NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 28, 2021

Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby resigns amid reports linking Habs to Jeff Gorton, Artemi Panarin and Andrei Svechnikov fined, Islanders games postpone through Nov. 30, game recaps and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MELLANBY RESIGNS AS HABS ASSISTANT GM, CLUB LINKED TO GORTON

SPORTSNET: Scott Mellanby resigned yesterday as assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens amid reports linking the club to former New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.

Former New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton (NHL.com).

Elliotte Friedman reported there’s a widespread belief Marc Bergevin will not return as Canadiens general manager following this season. Friedman felt Bergevin recommended Mellanby as his successor or for a more significant role with the club. There had been recent discussions between team owner Geoff Molson and Mellanby but the latter resigned after being informed the club was going in a different direction.

The Canadiens reportedly sought and received permission from the New York Rangers to speak with former Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton. Friedman said Gorton would not be taking over as the Habs GM but could fill the role of president of hockey operations or another senior front-office role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Based on the initial reports, it appears Molson has made a mess of this situation by upsetting Mellanby and alienating Bergevin, who is now a lame-duck general manager. TVA Sports’ Louis Jean reports Bergevin was hurt by how this went down, that he was kept in the dark and only learned about this situation through the media.

Nevertheless, this could still work out for the Canadiens if the end result is Gorton taking over as president of hockey operations. It would be a significant step toward returning this floundering franchise to respectability and perhaps a long-overdue rebuild.

Gorton did a fine job building up the Rangers roster. He signed Artemi Panarin, acquired Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba and drafted Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. Before that, he was an assistant general manager for several seasons with the Boston Bruins. During a brief period as their interim GM in 2006, he acquired Tuukka Rask, drafted Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.

Molson has indicated the role of Canadiens GM has to be filled by a Francophone or someone who is bilingual. Gorton is neither but he would hold a role of considerable influence within the organization with input on trades, signings, drafting and player development.

Should Gorton get the role of hockey ops president, finding Bergevin’s successor becomes their next priority. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels mused about Patrick Roy, Roberto Luongo, Martin Madden Jr., Vincent Damphousse and Mathieu Darche as possible candidates. Jeff Marek reported the Canadiens have not contacted Patrick Roy about a role in the organization.

It will be interesting to see how the coming week unfolds in Montreal.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Speaking of the Canadiens (6-15-2), they got a rare win by upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. Jake Allen made a career-high 47 saves for the win while Josh Anderson scored twice and Tyler Toffoli and Christian Dvorak each had a goal and two assists. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also had a goal and two assists while teammate Bryan Rust remains sidelined by an undisclosed injury. Canadiens defenseman Chris Wideman missed the game with an upper-body injury.

The Florida Panthers’ season-opening home winning streak has ended at 11 games after falling 4-1 to the Seattle Kraken. Former Panthers goalie Chris Driedger made 33 saves while teammate Jordan Eberle celebrated his 800th career NHL game with two goals.

Mikko Rantanen’s hat trick powered the Colorado Avalanche over the Nashville Predators 6-2. Cale Makar collected three assists while Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky each had two helpers. Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram returned to the lineup after missing six games with a concussion.

The Edmonton Oilers ran up a 3-0 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights and held on for a 3-2 victory. Mikko Koskinen turned aside 36 shots while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi scored for the Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held off the score sheet by the Golden Knights.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar had three assists and Carl Gundstrom tallied twice to double up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Kings forward Brendan Lemieux was ejected from the game for biting Senators captain Brady Tkachuk’s hand during a scrum in the third period. Tkachuk wasn’t pleased, calling what Lemieux did “the most gutless thing somebody could ever do” following the game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lemieux could also earn supplemental discipline for his antics. He bit Tkachuk’s hand hard enough to draw blood.

An overtime goal by rookie Lucas Raymond gave the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, handing the latter their fifth loss in six games. The Sabres’ Jeff Skinner sent the game to overtime with the tying goal late in the third period.

The Dallas Stars picked up their fourth straight win by nipping the Arizona Coyotes 3-2. Braden Holtby made 25 saves for the Stars, Joe Pavelski had two assists and Roope Hintz scored his seventh goal in his last eight games.

