NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Rangers, Oilers, Ayres, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, there is speculation as to who the Toronto Maple Leafs might target for their blue line in the off-season. There is also news out of New York that the Rangers are being given a free pass on their pending goaltender decision but that won’t last forever. Finally, emergency backup goaltending David Ayres officially signed on with the coolest company to add a few more minutes to his 15 minutes of fame.

Toronto’s Blue Line Targets

Luke Fox of Sportsnet recently looked at some trade and free-agent targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As it stands now, the Maple Leafs could lose Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie via free agency and their right side is not all that strong.

Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis Blues
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, January 6, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Among the names mentioned, St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is the most intriguing and certainly most expensive option. At an ask of around $9 million per season, the reality is, Toronto can’t afford him. As backups, Fox also names Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Mike Green, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz, Chris Tanev and Kevin Shattenkirk, all of whom might be more affordable.

If there’s going to be a trade made because GM Kyle Dubas either can’t afford or doesn’t see any of the free agents as the right fit, he could look at Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Vancouver’s Troy Stecher, and Buffalo’s Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen.

Related: Remembering Borje Salming: “King” of Maple Leafs’ Defensemen

Oilers Could Get James Neal Back

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reports that the Edmonton Oilers might be getting good news on the injury status of James Neal. The latest reports is that Neal is close to a return and traveling with the team.

Edmonton Oilers James Neal
Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Matheson notes that Neal will likely join the Oilers on their current road trip that will see the team travel to Nashville, Dallas and Chicago. While it’s not confirmed if he’ll play, he could play in one of those games. It won’t be tonight’s match-up against the Nashville Predators, however.

There is also speculation Kailer Yamamoto might be ready to return to the lineup and will be a game-time decision.

What Will Rangers Do With Lundqvist?

Henrik Lundqvist has now been relegated to the backup goaltender position in New York and there is some belief that he might be bought out if he cannot be traded or won’t agree to a trade when injured netminder Igor Shesterkin returns.

Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote at the start of February, the process of having three netminders isn’t working and “It’s hard to keep three guys sharp.” While the Rangers are only working two netminders with Shesterkin down and the team has been given a little extra time to make a decision, Brooks adds, “The process has reached the point, I believe, where the team isn’t going to try to do that for very much longer, if at all.”

Fox writes that Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has been granted a moment to breathe, but he must make a decision in the off-season and one of the three goalies won’t be back next season.

Related: NHL Rumors: Devils, Maple Leafs, Stamkos, Lehner, More

Emergency Backup Goalie Gets His Own Hockey Card

David Ayres — the Zamboni driver who came in as an emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes and his story captured the hearts of many fans, is getting his own hockey card.

Upper Deck hockey tweeted, “You asked for it and we made it happen.” Because of the serious demand for Ayres cards, fans can now go to Upperdeckepack.com to get the cards.

Catch up on all the latest NHL Rumors