The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline is just over a month away, and with Canadian teams facing the challenge of a two-week quarantine for any player they acquire from teams below the border, NHL trade chatter has picked up in the last week. As one NHL source reiterated more than once though in recent phone conversations:
‘The biggest issue as always is money. The difference this time, it’s not just Cap money. It’s money in general. Many owners are bleeding it. GM’s need to convince them to go for it, and that’s a challenge (without) gate revenue.’
One can hope that the NHL Trade Deadline is the annual carnival of surprise, instead of a duckpond letdown. With that in mind, the latest ‘Off The Record’ looks at the NHL trade rumors that won’t go away in those surrounding Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel and Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. Also, why is Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk starting to pop up in NHL Trade rumors again?
1. Where Will Eichel Wind Up And When?
On Saturday night, Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman reported that it’s now known amongst the 30 other NHL General Managers that Kevyn Adams and the Buffalo Sabres are ‘Open for business’ on the NHL Trade Market. Friedman didn’t mention any players as off-limits, and as Friedman’s colleague Chris Johnston then pointed out, only Jack Skinner and Taylor Hall have full no-movement clauses. This only fueled the rumors surrounding Sabres captain Jack Eichel even more as NHL trade chatter sparked up again late Saturday night.
Late last week, ‘Off The Record’ spoke to two NHL sources about the likelihood of Eichel actually getting dealt by the NHL Trade Deadline, as well as asking for a favorite and a sleeper team that could eventually wind up with the second overall pick from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Off the record:
Both sources agreed, with so many teams under financial constraints both cap-wise and business-wise, it may be hard to move a player carrying a cap hit of $10 million for each of the next five seasons. They also agreed that the New York Rangers are indeed the likely favorites to land Eichel, with both mentioning Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov as a target for the Sabres in any deal with the Rangers.
As for the dark horses to watch in the Eichel NHL Trade watch?
One NHL source mentioned the Florida Panthers and said to keep an eye on Panthers rookie winger Owen Tippett in any potential return for Eichel. The Panthers selected Tippett tenth overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
The other, a management source, said ‘Don’t sleep on the Coyotes’ and expected any talks with Bill Armstrong, the new GM in Arizona, to start with top Coyotes rookie prospect Barrett Hayton, whom the Coyotes drafted fifth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Clearly, more cap space and money would need to move at the NHL level in any of these scenarios but it’s something to keep an eye on as Eichel NHL Trade rumors will only get louder as we approach the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline.
2. Does Sutter Hiring Keep Bennett In Calgary?
In the aftermath of the Calgary Flames stunning the NHL world with their late-night coaching change from Geoff Ward to Darryl Sutter, there was a general feel around the league that forward Sam Bennett had escaped the doghouse. Many felt that 24-year-old could fit Sutter’s rugged and hard-nosed style and get a fresh start under the two-time Stanley Cup champion coach. However, Bennett was a healthy scratch again for Sutter’s first game back behind the Flames bench since 2006. That surely didn’t do anything to take Bennett’s name off the NHL trade rumor list.
Off the record:
“I think Bennett finds his game under Sutter,” an NHL management source told OTR on Friday.
The chances of that appeared to be good when Sutter told Ron MacLean on Hockey Night In Canada early Saturday evening that he planned to use Bennett more and liked his game but Bennett was still a healthy scratch for a second straight game Saturday night.
So now what?
“Honestly, I’m stunned now,” the same source said. “I thought this was a perfect chance for a coach to come in and make a statement that change was here. Give the kid a chance to prove himself – because he showed he can play in the bubble – and I don’t know. I can tell you that it’s only increased the talk around him again.”
It should be noted that another NHL source this past Wednesday said to keep an eye on the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs with Bennett but at this point, it was purely speculation.
3. Bruins Listening On DeBrusk
After signing a two-year, $7.35 million contract with the Boston Bruins this past offseason, winger Jake DeBrusk has just one goal in 16 games and is mired in a six-game goalless streak as the Bruins take on the New Jersey Devils Sunday night. DeBrusk ended a previous nine-game futility stretch before finally scoring his first and only goal the last time the Bruins played the Devils on Feb. 18.
Despite the season-long slump, DeBrusk’s name is popping up more in trade rumors again just as it did prior to him signing that contract back in late November.
Off the record:
“His name is out there again, that’s for sure,” one NHL scout told BHN this past week. “I mean look at it this way, that’s a pretty good cap hit and he scored 27 goals two seasons ago and 19 last season. He’s also scored some clutch goals in the playoffs. There’s value still.”
Purely speculation from yours, truly, but while everyone will link DeBrusk to his hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers, I’d keep an eye on the Calgary Flames because of one key connection. Darryl Sutter is the Calgary coach, and brother Ron is the Director of Player Development. Their brother Brent coached DeBrusk in the WHA. Could he recommend a player he still believes in?