The chaos of the NHL’s trade deadline has come and gone, and while for fans that simply means reverting back to the reality of watching games and following storylines, for those in the league, Feb. 25 and the next slate of days hold more weight.
For some, whose names flashed across Sportsnet’s Trade Deadline broadcast and wound up setting Twitter ablaze, these few days mean meeting new teammates and coaches, acclimating to new on-ice surroundings, and adjusting to life in a new city. For those on the other side of the deadline-day moves, it means continuing on in the wake of their clubs loading up or paring down, or perhaps dealing with hearing their name churn through the rumour mill over the past week.
That being the case, let’s check in on the latest from around the league in the wake of the deadline:
Kovalchuk and Ovechkin on teaming up in Washington
The Washington Capitals made a few different moves ahead of yesterday’s deadline — one of the most intriguing was the decision to bring in Ilya Kovalchuk from Montreal, reuniting him with his former teammate in Alex Ovechkin.
“We played together on the national team, but never for the same [NHL] team,” Kovalchuk said Tuesday, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. “Usually we battle against each other, but it is always nice when you are older to get a chance to play together, for sure.”
The two remain close despite getting limited opportunities to line up on the same squad, having both been pivotal figures in Russian hockey throughout their careers — when Ovechkin finally climbed the Stanley Cup mountain in 2018, Kovalchuk was among the first to congratulate him.
“I was one of the first who called [Ovechkin]. I think all our country was happy for him and happy for the Russian guys and you know, obviously Capitals are popular team in Russia. A lot of excitement there,” said Kovalchuk, via Gulitti. The 36-year-old added that he believes the current Capitals squad has everything it needs to get The Great Eight another ring. “I think we have all the tools here, so it is all in my hands to work hard to get together, as a team, as a group and play well in playoffs.”
Ovechkin was similarly enthused with the move, apparently telling GM Brian MacLellan, “Let’s do it if we can take him,” when asked if the Capitals should bring Kovalchuk in.
“I’m excited for him, excited for the opportunity,” Ovechkin said Tuesday. “And he’s a good fit for our team, brings some depth, brings lots of options to play with, so it’s good.”
Capitals head coach Todd Reirden played alongside Kovalchuk during the latter’s rookie campaign in Atlanta in 2001-02, and understands the veteran sniper’s abilities well.
“That’s a pretty unique situation first of all that two guys so highly thought of that really were major pioneers in what’s happened in youth hockey in Russia right now,” Reirden said, via Gulitti. “They’re two of the biggest reasons why that success has happened there and so many guys come over now and they’re such a big part of the NHL now.”
Pageau and GM Lamoriello on bringing the former Senator to the Islanders
One of the biggest trade chips on the market, Jean-Gabriel Pageau was expectedly moved from his hometown team, landing with the New York Islanders and subsequently inking a long-term deal. The versatile pivot said he’s excited to get going with his new club, regardless of where he slots into the lineup.
“Obviously they were a hard team to play against, and now just to be a part of that team, it’s something that I’m excited [about],” Pageau said Tuesday via NHL.com’s Brian Compton. “I haven’t really had the chance to look at where I would fit, but the only thing I can say hockey-wise is I can’t guarantee I’m going to score goals or anything. But there’s one thing: I’m going to bring 110 per cent every day to try to do my best. That’s all I can control.
“I’m going to take the role that they give me, whatever role it is, I’m going to take it seriously. My heart’s going to go right now to [Long Island], and I’m going to give it my all.”
While Pageau’s shown his ability to raise his game in the post-season, he hasn’t gotten a chance to do so for the past two years in Ottawa as the team’s slid down the standings. With the Islanders currently sitting in a wild-card position, the 27-year-old said he’s excited to potentially get another taste of playoff hockey.
“I couldn’t be more excited just to go on a team that’s going to be competing every year for a playoff [berth] or for a championship,” the former Senator said. “I couldn’t be more excited as a player. That’s what we play for, that’s what drives us. That’s why I’m excited to go and play for them.”
