What Can The Maple Leafs Do to Bolster Their NHL Roster?
Are the Oilers eying one of the Leafs’ affordable young forwards? Are the Flames interested in Kings’ winger Tyler Toffoli? Could Wild defenseman Matt Dumba become trade bait? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST “INSIDER TRADING”
TSN: Darren Dreger believes the Edmonton Oilers will keep a close eye on what happens with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He notes there’s speculation surrounding Leafs forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and maybe Alex Kerfoot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers seek secondary scoring depth. It’s assumed the Leafs would have to move one of those young forwards to bring in a skilled top-four defenseman, something I don’t believe the Oilers have enough to spare right now. The Leafs might part with Kapanen, Johnsson, or Kerfoot for someone like Darnell Nurse, but I don’t see the Oilers agreeing to that.
Dreger also said he’s been told Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin is open for business. Part of the trade bait could include defenseman Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Michael Russo also believes Guerin is open for business. He thinks rival GMs are wondering if players like Dumba or Jason Zucker are available. Russo also believes blueliner Jonas Brodin could be getting some interest from the Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Dumba would draw plenty of interest in the trade market, but it would be a mistake to move him. He’s a 25-year-old defenseman with the talent to become the linchpin of their blueline for years. Perhaps he’ll benefit from a coaching change instead of a trade.
Pierre LeBrun reports the Calgary Flames are hoping to add a top-six forward with a right-hand shot before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. He believes they have interest in Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli, among others.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli would fit the bill for the Flames. I expect the Kings will want at least a decent draft pick and a quality prospect or young NHL-ready player in return.
Bob McKenzie reports the Chicago Blackhawks are facing a big decision between goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. Both will become unrestricted free agents in July. Lehner indicated he won’t take a hometown discount and wants a lucrative long-term deal. Crawford, meanwhile, indicated he has no intention of being anyone’s backup. McKenzie wonders if GM Stan Bowman will trade one of them and which one he’ll sign.
Pierre LeBrun believes the Carolina Hurricanes could be interested in Lehner if he hits the open market in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford was a key reason behind the Blackhawks last two Stanley Cup championships, but he’s now 35 and being outplayed by the 28-year-old Lehner, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season. While Bowman could still have loyalty toward Crawford, re-signing Lehner is the right move.
UPDATES ON THE FLYERS
NBC SPORTS PHILADEPHIA/THE ATHLETIC: Jordan Hall and Charlie O’Connor reports the Flyers’ limited salary-cap space will make it difficult for GM Chuck Fletcher to become a buyer leading up to the trade deadline. The Flyers need at least another top-nine forward, preferably a center, but Cap Friendly indicates they only have around $580K in deadline cap room. Unless they can ship out a higher-price veteran, or convince a rival club to absorb half of an incoming player’s salary-cap hit, they could be forced to acquire a lower-salaried depth player or look to within their system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several Flyers fans in recent days asked me if I think their club will make a big move by the deadline. Unless GM Chuck Fletcher can get creative or swings a dollar-in, dollar-out deal that improves his roster, I think his hands are tied by the salary cap for this season.
A milestone night for Alex Ovechkin and Patrice Bergeron, Dougie Hamilton suffers a serious leg injury, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick carried his club to a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ovechkin tied Mike Gartner by starting his NHL career with 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons. He also needed four stitches after being clipped in the mouth by a high stick from Devils winger Miles Wood in the first period. With 689 goals, Ovechkin is one shy of Mario Lemieux for 10th on the all-time list.
Patrice Bergeron tallied his 20th goal of the season as the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Bergeron has reached 20 goals in seven straight seasons. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug got into a rare tussle by dropping the gloves with Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist. Sidney Crosby tallied the lone goal for the Penguins. Earlier in the day, the Bruins placed goaltender Tuukka Rask (concussion) on injured reserve.
The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on a late goal by captain Nick Foligno. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton left the game in the second period with an apparent left leg injury that coach Rod Brind’Amour said doesn’t look good.
