No Lead Is Safe In The NHL This Season
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the one question facing each non-playoff club
SPORTSNET: Josh Beneteau recently looked at the most important question facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs.
Kicking off with the Detroit Red Wings, Beneteau wondered how many of their free agents will be brought back. RFAs Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are the priorities. UFAs like Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson won’t be back, while RFAs Brendan Perlini and Adam Erne aren’t expected to return. Some, like Robby Fabbri and Alex Biega, probably earned themselves contract extensions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi, Mantha, Fabbri, and Biega will be back with the Wings next season.
Looking at the Ottawa Senators’ 13 potential picks in the 2020 draft, Beneteau wondered what general manager Pierre Dorion will do with all of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion will likely use most of those picks in the draft, but I expect he’ll use a few as trade bait, perhaps targeting a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary. He’ll probably consider that option if he can land a young, affordable NHL-ready player who can help the Sens’ rebuild.
Beneteau wondered if this is the end of an era for the current San Jose Sharks roster. GM Doug Wilson seems intent for now on keeping the group intact and trying to figure out what went wrong this season. Nevertheless, he has a history of making blockbuster moves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We certainly can’t rule out the possibility of Wilson surprising us with a big move or two. Trying to move one or two of his veteran core, however, will be difficult. All of them carry expensive contracts with varying degrees of no-trade protection.
Turning to the Los Angeles Kings, Beneteau noted they shipped out Tyler Toffoli before the trade deadline and wondered if long-time Kings like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick will return. Beneteau acknowledged the trio are declining and have at least two years remaining on their contracts with annual cap hits of $5.2-million or more. Moving one of them, however, could fetch some sort of future asset while opening a spot for a younger player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings could be forced to pick up part of the salary-cap hit to move Brown, Carter, or Quick. Otherwise, they might have to include a good young asset in the deal, which this rebuilding club will be unwilling to part with.
Looking at the Anaheim Ducks’ anemic offense, Beneteau wonders who’s going to score next season. He speculates they could move one of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft to land a scoring forward through the draft or via trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay teams will be more interested in the Ducks’ pick than the one they got from the Boston Bruins. I don’t see GM Bob Murray moving his pick, especially if the Ducks win the draft lottery.
With the New Jersey Devils still undecided over whether to retain interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine, Beneteau wonders who’s going to make the roster decisions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the unusually long off-season facing the Devils, they have plenty of time to address that issue. They reportedly interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, while Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens are said to be among their coaching candidates.
Beneteau closes by wondering which players will be part of the solution for the Buffalo Sabres. He thinks upgrades in goal and on the forward lines are coming and won’t rule out big trades involving defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and RFA winger Sam Reinhart.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger expressed support for Ristolainen. It appears they’re also keen to keep Reinhart in the fold. Then again, we can’t rule out the possibility of one or both being moved before next season.
Some possible regional neutral-site locations to reopen the schedule, Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Quick weigh in on a possible resumption, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont reports a league source confirms Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of the NHL’s board of governors, is interested in having TD Garden become one of the four regional neutral-site locations if the season resumes in July.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen reports Las Vegas could be a fit as one of those neutral-site locations. Nevada isn’t a COVID-19 hotspot compared to other NHL cities like New York or the San Francisco Bay area, plus the city has suitable facilities to host and accommodate NHL players. However, it could lack sufficient rinks for training camps.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Sean Shapiro believes Dallas will be high on the list of possible neutral-site locations. The area has suitable accommodations, training facilities, and a major international airport. Climate, however, could make it difficult to sustain acceptable ice conditions.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The league could consider Raleigh, North Carolina as a neutral-site city, but Luke Decock believes a lack of practice facilities would be a major obstacle.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Toronto could be among the leading neutral-site candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the aforementioned cities have low COVID-19 numbers and less stringent social-distancing restrictions. Boston, however, is not among them. Jacobs is a very powerful league owner, but I doubt he’ll have enough influence to overcome the local health curtailments.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s chief medical officer recently announced a recommendation to ban events of 15 or more people until the end of the summer. If approved, kiss that city goodbye as a neutral-site location.
TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated a single positive or multiple positive tests involving players or personnel wouldn’t put an immediate halt to on-ice activity. “Everything depends on the facts and the entire set of circumstances,” said Daly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With all due respect to Daly, local health officials will make that decision, not the league. If they feel one or multiple positive tests among NHL players or staff creates a risk of spreading the coronavirus to the local population, that city will shut down games in their location. If that happens, the league’s plan to resume the schedule could be derailed.