GM Lou Lamoriello also shared his thoughts on why he opted to pay heftily to bring Pageau to the Island.
“We felt that with our lineup to solidify down the middle, we needed a centre-iceman, in particular a right shot, and they are very few and far between,” Lamoriello said, via Compton. “When you’re looking at a centre, you try and get a complete player that can play in all situations, and certainly this young man fit the bill.”
Parise on almost leaving Wild to reunite with his former GM
Speaking of Lamoriello, the Pageau deal wasn’t the only way the veteran manager made a splash on deadline day. Another came by way of a deal the Islanders didn’t make, but certainly tried to.
It was reported late in the deadline window that the Wild and Islanders were negotiating a deal to swap veterans Zach Parise and Andrew Ladd, a deal that would reunite Parise and Lamoriello, who spent seven years together in New Jersey at the beginning of the American’s career.
The deal fell through, however, keeping Parise with his hometown Wild. Regardless, the veteran said he’s more than happy to be sticking around in Minnesota.
“I love it here. I always have,” Parise said Tuesday. “My goals here haven’t changed. It’s [to] help this team. Not disappointed by any means that I’m here. I really enjoy playing here.”
Parise didn’t confirm whether he waived his no-trade clause to move to the Island, preferring to keep those discussions between him and GM Bill Guerin.
“You know, there’s always conversations between players and general managers that are private and should be private,” he said, “and with all due respect to the question, I don’t like to talk about those types of conversations.”
But while there may be a sense of awkwardness for those who nearly move but wind up staying put, the veteran said it’s simply back to business now that the deadline chaos has passed.
“It was a pretty stressful day yesterday. It wasn’t uncomfortable showing up to the rink today,” he said. “I think players understand these types of things happen. So there was no issue there. But yeah, yesterday was pretty stressful.”
Guerin, who’s new to the GM role, having taken over the Wild’s front office in August 2019, shared his thoughts on the potential Parise deal as well.
“Zach and I have a good relationship. We’ve talked over the last week about certain possibilities. We were both completely up front with each other and honest with what was going on or feelings or anything like that,” Guerin said. “The fact that nothing happened today is fine. This is something that we’re just looking forward on now.
“Zach’s a big part of the Minnesota Wild and he’s going to be and we’re excited to still have him.”
Lundqvist on his future in New York amid unique goalie situation
This season, though, the 37-year-old finds himself in a new situation, with his crease now crowded by young up-and-coming talents in Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin. Both Lundqvist and Georgiev have played 28 games so far this season, while Shesterkin has played 10 as well.
With all three remaining on the Rangers’ roster as the deadline came to a close, and with the younger ‘tenders passing Lundqvist on the depth chart, the veteran said he’ll soon meet with the Rangers brass to discuss his future.
“Obviously, my situation, after the season you will obviously have things to talk about, your role and if you fit in this role or something else,” Lundqvist said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.
“I’ve been very open with management over the two years I’ve been through this process that if there comes a day where they feel like I’m not a good solution, let’s talk about it, let’s be open about it. I know we’re going to sit down after this season, but right now and over the last few weeks my focus has been just to work hard and be ready, and that’s what I think I should be doing.
“There will be a time here, obviously, when you just have to look at where we are in my position, but I’ve been very open and clear to the organization about that.”
Lundqvist has one year remaining on his current contract, though it remains unclear whether that final year will be played in New York or elsewhere, given the team’s current timeshare in the crease. Regardless, it doesn’t change his focus for the remainder of 2019-20.
“The only thing I can do personally is work hard and be ready when I get an opportunity to play. But it’s important that I try to bring that positive energy,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, for me it’s a new situation and it’s been hard not being able to play, but you’ve got to make the best of it. I think that starts with practice and hard work.
“There will be an opportunity to sit down and talk about my role later on, but not now.”