The Chicago Blackhawks entered 2016 still facing concerns over their blueline depth. Their trade last month of Trevor Daley to Pittsburgh for Rob Scuderi did more to free up salary-cap room than to improve their defense.
Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune wonders if the Blackhawks will make moves to address their need for a top-four defenseman and a top-six forward. The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus believes adding a blueliner is the pressing need.
Both pundits acknowledge the Blackhawks limited cap space will affect whatever moves GM Stan Bowman could make. While Bowman can't afford to swing a major deal for an expensive rental player like Carolina's Eric Staal or Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien, Lazerus observes the Blackhawks GM has a history of making late-season moves to improve his club.
Still, such deals could be costly. Rosenbloom feels a trade that suitably addresses their roster needs could come at the expense of a promising young player like defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk or center Teuvo Teravainen.
While Bowman could face pressure to improve his lineup's chances of successfully defending their Stanley Cup title, he also has a history of being patient. Unless he receives an offer too good to pass up for player like van Riemsdyk or Teravainen, he won't sacrifice his future for a quick fix this season.
The Blackhawks window for winning another championship remains open for a few more years with their current core. However, it's important to ensure they have sufficient depth in promising youngsters who can one day become core players in their own right.
WILL DEVILS BE BUYERS OR SELLERS?
The New Jersey Devils rank among the surprising teams of the first half of this NHL season. Under first-year coach John Hynes, the rebuilding Devils entered the new year holding one of the two wild-card berths in the Eastern Conference.
NJ.com's Rich Chere wonders if Devils GM Ray Shero becomes a buyer or seller at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. While it might be tempting to shop a veteran forward like Lee Stempniak for draft picks, Chere believes Shero could instead bolster his roster if the Devils remain in playoff contention.
The Devils' biggest need is scoring. Despite the solid play of Stempniak, Mike Cammalleri, Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique, the Devils rank 26th in goals-per game this season.
Shero has depth on his blueline and in promising prospects to draw upon as trade bait. He could pursue a rental player near the deadline. It's also possible he could pursue a larger deal, though Chere speculates that could happen in the off-season.
OILERS CAN'T FIND TAKER FOR NIKITIN
Last month, there was some talk suggesting several teams were interested in Edmonton Oilers defenseman Nikita Nikitin. However, after a seven-game call-up in December, the Oilers returned the 29-year-old rearguard (and the bulk of his $4.5-million salary-cap hit) to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports the Oilers were hoping Nikitin might attract some suitors but nothing came of it. In the final season of his two-year contract, it's unlikely Nikitin returns to the Oilers this season.
Matheson believes they will try peddling Nikitin near the Feb. 29 trade deadline, when most of his remaining salary will be paid out. Even then, the Oilers could be asked to pick up some of it to facilitate a deal.
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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