LeBrun rumblings: Golden Knights vs. Oilers in the forward trade market, latest on Devils-Markstrom, more


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One of the more fascinating subplots ahead of next Friday’s 3 p.m. Eastern NHL trade deadline pits two Western Conference contenders, the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights, against each other, with both teams poking around on similar forward names.

That ahead of a potential first-round playoff matchup.

The difference lies in the fact that Vegas has more salary cap flexibility because, as TSN teammate Darren Dreger reported on our Insider Trading segment Thursday evening, Mark Stone is not expected back before the end of the regular season — and perhaps is not even a sure thing for the playoffs. That gives the Golden Knights his $9.5 million cap hit to use in a trade. Although let’s point out the obvious here: The Golden Knights would much rather have their captain in the lineup. He’s pretty hard to replace for all kinds of reasons.

But it does firmly put Vegas in the high-end forward market, which features the likes of pending unrestricted free agents Jake Guentzel, Vladimir Tarasenko, Tyler Toffoli, Adam Henrique, Jordan Eberle, Jason Zucker, Anthony Mantha, Max Pacioretty, Alex Wennberg and Anthony Duclair, just to name a few.

And there’s also the non-rental group, forwards with term, like Pavel Buchnevich, Frank Vatrano, Reilly Smith and Mikael Granlund.

Regardless of who Vegas decides to focus on — and I certainly think Guentzel, Tarasenko and Toffoli all make sense — the Knights have a luxury their rivals in Edmonton do not: They can take any cap hit straight on without having to worry about salary retention or third-party brokers or even having to trade away a player from their roster, all of which are real-life concerns for the Oilers in any tangible trade.

Not to mention the fact that Edmonton is also looking at the defenseman market, trying to land Chris Tanev before he went to the Dallas Stars. Veteran general manager Ken Holland is juggling a few things heading into the final week.

My understanding of the Oilers’ mindset going into the weekend is that they are ready to be patient and see how the market continues to develop. And here’s why I think they’re willing to be patient, especially when it comes to the forward market.

I just listed a bunch of forward names above. As far as I can tell, the playoff contenders trying to land a forward before Friday’s trade deadline are the Knights and Oilers, as mentioned, plus the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Coloardo Avalanche. Maybe the Boston Bruins are, too, to some degree, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Toronto Maple Leafs looked for a depth forward.

Now within all that, there’s the caveat that Carolina prefers non-rentals, so its forward search is curated a bit differently — and, yes, it’s true that the Hurricanes talked to the Vancouver Canucks about Elias Pettersson last week, but the focus for the Canucks is clearly on trying to get an extension done with their star Swede.

So what I’m getting at is that if you examine the forward market at large, you’re probably looking at just five or six teams buying when there’s at least double that amount of players available.

That’s why I think the Oilers can afford to be patient for a while — because I think the sellers may have to drop their prices closer to next Friday.

Now, not all forwards are the same. There could still be a bidding war on some specific, higher-end guys. But regardless of how it plays out, I don’t think Edmonton leaves the deadline empty-handed at forward. The Oilers probably have to let rival Vegas get its deal done first, but they’re are adding somebody. The market should probably come to them — even with their complicated salary cap situation.

Devils still after Markstrom

Don’t turn the page on Jacob Markstrom to the New Jersey Devils just yet.

After a failed trade attempt a few weeks ago, I’m told New Jersey reached out again to the Calgary Flames this week to say it was still interested in the 34-year-old netminder. And in fact, I believe the Devils are now willing to make that trade without the Flames having to retain salary, which was a sticking point last time around (or at least the asset cost on retaining salary was).

But even with the Devils offering to take on all of Markstrom’s contract, which pays him $6 million per year through the 2025-26 season, I think it’s still a tough trade to contemplate for Flames GM Craig Conroy. His team is battling hard, and trading its MVP would probably gut his dressing room. He is definitely sensitive to that.

It is certainly a trade conversation that can be revisited this offseason, too. By then, the Devils might also have new goalie options on the market to look at, though. So that’s the Catch-22 for the Flames. Not an easy call either way …

Are the Flames willing to part with Jacob Markstrom? (Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

Kraken could keep Eberle, Wennberg

One key thing to monitor out of Seattle ahead of the deadline is whether pending UFA forwards Jordan Eberle and Alexander Wennberg sign extensions.

League sources confirmed to me Friday that Kraken have engaged in discussions with each player’s camp about potentially extending and staying put. Both situations could go either way. They could still be traded, as well. But it’s noteworthy that both could potentially sign extensions if the teams and players figure it out.

What Seguin’s injury means for Stars

Stars forward Tyler Seguin is expected back before the playoffs, so his $9.85 million cap hit is likely not going on long-term injured reserve before the trade deadline. That’s certainly noteworthy. Evgeni Dadonov ($2.25 million average annual value) may not return before the playoffs, but the Stars are already using his LTIR space so that doesn’t really factor, either.

The way rookie Logan Stankoven is playing since his call-up, the Stars have already found their most important reinforcement up front anyway.

(Top photo of Pavel Buchnevich and Jack Eichel: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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