Optics Don’t Look Good For Maple Leafs After Underwhelming Deadline Day
Could Joe Thornton accept a trade to the Avalanche? Could the Panthers peddle Vincent Trocheck? What’s the latest on Jake Muzzin’s contract talks? Could Max Domi hit the trade block? All this and more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
LATEST ON THORNTON
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will attempt to move as many pieces as possible before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Defenseman Brenden Dillon is expected to be traded, but there will be a lot of attention on veteran Sharks center Joe Thornton. He has a full no-movement clause, but there’s a belief he could waive it to join a Stanley Cup contender. Garrioch thinks the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche are good fits.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater believes Thornton would be a good fit with the Avalanche. He’d be a short-term replacement for sidelined center Nazem Kadri and a potential playoff replacement for Tyson Jost or Vlad Kamenev. Jost hasn’t scored in 31 straight games. Dater also wouldn’t be surprised if Thornton returned to Boston.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to Shawn Lamba for the Dater link. Thornton hasn’t indicated his intentions except to say he’d think about it if approached about a trade to a contender.
Returning to the Bruins, where his NHL career began, would make a nice story, but he’s not the second-line scoring winger they need. The Avs could be a better fit, but GM Joe Sakic could have other options on their radar.
UPDATES ON THE PANTHERS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there’s talk Vincent Trocheck could be available as the struggling Florida Panthers search for a defenseman before the trade deadline. The 26-year-old has two more seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $4.75 million, which Friedman feels many teams can handle.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes Trocheck’s contract could be difficult to move unless Panthers GM Dale Tallon agrees to pick up a portion of his annual salary-cap hit. He thinks the slumping Panthers could be ready to accept the reality of their situation and become deadline sellers. Pending UFA wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov could be on the move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tallon could go from buyer to seller if the Panthers fail to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings. He’s made no secret of his wish to acquire a defense partner for Aaron Ekblad to bring some stability to his blueline, but that sort of player isn’t cheap or easy to find.
Dangling Trochek instead of a rental player like Hoffman or Dadonov could fetch that type of return. Given the Panthers’ limited salary-cap space, it would have to be a dollar-in, dollar-out move.
UPDATE ON MUZZIN’S CONTRACT STATUS
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports Jake Muzzin believes he’s close to a contract extension with the Maple Leafs. The 30-year-old defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Muzzin didn’t go into specifics, but it’s believed it could be a four-year deal worth around $5.5 million annually.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the CBA tagging rule could determine when Muzzin and the Leafs reach their agreement. They can only commit so much salary following the season they’re in. That amount goes up by 10 percent on March 1, leading Johnston to speculate the contract won’t be completed until after that date.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like this is a done deal, it’s just a matter of time. Assuming it’s $5.5 million annually, that will push the Leafs’ cap payroll for 2020-21 to over $76.8 million invested in 16 players. If the cap rises to $84 million, it won’t leave much to re-sign or replace their other free agents.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Marc de Foy expects defenseman Jeff Petry and winger Tomas Tatar will remain with the Montreal Canadiens after the trade deadline. He claims that the decision was made a long time ago. Both players have a year remaining on their respective contracts.
He speculates center Max Domi could be on the move, pointing to a recent rumor linking him to the Minnesota Wild. He thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin could have a Wild defenseman, like Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin in his sights.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes the Canadiens must lower their asking price of a second-round pick for winger Ilya Kovalchuk if they intend to move him by the trade deadline. He expects teams will come calling about Max Domi but doesn’t think the Habs intend to go that route.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rumor linking Domi to the Wild came from The Athletic’s Michael Russo in a piece suggesting that several teams could be interested in Dumba and Brodin.
Here’s what Russo wrote: “The Canadiens would likely part with center Max Domi, maybe in a trade for Brodin because they have a surplus at Domi’s position and could use a quality left-shot defenseman.” He mentioned Domi because he feels the Wild would want a center in return for either blueliner. He’s not saying Domi is definitely on the block, he’s not saying it’s a Domi-for-Dumba swap, and he’s not saying the Habs are definitely pursuing Brodin.
