NHL Rumors Roundup: Panthers, Canadiens, Rangers, Golden Knights, and Olympic loopholes

The Florida Panthers are looking at this season with Stanley Cup aspirations. After dealing with COVID issues and injuries, the Panthers have come back strong out of the break with three straight wins (NYR, TBL, MTL).

Panthers GM Bill Armstrong is going to be one of the more aggressive buyers when the trade deadline rolls around and according to one of hockey’s top insiders, they have their eyes on a defenseman.

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NHL Rumors: Panthers interested in Ben Chiarot

The Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes are already in sell mode as they compete for dead last in the NHL. One player that’s been rumored to be on the block for weeks is defenseman Ben Chiarot.

“Ben Chiarot is going to be a very popular player on the teams that will make the playoffs,” Pierre LeBrun said on RDS. “According to my information, the Florida Panthers are interested in Ben Chiarot on their roster for the March 21 deadline.”

Chiarot, 30, has seven points in 31 games this season. He’s a veteran left shot defender who makes just $3.5M on the cap and is a pending UFA.

“The Panthers have already discussed internally whether they will make an offer to the Canadiens,” LeBrun added. “I think the answer to this question is yes and that the Panthers will contact the Canadiens. But they won’t be the only ones.”

Montreal Canadiens rumors

As new head of hockey ops Jeff Gorton continues to interview candidates to be the team’s next GM, several players will likely be moved at the deadline starting with the aforementioned Chiarot.

One other player that has yet to be made officially available but would generate a lot of interest in Tyler Toffoli.

Eric Engels of Sportsnet recently made some predictions and speculated that the Habs will trade Toffoli at the deadline.

“Toffoli has two years left under contract after this one and he hardly fits in the guaranteed-to-be-traded category like, say, pending unrestricted free agent Ben Chiarot,” Engels wrote. “He’s a player who helps get you to the playoffs and helps get you through them, so you have to think teams making a push for the playoffs—and Cup contenders—will be interested.”

The 29 year-old forward has recorded 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 26 games this season and is out six weeks after hand surgery. He has two years left on his deal with an affordable AAV of $4.25M. Another plus is that the acquiring team could flip him at anytime since his contract does not have a no-trade clause.

New York Rangers rumors

new york rangers rumors
Dec 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) and his teammates celebrate a 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have surprised many with their great start to this season. They are currently tied for third overall in the NHL with 44 points but are not without holes.

“Chris Drury has been looking for a forward to play top 9 or top six for weeks, if not months,” Darren Dreger said on TSN OverDrive. “Nothing is happening. That may speak to the parity, and we are a long way from who is a playoff team and who isn’t.”

Regarding targets, most are rentals with many names being bandied about. Tomas Hertl is who many fans would like to see. Lately there’s been some noise around Claude Giroux but the most realistic option is Reilly Smith in Vegas.

Smith, 30, has 11 goals and 26 points in 33 games. He will be a UFA this summer with a current cap hit of $5M. The winger played with Gallant in Vegas and should be available late next month or early February once Jack Eichel comes LTIR.

Vegas Golden Knights rumors

golden knights rumors
Nov 13, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith (19) celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of the Vegas Golden Knights, recent misfortune could actually help them keep a player like Smith for the playoffs.

Forward Max Pacioretty underwent wrist surgery and will be sidelined indefinitely, the team announced last Thursday. 

Although Pacioretty’s return is uncertain, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins had wrist surgery on September 8th and returned on October 30. A six to eight week timeframe seems like a possibility.

The Golden Knights are expected to place Pacioretty and his $7 million cap hit on LTIR, which will create space to add Jack Eichel’s $10 million salary upon his return.

Eichel has surgery on November 12 and was back to skating on his own by December 3. The team did not immediately put a timeframe on his return, but Eichel said recently that he could be back within three months and that he believed he would be back at full strength in six months.

Many expected that Vegas would be forced to shed significant salary to make room for Eichel coming off LTIR, but it is possible that may now not be necessary.

Olympic loopholes

Some NHL players relayed their disappointment about not being able to play in the Olympics. No voice was louder than Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

“The NHL and NHLPA can change the rules of the CBA to add a taxi squad so that they don’t miss any games and don’t lose any money,” Marchand began in a posted rant on social media. “Which has already been agreed upon that players will pay back in escrow until the owners are made whole from what they lost during the pandemic… yet they can’t do a taxi squad doing The Olympics to they can honor the agreement they made so the players can go. Please tell me that’s not bulls**t.”

Last night, Elliotte Friedman revealed on HNIC that some players were looking for loopholes in order to come.

“One of the things a few of the asked was if they could retire, or find some way to void our contract and go play in the Olympics, and find a way to re-sign” he said.

The purpose of Friedman’s story was to further explain the feelings of some players about the Olympic opt-out.

“One played laughed when he said to me, ‘do you think the NHL was ever going to allow you to try something like that?'”