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Rumor Roundup: Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle still have uncertain futures in Edmonton

Insiders won't fully rule out the possibility of Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins getting traded by the Oilers.

Last season, Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and right winger Jordan Eberle frequently popped up in the trade rumor mill. It was assumed one or the other would be dealt to acquire a defenseman.

The Oilers instead addressed that need by shipping left winger Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in June for blueliner Adam Larsson. That seemed to put an end to the Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle trade chatter, but questions linger over their respective futures in Edmonton. 

During an appearance last Friday on Sportsnet 590, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman was asked if the duo might still be in play. He doesn't believe they are, pointing out the Oilers already dealt Hall, lost winger Kris Versteeg to the Calgary Flames via free agency and traded right winger Nail Yakupov last month to the St. Louis Blues. He points out they no longer have a surplus of forwards.

Friedman doesn't fully rule out the possibility of Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins getting traded. However, he believes it'll have to be for “an absolute difference-maker.” He also notes Nugent-Hopkins seems content in the role of second-line center and provides invaluable depth down the middle for the Oilers.

If the Oilers pursue another defenseman, Eberle could become trade bait. As with the Hall-for-Larsson swap, that move probably wouldn't happen until next summer. Eberle's $6-million annual cap hit is difficult to move in-season for a quality blueliner. Same goes for Nugent-Hopkins, who carries a similar cap hit.

HANZAL A POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATE

The NHL's Feb. 28 trade deadline is still months away, but Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal already surfaced as a potential trade candidate.

Hanzal, 29, is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. TSN's Pierre LeBrun speculates contract length could become an issue in 29-year-old's discussions with Coyotes management.

Given the depth of young centers in the Coyotes system, LeBrun believes the Coyotes prefer to ink Hanzal to a short-term deal. The 6-foot-6, 226-pound center could prefer a longer term.

If Hanzal hits the trade block, LeBrun feels his size and skill at center would be attractive to playoff contenders. However, he doubts Coyotes GM John Chayka will want draft picks and/or prospects in return. Chayka could seek a good young player who can help the Coyotes right away.

Hanzal's a strong two-way performer coming off a career-best 41-point performance last season. Despite his size, however, his injury history is a drawback. He last played more than 65 games in a season in 2009-10.

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.

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