NHL Trade Deadline: Top Five North Division Targets
The latest on Johnny Gaudreau, Brock Boeser and Phillip Danault plus an update on Sam Bennett in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently noted the strong play this season of Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau and Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser has silenced the trade chatter that arose about the two during the offseason.
Fox pointed out the Gaudreau speculation seems to stem from the notion the Flames might need to make major changes if they are to stop coming up short in the playoffs. The Boeser conjecture arose from the Canucks’ limited salary-cap space in the offseason.
The rumors also came about because of where the two players are from. Boeser is a Minnesota native which seemingly makes him a great fit with the Wild. Gaudreau gets linked to the Devils because he grew up in New Jersey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudreau always seemed more likely to be moved last year than Boeser because he’s a year away from UFA status and there’s a feeling of uncertainty over whether his future remains in Calgary.
Boeser, on the other hand, becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of next season. With Cap Friendly indicating the Canucks have just over $27 million invested in five players for 2022-23, they have a good chance of re-signing Boeser to a big raise.
That cap space, however, will shrink substantially once Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko are re-signed this summer. Still, there should be enough to keep Boeser in the fold.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports Phillip Danault still hopes to complete his career with the Canadiens. The 27-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Questions have been raised over Danault’s future in Montreal with the rise of young center Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. There are reports claiming he rejected a six-year, $30 million contract offer from the Canadiens during the offseason.
Danault has declined to discuss his contract status but it could be weighing on him. Cowan points out he’s one of only two Canadiens yet to score a goal this season, though he does have five assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cowen also suggests Danault’s stats could be affected by the ice time he’s getting thus far. Nevertheless, his future with the Canadiens will remain an open question throughout the season. There’s little fear he’ll be traded if the Habs continue playing as well as they have but it still could come up before the April 12 trade deadline.
THE JOURNAL NEWS: Vincent Z. Mercogliano reports sources confirmed to the USA TODAY Network the New York Rangers are interested in Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. Of course, it depends upon the Flames’ asking price.
Mercogliano notes recent reports suggesting the Flames had an interest in Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. However, he points out a one-for-one swap isn’t possible because DeAngelo’s cap hit ($4.8 million) is higher than Bennett’s $2.55 million. The Flames lack sufficient cap space to take on those extra dollars.
The Rangers aren’t willing to absorb half of DeAngelo’s cap hit but it’s less certain if they’ll pick up 25 percent. Mercogliano suggests the cheaper option for the Rangers is to keep DeAngelo on the taxi squad and buy him out at season’s end.
Not quite but thanks for playing. https://t.co/3n4XyknWzz
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 5, 2021
The latest on the Canadiens’ Phillip Danault and Victor Mete, some blueline trade targets for the Penguins and the Maple Leafs are looking for help at forward. Check out the details in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
DANAULT AND METE
LA PRESSE: Mathias Brunet last week reported Phillip Danault rejected a six-year, $30 million contract offer from the Montreal Canadiens. The 27-year-old center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Habs are said to be willing to increase their offer by a few hundred thousand dollars annually but received no counter-offers from the Danault camp. His agent, Stephane Fiset, declined to comment.
Brunet indicated Danault is happy in Montreal and wants to continue his career with the Canadiens. Sources indicate the gap between the two sides isn’t that large but seems to hang on the duration of the deal. Some speak of a five-year contract, others a six-year deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens’ offer would be worth an annual average value of $5 million. The Danault camp might try to push that to between $5.5 million and $6 million annually.
Cap Friendly shows the Canadiens with over $65.9 million committed to 15 players for 2021-22 with Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia also due to become UFAs this summer. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Victor Mete and Artturi Lehkonen are their notable restricted free agents.
There seems a willingness on both sides to get a deal done. However, the flattened salary cap for next season and the rise of young centers like Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki could affect those negotiations.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Victor Mete can’t get into the lineup on a deep Canadiens roster. The club won’t assign the 22-year-old defenseman to their taxi squad because a rival team could claim him off waivers. Friedman believes some teams will be keeping an eye on this situation to see what progresses.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens probably don’t want to shop Mete just yet. Several NHL teams have already seen their roster depth depleted by injuries and the Habs would prefer avoiding that situation. Nevertheless, they could trade Mete if the right offer came along or if push comes to shove and they have no choice but to put him on waivers.
