We are getting closer to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21 and the rumor mill is spinning around the league (and especially in Chicago!). The Blackhawks will be a team to watch as trade season heats up, so here’s where things stand as we look around the NHL.
Other Teams in on Kuzmenko
There has been lots of buzz surrounding upcoming KHL free agent Andrei Kuzmenko. Recently, Scott Powers of The Athletic reported that the Blackhawks would be one of numerous teams looking into the SKA St. Petersburg forward.
Here’s some of what we had to say on Kuzmenko when this was first brought up:
This season with SKA St. Petersburg, Kuzmenko is second in the KHL in scoring with 20 goals and 33 assists, good for 53 points (and second only to Vadim Shipachyov, who has 67 points with Dynamo Moskva). Both players will be heading to the Olympics with Team Russia in a few weeks after being named to the non-NHL version of the roster.
Chicago has found success in previous years in the European free agent market, most notably with Artemiy Panarin. They have also found quality players like Michal Kempny, Jan Rutta, David Kämpf, Erik Gustafsson, and Dominik Kahun in previous years. The 25-year-old Kuzmenko is not likely to be the “next Panarin,” but his offensive ability has garnered attention from a number of NHL clubs and could be on the radar for a Blackhawks team that will be in-flux and looking for offensive options for the future.
But they’re not the only team.
Darren Dreger on Kuzmenko: "Ottawa has expressed public interest but according to his agent, Dan Milstein virtually every team has called on Kuzmenko. Currently he's focused on the Olympics and then the Gagarin Cup. He won't consider any NHL offer until his KHL season is up."
— Derek Lee (@DLee075) January 18, 2022
Along with Chicago, it was made clear by Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion recently that the Senators would also be looking into Kuzmenko this summer. But as Darren Dreger recently reported, Kuzmenko is not focused on anything regarding the NHL currently, and is instead keeping his attention on the upcoming Olympics and KHL postseason. Kuzmenko was named as a reserve player for Team Russia at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.
Rangers Looking at Lehkonen
It appears that the New York Rangers, currently leading the Metropolitan Division, are looking to add up front. Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen has been mentioned by Arthur Staple of The Athletic as a player the Rangers are looking into, albeit preliminarily:
Artturi Lehkonen has been all over the trade-targets lists for a bit, and sources told The Athletic that Drury and his former boss, Canadiens hockey operations chief Jeff Gorton, have been in contact regarding Lehkonen, who is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights and is due a $2.3 million qualifying offer. The talks are believed to have been preliminary.
Lehkonen is set to be a restricted free agent this summer and has five goals and 15 points in 38 games for the last-place Canadiens this season.
Coyotes Have At Least Two Offers for Jakob Chychrun
The Arizona Coyotes have been shopping their top defenseman in Jakob Chychrun for some time now. But they’re keeping the asking price high, reportedly looking for a first-round pick, young NHL-ready player, and a top-prospect, which is likely keeping teams away for now.
According to Jeff Marek, the Coyotes currently have one “real” offer on the table for the 23-year-old blue-liner, including “essentially two former first-round players and a first round pick,” as well as a lesser(?) offer from the Rangers including Vitali Kravtsov. But it’s not clear who made that more serious/legitimate offer. All told, the Kings, Rangers, Bruins, Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Ducks come in for a mention.
In November of 2018, Chychrun signed a massive six-year contract extension with the Coyotes with a $4.6M AAV cap hit. He still has three more seasons left on that deal beyond this season, with a ten-team no-trade clause on the final two years of the deal. Chychrun has two goals and eight points in 30 games for the Coyotes this season.
Flyers Fire Sale?
The Philadelphia Flyers are currently on a 13-game losing streak, and it appears nothing is off limits as they strip down the roster and look toward the future. HOWEVA, much like with the Blackhawks and their top stars, Flyers Captain Claude Giroux will be in control of his own future, with Philadelphia not looking to move him unless he wants to be traded.
Fletcher: “It will be Claude’s decision,” as to whether Claude Giroux is moved at the deadline.
As far as the deadline itself: “We’re looking to aggressively retool here. Everything is on the table.”
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 26, 2022
It can be easy to pan these decisions as short-term player-service at the detriment of the organization, and that’s not entirely off-base, but it’s important to remember that a team’s reputation, particularly with respect to veterans, is crucial. The Flyers, the Blackhawks, etc. They will be back in free agent acquisition mode soon enough and they always need to be seen as player-first organizations.
Zadina Needs a Fresh Start?
Also mentioned in Friedman’s ’32 Thoughts’ and then again on the Jeff Marek Show was the possibility that Red Wings forward Filip Zadina is in need of a fresh start elsewhere.
The former sixth-overall pick by the Red Wings in 2018 has just four goals and 11 points in 40 games this season and is set to become a restricted free agent this season. Zadina has yet to live-up to his draft position for Detroit, recording just 48 points in his first 126 career NHL games, putting up six goals and 19 points in 49 games last season.