On a crazy day where Steven Stamkos signing in Tampa Bay could arguably be the third-biggest hockey story, the most unanswered question has to be: “Why couldn’t Montreal and Edmonton work out a Taylor Hall–P.K. Subban deal?”
The Oilers sure could’ve used Subban. We knew they were talking last week. Montreal initially asked for Leon Draisaitl, the No. 4 pick at Friday’s draft and more. That “more” included either Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, plus something else. I can’t nail down what that “something else” was, but it was not insignificant. It was a big price to pay, and Edmonton did not want to do that.
According to several sources, there was another possibility — without Draisaitl. Was Hall there? I can’t say for sure. But I do think he’s got fans in the Montreal organization. So, why didn’t it happen?
Here’s a quote from a GM on a different team: “How much are you paying Connor McDavid in two years? If you’re budgeting for $10M-11M, that’s $19M-$20M for him and Subban. Can you do it under this tighter cap?”
I would suspect that’s the reason.
With McDavid’s next contract potentially massive, Peter Chiarelli looked elsewhere. The Hall-for-Adam Larsson deal saves Edmonton more than $1.8M in cap room. No doubt that’s why it was a one-for-one trade. New Jersey GM Ray Shero could say, “I’m adding salary, I’m not giving up anything else.” He took a hard line.
The Oilers were interested in Larsson for a while. He’s similar to Klefbom in the sense he might not get a lot of points, but he’ll get the puck out of your zone quickly and send it up ice. I don’t think Hall was on the table until recently, as everything else they’d tried to pry Larsson loose with failed. It’s clear Edmonton desperately sought right-handed defensive help. They passed on Subban. Kevin Shattenkirk wasn’t signing long-term in northern Alberta. They asked Carolina about Justin Faulk, but the Hurricanes weren’t doing that without Edmonton sweetening the pie.
The biggest variable was how much pressure Edmonton felt to make a trade. Now, we know the answer.
As for Montreal, as a nightmare season wound down, one player said, “They think we’re soft, physically and mentally.”
“They” referred to coaches and management. Look who’s new in town: Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber, neither of whom is known for a sweet in-game disposition.
After the draft, I looked through contracts that could be traded for Subban’s. Weber was on the list, but I discarded it because he didn’t fit the profile. The Canadiens’ known asks (Colorado, Edmonton, Vancouver) were young. Weber, as everyone knows, is older. I’ll get into him a little more in a few sentences, but it’s hard to conclude anything but Montreal decided it was not keeping Subban past Friday’s no-trade deadline.
We’ve all wondered about the team’s internal politics. I’m not in that room, and I’m not going to pretend to know what I don’t know. But I do know this: Subban’s got a lot of great hockey in front of him. No one in the red-hot Quebec market can use his presence as an excuse any longer.
1. It was impossible not to notice the anger from Canadiens fans. The age difference, the analytics numbers, etc. There is zero doubt Montreal was astonished by what happened in Carey Price’s absence last season and felt a tougher mindset was necessary.
There are very few players who can handle being traded for Subban. Weber is one. I can’t see him letting Montreal’s spotlight bother him. He commands a lot of respect in the league. The way he approaches games, the way he prepares, how hard it is to play against him. A couple of Western Conference forwards said some of their Eastern compatriots are in for a rude awakening.
“He’s got this nasty little crosscheck going into the corner,” one coach said. “They never call it.”
Last week in Las Vegas, I asked Weber if he made any concessions to age in the summer.
“No,” he answered, “I work out as hard as ever.”
2. For the record, two years ago when Philadelphia could have traded for Subban, I believe the offer Montreal turned down was Sean Couturier, Samuel Morin and a first-round pick.
3. The Hall trade finally brought some truth to a boatload of Edmonton rumours. There was definitely discussion with Minnesota on a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Matt Dumba deal, but the Oilers made it very clear that wasn’t enough to pry loose Nugent-Hopkins and asked for more. That’s where it fell apart. One of the things Edmonton is looking for is another second-round pick, because they owe one to Boston for Chiarelli’s hiring.
