Welcome to the Saturday edition of NHL Rumours. The trade deadline is less than three weeks away and rumours are flying fast. Last Word on Hockey will bring you the quickest news and best analysis each day. Today’s rumours feature buzz surrounding the Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Analysis: The Canadiens are in a difficult spot, stuck in fifth place in the Atlantic Division. They have an above-average team but are not playing like it consistently. They have suffered several injuries to key players including Brendan Gallagher and Shea Weber. That could certainly force some trades as the team reloads for a run in the 2020-21 season.
Kovalchuk is one of those potential casualties thanks to strong play in Montreal. He was terrible in Los Angeles but has five goals and 11 points in 14 games with his new team. There is a very good chance he plays for a third team this year thanks to his production and low salary.
It would be a surprise if Montreal traded Kovalchuk to the Boston Bruins, one of the three teams Engels mentions is interested, given the extensive history between the two franchises. The Bruins are just five points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first-place in the Atlantic and could use another scoring option on their bottom-six. Kovalchuk would be a more productive option that either Sean Kuraly or Anders Bjork. Other teams will try to acquire Kovalchuk but he might try to force his way to a top contender if the front office asks him where he would like to go.
Los Angeles Kings
Analysis: Several teams would love to have an extra defender like Martinez despite the veteran’s struggles this season. The 32-year-old has just one goal and eight points in 32 games in 2019-20. He is also a significant drag on the team’s offence with a poor relative Corsi-For of -4.4. He also has a $4 million cap hit through next season. Nothing about him screams attractive.
However, teams including the Colorado Avalanche or Winnipeg Jets could trade for Martinez’s services as an extra physical presence on their blueline. The Jets, in particular, have one of the weakest defensive groups in the NHL. Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk are good players but the depth behind them is as unexciting as they come. Martinez could give the Jets an experienced edge as they battle for positioning in the Central Division.
Winnipeg should be able to absorb Martinez’s cap hit with no trouble either. They might let Dmitry Kulikov walk this offseason and they won’t have Dustin Byfuglien‘s cap hit on their books either. The Jets will have several younger defencemen return to the action by next season and Martinez could be just what the group needs to support the strong core of forwards.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: The last of today’s NHL rumours is also from Sportsnet. They investigate the possibility that the Leafs could be looking for another defender with Cody Ceci and Morgan Rielly both out due to injury.
Analysis: The Leafs certainly didn’t want Martinez or they would have found a way to include him in their recent trade with the Kings. Their blue line is increasingly thin with several injuries to experienced players. It’s now relying on some of their prospects in the short-term until another move is made. The number of players on the injured reserve has given the team a large amount of cap space that could be used for a top-four defender for the last part of the season.
One team they could call is the San Jose Sharks. This year is largely a lost cause for the 2019 Western Conference runner-ups and their roster needs some major retooling. They could move one of their expiring free agents and execute a quick rebuild to challenge in 2020-21. They could start by trading 29-year-old Brenden Dillon.
Dillion only has one goal and 14 points but brings a superior physical game. His 167 hits would lead Toronto and his 61 blocks would put him fourth. Adding Dillon would help correct the perception that the Leafs are not gritty enough to win a playoff series against a team like Boston. They would need to trade a forward like Kasperi Kapanen to make the money work once Ceci or Rielly returns but expect another significant move before the deadline. Toronto feels their championship window is open for this season.