Anders Lee looks forward to returning from a knee injury, Dylan Cozens hopes to take on a larger role with the Sabres, the Blues unveil their 2022 Winter Classic jersey, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEWSDAY: New York Islanders captain Anders Lee is excited about returning to action after being sidelined in March by a torn ACL in his right knee. He still needs medical clearance before rejoining his teammates when training camp opens on Sep. 22.
New York Islanders captain Anders Lee (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lee will likely get that clearance when he undergoes his training camp medical. The Islanders missed his presence on their top line down the stretch last season and in the 2021 playoffs.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres sophomore center Dylan Cozens believes his club is going to surprise people this season, pointing out the club’s improvement during the second half of last season. The 20-year-old Cozens also believes he can take on a leadership role. “I’ve always seen myself as a leader,” he said. ” I want to lead by example and be a guy that guys can look to if they need anything or look to to inspire them.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are heading into another rebuild. Cozens could play a key role in that process, especially if current captain Jack Eichel gets traded as anticipated later this season.
NBC SPORTS: The St. Louis Blues unveiled their jerseys for the 2022 Winter Classic against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 1, 2022, at Target Field in Minneapolis. The jersey is described as offering “a modern spin on an original worn in 1967”, the year the Blues joined the NHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It looks pretty good too. I’ve always been a fan of the Blues’ jersey from their early years in the NHL.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus Sorensen confirmed he’s returning to Sweden after five seasons with the San Jose Sharks. The 29-year-old left winger tallied 31 goals and 64 points in 226 NHL games. He’ll be suiting up this season with the SHL’s Djugardens IF.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins recently hired Charles Grant and Kain Tisi as goaltending development coaches. They replace Andy Chiodo, who was promoted to goalie coach at the NHL level.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks filed amended motions on Friday to dismiss both negligence lawsuits related to former team video coach Bradley Aldrich, who allegedly sexually assaulted a Blackhawks player in 2010.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Vancouver Canucks have decided to hold off on becoming sellers now that they’ve climbed back into the Scotia North Division playoff race. They want to see how things play out and as a result has slowed things down in the trade market. The Columbus Blue Jackets are another club holding off after battling back into the postseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers aren’t buying into the Canucks’ recent improvement and believe they should remain sellers at the deadline. Still, management can’t be faulted for wanting to see if they can make a serious run for a postseason berth. If they falter over the next two weeks it won’t hurt their status as sellers, especially among other Canadian teams as none of their players would have to undergo quarantine if traded within Canada.
Chris Johnston believed it could be a quiet trade deadline for the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. GM Ken Holland may be reluctant to trade draft picks this year plus they have limited cap space. The Flames, meanwhile, would like to add some forward depth but may have made their big move by bringing back Darryl Sutter as head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Holland does make a move it’ll likely be a dollar-in, dollar-out trade. Given that constraint, he could find it difficult bringing in a player who significantly improves the Oilers’ depth. The Flames, meanwhile, are reportedly seeking a right-shot right-winger. They might have to consider an affordable rental like Detroit’s Bobby Ryan.
Johnston considers the Winnipeg Jets the wild card among Canadian teams heading toward the trade deadline. They’ve already acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois and are looking for a defenseman but they must consider if they want to put that player through a 14-day quarantine as Dubois had to endure before joining their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff hasn’t ruled out taking another swing in the trade market. The Jets have been linked to Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm and Columbus’ David Savard.
The Athletic’s Murat Ates believes Cheveldayoff won’t wait until deadline day to make his move because they’re using long-term injury reserve space on Bryan Little. That $2.8 million in cap relief doesn’t prorate and won’t increase as the season goes on.
Friedman believes the amount of interest in the Ottawa Senators’ pending UFAs will determine how busy they are at the deadline. While Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has hinted he might not be busy in the trade market because of salary-cap constraints, Friedman points out he’s been unafraid to make big moves and not everyone is convinced he won’t do anything.
