The NHL trade deadline is still months away. However, that hasn't stopped some pundits from speculating over which players could be on the block by then.
TSN's Pierre Lebrun lists Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane, Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop, and Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman as five who could move by the deadline. It's not surprising, as these players frequently appear in the rumor mill.
LeBrun believes the Sabres are open to moving the 25-year-old Kane, perhaps seeking a top-four defenseman in return. Hanzal, 29, is an unrestricted free agent in July. He could be dealt by the deadline if he and the Coyotes fail to hammer out a deal.
Kane was linked to the Vancouver Canucks, but reports indicate those discussions came to an end last week. Given the latter's off-ice baggage, on-ice struggles and $5.25-million annual cap hit through 2017-18, the Sabres could be forced to lower their asking price.
At 6-foot-6 and 226 pounds, Hanzal is a big-bodied, two-way center many playoff contenders will covet should he hit the trade block. LeBrun suggests he'd be a good fit with the Montreal Canadiens, who need more size down the middle.
It's believed the Coyotes want Hanzal to accept a short-term deal so as not to delay the arrival of the promising centers in their system. If he insists on a longer contract, the Coyotes could shop him.
With playoff hero Matt Murray challenging the 31-year-old Fleury for the role of Penguins starting goalie, LeBrun feels there's no room for both of them in Pittsburgh. He wonders if the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars might come calling. The Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June's expansion draft and they don't want to lose Murray.
Fleury was linked to the Flames and Stars last summer, though the Penguins apparently sought a significant return. With both clubs once again struggling between the pipes, Fleury could become an attractive option, provided he's willing to waive his no-trade clause. If they pursue him, they must shed a goalie to make room for his $5.75-million annual cap hit.
Like Hanzal, the 30-year-old Bishop is eligible for UFA status in July. With Andrei Vasilevskiy's new three-year contract kicking in next season and talk of the Flames coming close to acquiring Bishop last summer, it's no wonder LeBrun thinks he could get moved by deadline day.
Trading Bishop, however, is no certainty. Earlier this season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he was willing to keep his current goalie tandem intact for another run at the Stanley Cup this season. But if the Lightning are in need of depth elsewhere by the trade deadline, Bishop could be a useful bargaining chip.
If the Flames are out of playoff contention by the end of February, LeBrun speculates they could try to move Wideman. He's also due for UFA status in July and is a top-four blueliner with a right-handed shot. Factor in his experience, and there should be interest in Wideman as a rental player.
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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