The Islanders host the Flyers on Wednesday, and you sure have to wonder if steady Travis Hamonic will be on the Long Island/Brooklyn blue-line for that one.
Two losses in two games since Hamonic’s request to be moved to the Western Conference became public won’t exactly force GM Garth Snow’s hand on their own. But keeping the unhappy Hamonic around for much longer seems awkward for one and all, even if it seems somewhat unclear where he wants to go, and for what reason.
Originally, it seemed that Hamonic preferred Winnipeg if at all possible, and if not, Edmonton or Calgary. Perhaps Minnesota. A few teams — Detroit, L.A. — called to investigate and were told flatly there was "no fit."
But then there’s Anaheim. GM Bob Murray has been poking around the Hamonic situation for months — some GMs seemed to know more of his impending availability than others — and there are those who believe Hamonic would accept a move to the Ducks. With young defencemen like Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler on the roster, plus Shea Theodore in the organization, the Ducks would definitely seem to have the necessary pieces, with Snow looking for a young rearguard he can use now in exchange for the 25-year-old Hamonic.
Orange County, needless to say, is further from the Winnipeg area than Brooklyn. So how would that help Hamonic’s quest to be closer to family? Or could he be one of those Islander players rumoured to be thoroughly unhappy with the arrangement of living on Long Island and playing in Brooklyn?
Murray seems to be in the mood to try and fix his perplexing Ducks, a team that seems to have no chemistry these days and is suffering largely because its stars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, have one and five goals, respectively.
The Flames are certainly very, very interested in Hamonic, but won’t part with T.J. Brodie. Dougie Hamilton, erratic all season, is unlikely to be what the Isles want. Edmonton probably is disinclined to move Darnell Nurse, and there’s speculation of a Justin Schultz/Jordan Eberle package. Minny is an interesting one, with Jonas Brodin a coveted player, and Marco Scandella currently out with an injury after missing time to be with his ailing father.
Word on Sunday is this deal could be done Monday or Tuesday, although the fact it’s been dragging on for months already suggests Snow won’t budge until he gets what he wants.
On Sunday in a loss to Montreal, Hamonic played just over 22 minutes, less than only Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. He’s an important player for an Islander team that thinks it could be dangerous in the East, making this a very delicate deal for Snow to make.
One more thing on the Oilers and possible moves.
You have to wonder, with Edmonton again sitting dead last in the league, whether this isn’t the year the club finally looks to leverage a high first-round pick to improve the roster.
We’re not necessarily talking Hamonic here. But Edmonton’s pick in the 2016 draft would be coveted by many teams, some of which would have players between the ages of 24 and 28 who could help now. It’s one thing to have a youth movement, but all those first overall picks — Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Connor McDavid — haven’t budged the Oilers from the bottom rungs of the NHL.
GM Peter Chiarelli added some free agents in the summer, but that hasn’t helped, and, of course, McDavid’s injury has hurt. This year, you have to believe, either one of those former first overall picks gets dealt, or next summer’s first rounder.
That’s unprecedented in the cap era where locking up young stars has become standard operating procedure.
Of course, all of this threesome aren’t all that young any more. Staal is 31 and Kopitar is 28. Stamkos is still only 25, heading into his prime.
All three situations are slightly different. Staal ($8.25 million cap hit, ninth highest in the league) is struggling along with four goals and eight assists in 20 games. Carolina is for sale, and the Staal camp is expecting to hear at the end of this month whether the Hurricanes want to even try to negotiate a new contract with him. Same goes for veteran goalie Cam Ward.
Kopitar ($6.8 million cap hit) is having a horrible season, although two goals against Carolina on Sunday night in a losing cause helped his stats. He now has seven goals and three assists in 20 games. This deal was supposed to get done, and probably will get done, but with that kind of production you do wonder if the Kings are re-thinking the investment.
Stamkos ($7.5 million hit) has 11 goals in 22 games, about his usual pace. There’s no indications any talks are ongoing, and the issue there may be the Bolts have many other contractual decisions coming in the next couple of years.
These are three players among the top 35 highest paid in the league, and all are unsigned as they head to unrestricted free agency. Strange.
Having just survived the absence of star goalie Carey Price with a 5-2-2 record over his nine-game absence, the Canadiens now face an injury challenge of a different, and much longer, kind with the loss of 23-year-old winger Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher suffered two badly broken fingers Sunday night blocking a Boychuk blast and will require surgery. There’s no return date.
On the surface, it would be easy to say that if the Habs can play so well without their superstar goalie, moving forward without Gallagher should be much less of a challenge. That’s probably true, although Gallagher supplies this team with so much energy and emotion, commodities often hard to find for the best of teams as we head towards the dog days of winter, that it will be interesting to see how Montreal responds.
With nine goals and 10 assists, Gallagher was also headed towards a career season.
There are more than a few hockey people out there wondering if Patrick Marleau won’t be traded this season, and even might rescind his trade request.
Offended by not being given an "A" to wear this season, Marleau indicated to GM Doug Wilson he’d like to be moved and gave three teams to which he’d approve a trade. Interestingly, he’s started playing better with six points in five games, and the Sharks just swept a six-game road trip, finishing off with a win Sunday night in Columbus.
It’s a hard deal to make because of Marleau’s contract, and with few teams having the cap space to accommodate him. Maybe, just maybe, he ends up staying put.
Also, it was mentioned here last week that 37-year-old winger Dainius Zubrus had joined the Sharks on a PTO. He’s expected to sign a two-way contract Monday or Tuesday.
There’s been so much talk of elite players unable to score this season — Sidney Crosby’s three goals and 11 points in 20 games usually leads the conversation — that not enough attention is being paid to what Patrick Kane is doing.
Unshaken by rape allegations in September that have since been resolved, Kane is the NHL’s leading scorer with 32 points in 21 games, a 125-point pace. When you consider Jamie Benn led the league with 87 points last year, these are extraordinary numbers.
At the age of 19, Toronto Marlies forward William Nylander leads the AHL in scoring with 10 goals and 13 assists in 17 games. He’s going to see some NHL action this season, it’s just a question of when. Right now, he’s leading the streaking Marlies, 9-0-1 in their last 10 under rookie head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Nylander’s younger brother, Alexander, is seventh in OHL scoring with 36 points in 23 games, and is rapidly moving up the charts as a prospect for the 2016 NHL draft.
There are two other brother combinations to keep an eye on in the future.
Matthew Tkachuk, son of Keith, is leading the high-powered London Knights in scoring and is expected to go in the top five next June. His younger brother, Brady, is starring with the U.S. National Team Development Program now located in Plymouth, Michigan. The younger Tkachuk is committed to Boston University just as Matthew was once committed to Notre Dame, and just as Matthew chose to go to London after being drafted into the OHL, so do the Knights hold the major junior rights to Brady and will undoubtedly be trying to convince him to come to the CHL next year.
Detroit Red Wings first-rounder Evgeny Svechnikov, meanwhile, has a younger brother, Andrei, who already has the scouts raving. No word on whether he will follow his brother to the CHL, where Evgeny is currently skating for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.