As the Winnipeg Jets struggle to gain ground in the Western Conference standings, there's growing interest in GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's contract talks with defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and left wing Andrew Ladd. The duo are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, prompting questions over their future with the franchise.
Of the duo, the 30-year-old Byfuglien could attract the most interest. With his offensive skills and physical presence, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound blueliner could fetch a quality return if Cheveldayoff decides to trade him.
TSN's Bob McKenzie claims Cheveldayoff's fellow GMs anticipate Byfuglien could be available before the trade deadline. They doubt the Jets can afford to re-sign him and promising blueliner Jacob Trouba.
Byfuglien is earning $6 million in actual salary this season, while his salary-cap hit is $5.2 million. There's talk he could seek over $7-million annually on a seven-year deal. However, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson doubts the big defenseman will find many clubs willing to offer more than a five-year deal.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman still thinks the Washington Capitals could make a pitch for Byfuglien if blueline regular Brooks Orpik remains sidelined. With Orpik, defenseman John Carlson and center Jay Beagle on long-term injured reserve, the Capitals have the cap room to take on Byfuglien. However, they must ensure sufficient space for when those players return to action later this season.
Currently flying high atop the NHL standings, there's no need for the Capitals to tinker too much with their roster before the trade deadline. That could change in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, but for now, there's no reason to make a major move like acquiring Byfuglien.
CANADIENS NEED A SCORING BOOST
Lack of scoring remains a big problem for the free-falling Montreal Canadiens. Since Dec. 1, they've scored three or more goals in only five games. Having lost their hold on a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, pressure is mounting on GM Marc Bergevin to do something.
A recent report claimed the Canadiens were preparing to make “a big push” for demoted Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin. McKenzie notes Habs assistant GM Rick Dudley recently scouted one of Drouin's AHL games. McKenzie claims, however, there's no indication the Canadiens are among the front-runners for Drouin, let alone if Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a timeline to move the unhappy winger.
Friedman doesn't think pursuing the 20-year-old Drouin is a good idea for the Canadiens right now. While acknowledging the young winger will be a terrific player, it's unrealistic to expect him to be the immediate answer for the Habs offensive woes.
Friedman also recently observed Bergevin doesn't have much to part with to bolster his sagging offense. He speculates the Habs GM could part with young center Alex Galchenyuk, but only under “the right circumstances”. A Galchenyuk-for-Drouin swap certainly doesn't fall into that category.
WILD NOT AFRAID TO MAKE A BIG DEAL
Like the Canadiens, the Minnesota Wild are struggling to score. Entering their Jan. 20th game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Wild managed only 15 goals this month. As a result, they dropped four straight, winning only two of their last nine.
Clinging to a wild-card berth in the Western Conference, the Wild need a boost. It's expected GM Chuck Fletcher could draw upon his defensive depth for trade bait to bolster his scoring.
Michael Russo of StarTribune.com reports blueliners Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba are popping up in trade rumors. Brodin was reportedly offered to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen prior to being dealt to the Nashville Predators for Seth Jones. Dumba's been linked to the Lightning and Jonathan Drouin.
Fletcher is quite willing to swing deals to help his club before the trade deadline. His acquisition last January of goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes saved the Wild's season. At the 2013 trade deadline, Fletcher picked up winger Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres.
The Wild GM told Russo he won't be rushed into a deal. With his club still holding a playoff berth, he can afford to wait for the right offer.
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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