31 Thoughts: Could Joe Thornton’s next destination be Toronto?

The Sportsnet NHL Trade Deadline panel discuss which NHLers will benefit the most from being moved at the deadline.

• If Thornton leaves Sharks, Leafs could factor in
• Will NHL address EBUG situation?
• Why Florida flipped Trocheck at deadline

Greg Redquest was watching when 42-year-old emergency backup goalie David Ayres stepped on the ice.

“I was thinking, ‘The first thing he wants to do is get his NHLPA card,’” Redquest said Tuesday. “I went to golf last summer at Muskoka Bay Club. With the card, I only had to pay $17. Jordan Binnington’s dad had to pay about $185.”

It’s the first of many laughs in our 20-minute phone conversation. Redquest is an awesome storyteller. Get ready for a few like this.

In 1978, he was a 21-year-old Pittsburgh goalie prospect in his second pro season, two years after going 65th in the draft. He was home in Toronto on March 18 thanks to a break in the schedule for the International Hockey League’s Flint Generals.

“I was playing cards with my parents, my uncle and a couple of buddies,” Redquest remembers. “Around lunchtime, the phone rings. Someone claiming to be from the Penguins says, ‘Dunc Wilson has a pulled back. We need you to dress today. Can you be here in 15 minutes?’

“Now, I was a real prankster back then. And I thought it was someone getting me back. So I had a couple of beers and stayed at home. They call again later, asking, ‘Why are you not here?’ Again, I didn’t believe it.”

“I remember having to call him and he got there just before the game started,” said Rick Kehoe, who played 906 NHL games and is now a pro scout for the Rangers.

“That’s true,” Redquest said. “Right before the game, (GM) Baz Bastien called. That’s when I knew it was serious. It took us about seven minutes to get from Etobicoke to Maple Leaf Gardens. I knew some of the guys from training camp. Dave Schultz was like, ‘Where the (bleep) have you been?’”

(Redquest told a great story about Schultz, who was three years removed from an NHL-record 472 penalty minutes for the Flyers in 1974-75. “I sat near the glass for a Philadelphia/Toronto game and screamed at him the whole time. When I met him in an elevator in Pittsburgh, I hoped he didn’t remember me.”)

Prior to the Toronto call-up, Redquest said he had dressed just one other time for the Penguins, in Montreal: “Denis Herron broke his wrist, so they brought me in,” Redquest said. “At our practice, my skate blade breaks. I’m (on the bench) wearing Ken Dryden’s used skates. He’s a size 12 or 13. I’m a nine-and-a-half. We’re losing 9-1. A fan yells, ‘You must really stink if they won’t put you in.’”

Colin Campbell, now the NHL’s Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, was a blueliner on that Penguins team.

“We weren’t a very good team. It was a crazy way to do business, but that was the NHL then,” Campbell said. “As players, you just laugh.”

Campbell paused. “I think he was also a mailman.”

“Not quite,” Redquest says now. “I had a part-time job at the post office.”

The Hurricanes — aside from head coach Rod Brind’Amour — were laughing when Ayres entered the game on Saturday. After two Toronto goals, they settled down and smothered the Maple Leafs. The 1978 Penguins were laughing for a different reason; they could tell Redquest had had a few beers. Head coach Johnny Wilson ordered him to stay in the dressing room.

As Redquest cooled his heels, Herron out-duelled Mike Palmateer in a game where the shots were 44–43. The Penguins beat the Maple Leafs 3-2. They had a game to play the next night in Chicago and, after a day off, another in Minnesota. With Dunc Wilson still on the shelf, Redquest made the trip.

“Everything was first class — what a great experience,” he says. “I was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt, because that’s what you wore in juniors. The other players are all in suits. The bus driver stopped me, because he couldn’t believe I was player: ‘You can’t get on this bus.’”

Back then, Saturday games in Toronto started at 8:00 p.m. There was a curfew at Pearson Airport, so the team had to fly to Chicago on a propeller jet out of Hamilton.

