Another lost season has some thinking the Devils should deal their star goalie for offensive help; the Red Wings should look at selling, too.
Adding left winger Taylor Hall last summer did little to improve the New Jersey Devils’ offense. While Hall has played well in his first season with the Devils, an ongoing lack of quality scoring depth continues to hamper their improvement. Averaging just 2.20 goals-for per game, they’re among the lowest-scoring clubs in the league.
Those offensive struggles prompted the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks to suggest a couple of trade options using Devils starting goaltender Cory Schneider as bait. On Jan. 14, he proposed shipping the 30-year-old Schneider to the Dallas Stars in exchange for one of their current goalies (Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi) and a defenseman to improve the Devils’ transition game.
A week later, Brooks observed the St. Louis Blues’ shoddy goaltending threatens their playoff hopes this season. He suggested peddling Schneider to the Blues for a package containing a top-six forward such as Jaden Schwartz.
Compared to his previous three seasons, Schneider has struggled in 2016-17. His 2.75 goals-against average and .908 save percentage are well off his career averages (2.23 GAA, .923 SP) in those categories. He could be growing weary of the constant losing in New Jersey and in need of a change.
With a no-trade clause that runs the length of a contract that expires in 2021-22, Schneider controls his future. Carrying a $6-million annual cap hit also makes him difficult to move, especially in-season. Still, Brooks speculated he could consider waiving it to join a club not in the midst of a rebuild.
Devils GM Ray Shero could make another bold move similar to last summer’s acquisition of Hall to address his anemic offense. Schneider would certainly attract interest from clubs in need of an upgrade between the pipes.
If Shero moves Schneider, he must either ensure that backup Keith Kinkaid is ready to become a full-time starter or find a suitable replacement. A trade option could include Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, while Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Calgary’s Brian Elliott could be available as free agents in July.
RED WINGS SHOULD START SELLING
For the first time since the 1989-90 season, the Detroit Red Wings appear poised to miss the playoffs. GM Ken Holland could go into sell mode by the March 1 trade deadline.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports the Blackhawks had preliminary discussions with the Wings regarding forwards Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Lazerus noted Tatar, 26, is earning $2.75 million this season and is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. The 27-year-old Nyquist has an annual cap hit of $4.75 million through 2018-19, with a no-trade clause starting in July.
The Blackhawks seek a scoring winger for Jonathan Toews’ line. Lazerus observes the Wings are in need of blueline depth, pointing out the Hawks have a number of young NHL-ready defensemen on their roster and on their farm team.
Once considered part of the rebuilding Wings’ core, Tatar and Nyquist have disappointed with their play since last season. Tatar’s on pace for only 38 points and Nyquist for only 40. That’s well below the 56 and 54 points they respectively put up in 2014-15.
Tatar’s struggles can be blamed on a nagging shoulder injury that could require off-season surgery. Nyquist, meanwhile, has a reputation as a streaky scorer.
Landing either guy could prove difficult for the Blackhawks. They cannot spare the top-four defenseman the Wings desperately need. With over $3.3 million in projected cap space at the trade deadline, Tatar is the most affordable. However, he’ll need a new contract this summer and his shoulder ailment could affect his play over the rest of this season.
Meanwhile, Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek is showing signs of snapping out of his first-half funk. Should the 25-year-old continue playing well, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press speculates he could be in play by the trade deadline.
St. James notes promising Jared Coreau has performed better than expected since being called up to replace sidelined veteran Jimmy Howard. With the 32-year-old Howard signed through 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.3 million, she proposes the Wings might be better served with a Howard-Coreau tandem.
The expansion draft, however, could affect that suggestion. Mrazek, Howard and Coreau are all draft-eligible and the Wings can only protect one of them. If Mrazek plays well over the rest of the season, Holland could decide he’s worth retaining.
Red Wings left winger Thomas Vanek’s improved performance this season could also make him an enticing trade piece. TVA Sports’ Dave Morrisette wonders if Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin might consider bringing back the 32-year-old for another go-around. Bergevin acquired Vanek from the New York Islanders at the 2014 trade deadline.
Bergevin could surprise us by bringing back Vanek. But considering how little he helped the Habs in the 2014 playoffs, it’s unlikely he’ll be returning to Montreal at the deadline.
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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