DEFENSE TRADE TARGETS FOR THE PENGUINS
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski looked at several possible trade targets for the Pittsburgh Penguins to address their injury-depleted defense corps. One could be Minnesota Wild blueliner Carson Soucy. Another could be Detroit Red Wings rearguard Danny DeKeyser.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kingerski listed five defensemen but those two caught my eye. He noted the Wild now have seven defensemen with their recent addition of Ian Cole. Soucy, 26, carries an affordable $2.75 million AAV through 2022-23. He’s currently seeing third-pairing minutes with Cole so the Wild might not be keen to move him.
DeKeyser, 30, missed most of last season due to back surgery. He carries a $5 million AAV through next season and has a 10-team no-trade list. The Wings might be reluctant to move DeKeyser at this point in the season but could change their minds if they sink to the bottom of the standings again. That might not happen until later in the season but the Penguins need immediate help on their blueline.
The Penguins could be among those clubs Friedman said were keeping an eye on Victor Mete’s situation in Montreal.
LEAFS LOOKING FOR FORWARDS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman noted Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Nick Robertson (knee) and Joe Thornton (fractured rib) are sidelined with long-term injuries while center Auston Matthews (upper body) is listed as day-to-day. While the Leafs have a lot of forwards, Friedman believes they’re looking around to add or upgrade up front.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are already pressed for cap space and are already moving players in and out of their taxi squad on a regular basis to stay cap compliant. Robertson and Thornton are on long-term injury reserve but their combined salaries ($1.52 million) won’t free up much to make a significant addition. That might require a dollar-for-dollar swap.
A look at some bold predictions for 2021 in the NHL Rumor Mill.
SPORTSNET: Over the weekend, Luke Fox made some bold NHL predictions for 2021. Some of them involved possible trades and free-agent moves.
Fox believes Alex Ovechkin will reach a four-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, perhaps accepting a slight pay cut to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals fail to reach an agreement on a new contract before his current deal expires next summer.
Taylor Hall “explodes offensively” skating alongside Jack Eichel this season with the Buffalo Sabres. However, Fox predicts Hall will chase his Stanley Cup dreams elsewhere as the Sabres’ poor goaltending turns them once again into an also-ran.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I disagree with that prediction. However, that could change if the Sabres actually reach the playoffs.
Fox expects the Winnipeg Jets will trade Patrik Laine at some point in 2021. He’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and the Jets don’t have enough dollars to keep Laine in the fold.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been plenty of Laine trade speculation since early September, with his agent at one point suggesting it would be mutually beneficial for both sides if the young sniper was moved. If that comes to pass, the issue for Jets management is finding a suitable return. They could use a proven right-side, top-pairing defenseman.
Fox suggests the Ottawa Senators should expose recently-acquired goalie Matt Murray in next summer’s expansion draft and protect emerging netminder Filip Gustavsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My guess is they’ll expose Marcus Hogberg in the draft unless Murray plays poorly this season.
Dougie Hamilton could be leaving the Carolina Hurricanes via trade or in next summer’s UFA market. He’s due for a significant raise but there’s no indication the two sides are close to agreement on an extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon Hamilton’s asking price and where the Hurricanes are in the standings by the April 12 trade deadline.
Tyson Barrie could be reinvigorated with the Edmonton Oilers and earn a contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out Adam Larsson comes off the Oilers’ books next summer, freeing up sufficient cap space for Barrie. A solid performance could keep him in Edmonton beyond this season.
