NHL Playoffs: Canadiens Tie Series with Convincing Win over Flyers
The latest on the Canadiens and an update on Tyson Barrie in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked what he thought Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was doing in Colorado before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic dismissed the speculation at the time, pointing out Bergevin’s daughter attends Colorado University, but Engels indicated that didn’t explain why Canadiens’ assistant GM Scott Mellanby accompanied him on that trip.
Engels believes something was brewing between the two clubs before the deadline, though he’s not certain what might’ve been discussed. “What I would say, however, is that some seeds were likely planted and we could see something materialize between these teams at some point this off-season,” he said. “There are multiple scenarios that make them good trading partners.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin’s visit to Colorado sparked plenty of wild speculation before the trade deadline. Canadiens like Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Jeff Petry, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, and even Carey Price were bandied about in the rumor mill, while Philipp Grubauer, Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves, and Nikita Zadorov were mentioned as potential Avs trade candidates.
Maybe the Canadiens and Avalanche will hammer out a major deal before next season, or maybe their rumored trade talks in February will come to nothing. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Asked about the possibility of the Canadiens bringing back Mikhail Sergachev by signing the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman to an offer sheet, Engels thinks it would be too expensive, perhaps costing around $8 million annually plus the loss of a first, a second, and a third-round pick as compensation if the Bolts didn’t match. Instead, the Habs could keep an eye on which players the Lightning might shop in a cost-cutting deal to free up the cap room to re-sign Sergachev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev would have to be receptive to signing an offer sheet in the first place. If he isn’t, it’s a waste of time pursuing that plan. As Engels points out, the Habs could instead look at acquiring someone like Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, or Tyler Johnson if the Bolts put one of them on the trade block. Those four, however, have no-trade protection, meaning one of them would have to agree to be traded to Montreal.
Engels was asked about the long-term futures of Domi and Tatar in Montreal. He feels if Domi, a restricted free agent, was trending toward a one-year deal before the season was paused, it’s difficult to imagine he’ll get a longer-term offer now. Tatar, a UFA next summer, may have been on his way to pricing himself out of Montreal, but a flat cap beyond next season could make it difficult for him to get that type of deal. Engels likes the chances of both staying in Montreal next season.
BARRIE FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE
THE SCORE: Matt Teague reports Tyson Barrie admitted he’s facing uncertainty following this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent, but the current pause of the schedule means it’s yet to be determined when he’ll be heading to market. “It’s a weird time to be heading into free agency,” Barrie said, adding his current focus is on helping the Leafs make a playoff run whenever this season resumes.
Regarding possible destinations as a free agent, Barrie indicated he’ll be seeking a team looking for a defenseman with his skills. “A good team headed in the right direction and a good organization,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of right organizations that tick those boxes.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Vancouver Canucks could be one of those clubs. Barrie was born in Victoria, BC, and makes his off-season home there. He was linked to the Canucks before the trade deadline. He could be a fit as a right-side defenseman if they part ways with Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher in the off-season.
Recent speculation on the Canadiens, Penguins, and Panthers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE CANADIENS RE-SIGN TATAR?
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey believes re-signing Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault should be an off-season priority for the Canadiens. The linemates are all eligible next summer to become unrestricted free agents. Tatar was quick to credit Gallagher and Danault for the success he’s enjoyed since joining the Canadiens in 2018. He turns 30 in December, which could affect the type of contract offer he gets from the Habs.
TVA SPORTS: If the Canadiens decide to trade Tatar, Jean-Charle Lajoie doubts he’d fetch much of a return. He cites sources claiming the winger didn’t attract much interest before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the reason Tatar didn’t draw much interest before the deadline was Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s reluctance to trade him? Regardless, if Bergevin were to shop the 29-year-old winger, he’ll probably have to package him with a draft pick to get a quality return.
Bergevin could re-sign Tatar, but I agree it won’t be an expensive long-term deal. I can see him getting a four-year deal with an annual average value of around $5.5 million.
MURRAY OR JARRY FOR THE PENGUINS?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel recently wondered if the Penguins are due for yet another change of the goaltending guard. Three years after leaving long-time starter Marc-Andre Fleury unprotected in the expansion draft, the Pens could face another crucial goaltending decision.
Starter Matt Murray and backup Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents this off-season with arbitration rights. Murray won two Stanley Cup for the Penguins, but he’s been hampered by injuries and outplayed by Jarry for most of this season. Vensel believes they can afford to keep both in the short term, but he still mused about management perhaps trading one of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins have over $68.5 million invested in 15 players. They can re-sign both to one-year contracts and take another season evaluating their performances before making a long-term investment in one of them, but it could cost a combined $9 million to do so, leaving little room to re-sign or replace their other free agents. Unless they shed salary elsewhere, they could be forced to trade Murray or Jarry before next season.
COULD THE PANTHERS MOVE BARKOV?
NEW YORK POST: In a recent mailbag segment, Larry Brooks was asked about the possibility of the Florida Panthers trading Aleksander Barkov and what it might take for the Rangers to acquire him. Brooks points out Barkov is signed through 2022 with a no-move clause that kicks in following this season and a modified no-trade in 2021-22. However, if Barkov were willing to waive it and the Panthers shopped him, Brooks considers Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko, along with players carrying no-trade clauses ( Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Chris Kreider) as untouchables for the Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s media chatter suggesting Panthers ownership could implement cost-cutting measures if the club fails to reach the playoffs this season. That could be as simple as letting Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov depart via free agency following this season, or shopping defenseman Mike Matheson.
