The Canadiens and Rangers are failing to meet expectations through the first month of the season. Could the two teams work together to solve their respective issues?
Eyebrows were raised around the NHL earlier this week when four members of the New York Rangers management, including president Glen Sather and assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld, attended Monday's game between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.
With a 5-7-2 record entering Saturday's contest with the Florida Panthers, there's growing speculation the Rangers seek a trade that reverses their current fortunes. The presence of Sather and company in Ottawa provided more fuel to those rumors.
Sportsnet's Chris Johnston wondered if they were scouting Canadiens winger Alex Galchenyuk, who's now relegated to fourth-line duty. Johnston's colleague Elliotte Friedman suggests the Rangers' struggles could continue efforts to restock draft picks and prospects that began over the summer. The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes the Blueshirts were doing “due diligence” on the 23-year-old Galchenyuk. He also thinks they had an eye on versatile forward Andrew Shaw, whose gritty style of play is a trait currently lacking among Rangers' forwards. TVA Sports' Danny Dube is against the Habs moving Shaw, citing his recent chemistry with center Phillip Danault on the second line.
Brooks also said there's talk out of Montreal claiming the Rangers would do anything to land Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty. He's skeptical about that, citing Pacioretty's poor performance in last spring's playoff series between the two clubs.
Friedman thinks players eligible next July for unrestricted free agency, such as Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, would be obvious trade candidates for the Rangers. He doesn't expect they'll shop younger talents such as Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei or Mika Zibenajad, but feels they could gauge the trade value of defenseman Ryan McDonagh or forwards Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider or J.T. Miller. Brooks, however, cites sources saying Kreider and Miller aren't on the block. Regarding a possible deal with the Habs, he wonders if they would want Zuccarello or Skjei.
The Rangers and the Canadiens both face the same problem. Rival clubs are willing to pluck away some of their best players but they won't get a return at this point in the season that provides immediate help for their rosters. Assuming the two clubs are discussing a deal, they could find it difficult to hammer out an agreement that addresses their respective concerns. Both need help at center and on the blueline.
If the Rangers are eyeballing Galchenyuk or Shaw, there's no certainty the Habs will move either guy. GM Marc Bergevin recently told the Montreal media not to expect any major trades, adding he wasn't giving up on Galchenyuk. Of course, he also said he wasn't shopping P.K. Subban last year and we all know how that turned out.
The Edmonton Oilers could be a trade partner for the Rangers. They need scoring punch at right wing and they've been linked to Kreider in the rumor mill. However, they lack sufficient depth at center and defense to tempt the Blueshirts.
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene could be a good fit with the Rangers. However, the Avs' asking price (reportedly a young, established top-four defenseman, a high draft pick and a blue-chip prospect) remains high. The Rangers would also have to free up sufficient payroll to absorb Duchene's $6-million annual cap hit.
BELESKEY'S FUTURE WITH BRUINS UNCERTAIN
Following a career-best 22-goal performance with the Anaheim Ducks in 2014-15, left winger Matt Beleskey signed a five-year, $19-million contract with the Boston Bruins as a free agent. Having parted ways with Milan Lucic earlier in the 2015 offseason, the Bruins thought the six-foot, 203-pound Beleskey would make a suitable (and more affordable) replacement.
Since joining the Bruins, however, Beleskey's struggled to regain his 20-goal form. He netted just 37 points in 80 games in 2015-16 and injuries limited him to just eight points in 49 games last season. The 29-year-old is scoreless through seven games this season and was scratched from four recent contests. The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa wonders if Beleskey has a future with the Bruins. He points out moving him won't be easy as he's signed through 2019-20 at an annual cap hit of $3.8 million. Shinzawa suggests it could take packaging the winger with a prospect or taking on another bad contract in return.
The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy believes the Bruins should use their depth in promising youth as bargaining chips to accelerate their efforts to rejoin the league's elite teams. He suggests using some of it to boost their depth at center.
With the Bruins currently bumping against the $75-million salary cap ceiling, they could also draw upon that prospect depth by bundling one of them with Beleskey to free up some cap space for perhaps other additions.
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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