Going to make it easy this week: 32 Thoughts, 32 teams. In order of points percentage.
Read it before everything changes.
1. Boston Bruins: It’s been a week since Columbus pulled Vladislav Gavrikov from the lineup; everything points to Massachusetts as the landing spot. (And we’re not talking about playing offensive tackle for the Patriots.) It’s believed the Bruins needed another move to make everything work (Mike Reilly? Craig Smith?) and, to this point, the Blue Jackets remain patient.
The biggest question here is, “What else do they do, if anything?” Boston’s got a special chemistry, and the organization balances that with the knowledge this is a go-for-it year. I believe the Bruins had interest in Bo Horvat, but that’s gone now. The cost for Gavrikov will tell us what opportunities remain. They’ve been linked to Ivan Barbashev and Luke Schenn. A few teams have wondered if they’re in on Timo Meier. That might be opponent paranoia, but if it’s this much of a squeeze for Gavrikov — I’d be curious how they could fit the winger.
2. Carolina Hurricanes: First of all, last weekend was a massive win for the organization. Never mind the NHL outdoor game, but also the North Carolina-North Carolina State matchup drew 25,000. (They are club teams at the university level.)
The Hurricanes have a consistent philosophy: do not overpay for rentals. With oodles of cap space this year and next, the Hurricanes potentially could get Meier, qualify him at $10 million for 2023-24 and see where things go. If they don’t win this showcase showdown, they’ll look for term or a less-expensive rental. (They’ve monitored Patrick Kane’s future, lurking until the Future Hall of Famer makes a decision.)
I believe they’ve spoken to the Bruins about Smith, as Boston might incentivize Carolina to do it. They are in the market for a depth defender, too. Before Max Pacioretty’s injury, there were extension conversations, so we will see where that stands. One Hurricanes prospect who’s been discussed is Jack Drury.
3. New Jersey Devils: Until St. Louis loaded-up on first-rounders, New Jersey was the consensus pick for Meier. And the Devils still might be the choice. It’s so crazy around them that when Alexander Holtz left Monday’s AHL Utica game in Toronto, I had a bunch of DMs from Devils fans asking if he was traded. (Holtz was hurt, unfortunately.)
New Jersey wants Meier with an extension (or close to it). The Devils are viewed as smallish up front, but, even if they added size, it’s got to be size with skill. Does Nino Niederreiter make any sense? Damon Severson’s name has been out there, but one executive said he believes that’s a targeted move as it makes zero sense for New Jersey to deal him unless there’s a suitable replacement. Devils are trying to win here.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs: GM Kyle Dubas added Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari without removing anyone from his roster, and made it clear he’ll see how things develop before deciding to do anything else. The Leafs tried to sign Acciari last summer, but ran out of room after inking Calle Jarnkrok. Dubas added that Matt Murray is expected to be back next week, and has indicated he won’t trade for another goalie unless the acquisition cost plus the return is appreciably better than what he’s already got in-house.
Defence? Toronto isn’t left with much draft capital, so it’s either someone you can get for a late-round pick or a current defender goes in return. Radko Gudas and Scott Mayfield are two I’ve thought about, but their teams are in the race. Luke Schenn being held out indicates he’s priced out of their range. Generally though, teams believe there is a surplus of rental defence options and are betting costs soften.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning: They have one pick in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. There isn’t a ton of prospect capital. Tampa does not trade anyone who they think they need to win a Stanley Cup, doing their major surgery in the summer. Other teams think they like Barbashev, but will probably be outbid. A Garnet Hathaway or a Sam Lafferty type make sense here, along with a depth defender.
6. New York Rangers: A lot of their heavy lifting is done. Word was they wanted one more forward, and Tyler Motte arrived on Sunday. I don’t know. I think GM Chris Drury likes the attention focused elsewhere. Would I say it’s likely? No. But, like with Toronto, it’s silly to assume they wouldn’t consider anything.
