On Dec. 29, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported “a couple of sources” claimed the San Jose Sharks could be eyeing unrestricted free agent center Mike Richards. The former King played his junior hockey for Sharks coaches Peter DeBoer and Steve Spott.
Richards, 30, is currently awaiting trial later this month for attempting to enter Canada last June allegedly in possession of Oxycodone, a controlled substance. CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports DeBoer admits he's stayed in contact with Richards, but solely on a personal basis.
Despite the decline in Richards performance, he could attract some interest from clubs seeking depth at center once his legal issues are resolved. In addition to the Sharks, the Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals also recently surfaced as possible suitors.
The Sharks, lacking experienced checking-line depth and jockeying for playoff contention in the Western Conference, could kick the tires on Richards. With Connor McDavid soon to return to the Oilers lineup, it's doubtful they'll look at adding another center.
The Capitals recently lost third-line center Jay Beagle for six week to a hand injury . That could send them into the trade market if they have difficulty offsetting his absence.
While Richards has considerable playoff experience (including two Stanley Cup titles) on his resume, the decline in his game and concerns over his lifestyle could hamper his return to the NHL. Any clubs interested in his services will likely want to see him on a tryout basis before committing to a deal for the rest of this season.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes the Oilers will make a trade for a defenseman this year. He expects that move could come before the Feb. 29 trade deadline or during the NHL Draft in June.
Noting the Oilers blueline lacks speed and skill (especially on the power play), Matheson suggests offering up either center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or right wing Jordan Eberle to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Sami Vatanen. He also expects the Oilers will be in the hunt for New York Islanders rearguard Travis Hamonic, who requested a trade closer to his Manitoba home for personal reasons. Matheson speculates the Oilers could put their first-round pick in play (provided it's not first overall again) for a blueliner.
Vatanen is a solid all-around defenseman who would certainly help the Oilers. The Ducks, however, could be unwilling to trade him, particularly to a division rival. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli could be unwilling to part with Nugent-Hopkins or Eberle. He could instead bundle his first-round pick with a lesser winger like Nail Yakupov at the draft for a blueliner. As for Hamonic, the recent injury to Johnny Boychuk means the Isles aren't likely to move him this season.
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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