St. Louis Blues forwards Pavel Buchnevich and Ivan Barbashev each scored twice in a 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko collected three assists. Jackets defenseman Adam Boqvist scored twice for the Jackets. Before the game, the Blues placed winger James Neal on injured reserve.

The Winnipeg Jets overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Calgary Flames 4-2. Kyle Connor led the way with two goals for the Jets to snap a five-game skid while ending the Flames’ win streak at four games. Flames winger Milan Lucic was ejected in the second period for boarding Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Artemi Panarin was fined $5,000.00 for throwing one of his hockey gloves at Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand on Friday. Panarin said he was incensed over Russia-related insults made toward him by Marchand.

NEWSOBERVER.COM: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov was fined $5,000.00 for kneeing Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton on Friday.

NEW YORK POST: The NHL has postponed the New York Islanders’ next two games through Nov. 30 after Casey Cizikas became the eighth player on the club to test positive for COVID-19.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday placed goaltender Matt Murray on waivers. He’s expected to report to their AHL affiliate in Belleville if he goes unclaimed today. The Senators also claimed forward Adam Gaudette off waivers yesterday from the Chicago Blackhawks.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers forward Nate Thompson missed practice yesterday after suffering a shoulder injury during Friday’s game against the Hurricanes.










NHL Trades – Monday, April 12, 2021

NHL Trades – Monday, April 12, 2021

Check out the details of all the significant trades that took place on deadline day:

Buffalo Sabres trade forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar to the Boston Bruins for winger Anders Bjork and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. The Sabres retain half of Hall’s $8 million cap hit.

Los Angeles Kings trade forward Jeff Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional 2022 third-round pick and a conditional fourth in 2023. The Kings retain half of Carter’s $5.273 million cap hit.

Washington Capitals trade Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-rounder to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for winger Anthony Mantha.

Calgary Flames trade Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers for a 2022 second-round pick and prospect winger Emil Heineman. 

Philadelphia Flyers trade forward Michael Raffl to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Ottawa Senators trade defenseman Erik Gudbranson to the Nashville Predators for a seventh-rounder in 2023. 

Montreal Canadiens acquire defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2022. 

Colorado Avalanche re-acquire center Carl Soderberg from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for minor-league center Josh Dickinson and prospect winger Ryder Rolston. 

Toronto Maple Leafs acquire defenseman Ben Hutton from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2022. 

Chicago Blackhawks trade Mattias Janmark and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a second-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the San Jose Sharks will receive a fifth-round pick from the Golden Knights for brokering the deal. The Blackhawks and Sharks retain 50 percent of Janmark’s salary. 

Edmonton Oilers acquire defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. The pick becomes a third-rounder if the Oilers win a playoff round (as per TSN’s Gord Miller and Bob McKenzie)

Vancouver Canucks trade defenseman Jordie Benn to the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth-round pick. 

Chicago Blackhawks acquire forward Adam Gaudette from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Matthew Highmore.

Carolina Hurricanes trade defenseman Haydn Fleury to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Jani Hakanpaa.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2021

A five-point performance by the Islanders Mathew Barzal, three more Canucks games are postponed by COVID-19 protocols, division stars and rookie of the month for March are announced, Nathan MacKinnon fined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Mathew Barzal’s hat trick carried the New York Islanders to an 8-4 romp over the Washington Capitals. Barzal finished with five points while teammate Jordan Eberle scored twice. John Carlson tallied twice for the Capitals, who lost goaltender Ilya Samsonov early in the first period following an accidental collision with teammate T.J. Oshie. The Islanders are tied with the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins with 50 points but the Capitals remain in first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of a game in hand.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

The Penguins, meanwhile, rode a 30-save performance by goaltender Casey DeSmith to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pittsburgh forward Branden Tanev returned to the lineup after missing six games and picked up an assist. The Penguins have won five straight but sit in third place behind the Islanders as the latter has two more regulation wins. Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo left the game with an upper-body injury. The Bruins sit fourth in the vision with 41 points, three ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

Speaking of the Rangers, they edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad. Artemi Panarin collected two assists for the Blueshirts while Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski kicked out 44 shots. The Rangers are tied with the Flyers with 38 points but the latter holds fifth place with a game in hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The East division is getting quite interesting. The Penguins have surged to jockey with the Capitals and Islanders for first place, the Bruins are clinging to fourth place but are being threatened by the Rangers, who could soon surpass the struggling Flyers.