7. Vegas Golden Knights: Big, big wild card. The Knights made it clear Mark Stone will not be back in the regular season, but expect Logan Thompson before the playoffs. They have looked into Meier. The future could be tricky — the offseason cap would be a problem — but, if they wished, they could do it now and worry about the next season in the summer. They liked Acciari (now off the board) and Barbashev, who is still available.
The Golden Knights have a full defence corps, but when I heard St. Louis would consider moving Torey Krug — I wondered if there’s any chance this is a fit. Krug’s got a history with coach Bruce Cassidy from their Boston days, and Vegas might like a one-timer option on a middle-of-the-pack power play. Krug’s got four years remaining, which complicates things, and a no-trade, but who wouldn’t want to play here?
8. Dallas Stars: The Stars are looking for a scorer to play with Tyler Seguin. They considered Patrick Kane, backed away, and now we’ll see what Kane decides. They considered Tyler Bertuzzi, but he’s unavailable. Who does that leave? Barbashev? James van Riemsdyk? Someone else? I’ve wondered about defensive depth, too.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Potentially fascinating. Elite goaltender. Good talent, some holes. Bill Parcells says, “You are what your record says you are,” and the Jets are a playoff team in the wide-open wild west. Attendance was a little soft at the beginning of the season, and now that they’re in the race, why not further energize your fanbase?
However, the Jets like certainty, and they are headed into a period of uncertainty. Pierre-Luc Dubois (arbitration-eligible), Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have one more season of team control. If they thought they could sign Meier, I think they’d be all over him. Colleague Ken Wiebe mentioned Colton Parayko’s name, and that makes a lot of sense — if Parayko’s willing to consider it. Schenn makes sense as a non-first-round-pick rental, but when it comes to the Jets, I always look for term.
10. Seattle Kraken: GM Ron Francis has one of the most unique trade portfolios of any manager. He almost never makes a player-for-player deal. One was last season — Marcus Johansson for Daniel Strong (and picks), but that’s a rarity. Thirtieth overall in faceoffs, the Kraken continue a lengthy search for a centre. Nico Sturm (57.3 per cent on draws) has two more years at a manageable $2 million AAV. Lars Eller (54.3) and Max Domi (54.8) are unrestricted.
Carson Soucy missed Monday’s game against San Jose as he was knicked up, and the Kraken are prepared to trade him rather than lose him for nothing. I can’t imagine, though, Seattle wouldn’t want some kind of replacement. A playoff berth in Year 2 would be a huge victory for the organization.
11. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are looking for a left-shot defender with term. They’ve definitely pitched Jakob Chychrun, and another player who makes sense for them is Jake McCabe. They poked around Gavrikov, but doesn’t sound like there was a contractual fit. The other question is what they’re thinking in goal. At times, it’s sounded like they may wait until summer to address the long-term fit. I believe they’re going to consider Thatcher Demko, but that may not be possible before the deadline.
12. Colorado Avalanche: Colorado’s best addition will be good health. Gabriel Landeskog is back skating and Cale Makar should be treated very carefully, as he’s in concussion protocol. Erik Johnson appears to be out a while, unfortunately. The Avalanche kept their first-rounders, but are barren of second- and third-rounders the next two years. That limits their purchasing power and ability to ask teams to retain money. Second-line centre is glaring, but for what in exchange? They aren’t going to move someone like Alex Newhook for a rental. I thought the defensive injuries might bring them in on Luke Schenn, but I’m told that is not so.
13. Edmonton Oilers: The latest word on the Erik Karlsson talks is it’s “one-in-a-million.” (Of course that means it happens.) I do think they’ve made a pitch for Patrick Kane, but it’s up to the winger to decide. We’re all wondering if that’s the best use of their assets, and what I’m guessing is they want the option to have a strong second line if they play Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together. Kane/Nugent-Hopkins/Kane could work.
