Bergevin’s Offseason Roster Moves Have Canadiens Flying
The latest on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois in today’s NHL rumor mill.
Boom. Told that the Blue Jackets are also sending a third-round pick to Winnipeg as part of this blockbuster deal. https://t.co/ZtyyhiV5aP
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 23, 2021
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman was among several pundits last night reporting on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen is reportedly aggressively shopping the 22-year-old center after he was benched for most of Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Friedman speculates a deal could come as early as Saturday morning
Sources claim the Winnipeg Jets are offering up a package that includes forward Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, a Columbus native who’s currently unsigned. The Anaheim Ducks are believed to have increased their offer while the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens are said to be among the suitors. Friedman reports it’s not believed the Canadiens are willing to include center Nick Suzuki in their offer.
Friedman’s colleague Chris Johnston tweeted the Jets are believed to have the best offer on the table. The Blue Jackets are continuing to gauge the market to see if they’ll get better offers.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports it’s unclear if Dubois will be enough to land Laine and Roslovic or if the Jackets will have to sweeten the pot. The Jets are said to be in the market for a defenseman. Laine is a restricted free agent this summer and getting him to agree to a long-term extension will be a concern for the Jackets. Portzline speculates it could cost around $2 million annually to sign Roslovic.
It’s unknown what the Ducks and Canadiens are offering. Portzline believes the Jackets would be interested in top prospects such as the Ducks’ Trevor Zegras or the Canadiens’ Cole Caufield.
In a recent mailbag segment, Lisa Dillman was asked if the Los Angeles Kings should pursue Dubois. She feels there’s no trade fit between the Kings and Blue Jackets, pointing out the Jackets will want a player in return who gives them some version of what Dubois gives them. Promising young Kings prospects like Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield have yet to play an AHL game, let alone an NHL contest.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards believes the Panthers should get into the bidding for Dubois. He could fill the second-line center role behind Aleksander Barkov, giving the Panthers a solid one-two punch down the middle. Panthers general manager Bill Zito is former assistant GM of the Blue Jackets and knows Dubois and Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen well. Richards doubts a package of draft picks and prospects will get it done because the Jackets aren’t in rebuild mode.
TSN: The Panthers are among Frank Seravalli’s list of seven teams that don’t have an interest in Dubois or the assets to acquire him. The Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights are the others.
Seravalli wondered if the Canadiens would part with Jesperi Kotkaniemi to land Dubois. His colleague, Pierre LeBrun, listed the Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes reached out to the Jackets.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty reports the Bruins are not among the clubs pursuing Dubois.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes as many as 20 teams have reached out to Kekalainen about Dubois. However, he doubts the Senators are among them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois could be traded to one of the aforementioned teams by the time you read this. On the other hand, this could drag on throughout the weekend or perhaps longer. It’ll be interesting to see what the deal looks like when it finally goes down.
Kekalainen wants to trade Dubois as soon as possible. The center’s benching on Thursday created a festering situation that threatens to worsen if left unaddressed. Nevertheless, he’s not going to just give him away. He’ll want a return that provides immediate help to his struggling roster.
Many of the teams linked to Dubois could merely be doing due diligence. They’re understandably interested in the two-way center but could quickly back away once they learn about the asking price. Still, one of them could surprise with a last-minute offer that meets the Jackets’ requirements.
That return could come from the Jets if Laine and Roslovic are part of a package deal but the Jets will certainly want more than Dubois in return. A defenseman might have to be included in that package.
The Canadiens have been linked to Dubois for some time with speculation suggesting Suzuki or Kotkaniemi will have to be part of the package. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could be reluctant to part with either promising youngster especially given their roles in the Habs’ strong start to this season.
I’m not sure what the Ducks could offer up besides Zegras to the Blue Jackets. Maybe GM Bob Murray packages Zegras with another young forward like Sam Steel, Max Comtois or Max Jones.