Third-period goals by Ross Colton and Brayden Point 66 seconds apart lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. Point had two goals on the night while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 36 shots. Zach Werenski had a goal and an assist for the Jackets. With 52 points, the Lightning holds onto first place in the Discover Central Division. The Jackets (36 points) remain in sixth place in the division, three points back of the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.

An overtime goal by Alex Wennberg gave the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal and collected an assist on Wennberg’s winner. The Panthers also have 52 points but remain in second place in the Central as the Lightning hold a game in hand.

The Carolina Hurricanes got a late goal by Jesper Fast to nip Chicago 4-3 and sit one point behind the Lightning and Panthers. Warren Foegele tallied twice for the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks remain tied with Nashville with 39 points but the latter holds fourth place in the Central on the basis of regulation wins.

As for the Predators, they missed an opportunity to open a lead over the Blackhawks as their six-game win streak ended in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski collected two assists for the Stars (34 points), who sit five behind the Predators and Blackhawks.

A shootout goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Minnesota Wild past the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-2. Cam Talbot had a 35-save performance while Kirill Kapizov had a goal and an assist for the Wild (46 points), who moved within four points of second-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche each have 50 points but the latter holds first place because of regulation wins.

The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 as Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault each had a goal and an assist. Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Habs, who hold a six-point lead for fourth place over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks with 41 points.

HEADLINES

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is the star of the month for March in the Discover Central Division. Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer is the Honda West star of the month. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took home the honor for the MassMutual East Division while Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the Scotia North Division star for March.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March 2021.

The Vancouver Canucks have had three additional games postponed as forwards Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic and a member of the coaching staff were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudette and his wife faced some flak on social media by several folks alleging they failed to properly protect themselves from COVID-19. In fact, the couple followed all guidelines and were informed they did nothing wrong by the team and health officials. The Gaudettes have no idea how they caught the coronavirus and don’t deserve being hounded by some ill-informed fans.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon received a $5,000.00 fine from the NHL department of player safety for unsportsmanlike conduct against Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland on Wednesday.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson received a three-game suspension for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot on Wednesday.

NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux requested a trade from the Rangers prior to their dealing him last week to the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round pick. Lemieux made the request as he wanted to play for a team where he’d have a more meaningful role. He’d been seeing fourth-line duty this season with the Rangers.

THE SCORE: Roberto Luongo is expected to be named general manager of Team Canada’s 2021 World Championship team.

SPORTSNET: Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield, Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay and North Dakota forward Shane Pinto are this year’s finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Caufield recently signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens while Pinto inked a similar deal with the Ottawa Senators.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2021

The Canadiens get a shutout win in their first game in 10 days, the injury bug bites the Panthers again, the Flyers put Shayne Gostisbehere on waivers, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made 17 saves for his 49th career shutout to blank the Edmonton Oilers 4-0. Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens in their first game since March 20. With 39 points, the Habs opened a four-point lead over the Calgary Flames for fourth place in the Scotia North Division with five games in hand. The Oilers (45 points) remain a point back of the second-place Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good start for a rested Canadiens squad in their first game in 10 days after COVID-19 protocols postponed four of their games. The Oilers were a tired bunch playing their third game in four nights.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists as the New York Rangers tallied four unanswered third-period goals in a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals. Igor Shesterkin kicked out 30 shots for the Rangers (36 points), who sit five points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division. The first-place Capitals (50 points) remain two points up on the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Bruins, meanwhile, overcame a 4-2 deficit to defeat the New Jersey Devils 5-4 on shootout goals by Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak. Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 44 saves. Bruins winger Marchand returned after missing one game to COVID-19 protocols while defenseman Brandon Carlo played his first game since being sidelined by an upper-body injury on March 5. With 41 points, the Bruins sit three up on the fifth-place Philadelphia Flyers in the East Division.

