The Edmonton Oilers' current struggles are fuelling speculation GM Steve Tambellini will have to bolster his roster once the holiday freeze is lifted.
Edmonton Journal columnist Jim Matheson took to Twitter last Friday to suggest Tambellini needs to shake things up, pointing out the Oilers were only two points better than they were at the same time a year ago.
Since leaping out to a 9-4-2 start in their first 15 games, the Oilers have stumbled badly, winning only five of their next 19 and falling to 13th in the Western Conference.
The slide continues to stoke speculation right winger Ales Hemsky or center Sam Gagner will become trade bait early in the New Year.
Hemsky, who was recently moved off the Oilers top power play unit amidst his growing struggle to regain his offensive form, appears the likely trade candidate.
He's an unrestricted free agent next summer and with young guns Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall now anchoring Edmonton's offense, there appears to be no room for Hemsky in their long-term plans.
CANADIENS PROBLEMS AREN’T ABOUT LANGUAGE
The sound and fury pouring out of the Montreal media over the Canadiens promoting unilingual assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth as interim bench boss overlooks the fact he doesn't have much of a roster to work with.
Injuries have robbed the Habs of top defenseman Andrei Markov, sidelined captain Brian Gionta and appear to be hampering left winger Mike Cammalleri.
The Canadiens are a middle-of-the-pack offensive team, their power play ranks among the league's worst and their defense relies on an overworked Carey Price to bail them out.
In short, the Canadiens aren't a good team and a coaching change probably won't change that fact.
If they don't improve over the next few weeks, it'll not only generate more criticism over Cunneyworth's linguistic and coaching abilities, but also lead to calls for a season-saving trade.
The Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey doubts such a deal can be found, suggesting the core of expensive players management opted to stick with entering this season has turned into one they're now stuck with.
If the Habs keep sliding into the New Year, Hickey suggests GM Pierre Gauthier will be forced to become a trade deadline “seller,” but he will find it difficult to move out players with expensive contracts.
TUOMO RUUTU A POPULAR TARGET
Carolina Hurricanes physical left winger Tuomo Ruutu could be a trade candidate by the February deadline, but he's not paying attention to the speculation.
Ruutu, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July and it's believed the Hurricanes won't re-sign him.
While management is actively shopping for help, and believed to be keen to move a defenseman for a forward, Ruutu could be shipped out if the Hurricanes fail to climb back into the playoff race in the coming weeks.
EMERY TAKES HIMSELF OFF TRADE BLOCK
More than a month ago, NHL.com freelancer Brian Hedger tweeted he was told by an insider the Chicago Blackhawks had signed goaltender Ray Emery mainly for trade value.
With starter Corey Crawford struggling this season, however, Emery has received the bulk of the starts in the Blackhawks goal since Dec. 3, running his season record to 9-2-2.
Emery's trade value has undoubtedly gone up in recent weeks, which will make him a target for clubs such as the Tampa Bay Lightning who are in need of an upgrade in goal.
Crawford, however, would have to make considerable improvement over the next several weeks before Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman would feel comfortable moving Emery. Even then, Bowman will probably hang on to the latter as insurance.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.