The Flames already seem set with Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan as their top-two centers. They may have to part with one of them or perhaps a winger like Johnny Gaudreau to make this work.
Could the Canadiens acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois? Could the Panthers move Aleksander Barkov? Would they shop Keith Yandle to the Bruins? What’s the latest on the Oilers’ goaltending? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE CANADIENS ACQUIRE DUBOIS?
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens’ rumored pursuit of Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois could be a complex and risky endeavor.
He believes Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen would want Nick Suzuki and something else in return. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could counter with Jesperi Kotkaniemi as the centerpiece of a package with a top prospect also included.
In order to take on Dubois’ $5 million annual average value, the Canadiens would have to send a roster player earning more than $3 million (such as Paul Byron) to the Jackets.
Engels suggests it’s possible Bergevin could part with Kotkaniemi. However, he’s not sure the Habs GM would also want to include one of his top prospects in the deal. Bergevin could also be outbid by the Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators or Anaheim Ducks.
The restrictions on travel between Canada and the United States also complicates things. Engels suggests the Canadiens would be without Dubois for 14 days while he completes mandatory self-quarantine before he could join them. They’d also be without the player or players they’d give up in the deal during that period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquiring Dubois would be a tempting option for the Canadiens, but that deal will be expensive. I don’t see Bergevin parting with Suzuki. Kotkaniemi is possible but he’s got plenty of promising upside. Giving up a prospect such as Cole Caufield, Kaiden Guhle or Mattias Norlinder could also be tough to swallow.
Even if Bergevin is willing to part with Kotkaniemi and one of his best prospects, making the dollars fit would be difficult. Byron is a former 20-goal scorer but the 31-year-old last hit that mark in 2017-18 and he’s been waylaid by injuries over the last two seasons. The Jackets could also be reluctant to take on a winger who turns 32 in April with two years remaining on his contract.
Bergevin could try to offer up another roster player but he doesn’t have many to spare that would suit the Jackets. Tomas Tatar is a free agent this summer while depth forwards like Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen each earn less than $3 million annually. The Jackets won’t take Jonathan Drouin’s $5.5 million AAV.
Kekalainen is reportedly being patient with Dubois’ situation. Bergevin might be wise to follow the same tactic and see how this season plays out. Perhaps they could revisit this in the offseason. Then again, there might not be any need for the Canadiens to make this deal if Suzuki and Kotkaniemi blossom into stars this season.
UPDATE ON BARKOV AND YANDLE
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Panthers GM Bill Zito told captain Aleksander Barkov there’s no truth to trade rumors suggesting he might be available. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Thursday that Barkov was drawing interest from rival general managers. The report was based on whether the 25-year-old center would re-sign with the Panthers this summer, and if not, would they consider trading him.
“Bill talked to me right away, he told me they aren’t true,” said Barkov. “So it’s all good and I am concentrating on the start of the season. Thank you for mentioning this is my first time being mentioned in trade rumors.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt there were some general managers calling Zito to find out what changes he had in store for the Panthers this season and if Barkov might be part of them. It should be pointed out that Seravalli noted in his report that Zito intends to re-sign his captain.
Maybe that becomes a problem if the Panthers fail to improve this season. For now, I don’t see Barkov going anywhere.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites sources claiming if and when Zito asks Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause, he will do it for the Bruins. Murphy feels the main question is whether the Bruins would want the 34-year-old defenseman and his $6.35 million AAV through 2022-23.
Murphy cites reports indicating Bruins GM Don Sweeney spoke to Zito about what it would take to acquire Yandle but nothing came of it. He feels the Bruins seem determined to stick with their youth movement on defense and wouldn’t want to risk exposing Brandon Carlo or Matt Grzelcyk to this summer’s expansion draft if they acquired Yandle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Yandle’s cap hit was a key reason why those rumored talks didn’t go far. If the Bruins remain interested in bringing Yandle back to his home state it might be best to do so after the expansion draft, and only if the Panthers agree to pick up part of his cap hit.