4. The overwhelming theory is the Oilers did indeed get a commitment from Milan Lucic, as The Edmonton Journal’s Curtis Stock reported Tuesday. (He also fitted Jason Demers into an Oiler uniform.)
You’d have to be extremely naive to think money is not discussed on the free-agent tours, although I hope everyone’s smart enough not to put it on paper. Other execs were guessing that if both do sign there, we’re talking seven years, $42M for Lucic and a $5.5M AAV for Demers. That’s what they did last summer for Andrej Sekera. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
5. Crazy proposal that made its way through the NHL on Tuesday: Tyson Barrie to Edmonton, Shattenkirk to Colorado and one of the Edmonton forwards (Hall? Jordan Eberle?) to St. Louis. The problem is some people are convinced this was someone’s concoction to see how fast it could get around.
6. We haven’t even made it to Stamkos yet. Of Wednesday’s three major moves, this one is the least surprising. My belief since the beginning is he wanted to stay in Tampa Bay. It wasn’t always easy. GM Steve Yzerman took a hard salary line, and there were skirmishes over his role and position. Obviously, Stamkos got out there, looked around and decided nothing made him want to leave. There were reports he visited Buffalo Sunday (with other teams guessing the Sabres were willing to offer $11M per season) and then Toronto Monday. The best question asked about Stamkos in the last few weeks was, “If you take out Tampa, who is the favourite?”
You know what, there was no consistent answer. Maybe we weren’t the only people struggling to determine that.
7. San Jose GM Doug Wilson declined comment, but it’s believed the Sharks took a run at Stamkos. Generally, Wilson avoids July 1 like the plague, believing more mistakes are made there than any other day. But, if you’re ever going to step up and take a swing, Stamkos is worth the shot. The Sharks’ cap situation is very good and sometime during Stamkos’s new contract, San Jose will have to replace Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. It was a stealth move and I’d be curious to know how seriously the Lightning captain considered it.
8. Stamkos’s decision is similar to the ones made by Daniel and Henrik Sedin in 2009. The twins took it right down to the wire before taking a little less. It started a trend in Vancouver, where several players did it and the team responded with a successful run. The Lightning are further ahead in the standings than the Canucks were at the time, but to keep this group together, that path must be followed. Do Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, etc. follow this lead?
9. Now that Stamkos (and presumably Lucic) is off the market, it’s a big win for the other forwards. One GM said Kyle Okposo might be close to Bobby Ryan money (seven years, $49M) depending on where he wants to go.
I don’t think David Backes is making any visits, but you know there will be interest. It’s interesting. The cap is tight but teams say several agents and players are very confident about what’s going to happen in free agency—particularly the defencemen. Now that Justin Schultz is feeling much better about himself, I can see him looking for a one-year deal with the right fit. Talking to him at the Cup Final, he clearly feels more growth coming.
10. The Blues are mentioned in a ton of stuff, which makes sense. If Backes and Troy Brouwer really are gone, they will need new bodies. There was a rumour they were taking a hard look at Rick Nash, which was was denied. Wouldn’t be surprised if they were also among those checking out Frans Nielsen (if he gets to market) and Okposo.
11. On Shattenkirk: the rumour we’ve all heard is he’s only willing to sign an extension with four teams. I’m not sure that’s the full picture…it might be significantly more than that.
“We all know the price,” one GM said, “or at least the area. It could be higher or lower for some teams, but the market is set after Keith Yandle.”
12. Looks like Dan Hamhuis is going to free agency for the first time since 2010.
“There are a couple of differences,” he said by phone from B.C. on Wednesday. “Right off the hop, Nashville made it clear they weren’t going to pay the money I was going to be getting. They wished me good luck and thanked me for a great nine years. This was a little different. The Canucks mentioned numerous times since last July that we would talk about a contract extension. We were excited about it right up to beginning of June. That’s when we were led to believe an extension was probably not coming. There’s always a chance it could work out, but its pointing towards their priority is a high-profile forward or two.”