The odds for that Sunday game weren’t good for the Penguins, who finished 15 points below the Blackhawks that season.

Not that it bothered Redquest.

“I was watching the game, having a great time,” he says. “Chicago Stadium. Looking around: ‘This is awesome.’”

At 7:13 of the third, Pierre Plante beat Herron to make it 6-1.

“Johnny Wilson turned to me, ‘Get in there, kid.’ I was like, ‘Are you nuts?’ He said, ‘Get in there.’ I hadn’t faced shots in about two or three weeks. It’s like golf. If you’re not doing it every day, you’re not ready.”

Redquest held for more than six minutes before Alain Daigle and Bob Murray scored 24 seconds apart. (Murray was one of three current eventual GMs playing defence for the Hawks that night. The others were Dale Tallon and Doug Wilson.)

If anything bugs him, it was the final goal. Hall of Famer Stan Mikita made it 9–1 with 2:45 to go. The goalie claims, “Mikita threw it in with his glove. I told (referee Bruce Hood) he couldn’t count that, and he replied, ‘I’m not disallowing that in this building!’”

Via text, Murray said he didn’t remember scoring on Redquest, but believed the Mikita story could be true. (Ace producer Kathy Broderick checked with the NHL to see if any highlights existed. The answer is no, but this epic is so good we’re sticking with it.)

“I don’t remember that one,” Kehoe said. “You try to forget those as soon as you can.”

“The next day was the day of a lifetime,” Redquest said, continuing the tale. “We went to a bar called Tommy Webster’s in Minnesota. I was with Derek Sanderson — what a perfect gentleman. He treated everyone so well. Peter Mahovlich, too. To that point the greatest time of my life.”

One night later, Minnesota blasted Pittsburgh 7–1. Herron played the whole game.

Bastien told Redquest he’d go back to the minors for the playoffs. The goalie had other ideas.

“I told him, ‘Baz, I’m going to get married.’”

He’d play one more year, “Then it became about the kids… and (eventually) the grandkids.”

He now does on-ice instruction at NTR’s goalie school in Newmarket, Ont., and is finishing his 10th season as a coach for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.

Final NHL stats: one appearance, 12:47 of ice-time, seven saves in 10 shots against and a 13.85 goals-against average. But if you think he’s bitter, you’d be sorely mistaken.

Redquest confirmed one story that illustrates his fun-loving personality: He was traded by Roger Neilson from the 1973 Peterborough Petes for hitchhiking during a training run.

“That’s true. We were preparing for the 1974 World Juniors in (the Soviet Union). Small town, everyone knew everyone else.” He loves the memory.

So it won’t surprise you to know that he laughed about having the worst goals-against average — until surpassed in 1979-80. His star pupil is Jordan Binnington. Binnington, unbelievably, also played 12:47 in his first NHL game, which was three seasons before last year’s breakthrough. Because they were tied, Redquest would tell Binnington, “You haven’t broken my record.” (He speaks glowingly of Binnington’s ability.)

After the trade deadline is a perfect time for a hilarious 20-minute conversation. Greg Redquest has an awesome approach to life.

“I always tell my goalies that your teammates won’t play for you when you’re negative all the time. They play good for you when you’re positive.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

31 THOUGHTS

1. It was incredible watching the reaction as Ayres’s night unfolded in real time. What a great 72 hours for him and wife Sarah. What a statement about the character of the Hurricanes’ players. When Toronto pulled within 4-3, the texts coming in were full of fury:

“How can it be allowed for the emergency backup to be a Toronto employee?”

“He’s 42 years old, WTF?”

“This is a disgrace for the NHL!”

As the third period unfolded and it became clear Carolina was going to win, the notes changed to happiness for David, laughter at Sarah’s tweets, and yes, plenty of rip jobs on the Maple Leafs’ effort.

