NHL Rumors: Phil Kessel could go before deadline, Habs waiting on new GM, and Olympic opt-out looming

The NHL trade front is very quiet and expectedly so. Any discussions between teams came to a grinding halt with the spike in COVID cases league wide.

In the last 24 hours, the NHL has implemented enhanced protocols as one team has been completely shutdown in the Calgary Flames. It looks like the Carolina Hurricanes will return from a one game postponement, and some uncertainty concerning the Nashville Predators still exists.

As of right now, despite the rash of cases, the Predators are scheduled to play their next game.

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NHL Rumors: Phil Kessel

Kessel, 34, has 15 points in 28 games for the lowly Coyotes. He’s been trying to escape the desert since the summer but so far there’s been no takers. He will be a UFA at season’s end and has a cap hit of $6.8M. The veteran is widely considered a top rental.

Will he make it to the trade deadline in March?

I asked around about the temperature of the NHL trade market and as you’d expect it’s cold. Basically, you have a lot of buyers with only two sellers. Both the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens are done for this season making them the only two shops on the block open for business.

phil kessel trade
Nov 30, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Knowing this, they are rightfully asking a premium in trade talks. Phil Kessel will assuredly net them a first round pick at the deadline, but it is possible he could go a little earlier?

The Rangers, who have a glaring need at right wing keep coming up. Arthur Staple recently noted as much but also added Dustin Brown in L.A. and Joe Pavelski in Dallas. I find those two unlikely.

The most likely route for Drury is a forward on an expiring contract, given the limited space available in the offseason. The team has space now, though, to take a decent-sized swing at adding someone impactful. Phil Kessel would be a wild-card out of Arizona.

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Habs waiting for a new GM

The other current seller is the Montreal Canadiens. They have plenty of moveable assets starting with defenseman Ben Chariot. Recently, Tyler Toffoli’s name has been bandied about in rumor talks as well.

When it comes to making a move, the Habs are less likely to pull the trigger until they find a GM that can be part of the decisions going forward.

Olympic opt-out

The spike in COVID cases to go along with the strict protocols coming out for the Olympics had Connor McDavid call them “unsettling.”

Robin Lehner of the Vegas Golden Knights went public with his withdrawal already. Now more players are at least expressing genuine concerns from Alex Pietrangelo to Erik Karlsson.

“There’s just too many uncertainties crossing the waters and going into a different nation and different country where we can’t get a straight answer about anything,” Karlsson said via NBC Sports. “There’s going to be guys that are going to test positive, and there’s going to be people that are going to have to go through whatever it is that we’re going to have to go through if that happens, which we don’t really know what that is. So, for me, having a family, I can’t take that risk.”

The opt-out date is January 10th.