In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the Edmonton Oilers have placed James Neal on waivers today. Is this a demotion? Or, do the Oilers have another motive for making this move? Meanwhile, there is more talk about a Victor Mete trade. The Montreal Canadiens have said they don’t want to move him but are enough teams inquiring now that the Canadiens need to listen? The Vancouver Canucks might be ready to make a change and has Derek Stepan actually asked for a trade from the Ottawa Senators?
Oilers Place Neal on Waivers
Neal has often been a healthy scratch and has struggled early this season with only two goals and one assist in nine games. That said, the fact he was placed on waivers by the Oilers Saturday isn’t necessarily a sign the team is trying to get rid of him. Sure, if another team did claim the player, it would relieve a huge salary cap burden, but the Oilers know that’s unlikely to happen.
Instead, this move is about having the flexibility to move Neal freely to and from the Taxi Squad and, at the same time, keep nine defenseman on the current roster. There is little to no chance another team takes on Neal’s $5.75 million over the next three seasons and Edmonton has already made similar moves with players like Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis and Devin Shore.
More Mete Trade News
Sportsnet’s Mike Johnson has noted that the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres could all be hockey clubs with interest in Mete. Often a healthy scratch for the Canadiens, his stance on being moved likely hasn’t changed.
The sheer number of teams who have interest virtually guarantees that the Canadiens will not send Mete through waivers as they know another team will claim him. As such, he’ll have to remain on the team’s active roster.
The question becomes, at what point does the value of Mete in a potential future trade decrease? If he continues to sit out games, someone this young not playing for such an extended period of time might hurt any value the Canadiens could receive in trade. This is not to suggest teams won’t want Mete, only that they could think twice about how impactful he could be if they acquire him.
Something feels like it’s got to give here.
Stepan Has Not Requested a Trade
There’s been a great deal of speculation over the past couple of weeks that the Senators might try to trade Stepan as the veteran center is having a hard time being away from his family and newborn child. He’s struggled early this season and the deal to acquire him from the Coyotes hasn’t worked out quite as planned.
During a TSN 1200 interview, Senators’ GM Pierre Dorion said that, despite his struggles, Stepan has not asked for a trade. Dorion notes:
No, he hasn’t indicated anything along that line to us. We can tell with our conversations that I’ve had with him that I think it’s only human that … when you only see your newborn for a day or two that it can be difficult on any type of human being.
Stepan did tell Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, that this season has been tough. He said:
I’m doing to the best I can to stay focused on Ottawa Senators’ hockey. That’s really all I can control right now is focusing on helping this group the way I wanted to and the way I planned to when I first got traded here.source – ‘SNAPSHOTS: Moving to the Senators hasn’t been an easy transition for Stepan or his family’ – Bruce Garrioch – Ottawa Sun – 02/12/2021
He added that he’s still happy to be part of the Senators roster but, “I believed that I was going to be able to come in and make a bigger impact right away with my play.” He noted that no training camp and things sort of piling up has made the transition a bit more difficult.
Canucks Nearly Ready to Make a Change at the Top?
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period recently cited multiple sources who said a change could be coming in Vancouver relatively quickly. He writes: “According to two separate sources, Canucks ownership is beyond frustrated with the team’s start and is considering a change at the General Manager position.”
Pagnotta specifically points to the series against the Flames. If it does not go well and the Canucks fail to pull out a win, “I believe we could see the end of Jim Benning’s tenure in Vancouver,” he adds.
One of the interesting names being thrown out there as a potential candidate if the Canucks do decide to make a change is that of former Canucks goalie and current Special Advisor to the GM in Florida Roberto Luongo. Pagnotta says Luongo fully understands the Vancouver market, he’s ascending at a solid rate in the management world and was recently named one of the Assistant GMs for Team Canada’s Winter Olympic team. Pagnotta notes, “There are some whispers ownership has interest in talking to him, but as far as I know, that’s all they are right now.”
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”