Welcome back to the Monday edition of NHL rumours after the post-holiday weekend. We are just past the halfway point of the season and nearing the trade deadline with each game played. Last Word on Hockey will continue to bring the best analysis each day during this exciting and unpredictable season. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rumour: Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet indicates that the Preds could be making roster moves soon if things do not turn around.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 5, 2020
Analysis: The team might not be ready for big roster changes yet but that threshold could be approaching quickly. Nashville has been very average since a good start. Several of their important contributors have missed time and they recently placed defenceman Ryan Ellis on the injured reserve. Those factors add up to significant changes if the front office wants to move in a bold direction.
The most likely casualty should be Mikael Granlund. The former Minnesota Wild forward has performed well below expectations as he approaches free agency this summer. The 27-year-old clearly does not fit into Nashville’s style but could generate a decent return given he is still in his prime years and has a respectable body of work.
Granlund is the most attractive trade chip but Nashville has several other pieces it could choose to trade. Rocco Grimaldi and Dan Hamhuis might be on the trade block as less exciting options for contending teams looking for one more piece. Don’t expect major changes yet but the Predators need to capitalize on a relatively easy part of their schedule coming in the next few weeks. They need to win games against teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres to regain their lost momentum.
Analysis: It is hard to say what made Ilya Kovalchuk a more attractive option that Vancouver’s Swiss forward. Kovalchuk is a washed-up former star that couldn’t stick with an undermanned Los Angeles Kings team. He is cheaper than Baertschi but that should have meant little to a team with almost $5 million in cap space. That would cover almost any cap hit of a player on the trade block.
However, there is still time for Montreal to talk with their neighbours in British Columbia. Montreal may be without several of their top players for several weeks due to injury. Second-leading scorer Brendan Gallagher has been the most recent casualty with a concussion. Montreal needs a more talented player than Kovalchuk to make a push in the crowded Atlantic Division.
Should Montreal reach out regarding Baertshi’s services, they would have the chance to acquire a player who has scored 25 or more points in three straight seasons prior to 2018-19. He is still just 27-years-old so there is plenty of life in him. The Canadiens could certainly use his experience. They have four forwards on entry-level deals on the NHL depth chart according to CapFriendly. That is typically not ideal for a team trying to make the postseason. Baertschi should absolutely still be on the Canadiens’ radar.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: The last of today’s NHL rumours comes courtesy of The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel. In his recent piece, he details how the emergence of Pierre Engvall could create an opportunity for the front office to trade a forward for defensive help.
"What his hurried emergence has done is open up options, not only for Keefe, but also for Dubas and the front office."@jonassiegel on Pierre Engvall, the latest find to emerge from the Maple Leafs impressive development program.https://t.co/RUidQFSaSk
— The Athletic Toronto (@TheAthleticTO) January 5, 2020
Analysis: Engvall has been a pleasant surprise for the surging Leafs. The former seventh-round pick has six goals and 10 points in his first 21 NHL games. His ice time has fluctuated but is holding steady between 13 and 15 minutes over his past few games. His strong play might give General Manager Kyle Dubas the incentive he needs to trade one of Toronto’s forwards for a defender.
The Leafs could trade either Andreas Johnsson or Ilya Mikheyev but both of those players are hurt and fit well as complementary pieces. Kapanen would be a stronger trade piece for several reasons. First, he is younger than the other wings at 23-years-old. Second, his cap hit is under control for the next several years at just $3.2 million through 2021-22.
There are several teams that could use a scorer of Kapanen’s ability and also have defenseman to trade. Zach Bogosian has asked the Buffalo Sabres to trade him and could be an option for Toronto. Bogosian is not a scorer but has been very effective as a shot-blocker over the course of a 12-year career. Trevor van Riemsdyk or Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes also seem to fit the Leafs’ need for a defence-first defender. Toronto does not seem interested in trading given its recent success but their blueline could use a tough presence when the playoffs arrive.