The EBUG situation will be discussed at next week’s GM meetings in Florida. A couple of years ago, there was a movement to making every team hire an additional assistant/video coach with recent college/junior/professional goaltending experience. That person would be required to travel, so if this occurred, each team would have its own relatively young third goalie. (In the playoffs, teams travel with three.) The associated cost scuttled the idea.

We’ll see what changes here, but I do think there will be a conversation about an age cutoff.

2. Teams can make AHL trades after the deadline, but those players won’t be eligible for the post-season. Carolina needs goaltending, Toronto needs defence, Arizona needs scoring. Those organizations think unconventionally. I wonder….

3. Boy, it was tough reading those Joe Thornton quotes on Tuesday.

“It would have been nice to at least have a chance,” he told reporters in Philadelphia. “I wanted a shot, you know? Believe it or not. I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years, so I wanted another shot at it…. Back to the grind, and that’s how it is.”

Sharks GM Doug Wilson made it clear that interested parties had to be legit Stanley Cup contenders to make the pitch. I heard Boston never went far down the road, and the Dallas interest wasn’t huge. Thornton’s hilarious personality obscures his burning pride/desire, but don’t kid yourself — it’s there.

San Jose’s plan is to return to contention in 2020-21, and the big question is if Jumbo Joe believes the Sharks can do it. If he doesn’t, he’s going to have to consider breaking his comfort zone. Patrick Marleau’s speed makes him an easier fit for a mid-season switch. Thornton’s gifts — his intelligence and skill — are harder to translate at this time of year, but I do think there are teams who would be willing to make it work if he started the season with them.

4. If Thornton is not sold on the Sharks, and he’s willing to seek out new life (boldly go where no one has gone before), my prediction is Toronto will be a factor. I can’t confirm this, but I believe the Maple Leafs considered adding him now. Two things stopped it: 1) their decision not to make short-term fixes after the Carolina loss, and 2) are they really a legit contender if they have to go through Boston or Tampa Bay or both? When GM Kyle Dubas said he wanted to see how his group would respond to its tough stretch, he meant it. Thornton would have eased the tension right now, but the organization wants to see how everyone top to bottom reacts and performs. Next season is a different story.

5. Thornton’s made it clear he will make his salary fit. He’s a left-hand shot who could feed Auston Matthews/John Tavares from his strong side. (They have spent plenty of time with Zach Hyman and William Nylander on their weak sides, although both have had strong seasons.) There’s the Greyhound connection. People forget, too, that Thornton’s been through the ringer. The first playoff series I covered for Hockey Night in Canada was Boston/Montreal 2004, where the Canadiens came back from 3–1 down to win. Thornton came under huge criticism with articles demanding he be stripped of his captaincy. He survived and will walk into the Hall of Fame. Good message for Toronto’s young core. Anyway, something to chew on.

6. The Maple Leafs made it clear they weren’t trading Tyson Barrie unless they received two things: a good-enough replacement to keep them in playoff position until currently injured reinforcements arrived, and a sweetener for the future. They would have taken Troy Stecher, but the Canucks didn’t have the picks and made it very clear certain prospects were not available. Ergo, no match. Toronto was also looking for more of a Kevin Shattenkirk circa 2017 return than, say, a third-rounder. That’s right out of the Brian Burke school of managing: don’t make a trade for less than you want, because everyone knows you’ll eventually cave.

Lead Off with Ziggy and Scotty Mac
Burke on Dubas: He’s an honest guy who protects his team more than I did
February 26 2020

7. Very, very impressed with the way Stecher handled things. Strong performances amidst the rumours. Told reporters that, as a B.C. lad, he wants to be a Canuck and then walked the walk.

“I had a friend send me a fake tweet the other day and it scared me a bit,” he said. “It was a fake account, a burner account, and he fell for it.”

The Canucks lost Ben Hutton last season because they couldn’t handle his qualifying offer and that could happen with Stecher in June. If he plays this way, he won’t need to worry.

