What Next For the Vancouver Canucks?
SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Elliotte Friedman believes there’s a lot of teams checking in with the Buffalo Sabres regarding Taylor Hall. He wonders if the St. Louis Blues might be a fit if they can find suitable salary-cap space. The Blues are having trouble scoring of late.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $5.4 million in LTIR salary available. However, they’ll lose that buffer when Colton Parayko and Ivan Barbashev come off LTIR later in the season. It’ll have to be a dollar-for-dollar swap for Hall. Even then, the Sabres will probably have to pick up half of his $8 million cap hit.
Friedman also reports Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said sideline goaltender Frederik Andersen is undergoing some different evaluations. He said the Leafs don’t feel Andersen’s season is in jeopardy and they’re not actively looking for a goalie. They don’t have much salary-cap room and don’t want to add a netminder unless they absolutely have to.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, unless Andersen’s season is over so they can put him on LTIR they cannot afford to pursue a goaltender.
UPDATE ON THE CANADIENS
TSN: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he’s not trying to free up salary-cap space to make more moves before the April 12 trade deadline. However, he didn’t rule it out. “Anything’s possible,” said Bergevin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Eric Engels believes Bergevin isn’t done dealing because of his depth in draft picks and a prospect pool that won’t suffer much damage if one or two were used as trade bait. He also believes the Habs GM could move a marginal player to free up cap space.
The Canadiens are in a good position to make another trade akin to their Friday acquisition of Eric Staal. The question, however, is whether Staal and whoever else Bergevin might bring in will ensure a playoff berth and a chance at a deep postseason run.
LATEST ON PEARSON AND HAMONIC
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports contract talks haven’t taken place yet between Vancouver Canucks management and Tanner Pearson. The 28-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent. He’s sidelined with a lower-body injury but could return to action before the trade deadline. Johnston believes he could become a trade candidate if the two sides don’t get a deal done before the deadline.
Speaking of the Canucks, Friedman believes the Carolina Hurricanes had an interest in Travis Hamonic. Like Pearson, the 30-year-old Hamonic is eligible for UFA status this summer. The Hurricanes are interested in acquiring a right-hand shot defenseman. However, Hamonic prefers to remain in Western Canada and isn’t waiving his no-trade clause.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston included Pearson among his five potential Canucks trade candidates. The others include winger Jake Virtanen, defenseman Alex Edler, center Brandon Sutter and blueliner Jordie Benn.
Sutter is already of interest to the Edmonton Oilers. Edler could draw some interest if he can be convinced to waive his no-movement clause.
Johnston believes the Canucks should attempt to stockpile draft picks with their tradeable assets to put toward future acquisitions. He recommends targeting teams in the offseason who risk losing players in the expansion draft, suggesting a defenseman like Devon Toews could be left exposed by the Colorado Avalanche. The Carolina Hurricanes could be another option given their depth in blueliners.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks should be sellers by the deadline and look at coming back stronger next season. Peddle as many of those pending UFAs as possible and see if you can find a taker for Virtanen and the final year of his contract (with that $3.4 million in actual salary).
As Johnston suggests, follow the Canadiens example and stockpile draft picks that can be used in the offseason to pry away quality players (preferably defensemen) from cap-strapped clubs or teams that risk losing a good player in the expansion draft.
Edler might not be interested in waiving his no-movement clause. If Hamonic’s not waiving his no-trade that means he’s not heading to the Winnipeg Jets as some have suggested. Then again, maybe the Jets haven’t expressed an interest in the Manitoba native.
COULD THE CAPITALS SHOP FOR A GOALIE?
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir suggested Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier and San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk among his shortlist of potential goaltending trade targets for the Washington Capitals. Calgary’s David Rittich and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne are the other two, though he considers it unlikely Rinne will waive his no-movement clause to leave the Predators.
El-Bashir acknowledged the Capitals’ limited salary-cap space would make pursuing a rental goalie difficult for general manager Brian MacLellan. Further complicating things is the recent improvement of young goalies Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Bean suggests Samsonov’s recent play is taking some pressure off MacLellan to bring in an experienced rental goaltender. Given their salary-cap situation, the Capitals GM could be content to stand pat by the deadline.
