The appearance of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis at Rexall Place for Friday's game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers raised eyebrows among NHL followers. Sportsnet's Mark Spector wondered if Ben Scrivens performance in that game could affect the whereabouts of Leafs goalie James Reimer.
Evidently, the game's outcome (a 2-0 win for the Canucks) had no effect on Reimer, who remains the Maple Leafs backup. Still, with the Oilers off to a franchise-worst start (0-4-1 in their opening five games) and the Leafs lurching from the gate with a 2-3-1 record, it's only natural that Nonis' appearance at that game would generate trade speculation.
Nonis could be doing some advanced scouting, but as The Score's Thomas Drance observes, the Leafs don't play the Oilers or Canucks until December, so an early-October scouting trip seems unusual. If Nonis' Western swing is to pursue a trade, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons believes it'll be a small deal, not a significant one.
It's unlikely to involve the Leafs goaltending, as Nonis seems content for now to stick with his current tandem of Reimer and Jonathan Bernier. The Oilers need blueline help and Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch for two games already this season. Winger Nail Yakupov continues to struggle with the Oilers, so maybe a Gardiner-for-Yakupov swap is a possibility. Still, if the Leafs off-season interest in Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is any indication, Nonis seems more interested in landing a center.
Perhaps Nonis was scouting his former club, the Canucks. The bad blood between the two clubs was eradicated when the Canucks fired GM Mike Gillis earlier this year. While the Canucks are off to a good start, the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher cites a lack of fleet-footed defensive depth and overall team discipline as factors that must be addressed.
PENS WANT WINGER FOR MALKIN
During a recent appearance on the NHL Network, TSN insider Darren Dreger reports the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the market for a top-six forward to complement superstar Evgeni Malkin. Dreger believes the Penguins will take their time, suggesting it could take until February until they address this need.
Malkin's been skating with center Brandon Sutter and winger Pascal Dupuis on the Penguins second line. Given their lack of cap space (just over $141K), the Penguins must shed salary to add a suitable forward for Malkin's line.
One option could be moving veteran defenseman Paul Martin, who's earning $5 million this season, possesses a modified no-trade clause, and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. With over $48 million invested in just 12 players for 2015-16, it could prove difficult for the Penguins to re-sign the 33-year-old blueliner, who could opt to test the free-agent market.
Given the Penguins depth in promising young defensemen, Martin could become expendable by the March 2 trade deadline. Then again, trading him away robs the Pens of an experienced two-way rearguard who could prove invaluable in the playoffs.