The Top NHL Trade Rumors and Speculation at the 2016 All-Star Game Break
With the NHL All-Star Game break (Jan. 28 to Feb. 1) now in effect and the Feb. 29 trade deadline only a month away, there's a notable increase in trade speculation. Several pending unrestricted free agents, like Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson (pictured above), could be dealt if unsigned before the deadline.
Potential free agents aren't the only players who might be moved. Players under contract beyond this season skating for struggling clubs, like Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier, have also surfaced in recent trade speculation.
Here's a look at the top trade rumors and speculation at the NHL All-Star Game break with analysis and potential trade destinations. As always, you can share your views with your fellow fans in the comment section below.
Maple Leafs Goalie Jonathan Bernier Available
The rumor: On Jan. 25, the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle reported the Toronto Maple Leafs are willing to move some players with term remaining on their contracts. One of them is goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who has a year remaining on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $4.15 million.
Analysis: Bernier had a rocky start to this season, including a brief stint in the minors. He's improved in recent weeks, but Mirtle claimed Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had lost confidence in the 27-year-old goalie. Trading him could be difficult, as there's not much of a market for netminders right now.
Potential destinations: None. Bernier's inconsistency and salary for next season make him almost impossible to deal at the trade deadline. Unless a playoff contender loses a goalie to injury between now and deadline day, the Leafs must wait until the summer for Bernier's trade value to improve.
Interest Growing in Montreal Canadiens Center Alex Galchenyuk
The rumor: On Jan. 26, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was contacted by a couple of clubs expressing interest in center Alex Galchenyuk. It's believed Bergevin told them Galchenyuk isn't available.
Analysis: The Canadiens are free-falling in the Eastern Conference standings. Those rival GMs hoped Bergevin was desperate enough to peddle a promising young forward for a quick fix. Friedman also speculated Galchenyuk's inconsistency could test Bergevin's patience. If so, the Habs GM could listen to offers in the offseason.
Potential destinations: Those interested clubs could've been the Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks. Both need affordable offensive depth, though they're likely seeking a more established scorer. The Columbus Blue Jackets could be in the market for a center after shipping out Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators earlier this month.
Jonathan Drouin to the Ottawa Senators?
The rumor: On Jan. 23, Sportsnet's Damien Cox (via colleague Scott Lewis) reported Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray had trade discussions with Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman regarding holdout left wing Jonathan Drouin.
Analysis: As part of his asking price for Drouin, it's believed Yzerman seeks a right-handed defenseman. Cody Ceci would fit the bill, but Cox claimed the Senators' depleted defense means Murray won't part with him. With the Lightning surging in the standings, Yzerman can afford to patiently entertain trade offers.
Potential destinations: The Senators aren't the only team reportedly pursuing the 20-year-old Drouin. On Jan. 24, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch listed the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens among the possible suitors. The New York Rangers could also have interest in Drouin.
Could the Anaheim Ducks Trade Sami Vatanen?
The speculation: In a Jan. 25 appearance on TSN 1260 radio (via Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot), ESPN's Pierre LeBrun pointed out the Anaheim Ducks have an abundance of defensemen. He suggested restricted free agents like Sami Vatanen or Hampus Lindholm could be possible trade candidates.
Analysis: Young blueliners Shea Theodore and Josh Manson are proving NHL-worthy, Simon Despres recently returned from injury, and the sidelined Cam Fowler is due back after the All-Star break. Vatanen's annual salary is $1.262 million. Unlike Lindholm, he has salary-arbitration rights this summer. The Ducks lack scoring and could use Vatanen as bait to land an offensive forward.
Potential destinations: LeBrun speculated Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli could have interest in Vatanen. Another club is the Boston Bruins, who might dangle right wing Loui Eriksson. The Vancouver Canucks could offer up right wing Radim Vrbata. The Colorado Avalanche could also look at Vatanen.
Could the Rangers Ship Keith Yandle Back to the Western Conference?
The speculation: On Jan. 26, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggested the New York Rangers must figure out what to do with pending free-agent defenseman Keith Yandle. If they put him on the trade market, Brooks speculated they could establish a bidding war from several Western Conference teams.
Analysis: Yandle is slated for unrestricted free agency in July. His annual average salary (split between the Rangers and his former team, the Arizona Coyotes) is $5.25 million. Unless the Blueshirts shed salary elsewhere, they cannot afford to re-sign him. If they trade him, they could seek a first-round pick and a physical forward in return.
Possible destinations: Brooks suggested the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild as trade options. The Kings and Sharks, however, lack first-round picks this year. The Blackhawks have limited salary-cap room. Deep in defensemen, the Wild seek a scoring forward. That leaves the Stars, with cap space and young players, as the best bet.
Boston Bruins Could Trade Loui Eriksson
Speculation: On Jan. 25, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reported the Boston Bruins could trade right wing Loui Eriksson. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Haggerty speculated the 30-year-old forward could seek a five- to six-year deal worth $6 million per season. He doubted Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will pay that much.
Analysis: Eriksson is a skilled two-way winger, ranking among the Bruins' top forwards. He also has a concussion history. Should the Bruins put Eriksson on the trade block, Haggerty believes they could pursue a good young defenseman to bolster their blue line.
Potential destinations: Haggerty listed the Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets as possible trade partners. Those clubs possess blue-line depth but need scoring punch up front. The Wild and Ducks are playoff contenders, making them more likely to pursue a rental scorer than the fading Jets. The Nashville Predators could also pursue Eriksson.
Jets to Part Ways with Andrew Ladd?
The speculation: On Jan. 25, TSN's Gary Lawless opined it's time for the Winnipeg Jets to trade left wing Andrew Ladd. He claimed contract talks between the two sides had broken off, suggesting uncertainty over Ladd's status has contributed to the club's struggles. Lawless speculated the Jets could make their 30-year-old captain available on the trade market.
Analysis: It's believed Ladd seeks a six-year deal worth over $6 million annually. On Jan. 26, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman guessed the cost-conscious Jets won't pay that much. If Ladd hits the market before the trade deadline, his skills and playoff experience (including Stanley Cup championships with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and Chicago Blackhawks in 2010) will prove enticing to playoff contenders.
Potential destinations: On Jan. 27, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun speculated the Florida Panthers could be an option. Ladd played for Panthers general manager Dale Tallon during their days with the Blackhawks. The Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils could also come calling.