Is he bitter at Vancouver?
“No, no. I don’t want people to think that. I believe all their talk was genuine. This is a fluid business. You’re not sure what the cap is going to be, what trades are out there. Ownership treated us unbelievably well here.”
13. Last time, Hamhuis called his availability “a circus.”
“You’ll remember, my rights were traded twice, to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I like the six-day courting period. That’s been nice. I feel everyone makes a better decision, you’re more prepared.”
There were rumours he wanted to stay close to B.C., but he denied that.
“Nashville was a 55-hour drive from home, but we loved it. Geography is not an issue. At the deadline it was, but we have more time to think now. My wife (Sarah) and I have talked about it, and she is very supportive of changing our established lives for the right fit.”
And, what is that?
“I believe I have many good years of hockey left. I played in the Olympics two years ago. Last year, there were two major injuries and in the last 10 weeks I played my best hockey in a long time. I’ve got lots of ‘top-4 D’ hockey left in me, and my goal in summer training is to be the best defenceman on my new team. I will find a team that values what I do.”
He added a winning situation does matter.
“I’m still very competitive. It’s more fun winning.”
Hamhuis said he’s spoken to three teams (although he would not name them) and others have declared interest.
14. There were several huddles between Columbus’s Jarmo Kekalainen, Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli and Calgary’s Brad Treliving prior to the draft’s first round. None of them would comment on what they were trying to do, but I think I’ve got some idea.
According to several sources, it was a deal that would have given Calgary the third pick, Columbus the fourth pick and Edmonton the sixth pick. Not sure of all the various parts that would be included to make it happen, though.
In that case, I’d guess the draft would have gone: Auston Matthews (TOR), Patrik Laine (WPG), Jesse Puljujarvi (CGY), Pierre-Luc Dubois (CBJ), Olli Juolevi (VAN) and either Mikhail Sergachev or Matthew Tkachuk (EDM). It didn’t occur, but everyone still got someone they wanted. Vancouver knew Thursday night there was no chance Columbus would let Dubois fall to them. They concentrated on Juolevi, and to me, there’s nothing wrong with that choice.
15. Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said there was one offer that made him think about dropping from the No. 2 spot. My guess is that was the Blue Jackets, but I’m not 100 per cent certain of the offer.
16. The Jacob Trouba offer sheet story from CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty fills in some blanks, including: why was Boston trying to move down in the draft on Friday night? The obvious answer is the Bruins knew they could have selected Trent Frederic lower than 29th, and wanted to get extra assets while still landing their man. However, the offer-sheet possibility reveals another motive: to try and regain their 2017 second-rounder (now owned by New Jersey for Lee Stempniak) or 2017 third-rounder (to Philadelphia for Zac Rinaldo). Any offer sheet with an average annual value between $3,755,233 to $9,388,080 involves one or both of those selections. The picks offered as compensation must be your original choices — you can’t acquire someone else’s selection and offer it up instead. So, if you don’t have yours, you must get it back.
Haggerty suggested the Bruins might offer a seven-year contract to pressure Winnipeg, but I wonder if the actual play is what Vancouver considered with Jamie Benn in 2012. That’s a one-year deal at the $9M-plus figure, because it forces the Jets to qualify Trouba at that number as long as he’s a restricted free agent. In his case, that’s three more seasons. If you’re the Bruins and you’re actually doing this, you’ve probably worked out a “nudge-nudge, wink-wink, does she like photography?” with the agent (Kurt Overhardt) for a long-term deal at a more manageable value starting in 2017-18.
17. Now, you always assume the aggrieved party (the Jets, in this case) will match. Haggerty’s taking some heat for his story, but I don’t think he’s wrong about the fact the Bruins considered the idea.
I have a theory about this situation. Some of his sources in Boston were around when Phil Kessel went to Toronto. You’ll remember the Maple Leafs floated the possibility of an offer sheet, so the Bruins made a trade. Last year, Chicago worried about an offer sheet for Brandon Saad, so the Blackhawks made a trade. Things like this get out for a reason. Would it surprise anyone if the Bruins are floating a trial balloon to see if Winnipeg is willing to make a deal? The secrecy-crazy Jets won’t like it, but it’s not the worst strategy ever. Pressure’s worked before, and sometimes it’s even worked for the team being pressured.
