31 Thoughts: Why Karlsson, Pacioretty deadline deals fell flat


Former Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson. (Claus Andersen/Getty)

• What happened to Karlsson, Pacioretty deals?
• Ducks, Jets had interest in Nash
• Leafs never really close on McDonagh

Let’s start with some Max Pacioretty. Then, we will move on to Erik Karlsson.

After Montreal’s 1-0 shootout loss to Philadelphia on Monday night, an un-traded Pacioretty passionately addressed his future. Several hours earlier, he had dropped off son Max Jr. at daycare in a Canadiens jersey.

“I’m here to tell you guys that, honestly, I hope things can work out here,” the captain said.

Pacioretty told the media that he met with GM Marc Bergevin after the deadline. While whatever was said in that conversation remains private, there is no doubt it changed his outlook. In the days and weeks leading up to Monday, Pacioretty never explicitly demanded a trade, but his feelings were well-known inside the organization.

Frustrated and tired, he was ready to go.

Bergevin didn’t make it easy. He aimed high and never wavered. It’s believed that, when Los Angeles inquired, Bergevin’s ask involved Tyler Toffoli, 2017 first-rounder Gabriel Vilardi and possibly more. The Kings quickly said no. Another belief: He asked Minnesota for Charlie Coyle-plus, also a no.

One of Pacioretty’s preferred destinations is Florida. GM Dale Tallon is close with Bergevin. I suspect the Canadiens targeted Vincent Trocheck. The Panthers weren’t doing that.

You get the idea. Montreal valued Pacioretty and refused to make a panic move at the buzzer.


What I think happened after was the captain had some time to breathe and think. He had his conversation with Bergevin. When you don’t get traded, and your team isn’t going to the playoffs, there is a choice: You can grit your teeth and push through, or you can say, “Whatever happens, I’m going to attack this with a great attitude.”

It sounds like Pacioretty is going for option B.

One source used the phrase “excited” to describe him, another used “refreshed.” He bought a home in Montreal two years ago, not the action of anyone hoping to make a getaway. He is going to try to get back to that frame of mind.

In a joyless season, the Canadiens could use an enthusiasm infusion. On every team, the captain sets a tone. Seventeen months before his contract expires, Max Pacioretty gets a chance to write a new ending.


1. I believe there were teams who asked Bergevin about Brendan Gallagher. It sounds like those conversations were short.

2. On Karlsson, my sense is the Vegas trade fell apart because of how the purchase price would be adjusted by Bobby Ryan’s inclusion. I’m not 100 per cent sure if it was Ottawa’s ask or Vegas’s offer, but one of the rumblings is that the teams were talking two first-rounders, a high-level prospect and a conditional pick for Karlsson — the condition being whether or not the Golden Knights re-signed him. Whatever the case, it didn’t happen and I can’t imagine Vegas would have been willing to do all that if they were taking Ryan’s contract, too.

I’m one of those who believes that this was the optimum time for Ottawa to deal Karlsson, because the leverage flips to the player the closer he gets to free agency. That said, there were undoubtedly teams who said they would be able to make better offers at the draft, and that is the wager GM Pierre Dorion made. Ottawa also faces a difficult decision on its 2018 first-rounder, since, if it is not given to Colorado, the 2019 version must go to the Avalanche. Maybe someone with a high pick decides it wants Karlsson for a quick turnaround, which could solve that problem.

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3. So who else was in? I believe San Jose also told the Senators it could do both Karlsson and Ryan. The Sharks have a boatload of cap room. I’m not aware of any others who offered to do both. Tampa Bay obviously made a pitch, but what the Lightning did with the Rangers clearly didn’t appeal to Ottawa (more on the Rangers later).

Capitals GM Brian MacLellan admitted to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan that he “explored adding a higher-end” defenceman, and he did inquire on both Karlsson and Ryan McDonagh. Caveat: I have no idea how he was going to pull it off.

I’m convinced Nashville did more than kick tires, which could have been an all-time blockbuster. A couple of sources indicated Toronto was looking to add another first-round pick, and it would have been interesting to see what the Maple Leafs were going to do with that. Don’t know about Colorado or New Jersey, but both make sense from a logical perspective.

4. One exec on Vegas eating 40 percent of Derick Brassard’s salary. “I can’t believe the NHL let it happen, but I wish I’d thought of it.”

5. One of the major issues with the original Ottawa-Pittsburgh-Vegas Brassard deal was the various trades were not submitted in the proper order. So the Golden Knights were eating the money without technically ever having Brassard on the roster. A source from a team not involved said he spent almost an hour on the phone with an exec who helped put together the moves — and still didn’t fully understand what happened. Crazy.

