Monday is back with another dose of NHL Rumours. The trade deadline is only a week away so expect a flurry of activity from the league’s top contenders. Last Word on Hockey will bring the best news and analysis each day. Today’s rumours feature the Vegas Golden Knights, Philadelphia Flyers, and Florida Panthers.
Vegas Golden Knights
Rumour: Chris Johnston of Sportsnet revealed in Saturday’s Rumour Roundup segment that the Golden Knights are scouting the Los Angeles Kings for a possible trade.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 15, 2020
Analysis: The Golden Knights currently sit in third with the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks ahead of them just barely in the Pacific Division. They have the most complete team but could use a veteran boost to their blueline. Alec Martinez is not as effective as he was when the Kings were dominating the league but would benefit from playing with better teammates in Vegas.
The 32-year-old Martinez has just one goal and eight points in 40 games. His shot rate is consistent with his career average but Martinez is converting those shots at an all-time low. His career shooting percentage is seven percent but he is scoring on just 1.8 percent of shots in 2019-20. The Kings also have one of the worst offences in the league so moving Martinez next to scorers like Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault would let him accumulate points via assists much more easily.
Acquiring Martinez would also let Vegas demote 23-year-old Zach Whitecloud. Whitecloud could be a decent bottom-pairing defender eventually but the Golden Knights would rather have a more experienced blueliner for the playoffs. The team has several other offensively-challenged defenders but Martinez represents one of the better options on the trade market.
Rumour: Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic recently dove deep on what the Flyers could do as the deadline approaches.
Analysis: The Flyers are still within striking distance of the playoffs despite having one of the most challenging seasons of any NHL team. They are just one point back of the New York Islanders for a guaranteed spot representing the Metropolitan Division. They’ve been hit with some tragic absences but are still in a good position to return to the playoffs after missing them in 2018-19.
The problem is Philadelphia does not have much cap space to improve. They would have to ship someone away if they wanted to add a significant piece for a playoff run. Shayne Gostisbehere has been a frequent target of rumours but is still on the team with a big contract. It is unlikely he goes anywhere before the season is done. It is more likely the search for a player under contract past next season that also doesn’t cost much money.
The ideal Flyers target could be Ondrej Kase of the Anaheim Ducks. Kase has a cap hit of only $2.6 million so Philadelphia could squeeze him onto its payroll without giving up too much. He would also give the team an inexpensive top-nine scoring punch despite multiple injuries in recent seasons. The Flyers have several high-end forwards on injured reserve or in the minors. Adding Kase would reinforce the current squad until the others are healthy and ready.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Matheson is having another respectable season for the Panthers. The former first-round pick has seven goals and 19 points in 50 games. He is on target for another 25-30 point campaign and will count only $4.87 million against the salary cap through 2025-26. Matheson will be 32 when the deal finally expires.
That sort of cost-controlled player is attractive to teams. His contract is much longer than teams like to give for players but it’s not large enough to financially cripple a front office. Florida also has a fairly deep blue line that gives them the ability to shop an expendable asset for more offence. The Panthers are locked in a tight Atlantic Division battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Moving defence for offence makes sense if the front office feels it can make a strong playoff run.
One team willing to accept a large contract might be the Los Angeles Kings. The two organizations could do one-for-one involving Tyler Toffoli. The cap hits are almost the same. Matheson would also give the Kings a young, effective defender as they execute their rebuild. The Kings will want more than just a defender for their best trade chip but Matheson would be a good starting point in negotiations.