So, there stood Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, ready to field questions in English after a lengthy interrogation from the French media. The key question: Was it realistic that a P.K. Subban trade could happen?
“No,” he said.
For many Canadiens fans, that was enough. Move on, nothing to see here. But it goes deeper than that. A deal involving Subban may not be realistic, but it’s going to be discussed — intensely.
From a hockey perspective, the key here is Bergevin’s interest in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Since the lottery, Dubois’ name has been consistent with the Vancouver Canucks, who select fifth — four spots ahead of the Canadiens. Montreal would love to get its hands on him, but staying in its current position prevents that from happening.
Picking fourth and fifth are the Edmonton Oilers and the Canucks, both of whom would be very interested in Subban. Vancouver GM Jim Benning admitted as much on Thursday. His best offer would include Bo Horvat, Chris Tanev and the fifth overall selection. There is some debate about Benning’s willingness to include Horvat, but he may not be able to get this done without doing so.
The biggest question for Bergevin would be, is that enough? Can you sell that trade even if it brings you Dubois?
Edmonton is a different animal. One report on Thursday said the price was Leon Draisaitl and the fourth overall pick. But a couple of sources warned that, at times, the ask has been even greater than that.
The Oilers, desperate to add defenders, are having a difficult time meeting their objective. They will not give up their most valuable pieces for anyone who lacks term. Someone like Kevin Shattenkirk simply does not make sense for them, as it’s extremely unlikely he stays beyond the end of next year. That’s a waste of a move.
Subban is locked in for seven more seasons. That’s hugely appealing. But the ask is not, and, from what I understand, GM Peter Chiarelli has not budged from his position. If there are two guys at this draft playing chicken right down to the wire, it’s Bergevin and Chiarelli. (Chiarelli by the way, made the veteran move of not slowing down for a second as we tried to query him. “I’m not talking about that,” he said with a smile, plowing through the masses like Jim Brown over 1960s would-be tacklers.)
There are other reasons a Subban trade may not be realistic.
First, the market for him is thinner than you’d expect. Not because teams wouldn’t love to get him, but because his contract ($9M AAV) limits those who can. No doubt the New York Rangers would be a perfect marriage, but if they couldn’t find the space for Keith Yandle, how could they find it for Subban? Even Edmonton can’t do this without Montreal taking money back.
Colorado was in this for a while, and the Avalanche could make it work. GM Joe Sakic declined comment, but sources cited two major stumbling blocks: Colorado didn’t like the contract, and the two sides could not agree on the return. I know everyone’s suspected the deal was Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene and the 10th pick, but I’m not convinced Sakic was willing to do that. (One source cautioned it never even got that far.)
Second, Bergevin is trying to hold on to his ninth overall spot. If you’re Edmonton or Vancouver, are you willing to make this trade without that? That’s a huge price to pay for both teams.
The third reason is the general weirdness of this whole situation. Subban, as a player, is so much better now than he was when he won the Norris Trophy in 2013. He’s improved in every way, tailoring his game as his coaches asked. One of the questions I always ask myself is, ‘what don’t I know?’ When I look at the possibility of Subban trade, it has to be something significant. There’s no other explanation for this awkward dance.
So, when Bergevin says a Subban trade is not realistic, he’s not saying that because of an unwillingness to do it. He’s saying that because it may not be possible to.
But that doesn’t mean he — and a couple of his compatriots — aren’t going to try.
1. One of the reasons Montreal wants to keep No. 9 is the Canadiens may have to use it to replace Subban if he is dealt. Anaheim’s Cam Fowler is certainly a target, just as he is for the Buffalo Sabres, picking one spot ahead of the Canadiens. Ducks GM Bob Murray already has two first-rounders (24 and 30), but would love to get into the top 10. Sabres GM Tim Murray would likely do it for Tyler Ennis, but has held off when it comes to his top pick. (Those two Murrays have been talking about different possibilities for a long time.)
