Time For The Predators To Part Ways With GM Poile
Five players who could use a change of scenery, more Victor Mete trade speculation and some suggested changes for the Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
FIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD USE A TRADE
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Travis Dermott, the St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, the Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen need fresh starts on new teams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Larkin but there are various reasons why these players might not be moved this season, if at all.
The Flames are reportedly reluctant to move Bennett because of his value as a proven playoff performer. Larkin also noted if they move him they’ll have to protect someone else in this summer’s expansion draft.
Dermott’s having trouble earning a full-time spot this season on Toronto’s blueline. Larkin points out he’s in nearly every Leafs rumor and would be perfect trade bait to add another forward. The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel suggested a Dermott-for-Sam Bennett swap if they can make the dollars work.
Dunn is probably the most likely on this list to get traded. Larkin feels it’s only a matter of time until he’s moved. The Blues reportedly seek a first- or second-round pick in return. There are several clubs that could use him but finding the right fit is the sticking point. The Blues at this point don’t seem in a hurry to trade him.
Mantha’s a big, fast forward with good offensive skills but his inconsistency and injury history hurt his trade value. So does his $5.7 million annual average value.
Virtanen has come up a lot of late in trade rumors but reports out of Vancouver suggest there’s not much of a market for him. He’s brought that on himself with his poor play. Maybe he’ll finally reach his full potential on a different team but there doesn’t appear to be a general manager out there willing to take a chance on him.
MORE METE SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston lists the Red Wings, Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres as clubs that could show interest in Victor Mete. The agent for the Montreal Canadiens defenseman recently went public with a trade request for his client, angering Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
Mete’s been a frequent healthy scratch as he’s become the odd man out on the Canadiens’ blueline. However, they haven’t sent him to their taxi squad because another club could scoop him up off waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Flames with Bennett, the Canadiens aren’t rushing to ship out Mete. They’d prefer hanging onto him as insurance in case injuries strike their defense corps.
Steven Ellis of SI.com/The Hockey News believes Mete would be a good value pickup for teams seeking blueline depth. Those clubs listed by Johnston could be potential destinations for the 22-year-old rearguard whenever Bergevin decides to honor his trade request. However, that move probably won’t happen until the offseason unless one of those clubs makes an irresistible pitch before the Apr. 12 trade deadline.
LATEST ON THE PREDATORS
Vingan believes the Predators should become sellers by the April trade deadline if they’re still out of the playoff running by then. He advocates moving players on one-year contracts (Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund, Brad Richardson) for draft picks. They should also consider moving defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who has one year remaining on his cap-friendly contract.
The next step is trying to unload Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen in this summer’s Seattle expansion draft. He suggested using some of the draft capital acquired at the trade deadline and/or throw in a player to sweeten the deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vingan acknowledged all of this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I agree with his take. The Predators have been trending downward since winning the President’s Trophy in 2017-18. They’re near the bottom of the Central Division and the overall standings. It’s time for GM David Poile to acknowledge the obvious that his roster needs at least a significant retooling.
Recaps of Monday’s games, stars of the week, additional Sabres, Devils and Wild game postponed by COVID-19 protocols, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz picked up his 850th career win as his club blanked the New York Rangers 2-0. Trotz moves past Ken Hitchcock into third on the list of all-time career victories by NHL coaches. Semyon Varlamov picked up the shutout with a 30-save performance while Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin were the goal scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Trotz on his milestone. He’s 81 victories behind Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, who’s second with 931. Scotty Bowman is the all-time leader with 1,244 wins.
The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Jack Roslovic’s third-period goal, but it was Patrik Laine’s benching that garnered headlines. The Jackets winger didn’t play in the final 26:19 of the game. Head coach John Tortorella said the benching wasn’t about one play but was “part of the process of understanding our team concept, how we do things here, the discipline of being a pro.” Laine had no shots and had a plus-minus of minus-1 during his 11:14 of ice time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Welcome to playing under Tortorella, Patrik Laine. Torts’ critics will suggest this might force the recently-acquired winger to reconsider re-signing with the Jackets as a restricted free agent this summer. However, Laine will adjust and adapt to his new coach and his system. As long as he’s getting first-line minutes and scoring opportunities, he’ll do whatever Tortorella wants him to do on the ice.