What will Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas do at the 2021 Trade Deadline? (NHL.com)
Friedman pointed out Bergevin has tradeable assets. He has 11 picks in rounds two through five of this year’s draft. Players like Tomas Tatar, Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Victor Mete have surfaced in trade speculation. If Bergevin or his fellow Canadian GMs make a move for a player on an American club it’ll likely happen within the next 10 days. The 14-day quarantine means a player acquired at the April 12 deadline won’t be available until April 27.
While Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is seeking a forward, Johnston doesn’t rule out the possibility he’ll acquire a defenseman. He acknowledged the Leafs have limited cap-space resources and he’s heard them linked to a couple of blueliners. Friedman notes there were questions if the Leafs will do anything in goal given how things are going with starter Frederik Andersen. However, he thinks they’ll stick with what they’ve got.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s tricky enough for the Leafs to add a forward. It could get more complicated trying to also bring in a defenseman or a goaltender. Given their cap constraints, it appears they can only suitably address one need unless Dubas and his capologist have a trick or two up their sleeves.
As for goaltenders, rental options include Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier (currently sidelined), San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk and Arizona’s Antti Raanta. If Dubas feels the need to bring in a long-term replacement for Andersen (who’s a UFA this summer) I don’t see him addressing that need until the offseason.
SUBBAN, GARLAND AND SORENSEN AVAILABLE?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks points out P.K. Subban is having a pretty good season with the New Jersey Devils. Subban has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $9 million. Brooks suggests he’d be a good option for clubs seeking a right-side defenseman if the Devils agreed to pick up half of his cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That move could take place in the offseason if at all. Subban’s stock tumbled over the last couple of years. He’ll need another solid effort with the Devils to convince clubs he’d be worth pursuing. Besides, the Devils could be content to let him play out the final year of his contract and evaluate his value as a rental player next season.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports teams have shown an interest in Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland. He doesn’t believe it’s a move the Coyotes want to do but perhaps they’d consider it for the right price if it allows them to restock.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On one hand, it makes no sense for the offensively anemic Coyotes to trade their leading scorer. On the other, we don’t know what first-year GM Bill Armstrong has in store for his club so we can’t dismiss trading Garland at the deadline unless Armstrong shoots it down.
Seravalli reports Ducks general manager Bob Murray is listening to calls about Rakell, who has 12 points in his last six games. Two sources claim Murray’s set a high asking price but didn’t elaborate. The 27-year-old winger has a year left on his contract with an affordable $3.79 million salary-cap hit.
Rakell could provide the best return for a club looking to jumpstart the rebuild process. Moving him would also provide more ice time for younger players and he’ll soon be due for a new contract with a pay raise.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens recently reported changes could be in store for the Ducks’ lineup leading up to the April 12 trade deadline. Murray said he’s been “openly talking and listening about lots of things.”
Murray isn’t interested in trading captain Ryan Getzlaf unless he asks to be moved to a contender before the deadline. Getzlaf is in the final season of his contract and has a full no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray could be seeking a first-round pick and either a top prospect or promising young NHL player as part of the return for Rakell. The winger’s streaky scoring could be a stumbling block but he should continue drawing interest from playoff contenders looking beyond this season.
Murray will find moving Henrique a tough sell because of his $5.825 million annual average value through 2023-24. Heinen ($2.8 million), a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights, would be more affordable but not as enticing as Rakell. His stock has tumbled since his career-best 47-point rookie campaign in 2017-18.
Seravalli reports teams are calling the Bruins about DeBrusk. He believes the return would also be high because he’s a proven playoff performer. DeBrusk was a healthy scratch earlier this week against the New York Islanders. The Bruins are hoping for a big response from him.
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney acknowledged he may have to shake things up to bolster his club’s flagging secondary scoring. Bolstering the scoring has taken priority over the Bruins’ need for blueline reinforcements.
