The Minnesota Wild Facing An Interesting Summer
More trade deadline fallout involving Joe Thornton, Tyson Barrie, Robin Lehner, Zach Parise and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman wondered what the future held for San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton. If he’s not sold on the Sharks as a Cup contender next season, Friedman predicts the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a factor. He believes the Leafs considered adding Thornton before the trade deadline, but can’t confirm it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With all due respect to Thornton, the last thing the Leafs need is a past-his-prime center. It’s obvious to all that the Leafs desperately need to shore up their defensive depth. If management can’t see that, Leafs fans should give up any hope of this club becoming a Cup contender anytime soon.
Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman said they weren’t trading Tyson Barrie unless they got a return that immediately replaced the blueliner plus a sweetener for the future. They would’ve taken Troy Stecher, but the Vancouver Canucks didn’t have the draft picks and weren’t parting with futures.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were linked to Barrie leading up to the trade deadline. I wonder if they might try to sign him this summer as an unrestricted free agent. That could depend upon how much he’s seeking and whether it’ll fit within their cap space for 2020-21. Stecher, Jacob Markstrom, Jake Virtanen, and Adam Gaudette are due for raises next season.
Friedman believes the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t want to go past two years on a contract extension with Robin Lehner. The goaltender was shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights on deadline day.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t understand the Blackhawks’ reluctance. I’m well-aware of Lehner’s past issues, many of those tied to depression, but he’s turned his life and career around. He won the Masterton Trophy and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season with the New York Islanders. He put up good numbers backstopping a porous Chicago defense and got along well with his Blackhawks teammates. If the Golden Knights don’t re-sign him, Lehner should land a fair contract elsewhere in the NHL.
Friedman also weighed in on the failed effort by the Minnesota Wild to trade Zach Parise to the New York Islanders for Andrew Ladd at the trade deadline. Getting the salary-cap dollars to fit was the sticking point. It was rumored young Isles winger Kieffer Bellows was going to be part of the deal, among other sweeteners. The Wild also had concerns about salary-cap recapture penalties if Parise retired early. Friedman isn’t sure where the deal goes from here.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild GM Bill Guerin hinted the two clubs could revisit those negotiations in the off-season. We’ll see if they can hammer something out.
The New York Rangers trading defenseman Brady Skjei to Carolina allows them to take care of internal business, like Anthony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, dumping Skjei’s $5.25-million annual average value through 2023-24 frees up salary-cap space to re-sign DeAngelo and Strome. The pair are restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer.
Friedman also reported the Edmonton Oilers had an interest in Patrick Marleau before the Sharks traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Minnesota Wild were interested in Vincent Trocheck before the Florida Panthers shipped him to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Flames also checked into Wayne Simmonds for the second time in two years. He believes the Islanders had an interest in Mikko Koivu, who opted to stay with the Wild. A lot of teams called the Philadelphia Flyers about winger Scott Laughton, but they weren’t interested in parting with him.
The latest on Zach Parise, Joe Thornton, and Mike Matheson, plus an update on the Canadiens as the fallout from Monday’s trade deadline continues in the NHL rumor mill.
THORNTON DISAPPOINTED HE DIDN’T GET TRADED TO A CUP CONTENDER
TSN: cited San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton telling The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz he was disappointed not to be moved to a Cup contender before the trade deadline. “I’ve been dreaming about that ever since I can remember and it just didn’t come to fruition, for whatever reason. I wanted to get something back for the Sharks obviously to help them continue this process with young guys. It just didn’t work out.”
Pierre LeBrun reported three or four clubs had an interest in Thornton, but he doesn’t think they were elite Cup contenders that Thornton would’ve waived his no-movement clause for. He doesn’t believe the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, or Vegas Golden Knights made inquiries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton has indicated he doesn’t believe this season will be his last. Will he re-sign another one-year, bonus-laden deal with the retooling Sharks? Or does he test the market to see if a Cup contender has interest? His status will be worth keeping an eye on this summer.
PARISE DOWNPLAYS TRADE TALK
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise was careful with his words as he spoke yesterday to reporters regarding a potential deal that could’ve sent him to the New York Islanders before Monday’s deadline. Parise said he was approached by GM Bill Guerin a week ago about the proposed trade. He reportedly agreed to waive his no-movement clause but declined to comment about that.
Parise insisted he still loves playing in Minnesota and wants to help the Wild succeed. He had no interest in discussing what the future holds or whether he hopes to be moved in the off-season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin already suggested the Wild and Islanders could revisit those trade discussions this summer. We can’t rule out the possibility Parise may be playing his final season with the Wild.