An overtime goal by Eeli Tolvanen lifted the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Tolvanen and Calle Jarnkrok each had a goal and an assist while Juuse Saros made 33 saves as Nashville picked up their sixth straight victory. With 39 points, the Predators sit fourth in the Discover Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators’ playoff hopes were fading away two weeks ago and they seemed destined to become sellers before the April 12 trade deadline. Management might be rethinking its trade plans as they surge back into postseason contention.

A 31-save performance by Kevin Lankinen enabled the Chicago Blackhawks to hold off the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Alex DeBrincat tallied his 19th goal of the season for the Blackhawks, who are tied with the Predators but sit fifth in the Central because of two fewer regulation wins. The Hurricanes (49 points) are third in the division, one point back of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

The Panthers, meanwhile, got two goals from Carter Verhaeghe to down the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 stops for the win. Florida winger Anthony Duclair left the game with an upper-body injury and is expected to be sidelined a week to 10 days. The Panthers are tied with the Lightning with 50 points but sit in second place in the division as the latter hold a game in hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair joins Aleksander Barkov (lower-body), Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed) and Aaron Ekblad (fractured left leg) on the Panthers’ injury list. Eklad is done for at least the regular season following surgery on Monday.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins made 37 stops in a 3-1 upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nick Foligno had two assists for the Blue Jackets (36 points), who sit three points behind the Predators in the Central. The Lightning (50 points) have lost three straight.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers raised eyebrows yesterday by placing Shayne Gostisbehere on waivers, generating speculation over the 27-year-old defenseman’s future with the club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gostisbehere has struggled since Alain Vigneault became the Flyers head coach in 2019. His $4.5 million salary-cap hit makes it unlikely he’ll be claimed. The Flyers could put him on their taxi squad or demote him to their AHL affiliate if he clears waivers at noon ET today. There’s also talk he could be traded if he goes unclaimed.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Adam Gaudette tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. He was participating in practice when informed of the test results and left the ice immediately. Tonight’s game between the Canucks and Flames will depend upon the results of contact tracing and additional testing of players and staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudette was retested yesterday and will be tested again today.

SPORTSNET: Canucks forward Justin Bailey underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Monday. He’s been sidelined since Feb. 11.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 26, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 26, 2021

The latest on Filip Forsberg plus the latest on the Canucks and Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE PREDATORS ENTERTAIN OFFERS FOR FORBERG?

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s recent reports indicating there are only three untouchables (Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne) on the Nashville Predators. While he didn’t say they’re dangling Filip Forsberg the wording of his report suggests they wouldn’t immediately dismiss offers for the 26-year-old winger

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Forsberg is a scorer in his prime who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. If they shop him, Vingan speculated he could fetch something comparable to what the Ottawa Senators received from the Vegas Golden Knights at the March 2019 trade deadline for Mark Stone. As part of the return, the Sens got highly-touted defense prospect Erik Brannstrom and a second-round pick.

Vingan speculates it could cost the Predators between $7.5 million and $8 million annually to sign Forsberg to a contract extension. They could attempt to clear cap space by trading Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene but moving their respective $8 million annual salary-cap hits will be difficult.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators could listen to offers for Forsberg but I doubt they’ll get anything to their liking at this year’s trade deadline, especially with so many teams capped out because of the effects of COVID-19 upon this season’s salary cap. They could get better offers in the offseason when teams have more cap space to work with and a willingness to make a big move for someone like Forsberg.

