The Best and Worst NHL Trades of 2019
The latest on Mikko Rantanen, the Jets re-sign Neal Pionk, the Blues re-up Oskar Sundqvist, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: Don’t expect anyone to sign away Mikko Rantanen from the Colorado Avalanche with an offer sheet. With the Avs carrying plenty of salary-cap space, the 21-year-old right-winger is poised to become the club’s highest-paid player. He could earn between $8 – $10 million annually on his next contract.
Rantanen’s next deal won’t upset linemate Nathan MacKinnon, who currently carries the club’s biggest contract. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said it’s a different landscape compared to when MacKinnon signed his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rantanen’s earned the big raise he’ll get on his next contract. The way MacKinnon’s played over the last two seasons, he’ll eclipse Rantanen’s salary when he’s ready for his next contract in 2023, either from the Avs or another club via the unrestricted free agent market.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets avoided salary arbitration with Neal Pionk, re-signing him to a two-year, $6-million contract. The 23-year-old defenseman will earn an annual average value of $3 million. The Jets acquired Pionk last month as part of the return from the New York Rangers in the Jacob Trouba trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have around $19.8 million in salary-cap space with RFAs Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Andrew Copp to re-sign. Copp had his arbitration hearing yesterday in Toronto and a decision is expected by Tuesday.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues avoided arbitration with winger Oskar Sundqvist, re-signing him to a four-year, $11-million contract. The annual average value is $2.75 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a big raise for Sundqvist, who earned $700K on his previous contract. His two-way style played a key role in the Blues rise from the bottom of the standings to the Stanley Cup last season.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Six years after leaving Western Michigan University to join the Red Wings, defenseman Danny DeKeyser recently earned his general studies diploma. “It was a real good feeling,” said DeKeyser of walking across the stage. “I felt like I had accomplished something.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to DeKeyser for completing his studies.
WGR550.COM: The Buffalo Sabres and Evan Rodrigues are about $1.15 million apart on a new contract. “Rodrigues is asking for a deal that will pay him $2.65 million per-year, while the Sabres are hoping to get him under contract with an average annual value of $1.5 million.” Rodrigues’ arbitration hearing is slated for Tuesday in Toronto.
THE SCORE: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights top oddsmakers 2019-20 point projections.
The Winnipeg Jets have traded defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the history of difficult contract negotiations between Trouba and the Jets, it’s no surprise the 25-year-old defenseman is heading to the Rangers. His current one-year, $5.5-million contract was awarded by an arbiter last July. He’s once again a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, only now he’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status.
A 25-year-old top-pairing blueliner coming off a career-best 50-point performance, Trouba was in line for a lucrative new contract. With the Jets facing a salary-cap crunch this summer, he wasn’t going to get it from them. Young scoring winger Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are RFAs coming off their entry-level contracts and in line for big raises of their own. With over $57 million invested in 14 players, there wasn’t enough room to re-sign all three and leave enough to fill out the rest of their roster.
Pionk, 23, is a skilled puck-moving rearguard who put up a respectable 26 points in his sophomore season with the rebuilding Rangers. He logged top-four defense minutes with the Blueshirts and can expect more of the same with the Jets. Like Laine and Connor, Pionk is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract. Unlike those two, he’ll be an affordable re-signing for the Jets. In time, perhaps, he’ll offset the absence of Trouba.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff also got back the first-round pick he shipped to the Rangers at the trade deadline as part of the deal for center Kevin Hayes. With Trouba gone, Cheveldayoff could increase efforts to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Tyler Myers.
Still, it’s a disappointing return for Trouba. There was an expectation he could fetch an established top-pairing defenseman or perhaps a scoring center to line up alongside Laine. However, this might not be the only move Cheveldayoff has in store in the coming days. Perhaps his recently reacquired first-round pick could be used in a package to bring in a better asset.
Landing Trouba is a significant addition to a Rangers’ defense corps that struggled throughout 2018-19. He’ll automatically become their first-pairing, right-side defenseman.
The Rangers certainly got the better of this deal. Now, they have to re-sign him. Trouba could seek around $8 million annually on a long-term deal. With over $63 million invested in 19 players, they have the cap space to do it but it’ll push their payroll to over $71 million.
That could crimp their rumored efforts to pursue a high-scoring forward like Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene via the UFA market. Recent speculation suggests the Rangers could attempt to cut costs by trading or buying out a veteran defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk or Brendan Smith.
Game recaps, Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Miller each reach notable milestones and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin reached the 40-goal plateau for the 10th time in his career but his Washington Capitals were beaten by the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. Ovechkin ties Marcel Dionne and Mario Lemieux for second on the all-time list (Wayne Gretzky leads with 12 seasons) and also tied Lemieux for the most 40-goal seasons with one team. Anaheim’s Ryan Miller picked up his 374th career victory, setting the record for American-born NHL goalies.
Vladimir Tarasenko extended his points streak to 12 games with a goal and two assists while Jordan Binnington turned in a 31-save shutout as the St. Louis Blues downed the Minnesota Wild 4-0. For the surging Blues, it was their 10th straight win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild (60 points) remain one point up on the Vancouver Canucks for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. However, they’ve won just three of their last 10 games and seem on the verge of tumbling out of postseason contention.
General manager Paul Fenton has reportedly been given permission by ownership to shake things up for long-term gains even at the risk of hurting their playoff hopes this season. Fenton could become a seller leading up to next Monday’s trade deadline.
Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang each scored two goals and Sidney Crosby collected three assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins held on for a 6-5 win over the New York Rangers. Mats Zuccarello also scored twice for the Rangers while defenseman Neal Pionk was kept out of the third period as a precautionary measure after taking a stick to the eye. With the win, the Penguins (69 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Aleksander Barkov’s hat trick powered the Florida Panthers to a 6-3 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Antti Niemi gave up three goals on nine shots before being pulled in favor of Carey Price. The Canadiens (69 points) are winless in their last four contests (0-3-1) and cling to the final wild-card spot in the East, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Buffalo Sabres failed to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race, falling 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Kyle Palmieri had a goal and two assists while goaltender Cory Schneider picked up his second straight win. The Sabres (63 points) are six points out of a wild-card spot in the East. Earlier in the day, the Sabres revealed defenseman Marco Scandella would miss the game with an undisclosed injury but he is expected to rejoin the roster later in the week.
Oscar Lindblom tallied twice and Carter Hart made 37 saves for the Philadelphia Flyers to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Detroit Red Wings with a 3-1 victory. Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Like the Sabres, the Flyers are six points out of a playoff spot.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers have recalled defenseman Andrej Sekera from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Sekera has missed the entire NHL season thus far with an injured Achilles tendon.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have assigned center Christian Dvorak to their AHL affiliate for a two-week conditioning stint. He’s recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: After Don Cherry called the Carolina Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks” for their elaborate post-game victory celebrations, the club had “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts made up and ready for sale.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes FTW
We’re a bunch of jerks and we have the shirts to prove it.
Available later this week at The Eye. pic.twitter.com/TEefqETEau
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) February 17, 2019