New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle remains a central figure in the trade rumor mill. There's growing speculation the Blueshirts could shop the pending unrestricted free agent before the Feb. 29 trade deadline in hopes of landing a scoring forward.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post believes Yandle's usage by Rangers coach Alain Vigneault suggests he doesn't have a long-term future on Broadway. Despite the 29-year-old's offensive skills, Brooks suggests he's now being used more as a sixth defenseman.
Brooks claims the Rangers have interest in unhappy Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin, who recently requested a trade. He floated the notion last week of a Yandle-for-Drouin swap, but given the Lightning's limited cap space and their desire to acquire a comparable young player, that move won't happen.
Rumor had it the Rangers were kicking the tires on Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson. However, Brooks cites sources saying the Blueshirts haven't made any inquiries about Atkinson, who's become a favorite of Jackets head coach John Tortorella.
CANUCKS HAVE DECISION TO MAKE ON VRBATA
The Vancouver Canucks recently demoted veteran left wing Chris Higgins as part of their transition toward a younger roster. Given the 32-year-old's decline this season, it was an easy decision on management's part. Deciding the future of right wing Radim Vrbata, however, isn't so simple.
Vrbata, 34, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. While his production is well below last season's 31-goal, 63-point pace, he's still among the Canucks' leading scorers. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports management hasn't decided yet if they'll retain Vrbata for a playoff push or shop him before the trade deadline.
That decision should become clearer in a month's time. If the Canucks remain in the Western Conference playoff chase, they'll hang onto Vrbata. If not, they'll try to ship him to a postseason contender for younger assets.
OILERS LOOKING TO MOVE SCHULTZ
Defenseman Justin Schultz faces an uncertain future with the Edmonton Oilers. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights coming off a one-year, $3.9-million contract, the 26-year-old has struggled in Edmonton. Only a year away from unrestricted free agency, it seems unlikely the Oilers will sign him to a long-term extension.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli isn't shopping Schultz. However, it's believed he could move the blueliner for the right offer.
Dreger didn't elaborate as to what that offer could be. Given the Oilers remain in rebuilding mode and Schultz's declining stock, Chiarelli could be lucky to get a second-round pick for him.
Schultz's RFA status, however, could be an intriguing option for a club willing to acquire him. If he plays well, they'll retain his rights and work out a new deal this summer. If he doesn't, they won't qualify his rights in June and he departs as an unrestricted free agent.
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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