While the Marc-Andre Fleury-Washington Capitals connection was the highlight of the most recent “32 Thoughts” column from Sportnset’s Elliotte Friedman, the insider had plenty else to say about the burgeoning trade market. Though just a small note, the inclusion most likely to come to fruition is Friedman’s report that several teams are pursuing Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot. Chiarot’s name has been out there among trade candidate all season and it isn’t going away. As the top impending free agent on the NHL’s worst team, Chiarot is a near lock to be dealt. Friedman reports that the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, and St. Louis Blues are among the teams confirmed to have interest in Chiarot, but Friedman also keys in on another possibility: the Toronto Maple Leafs. The rumblings out of Toronto suggest that the Leafs are targeting a defenseman at the trade deadline and they may very well need one to escape the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. Friedman notes that the club kicked the tires on Chiarot when he was a free agent and could be a top contender to land him this time around.
- Another report that is hardly outside the box is Friedman’s suggestion that the Edmonton Oilers have looked into just about every goalie that could potentially be traded this season. Among the list of names are some who have already been linked to Edmonton, such as Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo and Dallas’ Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin, but other interesting targets include Philadelphia’s Martin Jones and Washington’s Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. However, the key piece of Friedman’s report is that the Oilers may end up empty-handed if they aren’t willing to improve their offer. Friedman hears from potential trade partners that Edmonton is not willing to move their first-round pick and increasingly hesitant to move their second-rounder as well. Without a third- or fourth-round selection this year, the Oilers are seemingly only peddling late-round picks, with top prospects likely off the board as well. That won’t get it done in a sellers’ market.
- One goalie who likely won’t wind up in Edmonton is Arizona’s Karel Vejmelka. Though there have been few bright spots in the Coyotes’ dismal season, Vejmelka’s play has given fans in the desert some hope. The 25-year-old rookie, an unheralded import from the top level in Czechia, has performed well this season. By league standards, his .901 save percentage and 3.40 GAA may not seem like much to be excited about, but as a first-year NHLer playing behind one of the worst rosters in the league, the keeper has held his own in 25 appearances. Rather than quickly flip Vejmelka to another team, the ’Yotes seem insistent on extending the goaltender instead, including him as a core piece in their rebuild.
- Still in Arizona, where rumors circle the struggling squad, Friedman reports that young forward Lawson Crouse is unlikely to be traded despite recent speculation. The hulking power forward is not without his flaws, but with 10 goals and 20 points in 40 games, Crouse is well on his way to a career year. Although the Coyotes have shown their willingness to move on from high-potential players for the right price by placing Jakob Chychrun on the block, Friedman states that they have begun telling suitors that they would prefer to keep Crouse.
- Elsewhere, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa writes that the market for Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk is in fact as cold as it seems. There was a flurry of speculation when DeBrusk first requested a trade, but it has quieted down significantly since Boston’s play improved in the new year. This isn’t because the Bruins aren’t listening though. Instead, Shinzawa reports that teams seem hesitant to make the commitment to DeBrusk, at least at the Bruins’ asking price. While his play has improved of late, it is still far off his performance earlier in his career and not up to the level that his $4.41MM qualify offer demands. The challenge for the Bruins is to find a team willing to pay the asking price that either is willing to qualify or otherwise negotiate an extension with DeBrusk or conversely a team that sees him as a rental, as recent rumors have suggested the New York Rangers might. Neither the Bruins nor DeBrusk want to extend their relationship, but it may be easier said than done to find the right deal.