During a recent interview with Matt Larkin, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty raised eyebrows by suggesting he might consider signing elsewhere if the Kings weren't heading in the right direction.
Doughty, 27, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2019. On Tuesday, he clarified his comments with NHL.com's Lisa Dillman. While acknowledging he said he didn't care where he played and wants to win more Stanley Cups, he insists he wants to do so with the Kings.
His clarification is unlikely to keep observers from speculating over Doughty's future, especially if the Kings struggle to turn things around over the next couple of years. The former Norris Trophy winner won't lack for suitors if he decides to test the free-agent market in 2019.
For now, there's no reason to believe the Kings will put Doughty on the trade block this season. They shook up their management and coaching staffs this summer in hopes of getting back into playoff contention this season. New general manager Rob Blake opted not to make significant roster changes.
But if the Kings miss the postseason again, Doughty's future will become a hot topic for trade chatter. Blake could decide to stage a roster rebuild next summer, making Doughty perhaps his best trade chip to bring in affordable young assets.
CANADIENS WILL KEEP AN EYE ON TRADE MARKET
Entering training camp, the Montreal Canadiens have nearly $8.5 million in salary-cap space. If GM Marc Bergevin wants to make a significant addition or two for this season, he has sufficient room to do so.
Finding a scoring center and a replacement for departed defenseman Andrei Markov are the Canadiens' biggest needs this season. TSN's Pierre LeBrun believes Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene could be a terrific fit with the Habs.
The Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey reports Bergevin acknowledged having that much cap room to work with this season is a good thing. However, he doesn't see much available talent to invest in at the present time.
Duchene remains the biggest prize in the trade market, but the Canadiens lack available resources to get him. Avs GM Joe Sakic reportedly wants a young, established top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot as part of the deal. That's an asset Bergevin doesn't have to spare. Recent speculation links Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, who all have depth in quality blueliners.
The free-agent market has dried up, with no notable scoring centers to be had. Cody Franson and Dennis Wideman are the only decent puck-moving defensemen available. If Bergevin was interested in either guy, however, he probably would've signed them by now.
That doesn't mean Bergevin will be reluctant to use his cap space. The Canadiens could be a good destination for non-contending or rebuilding teams seeking to offload salary before the end of the season. Expect the Habs GM to closely monitor the trade market up to the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
PENGUINS TARGETTING ANOTHER CENTER
The Pittsburgh Penguins open training camp without an established center for their third line. Veteran Jay McClement is on a professional tryout offer but there's no certainty he'll fill that role.
During the off-season, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford suggested he could look to address that need via trade. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Jason Mackey reports sources saying several clubs have expressed interest in Detroit Red Wings center Riley Sheahan. The Penguins are thought to be among them.
Sheahan, 25, carries a $2.075-million annual salary-cap hit and will be a restricted free agent next July. The Wings sit roughly $3 million above this season's $75-million cap ceiling. They'll get some cap relief by placing sidelined winger Johan Franzen ($3.9 million) on long-term injury reserve. However, they need additional cap room to re-sign RFA winger Andreas Athanasiou, who's hinting at signing with a KHL team if unable to reach terms with the Wings.
Moving Sheahan's salary would address that need for Detroit. Mackey notes the Penguins have sufficient cap room ($3.2 million) to take on his contract for this season. Though the 6-foot-3, 226-pounder struggled last season (2 goals, 13 points in 80 games), Mackey points out the big center had 14 goals and 25 points in 2015-16 and solid faceoff and penalty-killing numbers.
Mackey said the Wings need young defenseman, suggesting Penguins blueliner Derrick Pouliot might benefit from a change of scenery. While Pouliot has an affordable $800K salary for 2017-18, the Wings might prefer something (draft pick or prospect) that won't count against their cap hit.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.