The Oilers are searching for help on the blueline, the Sharks are hearing from teams about Erik Karlsson and the Canadiens have some decisions to make on the development of their young players. Gino Reda and the TSN Hockey Insiders discuss these topics and more on the latest edition of Insider Trading.
Pierre, you are usually the guy to say “pump the brakes” when it comes to pushing for change, but is it fair to say the Oilers are no longer in a position to wait?
LeBrun: I don’t think Ken Holland is ready to panic, but our understanding of the situation is that Ken Holland has been on the phone a little more of late than usual and he is fully investigating what’s out there on the defenceman trade market. So yes, our understanding is he has talked to Arizona about [Jakob] Chychrun, to Montreal about Joel Edmundson. Think of a team [that] has a defenceman potentially on the trade market and the Edmonton Oilers are trying to investigate fully what that means and what the price is – the prices are very high. I think Ken Holland is willing to be patient, doesn’t want to make a panic move. The other thing is they aren’t one trade away from fixing everything in Edmonton. I think the message internally is: ‘We need to play better.’ There’s no question that’s been heard.
Dreger: When I think of a team that may have a defenceman available, I think of Matt Dumba and the Minnesota Wild. There’s no question that the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators have reached out and do have interest in Dumba. Why wouldn’t you? He’s 28-years-old, he’s a right-shot defenceman and he’s a pending unrestricted free agent. The problem from the Wild’s standpoint is they need him. They’re playing pretty well right now. They’re not sure just yet they are ready to move on from Matt Dumba even though you look into the future and you see the cap issue of the Minnesota Wild … But the price would be high and then the Wild would have to hit the market potentially to find someone to replace Matt Dumba.
What about Erik Karlsson? Off to that amazing start, we originally thought the four-plus seasons at an $11.5 million cap hit would make a deal really tough, but are we edging closer to something?
LeBrun: Here’s what’s interesting – in November at the GM meetings, Mike Grier – the GM of the Sharks – came out and we asked him about Erik Karlsson and his future and Mike Grier basically announced at that time ‘We would listen’ on Erik Karlsson. And then our question was: would anyone call given that contract? Well, Karlsson has continued to have a torrid season and what’s happened subsequently – we can confirm that teams have engaged with the San Jose Sharks about what a trade could look like. I still think it’s more likely this waits until the off-season, if at all. Karlsson has a full no-move … but the noteworthy aspect here is that teams have called and have talked to San Jose about Erik Karlsson.
When the Kraken sent Shane Wright back to junior, it rekindled a debate about what the Habs should do with Juraj Slafkovsky – especially since they can send him to the AHL if they want to. Any news there?
Dreger: Other than the Montreal Canadiens remain committed to strong development with Juraj Slafkovsky and some of their other younger players, the flat-out truth is the Montreal Canadiens aren’t playing good hockey right now. They’re last in their division. They’re trying to turn things around to get a better assessment of where Slafkovsky and some of these other players are. It’s more likely that they will send Slafkovsky and some of the other young talent down to Laval, but Kent Hughes won’t make a knee-jerk decision because his team currently isn’t playing well.
As rough as the season has been on the Vancouver Canucks, one major bright spot has been the play of free-agent signing Andrei Kuzmenko – and the Canucks’ situation is getting curious now. Are they getting any closer to doing anything with him?
LeBrun: There haven’t been any contract negotiations, although the expectation is that should happen within the month here, but what’s interesting of course is that teams are calling. Why wouldn’t they be? He’s got a cap hit. Teams that are going for it, that are a contender, have almost no cap room – he would fit the bill both in terms of what he can do offensively and the fact he doesn’t take up a lot of room on the cap. But for now, the Canucks aren’t even sure they want to move him. They want to try and see if they can sign him. I think the price starts at at least $6 million per year on a bridge deal for Kuzmenko to stay in Vancouver, where by all accounts he is quite happy.