With the NHL holiday trade freeze in effect until midnight on Dec. 27, here's a look at the recent speculation on several notable stars.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning's visit to play the Maple Leafs in Toronto last week created considerable chatter over the pending UFA's future in Tampa Bay. In an interview with The Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith, Stamkos insisted he wants to re-sign with the Bolts.
He dismissed rumors of a rift with coach Jon Cooper, claimed his camp has engaged in contract discussions with Lightning management and claimed all other info suggesting he wants out of Tampa Bay is false.
Stamkos' remarks won't fully put an end to the conjecture over his future, but it should provide hope to Lightning fans that he and the club haven't closed the door on hammering out a new contract.
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets: A recent benching, followed by being scratched from last Thursday's 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes, sent the rumor mill into overdrive. Johansen told The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline he doesn't want to be dealt and claims he's not at loggerheads with coach John Tortorella. However, that didn't silence the media trade talk.
NBC Sports' Cam Tucker observes Blue Jackets president John Davidson, in a recent interview, did nothing to dampen down the Johansen rumors, while Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman points out no one in the organization is saying the 23-year-old is untouchable.
Guessing potential trade destinations for Johansen has become a favorite game for the pundits. Among the clubs listed include the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blue Jackets desperately need a top-two defenseman. The Predators, with their blueline depth, are considered the favorites.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: He could be close to a new contract with the Kings. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports it's expected to be an eight-year deal worth around $9.75 million annually. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman claims the two sides have also hashed out a potential sticking point regarding a no-trade/no-movement clause.
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes: CBC.ca's Doug Harrison observes Skinner regained his scoring touch in recent games. He suggests that could improve the 23-year-old's trade value. Given Skinner's history of inconsistency and concussion injuries, as well as his $5.75-million annual cap hit, he'll have to maintain that production for a while yet before he'll attract significant interest in the trade market.
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks: As the Canucks struggle to remain in playoff contention, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun speculates management could face a big decision regarding pending UFAs like Vrbata and currently sidelined defenseman Dan Hamhuis. If the Canucks are out of the postseason chase in January, Vrbata could be shopped. LeBrun believes he'll bring in the most value for the Canucks.
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone. See you after the holiday trade freeze is lifted.
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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