Auston Matthews extended his goal streak to eight games and collected his 300th career point by scoring the game-winner in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Frederik Andersen made 31 saves for the win.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 27 saves in his season debut in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Leon Draisaitl (two points) and Connor McDavid (one point) extended their points streaks to 10 games. Smith was activated off long-term injury reserve earlier this week.
The Tampa Bay Lightning extended their win streak to five games by beating the Nashville Predators 4-1. Anthony Cirelli scored twice for the Lightning. Earlier in the day, the Predators placed center Ryan Johansen (upper body) on injured reserve. He’s listed as week-to-week.
Clayton Keller’s game-tying goal in the final second of regulation set the stage for Christian Dvorak’s shootout winner as the Arizona Coyotes nipped the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper kicked out 40 shots in regulation and overtime. Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and collected an assist.
NHL.COM: Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 7.
The NHL also postponed additional games for the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild because of COVID-19. A decision on when these teams can resume practice and their game schedule will be made in the coming days.
The number of Wild players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list grew to 11 with the additions of Victor Rask and Carson Soucy on Monday. Wild general manager Bill Guerin confirmed one staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus.
NJ.COM: The Devils have a league-leading 19 players on the protocol list as Connor Carrick, Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen were added on Monday.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Yerdon reports Rasmus Dahlin joined the Sabres’ list, raising their number to nine players. Two linesmen who worked the Sabres-Devils game when the outbreak is believed to have taken place have also entered protocols.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The growing number of sidelined players and game postponements is raising concerns over the league’s handling of its COVID-19 protocols and of the effects upon the schedule.
The league remains intent on maintaining its 56-game schedule and making up those postponed games. However, some critics are calling for a league-wide postponement until the COVID curve is flattened or reduced but that’s unlikely to happen. Some suggest the schedule could be shortened in order to meet the May 9 completion of the regular season while others believe that the end date could be pushed forward toward late May or early June.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman expressed concern for Brent Seabrook. The 35-year-old defenseman remains sidelined by a back injury and there’s no timetable for his return. The Blackhawks also announced defenseman Adam Boqvist has come off the COVID-19 protocol list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowman indicated Seabrook’s back injury occurred prior to training camp. It appears to be the result of several injuries he played through and underwent surgery for last season.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs confirmed winger Wayne Simmonds suffered a broken wrist during Saturday’s game against the Canucks and will be sidelined for at least six weeks.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals got some good news as Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov and Justin Schultz returned to practice on Monday. Kuznetsov and Samsonov were taken off the COVID protocol list. Schultz was recovering from a facial injury suffered on Jan. 28.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin returned to practice yesterday following a one-game team disciplinary suspension for being late for practice on Saturday. Khudobin downplayed the incident, saying he had a good conversation with head coach Rick Bowness and accepted his punishment.
A look at TSN’s updated trade-bait board in today’s NHL rumor.
TSN: Frank Seravalli updated and expanded his trade-bait board. Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray and Vegas Golden Knights’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury now sit in the top five.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli’s colleague Darren Dreger reports Ekman-Larsson is willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is talking with both clubs hoping to work out a deal. Dreger believes the Coyotes will either have to retain some of Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25-million annual average value or they’ll have to take back some contracts in return.
The Coyotes lack a first-round pick for this year and next year, but the Bruins and Canucks don’t have first-round picks in this year’s draft. The Province’s Patrick Johnston suggested Canucks GM Jim Benning offer up Loui Eriksson, who has two years left on his contract at $6 million AAV, as part of the return. Eriksson’s only being paid $5 million in actual salary over those two years. However, the Coyotes could be on his 15-team no-trade list.