Pete DeBoer got his first win as head coach with the Vegas Golden Knights as they doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone had a goal and an assist in his first game in Ottawa since getting traded to Vegas last February.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice, Carey Price made 40 saves, and Tomas Tatar collected three points as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. Canadiens sophomore Jesperi Kotkaniemi also got into the first fight of his career.
The Calgary Flames picked up their sixth win in seven games by downing the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1. Flames goaltender David Rittich made 35 saves for the win as teammate Matthew Tkachuk scored the only goal in the shootout.
Sam Montembeault made 23 saves coming off the bench to replace sidelined Chris Driedger as the Florida Panthers held on for a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists for the Kings.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark made 28 saves as his club defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1. It’s the Sabres fifth win in their last seven contests. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Philipp Grubauer had a 27-save shutout as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the San Jose Sharks 4-0. It’s the Avs first win in five games.
The Vancouver Canucks picked up their 10th win in their last 13 games by beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-1. Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves while Elias Pettersson collected two assists.
A late power-play goal by Chris Kreider lifted the New York Rangers over the New York Islanders 3-2. Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev kicked out 38 shots.
The Anaheim Ducks snapped a four-game losing skid by upsetting the Nashville Predators 4-2. Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson each had a goal and an assist. The Predators have dropped seven of their last 10 games and sit six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Minnesota Wild held on for a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first win in five games. Nikita Kucherov scored both Lightning goals.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet will replace Gerard Gallant as coach of the Pacific Division at the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game. Gallant was fired earlier this week as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.
MLIVE.COM: Gallant’s firing raised questions about Jeff Blashill’s future as bench boss of the Detroit Red Wings. Blashill remains unconcerned and is focused on trying to find solutions to help his club.
THE SCORE: As expected, the NHL is talking to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers to ensure the next two games between the clubs don’t get out of hand. Senior VP of Player Safety George Parros will attend the Jan. 29 game in Edmonton. Tensions were raised after Oilers winger Zack Kassian received a two-game suspension for an on-ice altercation with Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk.
Winnipeg Jets center Mathieu Perreault is incensed that Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen won’t be suspended for elbowing him in the face during a recent game between the two clubs. “Player safety, my ass!,” he told a Winnipeg Sun reporter. “This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck,” Perreault added he could take measure into his own hands the next time a rival player does that to him. “I’m the smallest guy (on) the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick, so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—— stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have a feeling Perreault is going to get a phone call from Parros over his comments.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks placed center Dylan Strome (right ankle sprain) on injured reserve.
NEWSDAY: Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has asked the NHL to consider moving all Islanders games to Nassau Coliseum next season before they open their Belmont Park arena in 2021.
Suggested defense targets for the Leafs, possible destinations for former Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, updates on the Sabres, and much more today’s NHL rumor mill.
SUGGESTED BLUELINE TRADE TARGETS FOR THE MAPLE LEAFS
SPORTSNET: Sonny Sachdeva compiled a list of seven potential trade targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bolster their injury-depleted defense corps. They include T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic of the Calgary Flames, Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks, Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings, Nikita Zadorov or Ian Cole of the Colorado Avalanche, and Zach Bogosian of the Buffalo Sabres.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brodie, Hamonic, Dillon, and Martinez would be the best bests. Brodie and Hamonic were rumored to be available earlier this season, recent speculation linked Dillon to the Leafs, while the Kings are reportedly willing to entertain offers for Martinez. I’m not convinced the Avs intend to shake up their blueline, while the oft-injured Bogosian would be too risky.
The Flames could seek a skilled, affordable forward like Kaspari Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson for Brodie or Hamonic. That could also be the rebuilding Kings’ asking price for Martinez. I believe Dillon could be had for a draft pick and a prospect.
