A weak trade market for goaltenders put the spotlight upon Detroit Red Wings’ Petr Mrazek. Last Thursday, The Athletic’s Craig Custance cited an NHL source claiming several teams made inquiries about the 25-year-old backup.
Once believed the Wings’ goalie of the future, Mrazek’s performance deteriorated over the past two seasons. Following Tuesday’s contest against the New York Islanders, he’s won three of his 11 games played, with a bloated 3.64 goals-against average and a woeful save percentage of .892.
A restricted free agent next summer, Mrazek carries a $4-million cap hit this season. However, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Wings could consider absorbing part of it to facilitate a trade. Despite those factors, Custance suggests the Red Wings consider showcasing Mrazek to bolster his trade value. He admits, however, that could put their slim playoff hopes in jeopardy. With 33 points, they’re six points out of a wild-card berth and six behind the Boston Bruins for third place (and an automatic playoff spot) in the Atlantic Division.
Custance believes Mrazek could fetch a third-round pick, but NBC Sports’ James O’Brien suggests the Wings might get a second rounder if they pick up part of his cap hit. He lists the Pittsburgh Penguins, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers as possible suitors.
The Penguins addressed their goaltending situation by acquiring veteran Michael Leighton to help backup Matt Murray. Now, their priority is finding a skilled two-way third-line center. Arizona backup Scott Wedgewood has better stats (2.98 GAA, .909 SP) than Mrazek so it’s unlikely Coyotes management will pursue him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Friday the Oilers watched a couple of Mrazek’s recent games but weren’t pleased with his play. The Avs’ 3.27 goals-against per game is among the league’s worst, but it’s doubtful they’ll see Mrazek as an improvement over their tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier. The Flyers are getting solid goaltending of late from starter Brian Elliott while regular backup Michal Neuvirth should soon return from a leg injury.
Wild starter Devan Dubnyk is currently week-to-week with a lower-body injury. O’Brien wonders if they’ll add some depth behind backup Alex Stalock, though for now they’re using call-up Steve Michalek. If Dubnyk’s sidelined longer than expected and Stalock starts to struggle, perhaps Mrazek might become a tempting target.
SENATORS REMAIN CONSTANT IN TRADE TALK
Despite the NHL holiday trade freeze going into effect at midnight on Dec. 19, the Ottawa Senators continue to dominate the rumor mill. While much of the focus is on the future of superstar Erik Karlsson, winger Mike Hoffman is garnering his fair share of attention.
If the Senators decide to shed some salary, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos suggests moving Hoffman could be the easiest route. The 28-year-old winger carries a $5.18-million annual cap hit through 2019-20. He’s also got a 10-team no-trade list that he submits at the start of each season.
Kypreos said it was suggested the Senators and Edmonton Oilers may have had discussions about Hoffman. However, he believes the Oilers might prefer a deal built around draft picks and prospects so as not to upset the current roster as they attempt to climb back into the playoff race.
While Hoffman has a reputation as a streaky scorer, he’s exceeded 25 goals and 45 points in each of the past three seasons. With nine goals and 24 points in 32 games, he’s on pace to reach those numbers again. Hoffman’s cap hit and no-trade list, as well as the Sens’ asking price, could limit potential destinations. Still, he could prove enticing for Western clubs in need of scoring depth, such as the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks.
LEHTERA’S STRUGGLES SPARK SPECULATION
After struggling the last two seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Jori Lehtera was looking forward to a fresh start in 2017-18 with the Philadelphia Flyers. But after appearing in just 17 games this season, the 29-year-old center could be on the move again.
During last Thursday’s ‘Insider Trading’ segment, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Flyers are willing to entertain offers for Lehtera. He said they’re not aggressively shopping the center but could make him available at the right price.
The Flyers gave up center Brayden Schenn to get Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick and conditional first-rounder in the 2018 draft. Considering Schenn is the Blues’ scoring leader (38 points in 35 games) and among the league’s top-15 scorers, this deal looks laughably lopsided unless one of those draft picks pan out for the Flyers.
Lehtera tallied a career-high 44-points in 2014-15 but his production has steadily declined. He’s also carrying a $4.7-million annual salary-cap hit through 2018-19. Unless the Flyers absorb part of it they’re unlikely to drum up much interest. If unable to trade Lehtera this season, don’t be surprised if they buy out his final season next June.
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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