UFA Tracker

Rumor Roundup: Teams get busy in hunt for defensemen

Injuries and/or poor defensive play has some NHL teams canvassing the trade market for blueline help.

Injuries and/or poor defensive play has some NHL teams canvassing the trade market for blueline help.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reported the Oilers are seeking a tough, mean third-pairing defenseman, suggesting Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner (and Edmonton native) Derek Engelland might be available.

Chris Stevenson of the Toronto Sun noted the play of Penguins rookie Olli Maatta could make Engelland or Matt Niskanen available. He also reported the LA Kings could be ready to part ways with Alec Martinez.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported the NY Rangers poor start has GM Glen Sather calling around for blueline help. Garrioch wondered if Sather might circle back to his interest last season in Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman claimed Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin had taken a look at the defense market, but decided to stick with his current blueline, giving more ice time to youngsters Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu.

Friedman also noted the Oilers and Anaheim Ducks were shopping around for blueline help. His colleague Glenn Healy pointed out a number of teams have limited cap space, making it difficult to make trades at this point in the season.

If the Rangers ($502,000 in cap space) pursue Boyle they would have to dump considerable salary to absorb his $6.66-million cap hit. As it stands, the Sharks aren’t shopping Boyle, having opened preliminary contract talks with him this summer.

If the Penguins decide to part with a defenseman, it won’t be Niskanen, who’d done a fine job filling in for the injured Kris Letang.

Toronto Star columnist Dave Feschuk believes the strong play of goaltender Jonathan Bernier could lead the Maple Leafs to consider moving James Reimer (“a perfectly deal-able No.1 calibre talent”) to address holes in their roster.

Noting teams like the Edmonton Oilers – who lost to the Leafs on Saturday – are seeking goalies and defensemen, Feschuk wondered if the Oilers would part with “a choice young asset” for a package of Reimer and a still-unsigned Dion Phaneuf.

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It’s far too early, however, to advocate moving either player. Though Bernier’s played well, he’s yet to fully establish himself as a starting goaltender. If the Leafs move Reimer now, they have no one in their system to adequately spell Bernier if he gets hurt or struggles later in the season.

As for Phaneuf, his contract talks are expected to begin soon. Both sides have expressed a mutual desire to get a new deal done, with Phaneuf stating his willingness to negotiate during the season.

If Reimer and Phaneuf are to be moved, odds are it’ll be closer to the March trade deadline, depending upon where the Leafs are in the standings.

Speaking of the Leafs, defenseman Jake Gardiner became the subject of trade speculation last week, but claimed to be unconcerned, laying blame for the hype upon the media.

CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley recently noted the sight of Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg last week celebrating his first NHL goal has Washington fans continuing to question the trade which sent the former Capitals prospect to Nashville.

Forsberg was shipped to the Predators during last season’s trade deadline in a package deal for winger Martin Erat, which critics believe was a panic move by Capitals GM George McPhee.

Erat has been a bust so far with the Capitals, averaging less than eight minutes per game on the fourth line. He’s spoken with coach Adam Oates about his situation, but doesn’t know what the future holds, though he claimed he hasn’t asked for a trade.

Gormley noted Erat has two years and $9 million left on his contract, suggesting his trade value won’t improve until the trade deadline.

If Erat keeps struggling, however, the Capitals will have to absorb part of his salary to make him attractive to rival clubs.