The Pittsburgh Penguins, having slightly tinkered with their roster earlier this week, may be looking to make a bigger move after the holiday roster freeze lifts on Dec. 27. During the Saturday night “Headlines” segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Nick Kypreos reported the Penguins may be trying to make a big splash be moving one of their star players. According to Kypreos, one player whose name he’s heard “being bantered about is Kris Letang”. The 30-year-old star defenseman has four-years left on his contract, which comes with a $7.25 million annual salary cap hit. Letang also owns an 18-team no-trade list. Kypreos questioned Letang’s performance this season and prompted that as a reason he may be available for trade. Kypreos also noted the Penguins “would love to shed some salary” and moving Letang wouldn’t certain help in that department, but such a trade would see the Penguins acquire a significant asset in return. Elliotte Friedman, on the panel with Kypreos, added the Penguins would likely want two forwards, one of which would be a center, in a deal for Letang, if he were truly up for grabs. In 37 games with the Penguins so far this season, Letang has tallied two goals and 23 assists for 25 points, which puts him on pace for the second-highest point-total of his career (55), though he also possesses a minus-15 rating. Letang’s health is what concerns most teams and if he’s healthy enough to play consistently, it could result in a handsome return for the Penguins, should they choose to go down that road. Several teams are looking for a top, right-shooting defenseman, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers.
There’s a storm brewing in Brooklyn. With each passing day, and we get one day closer to July. 1, the cloud hovering over the Barclays Center gets darker and darker. As we continue to get closer and closer to the midway point in the season, it seems as though this particular storm is going to completely be unleashed in Brooklyn by spring. Ever since he’s been eligible for a contract extension, the debate surrounding superstar John Tavares as to whether or not he’ll be an Islander long-term has not stopped. The team’s lack of true success can be directly related to this (winning one playoff series since he was drafted in 2009), as well as the team’s long-term location uncertainty. With all the talk of where Tavares will end up playing, one team may be lurking in the weeds as the true favorite for Tavares to land. Could one team, arguably the least talked about team in the entire NHL, be the Raleigh-ing spot for Johnny T? Have you caught onto to the cheesy references yet? That’s right; the team I’m talking about is the Carolina Hurricanes. Why in God’s name would Tavares leave one problem organization for another? Anchored by former All-Star and co-captain Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes’ defense features young rearguards Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury, Brett Pesce and former Blackhawk Trevor van Riemsdyk as their starting six. Collectively, the group averages an age of 23 years old. It’s hard not to like that defensive group, especially when you consider that they have former first-round pick Jake Bean coming up the pipe line. But obviously, you need to be able to score goals to win. While the Hurricanes have some nice pieces up front in Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Sebastien Aho, the team hasn’t truly had a dominant superstar since the early days of the former face of the franchise Eric Staal. Teravainen currently leads the team in points with 25. Insert John Tavares. Tavares would immediately make the Hurricanes a playoff team and, in my opinion, a team capable of finishing in the Top 3 of their division. In the not too distant future, it is not hard to imagine the Hurricanes having one of the better defensive groups in the entire NHL, and if Tavares were to be added to the mix, it could be argued the same for the forwards. The Hurricanes currently have the second lowest payroll in the entire NHL, so offering Tavares a blank check would be 100% doable. With Tavares sure to be looking for a seven-year contract with an average annual value well north of $10 million, there will not be too many competitive teams capable of dishing out that kind of money. Favorite landing spots for John Tavares are big market Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto, but there are glowing problems for each city. In Toronto, they already have a superstar in Auston Matthews, who will be getting Tavares-like money in the near future. Aside from Matthews, young stars Mitch Marner and William Nylander (not to mention recently signed veteran Patrick Marleau) will all take up significant money on the cap. Hard to think the Leafs could fit Tavares in with an already overly expensive forward group. As far as Montreal goes, why would Tavares want to play there? Sure, Marc Bergevin would probably give Tavares the biggest deal imaginable, along with the key to the city, but the future has never been duller in Montreal. With arguably the thinnest pipeline in the entire NHL, and the team’s top two players (Shea Weber and Carey Price) already being on the wrong side of 30, it’s hard to imagine the Habs being a competitive team long-term. Tavares is not only hungry for a big pay day, he’s hungry for success. But there are not a lot of franchises that seem poised to offer him both. There are many that can offer him one or the other. It seems that Tavares in Carolina is a match made in heaven.
There was a bit of a scare for Edmonton late in the game when McDavid limped off the ice after blocking a shot with his foot late in the third period, but Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said post-game that it doesn’t appear to be an injury that could cost his star player any time off the ice. “The doctor’s have X-rayed it and it came back negative,” McLellan said. “His foot is a little sore obviously from blocking it, but he’s in good spirits. The three days (break) will help him and I fully expect him to play in Winnipeg (on Dec. 27)”.