18. Last summer, Dallas GM Jim Nill went into stealth mode and landed Johnny Oduya. This year, there’s word he may have tried Brian Campbell as a similar target. Campbell grew as a player under Lindy Ruff and James Patrick in Buffalo, but it sounds like he’s got his heart on Chicago. Nill makes sure — as he should — to publicly defend his goalies and show confidence in his young defenders, usually with a phrase along the lines of, “If that’s how we start next season, we’re comfortable with that.” Under the water, however, he’s paddling like crazy.
Dallas is trying to find a way to add Ben Bishop, but that’s not an easy move. I’m not sure Tampa is willing to take much salary back (maybe just draft pick or prospect compensation), which complicates everything. Nill’s made it clear he does not want to buy out either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi.
19. The Pavel Datsyuk deal with Arizona freed up Detroit to do a few things, and the Red Wings will take advantage. After looking through the finances, there’s some indication — in addition to drafting Jakob Chychrun — as to why the Coyotes did it. Datsyuk costs them no real money. Joe Vitale did. Sadly, Vitale’s injuries make it unlikely he will play again and his contract is $1.3M cash for 2016-17. I don’t think it was insured, which is normal for one that isn’t among the highest-paying deals on a team. For Arizona, that’s real money. Detroit can flex its financial muscle and eat that. I’m not sure it’s going to make a few other teams feel better since the Red Wings are now in the game, but I see why it happened.
20. There was plenty of talk on the floor New Jersey was going to benefit from Detroit’s need to clear space if Arizona didn’t.
21. On Alexander Radulov: If you missed it, I reported Sunday he was staying in the KHL with Salavat — promptly denied by his agent and the team GM. I’d love to cover the Russian League for a year. It’s craziness, as the truth changes on almost an hourly basis. For example, Vadim Shipachyov was not eligible to come to the NHL last month and now he is. (I assume that’s because St. Petersburg landed Pavel Datsyuk.) Whatever the case, if my reporting about Radulov turns out to be inaccurate, I will eat it. His asking price scared away most NHL teams.
UPDATE: A KHL official read this overnight. He reached out to say Shipachyov is still under contract with SKA and expected to be in camp July 11. Meanwhile, my head has exploded.
22. There’s a lot of local discussion about the short-term decisions in Washington: Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson. But it’s the long-term ones GM Brian MacLellan will try to settle. Karl Alzner (unrestricted) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (restricted) are up next summer. John Carlson (unrestricted) is two years away. MacLellan has said this group’s window lasts as long as he can juggle these contracts, so they are uppermost on his mind.
23. Lewis Gross, the agent for Alex and William Nylander, shot down a rumour the two boys would play overseas next season — with father Michael getting back in uniform, too.
24. Good off-season for assistant coaches. Word is new contracts for Kirk Muller and Scott Stevens raised the salary bar. Another one said he knew of a coach who turned down a $450,000 offer. That rarely, if ever, used to happen.
25. I’d love to see Toronto’s draft analytics. The Maple Leafs took five players who were re-entries, not taken the first time they were eligible. That’s clearly a strategy, an attempt to ride the Troy Brouwer/Carl Hagelin/Gustav Nyquist/Ondrej Palat train. There’s some research indicating those types of players are good bets in the second round and later. Clearly the Maple Leafs subscribe to that.
26. Here’s why you can’t buy a Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews jersey right now. Matthews hasn’t been given a number by the Leafs, and the new sweater isn’t available until September. (At last year’s NHLPA rookie showcase, Mitch Marner was the only player who didn’t have a number. He wanted 93 and the Maple Leafs weren’t doing that.)
Last season was different. The Oilers made it public they were drafting Connor McDavid, gave him 97 right away and had a launch party where people could buy immediately. When Matthews has a number his jersey will be available to purchase. So stop yelling at me on Twitter.