I doubt they’ll trade Barkov, but that could depend upon how much of a roster shake-up ownership wants if they don’t qualify for the playoffs. If they take a bolder step by moving Barkov, the asking price will be expensive. Barkov’s among the top two-way centers in the game. The Panthers would want at least a high-quality young NHL player, a first-round pick, and a top prospect in return.
Check out the recent Montreal Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Montreal Canadiens’ long-term needs. He feels they need to pay a handsome fee to bring in a suitable backup goaltender for starter Carey Price. The market could include such notables as Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, and former Habs playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.
The Canadiens also lack proven snipers and more NHL-ready defensemen. O’Brien wondered if they should at least try a mini-reboot and sell off the likes of Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, and perhaps Brendan Gallagher.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu and Marc-Antoine Godin recently suggested the Canadiens are in a good position to take advantage of a potentially flat salary-cap for 2020-21. They would have flexibility other clubs wouldn’t have, making it possible to target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary before next season. They could also attempt to sign a rival club’s top restricted free agent with an offer sheet.
TVA SPORTS: Louis-André Larivière recently wondered if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might target Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev with an offer sheet. Bergevin traded Sergachev three years ago to the Lightning for Drouin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, with restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete their only notable players to be re-signed. Assuming both are inked for a combined $7 million, Bergevin will have around $11 million at his disposal. He could have more if each club gets a compliance buyout because of the effect upon league revenue by the coronavirus, or if the league and PA agree to a slightly higher artificial cap.
Bergevin must use that cap space to improve his roster. There will be teams looking to sell in the off-season. He would be wise to exploit that opportunity. Landing a quality player probably won’t cost a roster player. The Canadiens have considerable depth in draft picks to draw upon for trade bait. They hold 13 picks in rounds two through seven of this year’s draft, and seven picks in rounds three through five in 2021.
I agree with O’Brien regarding the need for a reliable backup. They’ve gone cheap in that department in recent years and it’s cost them whenever Price was struggling or sidelined. They cannot make that mistake again. Signing one of those UFA goalies listed by O’Brien would address that need.
Bringing back Sergachev via trade or offer sheet would go a long way toward boosting the Canadiens’ defense corps. However, I doubt Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has any intention of parting with him. An offer sheet only works if the targeted player is interested. Sergachev probably prefers playing on a Stanley Cup contender in a warm-weather, low-tax state.
Bergevin resisted the temptation to shop Tatar and Petry at this year’s trade deadline. If the Canadiens are still outside the playoff picture before next season’s deadline, those two will likely hit the trade block. Gallagher, too, if the Habs aren’t willing to pony up big bucks to keep him in the fold. Drouin’s struggles and $5.5-million AAV through 2022-23 won’t be easy to move.
I believe 2020-21 is a make-or-break season for Bergevin. If the Habs aren’t in playoff contention by the middle of next season, he could be out of a job. Team president Geoff Molson has been very patient but I daresay he could reach his limit if the Habs remain outside the postseason picture.
The Bruins become the first team to reach 100 points this season, Mika Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg set franchise records with their respective clubs and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask kicked out 36 shots to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0, snapping the latter’s nine-game winning streak. Matt Grzelcyk and Patrice Bergeron were the goal scorers as the league-leading Bruins became the first team to reach 100 points this season. The Flyers played without defenseman Philippe Myers, who’s sidelined at least four weeks with a fractured patella in his right knee.
Mika Zibanejad became the fastest player to reach 40 goals in New York Rangers history in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Rookie Kaapo Kakko scored twice for the Rangers (78 points), who sit three points out of an Eastern wild-card berth. The slumping Stars (82 points) sit third in the Central Division, but they’re winless in their last six contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering how many great scorers the Rangers have had in their long history, that’s quite an achievement by Zibanejad.
The Nashville Predators (78 points) moved into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. Filip Forsberg scored twice, becoming the first player in Predators’ history to register six 20-goal seasons. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced leading scorer Tomas Tatar is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Auston Matthews’ 47th goal of the season was also the game-winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. Teammate Mitch Marner collected two assists as the Leafs (81 points) opened a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division. Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly returned to action for the first time after suffering a broken foot nearly two months ago. The Lightning are eight points behind the Bruins.
Evgeni Malkin scored twice and picked up an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New Jersey Devils 5-2. With 86 points, the Penguins sit third in the Metropolitan Division. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced center Nick Bjugstad is considered week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.
Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian tallied twice and added an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek made 23 saves in his first game since being sidelined by a concussion in late February. With 81 points, the Canes move into the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Wings, meanwhile, have the dubious honor of clinching last place in the overall standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The silver lining for the Wings is they have the best odds of winning the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
The struggling New York Islanders winless skid reached seven games as they fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks. Brock Nelson scored twice for the Isles while Thatcher Demko made 45 saves for the Canucks (78 points), who moved back into the second Western wild-card berth, The Isles (80 points) sit one point out of an Eastern wild-card spot.
A natural hat trick by Nicolas Deslauriers carried the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon’s status remains uncertain after suffering a lower-body injury during Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is expected to provide an update later today. Meanwhile, the Avs announced former Colorado Rockies stars and MLB Hall-of-Famer Larry Walker will be their honorary emergency backup goalie during Sunday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues placing Troy Brouwer on waivers has raised speculation sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko could be nearing a return from shoulder surgery.
CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic could return to action against the Islanders on Thursday.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets assigned Mark Letestu to their AHL affiliate for a conditioning stint. A diagnosis of myocarditis sidelined him for all but seven games this season.
THE SCORE: The Columbus Blue Jackets will continue to allow fans at their home games despite the Ohio governor’s recommendation that indoor sports events be held without spectators over coronavirus concerns. The team has recommended those fans at higher risk, including the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, should avoid these events.