Blue Jackets, Ducks Could Soon Become NHL Sellers
LATEST ON DUMBA, STAAL, MANSON, MERZLIKINS AND RAANTA
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Craig Custance and Eric Duhatschek updated their NHL Trade Deadline Big Board. Several notable additions include Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Buffalo Sabres center Eric Staal, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba’s on this list because of the difficulty facing the Wild in protecting him in the expansion draft. With the team playing well, however, general manager Bill Guerin could be reluctant to make a significant move that might upset team chemistry. He could wait until the offseason, perhaps around the NHL Draft, to trade Dumba before the expansion draft.
Staal’s garnered plenty of attention in the rumor mill with recent speculation tying him to the Edmonton Oilers and his former club, the Carolina Hurricanes. I consider him most likely to move among the newbies on The Athletic’s list.
Injuries have limited Manson to six games this season. Custance and Duhatschek noted there is precedent for teams to acquire an injured defenseman at the trade deadline (Sami Vatanen). However, the year he has remaining on his contract could create headaches for teams trying to protect their defensemen in this summer’s expansion draft.
The Blue Jackets’ fading playoff hopes could lead to them moving Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo at the deadline. With a year left on his contract at an affordable $4 million, he could be enticing for teams seeking goalie depth beyond this season.
The Coyotes could consider shopping Raanta as he’s due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, that’s not a certainty with starter Darcy Kuemper sidelined and the Coyotes trying to stay in the playoff chase.
UPDATES ON THE SABRES AND COYOTES
WGR 550: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Buffalo Sabres are trying to determine the value of all their players and where they fit into the club’s long-term plans. He believes GM Kevyn Adams is receiving calls and could be calling other clubs to see what the trade value is for his players.
He believes Eric Staal “will be motivated to go somewhere and play”. He expects the Sabres could get a second-round pick for him but this is a buyer’s market. Friedman also wonders if the club sees Sam Reinhart as part of their future with or without Jack Eichel. He thinks there is interest in the Sabres’ winger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Staal isn’t playing elsewhere by April 12. As for Reinhart, I don’t doubt there’s plenty of interest. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights but there are bound to be some teams seeking scoring with available cap space to give him a lucrative extension if the Sabres get a quality offer for him.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: In a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked about the recent Clayton Keller trade rumors, Morgan doesn’t believe the 22-year-old forward is high on the trade board. He has seven years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.15 million.
Asked about what moves the Coyotes could make at this year’s trade deadline. He anticipates GM Bill Armstrong will try to ship out as many players on expiring contracts as possible in exchange for draft picks as he restocks the prospect cupboard. However, he feels Armstrong could add a player if the right opportunity presents itself.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, look for guys like Raanta, Niklas Hjalmarsson (if he waives his no-movement clause), Alex Goligoski, Derick Brassard and Jason Demers to become the Coyotes’ trade candidates.
Goligoski recently surfaced in trade speculation. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun recently said he believes the Philadelphia Flyers have him on their list of potential targets. He’s a left-handed shot but can play either side. However, his $5.475 million AAV (with currently $2.69 million remaining to be paid) could be a sticking point.
LATEST ON DOMI AND BERNIER
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline listed Max Domi in the “Available” category of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ trade tiers. He’s made very little impact since joining the Jackets in an offseason trade with Montreal. Given Domi’s struggles, however, Portzline believes they’d have to sell low and that would cement the Josh Anderson trade as one of the worst in franchise history.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some players thrive under a demanding coach like John Tortorella. Some don’t. Domi is in the latter category. Given his inconsistent play throughout his career, however, his trade value is likely at an all-time low.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan believed Jonathan Bernier will draw plenty of interest around the league from contenders seeking goaltending depth. He thinks they might even get a second-round pick for the pending free agent. Moving him would weaken the Wings’ depth between the pipes but they could attempt to bring him back this summer via the UFA market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Colorado Avalanche could be among the suitors. The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers suggested bringing him back for the playoffs. However, The Athletic’s Peter Baugh pointed out the Avs’ limited salary cap space could make it difficult for GM Joe Sakic to wheel and deal at the deadline.
Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.
Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.
Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.
THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.
“If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.
“And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.
ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.
Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”
THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.
SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.
TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
The 2020 NHL Draft completes its second and final day, Taylor Hall is heading to free agency, the Blue Jackets re-sign Max Domi, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The 2020 NHL Draft is now history following a marathon second day in which it took over seven hours to complete rounds two through seven.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the results for each round by clicking the above link to the NHL draft tracker. As for how long it took to go through yesterday’s rounds, the general managers and their staffs were drafting from home instead of at an arena in a host city as is usually done. That gave them a lot more time to evaluate which prospects they intended to select and to move up or down the draft order by swapping picks with other clubs.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said Taylor Hall is heading to tomorrow’s unrestricted free agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes gave up three prospects and two draft picks (including a first in this year’s draft) to acquire Hall in a trade with New Jersey last December. Hall played well for the Coyotes, with 10 goals and 27 points in 35 games, but his addition did little to significantly improve his new club. Their limited cap space made it almost impossible to re-sign him. His departure could ease the pressure from Armstrong to move captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a cost-cutting trade before the defenseman’s Friday deadline.
THE SCORE: One day after being acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Montreal Canadiens, Max Domi signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with his new club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a sensible signing by the Jackets. Domi gets a raise over two-year, $6.3-million of his previous deal. The Jackets get a reasonable period of time to evaluate their new center’s performance to determine if he’ll be worth a longer-term deal.
Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Jackets with just $1.725 million in cap space with first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois to re-sign. However, Dubois’ coming off his entry-level contract and could get an affordable bridge contract. The Jackets could also place Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million) on long-term injury reserve as a chronic wrist ailment has likely ended his playing days, providing more cap space for DuBois’ next contract.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators placed center Kyle Turris on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. He had four years and $24 million remaining on his deal. The buyout will count as $2 million annually against the Predators’ salary cap through 2027-28.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Turris’ contract turned into a costly mistake for Predators GM David Poile. Desperate to free up cap space, he had little choice but to buy out that deal following unsuccessful attempts to trade the 31-year-old center.
THE SCORE: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed forward Chandler Stephenson to a four-year, $11 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephenson fit in well with the Golden Knights after he was acquired from the Washington Capitals last December. However, his new contract pushes Vegas’ cap payroll over the $81.5 million cap by $2.8 million. They are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, but that will complicate any plans to be active in the upcoming free-agent market. A cost-cutting trade or two will be necessary before the start of next season.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have decided to let winger Anthony Duclair become an unrestricted free agent after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. Duclair was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and wasn’t given a qualifying offer by yesterday’s 5 pm deadline. GM Pierre Dorion declined to go into details but said Duclair chose to represent himself in contract talks. He added the club offered the winger a substantial raise over his previous salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A puzzling development. Duclair made $1.65 million on a one-year deal last season. Dorion didn’t shut the door on the winger possibly returning to Ottawa. Maybe the Senators were concerned Duclair would get more via arbitration.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets re-signed defenseman Dylan DeMelo to a four-year, $12 million contract. DeMelo was slated to become a UFA on Friday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good, affordable signing by the Jets. DeMelo joined the Jets before the February trade deadline and quickly adapted to his new team.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers’ long contract standoff with Jesse Puljujarvi is over, re-signing the 22-year-old winger to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $1.175 million. Puljujarvi spent all of last season playing in Finland hoping to force a trade by the Oilers.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers traded center Lias Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings for the 60th pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Andersson was the seventh-overall pick in the 2017 draft but struggled to crack the Rangers lineup and spent the second half of last season playing in Sweden.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The stock of both young forwards really dropped over the past two years. There was even speculation at one point last season suggesting the two could be swapped for each other in a trade. Both players need a reset if they hope to salvage their NHL careers.
CBC: Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur has undergone a second surgery to address a recurrence of lung cancer just two months following quadruple bypass surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lafleur for a speedy and complete recovery.
Notable RFAs who did not receive qualifying offers:
Dominik Kahun (BUF)
Mark Jankowski (CGY)
Devin Shore (CBJ)
Andreas Athanasiou (EDM)
Matt Benning (EDM)
Mirco Mueller (NJD)
Dominik Simon (PIT)
Frederik Gauthier (TOR)
Troy Stecher (VAN)
Nick Cousins (VGK)
Travis Boyd (WSH)
— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) October 7, 2020
The Montreal Canadiens announced they traded center Max Domi and a 2020 third-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Josh Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Domi and Anderson are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Domi, 25, completed a two-year, $6.3 million contract while the 26-year-old Anderson is coming off a three-year, $5.5 million deal.
Domi and Anderson frequently surfaced in the rumor mill last season, often linked as a possible swap. While Domi had a 72-point performance in 2018-19, his stats tumbled to 44 points last season and he spent some time on the Habs fourth line during the playoffs.
Anderson tallied 27 goals and 47 points in ’18-’19. However, he was sidelined most of last season by a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair.
The Blue Jackets were in the market for a scoring center while the Canadiens were looking for a power forward. This move seems to address those needs, though time will tell which club benefits the most from this trade.