Some loose thoughts before hopping a plane for Toronto, and Wednesday’s Big Show:
Vancouver’s biggest issue isn’t having 10 no-trade clauses. The don of the John Tortorella Era and the decline of the club will mean Ryan Kesler won’t be the first core player willing to move on. Detroit likes Alex Edler and plenty of clubs love Kesler, who we firmly believe will not accept a trade to another Canadian team. (Sorry, Montreal.) Vancouver’s biggest issue is the two guys who likely won’t ever move: Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The twins turn 34 in September, when they start their new four-year, $28 million deals. Meanwhile, Henrik is pointless in nine games and goalless in 20, while Daniel (who was injured Sunday), has been a shadow of himself, pointless in 12 and without a goal in 22.
The questions being asked around hockey are: Is this just a bad year for the twins, or has the inevitable decline in speed and durability that hits every player at some point in his 30s arrived for the Sedins? Daniel’s career points per game average, 0.837 prior to this season, has fallen to 0.635 this year. Henrik’s has slipped from 0.843 to 0.727. At $7 million each in a package deal, their contracts ensure they’ll retire as Canucks—for better or worse. If Ryan Callahan ends up leaving New York as a UFA or via trade, look for the Rangers to ask about Alex Burrows at the draft.
Pittsburgh is the front runner on the Ryan Kesler front, and history says that Penguins GM Ray Shero is a bit like a Mountie—he tends to get his man, like he did with Jarome Iginla last year. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis is the one in control of whether this deal gets done at the deadline or at the draft, the question is: Does Gillis hold the hard line—like he did when he had a Roberto Luongo deal with Toronto, but refused to retain any salary—or will he be more flexible to get a deal done and start the retool in Vancouver?
On the Luongo front, in our book assigning him a seat on the bench for the Heritage Classic was a ridiculous move by Tortorella. Fans took it out on Eddie Lack, and, in the end, a team that can never seem to operate without much drama is knee deep in it again. Tortorella's antics this season have not left his bosses enamored with his work. Miss the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, and his could be the worst coaching hire in the NHL this season.
We keep hearing that Chicago will be inactive at the deadline, with fewer than $1 million of deadline cap space available. The Hawks' problem? Almost all of the $4- and $5-million players available at the deadline aren't as good as the similarly priced players on Chicago's roster. And even if GM Stan Bowman was willing to give up Brandon Saad in a Kesler deal—which he is not—he'd have to move another $4 million in salary to accommodate Kesler's salary.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a classic example of a team whose fan base might want to see some big moves, but realistically, giving up a Nazem Kadri or a first-round draft pick to chase a Stanley Cup this spring would be foolish. The Leafs could win a round, sure. But four rounds? The organization's thinking goes like this: We're capped out, Phil Kessel's raise to $8 million per season kicks in next year, and David Bolland is a UFA. Toronto is finally building some depth and developing some prospects. Chasing a Ryan Kesler would mean emptying the cupboards, precisely what caused the Leafs to bottom out in the first place.
If Ottawa is inactive at the deadline, it will be for one of two reasons: Owner Eugene Melnyk forbids GM Bryan Murray to add any salary, despite the fact Ottawa has more available cap space today than 25 other teams; or Murray rightfully realizes that he's got a nice team here, but not one that is a Cup threat this season. The Sens are still talking about Chris Stewart, who landed in Buffalo in the Ryan Miller deal. He's big, but a big project as well, if you ask people in St. Louis. Hell of a player here, but needs the right coach to get to him.
It's the deadline, so Ales Hemsky must be available again. The Rangers are him mulling over, if they could get him for a third-rounder. The Oilers will ask for a second-round pick. They don't have a second (sent away in the David Perron deal) or third-rounder (Ben Scrivens) in the coming draft. GM Craig MacTavish's stated goal is to get those picks back, and he'll use Hemsky, Nick Shultz, perhaps Ryan Smyth and even Ilya Bryzgalov—who has been excellent in his past four starts—to recoup those picks.
Pekka Rinne has begun his rehab stint in Milwaukee and says he's feeling great. When he returns to Nashville, word is former Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk is headed to the AHL. He'll have to clear waivers.
Winnipeg is looking for help on the wing, and in a perfect world they'd find enough to move Dustin Byfuglien back to the blueline. The Jets' problem? They want equal money in and out. It's hard to get better when you're working on a self-imposed cap. Would Winnipeg move Byfuglien, with so many teams looking for help on defence? If they shopped him, it would be a long line of suitors. Philly is interested, and the Flyers are also after Andy McDonald on the Island.
Calgary will trade Mike Cammalleri. Despite a contract offer last week, it never made sense that a 31-year-old UFA would forgo free agency to sign with a team that, with all due respect, might not contend for a Stanley Cup before Cammalleri's career is over.
Matt Moulson and the L.A. Kings are this year's Siamese twins at the deadline. You don't hear one name without hearing the other.