Welcome to a new weekly feature for the site, the Midweek Rumor Report! Each week, usually Wednesday but sometimes maybe Tuesday or Thursday, I’ll be taking a look at some of the recent trade and/or contract rumors floating around the NHL landscape. Occasionally I may also dabble in other gossip, such as coaches or general managers on the hot seat, expansion/relocation talk, rule change proposals, and so on. Maybe even some non-NHL hockey stuff from time to time. It all depends on what’s out there for me to pick from.
This week I’ll take a look at one of the big name pending UFAs in Buffalo, a potential star in the doghouse, and various other tidbits involving defensemen.
Thomas Vanek will quite easily be one of the most sought after players this season and possibly during the offseason as well if he makes it to free agency, which would appear to be almost guaranteed. He turns 30 in January and should be more than capable of providing 30+ goals on a top line for numerous seasons to come. However, his value via trade for the Sabres is taking a huge hit due to the Minnesota connection.
You see, Vanek’s going to the Wild in free agency for sure. His wife is from there, his good buddy Jason Pominville is there, he played two seasons of college hockey at the University of Minnesota, and the Wild have the cash to pay him and a hole to fill with Dany Heatley coming off the books this summer. Therefore the best the Sabres can hope for in trade is a rental package for Vanek. That means a first round pick and a decent prospect or two.
I suppose there is a possibility the Sabres could pull off some crazy sign and trade with the Wild that nets them a slightly better return, but the chances of that would be pretty slim I think. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll report more on this story throughout the season.
Nail Yakupov has been a healthy scratch for two games already this season and when he has played he hasn’t really done anything, though part of that is likely due to his linemates being Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu half the time. Normally this type of information wouldn’t amount to anything when you’re dealing with a recent first overall draft pick, but for Edmonton it’s different. They have other recent first overall picks and plenty other quality offensive weapons, but their defense is downright atrocious and Devan Dubnyk is arguably the worst starting goaltender in hockey.
The easiest way to solve a problem is to deal from a position of strength, so that means Yakupov is expendable. Now they obviously won’t be giving him away for free, but don’t let anyone tell you that the Oilers aren’t fielding inquiries on his availability. It will take a considerable offer to part with him though.
There are a few candidates out there for Yakupov as a landing spot that can deal from their own position of strength that matches Edmonton’s needs. At the top is probably the Blue Jackets due to their wealth of defensemen. They have a ton of prospects, such as Ryan Murray, Tim Erixon, and David Savard, plus a few veterans that are still relatively young. James Wisniewski is still only 29, while Fedor Tyutin is 30. Nikita Nikitin is only 27, but may not have a ton of value due to being a pending UFA. Jack Johnson is the only defenseman I feel Columbus wouldn’t consider trading, but I suppose you never really know.
Another destination for Yakupov could be Phoenix. They need some elite offensive potential and Keith Yandle could be available due to the rise of Oliver Ekman-Larsson. If not Yandle, they have plenty of younger guys on the cusp of breaking out also, like David Rundblad, Michael Stone, and Brandon Gormley. The Coyotes might also be able to help out Edmonton in the goaltending area, as with Mike Smith signed for the next six seasons it’s possible they could move Mark Visentin, a former first round pick that’s certainly better than anything Edmonton has in the pipeline.
It’s not just Edmonton looking for defensemen and goaltending though. Here’s some quick notes on other teams that are exploring options in that regard…
- The Hurricanes are definitely still looking for another top four defenseman. Problem is Carolina doesn’t have much to offer aside from maybe their best prospect not currently on the team, Victor Rask. He wouldn’t be enough to get one on his own though.
- Colorado may be flying high right now, but you know they want another veteran defenseman that can handle around 18+ minutes per night. How about Kimmo Timonen as a rental? Might be able to re-sign him to a cheap extension also if it works out.
- Depending on the seriousness of Dan Boyle’s injury, the Sharks could be another team interested in Timonen. He’d fit in perfectly as a Boyle replacement and this may be the year the Sharks have to go all in.
- Minnesota could definitely use another top four defenseman, as they only have three current defensemen playing over 16 minutes per game. Maybe Jason Zucker, who seems to have fallen out of favor, plus a young defenseman could get it done?