Shinzawa points out they have the cap space to make an addition but have a shortage of tradeable assets. He’d have to sell low on the struggling DeBrusk, he’s already traded away two of his last three first-round picks and there’s a shortage of prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The concern for Sweeney is selling low on DeBrusk only to see him turn into a reliable scorer with another club. How he performs when he returns to the lineup will determine if the Bruins GM has to go shopping for help before the trade deadline.
Sweeney could be among those general managers interested in Rakell. He has a recent trade history with the Ducks but his current lack of trade assets means he’ll likely be outbid by rival clubs. He might also have some interest in more affordable options on Seravalli’s list such as Detroit’s Bobby Ryan, Nashville’s Mikael Granlund or Vancouver’s Tanner Pearson.
Some suggestions to help the Sharks regain their playoff contender status and Travis Dermott’s future with the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SUGGESTED MOVE TO IMPROVE THE SHARKS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz last week proposed a nine-step plan for turning the San Jose Sharks back into a playoff contender next season.
Among his suggestions was finding a suitable backup goaltender to pair with starter Martin Jones. Assuming Jones isn’t traded or bought out, Kurz doesn’t believe they should bring back Aaron Dell, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He advocates signing a free-agent goalie on a one- or two-year deal to allow time for Alexei Melnichuk’s development. Former Shark Thomas Greiss could be available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greiss has solid numbers as a career backup and could be open to a return to San Jose. He could provide help offset Jones’ inconsistent streaks.
Should the San Jose Sharks attempt to trade Brent Burns in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)
Kurz also recommends Sharks general manager Doug Wilson trade Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Burns has a three-team trade list while Vlasic has a full no-movement clause. Kurz feels there’s reason to believe Vlasic would accept a trade to his native Montreal or perhaps Toronto, which could be in the market for a left-shot defenseman. Burns, however, could be the more likely trade candidate as his contract provides a little more trade flexibility and he’d have more value than Vlasic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading either guy isn’t impossible, but there remain several major stumbling blocks. Both are in their thirties (Burns is 35, Vlasic 33) and their best seasons are behind them. They also carry long-term contracts with hefty annual salary-cap hits ($8 million for Burns, $7 million for Vlasic) that will be difficult for most clubs (like Toronto) to absorb. As Kurz noted, if they won’t waive their trade clauses, Wilson’s hands will be tied. At this point, I don’t either guy agreeing to a trade.
Kurz also advocated Wilson trade two of Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen, and Dylan Gambrell. With the freed-up salary cap space from this move and moving Burns or Vlasic, he suggested signing a forward who can score, such as Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikael Granlund, or Florida’s Evgenii Dadonov.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights while Sorensen and Gambrell are signed through next season at a combined $2.2 million. Coming off a career-high 56-point performance, Labanc bet on himself and lost last summer by agreeing to a one-year, $1-million contract. With only 33 points in 70 games this season, arbitration still won’t provide him much leverage to land a lucrative long-term deal. He could become a trade candidate if the contract talks bog down.
If Wilson can trade Burns or Vlasic, he’ll free up cap space to sign a scoring forward. Considering the obstacles in trading either blueliner, it will be quite a challenge to pull that off.
DOES LEHTONEN’S SIGNING SPELL THE END OF DERMOTT AS A LEAF?
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked if the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent signing of defenseman Mikko Lehtonen spells danger for Travis Dermott’s future as a Leaf.
Fox noted Leafs GM Kyle Dubas indicating the club needs to figure out where Lehtonen slots in on the blueline. He’s a left-shot rearguard who can play either side. While he likes playing on the right side, his strengths appear on the left.
While Dubas could trade Dermott, Fox feels the smart move is to re-sign him to a reasonable bridge deal. He’s coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. Dermott will be an affordable re-signing and has a couple of NHL seasons under his belt. If Lehtonen struggles to adjust to the NHL pace, it’ll be worthwhile to have Dermott around.