The Minnesota Wild firing head coach Mike Yeo over the weekend gave rise to speculation over GM Chuck Fletcher's future with the club. With the Wild dropping eight in a row and 12 of their last 13 games prior to Yeo's firing, Fletcher faces increasing criticism over the current makeup of the roster.
Twincities.com's Chuck Graff reports Fletcher admitted the difficulty he's facing making trades. Graff believes the next two weeks leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline will be Fletcher's last chance this season to put a major stamp upon the slumping roster. However, he could find it difficult to make a season-saving deal.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Fletcher attempted to make a trade before reaching the decision to fire Yeo. Prior to the Columbus Blue Jackets shipping center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators last month for defenseman Seth Jones, Friedman said Fletcher offered up blueliner Jonas Brodin for Johansen.
As for other moves the Wild GM attempted to make, Friedman claims other clubs want young players (Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreitter) Fletcher didn't want to part with. Those players also come with reasonably affordable contracts, making them more enticing to rival GMs.
Fletcher is also hampered by a recent injury to Brodin, knocking the blueliner out of the lineup until mid-March. Even if the 22-year-old was healthy, his $4.16-million annual salary-cap hit through 2020-21 is a significant stumbling block. It's a good bet Fletcher got inquiries about the trade status of promising D-man Matt Dumba.
An improvement in the Wild's play under interim coach John Torchetti could also affect Fletcher's decisions leading up to the deadline. They downed the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Monday, marking not only their first win under Torchetti but also snapping an eight-game losing skid. If the Wild can string together a few more victories, that'll ease pressure on Fletcher to swing a big trade.
Speaking of the Canucks, with their playoff hopes fading, GM Jim Benning last week insisted he wouldn't be a seller at the upcoming NHL trade deadline. Benning's remarks, however, did little to dispel the ongoing Canucks' trade speculation.
On Saturday, Friedman reported long-time Canucks winger Alex Burrow was willing to waive his no-trade clause if asked by management to do so. Burrow subsequently told The Province's Ben Kuzma there was no truth to that story, claiming he hasn't spoken with his agent since Christmas.
Even if Burrows was willing to accept a trade, Benning would have a difficult time finding suitors. At 34, the winger's best seasons are well behind him. While he has only one season remaining on his contract at an actual salary of $3 million, the cap hit remains $4.5 million.
Most of the Canucks' trade chatter focuses on defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who recently returned to the lineup after a facial injury sidelined him for nearly two months. With Winnipeg Jets blueliner Dustin Byfuglien off the trade market and the New York Rangers unwilling to move Keith Yandle while Ryan McDonagh is out with a concussion, the 33-year-old Hamhuis could be the best defenseman available in the trade market.
Hamhuis is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. If available, he'd be considered a playoff rental. However, he's also carrying a full no-movement clause and there's no indication he'll waive it.
Should Hamhuis agree to a trade, Kuzma's colleague Jason Botchford predicts the Pittsburgh Penguins as a likely destination. Noting the Washington Capitals could pursue a depth defenseman, The Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan considers Hamhuis the best available option. Given the Capitals limited cap space, however, she believes the Canucks must pick up part of his cap hit first.
Botchford also predicts the Canucks will find a taker for demoted grinding winger Brandon Prust, suggesting the Capitals could use his physical style and experience. That's unlikely to happen, given the Capitals' depth at forward and focus on bolstering their blueline.
Keep an eye on the San Jose Sharks leading up to the trade deadline. With backup goalie Alex Stalock struggling, Paul Gackle of the San Jose Mercury News reports the Sharks could be in the market for a netminder.
They're not the only club in need of goalie depth. Pekka Rinne's difficulties between the pipes this season is prompting rumors the Nashville Predators could seek a quality backup. However, The Tennessean's Adam Vingan doesn't see such a move bringing much help, noting the Predators will still go as far as Rinne can carry them.
The Anaheim Ducks' Frederik Andersen could interest clubs in need of goaltending at the deadline. The Orange County Register's Eric Stephens reports the 26-year-old Andersen, a restricted free agent, could become a trade chip because the Ducks have committed to John Gibson as their starter.
It's unlikely, however, the Ducks will move Andersen when they're battling for a playoff berth. They'll probably retain him as insurance for the rest of the season and consider their trade options this summer. Besides, if they do peddle Andersen, it won't be to any teams they're jockeying with for postseason berths in the Western Conference.
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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