Former NHL player John Scott took to Twitter yesterday claiming NHL training camps will begin on June 1. He anticipates European players will be returning to their NHL clubs soon. However, SPORTSNET’s Eric Engels recently reported Montreal Canadiens winger and NHLPA alternate player rep Brendan Gallagher said on Wednesday that a resumption of the schedule in July has not yet been put before the PA membership for approval.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick believes netminders will need time to get back into form if the league resumes this summer. He recalled his own long recovery from a groin injury just one game into the 2016-17 season.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington teamed up with local businessman David Corbett delivered 2,000 N95 masks to Mercy’s Virtual Care Center in Chesterfield.
SPORTSNET: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is using Scotiabank Arena as a giant kitchen to prepare 10,000 meals a day for Toronto’s front-line health-care workers, their families, and the city’s community agencies and shelters.
Are more moves in store for the Kings? Could Jack Eichel want out of Buffalo if the Sabres miss the playoffs? Are the Oilers and Penguins interested in Tomas Tatar? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE KINGS?
THE ATHLETIC: Prior to the Kings shipping Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford last night to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper looked at possible moves that could be in store for the rebuilding club before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Dillman suggested the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, and St. Louis Blues as potential destinations for winger Tyler Toffoli. Possible landing spots for defenseman Alec Martinez included the Leafs and Nashville Predators.
Cooper, meanwhile, noted the trade speculation swirling around Kings’ starting goaltender Jonathan Quick this season. While there’s debate around the league over Quick’s trade value, Cooper feels he’s still important to the Kings, especially their plans for the Seattle expansion draft in 2021.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Kings coach Todd McLellan lobbied for Toffoli to be re-signed, but it’s more likely the winger will be moved by the trade deadline. Friedman also mentioned the Bruins and Flames as possible suitors and feels the Philadelphia Flyers considered the idea. He thinks the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights could have interest in Martinez.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall analyzed the Flyers case for pursuing Toffoli. While the winger would provide a boost to their roster, they’d have difficulty taking on his $4.6 million salary-cap hit. It could mean giving up a decent roster player to make cap room for a player who could depart via free agency in July. Hall isn’t sure if that’s a risk they want to take.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Toffoli and Martinez to be playing elsewhere before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Leafs’ acquisitions of Campbell and Clifford probably takes them out of the running for Martinez. The Flyers may have discussed Toffoli, but I don’t think they’re keen to move out anyone to make room for a rental player.
The Flames’ trade priorities could shift away from a top-six winger if defenseman Mark Giordano is out long-term. The Predators could move from buyers to sellers if they fail to gain ground in the standings.
I think the Bruins consider Toffoli as their fall-back if they don’t land the Rangers’ Chris Kreider. The Panthers and Golden Knights are believed in the market for a top-four defenseman. Their respective limited cap space, however, means they’ll have to do a dollar-for-dollar swap.
As for Quick, his injury history, declining play, and a hefty contract should keep him with the Kings for at least one more season, after which they could leave him unprotected in the expansion draft.
COULD EICHEL WANT OUT OF BUFFALO?
TSN (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Insider Darren Dreger joined the Overdrive panel yesterday, where they discussed the possibility of the Buffalo Sabres missing the playoffs again and the potential effect upon Jack Eichel. They discussed whether it could push the Sabres captain to publicly demand a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Eichel is committed to turning the Sabres into a playoff club. He’s a superstar in his own right and among this season’s top-10 scorers. He’s doing everything he can to carry this club into the postseason. Sadly, ownership seems disinterested while general manager Jason Botterill isn’t having much success improving the roster.
I don’t think Eichel’s reached the stage where he’s had enough, but the constant losing is going to take its toll. He’s in the second year of an eight-year contract, but if things don’t improve over the next couple of years, I can see him questioning his future with the Sabres.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST 31 THOUGHTS
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins could have interest in Montreal Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar. However, the Canadiens feel injuries derailed their season and hope to be competitive in 2020-21. It could take a significant offer to pry Tatar away from Montreal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tatar has one season remaining on his contract, so the Habs aren’t in any rush to move him. They’ll consider it if they get a really good pitch, but they can also wait until the summer for the right offer.
