Some NHL “Trade Bait” Won’t Be Going Anywhere

Some NHL “Trade Bait” Won’t Be Going Anywhere

With the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline over a month away, lists of potential trade candidates have recently popped up in the media. While I agree with most of the selections, there’s a few names that don’t belong there.

Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers. Over the past week or so there’s been media chatter suggesting the Rangers could listen to offers for several of their notable players, including captain McDonagh.

While anything’s possible, it’s doubtful the Rangers move McDonagh at the trade deadline. As long as they’re in the playoff chase I don’t see him going anywhere, especially with Kevin Shattenkirk (knee surgery) sidelined for several weeks.

Vegas Golden Knight winger James Neal is unlikely to be moved by the 2018 NHL trade deadline (Photo via NHL Images).

James Neal and David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights. If the Golden Knights were near the bottom of the standings as expansion teams usually are, they would likely shop pending unrestricted free agents such as Neal and Perron.

Vegas, however, sits atop the Western Conference standings. Barring a stunning collapse over the remainder of the season, they’re a shoo-in to reach the playoffs.

Neal and Perron are playing key roles in the Knights’ success. Why toss a spanner in the works by trading them? Sure, the Knights risk losing both guys for nothing to free agency but it’s unlikely either guy gets peddled at the deadline.

Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche. The 26-year-old Avs defenseman frequently surfaced in the rumor mill over the previous two seasons. He’s currently on injured reserve with a hand injury. While he has his defensive weaknesses, he’s also a very good puck-moving blueliner.

If the Avalanche were once again mired near the bottom of the Western Conference, I could see them dangling Barrie as part of a rebuild plan. But with the Avs surging in the standings and jockeying for a playoff spot, why would they want to move him? Once Barrie returns to action, he’ll provide an invaluable boost to their offense.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres. Though he’s won just nine of 34 games-played, Lehner’s save percentage has hovered around .910 for most of this season. That’s pretty good considering the porous defense in front of him.

Lehner’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility. He might not have a long-term future in Buffalo. Indeed, he might want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Unless Lehner’s demanding a trade, however, it doesn’t make sense for the Sabres to trade him. Yes, they have promising Linus Ullmark waiting in the wings but he’s yet to fully establish himself as an NHL starter. It might be better to keep Lehner around for at least another season until Ullmark proves himself.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars. He’s lost his starter’s job to Ben Bishop and is eligible for UFA status in July. But he’s graciously accepted his demotion to the backup role and seems open to re-signing with the Stars.

Given Bishop’s injury history, it’ll be worthwhile for the Stars to keep Lehtonen around as they jockey for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. Though there’s a chance he could depart via free agency in July, it’s unlikely the Stars will peddle him at the trade deadline.

Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks. As the Canucks rebuild continues, there’s some speculation suggesting they could shop the 28-year-old Tanev. While he’s their best defenseman and under contract through 2019-20, some observers feel he could be on the wan by the teams the Canucks improve into a legitimate playoff contender.

That’s as may be. Then again, perhaps their improvement could come faster than expected and Tanev could be an invaluable part of it. If the Canucks get a sweetheart offer they could seriously consider it. If he wants to remain part of their future, however, they’ll probably keep him.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 14, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 14, 2017

Game recaps plus latest on Taylor Hall, Brandon Dubinsky and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves on route to his 300th career NHL victory as the Dallas Stars beat the New York Islanders 5-2. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a three-point game and Tyler Pitlick scored twice. 

P.K. Subban tallied two goals (one from center ice) and Craig Smith had a three-point performance to lead the Nashville Predators to a 7-1 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks, who suffered their fourth straight defeat. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are really feeling the absence of sidelined top-six forwards Bo Horvat  andSven Baertschi, as well as veteran center Brandon Sutter and rugged blueliner Erik Gudbranson. 

David Pastrnak scored the game-tying goal and Brad Marchand netted the winner in overtime as the Boston Bruins edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. 

Bobby Ryan scored a goal and set up another as the Ottawa Senators hung on for a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. It was the struggling Sens second victory in their last 14 games. 

TSN: Speaking of the Senators, team owner Eugene Melnyk denied rumors he was considering selling the club. “I am not selling the team – period. My kids (had) first call on the franchise long ago,” Melnyk said in an email sent to Postmedia.”

OTTAWA SUN: And speaking of Melnyk, former Sens center Kyle Turris believes the reason he was shipped to Nashville last month in a rare three-team trade was because the Ottawa owner didn’t want to re-sign him. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion dismissed this notion, claiming everything in the hockey department goes through him, not Melnyk. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators month-long tailspin gave rise to so much speculation over possible trades and the future of the franchise that Dorion held a press conference prior to the game against the Rangers to swat down the rumors. I’ll have more on what he said about potential player movement later today in the Rumors section. 

