A meeting between Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on Sunday further fueled speculation about the Jets' interest in Senators forwards Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel, who each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
[RELATED: Players to watch before Trade Deadline]
The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Dorion and Cheveldayoff met in Cheveldayoff's suite during the second intermission of an American Hockey League game between Milwaukee and Manitoba, the Jets' top farm team, at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg on Sunday.
Dorion, assistant GM Peter MacTavish and director of pro scouting Jim Clark were in Winnipeg for four days, watching the Jets game against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the AHL game between Manitoba and Chicago on Friday, the Jets game against the Senators on Saturday, and Manitoba against Milwaukee on Sunday.
Jets co-owner Mark Chipman was with Cheveldayoff at Manitoba's game Sunday.
The Free Press mentioned Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie and defenseman Sami Niku, who was called up and played against the Senators on Saturday, as potential trade targets for Ottawa.
Comrie, a second-round pick (No. 59) in the 2013 NHL Draft, made 38 saves in a 3-2 win against Chicago on Friday but was pulled with 6:41 remaining in the second period Sunday after allowing five goals on 19 shots in a 6-5 loss.
Niku, a seventh-round pick (No. 198) in the 2015 NHL Draft, has two assists in 12 games this season with Winnipeg and 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 20 games with Manitoba.
The Jets (36-19-4) lead the Central Division with 76 points, three more than the Nashville Predators. They would like to add to their forward depth in hopes of making a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They reached the Western Conference Final last season before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights.
There have been multiple reports (Sportsnet, TSN, Ottawa Sun) that the Senators have decided to trade Duchene, who has 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) in 50 games this season, after being unable to get the 28-year-old to agree to a new contract.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported Saturday that the Senators haven't given up yet on re-signing Stone, a Winnipeg native, after recently reviving contract discussions. The 26-year-old leads the Senators with 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists). Dzingel, 26, is fourth on Ottawa with 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists).
Video: OTT@WPG: Duchene finishes nice passing play for PPG
New York Islanders
While many are wondering if New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will be aggressive before the NHL Trade Deadline to take advantage of their surprising success, the players are simply going about their business.
With the Islanders (35-17-6) leading the Metropolitan Division with 76 points, three more than the second-place Washington Capitals, it's a safe bet they'll hold on to most, if not all, of their potential unrestricted free agents. That list includes forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Filppula and Tom Kuhnhackl, defenseman Luca Sbisa and goaltender Robin Lehner.
"I've been in situations where maybe I thought there was a chance [to be traded]," Eberle told Newsday. "This year, with the way the team has been playing, we're a pretty strong group together and I can't imagine. But you never know."
The Islanders' unexpected success after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and losing captain John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent has them thinking about how far they can go in the playoffs and not who might be moved before the deadline.
"The way the team is going right now, there's not too much noise about it," Nelson said of the deadline. "Everybody wants to just keep going out and playing hockey."
When Lamoriello was with the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs previously, he never was afraid to add players to help in the playoffs, and the Islanders have been mentioned as a possible destination for Otttawa Senators center Matt Duchene. But Lamoriello also has been careful not to mess with chemistry in situations when his teams didn't need a shakeup, and the Islanders appear to have something special going so far with the group they have.
So a trade to supplement what the Islanders already have probably makes more sense. With New York 21st in the League in scoring (2.86 goals per game), offense is its biggest need.
New York Rangers
Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, each a potential unrestricted free agent, remain almost certain to be traded before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Contract talks for each player, reported by the New York Post on Saturday, were "little more than due diligence" by general manager Jeff Gorton, The Athletic reported. The Rangers needed to find out what it would cost to sign Hayes and Zuccarello now and when they'd hit the UFA market July 1, should the players get that far.
Video: NYR@PIT: Zuccarello nets PPG off defender's stick
Hayes and Zuccarello remain the two biggest trade chips for the Rangers to try to acquire more pieces for the rebuilding plan started late last season.
Zuccarello, a 31-year-old right wing, is fourth on New York with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 44 games, including 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in his past 16 games. Hayes, a 26-year-old who can play center or on the wing, is third on the Rangers with 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 49 games.
Each player showed his value in a 6-5 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Zuccarello scored two goals, and Hayes had a goal and an assist.
The Penguins are among the speculated suitors for Zuccarello and know him well from playing against him often in the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs during his nine NHL seasons.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid, another potential unrestricted free agent who won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, also is likely to be traded to a contender looking to bolster its depth on defense.
The 32-year-old was acquired from the Bruins on Sept. 18 for defenseman Steven Kampfer, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft.
[RELATED: NHL Trade Buzz: Duchene, Stone remain hot commodities]