The NHL season is midway through and things are heating up. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the mid-season. As long as NHL rumours remain around, Last Word on Hockey will look to keep fans up to date. Today, we’ll cover rumours surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, and Buffalo Sabres.
Rumour: In their latest edition of Insider Trading, the TSN Crew noted that the Hurricanes may be looking to deal away a defenceman to reel in a top-nine forward.
Analysis: Among the names mentioned was Jake Gardiner. This comes as no real surprise. Gardiner has disappointed so far in Carolina, notching only eight points in 35 games. It’s been a far cry from the offensive potential he boasts, especially on such an offensively-potent team like Carolina. The Hurricanes currently rank third in the league in goals-for, with 116, but Gardiner hasn’t been apart of most of those. Instead of living up to his expectations, he’s squandering them.
With that said, Gardiner still has the most value of the defencemen that Carolina would willingly trade. He’s only two seasons removed from a career-high 52 point season and was on pace for 40 points last year. The move to Carolina has clearly stunted him but not beyond repair. Any team that’s even remotely looking at defencemen should take a stab at Gardiner. He boasts great scoring ability and has a very cheap contract, setting a cap hit of only $4.05 million over the next four seasons. Dealing Gardiner would surely bring in a strong top-nine forward and more.
Rumours: In a recent Q/A with The Athletic, Ryan S. Clark mentioned that the Avalanche may be one of these teams looking for a defenceman, simply to bolster their already strong group and help provide more options in the face of injuries that have plagued them this year.
Analysis: After missing out of the dramatic Taylor Hall sweepstakes, Colorado isn’t tucking their tails between their legs. General manager Joe Sakic has been known to be a fairly boisterous member of any looming NHL rumours. It seems he may pounce on what the Insider Trading crew noted as a very exciting group of defencemen on the trade block.
Gardiner is the clear headliner of this group and could prove to be a truly amazing addition to the Avalanche. The team boasts one of the best offensive abilities in the entire league and adding a cheap, 50-point-potential defenseman to their lineup could be especially deadly. Furthermore, Gardiner could surely slot in alongside rookie Cale Makar, who plays a similarly potent style to Gardiner. Together, the pairing would pose a larger offensive threat than most team’s forward lines. Gardiner would also provide great mentorship to the young player as he finishes off his likely Calder Trophy-winning season.
If not Gardiner, Colorado would have plenty of other options in the trade market. Carolina is rumoured to be offering up a few other defencemen and the Sabres have had a trio of defencemen on their trade block for a few months now. Both teams, however, are desperately seeking top-nine help that may cause Colorado to break up what’s been a truly tremendous group of forwards.
Rumour: While everyone knows that Buffalo is actively shopping around Zach Bogosian, in exchange for a top-nine forward, but Joe Yerdon’s latest piece provides a likely return package in any potential Bogosian trade.
Analysis: Buffalo needs to make a change, and fast. They fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in an embarrassing 6-1 loss recently. With captain Jack Eichel succumbing to injury and losing his 17-game point streak as a result, the Sabres are desperate for more options at forward. Forwards Jeff Skinner, Marcus Johansson, and Victor Olofsson have proven to be threats offensively but not enough to make up for Eichel’s absence. To truly make an impact, the Sabres need to make a more valiant push towards bringing in new talent.
In his piece, Yerdon mentions that any return package will likely come with a contract that looks very similar to Bogosian’s own. Currently, the defenceman sits on a deal that expires this upcoming summer and boasts a cap-hit of $5.15 million. There are only five players in the league with a similar deal ($5 million-or-more cap hit and expiring this summer). Of those five, only one is a reasonable-ish return for Bogosian and, luckily, he’s also on the trade block.
The New Jersey Devils have been rumoured to be shopping around a lot of their older pending-UFAs. This includes the dangerous-but-struggling Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds proved to be one of the better goal-scorers in the league in earlier seasons. This year, he only has 12 points in 33 games. Still, he has seven seasons of over 20 goals under his belt and could provide a defiant spark to the Sabres top-six.
The only issue is that Simmonds does not play centre. He would need to slot in on Buffalo’s second-line right-wing, leaving Johansson stuck at the centre position. As Yerdon mentions, this isn’t an ideal situation by any means. It seems to be the only one available for Buffalo, though. Simmonds has plenty to offer the club and would come at a fairly cheap price. While the Sabres will need to include picks or a prospect alongside Bogosian, it wouldn’t take much for them to win over Simmonds from New Jersey. If given the chance, the Sabres need to jump on any potential trade. Yet, general manager Jason Botterill has been notoriously quiet with trades despite the swirling rumours.