NORTHJERSEY.COM:  New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall is day-to-day with a knee contusion and won’t take part in tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky will miss six-to-eight weeks after suffering a facial fracture during a fight with Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian during Tuesday’s game in Columbus. 

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is sidelined with a lower-body injury. The extent of the injury remains unknown.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks placed defenseman Cody Franson (upper body) on injured reserve and called up Ville Pokka.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights claimed forward Ryan Carpenter off waivers from the San Jose Sharks. 

TSN: Rick Westhead with a feature on former Minnesota Wild captain Matt Johnson, who’s now homeless and missing somewhere in California. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson’s decline since his NHL career ended in 2005 is yet another sad cautionary tale of how a player, even one who earned $6 million during his pro career, can fall through the cracks.


NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2017

Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci has occasionally popped up in the NHL trade rumor mill.

Latest on the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars in your NHL rumor mill. 

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman’s appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 during which he discussed the Ottawa Senators’ rumored interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. He doubts they have the assets to meet the Avs high asking price.

Friedman doesn’t believe they’ll part with promising defenseman Thomas Chabot and doesn’t think they want to move blueliner Cody Ceci.

“I think they’re interested, I just don’t know if they have what – like, they’re not going to trade Chabot. And you know what? They shouldn’t. They really shouldn’t,” said Friedman. “I’m not sure they want to trade Ceci either.

He notes the Sens have had inquiries about Ceci in recent years. While his advanced stats aren’t that good, Friedman still thinks he’s a pretty good player. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand why the Senators are reportedly interested in Duchene but I don’t believe they’ll part with Chabot or Ceci to get him. Ceci’s stats suffered last season, his first under head coach Guy Boucher. The Sens’ reluctance to move him, however, is understandable. He’s only 23 with solid puck-moving skills and plenty of time ahead of him to fully develop his game. 

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Replying to a reader’s recent question on the Dallas Stars possibly shopping goaltender Kari Lehtonen, Mike Heika doubts this will happen. Lehtonen’s $5 million salary is a sticking point, but Heika thinks the Stars might not want to part with the veteran netminder. He points outs Lehtonen provides “great depth” if new starter Ben Bishop gets hurt, plus the Stars lack depth NHL-ready goalies in their system. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe they’ll stick with the tandem of Bishop and Lehtonen for this season. However, if the Stars were to shop Lehtonen, they’ll likely wait until January or February to do so. He also carries a modified no-trade clause, which potentially hampers where they could trade him. 


Stars Sign Bishop to Six-Year Deal

Stars Sign Bishop to Six-Year Deal

Dallas Stars sign Ben Bishop to a six-year contract.

The Dallas Stars signed goaltender Ben Bishop to a six-year, $29.5 million contract. Earlier this week, the Stars acquired the 30-year-old Bishop’s rights from the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s an annual average value of over $4.916 million starting in 2017-18. Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, “the deal holds a no-move clause throughout and limited no-trade clause in the final three seasons, therefore he is automatically protected in June’s Vegas expansion draft.”

 The deal is also front loaded, paying Bishop “$7 million in year one, $6.5 million in year two, $5.5 million in year three, and $3.5 million in each of the final three seasons.”

Bishop is completing a two-year, $11.9 million contract ($5.95-million annual cap hit) that also carried a no-movement clause and a modified no-trade. He’s accepting a lesser annual cap hit for the security of a longer term and no-move protection.

Dollar-wise, it’s a good deal for the Stars, as there was speculation Bishop might command up to $7 million per season. Whether the length of this contract and the no-move/limited no-trade clause proves worthwhile remains to be seen.

When Bishop’s healthy, he is among the league’s elite goaltenders. He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist who backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. He’s an obvious upgrade over the Stars current tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi and could make this club into a perennial playoff contender. 

Since 2012, however, he’s been hampered by lower-body injuries. Should this issue continue or worsen over the course of this contract, it could adversely affect his performance, hurting Dallas’ efforts to become a Stanley Cup contender.

Bishop’s signing also mean Lehtonen and Niemi will be exposed in next month’s expansion draft. If the Vegas Golden Knights pass on those two, one or both could be bought out of the final year of their contracts or placed on the trade block. 


Latest on the Stars and Kings – April 5, 2017

Latest on the Stars and Kings – April 5, 2017

Should the Dallas Stars pursue Columbus Blue Jackets backup Joonas Korpisalo?

More speculation on the Stars goaltending and the Kings management and coaching in your NHL rumor mill. 