One thing GM Ken Holland wanted to protect himself against was being shorthanded due to injury, which is why he didn’t waive anyone. Now, Dylan Holloway is out and Evander Kane is banged up. Holland drafted Tyler Bertuzzi, so I think there was interest there, too, but it’s not relevant with Detroit in the race. If Patrick Kane says no to Edmonton, we will see what secondary options exist. They already declined a big ask for Lafferty. Do Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais make them feel strong enough not to add on defence?
14. Minnesota Wild: The Wild have a few things swirling around. Adding term is almost impossible, and they won’t do it unless we’re talking a game-changer of a player. Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway are out there, and GM Bill Guerin is very aggressive. When they were hot early in the season, I thought for sure Guerin would go hard after the best offensive player he could find. Now I’m not so certain, unless Patrick Kane picks them. You know who could make sense here? Someone like Conor Sheary.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins are in a tough spot. Their math is not bad, but three straight games without a point reduced the margin for error. (I’m still shocked they didn’t tie Monday’s game against New York. They were all over the Islanders.) Missing the playoffs is not an option, but mortgaging the future is not what they should be doing. A high pick for a rental doesn’t seem smart. If there was an obvious path, they’d have done it already.
Figuring out scenarios in my head, I’ve thought maybe they should consider selling, then adding. Do you test the market on a Brian Dumoulin or a Tristan Jarry or a Jason Zucker (15 goals and competing hard every game I see) and find out if that gives you more flexibility to add something useful?
16. Detroit Red Wings: No one had more killer instinct as a player than GM Steve Yzerman, and his team showed that personality in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Washington. They lost Dylan Larkin 13 minutes in and held strong without the captain in a huge game.
Bertuzzi is not on the market at this time, and neither is Larkin. Several years ago on the CBC version of Hockey Night in Canada, we did a story on whether or not Detroit was still Hockeytown. Mike Babcock’s quotes were incredible, but the interview to remember was Christopher Ilitch’s. At the time the Red Wings were still in the West, and Ilitch talked about how much that hurt their efforts to acquire young fans. So, without a playoff berth since 2016 and in a brand-new building, I understand why they are going for it, even if it means a seventh- or eighth-place finish in a brutal conference. It’s time.
Jakub Vrana’s return is another lesson: don’t believe in absolutes. Things change. A month ago, I’d heard the rumours he’d never play for the Wings again. There he was on Tuesday night. Hope he’s good, on the right path.
17. Calgary Flames: The Flames held a team meeting last weekend, following a tumultuous 36 hours when they lost to Detroit and player agent Allan Walsh criticized the “negativity” around the team. The message was simple: Ignore the noise and concentrate on the task. As tough as everything’s been, there were 27 games remaining and two points between them and the playoffs. For one night, it appeared the tweet and the meeting had the desired effect, as Calgary beat the Rangers in a great game.
The Flames wake up Wednesday four points behind Minnesota. Someone pointed out they have an easy schedule to finish the season, but it’s kind of warped because the West is weaker than the East. So, all the Western teams technically have easier schedules. They do have 10 games against Anaheim, Arizona, Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver.
They looked into Schenn, but the price looks like it went higher than they want to pay. They’ve kicked tires on Boeser. Depending on where this goes, this could be a huge offseason as six key players enter their last years before becoming UFAs in 2024.
18. Buffalo Sabres: Tuesday’s home loss to Toronto was as ugly as it gets, but it’s only one night. The Sabres have good math, but GM Kevyn Adams is on-record as refusing to budge from the process. While I agree that’s correct, I think — like Detroit — you also have to reward your players and fans. This is the Al MacInnis question (because someone joked it’s his job to ask this in St. Louis): “How does this play in the room?”
Adams listens to his veterans — according to a couple of sources, he listened this year when they asked him to keep three goalies on the NHL roster because they thought it best for the team. If I’m the Sabres, I’m trying to do something, even if it’s small. There’s good value out there, and anything you can bring to your room helps.
