The Montreal Canadiens' acquisition of left winger Jonathan Drouin could be the first of several significant moves around the NHL leading up to the expansion draft roster freeze at 3 p.m. on June 17.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin likely isn't done dealing. Having given up promising defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning to get Drouin, Bergevin could be in the market for a young defenseman.
The move also casts doubt over forward Alex Galchenyuk's future with the Canadiens. Sportsnet's Eric Engels reports multiple sources claim Bergevin is shopping the 23-year-old restricted free agent. TSN's Darren Dreger suggests he could be moved for a defenseman such as the Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin or the New York Islanders' Travis Hamonic.
If Galchenyuk is moved for a blueliner, the Canadiens still ned to address their lack of skilled depth at center. They could try moving Drouin into the first-line role but he's spent his short NHL career as a winger. Bergevin could look into this summer's free-agent market, but the options are limited. San Jose's Joe Thornton, Columbus' Sam Gagner, Nashville's Mike Fisher and Minnesota's Martin Hanzal are the best of the bunch.
At this stage in their careers, it's unlikely aging stars Thornton and Fisher will move on to Montreal. Gagner seems best suited as a winger while the oft-injured Hanzal has only one 20-goal season on his resume.
FUTURE FOR PHANEUF AS A SENATOR?
Earlier this week, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion asked defenseman Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause for the purpose of exposing him in the expansion draft. Phaneuf's refusal leaves Dorion facing some difficult decisions for his blueline.
Phaneuf's no-movement clause automatically ensures his exemption from the draft. If Dorion opts to protect three defensemen, Marc Methot or Cody Ceci could be left unprotected. TSN's Ian Mendes reports the Sens GM could trade one of them before the expansion draft.
Phaneuf has a modified no-trade list containing 12 preferred trade destinations, while Methot has chosen 10 places where he does not want to be dealt. Ceci lacks no-trade protection and can be shipped anywhere. Dorion said he's had calls about all three but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll trade one of those defensemen. He could also leave Methot or Ceci unprotected, though that would mean losing one of them for nothing to Vegas.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports sources say Dorion is trying to trade Phaneuf. He lists the Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks among the clubs that need help on defense and could have interest in the veteran rearguard.
Mendes' colleague Pierre LeBrun reports there isn't a big market for the 32-year-old Phaneuf but there is some interest. He believes Dorion will have to pick up part of the blueliner's $7-million annual cap hit or take back a toxic contract to make a deal work.
It's unknown how many (if any) of those teams listed by Garrioch are on Phaneuf's list of preferred trade destinations. If he's targeted playoff contenders that will rule out the Coyotes, Devils, Avalanche and Sabres.
RANGERS LISTENING TO OFFERS ON STEPAN
The New York Rangers' decision to buy out the remainder of defenseman Dan Girardi's contract might not be their only major move this month. TSN's Bob McKenzie reports center Derek Stepan is on the trade market.
No word yet as to the Rangers asking price. They're in need of a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot.
Stepan, who turns 27 on June 18, has four seasons remaining on his contract with a $6.5-million annual average salary. He also has a full no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1. GM Jeff Gorton will have to move quickly to deal Stepan without the center's consent. Gorton could wait until after the expansion draft roster freeze is lifted to move Stepan. Moving him before the freeze is implemented could complicate the Rangers' protection list plans.
OILERS GETTING ACTION ON EBERLE
Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle remains a hot topic in the trade rumor mill. Appearing on Edmonton's TSN 1260, Darren Dreger said there are six or seven teams have interested in the 27-year-old Eberle. He believes the Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders could be among the front-runners.
While the Oilers hope to move out Eberle's $6-million annual salary, Dreger said they'll want a decent return for the winger. They were reportedly interested last season in Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic so perhaps they'll revisit that option.
The Avalanche hit rock bottom this season and a roster shakeup is expected, prompting speculation blueliner Tyson Barrie could be available. However, they're unlikely to deal Barrie unless they can find another good puck-moving rearguard.
WILD WORTH WATCHING AS EXPANSION APPROACHES
The Minnesota Wild risk losing a good player to the Golden Knights. Most of the focus is upon defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba. However, if winger Jason Pominville declines to waive his no-movement clause, a forward such as Eric Staal or Erik Haula could be left exposed.
StarTribune.com's Michael Russo reports Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had trade discussions with the Golden Knights. So far, however, there's no deal in the works.
Russo also reports left winger Nino Niederreiter is the subject of recent trade rumors. He's a restricted free agent, but the Wild have postponed contract discussions until after the expansion draft. His agent claims the 24-year-old enjoys playing in Minnesota and hopes to re-sign a long-term deal with the Wild.
That could depend upon how much salary the Wild shed in the draft and Niederreiter's asking price. Fletcher currently has over $61 million invested in 15 players for 2017-18. Like Niederreiter, forwards Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are RFAs with arbitration rights. All will be seeking significant raises.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.