8. Finally, on Toronto: A few teams were wondering what was up when Dubas sent out a note 45 minutes before the deadline looking for a forward. They thought it was weird Dmytro Timashov would be lost on waivers and then the Maple Leafs would be trying to add. (Timashov had asked for a trade weeks ago, and may have asked to be placed on waivers as Sven Baertschi did this year.) Another GM, though, thought Dubas was slyly trying to snare an inexpensive forward at the last second from a team that suddenly had one too many.

9. Edmonton, which pitched Marleau before the season, considered him again before his trade to Pittsburgh.

10. They lost in overtime Tuesday night in Anaheim, but Oilers fans were having a collective Twitter orgasm over the two-goal, six-point even-strength night for Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis and Connor McDavid. Steve Yzerman tried for a first-rounder for Athanasiou, but Ken Holland held firm.

11. The move that surprised most was Florida’s trade of Vincent Trocheck. I heard when teams queried the Panthers about it, they asked what was wrong that made him available? Arizona, Calgary and Minnesota were among those who made pitches.

There were a few factors that went into this, but it’s clear that new coach Joel Quenneville and Trocheck didn’t mesh. Chris Johnston reported the Panthers have been ordered to cut payroll, which certainly fits with the move — but Quenneville wanted to send a message while the playoffs were still within reach that changes were coming if the group didn’t compete harder. The prospects (Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie) will play. Lucas Wallmark played 12:39 in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Coyotes, Erik Haula 14:30. Haula is an interesting guy. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, believing he deserves more of a role than he gets. (In Minnesota, he was nicknamed “Haula-Famer” because of that.) The Panthers want attitude. He’ll get a shot there.

12. The Coyotes got no power plays at home in that one. I thought there was going to be a homicide post-game.

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13. When we reported that Carolina was closing in on Trocheck, a few sources thought we had to be wrong. The Hurricanes were looking for defence and goaltending. Initially, we doubted it, too. It aligns with something Marc Bergevin once said: “If a good player becomes available, you have to try to make it fit.”

Down the middle, the Hurricanes are very strong. Owner Tom Dundon didn’t want to trade a first- or second-rounder, especially for rentals, but did it for four more years of Brady Skjei. He’s not crazy about rentals in general (which is why they didn’t pay Chicago’s price for Robin Lehner), but they made the move for Sami Vatanen. You have to reward your team when it earns it, and the Hurricanes earned it.

14. If I’m wrong about this, I’m sure he’ll let me know, but I understand Chicago indicated it did not want to go past two years on Lehner.

15. From talking to other teams, it was interesting to see how Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion handled this deadline compared to last year’s. In 2019, things spun out of control. All of it was public. It was sloppier than the interior of David Amber’s car (which is pretty bad). This time, there was much less noise even with so many balls in the air.

“He was grinding pretty hard,” another GM said.

Dorion wanted a second for Dylan DeMelo, but that wasn’t coming. Last year, he allowed Vegas permission to talk to Mark Stone prior to making the trade, but it put the Senators in a rough spot, so he held back with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the Islanders this time.

In the end, the strategy paid off: Ottawa got a first and second, the New Yorkers got their man, and Pageau got his extension. (The negotiations got close, somewhere around $250,000 to $500,000 per year. But everyone knew the Senators weren’t crazy about term.) We all learn from what we go through.

16. Dorion also wanted to add a forward who could help AHL Belleville, and got one in Matthew Peca. Those Senators are first in the North Division and woke up Wednesday third in the league.

17. Calgary also checked into Wayne Simmonds. Second time in two years.

18. I understand why Buffalo acquired him. The Sabres are battling for positivity in a negative time, and Simmonds has a great attitude. They were losing two players who wanted to move, and you need to replace them since you’re striving for a miracle finish (Dominik Kahun was the other add). The Devils made it very clear Simmonds was not going anywhere unless the situation was good for him. He’ll get a chance to play good minutes and work towards his next deal. (Hopefully Instigators co-host Andrew Peters reads to 18 this week.)

