We’re just shy of six weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline, which means rumour season is in full swing. Here’s a look at some names floating around the league, plus a few questions we think could be answered soon.
What should Canadiens do with Carey Price?
It feels incredibly strange to type “trade” and “Carey Price” in the same sentence, and yet here we are. (It’s NHL rumour season, after all.)
At the very least, considering where the Montreal Canadiens currently find themselves in the standings — and where Price currently finds himself in his career — it feels like it’s worth exploring if this is a possibility. The same logic can be applied to Shea Weber. Sportsnet contributor Andrew Berkshire, who broke down what’s gone wrong in Montreal this season, boldly treaded into those waters during a Lead Off appearance Monday:
“I think they relied on guys who were too late in their careers to be at their peak and it just wasn’t something that was going to work in the first place,” Berkshire explained, with a nod to veterans Shea Weber and Carey Price, “and now it’s been three years into this gamble and it’s time to make a decision — whether or not you’re going to sell some assets to try to make the team competitive for those players, because you feel like you owe it to them, or send them to places where they can actually be competitive and you can recoup some assets.”
Price, 32, is under contract through 2025-26 with a $10.5-million cap hit. While he has struggled at times, the team around him simply isn’t ready to seriously contend yet.
“If you ever want to win a Stanley Cup, you have to give yourself the best possible chances down the line, and you’re not giving yourself the best possible chances down the line if you hang on to players longer than you should,” he continued. “I am a huge fan of Carey Price. I think that’s he’s done so much for that organization and taken a lot of unfair criticism throughout his career. But I think the fairest thing to him is to move on.”
Could Kovalchuk be a rental?
What a season it’s been for Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian forward started the year as a high-paid, little-played veteran stranded in L.A. as a healthy scratch and ushered in the new calendar year by signing a low-risk deal for an opportunity to rebound with the Montreal Canadiens. The 36-year-old has looked good in le bleu, blanc, et rouge — he started his Habs tenure with a trio of assists in his first two games and netted a rousing overtime winner over the weekend to snap Montreal’s eight-game losing skid.
It’s been a great story so far, but could it continue into the post-season? If it does, it’s looking increasingly likely that it wouldn’t be with Montreal. The Canadiens are currently seven points out of contention, and we’ll find out soon what their trade deadline approach could look like. So, what might that mean for Kovalchuk? If he continues this kind of play, it feels like he could be a popular target for contenders looking for an inexpensive rental.
The Boston Bruins were rumoured to be interested in signing him after the Kings terminated his contract, and we know they could use a winger for the playoff run to come, so… that might just be a situation worth watching.
Sabres still need offence
Buffalo’s need for a little help up front has been a storyline for much of this season. They’ve added Michael Frolik recently, but is the pending UFA enough, or could the Sabres look to add more?
Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli has been on the trade block all year and could very well fit in. And what about Penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk? If ever there were a player in need of a fresh start, it’s him. Perhaps the forward best able to step in and score is Senators centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who’s got 30 points in 45 games and an unclear contract situation in the nation’s capital.
Rangers have what everyone wants: Young, promising goalies
When you think about the New York Rangers’ most eligible trade pieces, Chris Kreider‘s name tops the list. After the league’s most sought-after pending UFA, Taylor Hall, was dealt from the Devils to the Desert, all eyes shifted to Kreider as the next man in line who could provide a little offensive boost on the rental market. Only, all has felt a little quiet on that front as the Rangers continue to tip-toe the line between a playoff push and an early off-season. (New York Post reporter Larry Brooks believes the Rangers should lock Kreider up.)
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, there’s a new name being floated in New York: Alexandar Georgiev.
“There’s been a lot of talk about what they’re going to do,” Friedman said during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “The word is out now that the Rangers will at least listen on Georgiev.”
It’s not often teams are willing to give up young, talented netminders, but in the Rangers’ case it’s an area of depth for them. Georgiev, who is 11-9 on the season as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup with a goals-against average of 3.11 and a .911 save percentage, may be bumped by 24-year-old rookie Igor Shestyorkin on the depth chart and the fact that New York is currently carrying all three goalies raises a few questions about what they’re going to do.
“They’ve got a lot of good defence prospects coming and they obviously don’t need goalies so teams are under the impression that it won’t be cheap, it will cost you, and it will probably cost you a forward who’s either as young and either ready to play or close to it,” Friedman explained. “But they won’t listen to anything that doesn’t impress them beneath that.”
Sharks believe in their core, despite this season’s shortcomings
Look at the bottom of the standings and one team in particular stands out: The San Jose Sharks. Nothing has been going right for the team in teal — a club rich in elite rearguards but weak in the crease and unlucky in the injury department.
General manager Doug Wilson opted to make a coaching change last month, but don’t expect many other big moves for this roster.
“The Sharks have made it be known that they look at this the way they looked at 2014-15, the last year they missed the playoffs. The following season, they went to the Stanley Cup Final — that’s their goal, to continue to contend for next year,” Friedman reported Saturday. “They don’t plan on removing any of their core.”
The Mercury News‘ Curtis Pashelka expanded on that in an article Monday, pointing out that not only did the Sharks’ non-contending roster in 2014-15 shed a few UFAs while keeping its core intact, the team also made a coaching change following the season and picked up key pieces that turned out to be integral parts of their Cup Final run the following year (Joel Ward, Paul Martin, Martin Jones).
So, in other words, look out for the Sharks in Spring 2021.
Maple Leafs interested in Dillon?
So, San Jose won’t break up its core, but they do have two pending UFAs that should garner plenty of interest at the deadline: defenceman Brenden Dillon and depth forward (and strong power play man) Melker Karlsson.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in Dillon — potentially even a team like Toronto kicking the tires there,” Friedman said.
Toronto’s blue line is in dire need of some help, considering all the ailments there — top rearguards Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin are both on long-term injured reserve.
Golden Knights looking for defence
Another team searching for defence? The Vegas Golden Knights.
The Athletic‘s Jesse Granger believes the club could make a blue line addition ahead of the deadline. He suggested some intriguing names like Rangers d-man Anthony DeAngelo, the Devils’ Sami Vatanen, Alec Martinez (Kings), or Dillon as names they could consider.
Wanted: Bad contracts
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston pointed out three teams that could put their abundance of cap space to good use this deadline: the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, and Colorado Avalanche.
Of this trio, it’s not altogether surprising that the Ducks are willing to take on a few bad deals — they fit the bill (sorry) considering their ability to clear up space by putting Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves on LTI and their status as rebuilders.
“The Ducks have let it be known that they’ve got cash and cap space. They are willing to listen to you if you want to use them to help you clean up your cap problem,” Friedman explained over the weekend. “However, it’s going to cost you good, young, assets.”
The Avalanche, however, stand out on that list. With about $15.4 million in current cap space and a whopping $31.5 million in projected deadline cap space (per CapFriendly), the Avalanche are in a very unique position as contenders with cap space to share. That’s a dangerous combination.