NHL Rumors: Kovalchuk, Sabres, Flames, Oilers, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, there is news on the Ilya Kovalchuk deal with the Montreal Canadiens, and are the Buffalo Sabres done making moves? The Calgary Flames who were also part of the trade action on Thursday are apparently not done either. Finally, what’s going on with Kris Russell? Is he hurt, taking a personal day, sick? There’s no report from the Oilers but he wasn’t at practice.

Why Kovalchuk and the Canadiens

Darren Dreger reports the injury situation in Montreal played a factor in the Canadiens willingness to sign Ilya Kovalchuk on Friday and for Kovalchuk, he felt he had the best opportunity to play in Montreal despite signing a two-way deal.

The Canadiens recently announced that Brendan Gallagher would be out indefinitely with a concussion and the team absolutely needed something to keep them in the hunt.

It doesn’t sound like the Habs were always interested in Kovalchuk either. Eric Engels reports that Marc Bergevin started his presser by saying “the circumstances in Montreal had changed with injuries and they’re trying to help the team in the short term without affecting long term. Says Kovalchuk signing is no risk.”

Related: Projecting the Canadiens’ 2020-21 Roster

Sabres Not Done Making Moves

On Thursday night, the Buffalo Sabres were busy, moving defenseman Marco Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens before Montreal sign Kovalchuk. They also acquired forward Michael Frolik from the Calgary Flames. They may not be done.

Jason Botterill Sabres
Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After losing Jeff Skinner to injury earlier this week, the team is looking for more ways to acquire help up front, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. Dreger writes on Twitter, “Sounds like Buffalo is still on the hunt and willing to move other pieces.”

Two assets the Sabres could use to try and improve their roster are defenseman Zach Bogosian who has requested a trade, and forward Evan Rodrigues who also wants out of Buffalo.

Related: NHL Rumors: Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Maple Leafs, Oilers, Rangers, More

Flames Plan to Flip Salary Cap Space

Part of the trade action on Thursday saw the Calgary Flames pick up some salary cap space. They don’t intend to sit on it. According to Flames GM Brad Treliving, “it is our intention” to use the cap space and improve the team.

This could include Treliving pursuing a high-profile rental player prior to the NHL Trade Deadline in an attempt to help secure a playoff spot. Cruickshank speculates the Flames GM could be in the market for a big, top-six winger, preferably on the right side. He writes:

So they figure to be in the market for a needle-mover.

Theoretically, a veteran winger — big-framed with top-six ability, preferably somebody comfortable operating on the right side. 

Source – ‘What does the Michael Frolik trade mean for the rest of Calgary’s season?’ – Scott Cruickshank – The Athletic – 01/02/2020

Cruickshank also takes a bit of a shot at the Flames because they used to have exactly this type of winger in James Neal before the team moved Neal to Edmonton. Regardless, one of only a handful of teams that now don’t necessarily have to worry about spending money on a rental, having cap flexibility gives them an advantage down the stretch if they’re still in the hunt.

Related: NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Penguins, More

Did Oilers Lose Kris Russell?

Despite an overtime loss to the Buffalos Sabres on Thursday night, the Edmonton Oilers ran the same lines at practice Friday morning with one exception. There was no Kris Russell on the ice for the Oilers.

There’s been no report from the Oilers that Russell suffered an injury in the loss so we’ll have to keep our eyes on this situation as it unfolds.

Related: THW’s Top-12 NHL Trade Rumors Tracker – Updated