Anaheim pulled Fowler off the market last season, as he was one of the only Ducks who played well during their start-of-season nosedive. I suspect one of the main reasons we’re hearing his name is that the Ducks will have a lot of defencemen to protect in the expansion draft and Fowler may be willing to test the market when his deal is up in 2018. Bob Murray wants to get ahead of that. Sami Vatanen is signed long-term and the Ducks will work with Hampus Lindholm on that, too. They have Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore coming.
2. It’s also very possible Tim Murray doesn’t want to deal No. 8 because he’s trying to moving up, anywhere from three (Columbus) to six (Calgary). This is a home game for the Sabres and Murray loves to gamble.
3. If you were Edmonton, would you make this offer: the fourth overall pick to the Winnipeg Jets for Jacob Trouba and pick No. 22? You’d have to know you could sign Trouba, for sure. But I wonder how the Jets would feel about going back to Manitoba with Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk. They’d probably be in a better mood this weekend than, say, the European Union.
4. The Calgary Flames‘ goalie search continues. GM Brad Treliving has his hands everywhere, so it’s difficult to pin down the exact target, but I think Brian Elliott would be very happy to go there. The Flames have three second-rounders (35, 54, 56) and you could see the St. Louis Blues liking that first one. Where it gets complicated is if Blues GM Doug Armstrong wants assurances of extra compensation in case Calgary extends Elliott. Elliott comes at a lower cost in both trade pieces and contract than Ben Bishop, and will have a major chip on his shoulder after his last few games in Missouri. I’ve seen reports the ask for Marc-Andre Fleury is worth a first-round pick, but it might be even more than that. He’s signed long-term.
5. Another goalie I could see with a role in Calgary? Carter Hutton.
6. It’s funny how things turn out with 20-20 hindsight, but if Dallas beats St. Louis in Game 7 of the second round, is Frederik Andersen a Flame? A victory that night would have given Calgary the Stars’ first-round pick. The Blues have the 28th overall spot, and if, for argument’s sake, that slot had gone to Alberta, do the Ducks take it instead of Toronto’s two placings later?
7. In all of the discussion about Fleury’s future, one thing remains unclear: Fleury’s own desire. He’s been a terrific teammate and a cornerstone — a major factor in two Stanley Cups. No, he wasn’t the starter this time, but the Pittsburgh Penguins may not even make the playoffs if he doesn’t hold them together when they wobbled early in the season.
Word is he was told to think about things before making any rash decisions, but if Fleury decides he wants a clear-cut starting job elsewhere, would Pittsburgh take a deep breath and say, “Ok, he’s earned the right to make this call?”
Here’s a personal theory: Carolina. The Hurricanes are improving and Fleury would make a real difference. They could also flip a goalie — Eddie Lack or Cam Ward — to play with Matt Murray. I’d bet Jordan Staal would be happy.
8. As for Shattenkirk, you wonder how Yandle’s removal from the market affects Boston. The Bruins are on-record as desiring a more mobile blue line and he’s what they need. One of the theories about Yandle’s decision to sign in Florida was that the Panthers knew they had to outbid the Bruins. It’s believed his original ask from the Panthers was for seven years at $7M per, and he came close. So, Boston knows what the price is. Are they willing to pay that? Armstrong may be willing to allow teams to negotiate with Shattenkirk, but the bigger question might be, how many teams would he be willing to sign with right now? Arizona’s in this, too. But what’s uncertain is if the Coyotes desire to extend him at this point. And, does Armstrong ask for conditional compensation there, too?
9. Yandle’s extension had us wondering what would happen with Aaron Ekblad, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. There’s a difference as Yandle was unrestricted, but Ekblad is the Panthers’ defensive cornerstone. Sounds like we have the answer. Ekblad cannot sign any extension until July 1, but word is the team is preparing an eight-year offer worth approximately $60 million. No one is commenting, but it shows they are not going to fool around with this.
10. The Yandle signing has a few teams wondering about Dmitry Kulikov’s future. He was linked to Boston. His history with Patrick Roy is well-documented. Buffalo is there, too. The previous regime in Toronto almost traded for him. Lots of smoke.
11. Can definitely see teams asking Pittsburgh about its plans for Nick Bonino. One more year at $1.9M, then a big raise coming. Great, great playoff performance for them but a tight cap. Keep for another run, or get something for him? Not an easy call.
