The Edmonton Oilers’ decision to retain rookie center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the remainder of the season has generated speculation over center Sam Gagner’s future with the club.
With Nugent-Hopkins centering the Oilers’ top line between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and Shawn Horcoff between Ryan Smyth and Ryan Jones on the second line, the Oilers shifted Gagner, formerly their second-line center, to right wing on the third line.
Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News reported scouts “from several teams” had been following the Oilers and suggested Gagner would be moved by the trade deadline, perhaps to the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues, however, appear to have plenty of depth at center with Jason Arnott, Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund.
Mark Everson of The New York Post reported the New Jersey Devils may have contacted the Oilers about Gagner.
The Devils currently have centers Travis Zajac (Achilles tendon) and Jacob Josefson (broken clavicle) sidelined and while Zajac might be back by Christmas, he will need time to get back up to game speed.
Everson claimed “it was said the Oilers would want young defensive prospects from the Devils,” perhaps Matt Taormina or Alexander Urbom. Everson also suggested the window for landing Gagner has likely closed for the time being because of the Oilers’ recent five-game winning streak.
Defense had been a concern for Edmonton at the start of the season, especially with top puck-mover Ryan Whitney sidelined by ankle surgery and now a knee injury, but they’ve tightened up their defensive play throughout October.
As of Nov. 1, the Oilers had the lowest team goals-against average, the fourth-best penalty kill and were tied at 14th with Winnipeg for the fewest average shots against.
They can also thank goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk, who’ve been outstanding in the early going. Entering November, they have the best combined GAA (1.55) and save percentage (.949).
It remains to be seen if Edmonton’s defense can continue its stingy play, but as long as the Oilers are playing well in that category, they’re under no pressure to bolster the blueline.
Which all means Gagner may not be moved until later in the season, if at all.
NEW OWNER, NEW STARS?
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently investigated “rumblings” the Dallas Stars were shopping left winger and team captain Brenden Morrow.
Friedman doubted Morrow was available, pointing out he has a no-trade clause. “Unless things have changed in the last few days,” wrote Friedman, “he hasn’t been asked to waive it.”
Those “rumblings” may have been sparked by the club’s impending purchase by Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi. The change at the top has given rise to suggestions he’ll make sweeping changes akin to those made by Terry Pegula when he purchased the Buffalo Sabres last season.
According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, GM Joe Nieuwendyk doesn’t believe his roster needs to be tampered with at this time.
Nieuwendyk told Heika his message for Gaglardi would be that he likes the roster and wants to give it more time to come together.
That doesn’t rule out a move or two later in the season, but Nieuwendyk wants a longer period to evaluate his club, which entered November perched atop the Pacific Division with an 8-3 record.
MARKSTROM STEALS THE SHOW
Scott Clemmensen might have a difficult time getting back into the Florida Panthers lineup.
The 34-year-old netminder, who lost the opening month of 2011-12 to minor knee surgery, has had his backup role taken over by the promising Jacob Markstrom, whose strong play is challenging Jose Theodore for the starter’s role.
The Miami Herald’s George Richards recently addressed a reader’s question about Clemmensen’s return and future, suggesting he could be back “in a week or two,” and adding he might be sent to their farm club for rehab or be traded.
Markstrom is Miami’s goalie of the future, so forget about him going back to the American League, and they certainly won’t be shopping him. They also want to keep Theodore to mentor Markstrom. If anyone gets moved, it’ll be Clemmensen, who would be of interest to teams seeking depth in goal.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.