NHL Rumours: New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and Ilya Kovalchuk

NHL Rumours

Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours brought to you by the crew at Last Word on Hockey. Daily, we will bring you the hottest rumours around the league and provide analysis on each and every one of them. With the holiday trade freeze and the first domino in Taylor Hall falling, NHL rumours are heating up. Today, we have rumours from the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and rumours involving Ilya Kovalchuk who recently became an unrestricted free agent.

All NHL rumours come from their original sources and are subject to change.

NHL Rumours

New York Rangers

Rumour: On TSN’s Insider Trading, Darren Dreger states that now that Taylor Hall is off the market, the next domino to fall will most likely be Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers.

Analysis: Yet another team from the Metropolitan Division looking to move one of their scoring wingers. Kreider has been in the rumour mill leading back to last season. He is a big body who possesses excellent skating abilities. He is also a proven 20 plus goal scorer. Kreider brings a physical aspect to his game which is extremely valuable during a long gruelling playoff series. Contending teams will certainly look to add him before this year’s deadline.

One team that has been mentioned multiple times to have an interest in Kreider is the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have been looking to upgrade their top six to add secondary scoring outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Kreider would certainly provide that. The issue the Oilers face, however, is the cap space. They would need the Rangers to retain salary on Kreider as well as potentially take on a contract like that of say Brandon Manning or better again Kris Russell.

The Oilers have a ton of pending free agents at the end of the season and if they did manage to acquire Kreider, they would most certainly like to try to hang on to him. Moving $4 million off the books by eliminating Russell’s contract would certainly help their cause.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: Speaking of the Oilers, Bob McKenzie mentions on Insider Trading that the Oilers have begun preliminary talks with both Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian. Both players are set to become free agents at the end of the season. 

Analysis: Both Nurse and Kassian have proven to be extremely important pieces to the Oilers line up and the Oilers definitely want to keep them around long term. However, cap space poses an issue in doing that. As McKenzie mentions, Kassian playing on McDavid’s wing has certainly increased his offensive production. Kassian currently has 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 33 games. He is just six points shy of his career-best, in 40 fewer games. He will most certainly smash those totals this season, warranting giving him a multi-year contract extension. However, what the annual salary will be is hard to say given it’s being based on one season.

Nurse, on the other hand, is a completely different story altogether. Nurse will become a restricted free agent, who will not have UFA status for another two seasons. McKenzie mentions he most certainly wants to stay in Edmonton but it is hard to say what kind of extension he will be looking to sign. A long-term deal will certainly drive up the AAV. Given the Oilers’ cap troubles, this might not be the best way to conduct business. It may be best to sign Nurse to a shorter bridge-type deal until they can straighten away their cap. The downfall then, of course, is bringing him into UFA status where he can walk if he just so chooses. Big decisions on the horizon for the Oilers.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Rumour: In a tweet from Igor Eronko he states that Ilya Kovalchuk wants to play for a contender and would be ok with taking the league minimum salary. He mentions the Boston Bruins are interested. Darren Dreger follows up that tweet by stating that Kovalchuk has a good few options and that Kovalchuk wants to get back playing as soon as possible.

Analysis: So the Kovalchuk experiment did not work for the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings took a nosedive over the past couple of years and are currently the worst team in the Western Conference. Given that Kovalchuk had signed a massive three-year deal worth $6.25 million per season that the Kings were clearly never going to be able to move, it was best for the two parties to part ways.

However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While Kovalchuk is not the player he used to be, he is still a capable goal scorer who can help out any team’s powerplay. Before being told he would not be dressing for the Kings anymore this season, Kovalchuk had produced three goals and six assists for nine points in 17 games. Not horrible numbers for the ageing winger. This could be drawn up as just a poor fit for the Kings or that Kovalchuk has indeed slowed down. I mean, he should be, he’s 36 years old. No one should expect him to produce the way he did prior to moving to the KHL in the 2013-14 season.

Steal of an Acquisition?

Something to think about. It was only two years ago that Kovalchuk scored 31 goals and 63 points in 53 games in the KHL. While the calibre of hockey may not be as good, it’s still impressive. There is a chance that Kovalchuk is still capable of producing solid numbers and being an absolute steal of an acquisition for a contending team. He certainly thinks so, as he is willing to take the league minimum to stay in the NHL and prove it in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup.

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