I think the Predators prefer keeping Forsberg. He’s their best forward and the only one who consistently produces. If he’s willing to stick around as the Predators rebuild they should try to free up sufficient cap space to keep him. Ditching Johansen or Duchene would go a long way toward that goal but their poor performance and high cap hits hurt their trade value.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND KINGS

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has been working the phones of late seeking a top-nine under-25 forward who can fit with his young core.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal and Thomas Drance cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying he’d heard Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen was linked to the Anaheim Ducks but the second year of his deal is a bit of an issue. The Canucks have little to lose at this point by occasionally giving Virtanen top-six minutes to try to bolster his trade value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Benning could be dangling Virtanen or Adam Gaudette in hopes of bringing in that young forward but I doubt either guy can fetch that return. He could try bundling them into a package deal but that probably won’t draw much interest. Virtanen’s annual average value is $2.55 million while Gaudette ($950K) is a restricted free agent this summer.

Darren Dreger reports Los Angeles King GM Rob Blake seeks a dynamic left-shot defenseman who is 25-or-younger. The Kings have an abundance of forwards. Dreger believes if a deal could be found similar to the Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen swap a few years ago between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators that Blake would be all over it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Finding that type of deal could be difficult during this unusual season but not impossible. We already saw a notable trade last month where the Jackets shipped Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

Still, I don’t think Blake is in a rush to make that move during this season. If he can’t find what he seeks now he can wait until the offseason to do it.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 17, 2021

Could the struggling Predators become sellers at the trade deadline? Is Marc-Andre Fleury available? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

PREDATORS TO BECOME SELLERS?

TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Nashville Predators could soon become sellers in the trade market if they don’t gain ground in the playoff chase. Players on one-year contracts slated to become unrestricted free agents such as Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula would be obvious trade candidates.

Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (NHL Images).

LeBrun also believes they could entertain offers for Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old defenseman is signed through 2021-22, lacks no-trade protection and carries an affordable $3.75 million annual average value. His skills as a top-four blueliner and playoff experience could make him enticing to a contender.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman also weighed in on the possibility of the Predators becoming sellers. He believes Granlund and Haula will draw attention along with forward Nick Cousins, who has two years left on his contract. The Predators have made centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen available in the past but money is tight among NHL teams this year.

Friedman also said Granlund is the player he guessed the Toronto Maple Leafs would consider if they pursue a top-six forward this season. He claimed they had an interest in the winger during the offseason but couldn’t make the money work.

THE ATHLETIC: Ekholm, Granlund, Haula, Cousins and Brad Richardson are on Adam Vingan’s list of potential Predators who could be moved by the trade deadline. He anticipates the asking price for those players will be draft picks and prospects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators are rapidly approaching the tipping point in this season. General manager David Poile could start peddling players if the club hasn’t climbed back into the playoff chase by the end of this month.

Never say never when it comes to trading an expensive underperforming player lacking no-trade protection like Duchene or Johansen. Nevertheless, I doubt Poile will find any takers for either guy unless he absorbs a big chunk of their respective annual average value. That’s something Poile usually isn’t keen to do. I don’t think he’ll want to add to his current $2.041 million in dead cap space.

Ekholm, Granlund and Haula will draw the most interest. Cousins and Richardson would be affordable pickups for contenders seeking to shore up their fourth-line depth for the postseason.

The Leafs’ interest in Granlund is interesting. He’s reached the 60-point plateau twice but his production suffered after the Preds acquired him from the Minnesota Wild. Maybe playing him among the Leafs’ top-six will help him rediscover his offense.

UPDATE ON FLEURY

SPORTSNET: Friedman doesn’t believe Marc-Andre Fleury is available. The Vegas Golden Knights netminder is playing very well. “In a year when some teams can’t make it work even with four goalies, why would you move him?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should put to rest the recent speculation about Fleury’s trade status. He’s playing very well while Robin Lehner remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Golden Knights are all-in for a championship run this season. They won’t weaken their goaltending depth by trading Fleury.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the names of Vancouver Canucks forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette are in the trade market. There is interest in Virtanen, who has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $2.55 million. He only had under seven minutes of ice time in a recent game against the Calgary Flames, which caught the attention of some clubs who had expressed some interest in him. Dreger also said the Canucks would like a young forward in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the decline in Virtanen’s performance the Canucks will be lucky to get a decent draft pick or prospect in return. No one’s parting with a young player for him unless it’s one whose play has also declined.