POTENTIAL SUITORS FOR GALLANT
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton lists the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and the Seattle expansion franchise as potential destinations for former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant, who was fired yesterday along with long-time assistant coach Mike Kelly.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen includes the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets among his list of possible suitors.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan wonders if Gallant will be reunited with former Red Wings teammate and long-time friend Steve Yzerman in Detroit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-respected “players’ coach” who won the Jack Adams Award guiding the then-expansion Golden Knights to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Gallant won’t be unemployed for long. The Wings seem like the best fit, as Yzerman could prefer bringing in his own man after inheriting coach Jeff Blashill. With the Wings’ rebuild stalled, a shakeup behind the bench could be necessary.
The Wild could be ready for a coaching change if they miss the playoffs. The Devils have shown some improvement under interim bench boss Alain Nasreddine, but probably not enough to ensure he keeps the job. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle general manager Ron Francis checks to see if Gallant would like to coach another expansion franchise.
Most of the other candidates will be determined by how those clubs finish this season. I don’t think the Avs will part ways with Jared Bednar, who’s done a fine job helping to mold that club into a perennial playoff club. The Flames could stick with interim coach Geoff Ward. Paul Maurice deserves credit for juggling the Jets’ depleted blueline, though a strong performance by goalie Connor Hellebuyck is the biggest factor there. The Blackhawks could stay the course with Jeremy Colliton if they reach the postseason. The Stars are doing well under Rick Bowness so there’s no certainty he’ll be replaced this summer.
LATEST SABRES SPECULATION
WGR 550: In a recent interview, Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill said he wants to make trades that will add to his roster. He denied that he’s waiting for the trade deadline to make moves. “We’re open to trying to find something that can certainly add to our group, but it hasn’t materialized. We’ll continue to look at it, and there’s no use to saying that we’re close on a trade or this and that. Until it actually happens and we announce something, it’s just talk.”
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski said the Sabres are stuck salary-cap wise for this season. However, they’ll have $33 million in projected salary-cap space next season and would be best served waiting until the summer to make significant trades. Lysowski also said Botterill currently refuses to trade defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Yerdon recently explored the limited trade scenarios for Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian. One would be a money-in, money-out deal, or attempting to swap him for another club’s unhappy player. Otherwise, the Sabres could be faced with either a mutual contract termination or he finishes the season in Buffalo and departs in the summer as a free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have featured prominently for months in the rumor mill. They’ve already made a couple of deals, shipping Marco Scandella to Montreal for a draft pick and flipping that pick to Calgary for Michael Frolik. However, they’ve yet to make the big move that brings them a much-need scorer.
The fact Botterill cannot find a suitable deal suggests rival clubs are attempting to exploit the Sabres’ desperate plight this season. It could also indicate there’s no interest in the players Botterill is shopping.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported there’s been at least one legitimate offer for New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen, with more expected to come. Devils captain Andy Greene said he hasn’t discussed his future with management. Winger Wayne Simmonds would prefer to stay with the Devils. The trio is due to become unrestricted free agents in July.
Friedman also wonders what the Devils will do with veterans who have term remaining on their contracts, such as Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman. He always assumes New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello wants Travis Zajac.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Vatanen will be moved before the trade deadline. There could be a market for Greene or Simmonds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both are still with the Devils after the 3 pm ET deadline on Feb. 24. Palmieri has come up a lot in recent rumors, most of which link him to the Boston Bruins.
Friedman expects the Golden Knights will continue their search for a defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ve been linked to the Devils’ Sami Vatanen. They could also kick the tires on Los Angeles Kings blueliner Alec Martinez. Given their limited cap space, it’ll have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal or they’ll have to make a salary-dumping move to clear sufficient cap room.
Friedman also repeated his previous report suggesting San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson isn’t interested in blowing up his roster core. Friedman expects interest in defenseman Brenden Dillon and winger Melker Karlsson, and wonders if there’s a market for goalie Aaron Dell. He also anticipates Wilson will be aggressive this summer.
He also said the Anaheim Ducks are willing to use their cap space to help a cap-strapped rival, provided they’re willing to part with young assets.