With the NHL 2016 trade deadline receding into history, several pundits looked ahead to potential off-season moves.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun suggests Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, right winger Jordan Eberle or even left winger Taylor Hall might be available this summer for the right price. That, of course, is a top defenseman.
Hall would certainly fetch the best return, but it's hard to imagine the Oilers parting with their leading scorer and potential captain. Nugent-Hopkins or Eberle appear the most likely trade candidates. Packaging either one with their 2016 first-round pick should land the blueliner they seek.
Right winger Nail Yakupov could also find himself on the trade block. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes the 22-year-old's name surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline. He believes the Oilers could move him if they no longer feel he's a fit as a top-six forward.
The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones observes the Oilers did little to showcase Yakupov before the deadline. He suspects Yakupov's low trade value was why he wasn't dealt at the deadline. TSN's Darren Dreger shares that opinion. He claims Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli told him Yakupov was in play, but doesn't think there was much interest in the former first-overall pick.
A rival GM could gamble on Yakupov, who has a year remaining on his contract at an affordable $2.5-million salary. However, unless the Oilers are willing to take on the salary of an unwanted player or bundle the struggling Russian in a package deal, they probably won't get much of a return for him.
LeBrun also speculates the Detroit Red Wings could move goaltender Jimmy Howard, especially if current starter Petr Mrazek receives a long-term contract extension. Howard, 30, is signed through 2018-19 with a $5.29-million annual cap hit . Having lost the starter's role to the 23-year-old Mrazek, he's become an expensive backup.
If Mrazek instead gets a short-term bridge contract, LeBrun wonders if the Wings might keep their goalie tandem intact for another season or two. However, Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News believes the Wings could trade a goalie this summer.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons considers Howard, along with Anaheim's Frederik Andersen and Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom, as options, if available, for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, former Wings coach Mike Babcock is now the Leafs bench boss. Having favoured Mrazek over Howard in last year's playoffs, Babcock could veto the notion of acquiring his former starter.
Having shipped out pending UFA left winger Mikkel Boedker at the trade deadline, the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes could move another veteran forward this summer. Elliotte Friedman believes center Martin Hanzal could be worth watching in the off-season.
Hanzal, 29, is a year away from UFA status and carries an affordable $3.1-million cap hit, earning $3.5 million in actual salary. Friedman thinks the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals had interest in the Coyotes center leading up to the trade deadline.
The 6-foot-6, 226-pound Hanzal has impressive size and good two-way skills, but also a lengthy injury history. He's on pace this season for a respectable 42 points. It's unlikely Hanzal fits into the Coyotes' long-term plans. If there's a decent market for his services, don't be surprised if he'd dealt before the end of June.
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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