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19. Both Andrew Ladd and Zach Parise waived their respective clauses to switch teams. It’s going to take some time to figure out what happened here, but here’s the best I can give you at this time: This move was on the table last summer, but then-Wild GM Paul Fenton rejected the idea. Both sides revisited it over the past few weeks, but the issue was money. Parise has $37 million in cap room to go after this season, although only $19 million is cash. Ladd has $16.5 million in cap room, $12 million in cash ($9 million of it is signing bonuses; Parise has no more).

There were all sorts of issues to consider on keeping money, sweeteners to do so, etc. (There were rumblings Kieffer Bellows was going to be in the deal, for example.) People were concerned about Lou Lamoriello’s reaction if it got out prematurely. For very legitimate reasons, Minnesota was concerned about cap-recapture issues if Parise retired early — although I’m sure the Minnesota native would be amenable to solutions. It’s not an easy deal to make, and who knows where it goes from here.

20. I do believe the Islanders also had interest in Mikko Koivu, who preferred to stay put.

21. At all-star, one individual speculated that six years at $6.75-million AAV would keep Chris Kreider in Manhattan. He was almost bang-on, with seven years and $6.5 being the final numbers. A few potential pursuers indicated afterward they always believed that would be the eventual outcome, although it was in doubt as late as Sunday afternoon. I heard there was one particular team that engaged, but the two sides could not agree on parameters. Educated guess is Colorado, but they weren’t willing to go where the Rangers needed them to go.

22. Moving Skjei allows the Rangers freedom to take care of internal business, like Anthony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome.

23. We’ll see where this stands after the playoffs, but there was some Tyson Jost action. Nazem Kadri’s arrival pushed him to the wing. I don’t think the Avalanche have any problem with his effort; he just fits better as a centre and he’s not going to be in the top six when both Kadri and Nathan MacKinnon are healthy. The one thing I heard about Jost: Colorado liked his playoff performance last spring. So they weren’t unhappy to keep him. We’ll see where it all stands in June.

24. Boy do a lot of teams like Ondrej Kase. (They like his contract — $2.6 million for another season — even more.) The only concern I heard?

“Why does Bob Murray want to deal him?”

For years, Murray wouldn’t even entertain it. Hopefully, he stays healthy.

25. One other Detroit player who had legit interest: Luke Glendening.

“(Yzerman) wasn’t making it easy,” one exec said.

26. Another player I heard a lot of teams liked: Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton.

“Chuck (Fletcher) couldn’t hang up fast enough,” another exec joked.

27. Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois did a lot of research into the last decade of deadline moves and decided he was willing to trade first-round picks solely for guys with term. Someone smart pointed out to me that the Lightning didn’t deal a first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow — they just moved down 50 or 60 spots to acquire a player making $925,000 for two playoffs (Tampa added San Jose’s third-rounder, from Philadelphia).

A few Western Conference people I asked said Goodrow is one of the few Sharks who has overachieved this season. So I guess the proper perspective is, would you move up 50 or 60 spots in the draft for him? If you’re the Lightning, the answer is yes you would. When you’ve taken Anthony Cirelli, Radko Gudas, Nikita Gusev, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point after the first round — you believe in your scouting staff.

28. Took my son and nephew to see the Family Day AHL matinee between Binghamton and Toronto. Cory Schneider looked good. Smooth and calm. Hopefully, it translates.

29. Pretty crazy stat about Columbus. The Blue Jackets have taken the fewest minor penalties in the league this season (167). Six times they’ve gone without taking a single penalty, most recently Jan. 16 in New Jersey. The last time this happened was the 1945-46 New York Rangers, who did it seven times. The record is nine, by Detroit in 1939–40. And it’s not like the Blue Jackets are a bunch of softies.

30. On the other end, the Islanders are last in power-play opportunities with 146. Lowest in a full season since the NHL began keeping records is 191, by the 1977–78 Atlanta Flames.

31. Was watching Jason Zucker leave morning skate on a freezing day in Toronto. No socks. Minnesota winters toughen you up.

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