27. Apparently, Las Vegas is overwhelmed with resumes and calls from people looking for work at every level. The GM likely gets done first, with the organization getting some guidance from the NHL on who to interview. Mentioned a few names last week, and heard since then that Pittsburgh’s Jason Botterill is an interview target, too.
28. The last captain of a professional hockey team in Las Vegas was Geoff Paukovich, who led the ECHL Wranglers in 2013-14. Now living in Pinehurst, NC, Paukovich was asked about the four seasons he spent in Nevada.
“It was like a lot of the cities I’ve played in,” he answered. “The was a booster club, a core group, not as loud as Hershey, but great fans. We were surprised at the amount of local fans they had. When I signed there, I was expecting more of a transient casino ticket-base.”
We were talking as Cleveland celebrated its NBA title, and he drew a comparison.
“I never thought that hockey would be the first into the city, but the fans there want to identify with a team. Everyone equates Vegas with the strip. Those people want their own team like any city does. This would be their first team to latch onto.”
The Wranglers folded, so does that give him any concern it won’t work?
“No, the minor league team, like many others, ran its course. It was not about fan support, but the evolution of the franchise and ownership. This will be on such a bigger scale. There are enough people in Vegas who know how to market a product. The magnitude and level of the league will make it more traditional.”
What was the craziest promotion you saw?
“Well, before I got there, there was Dick Cheney hunting jersey night.”
29. Someone who has seen the new goalie pants says there is a noticeable difference. No more laces, as some netminders left them ridiculously loose. Instead, there is spandex through the hips and waist to pull tight. Curious to see what that does to their mobility, but goalies were told the difference could be up to six inches.
30. What a great weekend for the city of St. Louis at the NHL Draft. Five first-rounders: Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic. Goalie Joseph Woll went with the first pick of the third round to Toronto. Logan Brown’s father, Jeff, coached them before Jordan Janes took over at the Peewee Major level in 2009. He led them through Bantam Major.
“We were really good,” Janes said Saturday, probably a massive understatement. He was there to watch all six selected. “It felt like a graduation party. Rehashing all of the memories that we had as a group. Those kids got along great and the families were so easy to deal with. The players always sacrificed going out, partying, to do what what it took. I’m really happy for them.”
Anyone he was particularly happy for? Janes didn’t want to go there, but effective interrogation drew out an answer.
“Trent Frederic is such a phenomenal athlete. His freshman year of high school, he competed to be the starting quarterback of the football team. In hockey, he was never the guy, always in the shadows from day one. So it’s special. His family was surprised, but we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
The Blues had the third-last pick of the second round and the Woll family hoped he’d go there. Joseph grew up idolizing them. They went elsewhere, and when the Maple Leafs took him, “Mike Babcock came up to spend five minutes with the family. His mother, Shelley, couldn’t believe it. So it worked out great for everyone. So proud to do what this group of kids did. Six of them from a non-traditional hockey market achieved their dreams.”
31. What was the angriest he ever got at them? Janes laughed.
“One year at the Notre Dame tournament, Belle Tire beat us 9-0. I hadn’t seen anything like that in my life. Our guys gave up in the third. The kids don’t ever talk about that game.”
Janes, by the way, added one of the best players on the roster was Jince Dunn, former captain of the US Women’s Under-18 Team.
32. Finally, Janes now coaches Jack Pronger, Chris’s eldest son.
Does Jack have anything in common with his dad?
“He is the complete opposite and I mean complete opposite,” he laughed.
33. Buffalo GM Tim Murray has it down to four words: “Buffalo selects Alex Nylander.”
Don’t know if he can get that any lower, but he told Jeff Marek during the week that one day he wants to go to the podium and simply point at whoever he’s taking. THAT I want to see.
34. Great, great atmosphere in Buffalo at the draft. It’s an excellent hockey market. For all the cheering of the Sabres and booing of the Maple Leafs, the most impressive moment was when they quickly quieted as Columbus President of Hockey Operations John Davidson briefly eulogized minority owner John F. Wolfe. Wolfe died of cancer last Friday. Very respectful crowd. Not a peep as Davidson spoke.