CANADIENS COULD HAVE A BUSY SUMMER
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes the Montreal Canadiens will be worth watching in the off-season. He and several colleagues believe Habs general manager Marc Bergevin will be swinging for the fences this summer.
TVA SPORTS: Following the deadline, Renaud Lavoie suggested the Canadiens won’t be the same team next season. He noted Bergevin’s best deals tend to be made in the summer. However, he would be surprised if winger Tomas Tatar and defenseman Jeff Petry are moved. Both are a year away from unrestricted free agent status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $63 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, the Canadiens has Max Domi and Victor Mete as their noteworthy free agents, and both are restricted free agents. Domi had arbitration rights, which has sparked speculation over his future in Montreal.
Assuming those two are re-signed, the Habs will have sufficient salary-cap room to boost their roster with a significant addition via the UFA market. However, enticing UFA stars to Montreal has usually proven a difficult task.
That could force Bergevin into the trade market. Perhaps he dangles Domi as trade bait if his contract talks get contentious. A really big move would be shopping goalie Carey Price or defenseman Shea Weber, but unless they want out, I don’t see either guy moving on this summer.
Bergevin does have considerable depth in draft picks (14) in this year’s draft. I daresay he’ll draw upon that for trade bait, perhaps by targeting a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary.
WHY THE PANTHERS DIDN’T GET SKJEI
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the Florida Panthers would have loved to acquire Brady Skjei before the New York Rangers traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes. Two sources claim the Panthers’ limited salary-cap space limited them to attempting a dollar-in, dollar-out trade. He thinks the Panthers offered Mike Matheson for Skjei, but that move didn’t make sense cap-wise for the Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson’s name surfaced in the rumor mill in the weeks leading up to the recent trade deadline. If the Panthers once again fail to reach the playoffs, perhaps he’ll become part of an off-season roster shakeup.
Zach Parise was nearly traded to the Islanders, plus a post-trade deadline look at the Leafs and Jets in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PARISE TO ISLANDERS DEAL FELL THROUGH
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild were working on a trade before yesterday’s deadline that would’ve sent winger Zach Parise to the New York Islanders. It was a complicated deal that also would’ve seen Islanders winger Andrew Ladd head to the Wild. Wild general manager Bill Guerin declined to discuss the details.
Parise and Ladd both agreed to waive their no-movement clauses to allow the deal to happen. It’s unclear what caused it to fall through, but it may have been tied to the players’ contracts. Parise is signed through 2024-25 with an annual average value of over $7.5 million, while Ladd has three years remaining at $5.5-million.
Russo cited sources claiming a Parise-to-the-Islanders trade was discussed last summer with then-Wild GM Paul Fenton, but Fenton didn’t want to take back Ladd in the deal. Guerin said he has a good relationship with Parise and is happy the winger is still with the Wild.
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Guerin said there’s a chance the Wild and Islanders could revisit trade talks this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Wild and Islanders circle back to these discussions in June. They’ll have more time to hammer out a possible deal and more salary-cap space to work with. Perhaps the Islanders wanted the Wild to retain a portion of Parise’s salary. That might explain why the talks fell through.
LEAFS UNLIKELY TO RE-SIGN BARRIE
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas declined to say whether he’ll re-sign pending free-agent defenseman Tyson Barrie. He said he’d use the remaining time to see if there’s a fit, but noted it wouldn’t be easy given their current salary-cap situation.
TSN: Bob McKenzie said the Leafs were seeking a first-round pick and a prospect for Barrie leading up to yesterday’s NHL trade deadline. “They want to try to do a deal like St Louis did with Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals three years ago. Or they want to do a deal like Andrej Sekera to the LA Kings from Carolina five years ago,” said McKenzie.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie’s a goner this summer. I expect the Leafs will attempt to shop his rights for a draft pick before July 1.
LATEST ON THE JETS
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said sidelined defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has no interest in playing this season. His $7.6-million salary-cap hit for this season is off their books and they’ll attempt to trade him at some point. Byfuglien has one season remaining on his contract.
THE ATHLETIC: Ken Wiebe suggests how things shake out for the Jets down the stretch could determine what the roster looks like next season. If they don’t make some noise, Wiebe feels Cheveldayoff could have little choice but to make a bolder move involving one of his core players.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre observes Cheveldayoff will have the salary-cap flexibility this summer to land a prized free agent or swing a major trade. The groundwork for an off-season player-for-player swap may have been laid based on discussions he’d had leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Byfuglien decides to retire, the remaining year of his contract comes off the Jets’ books. If he still wants to play, interested parties will want assurances he’s fully recovered from his ankle injury.
As for the off-season, we’ll have to wait and see how things shake out for the Jets over the remainder of the current schedule. If they fail to reach the playoffs or make an early post-season exit, they will be the subject of considerable summer trade conjecture.