LATEST ON THE OILERS
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes the Oilers’ goaltending situation has gone from bad to worse this week. First, they lost Anton Forsberg to Carolina via waivers on Tuesday. On Friday, Mike Smith was placed on long-term injury reserve, taking him out of the lineup for at least 10 games.
Given the high number of back-to-back games the Oilers face in this shortened season, Staples wonders what GM Ken Holland will do. “Overpay? Patiently wait for some goalie to pop up on the waiver wire?”
Staples noted some Oilers’ observers are suggesting a trade for someone like Arizona’s Antti Raanta or Toronto’s Michael Hutchinson. Others suggest signing UFA Jimmy Howard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were taking a risk bringing back the 38-year-old Smith for another season. If anything happens to Mikko Koskinen they will be well and truly screwed. There simply aren’t many palatable options available right now. Holland might not have much choice but to be patient and hope a decent netminder becomes available soon.
With the regular season opening today, check out the latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois and Keith Yandle in today’s NHL rumor mill.
BLUE JACKETS GETTING CALLS ABOUT DUBOIS
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reports several sources claim interested teams are “not screwing around” when it comes to Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center requested a trade despite recently signing a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Friedman said the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets are among the pursuers but there are other clubs in the chase who haven’t received as much attention. Friedman wonders if the Jackets will move quickly to trade Dubois.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there’s been some speculation linking Dubois to Jets winger Patrik Laine. “That makes a lot of sense, but there’s nothing close there,” said Dreger.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Arpon Basu was asked if the Canadiens would or should make a player for Dubois. He feels it would cost the Habs one of their two promising young centers (Nick Suzuki or Jesperi Kotkaniemi) and there’s no guarantee Dubois will be more successful over the long run than either of those two. If Habs general manager Marc Bergevin could find a way to acquire Dubois without parting with Suzuki or Kotkaniemi it would be a no-brainer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent speculation also has the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers as possible or suggested suitors for Dubois. Whether they’re actually pursuing him is another matter.
Dubois-for-Laine addresses the Jets’ outstanding need for a reliable young second-line center. That proposed swap would help the low-scoring Jackets but creates a big hole at center for them.
If the Canadiens land Dubois without parting with Suzuki or Kotkaniemi they’d be set for years at center, salary cap permitting. Maybe Bergevin bundles pending UFA Philip Danault with a top prospect like Cole Caulfield and a couple of his 11 picks between rounds 2 and 5 of the 2021 NHL draft, though that would require a commitment from Danault to sign a contract extension with the Jackets. However, the Canadiens would have to include another salaried player to create room for Dubois’ $5 million AAV.
That’s just spitballing on my part. Suzuki or Kotkaniemi would have to be part of the return and I doubt Bergevin wants to give up either guy.
YANDLE OUT OF FAVOR WITH THE PANTHERS?
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Keith Yandle has fallen out of favor with the Florida Panthers. They’ve informed the 34-year-old defensemen he no longer fits into their plans for this season. His no-movement clause (NMC), however, prevents them from demoting him to their taxi squad. It’s believed they plan to make him a healthy scratch for their season-opener, which would end his Ironman streak of 866 games.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Yandle’s NMC gives him ultimate control over this situation. However, it’s difficult to move salary right now. Friedman said he’d heard the Panthers had some talks with the New York Islanders, with the Panthers taking back some salary, but a deal didn’t happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yandle yesterday said he hadn’t been approached by the Panthers about waiving his NMC. Maybe GM Bill Zito is trying to force the rearguard into seeking a trade or accepting a demotion to the taxi squad.
PuckPedia shows Yandle is signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $6.3 million. If he’s willing to accept a trade, the Panthers will have to do a dollar-for-dollar swap or absorb a healthy chunk of his cap hit to make the deal work. Even then, his age and the remaining term on his contract could be sticking points.