Calling Fact or Fiction on the Biggest NHL Trade Rumors
With the NHL All-Star break (Jan. 28 to Feb. 1) fast approaching and the Feb. 29 trade deadline on the horizon, trade rumors are flourishing. Notable stars, like Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (pictured above), could be on the move in the coming weeks.
Not every potential trade candidate is a pending free agent like Byfuglien. Some, like Buffalo Sabres right wing Tyler Ennis, still have term on their contract. There's also increasing interest in the status of suspended Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin.
But how many of the rumors involving these players have basis in fact? Here's a look at the biggest recent NHL trade rumors to determine which ones are fact or fiction. As always, feel free to voice your views in the comments section below.
Montreal Canadiens Interested in Jonathan Drouin?
Rumor: On Jan. 18, CTV's Brian Wilde cited a "strong source" claiming the Montreal Canadiens were making a big push to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. He also reported Canadiens assistant general manager Rick Dudley scouted one of Drouin's AHL games.
Analysis: The Canadiens are tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings. They're struggling to score and in dire need of help. Drouin, despite his demotion and recent suspension, has considerable promise. The Habs, however, are among a number of teams believed to have interest in the 20-year-old left wing.
Fact or fiction: It's a fact the Canadiens need help and have their eye on Drouin. Despite his offensive potential, he's struggled at the NHL level. It's unlikely he'll have an immediate positive effect upon the Habs' anemic offense.
Could the Sabres Ship out Tyler Ennis?
Rumor: On Jan. 13, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray intends to be a seller at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. He cited sources suggesting Murray could listen to offers for versatile center Tyler Ennis.
Analysis: Though he's struggled with injuries this season, Ennis is a former three-time 20-goal scorer. LeBrun noted the 26-year-old Ennis has three seasons left on his contract at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.6 million.
Fact or fiction: Fact. If Murray gets a good offer, he'll move Ennis. It's also a fact that his contract and injury history could make him difficult to deal leading up to the trade deadline. Murray might have to wait until the offseason to find serious takers for Ennis.
Nashville Predators Seek More Scoring
Rumor: Despite the Nashville Predators' recent addition of center Ryan Johansen (pictured above), ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported general manager David Poile would like to add more scoring.
Analysis: Poile told LeBrun his club needed more consistency in its offensive production. He said he's open to making more trades. Even with adding Johansen (seven points in six games with the Preds), they're 20th in scoring. The Predators also slid out of a playoff berth.
Fact or fiction: When a GM goes on record saying he's willing to consider another trade to boost his scoring, that's fact. Having taken on a player with term left on his contract in Johansen, Poile might pursue a rental player. Among his targets could be Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal and Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd.
Wild Could Deal a Defenseman for a Forward
Rumor: On Jan. 16, StarTribune.com's Michael Russo reported the Minnesota Wild could move a defenseman for a scoring forward. He noted Jonas Brodin was offered to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen, who was eventually dealt to the Nashville Predators. Matt Dumba was mentioned in trade rumors involving Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin.
Analysis: Russo noted Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher claimed multiple times he'd draw from his blue-line depth as trade bait for a forward. The Wild are in the bottom third in scoring and haven't won many games this month.
Fact or fiction: Fact. Fletcher isn't tipping his hand, but it's obvious his club needs some additional scoring punch. He'll draw upon his defensive depth to get it. Fletcher isn't afraid to wheel and deal to help his club. Last January, his acquisition of goaltender Devan Dubnyk saved the Wild's season.
Will the Rangers Trade Keith Yandle?
Rumor: On Jan. 20, the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard reported New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle's eligibility for free agency this summer makes him a trade candidate. Leonard doubted the Rangers can afford to re-sign the 29-year-old blueliner, who'll command a raise over his current $5.25 million annual average salary.
Analysis: Leonard noted Yandle's value on the trade market, as well as to the Rangers. If they should improve in the standings, he speculated Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton could retain the puck-moving defenseman. Yandle told Leonard he doesn't want to be traded, but he lacks a no-trade clause.
Fact or fiction: It's a fact Gorton could try to trade Yandle for a decent return if the Rangers slide further in the standings before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. If they improve, Gorton could hang onto Yandle for the playoffs, even at the risk of losing him to free agency.
Oilers Shopping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
Rumor: On Jan. 15, Sportnet's Mark Spector cited "multiple sources" claiming the Edmonton Oilers offered center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones. Jones was eventually dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Analysis: The Oilers lack skilled depth among their top-four defense. Spector suggested this means Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli believed Nugent-Hopkins was the expendable core player who could attract the best return. On Jan. 20, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun speculated the Oilers were listening to offers but weren't shopping the young center.
Fact or fiction: It's a fact the Oilers need blue-line help and Nugent-Hopkins seems the most expendable of their young forwards. He recently suffered a serious hand injury, sidelining him for six-to-eight weeks. As LeBrun suggested, that should put a damper on the Nugent-Hopkins trade talk.
Could the Sharks Deal Patrick Marleau Before the Trade Deadline?
Rumor: On Jan. 20, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau's "kind-of-trade request" hasn't gone away. With the blessing of Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, Marleau's agent is quietly exploring the trade market.
Analysis: In November, it was reported Marleau's preferred trade options were the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. LeBrun speculated there's no guarantee the 36-year-old Marleau will be moved before the trade deadline. That kind of deal might have to wait until the offseason.
Fact or fiction: Fiction. Marleau won't be moved before the trade deadline. He's an aging star carrying a $6.6 million annual salary cap hit through 2016-17. Broadening his trade options won't help him find a trade partner before Feb. 29.
Capitals Could Target Dustin Byfuglien.
Rumor: On Jan. 18, Elliotte Friedman (stick tap to Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot) told Sportsnet 960 radio he believed it's still possible the Washington Capitals could pursue Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.
Analysis: Friedman reminded listeners that, several weeks ago, he reported the Capitals might go after Byfuglien if defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower-body injury) remained sidelined. While the Capitals are comfortably atop the Eastern Conference standings, Friedman thinks they're looking to add to their roster. Byfuglien carries a salary-cap hit of $5.2 million.
Fact or fiction: Unless the Capitals can free up salary-cap space for Byfuglien, this one is fiction. While the Capitals have over $5 million in cap space, much of that is due to Orpik being on long-term injured reserve. They must ensure sufficient cap room for Orpik's anticipated return later this season.