Welcome back to another edition of NHL rumours from Last Word on Hockey. We’re now under two weeks away from the trade deadline and rumours are heating up. In today’s NHL rumours segment, we will feature rumours surrounding the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Chris Johnston stated on NHL Networks NHL Tonight that he believes there is a strong chance the Canadiens elect to keep Ilya Kovalchuk and sign him rather than deal in at the trade deadline.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) February 11, 2020
Analysis: When Marc Bergevin first announced that the Habs had signed Ilya Kovalchuk, it was met with scrutiny and the word desperation from a lot of fans and media. However, after playing 16 games with the Habs, Kovalchuk has turned back time. He has also turned around the Canadiens fortunes and has helped them climb back into the playoff race.
Since joining the Canadiens, both the club and Kovalchuk have enjoyed a resurgence. Many thought it was the end of the road for Kovalchuk before joining the Habs. However, Kovalchuk has been lights out for the Habs scoring six goals and 12 points in 16 games. This has helped carry the Canadiens back into the playoff race. The fit for both the club and the player has been absolutely perfect.
With the Canadiens sitting in the awkward position of not knowing whether to buy or sell, trading Kovalchuk would be a mistake. Yes, they could pick up a draft pick and/or prospect. However, you then lose an important player who can grow with your young players. As well as a player who can help you make a push for the playoffs. We’ve already seen the impact he can have on and off the ice since joining the Canadiens. This is important heading into next year with the young talent on the rise for the Canadiens, especially Alexander Romanov, who may decide to come to North America next season.
The one thing Habs fans will hope for if the Canadiens do elect to not trade Kovalchuk is that the situation does not go the same way it did with Alexander Radulov who became a fan favourite only to walk in free agency. Something tells me this won’t be the case.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Chris Johnston said on Sportsnet 590 Leafs Hour that he doesn’t expect Jason Spezza to go chasing a cup. It’s the Leafs or bust for Spezza.
Leafs Hour:@reporterchris on the Leafs plans for their newfound cap space, Liljegren’s improvement, extending Spezza & the amount of Campbell games to expect moving forward
— JD Bunkis (@JDBunkis) February 11, 2020
Analysis: This is not really much of a surprise as Spezza was happy to be able to return home to play for the Leafs. While Spezza never really got much of a look under Mike Babcock who only played him in 13 of the clubs 23 games when he was head coach, he has played in 31 of 34 games under Sheldon Keefe. This confidence has helped Spezza produce as he has 13 points in those 31 games while playing in a fourth-line role. Very respectable numbers for a player hovering around 10 minutes of ice time per night.
At 36 years old, Spezza’s career is winding down. He also probably believes he has just as good of a chance to win the cup with Toronto given the amount of star power they have as opposed to if he went elsewhere. What better way to end a career than to win a Stanley Cup with your home town team?
Rumour: Pierre LeBrun mentioned on TSN’s Insider Trading that the Carolina Hurricanes are shopping one of their first-round picks in order to try to acquire some defensive help at the trade deadline.
Analysis: Carolina is currently in possession of two first-round picks as they acquired the Toronto Maple Leafs first-round pick for taking on the Patrick Marleau contract. This gives the Hurricanes an upper hand on a lot of teams as it is much easier to part with a first-round pick knowing you have another one in your pocket. LeBrun mentions that the Hurricanes have kicked tires on Minnesota Wild defender Mathew Dumba, however, it was also mentioned on insider trading that the price to acquire Dumba is a top centre or a number two centre plus a pick or prospect.
The Hurricanes definitely are not in a position to offer a centre. This would just be creating a hole to fill another. However, they should be able to manage to find some defensive help with that first-round pick.
LeBrun mentions that owner Tom Dundon does not want general manager Don Waddell to spend the first on a rental, so the Hurricanes will certainly be looking for someone with term. While there is no one who sticks out of the TSN trade bait board with term (other than Dumba) Anthony DeAngelo would be a name to watch. Yes, he is a restricted free agent at seasons end. However, the Hurricanes would have control of his contract. Rather than him just walking at seasons end. This could be someone the Hurricanes target. DeAngelo is currently having a career year where he has scored 42 points in 55 games.