12. Two rumours making their way from Vegas to Buffalo that were shot down: first, that Dan Girardi almost went to Vancouver before the Canucks got Erik Gudbranson. Second, that Arizona would take Scott Hartnell if Columbus was willing to include the third overall pick.
13. In his media availability prior to the NHL Awards, Matt Martin sure sounded like somebody who is going elsewhere. When that was pointed out to him, he paused and said, “A year ago, I never thought it would happen, but we’ll see.”
Another reporter asked if Casey Cizikas’ new contract bothered him, but Martin threw cold water on that theory.
“He’s been one of my best friends for a long time, and I’m very happy for him,” he said. “He deserves it.”
Has he thought about playing against John Tavares, another good friend?
“I tried that in junior, and it didn’t go very well,” he said with a laugh.
14. Tavares, by the way, tried to conceal a smile when asked if it was true he plans his summer schedule by January, as personal skating coach Dawn Braid indicated a few weeks ago. “Dawn likes to plan ahead, too,” he replied.
15. New York Islanders GM Garth Snow confirmed he’s not interested in moving Ryan Strome. After he was benched in the playoffs, there were queries. But doesn’t sound like Strome is going anywhere. Still young, and they need him if the free agents walk.
16. Milan Lucic‘s negotiations with the Los Angeles Kings got really ugly. At the end of their season it seemed close, then turned into a 50-car pileup. Among the problems: the Kings, as is their philosophy, were not willing to offer much in the way of no-trade protection.
17. A couple of weeks ago, there was a note in here about Anatoli Golyshev, a Russian forward who will be a mid-round pick. A few teams were trying to keep stealth about him. There’s a somewhat similar case with Belarusian goalie Ivan Kulbakov.
Kulbakov had a rough moment at the World Juniors, getting injured as he jumped off the bench against Slovakia, but he’s come to North America to play for USHL Youngstown next season. I don’t see him on the Central Scouting lists, so he’s a bit of an unknown. Word is he’s got a great attitude and is more than willing to put in the work.
18. No one did the NHL a bigger favour this week than Quebecor CEO Pierre Dion. Ninety minutes after Commissioner Gary Bettman formally announced the arrival of the league’s 31st franchise, the Quebecor CEO stood near the exit of the Wynn Encore ballroom where everything took place.
“I’m not in Quebec City right now,” he said, “but I know what everyone there is feeling.”
No one would have blamed Dion for disappearing without a word. But he went to the podium, thanked the NHL for allowing his bid to go through the process and promised this was not the end. It was incredibly gracious, considering the circumstances. His plan was to get on a flight home later in the day, with the intention of spending Thursday and Friday doing whatever local interviews were necessary to calm the mood.
This was one of my biggest questions about expansion: how on earth would the NHL handle saying no to a wildly passionate hockey-adoring market with a ready-made arena? Those fans were going to be furious. As it turns out, Dion is taking on a lot of that responsibility.
“You heard what the Commissioner said,” Dion continued. “He did not say it was over. He used the word ‘deferred.’ What he said about Las Vegas — a strong owner, a market that could support hockey and an arena — we have all of those things…The time for us is just not now.”
Just a few feet from where we were standing, a jubilant Las Vegas television reporter taped a standup. I couldn’t help but think, “I hope the NHL recognizes what Dion did for it.” If good karma mattered, Quebec’s franchise would be coming sooner than later. But this is business.
19. The NHL used East-West imbalance, an unwillingness to bring in more than one expansion team at a time and the fallen Canadian dollar as its rationale for a Vegas-only decision. The latter made the most sense. A $650M (CAN) expansion fee would make life hard on Quebecor. That’s almost $500M more than Winnipeg paid.
Could Quebec City have handled that?
“We never got to discussing those numbers,” Dion replied. “It never reached that point. The things the Commissioner said publicly were the things we were told.” Then, he reminded as we finished, this is not over.
“I really believe we’ll get a team one day.”
