NHL News & Rumors: Penguins, Blue Jackets, Expansion, Kings, & More

Photo By Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Photo By Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s NHL news and rumors rundown, are teams looking to add Jake Guentzel to their forward group? Where’s the market for Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins? Will Salt Lake City, Utah, be the next NHL expansion franchise, and will this be the first domino to start discussions surrounding potential relegation in the NHL? Are the Los Angeles Kings growing increasingly impatient with Pierre-Luc Dubois? Los Angeles head coach Todd McLellan’s comments seem to give a reason that the Kings are more frustrated with Dubois now. Is there legitimate interest in Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros? What teams are in on him, and why are they interested in him? Finally, will Jakob Chychrun still be an Ottawa Senator past the March 8 trade deadline?

Are The Canucks Linked to Jake Guentzel?

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas has dismissed trade rumors surrounding Jake Guentzel. However, with the trade deadline approaching and teams most likely willing to pay more for a certain player, why wouldn’t you try to get more value for your pending UFA?

The clear frontrunner for Guentzel is the Vancouver Canucks. Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman suggested that Guentzel could be a trade target for the Canucks. Vancouver is fighting for first place in the overall NHL standings

The Penguins missed the 2023 NHL Playoffs and will attempt to retool while Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin are still with the team. Guentzel is a two-time 40-goal scorer who has scored 19 goals and 46 points through 42 games this year. The 29-year-old would be a significant addition to any team that needs experienced help in the top six. With his $6 million cap hit expiring at the end of this season, it will be hard to move Guentzel without any salary retention.

No Market for Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins

After the Columbus Blue Jackets and Elvis Merzlikins agreed to a change of scenery for the goaltender, it’s been reported that there’s next to no market for him.

TSN Insider Pierre LeBrun reports that the market is pretty soft for him, considering his contract and term. Every team has their hesitation when it comes to goalies, and rightfully so. Each goalie can look incredible with one team and look abysmal on another.

Elvis Merzlikins celebrates a shutout victory over the Vancouver Canucks
Photo: Hector Urcia | Inside The Rink

Merzlikins is signed until the end of the 2026-27 season at a $5.4 million cap hit. Columbus is one of the many teams that are looking to be more competitive than they are right now and moving the goaltender might not be a terrible option.

Utah Jazz Owner Asks NHL to Initiate Expansion Process

Per Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff, the owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, the Smith Entertainment Group, has formally requested that the NHL begin an expansion process to bring a team to Salt Lake City.

Utah is a great option for an NHL expansion franchise, especially with its success in professional hockey. They currently have the Utah Grizzlies, who serve as the ECHL affiliate for the Colorado Avalanche. Before that, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles played in various leagues from 1969 to 1994 before becoming the Detroit Vipers in 1994.

Since 2018, the arena in Utah, the Delta Center, has hosted five NHL games as part of the Los Angeles Kings’ preseason games. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and Utah could certainly provide an interesting dynamic in the NHL. Additionally, with the NHL looking to expand past 32 teams, one has to wonder if the league will look into incorporating a relegation system similar to European soccer.

Kings’ Frustration Growing With Pierre-Luc Dubois

Quitting on two NHL teams is never a good look. Having your third NHL team seemingly grow more frustrated with your lack of production is also not a good look. The Los Angeles Kings paid a Kings ransom to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois knowing his history of quitting. The Kings sent the steep price of Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and Montreal’s 2024 second-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets. Dubois also came with a fresh $68 million contract worth $8.5 million annually for eight years.

Related: Pierre-Luc Dubois Traded to Los Angeles Kings

Dubois’ nine goals and 19 points in 44 games with the Kings is shocking, especially considering the production from Vilardi and Iafallo alone. Vilardi has 20 points in 26 games, and Iafallo has 17 points in 45 games. Kupari is returning from injury and hasn’t found his footing quite yet. Additionally, the second-round pick is looking like it will fall into the top 40 in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Given everything I’ve mentioned, the Kings have every reason to be frustrated with Dubois. Kings head coach Todd McLellan didn’t pull punches either.

“At the end of the day, whether Dubois gets four minutes or gets 24 minutes, he has to be a difference maker. With or without the puck. we’ve gone through this long enough, it’s time.”

Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan on Pierre-Luc Dubois’ Poor Play

As each day passes, Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff looks like a million bucks for the return he managed to receive for the disgruntled player. McLellan, visibly frustrated, threw his player under the bus without hesitation. He expressed his lack of patience for talented forwards who are also severely inconsistent. One has to wonder if Dubois will last a full eight years in Los Angeles, considering the albatross that his contract is starting to become.

Are The Nashville Predators Listening To Offers for Juuse Saros?

Some teams need a goaltender, if Juuse Saros is available, the teams that need a goalie will call on Saros’ price. TSN Insider Pierre LeBrun has confirmed on Insider Trading that the Nashville Predators are open to listening to offers for Saros. There are four obvious candidates, the top two being the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils have a strong need for adding a healthy goalie who can play consistently. The last two teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are struggling with consistency either from a starting goaltender or their backup goaltender who should be the starting goaltender.

The Hurricanes have a triple-headed tandem with Antti Raanta, Pyotr Kochetkov, and Frederik Andersen. With Kochetkov and Andersen on injured reserve, Carolina is running Spencer Martin and Antti Raanta in net. It is expected that Carolina will be talking to Nashville about Saros, if the teams can work out a deal, Carolina could make a serious run come playoff time.

Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Devils are another team that you have to wonder about. They aren’t getting any stability in net and could use a young goalie that has the experience and the necessary confidence to go on a lengthy playoff run. This has been a double-edged sword for the Devils, they traded away Mackenzie Blackwood for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. Had they kept Blackwood, they might have more stability when it comes to their goaltending position. It’s easy to speculate, but the Devils need a goalie, and this reasonably makes this one of the front runners for Saros.

With Carolina and New Jersey being the two most obvious candidates to call on Saros’ availability, one has to wonder about the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. Two teams that are struggling with getting a bonafide starting goalie. Does Saros get moved before the March 8 trade deadline? Time will tell.

Jakob Chychrun Denies That He Wants Out Of Ottawa

In recent days, there was a report that sparked speculation surrounding Ottawa Senators defenseman Jakob Chychrun. An unknown journalist reported that Chychrun is unhappy and wants out of Ottawa. Multiple sources, including Ian Mendes of the Athletic and Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, have denied these claims.

Getty Images

The Senators are in an incredibly troubling spot, they are dead last in the Atlantic Division and are 28th in the entire NHL. This is not a good look for a team that was supposed to be competitive this year. Management might look to shake things and Chychrun’s contract will make him easier to move and a top trade target. Not even a year after acquiring the defensemen, the Senators’ front office and coaching staff look completely different. Chychrun might be the first domino to fall in the Senators looking to revamp and shake things up.

Seravalli quickly noted that the Senators have two left-side defensemen Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson locked up under long-term contracts worth $8 million annually. Chychrun has one year remaining on his deal after this year. Seravalli doubts that Ottawa will invest $24 million total on their left-side defensemen. Management will also need to determine who stays at the core and who is moved sooner rather than later.

Conrad Jack

Conrad Jack is a lifelong hockey fan who is now actively writing for Inside The Rink covering primarily the Winnipeg Jets and the entire NHL second. He also covers the latest NHL News & Rumors, the NHL Entry Draft, and so much more for Inside The Rink.

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