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat, Mike Heika once again addressed the state of the Dallas Stars goaltending. He doesn’t expect the current tandem of Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi will remain intact, suggesting one or both could be bought out in late-June. 

Heika recommends the Stars attempt to acquire young goaltender Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade, as the Jackets risk losing him to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Once Korpisalo is acquired, Heika suggests buying out Lehtonen and Niemi, which would cost a combined $3.5 million per season for the next two years against the Stars’ salary cap. It would free up cap room to pursue an unrestricted free agent goalie such as Scott Darling or Ben Bishop. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Heika is merely making his own suggestion here. I agree with him that the Stars cannot return with the same goalie tandem next season. Whether they buy out one or both of their current netminders, I expect they’ll be busy in the trade and/or free agent markets this summer. They could also look at trying to pry Antti Raanta away from the New York Rangers or pursuing the Washington Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer. Like Korpisalo, they could be left exposed in the expansion draft so the Rangers and Capitals could instead try to trade them . The Stars were occasionally linked to Pittsburgh Penguins veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, though he’s got two more years at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million left on his contract. 

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie telling Montreal’s TSN 690 he expects the Los Angeles Kings ownership will make a hard evaluation of the club in the offseason. With the Kings missing the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, McKenzie said he’d “be surprised if the Kings came back intact in terms of the management and the coach. But we’ll see what happens.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been talk of the Kings moving general manager Dean Lombardi into a different role within the organization and putting Rob Blake into the GM’s chair. If that happens, Blake could consider a coaching change, though I don’t think Sutter should lose his job because Lombardi was unable to bolster the roster.

Whether it’s Lombardi, Blake or somebody else as the Kings’ GM, they must find a way to clear some salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who both have arbitration rights and are in line for significant raises. It could force them to make a difficult decision, such as costly buyouts of expensive, fading forwards such as Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, or perhaps dealing winger Jeff Carter while his trade value remains high. 

Expansion Speculation on the Bruins, Sabres & Stars – March 21, 2017

Expansion Speculation on the Bruins, Sabres & Stars – March 21, 2017

Could the Boston Bruins leave defenseman Adam McQuaid exposed in the June expansion draft?

 A look at the players who could be protected or exposed in the June expansion draft by the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars.

BOSTON HERALD: Stephen Harris speculates the Boston Bruins could opt to protect seven forwards (“Patrice Bergeron (no-movement clause), David Krejci (NM), David Backes (NM), Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey”), three defenseman ( “Zdeno Chara (NM), Torey Krug and Colin Miller”) and a goaltender (Tuukka Rask) in the June expansion draft.

Harris suggests the Bruins could still expose Beleskey. Colin Miller’s improvement, meanwhile, could leave Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller exposed. Either guy could prove attractive to the Vegas Golden Knights. Harris also mused over the possibility of the Bruins asking Chara to waive his no-movement clause, but believes it “questionable at best” that he’ll agree to do so. The Bruins could also be unwilling to risk losing Chara. 

THE BUFFALO NEWS: John Vogl recently did up his list of players the Buffalo Sabres could protect in the expansion draft. His protected forwards include Kyle Okposo, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, Ennis and William Carrier. That leaves Zemgus Girgensons, Matt Moulson, Nicholas Deslauriers and Justin Kea available in the draft.

On defense, he’d protect Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe and Zach Bogosian, leaving Josh Gorges, Justin Falk and Brady Austin. In goal, Vogl anticipated the Sabres will protect Robin Lehner and expose Linus Ullmark. He also speculated the Golden Knights could choose Girgensons or Ullmark. 

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika recently looked at the players the Dallas Stars could protect in the expansion draft. Forwards Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have no-movement clauses, while Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa are “locks’ to be protected. He anticipated the Stars will protect Valeri Nichushkin, who’s currently playing in Russia. He guessed they’ll also protect Brett Ritchie and Antoine Roussel and speculated they could trade Cody Eakin or leave him unprotected.

On defense, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell will be protected, as could either Stephen Johns or Jamie Oleksiak. Dan Hamhuis would be left unprotected. Given his age (34) and with only a year left on his contract, the Golden Knights could pass on him. As for goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, Heika doubts the Golden Knights have interest in either guy. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As more clubs drop out of playoff contention in the coming weeks, expect the speculation over which players they will expose in the expansion draft to increase in the coming weeks. If the Bruins leave McQuaid unprotected, I expect the Golden Knights will be very interested in him. Same goes for Girgensons if the Sabres make him available in the draft. Johns and Oleksiak are big, young blueliners and either one could be tempting targets for the Golden Knights.