With just 13 days until the NHL trade deadline, we take a look at the latest rumours circulating at the season’s most pressure-packed month for team executives.
Willie called to the hot seat
The Vancouver Canucks awoke Tuesday six points back of the final wild-card spot in the West and needing to hop three teams to grab the last ticket to the dance. A tall task when you consider the Canucks have the second-worst goal differential in the conference (minus-24) and the worst home record (9-12-5) among teams not named Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks lost to those Leafs at home Saturday and again to a Minnesota Wild team in disarray Monday.
Remember: This is a team that is not trying to tank.
So, is head coach Willie Desjardins headed the way of Mike Yeo?
“Those questions might be answered soon enough,” writes Ed Willes of The Province, who has sounded the beginning of “Willie-watch.” (Maybe “Desjardins-watch” is less susceptible to misinterpretation.)
“It’s the way they lost against the Wild and the Leafs which triggers the alarm bells. The team wasn’t ready to play, again, on Monday night.”
The Canucks aren’t the most talent-rich club, sure, but ranking in the NHL’s bottom seven in shots for, shots against, and power-play efficiency doesn’t reflect well on their system’s effectiveness.
“It means nothing, really,” Trouba told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I don’t really pay attention too much. It’s definitely something new for me. I haven’t really been around that. But it’s one of those things you can’t really control, so why worry about it?”
That the Winnipeg Jets defenceman and pending restricted free agent is having a down season (a career high in penalty minutes, on pace for career lows in goals, assists and plus/minus) might actually work in the club’s favour should it opt to re-sign the developing blueliner this summer. With the $38-million commitment made to Dustin Byfuglien this month, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would love to keep Trouba’s rate reasonable.
“I just go out and play. That’s out of my control and I don’t really think too much about it or even spend too much time pondering it,” Trouba said of the extraneous noise. “I’m here through the end of this year, and that’s what I’m focused on. It’s nothing to worry about right now for me.”
How Stamkos’ situation affects Ladd
When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman officially crossed captain Steven Stamkos off the trade bait board Monday, some pundits argued that Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd jumped to the top of the list titled Most Valuable Rental Forward.
The Blackhawks, Panthers, Predators, Wild and Penguins are among the clubs looking to add a winger. In this rumour-monger’s opinion, however, Boston’s Loui Eriksson should be more sought-after as he has the hotter stick.
Ladd again addressed the uncertainty he faces in the next 13 days.
“I think it’s kind of being in limbo and not knowing what’s going on,” he told a Winnipeg radio station. “That’s the toughest part on you and knowing it affects obviously more than just me in terms of my wife and my kids and all that good stuff.”
Speaking of potential rental forwards with Stanley Cup pedigree, Carolina Hurricanes captain is still sitting and waiting.
The Hurricanes’ improvement of late appears to be delaying some hard choices, but with No. 1 goalie Cam Ward sidelined due to injury, we think it would be best for GM Ron Francis to commit further to the rebuild and sell off what expiring contracts he can, painful as that might be.
Ottawa might be forced to change M.O.
General manager Bryan Murray wants desperately to be a buyer this month. Look no further than last week’s acquisition of veteran Dion Phaneuf and subsequent claims that he’s still looking for more.
Problem is, the Senators keep losing — three in a row and six of their last eight. The slump spurred the Ottawa Sun to wonder aloud if Murray could switch into a seller if they don’t stack wins this week.
Ottawa owns an impending UFA in battle-tested forward Chris Neil, who could lend his grit to a contender, and after the Toronto purge, most of the remaining roster is under cap-friendly contracts if Murray does decide to shake things up.
The good news? Ottawa faces just one playoff-positioned team in the remainder of February.
“We’re trying to take out all the negativity in the room,” defenceman Cody Ceci told the paper. “We’re trying to get back to what was working (late) last year. We didn’t have the pressure of making the playoffs and people counted us out. We were playing for each other, playing for fun.”