31 Thoughts: Could a stealth suitor emerge for Matt Duchene?

NHL insider Chris Johnston joins Caroline Cameron to talk about whether or not the Ottawa Senators will trade Matt Duchene and much more.

• Could Flames, Isles storm Duchene sweepstakes?
• Stars checking in on Panarin, Zuccarello
• Oilers know Puljujarvi “very unhappy”

I loathe the pre-deadline edition of the blog because things change incredibly quickly — making my work even less accurate than normal.

So, no wordy top. Let’s get right to it. Mostly quick hitters this week.

31 THOUGHTS

1. So, when do the Blues remove Craig Berube’s “interim” tag?

2. Barring a massive swerve, Matt Duchene will be traded. There are undoubtedly more suitors than Columbus and Nashville, but they are the two most mentioned. I’m not convinced Winnipeg is interested at this time, and if I had to pick a stealth destination, I’d choose either Calgary or the Islanders. (If GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t on record as being against rentals, Montreal would be on that list, too.) There is talk that if he ends up in Tennessee, both player and team will work to make it a long-term relationship. Let’s see if Predators GM David Poile gets any extensions done in the near future with arbitration eligibles like Ryan Hartman and Colton Sissons, or Kevin Fiala — coming out of his entry-level contract. That would give him a better idea of the cap room he’s got to play with, assuming none of those players are involved in a potential trade. (Aside: Boy, do the Predators love Sissons. They can’t say enough good things about him.)

3. Columbus’s offer for Duchene screams Alexander Wennberg as part of it. Wennberg desperately needs a new start; he’s got zero even-strength goals. I just don’t know if Ottawa would be willing to gamble on the contract, at a $4.9-million AAV through June 2023.

4. My guess on Mark Stone is the Senators came at him with bigger money at less than max term. There were rumblings of five years at $10.5 million, but it was denied. That number would put him with Patrick Kane as the highest-paid winger in the NHL, but leaves money on the table Stone would try to recoup at age 32. His decision comes in the next few days. Chris Johnston reported on Headlines he thinks Vegas won’t do it as a rental. Winnipeg is definitely there. So is Calgary. Undoubtedly, there are others.

5. I think Ryan Dzingel’s future has a lot to do with Stone’s decision. We probably won’t know about Cody Ceci until closer to the deadline. There’s also been traction on another righty, the Rangers’ Adam McQuaid.

6. One GM said last week most fanbases would gladly take Ottawa’s youth and prospect base of Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Thomas Chabot, Filip Chlapik, Alex Formenton, Filip Gustavsson, Christian Jaros, Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Christian Wolanin and whatever is acquired in trades — even without their upcoming first-rounder.

“There are some good bets in there,” he said. That is the Senators’ biggest challenge: overcoming the lack of faith in ownership that overshadows everything else.

7. Stealth team for Artemi Panarin: Dallas. The Stars have also checked in on Mats Zuccarello.

8. I think the teams with the best chances at signing Panarin long-term are Florida, Los Angeles, the Islanders and the Rangers. The only one that makes sense to take a shot at him for rental purposes is the Islanders. Boston hovers as a rental option, too. If the Islanders don’t get their top choices, GM Lou Lamoriello could consider old acquaintance Ilya Kovalchuk. Remember, the winger has control over his destination.

9. If the Blue Jackets don’t get Duchene, the obvious focus is Kevin Hayes. They have lots of history with the Rangers, too.

10. Sergei Bobrovsky’s situation is murky. He’s signalled he’s willing to consider certain locations, but there is no indication he’s actually put that down on paper. Writing makes it binding, and there is doubt he wants to lose that leverage. One possibility: an extension in exchange for waiving. It is also believed Columbus made its own recent extension attempt, but things don’t sound optimistic.

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11. Winnipeg is going to be aggressive. There’s a limit, but the Jets have a deep pool of prospects and a willingness to move their first-rounder. Other teams were joking that Kevin Cheveldayoff was going to chain Pierre Dorion in the MTS basement until Stone was traded there.

12. Edmonton’s held firm on Jesse Puljujarvi so far, not jumping at lowball trade attempts. But the Oilers know they’ve got a very unhappy player.

13. Nick Kypreos reported Saturday that James Neal will be out awhile. Remember in 2015, when Patrick Kane returned from injury at the start of the playoffs, as the salary cap doesn’t matter in the post-season? If I were Flames GM Brad Treliving, I’d think about the possibilities.

14. Potential left-shot depth defender for Calgary: Colorado’s Patrik Nemeth. The Avalanche are trying to move Sven Andrighetto, too. Treliving is very careful when discussing his goaltending situation. He wants to bolster the confidence c of David Rittich and Mike Smith, not rattle them.

15. Don’t think Toronto’s stopped looking at right-handed defensive options. Doubt Kyle Dubas went to Vancouver/Anaheim last week for the Honda Centre’s famous pizza with fire-roasted vegetables.