LATEST PREDATORS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Nashville Predators could face a decision between trading Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis, who is currently sidelined. The latter was considered among their untouchables but there could be considerable value in the highly-regarded defenseman.
Players with Ellis’ contract (six years remaining with an annual average value of $6.25 million) are difficult to move now but Friedman suggests the Preds blueliner could be an exception. He believes Ellis could be a good long-term fit with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Friedman is also curious about what the Predators might do with Calle Jarnkrok. He has one season remaining on his contract worth $2 million and was last week’s NHL player of the week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Ellis would attract plenty of interest if Predators general manager David Poile is willing to listen to offers. However, I don’t believe they can move him during the trade deadline with so many capped-out clubs seeking affordable rentals. If Ellis is to be traded that move probably happens in the offseason when interested clubs have more cap space.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Mattias Ekholm remains the big name on the trade bait list. Sources tell LeBrun the Predators are seeking three assets in return: a first-round pick, an elite prospect and a third asset that could take on different forms.
Part of the reason behind that asking price is Ekholm’s under contract for another year. They must determine if the best offer they’ll get is at this trade deadline or after this summer’s expansion draft when interested clubs no longer have to worry about protection lists.
Frank Seravalli believes Predators winger Mikael Granlund is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ primary target in their search for a top-six forward. However, there are some complicating factors.
The Leafs are awaiting clarity on whether the current 14-day quarantine period for players from American teams joining Canadian clubs will be reduced to seven games. There could also be some hesitation by the Predators to sell as they’re gaining ground on the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Discover Central Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Poile isn’t under pressure to move Ekholm at this trade deadline. Interested clubs could be more willing to pursue him in the offseason following the expansion draft.
Granlund is probably the most affordable forward linked to the Leafs in terms of return and salary. If that quarantine period isn’t reduced they’ll have to acquire him before the end of this month if he’s to be effective for them over the remainder of the season.
TRADE RUMORS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Leafs have checked around on goalies (“Arizona makes sense”) but doesn’t see a long list of potential healthy options to acquire in a sensible trade. He also dismissed the rumors linking the Leafs to Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Darcy Kuemper is a terrific starter but the Coyotes netminder remains week-to-week with a lower-body injury. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports Kuemper’s certain to be back before the trade deadline but there’s no certainty he’ll be moved before the trade deadline. He’s under contract for another season and Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could be reluctant to move him. Oft-injured backup Antti Raanta was recently placed on injured reserve.
The speculation about the Leafs acquiring Quick sounds like a desperate fever dream from the more deranged of Frederik Andersen’s critics. The 35-year-old Kings goalie is past his prime, carries a $5.8 million annual salary-cap hit for the next two years and has a long injury history.
Acquiring Quick would make the Leafs older, eat up valuable cap space for next season that could be better invested in a younger player, and wouldn’t resolve their goaltending concerns.
Following on his report from last Saturday that the Coyotes could consider moving winger Conor Garland, Friedman said they’re not interested in multiple late-round picks. The Boston Bruins need scoring depth and he speculates they could have interest in the former junior Bruin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garland is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could wait until the offseason if he doesn’t find any suitable offers before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 36-year-old Brown is having a good bounce-back performance from last season’s disappointing effort. He’s got a year remaining on his contract ($5.875 million cap hit) but I don’t think he’s a fit with the Islanders from a contract standpoint.
Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got $75.9 million invested in 15 players next season. Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin are restricted free agents seeking raises on their next contracts.
The Columbus Blue Jackets must decide if they’ll shop pending UFA defenseman David Savard at the trade deadline or hold onto him for the playoffs. The Jackets have risen back into the postseason chase in the Discover Central Division. Friedman also isn’t sure the Jackets want to trade captain (and pending UFA) Nick Foligno.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could move Savard for the right price if his club slides further out of playoff contention. I’ll be surprised if he shops Foligno, who is believed keen to re-sign with the Jackets. Trading their captain at the deadline would be a gut punch to their playoff hopes.
The Vancouver Canucks playoff math isn’t good but they want to compete as long as they can before becoming deadline sellers. They’ve taken calls on pending unrestricted free agent defenders Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic (both have no-move clauses) and Jordie Benn, who has a five-team no-trade clause. There’s been some action on Benn and at least one Eastern American club asked about Hamonic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s assumed Edler could be unwilling to leave Vancouver. The Jets have been linked to Hamonic, who might entertain the opportunity to play in his home province. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the Canucks could soon start contract extension talks with Pearson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming the Flyers are buyers. The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor makes the case that the slumping club hasn’t done much to warrant being aggressive shoppers before the trade deadline. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher might even become a seller if his club doesn’t reverse its fortunes soon.
