The New York Islanders enter this week with 13 points in 15 games (5-7-3), sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. That poor start has some Isles fans wondering how the club will snap out of their early-season funk.
Replying to a fan's question on the possibility of acquiring a top-end forward to play alongside captain John Tavares, Newsday's Arthur Staple points out such moves usually take place near the trade deadline. While noting GM Garth Snow is “fielding calls and offers daily,” Staple doesn't expect any sweeping changes yet.
In today's salary-cap world, significant early-season deals are rare. Last season's biggest early move took place on Jan. 6, when the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones. Given the Isles current struggles, if they have to wait until mid-season to land a scoring winger, the move could come too late to save their season.
Staple also touched on recent speculation out of Toronto suggesting the Maple Leafs should pursue Tavares should the Missisauga-born Islanders captain become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. He considers that talk inevitable, especially with the Isles struggling this season. However, he notes Tavares remains motivated to lead the Isles. He also adds no one can know what Tavares thinks about playing for the Leafs.
The earliest the Isles can bring the “Tavares-to-Toronto” chatter to a screeching halt is by re-signing him next summer. The earliest they can do that is July 1, 2017. The longer he goes next summer without a new contract, the more media chatter we'll hear out of Toronto tying him to the Leafs.
FLAMES' HAMILTON IN RUMOR MILL AGAIN
In late-October, Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton surfaced in trade rumors. Currently in the second season of a six-year, $34.5-million contract, the 23-year-old has struggled at times on the Flames blueline.
Two weeks later and with the Flames near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Hamilton's name has resurfaced in the rumor mill. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos doesn't believe the Flames are shopping the young defenseman, but said there are some teams seeking blueline depth making inquiries. He claims the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins are “kicking the tires” on Hamilton.
Kypreos notes Hamilton's stock isn't that high right now. If so, the Flames will probably want to wait until his trade value improves before examining potential trade options.
Hamilton's contract is also a significant sticking point. With a $5.25-million annual cap hit, the cap-strapped Coyotes and Penguins can't afford to absorb it unless it's a dollar-for-dollar swap or by shedding salary elsewhere. The Flames also have limited cap room, so it's unlikely they'll agree to pick up part of Hamilton's salary to facilitate a trade.
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.).
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