NHL Rumor Roundup: Blackhawks thinking outside the box (and salary cap) in free agency

Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.

Having missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the once-dominant Blackhawks could be poised to make a major move this summer. 

The Athletic’s Craig Custance cited a source speculating the Blackhawks are looking “to add something significant.” He suggested they could pursue Islanders center John Tavares via free agency, but his colleague Scott Powers pointed out their limited salary cap space could make such a move a long shot. 

Custance also thinks the Blackhawks could get into the bidding for Maple Leafs pending UFA winger James van Riemsdyk. Powers, meanwhile, cited sources claiming the Hawks spoke to the Hurricanes about defenseman Justin Faulk. He added they could also have interest in re-acquiring goaltender Scott Darling

NHL DRAFT 2018: SN’s mock 2.0 | Prospect rankings

The Blackhawks need a reliable goaltender in case starter Corey Crawford, who was hampered by vertigo last season, is unable to return. They also require skilled blueline depth. 

Chicago has over $68.7 million invested in 17 players for 2018-19. With the salary cap projected to reach $80 million, they could have roughly $12 million in cap room. An additional $5.2 million could be freed up if they can trade the rights of all-but-retired winger Marian Hossa

Faulk and Darling carry combined cap hits of over $9 million. While it’s possible for the Hawks to take them on, the Hurricanes could seek a return of one or two good young players, along with draft picks and prospects.

The Blackhawks might not pursue a Faulk-Darling package deal but perhaps they’ll pursue one or the other. As for chasing Tavares or van Riemsdyk via free agency, they would be better served looking at Capitals blueliner John Carlson. He’d be a better fit to address their defensive needs, if they can afford him.  

2018 UFA RANKINGS: Forwards | Defensemen | Goalies

Could Canucks, Canadiens shop first-rounders? 

With the 2018 NHL Draft weekend only a week away, there’s considerable interest in possible moves by clubs holding selections in the top 10 of the opening round. 

Much of the attention is on the Canadiens and Canucks. The Canadiens hold the third overall selection while the Canucks have the seventh pick. 

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels suggested the Canadiens could be a wild card at the draft. With nine picks in the first four rounds, he pointed out they have plenty of incentive to speed up their roster retool. 

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin could be reluctant to part with his pick. Engels cited Bergevin’s recent comments about how much his club suffered to be in this position in the draft. That hasn’t prevented pundits and fans from envisioning possible trade scenarios, but Engels believes it’ll take “a proven NHLer in addition to a high first-round pick” to tempt the Montreal GM.

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Bergevin also holds four picks in the second round and three in the fourth round. He could draw upon some of those as trade bait to bring in some immediate help for his roster.

Recent trade chatter also linked the Canadiens to the Oilers, who hold the 10th overall selection. La Presse’s Mathias Brunet suggested they should offer to acquire high-salaried winger Milan Lucic provided the Oilers also include their first rounder. While the Oilers are reportedly gauging Lucic’s trade value, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples doubts they’ll include that pick in the deal. 

The Canucks, meanwhile, are rumored to have interest in Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly and Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin. Speaking with Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 on Tuesday, insider Elliotte Friedman said he thinks they may have offered up their first-round pick to the Hurricanes for Hanifin but not to the Sabres for O’Reilly. 

Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden takes a dim view on this trade chatter. He told The Athletic’s Jason Brough the speculation “has gotten a life of its own.” Brough cannot say for certain the Canucks won’t move that pick but believes there’s “a very, very strong possibility” they’ll retain it.

MORE: Erik Karlsson, Phil Kessel top list of possible players on the move

Mike Hoffman on the move soon?

Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has been the subject of considerable trade speculation this season. However, he’s not the only Senator who’s been a fixture in the rumor mill. Since midseason, winger Mike Hoffman also was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate. 

Of the two, the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan believes Hoffman is more likely to be moved, perhaps by the upcoming NHL Draft weekend in Dallas. While the 28-year-old winger was the Senators’ leading goalscorer over the past four seasons, Brennan said his one-dimensional play and $5.18 million annual average salary means he no longer fits into their plans. 

Brennan cited multiple sources claiming the Senators have been shopping Hoffman for weeks, anticipating that the return “may be disappointing.” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman disagreed, claiming their asking price was high. He anticipates Ottawa could try to recoup some draft picks. 

Adding intrigue to this situation was the revelation Karlsson’s wife filed a restraining order against Hoffman’s fiancee alleging harassment and stalking dating back to at least last November.  While Hoffman and his representatives deny the allegations, that could account for the Senators’ apparent eagerness to trade him. That personal baggage, however, could also hurt his value in the trade market. 

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