20. The league asked Las Vegas owner Bill Foley not to approach anyone under contract with another NHL team until expansion became official. Now, Vegas can do it, and will start to ask permission after the draft. Foley did say something interesting on Wednesday: that there’s “an assistant GM not under contract” he will be interviewing shortly. I thought that would be Laurence Gilman, formerly with Vancouver, who helped author the expansion draft rules. But, Gilman is under contract to the Canucks for another year. This could be semantics, because Vancouver would not stand in his way and I do think Gilman will get an interview.
21. Vegas is also leaning on the expertise of former Flyer Robert Esche to aid in the building of its practice facility. It’s unclear if Esche, president of the AHL Utica Comets, will have a hockey operations role there, but he’s helping them navigate some early decisions.
22. For a long time, we have expected some kind of a Murray Craven/Scott Mellanby combo to run the on-ice division. The NHL has made it known it would prefer a more experienced voice in addition to those two, which is why you are going to hear a lot of George McPhee, Don Maloney or Dale Tallon. (Several of his contemporaries think McPhee is the frontrunner.) Scouting will also be critical, and a few sources suspect Vegas will look hard at some of the guys recently let go in Florida to fill those roles. That makes a lot of sense.
One other intriguing name I heard at the awards? Eddie Olczyk, in some capacity. Makes sense. He can do a few things and sell the game.
23. Interesting rumour going around that some teams seeking permission to talk to potential executives/coaches from other clubs were asked to make “soft trades” of draft picks as a way around the now-nuked compensation rules. Clearly, some organizations are not happy they can lose people for nothing, even though the brief attempt at compensation was a fiasco. Curious to see if anyone tries this with Vegas. Can’t imagine the NHL would be too happy.
24. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly dropped an interesting nugget: the league may create a special “window” for the Vegas team to make moves in advance of the expansion draft. Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford referenced that on Tuesday, saying the solution to his goalie logjam may be offering the “Black Knights” (maybe) an incentive to avoid both Fleury and Matt Murray — should both still be on the roster. Whoever calls the shots for Vegas, they are going to have the opportunity to do some creative things. I was thinking yesterday, how many GMs would give up their current position to take this one?
25. Where did the Evgeni Malkin-to-Chicago rumours come from? I blame Nick Kypreos. Nick wondered if this playoff run might be it for Malkin in Pittsburgh, and teams check. The Blackhawks did their due diligence, asked a few questions, and it got out.
26. The Penguins’ speed sure made everyone take notice in the Cup Final. You know which free agent that could be good for? Michael Grabner.
27. As much as Pittsburgh’s quickness gave the San Jose Sharks fits, what really won the series was the Penguins’ ability to put Sidney Crosby one line, Malkin on another and Phil Kessel on a third. The Sharks couldn’t handle all three. Don’t think other teams missed that.
“The way Jamie played when Tyler was out at the end of the season…Radek Faksa’s development…we could do it.” But Ruff admitted to being uncertain about separating them full-time.
“They can be unstoppable together.”
28. Someone else who thought about it? Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler.
“(Ryan) Getzlaf on one line. (Rickard Rakell) and Corey Perry are a great pair on another line. Then our line. We can do that,” he said.
Kesler rolled his eyes at the theory Anaheim has some kind of mental block that beats them in the playoffs.
“We need someone to play with Getzlaf. We add that and we’re going to be fine.”
He also hoped the Ducks would keep their defence together, but we’ve all heard the Fowler rumours and you need to give to get.
29. Did Shea Weber watch the Stanley Cup Final?
“I couldn’t,” he replied. “It was too hard. Sometimes it’s easier to lose 4-0 because you know you weren’t good enough. I thought we were.”
30. For the first time in his career, Erik Karlsson will spend the entire summer in Ottawa.
“My training is there, I like it there, it’s a good fit for me,” he said last week.
It’s interesting to watch Karlsson, Subban and Drew Doughty around each other. There’s a lot of respect, but they cannot stand to lose to one another in games — or voting.
31. What a fantastic eulogy by Murray Howe at his father’s funeral in Detroit. When it was over, I looked at my watch and was surprised at how long it went because it didn’t seem lengthy at all. The Red Wings did a beautiful job with the visitation and the service.