All of the trade chatter about Domi seems to originate from a few Montreal pundits unhappy with the 24-year-old’s performance this season. They also suggest his RFA status (with arbitration rights) could complicate his future in Montreal. Perhaps that’s true, but GM Marc Bergevin isn’t under any pressure to move Domi at the trade deadline. If he decides to shop Domi, he can do it in the summer, when teams have more money and a willingness to make hockey trades.
MORE RUMORS FROM THE OTTAWA SUN’S BRUCE GARRIOCH
New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is said to have mild interest in Travis Zajac. The New Jersey Devils center has a year left on his contract and history with Lamoriello.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zajac reportedly refused to waive his no-movement clause earlier this season when presented with a trade opportunity. Just because he has a history with the former Devils GM doesn’t mean he’s going to accept a trade to the Islanders.
Garrioch believes Ottawa Senators defenseman Dylan DeMelo will be on the move by the deadline. The Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and Vegas Golden Knights could be potential destination for DeMelo.
If the New York Rangers don’t trade Chris Kreider, Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau could become the top forward available. Don’t expect the Senators to get a first-round pick for him.
The latest on Alec Martinez. Tyler Toffoli and Jake Muzzin plus updates on the Wild, Islanders, Devils, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill
WILD GM FACES TOUGH DECISIONS AS DEADLINE NEARS
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo believes Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin must decide if he’ll be a seller by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Teams are showing interest in defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin and winger Marcus Foligno, though Russo wouldn’t be surprised if Foligno stays put. He believes Toronto, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Vegas, Winnipeg, Columbus, and Montreal are among the teams with interest in Dumba or Brodin.
The Maple Leafs seem the most interested in Dumba, but Russo feels they’ll have to part with a center like Alexander Kerfoot, and Russo doubts he’d be enough. The asking price from the Lightning could be Anthony Cirelli.
Russo doesn’t see the Hurricanes parting with Martin Necas for either rearguard. He also thinks the Canadiens could part with Max Domi for Brodin as they have a surplus at Domi’s position and need a left-shot defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Since trading Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh earlier this week, Guerin has warned his players that other moves could be coming if they fail to play up to his expectations. Nevertheless, he’s not going to move Dumba, Brodin, Foligno or anyone else simply for the sake of making a trade.
Unless someone offers up a first-line center or a second-line center and something else for Dumba, he’s not going anywhere. The asking price for Brodin could be a second-line center. If Guerin doesn’t get any suitable offers, he’ll wait until the off-season for something he likes.
COULD INJURIES FORCE ISLANDERS INTO THE TRADE MARKET?
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple recently suggested the pressure could be on New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello to make a move as injuries pile up. Staple suggested Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau as one option, but doubts Lamoriello would part with a first-round pick to get him.
New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac could be another target. Lamoriello drafted and signed him to his current contract when he was Devils GM, but Zajac already rejected a trade offer and could remain reluctant to move. More affordable options could include Anaheim’s Derek Grant, Los Angeles’ Trevor Lewis, or Detroit’s Luke Glendening.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello is the NHL’s most secretive GM, so we have no idea what he’s planning. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a move before the deadline. With over $23 million in projected deadline cap room, he has more than enough to swing a significant deal. We’ll find out soon enough what he has in store.
UPDATE ON THE DEVILS
TSN: Bob McKenzie cites colleague Pierre LeBrun’s recent report claiming the Vancouver Canucks might have interest in New Jersey Devils winger Wayne Simmonds. However, that could depend upon the performance of physical winger Micheal Ferland when he returns to the lineup. Ferland is currently skating with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate as he works his way back from an upper-body injury.
Darren Dreger expects Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald will be busy leading up to the trade deadline. There could be “a ton of activity” involving pending UFAs such as Simmonds, Andy Greene and perhaps Sami Vatanen. There’s also interest in players signed beyond this season, such as Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NJ.com’s Chris Ryan acknowledged teams could call about Palmieri and Coleman, but he feels the Devils would need a big incentive to move them. In other words, you won’t be getting either guy at rental prices.
LEAFS COULD RE-SIGN MUZZIN BEFORE TRADE DEADLINE
TSN: Darren Dreger speculates the Toronto Maple Leafs could re-sign Jake Muzzin before the upcoming trade deadline. The 28-year-old defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a trade rumor and the Leafs aren’t a seller as the deadline nears. Nevertheless, whatever Muzzin’s gets on his next deal will affect the Leafs’ salary-cap payroll for 2020-21. They already have over $71.3 million invested in 15 players, with notables such as Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott, and Jason Spezza to re-sign or replace. Muzzin’s new contract won’t leave much room to fill out the rest of the roster.