Acquiring Ekman-Larsson would allow the Bruins to replace Torey Krug, who’s expected to depart via free agency next Friday. If the Coyotes aren’t willing to pick up part of his cap hit, the Bruins will have to give up something worthwhile while freeing up some additional cap space to absorb Ekman-Larsson’s contract.
Turning to Murray, Seravalli noted the Edmonton Oilers were linked to him. With free agency looming, he said many observers are wondering if they might set their sights on Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom.
Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson, Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk, the Ottawa Senators’ second-round picks, Canucks winger Jake Virtanen and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask round out the top ten.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli said there were rumors the Oilers had an interest in DeBrusk but their cap constraints likely make him too expensive. He’s a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Maybe he becomes part of the Bruins’ package offer for Ekman-Larsson?
As for Rask, Seravalli cites multiple sources claiming Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been gauging the goalie’s value in the trade market. He’s got a year left on his contract ($7 million AAV) with a 15-team trade list. If he trades Rask, however, he’ll have to find a suitable replacement via trade or free agency. While both markets are flooded with goaltenders, that doesn’t mean Sweeney is guaranteed to land an upgrade over Rask.
Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn and Wild forward Ryan Donato come in at 11 to 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning must shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. Gourde and Johnson have full no-trade clauses while Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list.
New York Rangers center Ryan Strome, St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson, and Blue Jackets goalies Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo fill spots 16 to 20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Blues could attempt to trade Pietrangelo’s rights if the two sides fail to hammer out a new contract before the UFA market opens next Friday. The Jackets could be open to moving one of their goalies, either to free up cap room or perhaps in a package deal for a scoring forward.
Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad fill spots 21 to 24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kuemper trade chatter has cooled in recent days as the Coyotes shift their focus on trade Ekman-Larsson. It’s now believed they prefer to retain him. Hanifin recently surfaced in the rumor mill when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned his name came up during the Flames discussions with the New Jersey Devils last fall about Taylor Hall. Hanifin might not be available if the Flames let TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic depart next week as free agents.
Nashville Predators forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei, Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere complete spots 25 to 30.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli said the lack of quality centers in this year’s free-agent market has the Predators believed to be seeking opportunities to move one of theirs. I’m guessing GM David Poile would like to bring in a scoring winger in return or to free up the cap room to pursue one via free agency. Poile would love to move Kyle Turris but the four years remaining on his contract at $6 million per season makes that almost impossible.
I’m not convinced the Hurricanes are keen to move Skjei after acquiring him at the February trade deadline. Domi and Gostisbehere have been fixtures in the rumor mill for some time. Speaking of the Canadiens, Pierre LeBrun said they’re willing to move their first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s draft for the right return. He indicated they’re in the market for a top-six forward.
New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri, Canadiens center Phillip Danault, New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk, Canucks center Brandon Sutter and Blues winger Jaden Schwartz are in spots 31 to 35.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’re reaching the spot in the list where there are players who could be traded, but various factors likely work against it. For example, I don’t believe the Canadiens intend to trade Danault. While centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi could become the Habs top-two centers next season, they’ll need Danault’s skill and experience in case one or both of those youngsters struggle or become sidelined. Maybe that move takes place at next season’s trade deadline. Not now.
Blues center Tyler Bozak, the Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault, Alec Martinez and Paul Stastny, and Coyotes winger Phil Kessel fill spots 36 to 40.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marchessault, Martinez or Stastny could become a cap casualty if the Golden Knights need to shed salary to re-sign Lehner or pursue a big-ticket free agent like Pietrangelo. That’s assuming they can’t find any takers for Fleury.
Edmonton’s Kris Russell, Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck, Columbus’ Alexander Wennberg, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour, the Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo, Edmonton Evan Bouchard, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, San Jose’s Martin Jones, Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky round out the bottom ten.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli wonders if Bobrovsky’s contract is the NHL’s most unmovable. Bill Zito, the Panthers new GM, should become the front-runner for GM of the Year if he can trade that contract.
