A report from the New York Post speculating trade talk between the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers sparked considerable buzz in hockey circles.
Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail suggests Oilers GM Craig MacTavish could be desperate to make a season-saving trade, especially after promising bold moves during his introductory press conference last April.
MacTavish’s Oilers desperately need skilled blueline depth, while the indefinite absence of winger Rick Nash (concussion) is hurting the Rangers offense.
Duhatschek noted the Rangers have a nucleus of big-minute defensemen in Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto, while the Oilers have a couple of skilled wingers in veteran Ales Hemsky and sophomore Nail Yakupov.
He also cited the “great relationship” between Sather and several members of the Oilers front office (MacTavish, president of hockey ops Kevin Lowe and special adviser Mark Messier) as a possible factor in talks between the two clubs.
At first blush, the Rangers and Oilers seem to be a good fit as trade partners, but a closer look at their needs suggests otherwise.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos proposed a swap of Yakupov for Del Zotto, but he wondered if that would be enough of a return for the 20-year-old Oilers winger.
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal dismissed that idea, pointing out the Oilers have enough puck-moving blueliners on the roster (Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry) and within their system (Oscar Klefbom, Phil Larsen, Taylor Fedun).
The Rangers won’t part with Ryan McDonagh (who signed a six-year, $28.2-million extension last summer) or Marc Staal. Dan Girardi is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, but it’s believed they want to re-sign him.
That leaves Del Zotto, a restricted free agent – with arbitration rights – this summer. His contentious contract negotiations last year doesn’t bode well for his future with the Blueshirts. Del Zotto could be available, but he won’t address the Oilers defensive needs.
Staples’ colleague Jim Matheson suggests the Rangers might consider shipping winger Chris Kreider to the Oilers if Yakupov were part of the return. He feels the big, fast-skating Kreider is “exactly what the Oilers need,” but notes his attributes are also what the Rangers need.
Kreider was considered trade bait when he began the season with the Rangers’ American League farm team, but he has seven points in eight games since his call-up Oct. 20, which could make Sather reluctant to shop him.
Staples and Matheson believe the Oilers are offering Hemsky over Yakupov, though his $5-million salary means the Rangers would have to free up cap space to acquire him.
Rumors of the Oilers shipping Yakupov to the Rangers reached a fever pitch on Wednesday, prompting MacTavish and coach Dallas Eakins to publicly dismiss them.
That leaves Hemsky as the likely trade candidate. He’s a skilled playmaker, but the Rangers need a true sniper, especially if Nash remains sidelined.
The Oilers and Rangers could soon make moves to address their needs, but at this point it’s doubtful they’ll deal with each other.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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