The Canadiens could continue to shuffle their blueline by moving out Nathan Beaulieu for help on the left wing, while the Islanders are in a tough position with restricted free agent Ryan Strome still unsigned before the team-imposed deadline.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shocked the hockey world in June by swapping popular free-wheeling blueliner P.K. Subban for the more defensively responsible Shea Weber. With training camp opening later this week, he might not be done tinkering with his defense corps.
Francois Gagnon of RDS (via The Score’s Craig Hagerman) reports Bergevin said he’s fielded offers for rearguard Nathan Beaulieu. The Habs GM said he wasn’t shopping the 23-year-old, but added it’s his job to listen and evaluate offers from rival teams that could improve his club.
If Bergevin’s comments sound familiar, it’s because he said almost the same thing about Subban back in June. We all know how that turned out.
Beaulieu isn’t on the same talent level as Subban, but he has potential as a second-pairing defenseman. In his sophomore campaign last season, he finished with a respectable 19 points in 64 games. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has upside and an affordable contract ($1 million) for 2016-17.
What Beaulieu might fetch for the Canadiens and how to replace him on the blueline are two key issues for Bergevin. NBC Sports’ Mike Halford points out the Canadiens are thin at left wing beyond first-line Max Pacioretty, so perhaps Beaulieu could be dangled as bait to address that need.
One option could be Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. His recent off-ice legal issues sparked trade speculation this summer, and the Sabres are always on the lookout for good young players. However, Bergevin will likely pass on that potential headache.
The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers have depth in wingers and need blueline depth. It’s believed both clubs prefer a top-pairing puck-mover, so Beaulieu might not interest them.
Cap space is also an issue. With just over $855K in cap room, Bergervin can’t afford to take on much salary in a potential Beaulieu move.
Halford also suggests promising Mikhail Sergachev, selected ninth overall in this year’s draft, could replace Beaulieu if he proves NHL-ready in training camp. Placing that much pressure on the 18-year-old Sergachev, however, could prove a costly gamble for the Canadiens.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR ISLES, STROME
The clock is ticking on restricted free agent winger Ryan Strome’s contract negotiations with the New York Islanders. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the Islanders policy of cutting off contract talks with unsigned RFAs when training camp opens, implemented under previous owner Charles Wang, remains in effect.
Strome, 23, has until Sept. 22 to agree to a new contract with the Isles or miss the upcoming season. He’s coming off an entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit of $863K.
If Strome’s still unsigned after that date, a rival club could be tempted to ink him to an offer sheet. However, Isles GM Garth Snow told Brooks he doesn’t rule out matching an offer for Strome beyond that cut-off date.
Strome managed only 28 points last season, but had a 50-point campaign in 2014-15. If he’s still unsigned after Sept. 22, a GM seeking a young playmaker with upside could contract Snow with a trade proposal.
If Snow is willing to entertain a trade of Strome, perhaps he should give the Canadiens a call. They’re lacking depth at left wing and Strome can skate on either wing. The Habs are reportedly listening to offers for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
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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