INTEREST IN KREIDER GROWING
Soon after the New Jersey Devils traded Taylor Hall to Arizona in December, Chris Kreider became the most-discussed player in the NHL rumor mill. The 28-year-old left winger is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. While there’s speculation the Rangers could attempt to re-sign Kreider, it’s expected he’ll be shopped to the highest bidder by the trade deadline.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported last week that at least eight clubs have expressed interest in Kreider. While he didn’t name them, the Blueshirts winger has been linked to the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights.
LeBrun believes the Rangers could seek a return similar to what they got from the Jets (young NHL player and a first-round draft pick) for Kevin Hayes last year. The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro thinks it could cost two conditional draft picks. That’s what the Stars shipped to the Rangers at last year’s deadline for winger Mats Zuccarello.
JETS EYEING A REPLACEMENT FOR BYFUGLIEN?
Months of uncertainty regarding Dustin Byfuglien’s status with the Winnipeg Jets could be ending soon. On Monday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli cited multiple sources indicating the two sides were working toward a mutual contract termination.
Byfuglien, 34, was suspended without pay by the Jets last fall after failing to report to training camp. In November, the blueliner’s representatives filed a grievance against the suspension. He also underwent ankle surgery and reportedly hasn’t resumed skating.
A contract termination would bring an end to Byfuglien’s suspension and grievance. Once they reach an agreement on the term, he would become an unrestricted free agent after clearing unconditional waivers. He would also forfeit the remainder of his contract, which expires at the end of 2020-21.
If Byfuglien intends on returning to action this season with another NHL club, he’ll have to sign a new contract before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. That seems unlikely, given the status of his ankle.
The move would come at an opportune time for the Jets. With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, terminating Byfuglien’s contract would clear his $7.6-million annual average salary from their cap payroll. With his club battling to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could use the savings to bolster his roster.
LeBrun reported last Thursday that the Jets were in the market for a top-four defenseman. LeBrun said it could be a rental player or one with term remaining on his contract.
According to Seravalli, Jets coach Paul Maurice last Friday said paying a high price for a rental wouldn’t make much sense. He prefers adding someone who will be around beyond this season.
If Cheveldayoff shares Maurice’s opinion, Matt Dumba would be a tempting target. The Minnesota Wild blueliner has come up in recent media trade chatter. He’s signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $6 million.
The Wild, however, might set a high price for the 25-year-old Dumba. They could also be reluctant to send him to their northern rival. Other options could include the Anaheim Ducks’ Josh Manson, the Los Angeles Kings’ Alec Martinez and the Montreal Canadiens’ Jeff Petry.
ANDERSON ON THE BLOCK?
This season’s been difficult for Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Josh Anderson. After netting a career-high 47 points in 2018-19, he’s been limited by injuries to just four points in 26 games. He remains on injured reserve, but is expected to draw back into the lineup soon.
Despite his struggles, the 25-year-old Anderson has surfaced in recent trade chatter. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports teams have had an interest in the winger for some time.
Portzline believes Anderson’s contract status is behind the trade talk. Following difficult negotiations with Jackets management in 2017, he agreed to a three-year deal worth $1.85 million annually. He’ll gain leverage this summer as a restricted free agent with salary arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility.
Blessed with size and decent offensive skills, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound Anderson is an intimidating physical presence. TVA Sports cited BostonHockeyNow’s Jimmy Murphy reporting the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens were among those looking into the big winger’s availability.
With the Jackets jockeying for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, GM Jarmo Kekalainen could peddle Anderson for depth elsewhere in his lineup. Considering the winger’s RFA status, however, Kekalainen could keep him for the playoffs and shop him in the off-season if contract talks become contentious.
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