The final major milestone of the NHL offseason is nearly upon us, as the free-agency signing period will commence Saturday at noon ET, giving teams one last chance to set up their rosters in bulk.
While the majority of the league's unrestricted free agents will find homes on Saturday, that does not mean NHL general managers are not still discussing trades involving high-profile players. Some of these moves seem inevitable, which means they should be finalized sooner rather than later, with free agency limiting roster flexibility around the league.
With that in mind, let us take a look at some of the latest buzz percolating throughout the NHL.
Matt Duchene has seemingly been on the trade block for the past year, but the Colorado Avalanche have yet to settle on an offer to their liking.
Two Stanley Cup contenders are in on the speedy center, per TSN's Darren Dreger:
Darren Dreger @DarrenDreger
CBJ and Nashville with trade offers for Matt Duchene. Other teams still calling as well. Colorado continues to play waiting game.2017-6-30 17:16:00
The 26-year-old is one of the fastest players in the NHL with the puck on his stick, but he also has the hands to dazzle. He has twice put up at least 65 points since jumping to the league after being drafted No. 3 overall in 2009, sitting with 418 points in 572 games.
However, his value may never be lower, as Duchene had the worst season of his career, putting up 41 points while Colorado was the lousiest team in the league last term.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been aggressive in adding speed and scoring to their lineup this offseason, trading for dynamic skilled winger Artemi Panarin while inquiring about Ilya Kovalchuk, who could be coming back to the NHL, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post. It seems evident this team is going for it now, and Duchene could help achieve that goal.
Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, Panarin and Alex Wennberg provide Columbus with plenty of quality scoring depth, but the team lacks a game-breaking center to make its offense elite. The Blue Jackets have roughly $12 million in cap space, with Josh Anderson and Wennberg needing new deals, but they could have the room for Duchene's $6 million cap hit depending on how they arrange the roster.
After losing James Neal in the expansion draft, the Nashville Predators could certainly use a top-six forward to stay in championship contention. Yet even with over $22 million in cap room, it would be tough for Nashville to comfortably accommodate Duchene, with Pontus Aberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Austin Watson all needing new deals.
Colorado's price for Duchene has obviously been high given he has been on the block for months, and Dreger later said on Friday that the Avs want a top-four defensemen in return. That makes a move even more difficult, with Nashville's top four seeming untouchable after the team's Stanley Cup run. Meanwhile, Columbus is highly unlikely to part with either Seth Jones or Zach Werenski.
The onus is on the Avalanche to make a move since it seems tough to imagine their relationship with Duchene being patched up before next season. There is way too much smoke around the center for there to not eventually be fire, so look for trade here in the next few weeks.
Having excellent young talent is great, but supplementing that with experienced veterans is key to helping the youngsters develop on and off of the ice. It seems the Maple Leafs are looking to do that on defense, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman:
Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC
Sounds like TOR has interest in Stanley Cup champion Ron Hainsey.2017-7-1 12:47:25
For the past 12 full seasons, Ron Hainsey has been a steady stay-at-home defenseman with the ability to occasionally chip in offensively. He put up 39 points back in the 2008-09 season with the Atlanta Thrashers, but at 36, he is far from that player now.
Still, he provided quality minutes for the Pittsburgh Penguins this past postseason, winning his first Stanley Cup. He could do the same with Toronto as soon as this season.
After Jake Gardiner, Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev, the Maple Leafs do not have much going for them on the back end. While Hainsey is not an ideal option to play in the top four of a contending team, he could definitely play on the bottom pair and kill penalties.
Considering Hainsey played last season with a $2.83 million cap hit, it appears Toronto could land him at a much cheaper rate in light of his age and decreasing skating ability. The Maple Leafs have just over $7 million in space, with Connor Brown and Zach Hyman needing new contracts, so Hainsey would likely be looking at a one-year deal at no more than $1.5 million to fit.
That should work for the defenseman if he is serious about making another championship run during the last couple of seasons of his career. Hainsey would not solve Toronto's defense issues, but he undoubtedly would make a positive impact next year.
Former Top Pick Could Land Another Chance
There is no doubt that Alexander Burmistrov has been a bust since being taken No. 8 overall by the Thrashers in 2010.
In 324 games, Burmistrov has vastly underperformed to his skill level, putting up just 95 career points. The Russian showed some promise at the end of last season, though, tallying 14 points in 26 games with the Arizona Coyotes.
As a result, it seems he is drawing interest ahead of free agency, according to Friedman:
Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC
Also hearing VAN taking a look at Alexander Burmistrov. A worthwhile gamble for them2017-7-1 00:02:00
Led by the aging Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with questions about their future in net, it seems like a safe bet that the Vancouver Canucks are not going to be competitive this season in a Pacific Division that includes the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers, among other strong squads.
Thus, the Canucks could take a chance on possibly unlocking an exceptional talent in Burmistrov at low rate. The skating and goal-scoring ability is still there, and as shown at the end of last season, he can snipe in traffic, via Sportsnet:
Given consistent minutes on the power play and within Vancouver's top six, Burmistrov could surprise some people with his best season yet. If the Canucks pull the trigger and he does not work out, they could just walk away without conceding much money or term, so there is little reason not to take a risk here.
Statistics are courtesy of NHL.com. Contract information is courtesy of CapFriendly.
Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2718761-nhl-rumors-latest-buzz-on-matt-duchene-trade-ron-hainsey-and-more