Can the Maple Leafs Address Their Weaknesses Before the NHL Trade Deadline
Are the Oilers eying one of the Leafs’ affordable young forwards? Are the Flames interested in Kings’ winger Tyler Toffoli? Could Wild defenseman Matt Dumba become trade bait? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST “INSIDER TRADING”
TSN: Darren Dreger believes the Edmonton Oilers will keep a close eye on what happens with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He notes there’s speculation surrounding Leafs forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and maybe Alex Kerfoot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers seek secondary scoring depth. It’s assumed the Leafs would have to move one of those young forwards to bring in a skilled top-four defenseman, something I don’t believe the Oilers have enough to spare right now. The Leafs might part with Kapanen, Johnsson, or Kerfoot for someone like Darnell Nurse, but I don’t see the Oilers agreeing to that.
Dreger also said he’s been told Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin is open for business. Part of the trade bait could include defenseman Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Michael Russo also believes Guerin is open for business. He thinks rival GMs are wondering if players like Dumba or Jason Zucker are available. Russo also believes blueliner Jonas Brodin could be getting some interest from the Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Dumba would draw plenty of interest in the trade market, but it would be a mistake to move him. He’s a 25-year-old defenseman with the talent to become the linchpin of their blueline for years. Perhaps he’ll benefit from a coaching change instead of a trade.
Pierre LeBrun reports the Calgary Flames are hoping to add a top-six forward with a right-hand shot before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. He believes they have interest in Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli, among others.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli would fit the bill for the Flames. I expect the Kings will want at least a decent draft pick and a quality prospect or young NHL-ready player in return.
Bob McKenzie reports the Chicago Blackhawks are facing a big decision between goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. Both will become unrestricted free agents in July. Lehner indicated he won’t take a hometown discount and wants a lucrative long-term deal. Crawford, meanwhile, indicated he has no intention of being anyone’s backup. McKenzie wonders if GM Stan Bowman will trade one of them and which one he’ll sign.
Pierre LeBrun believes the Carolina Hurricanes could be interested in Lehner if he hits the open market in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford was a key reason behind the Blackhawks last two Stanley Cup championships, but he’s now 35 and being outplayed by the 28-year-old Lehner, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season. While Bowman could still have loyalty toward Crawford, re-signing Lehner is the right move.
UPDATES ON THE FLYERS
NBC SPORTS PHILADEPHIA/THE ATHLETIC: Jordan Hall and Charlie O’Connor reports the Flyers’ limited salary-cap space will make it difficult for GM Chuck Fletcher to become a buyer leading up to the trade deadline. The Flyers need at least another top-nine forward, preferably a center, but Cap Friendly indicates they only have around $580K in deadline cap room. Unless they can ship out a higher-price veteran, or convince a rival club to absorb half of an incoming player’s salary-cap hit, they could be forced to acquire a lower-salaried depth player or look to within their system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several Flyers fans in recent days asked me if I think their club will make a big move by the deadline. Unless GM Chuck Fletcher can get creative or swings a dollar-in, dollar-out deal that improves his roster, I think his hands are tied by the salary cap for this season.
Latest on the Leafs, Canadiens and Red Wings, plus updates on Chris Kreider, Braden Holtby, and P.K. Subban in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST TSN “INSIDER TRADING” SEGMENT
TSN: With Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin sidelined, Bob McKenzie reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting calls from clubs hoping to take advantage of the situation. He also suspects the Leafs are making their inquiries on the front.
McKenzie believes the idea of trading for a defenseman isn’t entirely out of the question. Replacing Rielly and Muzzin on the left side of their blueline is their short-term need, but their long-term need is on the right side. He wonders if the Leafs would be prepared to part with an affordable young forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson or Alex Kerfoot for a defenseman with a similar contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs must also find a reliable backup goaltender for overworked starter Frederik Andersen. Complicating efforts is their limited salary-cap space. Addressing either issue will take a dollar-for-dollar deal.