LATEST ON MARTINEZ
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the Los Angeles Kings’ asking price for defenseman Alec Martinez appeared to be a second-round pick and a prospect. He said the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes have varying degrees of interest in Martinez, who has a year remaining on his contract.
LIMITED INTEREST IN SENATORS UFAS.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there hasn’t been as much interest as we might think in the Ottawa Senators’ pending UFAs. Contract talks between Senators GM Pierre Dorion and a couple of those UFAs, like Mark Borowiecki, could pick up next week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those UFAs include Borowiecki, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Craig Anderson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ron Hainsey, Tyler Ennis, and Dylan DeMelo. Perhaps the limited interest is due to the Senators’ intention to re-sign some of them. It could also be that those players are low down on the priority list for most buyers.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 13, 2020
The Pacific Division wins the All-Star Game, David Pastrnak named tournament MVP, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Vancouver’s Elias Petterson scored twice and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl tallied the game-winner as the Pacific Division edged the Atlantic Division 5-4 to win the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. The Pacific Division all-stars received a check for USD 1 million for winning the tournament.
Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak was named tournament MVP through a fan vote on social media.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Despite scoring five goals, including the tournament winner, Tomas Hertl was left off the tournament MVP ballot. The Sharks winger was unperturbed, “I’m happy we won and we won the prize, so it’s exciting,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I watched the ASG because it’s my job, but it was such a farce that I was more absorbed in following social media comments about the game. While the ASG still matters as a locally-staged event, this glorified pond-hockey contest tends to be a national TV ratings dud in the U.S. and Canada. Los Angeles Times’ hockey writer Helene Elliott put it best:
I love hockey. This is not hockey. I wish the NHL could figure out a better way to showcase the sport because this no-hit, no-try exhibition isn’t it.
— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 26, 2020
Bob Duff, meanwhile, pitched several suggestions on how to improve the NHL ASG format. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs recalled Jake Muzzin and Trevor Moore from their conditioning stints with the Marlies.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muzzin should provide a welcome boost to a defense that became porous during his absence.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: A source claims the Dallas Stars are a “highly considered” candidate to play games in China next season. Their opponent, as well as dates and locations, are unclear. It’s also uncertain if the NHL will stage games in China in 2020-21.
PHWA midseason award winners, All-Star Game skills competition participants announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association announced their 2019-20 Midseason NHL Award winners. Among them are Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Hart Trophy), Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (Norris Trophy), Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Vezina Trophy), and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (Calder Trophy). The PWHA also named Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander as their comeback player of the year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring serious injury or a significant decline in performance, McDavid is a lock for the Hart, Carlson for the Norris, and Makar for the Calder. Hellebuyck’s had an outstanding first half, but he’s struggled of late, which could affect his Vezina chances over the remainder of the season.
Participants for the skills competition for the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis were announced yesterday.
CALGARY SUN: The upcoming All-Star game is a family affair for Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk. The brothers grew up watching their father Keith play for the St. Louis Blues in the early 2000s until his retirement in 2010.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The effects of Kendall Coyne Schofield’s participation in the skills competition at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game are examined in a new documentary.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks owner Hasso Plattner voiced his support of general manager Doug Wilson despite the club’s disappointing season. “While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” said Plattner. He pointed to the club’s quick turnaround under Wilson after missing the playoffs in 2015.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Plattner’s confidence of Wilson, but I think the Sharks GM is facing the biggest challenge of his management career. He’s saddled himself with expensive veterans and doesn’t have much to draw upon in the prospect pipeline for trade bait.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs assigned defenseman Jake Muzzin to their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muzzin’s imminent return is good news for a Leafs blueline that’s struggled in his absence.
CBS SPORTS: The Pittsburgh Penguins activated defenseman Justin Schultz off injured reserve.
TSN: Marc Methot believes his playing career has come to an end. He underwent knee surgery a year ago while with the Dallas Stars, but the knee continues giving him pain. The 13-year NHL veteran spent five seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Methot said he hasn’t made an official decision yet on his future.