Inconsistency continues to plague the Detroit Red Wings this season. Though they downed the Winnipeg Jets heading into Saturday’s contest with the St. Louis Blues, they managed just two victories in 10 games up to that point. That included a humilating 10-1 beatdown last Saturday by the Montreal Canadiens.
With the Wings trying to remain in playoff contention, there are questions over head coach Jeff Blashill’s future in Detroit and speculation over possible trades. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan recently reported GM Ken Holland confirmed he’s had trade discussions but he felt the solution for his club’s woes remain within the dressing room. Perhaps one reason behind Holland’s decision is he’s not finding much help in the trade market. At this time of year it’s difficult for a struggling clubs such as the Wings to find teams willing to part with NHL-ready talent.
Khan observed the Wings carry too many veteran players with hefty contracts and no-trade clauses. Youngsters such as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and their first-round selection in the 2018 draft are their most tradeable assets but they’re considered vital pieces of the Wings’ future.
If the Wings fail reverse their fortunes they could become sellers by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The Detroit News’ John Niyo reports Holland believes the next 10-15 games will determine what direction the club takes. Niyo feels that course has already been determined and believes veterans such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Mike Green, Trevor Daley “and even Jimmy Howard” should be on the trade block. However, it’s up to ownership to make that call.
Of those players, Green’s unrestricted free agent status next July could make him easiest to trade, provided he waives his no-trade clause. He could prove a suitable playoff rental for clubs seeking a power-play specialist with a right-handed shot on the blueline. Given his $6-million salary-cap hit, however, he likely won’t be moved until close to the trade deadline.
Nyquist, Daley and Howard are all signed through next season and carry no-trade protection. Tatar lacks a no-trade clause but he’s under contract through 2020-21 with an annual average value of $5.3 million.
OILERS SEEK BACKUP HELP WITH TALBOT OUT
The Edmonton Oilers hopes of staying in the playoff chase suffered a serious blow last week as goaltender Cam Talbot was placed on injured reserve. Backup Laurent Brossoit struggled to carry the goaltending burden, dropping two of three starts while giving up 13 goals heading into Saturday’s matchup with Montreal.
With Talbot out for at least another week and Brossoit looking shaky, the Oilers risk losing more ground in the Western Conference standings. On Monday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported GM Peter Chiarelli is working the phones in search of help between the pipes.
Seravalli listed Buffalo’s Chad Johnson, Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson, Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, Toronto’s Calvin Pickard and Detroit’s Petr Mrazek as potential trade targets. His colleague Darren Dreger also reported the Oilers were among several clubs in touch with the Sabres regarding their goaltending.
Of Seravalli’s candidates, Johnson could be the best option. While he’s been inconsistent with the Sabres this season, he has a decent career record as a backup. The asking price could be a fifth-round draft pick to offset the one the Sabres dealt to Detroit earlier this week to acquired center Scott Wilson.
Seravalli noted the Jets are unlikely to move Hutchinson as long as Steve Mason remains sidelined. Neuvirth is no longer a suitable short-term option, as he’s out at least a week with a lower-body injury.
Pickard, currently playing for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, would be an excellent choice, but Seravalli felt Toronto probably isn’t in any hurry to move him. Mrazek, meanwhile, carries a $4-million cap hit this season and his own struggles (two wins in seven starts, 3.62 goals-against average and .891 save percentage) doesn’t make him an attractive option.
BLUE JACKETS MIGHT BE OPEN TO WENNBERG MOVE
Since this season began, the Columbus Blue Jackets were believed in the market for a scoring center. That speculation was stoked by rumors GM Jarmo Kekalainen was in the bidding for Matt Duchene before the Colorado Avalanche shipped him last month to the Ottawa Senators.
However, the emergence in recent weeks of rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is centering wingers Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson on the Jackets’ first line, has shaken up that narrative. It’s allowed them to move Nick Foligno back at left wing and employ Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg as their second- and third-line centers.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline recently suggested the Jackets might not need a top-six center after all. In his mailbag segment on Wednesday, he also proposed the emergence of Dubois could mean moving the 23-year-old Wennberg is no longer a non-starter.
After tallying a career-high 59 points in 2016-17, Wennberg’s had difficulty this season regaining his offensive touch. He’s dropped down into the third-line role and also missed six games with an upper-body injury. Perhaps he might welcome the opportunity to restart his career elsewhere.
Portzline notes the Blue Jackets still need to stabilize the center position. Instead of chasing an expensive scoring center, perhaps Kekalainen will consider pursuing a more experienced and affordable two-way pivot for his third line in the new year.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.