The Toronto Maple Leafs finally took action last week to address their goaltending depth, acquiring Jack Campbell (along with winger Kyle Clifford) from the Los Angeles Kings. On Monday, the Minnesota Wild shipped right winger Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Galchenyuk, a conditional 2020 first-round pick and defense prospect Calen Addison.
With the Feb. 24 trade deadline less than two weeks away, more moves could be in store for the Leafs and Wild.
Toronto GM Kyle Dubas indicated last week he’s awaiting updates on the status of sidelined defensemen Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci before deciding his next course of action. If Rielly, Ceci and injured winger Ilya Mikheyev remain on long-term injured reserve until the playoffs, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported it would free up more than $9 million in cap space for the Leafs. Dubas could bolster his blueline without freeing up cap space when those sidelined players return because there’s no salary cap in the post-season. That would also provide the Leafs with additional NHL-seasoned depth for the playoffs.
Seravalli observed it would be similar to the Chicago Blackhawks placing winger Patrick Kane on LTIR late in the 2014-15 season, using the savings to acquire Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen at the 2015 trade deadline. They helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup later that spring.
Meanwhile, The Pioneer Press’ Dane Mizutani reports Wild GM Bill Guerin indicated any other moves on his part before the deadline depended on his club’s performance. He still believes they can secure a playoff berth. “If there is quit, there will be more trades,” said Guerin.
Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin could be next on the trade block. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Guerin is willing to listen to offers for the defensemen and is in the market for a first-line center. If the best offer the Wild get is a second-line center, LeBrun believes something else will have to be included in the deal.
AVALANCHE EYEING CONNOR?
Now in his third full NHL season, Kyle Connor is blossoming into an offensive star in his own right, leading the Winnipeg Jets with 28 goals and tied for the club points lead (59) with Mark Scheifele.
One would consider Connor among the Jets’ untouchables. Nevertheless, a recent report from the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre suggested the Colorado Avalanche could be among the teams trying to acquire the 23-year-old winger. Citing a “well-connected source,” McIntyre said Avalanche prospect defenseman Bowen Byram was the main name linked to Connor, along with two other smaller pieces. Still, McIntyre doubted the Jets will move the winger and doesn’t believe they’re actively shopping him.
Moving a player of Connor’s caliber would fetch a much-needed top-tier defenseman. Byram could be that blueliner one day, but he’s yet to make his NHL debut. If the Jets were to move Connor this season – and they won’t – it would be for immediate help on the blueline.
PANTHERS LOOKING TO FLIP HOFFMAN FOR BLUELINE HELP?
The Florida Panthers are in a fight for a playoff berth in the Atlantic Division. A recent four-game winless skid sent them sliding into fourth place and they remain outside the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon last week indicated he’s in the market for an experienced defenseman to pair with Aaron Ekblad. Tallon felt he needs more consistency on his blueline. CapFriendly indicates the Panthers have little more than $141,000 in trade deadline cap space. Landing a quality partner for Ekblad could mean a dollar-in, dollar-out move.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported teams were making inquiries about Panthers winger Mike Hoffman. LeBrun felt it would take a defenseman to entice Tallon to part with the 30-year-old winger. With 21 goals and 45 points, Hoffman’s on pace to exceed 30 goals and 65 points. He’s also an unrestricted free agent this summer and could seek a big raise over his current $5.187-million salary-cap hit.
Nevertheless, Hoffman could be enticing to a club carrying blueline depth seeking a scoring winger. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks Hoffman would be a good fallback for the St. Louis Blues if they fail to pry Chris Kreider away from the New York Rangers.
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