Check out the latest on the Penguins, Wild, and Predators in this Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel examined several pressing questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their elimination from the playoff qualifying round.
He wondered if Matt Murray will return, believing it’ll come down to how much the restricted free agent will seek on his new contract. Backup Tristan Jarry is also an RFA and showed potential as a starting goalie this season.
Murray was also on Vensel’s list of Penguins who might not return next season. Unrestricted free agents such as Patrick Marleau and Justin Schultz probably skate away, while Conor Sheary will have to accept a bargain-basement deal to stay.
Vensel suggests Nick Bjugstad and Jack Johnson as cost-cutting trade options, though moving the latter could prove difficult. He also proposed shopping Kris Letang after the emergence of John Marino.
The Pens must find two new defensemen to plug into their top-six, with promising Pierre-Olivier Joseph as an option. They also need to sort out their third-line center position and their bottom-six forwards.
It’s unlikely they’ll consider trading Evgeni Malkin unless he asked to be traded. So far, he’s given no indication he wants to move on.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $68.2 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Unless Murray’s taking a hometown discount for a year or two with the promise of bigger bucks down the road, or the Penguins shed salary to make room for his new contract, I don’t see how they can afford to keep him and Jarry.
Unless Malkin wants out, he’ll be back with the Penguins next year. So will Johnson, who’s earning an annual average value of $3.25 million through 2022-23 and isn’t capable of being a decent third-pairing defenseman anymore. They’ll have to package him with a sweetener to make him palatable, but his age (33) and the remaining years on that contract are serious sticking points.
Bjugstad has a year remaining at $4.1 million. If he hasn’t recovered from spinal surgery they could place him on long-term injury reserve to start next season. They can’t buy him out as long as he’s still recovering from surgery.
As I noted yesterday, trading Letang won’t be easy. He has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the oft-injured rearguard is 33 and carries a $7.25 million AAV through 2021-22.
THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina wondered what the Nashville Predators will look like next season following their qualifying-round elimination.
He suggested buying out Kyle Turris’ contract, though that would cost $2 million annually against their salary cap through 2027-28. They could also let Craig Smith and/or Mikael Granlund depart via free agency and replace them with prospects such as Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Rexrode advocates buying out Turris and bidding farewell to Granlund. However, the hard part is figuring out if a major trade is necessary to push the Preds back into relevance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Predators GM David Poile intends to make a big move, the question becomes which player hits the trade block? Not Filip Forsberg or defensemen Ryan Ellis and team captain Roman Josi. Rexrode doubts Poile will shop Matt Duchene only a year after signing him to a long-term contract. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson comprise the Predators’ best line alongside Forsberg, but there’s been some grumbling over Johansen’s reliability as a first-line center.
Poile has a history of making big moves that no one saw coming. If he considers going that route again, my guess is Johansen becomes the trade candidate, provide a taker can be found for his $8 million AAV through 2024-25.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Sara McLellan suggests Kirill Kaprizov could address some of the Minnesota Wild’s scoring woes. He’ll make his NHL debut next season, but other reinforcements might be necessary.
It remains to be seen what happens to captain (and pending UFA) Mikko Koivu. McLellan feels the Wild need better depth on defense and wonders about the status of their goaltending after Alex Stalock replaced Devan Dubnyk as their starter. Both are under contract for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $65 million tied up in 17 players. With Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin coming off entry-level contracts, GM Bill Guerin could ink them to affordable bridge deals to ensure sufficient space for other moves.
Unless Koivu’s willing to accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary, the 37-year-old probably played his final game for the Wild, or as an NHL player. They’ll probably stick with the Dubnyk-Stalock tandem and see how things shake out next season. Stalock’s signed through 2021-22 while Dubnyk is a UFA next year.