On New Year's Eve, the NHL finally approved hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway's bid to become the majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes. The move could have a significant effect upon the Coyotes roster by the March trade deadline and in the off-season.
It's assumed Coyotes GM Don Maloney was waiting for Barroway's takeover before making any significant moves. Maloney could shed salary and overhaul his struggling roster, which is poised to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Versatile center Antoine Vermette is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July and is frequently mentioned as a trade candidate. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the decision has already been made to move the 32-year-old center, listing Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit and St. Louis as potential suitors.
If those clubs pursue Vermette he'll likely be only a rental player, as they all have limited cap space for 2015-16. Given the limited talent in this summer's free-agent market, Vermette should land himself a substantial raise over his current annual cap hit of $3.75 million.
Defensemen Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek could also become trade candidates. Like Vermette, Michalek is an unrestricted free agent in July, but Yandle is considered the more valuable player. The 28-year-old rearguard has one season left on his contract at a cap hit of $5.25 million and could fetch a considerable return by the March trade deadline or during the NHL Draft weekend in June.
PANTHERS SURPRISING BUT STILL LACK PUNCH
The Florida Panthers remain among this season's surprising clubs. Expected to struggle, the Panthers begin the New Year jockeying with Toronto, Washington, Boston and the New York Rangers for one of the final three playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the Panthers unexpected improvement, their lack of offense could doom their hopes of securing a post-season spot. They're among the NHL's lowest-scoring clubs, with Nick Bjugstad and Jimmy Hayes the only Panthers to reach double-digits in goals, while Bjugstad and rookie blueliner Aaron Ekblad are the only ones to reach 20 points.
GM Dale Tallon could be in the market to bolster his offensive depth. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Tallon is still shopping pending unrestricted free agent forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports center Drew Shore, currently toiling in the minors, could also be available.
The problem, however, is none of these players will fetch a proven scorer for the Panthers. They could consider gauging the trade value of veteran defenseman Brian Campbell, but the 35-year-old is currently paired with Ekblad and Tallon seems unwilling to move him. Unless Tallon is willing to part with one of his young forwards or a top prospect he could find it difficult to bolster his scoring.
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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