Hello and welcome to a regular Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! The trade deadline is only a month or so away and teams are busy planning. Rosters are constantly changing due to injuries and illnesses, which means there could be plenty happening over the next few weeks. Check with Last Word on Hockey frequently for the best analysis and fastest news. The NHL rumours for today feature the Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Buffalo Sabres.
Rumour: Murat Ates of The Athletic recently dove into what Winnipeg might due at the deadline this season.
Analysis: The Jets are definitely one of the more interesting teams in the NHL this year. They traded a star early and have one of the least productive bluelines in hockey. It’s a top-heavy squad that needs Vezina-calibre performances if it’s to stay in second place in the North Division for the remainder of the year. It makes sense that they might look for reinforcements.
The team has roughly $3.705 million according to CapFriendly, but trading a current skater would push that slightly higher. They could be looking at between $4 and $5 million for an acquisition. That gives them a reasonably large pool of players they could target. The most likely addition would be on the blueline as that is easily the weakest spot in terms of production.
The best defenceman that Winnipeg should target is Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old has strong possession stats and is contributing at a good rate with four goals and nine points in 16 games. He would immediately contend for one of Winnipeg’s secondary power-play spots and provide solid penalty-killing ability as well. It also makes sense to target someone like Brandon Montour as a possible rental if the Sabres start blowing up their roster. They are just two options that could supplement a roster exceeding expectations. Winnipeg doesn’t need a star, just a solid body who can play in multiple situations.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline recently had a mailbag that discussed what Columbus could do as the deadline approaches.
Analysis: Columbus is in an interesting spot. They were the other half of the big trade with Winnipeg, but have very little from Pierre-Luc Dubois to show for it. Jack Roslovic has been the big story while the Jackets try to battle their way to fourth place in the Central Division. It seems like something will happen as this is not an organization that hesitates when an upgrade is possible.
The team is still weak down the middle at centre and could flip one of several goalies for help at that spot. They have three goalies who have varying amounts of NHL experience. One might be an interesting target in the upcoming expansion draft. One of them could net Columbus what it needs to push for the playoffs. Either Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins could be on the block since they both reach free agency at the same time.
One possible trade partner could be the Calgary Flames. They could lose David Rittich after this year and don’t have an obvious backup for Jacob Markstrom. In return, Columbus could look at Sam Bennett. The former fourth overall pick from 2014 seems unlikely to remain with the team through this year. His stats aren’t overwhelming, but he is a gritty centre that might fit in John Tortorella’s system. Bennett is an average possession forward who might just need a change of scenery to reignite his career.
Rumour: Chris Johnston of Sportsnet indicated that forward Jack Eichel has not yet requested a trade.
Kevyn Adams says Jack Eichel hasn't requested a trade. They have an open line of communication.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 5, 2021
Analysis: Eichel might not have requested a trade yet, but he won’t be able to do much if they do decide to trade the talented skater. His contract has zero trade protection. He must also wait until the 2022-23 season for a No Movement clause to activate. It leaves him with relatively little leverage for a star player.
It’s not as though he needs to request a trade either as the team might see him with more value as a trade chip than as an active contributor. The team is last in the East Division at 6-12-3 despite Eichel’s two goals and 16 points in 19 games. This is a player that has never failed to post at least 56 points in a season of any length. Buffalo has simply failed to make the playoffs during his tenure. It certainly feels like a prime time to flip a player who is under control for five more seasons during his peak years.
The Sabres should theoretically be able to extract a huge return for someone of Eichel’s calibre. His scoring rate through six seasons is higher than many including Matt Duchene, who was part of one of the biggest trades in Colorado Avalanche history. That deal helped transform the Avs into their current form. Buffalo should absolutely consider something similar like multiple high picks or interesting prospects. Eichel’s contract is cumbersome if the salary ceiling stays flat, but Buffalo could retain part of it in order to extract even more value. He’s good enough that a trade return could completely change the franchise’s future.
That does it for this edition of NHL Rumours. Stay tuned for a fresh set of rumours on Monday.
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