There are 14 days until the NHL trade deadline, folks. One more fortnight to relish in the hearsay, conjecture and speculation.
Save the date: Tavares to join Maple Leafs in 2018
At the risk of getting ahead of himself, Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote an article titled “Why Brooklyn-frustrated John Tavares could bolt to the Leafs in 2018.”
Brooks believes that Toronto’s cap-clearing of Dion Phaneuf’s contract is not about landing Stamkos in July, but could open the window to sign UFA Tavares two years later, when the superstar centre is just 27 years old and ready for a monster pay increase from the $5.5 million per season he currently earns.
Citing "numerous individuals," Brooks reports that Tavares and his teammates are frustrated that the Islanders practice on Long Island but play in Brooklyn, and there is no plan to remedy the commute.
"In refusing to build a practice facility in the borough but instead recommitting to skating on the Island, ownership has placed an undue burden/inconvenience on the players," Brooks writes. "The Nets finally were able to build a practice facility in Brooklyn. Wouldn’t you think the hockey team could?"
As captain, Tavares has proudly waved the Isles flag throughout his career, but could that change if the club fails to survive the first round of the playoffs again?
Tavares' free agency should coincide nicely with the Leafs' being ready to contend for a playoff run again, but beyond that, this is still pie-in-the-sky thinking.
Kris Russell decision on its way
Calgary is nine points out of a playoff spot, and it's time to sell. Not your year, Flames fans.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports that pending UFA defenceman Kris Russell will not be held onto foolishly the way forward Mike Cammalleri was at the 2014 deadline. The Flames would like to keep the shot-blocker in the fold, but if money is the most important thing to Russell's future, surely he would fare better elsewhere.
With Calgary already committed to pricey, long-term deals with top-four D-men Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton, Russell will be encouraged to take a discount if he wants to stay.
Stamkos would benefit more in Buffalo
Steven Stamkos won't be traded in-season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced Monday, but that hardly puts to rest the notion of him signing elsewhere come summer.
Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News takes a stab at the Sabres angle. Harrington argues that Buffalo could surround Stamkos with a better supporting cast than Toronto can if the player does want out of Tampa.
"They’re far closer to winning than the Leafs are and already have core pieces in place. How would Stamkos look alongside Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart, for instance?" he wonders. "You want more money than the $10.5 million per year that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are making? No problem. Terry Pegula can easily come through with $11-12 million a year, even with the need to pay Rasmus Ristolainen now and Eichel and Reinhart in a couple of years."
Stamkos would avoid a "media circus" by choosing Buffalo or Toronto, Harrington points out, but have you seen Stamkos in a scrum? Media attention doesn't faze the kid. And the sponsorship opportunities, historic significance, and pull of friends and family in Toronto outweigh whatever Buffalo can offer in a more enticing current roster.
Burrows denies it
While the Flames' choices should be clearer, bubble team Vancouver is still gunning for the post-season. Veteran winger Alexandre Burrows, signed through 2016-17 at a $4.5-million cap hit, denied a report that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
"There’s no truth to that," Burrows told beat reporter Ben Kuzma. "I’ve never talked to management or coaches about it."
Maple Leafs have options
The Boston Globe examined the Maple Leafs future with Phaneuf off the books this year, reminding readers that Toronto will take a stab at signing NCAA gem Jimmy Vesey if the Harvard grad declines to sign with Nashville, and that they could buy out the under-achieving Jared Cowen, late of Ottawa.
Will Andersen be traded?
Despite his decent numbers and his backstopping the Anaheim Ducks within one win of a Stanley Cup Final berth last spring, goalie Frederik Andersen could be dangled as trade bait this month.
An impending free agent, Andersen is still cheap ($1.3 million cap hit), but the Ducks put a priority on locking up the younger John Gibson months ago and have a third NHL-calibre netminder in Anton Khudobin.
So what happens to Andersen?
“It’s a fair question,” Andersen told the Orange County Register. “We have two good goalies. [You’re] always going to look for using assets in whatever way. It’s nothing that’s in my control. You can’t worry about that stuff. It’s cliché, but you really can’t. That’s never going to do anything good."
That all-star Gibson has been sidelined with an upper-body injury makes me think Anaheim will keep all three goalies for depth and deal with the fallout later. Much like the Ducks kept scorer Matt Beleskey and let him walk to Boston for nothing last year. The priority now is on winning.
“It’s one of those things that’s going to take care of itself whenever it does,” Andersen said. “Whatever the future holds, I’m happy to play hockey.”