Dream season for Golden Knights, but will April bring forth a rude awakening?
February 28 2018

6. I do believe Pittsburgh considered McDonagh, but by the time it was reported, they’d already realized they couldn’t make it work. The rest of the Eastern Conference groaned in disappointment when the Penguins got Brassard. Can only imagine the reaction if McDonagh happened.

7. Sounds like the Panthers, Rangers and Wild discussed a three-way that would have sent McDonagh to Florida. I don’t think Toronto ever got really close to snaring the New York defender.

8. Heard Calgary resisted offers for three young defencemen — Rasmus Andersson, Adam Fox and Juuso Valimaki. Maybe they would have considered one for a difference-maker with term, but there was nothing appealing enough.

9. Years ago — I can’t remember what team he was playing for at the time — Mike Smith and I had a conversation about injuries. Smith said he tends to be very careful with his body. He will progress and then stop if he feels discomfort or anything that could set him back. When he comes back, he wants it to be permanent. So when the Flames are saying they are unsure of the timeline, it is legitimate. Smith probably isn’t 100-percent sure either.

10. I think Vancouver was disappointed Mikael Backlund re-signed with the Flames. He was going to be a Canuck target.

Friedman on the toll GMs face 'hearing every day how terrible you are'
February 27 2018

11. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill took heat for not getting a guaranteed first-rounder in exchange for Evander Kane. Word is one other team raised the possibility of a first-round pick for the winger three or four days prior to the deadline, but pulled the offer when something else came up. That left Botterill with San Jose’s Doug Wilson, who can grind with the best of them.

Botterill had a choice: take what he could or lose Kane for nothing. Look at the deals where opening-round selections were included. Tampa gave up two (potentially) for McDonagh and J.T. Miller. Both have term or team control. Vegas gave up one for Tomas Tatar, still with term. Chicago got one for Ryan Hartman, a restricted free agent. (There was a lot of interest in him.)

Pittsburgh gave up one for Brassard, with another year on his contract. Only two UFAs featured such a return — Rick Nash and Paul Stastny. Botterill tried to build a market, but Kane simply wasn’t as highly valued as Nash. As for Stastny, teams generally don’t ask players to waive full no-trade clauses without reason. Winnipeg gave St. Louis one.

12. There was some indication the Sabres could have gotten a better deal if they moved Kane last summer, but I remembered something Botterill said not long after taking the job. He discussed how you have to be careful to not make decisions based on what you heard, as opposed to what you see. One of Buffalo’s recent issues is spending so much on bad fits. Clearly, they made the choice to find out firsthand what they had. There wasn’t a market for Robin Lehner, either. If Botterill’s discovered anything, it’s that this is a much bigger rebuild than he thought.

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13. The tradition continues: You may have heard that Joe Thornton arrived in a limousine to pick up Kane upon the latter’s arrival in California. Twelve years ago, Patrick Marleau did that when Thornton was dealt from Boston.

14. One scout on Stastny and Winnipeg: “That’s a good fit. He needs speed around him… and they’ve got plenty of it.”

15. I think the Blues tried to turn that Jets pick into a centre, but couldn’t get there.

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16. St. Louis coach Mike Yeo took pains to point out that Carter Hutton battled hard despite giving up five goals in relief of Jake Allen during Tuesday’s 8-3 loss in Minnesota. It’s possible the Blues give a look to 23-year-old Ville Husso, who is at AHL San Antonio. Drafted in 2014, he played three seasons in the Finnish league before coming to North America last season. On the weekend, he led the Rampage — two shy of a full roster — to a 1-0 victory over a first-place Tucson team that outshot San Antonio 44-11. He also stopped a penalty shot. He’s yet to have any NHL action, but maybe four years as a pro is enough prep. St. Louis needs a jumpstart.

17. Among Rick Nash’s other major pursuers: Anaheim and Winnipeg. Think the Ducks also had interest in Jack Johnson.

18. That Lightning/Rangers trade sounds like it was a two-week-long grind. Steve Yzerman said he wouldn’t weaken his team and wasn’t eager to give up 2017 first-rounder Cal Foote. The Rangers liked WHL Regina defenceman Libor Hajek and fought to have him included late in the process. The Rangers got criticism for the return, but let’s look big picture: They are suddenly flush with draft picks and cap space. Their financial resources give them the ability to do some damage with that room. This is not going to be a long rebuild.

Chris Johnston on the moves made by the Blackhawks, Lightning and the Canucks
February 27 2018

19. Prior to getting Tobias Rieder in the deal with Arizona, the Kings took a look at Gustav Nyquist.

20. When New Jersey hired John Hynes, it was reported that he’d signed a three-year deal. That would make him a free-agent after this season, but it turns out the Devils have an option for next season. I think it is very safe to say that option is getting picked up, if it hasn’t happened already.