16. Zuccarello and Wayne Simmonds may have to wait until the Duchene/Stone/Panarin situations settle. A mix of similar teams looking at both: Boston, Calgary, San Jose, maybe Pittsburgh and Vegas. New Jersey GM Ray Shero was aggressive with Brian Boyle, and it sounds like he’s done the same with Marcus Johansson. I’ve heard Columbus, Edmonton, San Jose and Vancouver as teams who have checked in. Possibly Washington, too, since they know him. The Canucks are the odd fit, but they looked at Andre Burakovsky, too. So maybe they are thinking about something for the future or are trying to replace the injured Sven Baertschi.

17. The Capitals have looked around for the 2019 version of Michal Kempny.

18. With Minnesota in sell mode, would it surprise anyone if San Jose revisited Eric Fehr, who fit in very nicely with the Sharks during the 2018 playoffs? The Evander Kane/Erik Karlsson trades limit what they can do, but GM Doug Wilson will try to add a winger. If trade values drop for the secondary group because Duchene, Panarin and Stone are available, it plays into Wilson’s hands.

19. Someone is going to ask San Jose about Sasha Chmelevski, who scored five goals on Monday for OHL Ottawa in a 6–3 win over North Bay. The Sharks are going to say no. Chmelevski fell to the sixth round in the 2018 draft, and teams are already regretting it.

20. Can Carolina, one point out of the playoffs and creating some excitement in the market, really trade Micheal Ferland? Eight points in his last eight games. The Hurricanes certainly can’t send him to Pittsburgh, which has been interested.

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21. I’m not sure if Minnesota would be willing to trade with Carolina again, since initial returns on the Nino Niederreiter/Victor Rask swap aren’t favourable. But if Don Waddell really wanted to whip up a frenzy, taking a run at Eric Staal would do it.

22. Speaking of Staal… Sebastian Aho is on pace for 93 points. That would be the most in Whalers/Hurricanes history since Staal had 100 in the Stanley Cup season of 2005-06. Only three others have ever scored more than that in one year for this organization — Ron Francis (twice), Mike Rogers (twice) and Blaine Stoughton.

23. Last year, Detroit GM Ken Holland waited everyone out and got three picks for Tomas Tatar. Tatar had term, unlike many of the Red Wings trade options this time around, but Holland’s using a similar playbook. He’s patient, creating the impression he’s happy to keep guys rather than deal them. Chris Johnston did report the Red Wings asked Gustav Nyquist if there was a list of teams he’d consider. Martin Frk, who just cleared waivers, might get a new home, too.

24. Carl Hagelin’s only got eight points in 38 games, but a lower price tag may tempt someone for a competitive guy with a good playoff history. Buffalo looked at it.

25. Before the season, Mike Modano admitted he was looking to get back with a team. The Athletic’s Michael Russo saw him at the Wild’s 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Sunday and surmised an organizational position beckoned. Modano’s family is looking at a move, and Minnesota makes sense. But, with four young children, he said coaching or being a manager was not realistic.

“Television, work with a team’s foundation, their minor hockey program, corporate, I’d be available for everything,” he said in September. “I’d go on the ice with prospects or go see them. I’m open to whatever’s out there.”

26. Marc-Andre Fleury has three more appearances than any other goalie. The Golden Knights would like to ease the workload, and Monday was the second start in a row for the now-healthy Malcolm Subban. He’s going to get some opportunities with Vegas all but locked in to its playoff position.

27. Ottawa and Chicago just missed giving us our first 17-goal game since Winnipeg edged Philadelphia 9–8 on Oct. 27, 2011. I’d call them slackers, but it was an entertaining evening.

28. Don’t know if Nikita Kucherov can keep up his blistering pace, but he’s currently on track for the 36th-highest-scoring season in NHL history. He’s looking at 135 points, previously done by Hall of Famers Bobby Orr (1974–75), Marcel Dionne (1980–81) and Jari Kurri (1984–85). Technically, Kucherov would rank behind them, because his projected 40-goal output is behind only Kurri (71), Dionne (58) and Orr (46). Barring a massive slowdown, he’s going to be the highest-scoring NHLer in 23 years.

29. The night before he headed to Anaheim for Scott Niedermayer’s jersey retirement, Brian Burke said he wouldn’t even let Lou Lamoriello make a trade offer for brother Rob. (Scott signed with Anaheim in July 2005, two years after Rob was traded there from Calgary.)

“You never even listened to what he’d give you?”

“Don’t you listen?” Burke replied. “It wasn’t going to happen.”

30. Andrew Agozzino. Never drafted. Never signed a one-way deal. Ten NHL games in seven professional seasons. Never quit. Given another shot Monday night, Agozzino scored his first goal. Congratulations to a guy who earned such an awesome moment.

31. Joe Thornton wouldn’t have done “it” if he scored a fourth goal against Boston, but I’m betting he would have come up with a creative substitution. What a disappointment that it didn’t happen.

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