In today’s NHL Rumors rundown, I give my thoughts on some names from Pierre LeBrun’s trade bait list. These names include Ilya Kovalchuk and Chris Kreider. Plus, could the Boston Bruins have interest in Taylor Hall if the New Jersey Devils make him available this season?
LeBrun’s Trade Bait List
In a Friday column, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun listed several players who could be dealt between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline. (from ‘LeBrun: A look ahead to the trade deadline to see who may be in play and which teams may be interested,’ The Athletic, 10/17/2019) I’m going to discuss a few of the players and provide my thoughts on whether they’ll be moved.
The most popular player mentioned in trade rumors early this season, Devils winger Taylor Hall is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at season’s end. It’s been well documented that the Devils want to re-sign Hall, but a poor start to the season could negatively affect the odds of that happening. Devils general manager Ray Shero will continue to try and get an extension done, but if he doesn’t have a strong feeling that Hall will sign an extension, he has to entertain trade offers.
Hall is a player every team would love to have, and most teams will likely kick the tires on him if he is made available. But, he won’t be cheap. A NHL-ready player, high-end prospect, and first-round pick are likely the package Shero would be looking for. However, a team would need some assurance from Hall that he’ll re-sign with them before giving up such a large trade package. I think that Shero will wait as long as possible before considering a Hall trade, but if the Devils are out of the playoff race and an extension isn’t signed by the deadline, he has to seriously consider dealing the UFA winger.
When the Los Angeles Kings signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal in 2018, the move was questioned. The Kings were an aging team in need of youth and Kovalchuk was 35 at the time. His first season in L.A. didn’t go well, with 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games. He’s gotten off to a much better start this season, with two goals and six points in seven games, but the Kings aren’t a good team. Their 2-5-0 record already has them in last place in the Pacific Division and they don’t look to be a competitive team in the near future.
Kovalchuk’s turnaround this season could have teams interested in him, but his contract will be tough to move. If his $6.25-million cap hit wasn’t rough enough, he also has a full no-move clause this season, and has a modified no-trade clause next season that allows him to submit a seven-team approval list. Even if the Kings find a suitor for Kovalchuk, and he approves the trade, the team will still need to retain some salary. It seems unlikely that he’ll be dealt anytime soon.
Another popular name in NHL rumors is Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris. At one point, it seemed that the Predators would have done just about anything to move him, however, his five points in seven games to start 2019-20 has calmed those desires a bit. His strong play has given the Predators quality center depth with the flexibility of moving him up in the lineup. That being said, the team could still have interest in dealing him after this season when he’ll have four years and $24 million remaining on his contract.
While his play has been encouraging, $6 million is too much to pay a fourth-line center, which Turris is this season. The Predators could also benefit from shedding at least some of his cap hit in order to incorporate Roman Josi’s extension. If Turris continues to play well, it will further increase his trade value, but there’s still a chance the Preds have to retain some salary.
Of the players on this list, Chris Kreider is the one I think most likely to be traded by the deadline. The New York Rangers are coming out of a rebuild and have transitioned their roster from veterans to one full of youth. Kreider is one of those remaining veterans and is also a UFA at season’s end. He’s been a great player for the Rangers in his career, but he’s also 28, so signing him to a long-term deal wouldn’t be in the Rangers’ best interest.
With his speed and tenacious play, there will be plenty of teams interested in him as a playoff rental this season. I think that’s the route the Rangers will go with him, similar to what they did with Mats Zuccarello last season. Look for the Rangers to increase his trade value throughout this season and move him by the February deadline.
Hall a Fit for Bruins?
In yesterday’s Hagg Bag, NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty was asked whether or not Taylor Hall would be a fit for the Bruins as they continue to look for a second-line right winger. The person who proposed the question suggested that pairing Hall with David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman could put the Bruins over the top. Haggerty feels that Hall could be a good, but not perfect fit for the team. One reason is that he is a left winger, which doesn’t address the team’s need on the right side, and the other is the salary cap.
Unfortunately, the cap gymnastics and asset requirements to get him are just one part of the problem. There’s also the issue that Hall is pretty much a left-wing, left-shot forward on a Bruins team that has plenty of left-wing, left-shot forwards already stocked on the roster.
Haggerty does believe that including Jake DeBrusk as part of the return could address the team’s excess of left wingers. He also thinks the team could figure out the cap situation by buying out David Backes’ contract and potentially not bringing back Zdeno Chara after this season. The Bruins certainly have the assets to acquire Hall, but they’d need to know that he would sign an extension with them before considering such a deal.
If a Hall trade wouldn’t work, perhaps the Bruins could pursue Kovalchuk. When he made the decision to return to the NHL, the Bruins were one of the teams interested in him. Now, with him potentially available again, would the Bruins still have interest in him? He’s a right-shot winger, which would address their need, and would cost less in assets than Hall. But, again, Kovalchuk would have to waive his no-move clause to be traded to the Bruins.