21. By the way, word is Hynes fired up his players a couple of weeks ago by showing them Jason Kelce’s speech from the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl parade. Kelce’s awesome, profanity-laced tirade about the disrespected Eagles would resonate well among the Devils. I’d run through a wall after listening to that.

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22. With Patrice Bergeron’s injury, could the Hart Trophy come down to Taylor Hall and Eric Staal?

23. A couple amateur scouts said they are seeing more of Paul Coffey at junior games in the Toronto area. I’m really curious to see where this is going.

24. I’m not sure the Oilers expected to have Kailer Yamamoto in the NHL lineup at the start of next season, but he’s giving them something to think about. At WHL Spokane, he’s got 44 points in 20 games since the calendar flipped to 2018. The Chiefs will have a tough first-round playoff opponent, which should provide a truer indication of how ready he may be.

25. Last Friday, I attended the Sloan Sports Conference in Boston. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see, but my Saturday schedule usually makes it a no-go. So I only went for one day, and, let me say: If you are a skeptic about the value of data, do yourself a favour and go. How refreshing it was to hear intelligent conversation about data for all levels/facets of sports and business without the low-level debates you find on social media. Honestly, the least interesting panel I attended was Barack Obama’s because I’ve heard many of the things he’s said before. I saw two hockey panels, two baseball, one football and a business of sports featuring Alex Rodriguez and Maverick Carter.

26. One of the biggest complaints I’d heard from those who’d attended before is that more and more truly new information is being kept out of the public sphere. That’s not a surprise, because even NHL teams, still in their infancy of utilizing advanced data, don’t reveal much. It was nice to put some faces to the names of people we know have been hired by teams. (Don’t worry, GMs, none of them said anything.) What I learned: Despite the work being done to improve the science of NHL drafting, there is a feeling we have barely scratched the surface of where we need to go.

27. The Athletic’s Allison Lukan moderated the “Hockey Analytics on the Fly” panel and asked which players were among the first to accept some of the ideas. Former Pittsburgh and Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma immediately named Steve Sullivan, saying the forward carefully examined zone entries on the power play — where he entered and where the defence tried to force him to enter.

“Between periods, he wanted to know trends,” Bylsma said.

Not surprisingly, Sidney Crosby was another. Arizona GM John Chayka said, “You can go at Clayton Keller with pretty much anything.” Chris Snow, Calgary’s Director of Hockey Analysis, pointed out that younger players are now being exposed to these ideas in junior, so the days of them being “afraid” of the information are coming to an end.

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28. Interesting non-hockey stuff:

• Kevin Demoff, the Los Angeles Rams CEO and Executive Vice-President of Football Operations, talked about what it does to an organization when you repeatedly fire the people who do your drafting. He talked about how you value certain traits, then switch philosophies and have a roster full of players who don’t fit those traits. He said the best teams know what they want, and know how to draft for that want — consistently. They become experts at knowing who can do that “thing.”

• The Seattle Mariners acquired Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins, and have to move him from second base to centre field because Robinson Cano already mans the position in the Pacific Northwest. But Seattle Executive Vice-President and GM Jerry DiPoto said they were comfortable trying the switch because a) Gordon is a great athlete and b) he is used to playing the middle of the field, so his view of the hitter — and the way the ball comes off his bat — will not change as much.

• Rodriguez and Carter gave great advice on public success and defeat Rodriguez: “I have a Masters degree in failing, and a PhD in getting back up.” Carter: “Nobody cares if you fail — they’re worried about their own thing.”

29. We expect athletes to care as much as we do, then we rip them for showing it. If Jocelyn Larocque wants to take off her medal seconds after a painful shootout defeat, big deal. There will come a day she appreciates an Olympic silver medal — but Holy Overreaction, Batman.

30. Was going through security last week at Pearson Airport in Toronto, when a customs officer introduced himself with, “I’m the only Florida Panthers fan who works here.” His name is Carlos Novoa, and two days earlier, he’d bought tickets to see them play in Toronto. Novoa joked that people in Canada are always photographing the licence plate on his car, because they’re not used to seeing anyone drive around with the Panthers’ logo.

31. Nashville’s David Poile becomes the winningest GM in NHL history with the Predators’ next victory. A couple of years ago, he was at the Hall of Fame induction, talking with Lou Nanne, when I happened to walk by. They were laughing at each others’ stories, and Nanne (who was in Minnesota at the time) told one about a day he called to see how his friend was doing. “Really good,” Poile responded, “I just traded for Rod Langway.” Poile couldn’t even say the rest of the names before Nanne yelled, “What?! I gotta make a call!” and hung up on his buddy.

“I was going to call Montreal and make a better offer,” Nanne said.

That trade was from 1982: Rick Green and Ryan Walter from Washington for Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughin — a blockbuster at the time. Langway won two Norris Tophies in Washington.

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