Entering 2017, the Colorado Avalanche remain a hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. With only two wins in their last 10 games entering Monday’s match against the Vancouver Canucks, the Avs are mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Anticipation is brewing that general manager Joe Sakic could shake things up. Stars such as Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon are frequently mentioned as possible trade candidates.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Avs are getting trade inquiries about their core players, but are telling interested clubs not to ask about MacKinnon or promising winger Mikko Rantanen. As for Duchene and Landeskog, Friedman said the club is willing to listen if teams offer up good young defenseman or good defensive prospects.
In a recent “Hockey World” column, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports the New York Islanders looked into acquiring the 26-year-old Duchene but balked at the asking price. Matheson speculates Sakic possibly had interest in Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic or promising forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal.
With the Avalanche in free fall, Matheson's colleague David Staples suggests defenseman Tyson Barrie could make a good trade target for the Edmonton Oilers. He cites Oilers coach Todd McLellan recently noting his club's need for a power-play quarterback. Staples wonders if a swap of blueliner Oscar Klefbom to Colorado for Barrie might tempt Sakic.
Klefbom, 23, is younger than the 25-year-old Barrie, more affordable ($4.167 million per season compared to Barrie's $5.5 million) and a better all-around defenseman. However, the Oilers are invested in Klefbom through 2022-23 and unlikely to exchange him for a puck-moving specialist.
The salary cap will also affect potential short-term moves by Sakic. The Denver Post's Terry Frei observes the Avalanche have over $52 million invested in their 2017-18 payroll.
Any club pursuing Duchene ($6 million cap hit) or Landeskog ($5.5 million) must have sufficient cap space to acquire them. Only the Florida Panthers ($8.6 million), New Jersey Devils ($8.8 million and Carolina Hurricanes ($15.5 million) currently have the room to do so.
The Panthers and Hurricanes are the only clubs with sufficient blueline resources to tempt the Avs, but Florida is already loaded with good young forwards. Carolina could certainly use Duchene or Landeskog, but there's no certainty GM Ron Francis is keen to part with one of his good young blueliners.
A move involving Duchene or Landeskog before the March 1 trade deadline is a remote possibility. Sakic will likely have to wait until the offseason to find a deal he likes.
Frei also suggests buyouts could be possible. Struggling goaltender Semyon Varlamov ($5.9-million annual average salary through 2018-19) could be one option. Buying him out in June could free up sufficient cap room to pursue Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop via free agency in July, or perhaps pursue Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in June via trade.
HALAK’S TIME UP IN THE BIG APPLE
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak's tenure with the New York Islanders seems to be drawing to a close. On Saturday, the 31-year-old cleared waivers and was sent to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
Newsday's Arthur Staple notes Isles GM Garth Snow tried to trade Halak last summer but his hip surgery snuffed out that attempt. Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post reports Snow tried again in late-October but never received a serious offer.
Halak's history of injuries and inconsistent play hurts his trade value. TSN's Bob McKenzie points out his $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2017-18 is also an impediment.
A team in desperate need of a starting goaltender could express interest in Halak by the March 1 trade deadline. A more likely scenario, however, is the Islanders buy out the remaining year of his contract this summer.
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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