Fox also predicts Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault could get squeezed out by young centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, forcing him to seek work elsewhere via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out that possibility. Suzuki and Kotkaniemi played very well during last summer’s playoffs. If those performances carry over into this season, Danault could see third-line duty with the Habs. He doesn’t see himself in that role and I doubt he’d be willing to accept it on a permanent basis to stay in Montreal.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could expand his list of preferred trade destinations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boston and Vancouver were the only clubs on Ekman-Larsson’s preferred trade destination list. The Coyotes couldn’t swing a deal before his deadline of Oct.9. The Coyotes captain maintains he loves living and playing in Arizona. We’ll see if management tries again to shop him following this season.
The proposed Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season in jeopardy, four Blue Jackets test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the lack of progress over the last five days to draft protocols could jeopardize the NHL’s proposed Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season. Well-placed sources tell Brooks of continuing adamant, widespread resistance among the NHLPA membership to the league’s recent requests to renegotiate the terms of the recent CBA extension to increase the escrow and salary deferral rates.
The league made those requests citing liquidity issues. While the players’ share of hockey-related revenue cannot exceed 50 percent, Brooks said the adoption of annual escrow caps combined with uncoupling the salary cap from actual HRR has ended the assurance of a yearly 50-50 split.
Brooks notes the 10 percent salary deferral for this season was to be repaid without interest in three equal annual installments over the final three years of the extension. He wonders if the players would be amenable to adjusting the agreement if the league agrees to repay all deferred money with interest.
The stalled negotiations suggest a 48-game schedule beginning the third week in January appears more likely. The NHL returned from the 1994-95 lockout on Jan 20 and from the 2012-13 lockout on Jan. 19. Brooks reports the league remains focused on playing in home arenas with or without fans in attendance despite recent positive COVID-19 tests among two NHL teams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was facing a tight schedule to meet a suitable timetable for a Jan. 1 start well before the recent lull in negotiations with the PA.
They need a 14-day training camp period in the run-up to the start of the season while last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an extra seven-to-10 days of camp. Many players remain scattered across North American and Europe with those returning to Canadian clubs needing to self-isolate for 14 days. The players could also be reluctant to take part in training camp during the Christmas holidays.
The league and the PA were hoping for a Jan. 1 start in order to stage a 60-game schedule. If they cannot hammer out an agreement by the end of this week, they’ll have to push that start date to late January or early February and consider adopting a shorter schedule.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes the prospect of a new US television agreement next season brings the promise of the NHL playing this season. The current contract with NBC Sports expires at the end of 2020-21.
Playing this season means the league could enter into lucrative new deals with a diverse group of broadcasters and/or streamers starting in ’21-’22. That includes traditional TV networks like NBC, cable networks like ESPN and Fox, and streamers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime.
The effect of COVID-19 upon league revenues could result in a less fruitful bidding war than anticipated. However, McGran points out Major League Baseball just signed a seven-year extension with Turner Sports worth a 65 percent increase annually over its previous deal with the broadcaster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the saying goes, it’s all about the Benjamins. That’s one of the main reasons why the NHL and the NHLPA are keen to return to play as soon as possible. That’s why commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly believes canceling the season would damage the league’s long-term health.
SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced “several players” tested positive for COVID-19. Those players immediately began to quarantine and the club closed its off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena beginning Nov. 16. This news comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights announced four players tested positive.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an ongoing concern for the NHL’s efforts to stage a 2020-21 season. Teams are following health and safety protocols similar to those in use prior to the 2020 playoffs but it doesn’t make the players immune from the coronavirus.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona earlier this month. The two superstars have skated together four days a week. They’ve been joined in recent weeks by several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players have been taking part in informal voluntary workouts and on-ice training throughout North America and Europe in preparation for whatever format the ’20-’21 schedule will be.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said his players are waiting to see when training camp begins. He said it doesn’t make sense to bring everyone to Vancouver right now to go through a two-week quarantine, only to have them return home for Christmas and then go through another quarantine when they return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything’s in a holding pattern right now for all NHL teams. Because of the health and safety protocols, they can’t bring their players back in anticipation of a December training camp when they don’t know if that’s even going to happen.
OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES
NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel believes the club did an “awesome job” with its offseason moves. Those include adding left wing Taylor Hall and centers Eric Staal and Cody Eakin.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault said he’s had no contract talks with the club and expects to enter the final season of his current deal without an extension. He said he’ll see what happens, leaving it up to general manager Marc Bergevin.
Danault clarified that he never said he wanted to be the club’s full-time first-line center but the two-way center doesn’t want to be placed into just one role. Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens’ offseason additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson means Danault will likely remain with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s future with the Canadiens will depend on the development of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If they outperform Danault, this season could be his last with the Habs.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo recently told HBO’s Real Sports that psychedelic drugs helped him cope with the aftereffects of brain trauma suffered during his playing career.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets prospect Dylan Samberg was involved in a multi-vehicle accident in Minnesota that left him unhurt but sent four other people to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
TSN: The NHL is embroiled in a legal fight with several insurance companies refusing to pay most of the costs related to the league’s concussion lawsuit and the settlement reached with retirement players.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the NHL, passed away yesterday at age 86 from COVID-19. Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Blackhawks in 1953-54 and was a pioneer and role model for Indigenous and Native American players. Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.
AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes mourning the passing of nine-year-old fan Leighton Accardo, who passed away yesterday following a long battle with cancer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sasakamoose’s family, friends and former teammates, and to the Accardo family and the Coyotes’ organization.
The latest on Matt Dumba and Phillip Danault plus an update on the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag, Michael Russo was asked when he thought Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba might be traded. He believes that will happen whenever Wild general manager Bill Guerin gets the return he wants. However, money is tight around the league and he doesn’t see a Dumba trade happening anytime soon.
Russo felt the Vancouver Canucks weren’t really interested and he doesn’t feel the Wild were interested in Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan. He doesn’t see Dumba getting shipped to the Winnipeg Jets because they don’t have the centers.
The Ottawa Senators also weren’t interested while the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on once they knew they weren’t getting Alex Pietrangelo. Noting the Florida Panthers were interested in Pietrangelo, Russo speculated perhaps a trade could be made there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Dumba trade rumors have cooled in recent weeks I don’t rule out the possibility he’ll be moved before the 2021 NHL trade deadline. He’s the only member of their top-four defensemen lacking a no-movement clause, meaning the Wild risk losing him to Seattle in next summer’s expansion draft unless Guerin protects four defensemen or cuts a side deal with the Kraken.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan believes there will be plenty of interest in Phillip Danault if Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin fails to sign him before the center’s UFA eligibility next summer. Cowan speculates the 29-year-old Danault could see a six-year extension worth at least $5 million annually.
Bergevin will be up against the cap ceiling after 2020-21 with Danault, Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia slated to become UFAs while Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen will be restricted free agents. Losing Danault would put pressure on youngsters Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki to face off against the other team’s top line as well as take faceoffs in key situations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have $65.2 million invested in 14 players for 2021-22. I can see them letting the inconsistent Tatar depart via the UFA market. It could go either way with Armia depending on the type of season he has. Lehkonen is currently making $2.4 million and shouldn’t be an expensive re-signing, though he does have arbitration rights. Kotkaniemi is coming off his entry-level deal and could get an affordable bridge deal with the promise of a bigger payday in two or three years’ time.
Those moves could leave enough to re-sign Danault, but Bergevin could attempt to use the flat cap to justify a short-term contract or a longer-term for less than $5 million per season. A lot will also depend on how well Kotkaniemi and Suzuki perform in 2020-21. If they outperform Danault, the coming season could his last with the Habs.
ARIZONA COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan believes Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has opted to stand pat for now. “What you see right now will pretty much be how we open up on opening night,” said Armstrong last Friday.
That means he’s staying patient with goalie Darcy Kuemper, forwards Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller, and veterans Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, Alex Goligoski and Derek Stepan. The latter four are slated to become UFAs next summer. Morgan notes the Coyotes GM had multiple trade talks but wasn’t able to secure fair market value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s probably the best course of action for now. Maybe the trade market improves during the regular season leading up to the trade deadline for some of those UFAs. Armstrong can remain patient with those under contract beyond next season or those who are restricted free agents.