Max Pacioretty’s name has been swirling around the NHL trade rumours scene in reports that the Montreal Canadiens’ captain was being “actively” shopped. The 29-year-old has one-year left on his contract after this season and comes with very affordable $4.5 million salary cap hit. While a trade is not guaranteed, especially this season, trade talks and speculation will undoubtedly continue, but that doesn’t seem to have Pacioretty overly concerned. He spoke about the subject: “You just live your life and worry about your family. If it happens, it happens. I’m very proud of the past success I’ve had in Montreal. I’ve played here for 10 years and I’ve never gone through something like this. I’ve gone through ups and downs, but never this low”. Pacioretty, who went without a goal in the month of December, has been trying to work through his cold spell, working with teammates and the coaching staff to get him back on track. He’s always been a streaky scorer, but this slump has been the toughest of his career, to date. In the past 20 seasons, only two current members have scored 30 or more goals in a season – Alex Galchenyuk (once) and Pacioretty (five times). Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has spoken with Pacioretty about his game, but refuses to discuss the trade chatter with him: “Rumours are rumours and why fuel the rumour by talking to him about a rumour. You talk to him about his game and you work with him. As I say, a player will always be my player until he’s gone. Sometimes, I don’t know when that’s going to be, and sometimes he’s not going to be gone. You work with the players you have. We’re all pros and whether it’s a player or coaches, we’re all dealing with that stuff. You have to be able to overcome that to be successful. In Max’s situation with all the rumours, he’s handling it well”. Several teams will most certainly have serious interest in Pacioretty, but given the Canadiens’ position in the standings – they sit 14th in the Eastern Conference and 28th in the NHL – those clubs may try to lowball Habs GM Marc Bergevin, who cannot afford to make a poor move, as questions over his tenure with the club have continued to pop up, as well. The Canadiens want a young, proven goal-scorer as part of a deal for Pacioretty. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are also believed to be dangling forwards Andrew Shaw, Tomas Plekanec and Michael McCarron.
The Canucks are taking calls on defenceman Erik Gudbranson, whom many around the NHL believe will be moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Gudbranson, who turns 26 on Jan. 7, is making $3.5 million this season and can become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. With the emergence of Vancouver’s young defenceman, Gudbranson seems to be the odd man out. The Canucks and Gudbranson have not conducted significant contract talks, according to reports, and the writing may be on the wall for the former third-overall draft pick. Gudbranson said: “Everybody else is more concerned about it than I am. I’d be lying to you if I told you it hasn’t crossed my mind. Everybody thinks about their future. Everybody does. To a certain extent in our business, it’s out of your hands (so) I try not to think about it”. Canucks GM Jim Benning has held discussions with some of his counterparts about Gudbranson, though it’s unclear which teams have directly spoken with the Canucks about the defenceman. Several teams are looking to bolster their blueline, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.
As the weeks inch closer to the late-February trade deadline, trade speculation surrounding the Arizona Coyotes will undoubtedly pick up. While a number of teams are interested in defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes GM John Chayka has said repeatedly that he does not plan on trading the star blueliner. That likely won’t keep teams from inquiring, though, and the right offer may be enough to persuade Chayka to pull the trigger, as his club currently has the best odds of drafting first-overall in the June 22 NHL Draft. However, such a trade may actually be better suited for the off-season, around the time of the draft in Dallas. Aside from Ekman-Larsson, though, the Arizona Republic reports the Coyotes have several other veteran players who could command serious interest. The paper lists currently-injured defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson and forwards Brad Richardson and Tobias Rieder as three players the Coyotes could move by the Feb. 26 deadline. Richardson and Rieder are in the final year of their respective contracts, though Richardson can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, while Rieder can become a restricted free agent. Hjalmarsson, acquired in the off-season from the Chicago Blackhawks, has one-year left on his deal after this season and comes with a $4.1 million salary cap hit. He does, however, own a 10-team trade list as part of his contract and will have a say in where he ends up, if dealt, again. While he shoots left, he does spend time playing on the right side, and several teams are looking for just that, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have also been linked to Ekman-Larsson. The Coyotes have also been shopping forward Anthony Duclair, who is set to become an RFA this summer. It’s believed the Coyotes prefer to package Duclair in a larger deal for a young, impact player, though a trade is not believed to be imminent.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have loaned goaltender Calvin Pickard to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and recalled forward Frederik Gauthier. In his lone appearance with the team, Pickard stopped 24 of 28 shots in Toronto’s overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 29. Prior to his recall, Pickard went 10-5-0-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 15 games with the Marlies. Gauthier has appeared in 25 games with the Marlies this season, registering five goals and three assists. During the 2016-17 season, Gauthier split time between the Maple Leafs and Marlies, netting two goals and adding one assist in 21 games with the Leafs.
Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been cleared to make his season debut, after missing the first 39 games because of back trouble. Parise told reporters after practice on Monday afternoon that he’s “got the green light” to play for the Wild on Tuesday night against Florida. Parise skated on a line with Charlie Coyle and Chris Stewart. He played in one game on a conditioning assignment last week for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. Parise had surgery on Oct. 24 to address a disk problem in his lower back that caused leg pain and weakness. He resumed skating on Nov. 29 and rejoined the team for practice on Dec. 14. Right wing Zack Mitchell was waived on Monday to make room on the roster for Parise.