35. Privately, Jim Benning felt terrible about his comments putting heat on Marc Bergevin. The real loss here is what this will do to his future interviews. Benning is must-listen because he’s so blunt and honest. As an executive, tampering rules make it imperative you watch what you say. But, a secondary story in all of this is what’s happened to radio interviews.
This is a one-time only rant from me in this column, but here it is: My days of doing this stuff are over, except for what I’m contractually-obligated to do. Content aggregators have ruined it for everyone. Few stories get broken on radio because it’s just not set up for that as easily as Twitter or TV or our company websites. We go on radio to have a conversation, to expand on a story, to shoot the breeze, to talk like we would over beers at a bar. It’s spit-balling. But, these content thieves turn it into hard news, which it isn’t. It’s ridiculous and not worth the aggravation.
36. This is where it gets hard. Congratulations to David Amber, who deserves his new opportunity. I’m very happy for him. I loved working for Gord Cutler. And I loved working with my Saturday Headlines co-host Damien Cox, Chantal Desjardins, Leah Hextall, Corey Hirsch, Billy Jaffe, Darren Pang and Rich Sutter.
Cox and Strombo were already at The FAN in Toronto when I started in 1994, so there is a lot of history between us. I interned for Damien and Gord Stellick’s morning show the week Mike Keenan quit as coach of the New York Rangers. Producer Sunil Thakolkaren was hitting monstrous home runs for our old Score softball team 15 years ago.
But there are two people I spent much of the last decade with (in a studio or on the road). I thought we’d work together until our livers failed. My first season at HNIC was 2003-04. At some point during that year, Glenn Healy pulled me aside and said, “You don’t know how to watch practice.” He sat me down and pointed out the critical things to look for. It was the beginning of a fantastic education. I saw the game as a reporter. He (and other ex-NHLers on the staff) taught me how a player processes things. There is no way I’d have made it this long without that lesson. Glenn loves his Chardonnay. One night, we did a game in Montreal and went out after. At 3 am, we went into Dunn’s. Healy yelled: “Give me your best Chardonnay!” which is not exactly what Dunn’s is known for.
The one story he always laughed about came during a playoff series. He said something on the air that angered a coach. The next day was a travel day and he went home to see his family. Before he returned, the coach confronted us about it. Healy wasn’t there to defend himself, so I took the bullet. The coach said later, “I know it wasn’t you, and I’ll tell who did it myself.”
So, I warned Glenn to be ready. After the game, he goes right to the coach, who says, “Hey Glenn!” with a smile and a hug. I was steaming, while he stared at me with a giant (bleep)-eating grin. He loved that one.
37. A few years ago, some of us were at a charity event. There was a fan in a wheelchair we were talking with. All of a sudden PJ Stock started ripping him for some hockey opinion he’d made. I was mortified, just wanted to get as far away from the scene as I possibly could. Then I noticed the guy loved it. He couldn’t get enough. Later, a friend of his came over and said how much the man enjoyed being treated like anyone else, instead of people tiptoeing around him because of his condition. That’s PJ. He has a gift: the ability to tear into you while making you — and everyone else — laugh at the same time.
During the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, we went out to dinner in Vancouver one night and he destroyed everyone at the table. I went to use the washroom and a man next to me said, “Our table is jealous. If we talked to people at work like that, we’d all be fired. You guys just laugh it off.”
Whenever the group was together and laughing hysterically, PJ was in the middle. “Bam-Bam” was a perfect nickname for him. It’s hard to believe it won’t continue with all of those people, but it’s particularly tough to lose Glenn and PJ.
38. This will be the final 30 Thoughts of the 2015-16 NHL season. Normally, I’d do one sometime after July 1, but the family is going overseas on Sunday. When I get back, it’s Olympic-mode.
Thanks again for your readership and support. If no one reads it, there’s no point in writing it.