Beyond Headlines: Trade deadline shaping up as buyer’s market

The panel looks at some of the headlines surrounding the NHL, including Braden Holtby's injury, Micheal Ferland's contract, and how the league seems optimistic entering bargaining agreements with the NHLPA.

‘Beyond Headlines’ is a deeper dive into some of the stories — and even some that weren’t — discussed each week on Hockey Night in Canada’s ‘Headlines’ segment.


FLOODED MARKETPLACE?

Six weeks out from the trade deadline, we can already identify more than a half dozen teams with assets to sell.

St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Ottawa, Carolina, New York Rangers.

There will be others, too, but consider the unrestricted free agents on these rosters alone: Patrick Maroon, Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Hagelin, Gustav Nyquist, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Jimmy Howard, Wayne Simmonds, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Micheal Ferland, Jordan Martinook, Petr Mrazek, Curtis McElhinney, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello.

Then you add in the players with term who may be available from that group of teams: Brayden Schenn, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jake Muzzin, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, Radko Gudas, Dougie Hamilton and Chris Kreider, to name a few.

No wonder there are sellers who fear a flooded marketplace at the Feb. 25 trade deadline, as my colleague Elliotte Friedman reported on “Headlines.”

It certainly seems to be shaping up as a buyer’s market. The prices will likely reflect that once the dealing starts.

Given the number of quality players that can be had, it should be a busy trade season.

LABOUR PEACE?

Given the history — all of the lockouts and missed games — it was an astounding quote.

Gary Bettman told reporters this week that he was hoping to complete a new collective bargaining agreement without fanfare, adding: “I’m not looking for a fight.”

Absolutely everything has been a fight between the NHL and NHLPA over the years. Whether it’s the big stuff, like instituting a salary cap, or smaller issues such as rule changes, discipline or Olympic participation, it has only been in rare moments where we could describe the league and players’ union as aligned.

And yet here we are, eight months before each has to decide if the CBA will be terminated in September 2020, and there is real genuine hope for an extension. A pathway to a new deal. They are still believed to be in the early stage of the process, as Friedge mentioned on “Headlines,” but there is some momentum in talks with a meeting planned in Toronto in the days ahead following the one in Las Vegas last week.

Stakeholders on both sides of these discussions point out that there isn’t one gigantic stumbling block this time around. There isn’t one fundamental issue — such as the salary cap or a 50-50 split of revenues — that justifies shutting the sport down for months on end.

There is a lot of smaller stuff to work through, but nothing worth fighting about. There may be peace in our time.

KICKED-IN GOAL

Thursday was a busy night in the NHL’s situation room and they had one particularly challenging review. That was out of Vancouver, where Arizona’s Nick Cousins directed a puck past Jacob Markstrom with his right skate.

The goal was allowed to stand, much to the dismay of Canucks coach Travis Green.

The league’s hockey operations department followed up with a call to Green on Friday to explain how the process played out on their end. They also reviewed the decision internally with no clear consensus — some felt there was a distinct kicking motion from Cousins that should have overturned the goal while others believed the correct ruling was made.

There can be shades of grey with these type of decisions and even during video review they have to be made pretty quickly.

It’s safe to say there was one area of full agreement: Hockey ops was happy this happened in a game on Jan. 10 rather than June 10, with a Stanley Cup on the line.

A weekly deep dive into the biggest hockey news in the world with hosts Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek. New episodes every Thursday.

GOALIE CAROUSEL

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded a fifth-round pick to Florida for goalie Michael Hutchinson on Dec. 29 and probably never dreamed they’d need to press him into NHL action so soon.

Hutchinson has started five straight games with Frederik Andersen nursing a groin injury and battling the flu, and Garret Sparks still recovering from a concussion.

The Leafs will face another roster decision if he appears in one more game. That would be the 10th of the season for Hutchinson and require him to clear waivers to be sent back to the American Hockey League.

Sparks needs waivers, as well, and you can be sure general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t want to risk losing either goalie for nothing after seeing both Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard plucked off the waiver wire at the end of training camp.

WOULD YOU?

We went down the rabbit hole in the commentator’s room on Saturday night while watching our two early games: Colorado/Montreal and Toronto/Boston.

Blame David Amber.

He’s the master of the hypothetical question and posed this one to the group: Would you consider trading Auston Matthews — unsigned beyond this season and likely to command a salary in excess of $12 million — straight up for Nathan MacKinnon (with four more years at $6.3 million)?

That was a hard no for me, given the age difference of the players and Matthews’ otherworldly scoring rates. Brian Burke had some choice words for David about how even coming up with that question showed why he’s spent a career talking about hockey rather than running a hockey team. But he did find a little bit of support in the room.

So, just for fun … would you rather have a 23-year-old MacKinnon or a 21-year-old Matthews at potentially twice the price?

SALUTING RICK

“Rick Nash, woooooah. Rick Nash, woooooah. Rick Nash, woooooah.”

It was the 2007 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Moscow, and in the giddy din of Canada’s victorious dressing room the players started to chant. Nash was a beast in that tournament, taking home the MVP honours and even scoring a goal with a Finnish defenceman on his back in the gold-medal game.

When coach Andy Murray addressed his team after the win, he said that Nash wasn’t just carrying the Finn but also the hopes of 30 million Canadians when he scored that goal. There were some tears of joy shed among the champagne showers in that room.

Some of Nash’s best hockey came on the international stage.

He scored in the first period of the muscle-flexing, quarter-final victory over Russia at the Vancouver Olympics — a game where Russian goalie Ilya Bryzgalov memorably said Canada started like “gorillas out of a cage” — and accumulated 51 points across 53 games wearing the Maple Leaf.

I remember seeing Nash an hour or two after Team Canada won gold at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. He was proud of the fact he’d come back to Russia again and won again.

Nash’s playing career is over too soon, ended prematurely by concussions, but he should be proud of everything he achieved. He was a big-game player and a gentleman. He played over 1,000 NHL games, scored more than 400 goals and represented our country with distinction.

Bravo.

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