Check out the latest on the Predators, Canadiens, Islanders, Blackhawks, Jets and Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan reports Pekka Rinne wants to retire as a Nashville Predator. The 38-year-old goaltender is in the final year of his contract and could be in his final NHL season but the thought of joining a contender as a rental player hasn’t crossed his mind. He indicated as of last week there haven’t been any conversations with management regarding his future. He has a modified no-trade clause in which he submits 10 potential trade destinations before the start of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan also noted last month’s report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicating the Predators prefer Rinne finish his career in Nashville. Even if the veteran goalie wanted to be traded his declining performance probably wouldn’t attract many suitors.
Speaking of Friedman and the Predators, he said yesterday on his “31 Thoughts” they sought a “Muzzin-like package” of two prospects and a first-round pick for Mattias Ekholm. He said the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets were in but received conflicting reports about the Montreal Canadiens’ interest (stick tap to “NHL Watcher”).
Friedman also questioned if the Toronto Maple Leafs would be in the Ekholm bidding as that would give them three lefties on their blueline with Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly. He also considered the Philadelphia Flyers as a wild card because of the effect it would have upon their expansion draft protection list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins, Jets and Canadiens have the cap space to acquire Ekholm. The Leafs can’t do it unless the Preds retain part of Ekholm’s cap hit. Even then, they might have to move out a player to clear sufficient cap space. The Flyers won’t be the only club concerned about how acquiring Ekholm could affect their expansion protection lists.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu noted the Canadiens could get some salary-cap relief to pursue a player at the trade deadline by placing sidelined defenseman Ben Chiarot on long-term injury reserve. The problem, however, is uncertainty over how long he’ll be sidelined. He’s listed as out six-to-eight weeks. If it’s the former he’d return before the end of the season, meaning the Habs would have to clear cap space for his return. If it’s the latter, he’d return after the regular season ends on May 8.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie suggests Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Gudbranson could be a good trade target for the Canadiens. He wouldn’t have to be quarantined for 14 days and would bring a measure of toughness and shot-blocking to their roster, “and he speaks French very, very well.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A player who speaks French very, very well is the last thing the Canadiens should look at if they’re trying to bolster their roster. Gudbranson is a right-side blueliner skating on the Senators’ third defense pairing. The Habs need help on the left side of their top-four pairings, hence the rumors linking them to Ekholm.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple listed Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri and Columbus’ Nick Foligno among the pending UFA forwards of his suggested trade targets for the New York Islanders to replace sidelined captain Anders Lee. The Isles recently place Lee on long-term injury reserve, allowing them to exceed the salary cap by the equivalent of his $7 million annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will take his time to consider his options before the April 12 trade deadline. It helps that his club is currently the hottest team in the league and jockeying with the Florida Panthers for the lead in the overall standings. He could pursue a rental forward to replace Lee or consider a more affordable option and look at adding a veteran defenseman.
Staple also included some players with term left on their contracts like Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell. However, I think the asking prices for those players will be more expensive than for rental forwards.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope listed 10 players the Blackhawks could target if they wished to use their LTIR space. They could afford to take on another $21 million in LTIR space for this season and still have quite a bit of space for next season too.
Pope suggested using some of that space to take on another team’s bad contract and get some draft picks and prospects in the deal. His suggested targets include Vancouver’s Loui Eriksson, the Islanders’ Andrew Ladd, Edmonton’s James Neal or Carolina’s Jake Gardiner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are exceeding expectations this season by hanging on for a playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. GM Stan Bowman could have room to take up Pope’s suggestion and have enough to acquire an affordable depth rental player. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with that LTIR space.
SPORTSNET: Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t ruling out making another trade this season if the fit and the dollars are right. In January he shipped Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a draft pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent conjecture linked the Jets to Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Columbus’ David Savard and Vancouver’s Travis Hamonic. One of them could be coming to Winnipeg in the near future. Hamonic said he’d like to stay with the Canucks but that could depend on where that club sits in the standings by deadline day. He’s slated to become a UFA this summer.
