With Matt Duchene’s situation still up in the air, could the Canucks be the last to enter trade talks with the Avalanche? Meanwhile, the Capitals are seeking help on the back end and the Flames are keeping a close eye on Sam Bennett.
In the never-ending trade speculation surrounding Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, the Vancouver Canucks were recently mentioned as a possible suitor. Last weekend, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported there’s talk the Canucks could get into the bidding, suggesting blueline prospect Olli Juolevi might interest the Avs.
According to Kypreos, the Avs seek as many as three pieces (a current player, draft pick and blue-chip prospect) for Duchene. Juolevi, 19, was the Canucks first-round selection (fifth overall) in last year’s NHL Draft. While Kypreos said there’s a sense Juolevi isn’t NHL-ready yet, the young Finn has the all-around potential to become a top-pairing defenseman. The Province’s Jason Botchford, however, dismisses the notion of the Canucks trading the promising Juolevi in a package deal for Duchene. While they’re in the market for a center, Botchford said they’re not about to move the youngster for a soon-to-be 27-year-old center.
With Canucks management finally committed to a full-fledged roster rebuild, it’s unlikely they’ll trade away players with promising upside for short-term relief. Besides, they’re up against the cap ceiling and would have to ship out over $6 million to make room for Duchene’s contract. Assuming the Canucks are interested in Duchene, acquiring him could be risky. He’s eligible in July 2019 for unrestricted free agency. If the Canucks are still rebuilding by then, he could depart for greener pastures as a free agent.
CAPITALS SEEKING BLUELINER
Expect the Washington Capitals to swing a trade for a defenseman at some point this season. Their blueline depth took a significant hit last summer, losing Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner to free agency and Nate Schmidt to the expansion draft. Having big-minute defender Matt Niskanen sidelined with an upper-body injury only exacerbates the problem.
The difference can be seen in their shots-against per game. Last season, the Caps gave up the fourth-fewest (27.8). Ten games into this season, it’s 32.7. They’re trying to manage with journeyman Taylor Chorney and rookies Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos. With just one win in their last five games entering Saturday’s tilt against the Edmonton Oilers, making do isn’t working.
Matt Larkin recently suggested the Capitals, who are in “win-now” mode, should shop promising goaltender Ilya Samsonov plus some “B-grade pieces” to land a skilled defenseman. That didn’t sit well with NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Regan, who points out trading away their top prospects won’t help the cap-strapped Capitals land immediate blueline relief. The Capitals were already bumping up against the $75-million cap ceiling before Niskanen was placed on long-term injury reserve. To suitably address their defensive needs, they’ll likely have to ship out a salaried player. They’ll also likely target an affordable blueliner.
In a recent mailbag segment, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen was asked if Tampa Bay Lighning rearguard Andrej Sustr might be a good fit. Rosen felt it was realistic, especially as Sustr’s cap hit this season is $1.95 million. However, he questions if the 26-year-old would be a significant upgrade for the Caps.
BENNETT’S STRUGGLES SPARK TRADE TALK
The ongoing struggles of Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett is sparking some conjecture over his future in the Stampede City. The former first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft was held pointless in his first 10 games this season. He’s no longer centering their third line, having been shifted to left wing to make way for Mark Jankowski.
Only 21, Bennett still has plenty of time to develop into a quality NHL forward. His difficulties this season, however, has some Flames fans wondering if he’ll become a trade candidate.
In a recent mailbag segment, The Athletic’s Kent Wilson was asked about Bennett’s trade value. Citing the winger’s age and affordable contract ($1.95-million annually through 2018-19), Wilson thinks there would be lots of interest in the youngster. However, the longer Bennett’s struggles continue, the more his value declines.
Another reader proposed swapping Bennett for Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk. Wilson acknowledged that move “on paper” might make sense for both clubs but doesn’t see it happening yet. Despite Galchenyuk’s offensive difficulties this season, he’s a proven scorer, whereas Bennett has yet to fully develop as an NHL player.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin already stated he’s not giving up on Galchenyuk. The Flames also appear to be staying patient with Bennett. But if his performance doesn’t improve soon, he could start popping up more frequently in media trade chatter.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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