Welcome back to your Monday edition of NHL Rumours. Teams played over the weekend, which means news and speculation have resumed flowing as well. Last Word on Hockey will continue to bring you the best analysis each day. Today’s rumours feature the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators.
Analysis: Trading Saad would be a big surprise considering he has one year left on his deal through 2020-21. That means any team that acquires him is gaining more than just a rental player. Saad’s current contract carries a cap hit of $6 million through next season but that shouldn’t deter teams too much.
Saad is hurt but he will return before the end of January. If he does move, the 27-year-old will look to build upon a solid season to this point. He currently has 11 goals and 19 points in 36 games. His 84 shots rank fourth-best among all Blackhawks and he has the best possession numbers on the team of any regularly-used skater. Saad would immediately bring an added punch to a contender trying to add offence before the deadline.
However, Saad isn’t cheap, which would limit some of the teams that could afford his services. The ideal partner could be the Buffalo Sabres for several reasons. First, Buffalo has several defenders they could pitch as options for Chicago with two of the Blackhawks’ blue line options declared out for the year. Second, the Sabres need another scoring option if they are going to attempt a playoff run out of a stacked Atlantic Division. Saad would be a solid top-six option for a team tired of missing the postseason.
New York Rangers
Analysis: New York has a number of players they could sell as the trade deadline nears. 23-year-old Georgiev is among the more intriguing given how well he has played this year. He has 10 wins in 17 starts with a .915 save percentage and 2.99 goals-against average. Georgiev has outplayed veteran Henrik Lundqvist in almost every statistical category except playing time.
That makes him especially valuable for a team looking to add a young goaltender. New York will receive a solid return for the Bulgarian but need to move quickly if they are going to make room for star prospect Igor Shesterkin. Like Georgiev, Shesterkin is 23 but is seen as Lundqvist’s eventual heir. The young Russian has dominated the AHL with Hartford with a .932 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against. The former 4th round pick from the 2014 Draft should debut fairly soon.
One complicating factor is Shesterkin’s contract. He has a European escape clause he can exercise to leave North America and return to the KHL. That would devastate a front office trying to find the successor to their eventual Hall Of Fame netminder. Georgiev is good but Shesterkin is the favourite. The Rangers need to work both quickly and diligently if they are to bring in a good return for Georgiev while also satisfying Shesterkin’s desire for NHL playing time.
Analysis: Ottawa will be one of the most active teams in the league as the deadline approaches. Most of their current NHL roster will become free agents after the season. Some of the younger pieces will remain but older players like Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Vladislav Namestnikov will head to contending teams for the playoff push.
The outgoing names could certainly include the 38-year-old Anderson. The veteran is also going to hit free agency this summer and clearly has some life left. His .909 save percentage and 2.88 goals-against are perfectly fine considering he is playing behind one of the most overmatched defences in the league. A contending team will surely take their chances on someone with his experience as the playoffs approach.
The question is who might that be. Most of the contending teams have solid goaltending duos already. One possible destination could be the Toronto Maple Leafs. Michael Hutchinson currently holds the backup spot but is far from an exciting solution. The 29-year-old has fallen well below expectations this season and while he has finally won some games, Toronto might prefer someone a little more seasoned and dependable in the playoffs. Division/provincial rivals trading with each other seems unlikely but Toronto’s need for steady goaltending could override those barriers.
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