Friedman claims several teams would be shocked if the Anaheim Ducks move Josh Manson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks’ blueline depth combined with their need for young scoring forwards is behind the Manson speculation. He’s in the second year of a four-year contract with a 12-team no-trade list. While they could move Manson if someone offered up a terrific young forward, I don’t think they’re shopping him.
Nashville Predators GM David Poile is willing to consider just about anything on the trade front, with obvious exceptions. He’s not looking to upgrade his goaltending.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Obvious exceptions (to me, anyway) include Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm.
Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman could be a fall-back for the St. Louis Blues if they fail to acquire New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers seek a top-four defenseman and could use Hoffman as trade bait to address that issue. I don’t think the Blues want to part with any of their top-four d-men.
Some teams have inquired about Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. While the pending UFA’s future remains uncertain, he’s a big part of the Bruins roster this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, the Bruins are all-in this season. Krug’s not going anywhere.
Friedman said the New Jersey Devils are willing to consider hockey trades as well as moving out playoff rentals. Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson has yet to return from injury. Friedman wondered if the Dallas Stars could be in the market for a playmaking forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anderson’s contract status (pending RFA with arbitration rights who’s also a year away from UFA eligibility) explains why he’s popping up in recent trade chatter. However, they’re under no pressure to trade him before the deadline.
Could Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau accept trades to a Cup contender? Will the Colorado Avalanche make a significant move at the trade deadline? Could the Blues pursue a top-six forward? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THORNTON AND MARLEAU AREN’T THINKING ABOUT TRADES
THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau haven’t given any thought about accepting a trade to a Stanley Cup contender. “I need to think about that,” said Thornton. “Obviously this homestand is going to be important for our team. But I haven’t thought about it at all. I’m just trying to win games here and see how it goes. I’m still optimistic we can take a run at it. I really am. We’ll have to see how these next couple of weeks play out and go from there.”
Marleau echoed Thornton’s comments. “Not even thinking about that right now,” he said, adding his focus is trying to help the Sharks reach the playoffs.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty observed Thornton didn’t issue a flat denial about accepting a trade as he’d done in the past. He wondered if it were possible for the 40-year-old center to return to the Boston Bruins via trade. Thornton began his NHL career with the Bruins from 1997-98 until November 30, 2005, when he was shipped to the Sharks. Haggerty feels there are better, younger options to help the Bruins at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Thornton and Marleau in the twilight of their long careers, some observers feel the Sharks owe it to the duo to peddle them to a club where they’ll have one last shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Given their ages and declining production, however, there might not be much of a market for either guy at this stage in their respective careers.
Thornton and Marleau might not want to leave San Jose. Marleau tried it with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it didn’t work out. Thornton carries a full no-movement clause and has given no indication he wants to move on. Anything’s possible, of course, but I don’t think they want to leave.
LATEST AVALANCHE SPECULATION
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers believes the Colorado Avalanche must shore up their goaltending and team defense before the trade deadline.
“Two elite veteran goalies could become available in the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and the Kings’ Jonathan Quick, both of whom have contracts the Avs could work with should they doubt their current duo. As for that depth forward, Colorado could entice a non-playoff team to trade a pending free agent to strengthen its bottom-six scoring.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every report I’ve heard or seen out of New York regarding Lundqvist doesn’t envision any scenario where he’ll waive his no-movement clause. Quick is signed through 2022-23 with an annual average salary of $5.8 million and lacks no-trade protection. While the Avs have the salary-cap space to absorb that contract, the decline in Quick’s performance and his long injury history makes it unlikely he’ll land in Denver by the trade deadline.
BLUES COULD SEEK A TOP-SIX FORWARD
STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas reports Blues general manager Doug Armstrong isn’t ruling out the possibility of making a move at the Feb. 24 trade deadline for a top-six forward. “You’re always looking to see if you can improve your team, and if we can improve our team in our top six, I think we can take a look at that,” he said.
Armstrong added a lot would depend upon the status of winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who remains sidelined following shoulder surgery in October. “My first choice would be to have Vladi playing sooner than later,” Armstrong said. “But medically, those shoulders — the surgery he had — it’s a fixed timeline of approximately six months. It’s not something you can really change.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues perched atop the Western Conference for most of this season, Armstrong isn’t under pressure to swing a major deal at the deadline. It makes sense for him to monitor the trade market in case a reasonable deal appears, but he can afford to be patient. Cap Friendly indicates the Blues carry over $5.8 million in trade-deadline cap space, but Armstrong must ensure he has sufficient cap room in case Tarasenko ($7.5 million) returns before the end of this season.