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir reports the Washington Capitals are doing due diligence in case the opportunity arises between now and the April 12 trade deadline to add a goaltender in a dollar-in, dollar-out trade. They have no projected trade deadline cap space because they’ve already allocated the relief it gained from placing Henrik Lundqvist and Michael Kempny on LTIR.
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Pierre-Luc Dubois benched, an update on the four Capitals sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, and a lengthy list of injuries in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 in the second game of their three-game series. With the score tied 2-2 following the first period, the Canadiens blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.
Montreal winger Joel Armia also scored twice but suffered a concussion late in the third period from a blindside hit by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Habs forward Paul Byron also left in the third after being struck in the leg by a shot from teammate Shea Weber. Canucks defensemen Travis Hamonic and Alexander Edler missed the game with upper-body injuries, while blueliner Jalen Chatfield suffered a first-period upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli now has five goals in two games against his former club this season. It’s uncertain if Myers will receive supplemental discipline for his cheap shot on Armia. The Canadiens and Canucks will play the final game of this series on Saturday, with the Habs unbeaten in regulation (3-0-2) thus far.
Jake DeBrusk tallied the only goal in a shootout to give the Boston Bruins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nick Ritchie had a goal and an assist while David Krejci collected two assists. James van Riemsdyk tallied twice and Jakub Voracek collected three assists for the Flyers, who gave up 43 shots in this contest. The Flyers played without forward Morgan Frost (dislocated shoulder, injured reserve) and defenseman Philippe Myers (fractured rib, week-to-week).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a big win for the Bruins, who entered this game sitting dead-last in goals for per game (1.00). A porous defense saw the Flyers blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads in this game. The injuries are piling up for the Flyers, who were also playing without Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brayden Point. Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched for almost the entire game, seeing less than four minutes of ice time in the first period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts victory was overshadowed by Dubois’ benching. This is ramping up speculation over the 22-year-old center’s future with the Blue Jackets and his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle tallied twice in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Isles center Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists. Josh Bailey returned to the Isles lineup after spending one day on the club’s COVID-19 absence list. The Devils were without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the club’s COVID list, though that doesn’t mean he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 4-1. The Jets took control of the game with three unanswered second-period goals. Jets winger Patrik Laine missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.
The Los Angeles Kings got their first win of the season by doubling up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. The Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for the Avs.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19. Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Wednesday. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov will miss at least four games while Samsonov could be sidelined longer. It remains to be seen if the other three tested positive.
Samsonov’s positive test triggered contact testing within the Capitals dressing room, leading to the NHL discovering the four players spent time socializing in the team hotel without facial coverings on multiple occasions. The league fined the Capitals $100K.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits and fans questioned the NHL’s protocols when this story broke on Wednesday. The bottom line is the Capitals, and every other team in the league knew what the protocols were before this season started. The NHLPA voted for them. Every player had the opportunity to opt-out of playing this season. The players involved in this incident broke those rules and must now suffer the consequences.
The NHL’s COVID protocols were based on CDC and Health Canada guidelines enabling the 31 NHL teams to stage this season in their home arenas. They must also follow local guidelines.
Those rules have had an effect upon this season. A ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has limited Canadian teams to playing among themselves during the regular season. The San Jose Sharks started this season on the road because Santa Clara County has prohibited all sports activities due to high local COVID levels.
The NHL has already postponed games involving the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes because of COVID outbreaks. They cannot risk further spread jeopardizing the season because some players won’t adhere to the rules.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola will each be sidelined several weeks with undisclosed injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shopping for help. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is sidelined for six weeks with an oblique muscle injury.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman John Klingberg (medical reasons) is questionable for his club’s season-opener on Friday against the Nashville Predators.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews left practice early yesterday as he wasn’t feeling great, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. His status will be updated today. Forward Joe Thornton is expected to miss some games with an upper-body injury.
CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Dillon Dube is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will miss at least two games with a head injury. Sabres starter Linus Ullmark revealed he missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia as he was grieving the death of his father in Sweden. Ullmark returned to practice and is slated to travel with the club for their upcoming two-game series against Washington.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ullmark during this difficult time.