There are fans and pundits in Montreal calling upon the struggling Canadiens to trade Carey Price and Shea Weber. However, Pierre LeBrun reports Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he has no intention of moving either guy at the trade deadline. As the roster gets younger, Bergevin feels Price and Weber provide invaluable leadership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once upon a time, Bergevin also said he had no plans to trade P.K. Subban and we know how that turned out. He could consider moving Price or Weber if a sweetheart offer were presented to him. Nevertheless, I don’t see him trading Price or Weber anytime soon. If such a move were to take place, it would be in the offseason when teams have more cap space and a willingness to spend.
LeBrun also reports the status of Chris Kreider remains front and center in the rumor mill. The New York Rangers winger is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. There could still be contract negotiations between the two sides, but it’s believed Kreider will be moved before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, with the Blueshirts perhaps absorbing up to half of his $4.625-million contract. LeBrun speculates the St. Louis Blues or Boston Bruins could come calling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Rangers pick up that much of Kreider’s cap hit, they could seek an extra draft pick or prospect as part of the return. Kreider also carries an 11-team no-trade list. It’s believed Canadian teams aren’t on his list.
LeBrun also weighed in on how Nicklas Backstrom’s new contract could affect Braden Holtby’s future with the Washington Capitals. The Capitals goalie will become a UFA on July 1. Both sides agreed to wait until the end of the season to discuss a contract. LeBrun feels it’ll either be a short-term contract or Holtby goes to market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said he’d have to get creative to find sufficient salary-cap space to re-sign Holtby. The veteran goalie’s ongoing struggles and the promising play of backup Ilya Samsonov could affect those negotiations.
MacLellan must ensure he has sufficient long-term cap room to re-sign Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, and Jakub Vrana at the end of 2020-21. Even if Holtby agreed to a short-term hometown discount (and that’s not going to happen), the Capitals GM would have to shed salary to make room for him and leave enough long-term cap space for the others.
SUBBAN NOT ASKING TO BE TRADED
NHL.COM: P.K. Subban said he’s not asking the New Jersey Devils to trade him. The 30-year-old defenseman was acquired by the Devils last summer and has two years remaining on his contract. He said he’s never requested a trade and remains focused on helping the Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if Subban asked to be traded, the decline in his performance over the past two years and his hefty $9-million annual average value would make him a tough sell. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be a market for him, but the Devils wouldn’t get a significant return and would probably have to pick up a healthy chunk of his annual salary-cap hit.
UPDATE ON THE RED WINGS
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James recently reports Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman doesn’t intend to be passive as the trade deadline approaches. “I’m looking for ways to build for the future and trying to acquire draft picks or prospects or young players that can come into the organization sooner or later.”
St. James expects the rebuilding Wings to be active at the trade deadline. However, the players they’d like to move (Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Mike Green, and Frans Nielsen) have struggled this season and likely won’t yield much on the trade market.
Flames coach Bill Peters accused of making racial slurs to a former player, Henrik Lundqvist reaches another milestone victory, former Leafs coach Mike Babcock criticized for bullying tactics, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their points streak to five games with a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Jake Guentzel netted the winning goal in overtime. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an undisclosed ailment on Nov. 4.
During the game, former NHL player Akim Aliu took to Twitter insinuating Flames coach Bill Peters uttered racial slurs at him when the two were in the minors a decade ago. Flames general manager Brad Treliving said the club will make a complete investigation before commenting on Aliu’s comments.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Aliu didn’t directly name Peters but referred to the Calgary airport code. He played for Peters on the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2009-10. That’s when the former defenseman claims the remarks were made.
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist picked up his 455th career win as his club edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2. He moved into fifth place on the all-time wins list. Tony DeAngelo scored the winner in overtime. During the game, Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello was given a video tribute and a nice ovation by Rangers fans. Zuccarello spent nearly nine seasons with the Blueshirts.
The Dallas Stars tied a franchise record with their seventh straight win as they doubled up the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2. Alexander Radulov scored twice and set up another as the Stars extended their points streak to 12 games. Stars defenseman John Klingberg collected three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After dropping eight of their first name games, the Stars have roared back in November. They now sit third overall in the Western Conference.
