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly having departed via free agency and trade, the last thing the Avs need is another notable player heading out the door. The Canucks are also unlikely to trade one of their most promising young forwards. 

Eric Staal to Be Dealt at the Trade Deadline?

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    Speculation: On Dec. 11, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman (via colleague Daniel Goffenberg) predicted Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal will be traded this season. He claimed colleague Nick Kypreos would love to see the Montreal Canadiens pursue him, while Friedman suggested the Nashville Predators could be interested.

    Analysis: Staal, 31, is carrying an $8.25 million salary-cap hit this season ($9.5 million in actual salary) with a full no-trade clause. Unless Staal is willing to accept a considerable pay cut on a much shorter contract, the Hurricanes could part ways with him. 

    Fact or fiction: Fact. If Staal isn't re-signed before the Feb. 29 trade deadline, the Hurricanes could shop him. He's struggled in recent years, but there's bound to be a team willing to bet a change of scenery will do him good. The Canadiens and Predators need skilled depth at forward to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup next spring. Both clubs have young players and prospects to use as trade bait. 

Steven Stamkos to the Montreal Canadiens?

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Speculation: On Dec. 15, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested the Montreal Canadiens could be a good trade destination for Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

    Analysis: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has a history of bold moves for top-quality playoff rental players at the NHL trade deadline. While Stamkos carries a full no-movement clause, Friedman speculated he could waive it to play alongside old friend P.K. Subban. 

    Fact or fiction. Fiction. Even Friedman doubted Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will trade Stamkos to a division rival and potential playoff opponent. If Bergevin seeks a first-line forward at the trade deadline, he'll have to consider other options. 

    Player and team stats via Salary and payroll information via General Fanager.

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