Two weeks after the start of this summer’s NHL free-agent market, most of the best remaining talent has been signed. Nazem Kadri remains the notable exception, providing a tempting target for clubs still in need of a physical scoring center.
The trade market, meanwhile, remains busy. The Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers pulled off a blockbuster trade on July 22 that saw Matthew Tkachuk shipped to the Panthers for a return that included Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.
Kadri’s availability continues to stoke speculation over where he’ll eventually land. Meanwhile, there are ongoing rumors linking Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Montreal Canadiens and talk of the Edmonton Oilers making inquiries about Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.
Winnipeg Jets Will Trade Blake Wheeler
On June 22, Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler debuted at No. 3 on Daily Faceoff’s list of offseason trade targets. Frank Seravalli reported the Jets had spoken to other teams regarding the 35-year-old winger. He has two years remaining on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $8.3 million.
The following day, Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe suggested the stress of being the Jets captain affected Wheeler’s performance over the past two seasons. Given the club’s struggles last season when it missed the playoffs, Wiebe felt a change of scenery might do Wheeler some good.
Despite his age and hefty annual cap hit, Seravalli thought Wheeler’s contract might not be difficult to move given his physical style and point-per-game production. He also observed that the no-movement clause in his contract reverted this season to a five-team trade list.
A month later, Wheeler remains with the Jets. On July 15, the Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck indicated the club’s best opportunity to move its captain was before the free-agent market opened on July 13. He felt the Jets’ stubbornness at insisting on interested clubs picking up the entirety of his remaining cap hit hurt efforts to move him.
It doesn’t appear that there were many teams interested in acquiring an aging winger carrying an expensive cap hit for two more seasons. Unless the Jets agree to retain some of Wheeler’s salary or take back an expensive contract, their captain will be suiting up with them for 2022-23.
Jakob Chychrun to the Ottawa Senators?
It’s been a productive summer thus far for Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. Within a one-week period from July 7 to 13, he bolstered his offense by acquiring forwards Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, shipped oft-injured starting goaltender Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs and acquired Cam Talbot as his replacement from the Minnesota Wild.
Dorion doesn’t seem to be finished improving his roster. On July 18, the Ottawa Sun’s Ken Warren reported the Senators GM was continuing his search to add a top-four defenseman, pointing out the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun remains in play.
Chychrun, 24, has been the subject of frequent trade speculation. It was believed Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong would attempt to try again to move the blueliner during this offseason if he could find a club willing to meet his asking price.
A skillful puck-moving defenseman who tallied a career-best of 18 goals and 41 points during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, Chychrun would be a perfect fit with the Senators. His affordable $4.6 million annual salary-cap hit through 2024-25 makes him more enticing.
Dorion may have inquired into Chychrun’s availability and found the Coyotes’ price tag too expensive. On July 13, GOPHNX.com’s Craig Morgan dismissed the trade speculation linking the blueliner to the Senators. He anticipates Chychrun will be in the Coyotes lineup when the season begins in October, speculating that he could get moved at next year’s trade deadline.