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 26 saves to blank the New York Islanders 3-0, snapping the latter’s franchise-record 17-game points streak. It’s the Isles’ first regulation loss since Oct. 11. Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist for the Ducks.
Shorthanded third-period goals by Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat carried the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Palat also collected two assists. Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak will have a hearing with the NHL department of player safety for elbowing Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who left the game with a concussion.
Jakub Voracek scored the tie-breaking goal as the Philadelphia Flyers nipped the Vancouver Canucks 2-1. Sean Couturier also tallied for the Flyers, while J.T. Miller scored for the Canucks, who’ve won just three of their last 11 contests. Earlier in the day, the Canucks announced winger Antoine Roussel (knee injury) was heading to their AHL affiliate in Utica for a conditioning stint.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned in a 25-save shutout in a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. Oliver Bjorkstrand netted the game’s only goal.
The Nashville Predators blew a 2-0 lead but went on to down the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on shootout goals by Filip Forsberg and Daniel Carr. Blues goaltender Jake Allen made 37 saves. Winger Troy Brouwer finally made his season debut with the Blues following a wait for his work visa to be approved.
After blowing a 3-0 lead, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on an unassisted overtime tally by Patrick Marleau. Timo Meier also scored twice for the Sharks.
Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, and New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Nov. 24, 2019.
TORONTO SUN: Former Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is under criticism for his treatment of winger Mitch Marner during the latter’s rookie season. Babcock asked Marner to rank his teammates based on their work output, then shared the results with his teammates. The players were reportedly more upset with Babcock than they were with Marner. Babcock confirmed the story to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, claiming he was trying to focus on work ethic and role models with Marner and apologized at the time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Babcock also came under fire from former NHL players Mike Commodore and Mark Fraser. They claim most of the players who skated for the long-time NHL coach hated him, as he used his power to turn teammates against each other. The emerging stories have dimmed some of the luster from Babcock’s otherwise stellar NHL record.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Leafs, center Alexander Kerfoot received a two-game suspension for boarding Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins center Patrick Bergeron will be sidelined for two games with a lingering lower-body injury.
YARDBARKER: The Florida Panthers demoted goaltender Sam Montembeault to their AHL affiliate in Springfield.
NJ.COM: Tom Fitzgerald has stepped away from his assistant coach duties with the New Jersey Devils and returned to his position as their assistant general manager.
Connor McDavid extends his points streak to 11 games, Robert Bortuzzo receives a four-game suspension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored the only goal in a shootout as the Edmonton Oilers nipped the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. He also picked up an assist in regulation to extend his points streak to 11 games. McDavid sits one point behind linemate Leon Draisaitl (48 points) in the NHL scoring race. Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski collected three assists. The Oilers played without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who could be sidelined for two more games with an injured hand.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark kicked out 43 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Jack Eichel had three points and Zemgus Girgensons tallied twice for the Sabres. Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle maintained his ironman streak at 820 games. He underwent dental surgery to replace nine missing teeth after taking a puck to the mouth during Saturday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist as his club blanked the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Goaltender James Reimer made 19 saves for the shutout. The Wings are winless in their last six contests.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo received a four-game suspension from the NHL department of player safety for cross-checking Nashville Predators winger Viktor Arvidsson.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Predators announced Arvidsson will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a slap on the wrist for Bortuzzo, who has a history of questionable hits. He was suspended last year for two pre-season games and a regular-season game for elbowing Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, fined in 2017 for repeatedly cross-checking New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, and received a two-game suspension in 2014 for a late hit on Jaromir Jagr. Meanwhile, the Predators will be without one of their better forwards for over a month.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Alexander Kerfoot has a hearing scheduled for today with the department of player safety for boarding Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson on Saturday.
CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman TJ Brodie is poised to return to action after collapsing on the ice during practice on Nov. 14. Subsequent medical examinations did not uncover any significant concerns.