19. Nashville Predators: Hate to hear this, but Ryan Johansen needs surgery for the foot injury he suffered during Tuesday’s win over Vancouver. That’s a big loss. Tanner Jeannot would be a huge add for just about any team, but word is Nashville’s begun talking with him on a long-term extension, so I wouldn’t bet on a move. Otherwise GM David Poile is listening, and open to your ideas. You know who isn’t going anywhere, and it would take a strong package to pry Mattias Ekholm out of Tennessee.
20. New York Islanders: One executive referred to them as the AHLslanders after their huge win over Pittsburgh on Monday. What a crazy few days. They nearly get booed off the ice before a stirring home comeback over the Penguins, get clobbered by the Bruins, then beat the Penguins a second time with a depleted lineup. They’ve already made their major move, although it’s folly to guess what GM Lou Lamoriello’s up to. Their math isn’t great. If they were out, teams would be making a run at Scott Mayfield, but they’re close enough that it seems unlikely. Lamoriello historically doesn’t add rentals unless he thinks his team can win.
21. Florida Panthers: They’ve climbed back into the race after an awful start, although the math isn’t great. GM Bill Zito once said he’s of the school that if you get in, anyone can win. So, I see the Panthers through that lens. Anthony Duclair could return as soon as Friday, which would be terrific. He brings them speed. It sounds like an extension for Gudas will be a challenge. He’s like Mayfield, a hard player teams would love for the postseason, but if they are in the race, do they move him? I’ve heard Sam Reinhart’s name, but not sure about the timing. And Sergei Bobrovsky has started seven of eight since All-Star. He’s the guy in goal for now.
22. Washington Capitals: Even before Tuesday’s loss to Detroit, GM Brian MacLellan signaled he was open to ideas. He’s willing to discuss his unrestricted free agents. The team and Dmitry Orlov are not close, particularly on term. Hathaway will be an interesting one. He’s not the fastest, but good for the grinding games of the post-season. Sheary, Johansson, Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson — there are some nice pieces. Anthony Mantha was injured against Detroit, clouding his future. The Capitals are ready to subscribe to your newsletter. They’ll have flexibility this summer, and are prepared to use it.
23. Ottawa Senators: I don’t understand why anyone would be surprised the Senators say they’re still in it. They want their young players to go hard the rest of the season. They want their fans to keep showing up. They’re six points out with four games in hand; not insurmountable. The bigger problem is leapfrogging four teams in between. Not easy in the day of the loser point. I do think they’re working on a defenceman. With the injuries in goal, and the desire to stay in the race, it’s something they’re trying to do. As mentioned earlier this year, if there’s a blue-liner available, Ottawa’s asked about them. Cam Talbot is back, too.
24. St. Louis Blues: They’ve got three first-rounders. If they move Barbashev and a defenceman, they could have more assets. They are in on Meier. And, they could also look at Chychrun, who they’ve sniffed around before. St. Louis doesn’t believe in long rebuilds. If not Meier, what if Alex DeBrincat doesn’t sign in Ottawa? GM Doug Armstrong is decisive, whether you like those decisions or not. The defencemen with term have no-trade clauses, so some control over where they go. Something to watch for in the summer: Does Ryan O’Reilly return?
25. Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Sanheim was benched in Calgary. Joel Farabee (3:52 vs. the Flames) could have gotten that treatment in Edmonton if Travis Konecny wasn’t hurt. This is coach John Tortorella’s team, and he is shaping it as he sees fit. Even if healthy, it was extremely unlikely Konecny was going anywhere. Van Riemsdyk’s a scoring option for a few teams, Kevin Hayes is available and I wouldn’t be surprised if Felix Sandstrom is waived to see if anyone gives him a shot. (Trade talks have not been fruitful.) The Flyers are looking for centres. Very hard to find.
26. Montreal Canadiens: With Joel Edmundson and Sean Monahan injured, two of Montreal’s biggest trade chips are out. Jeff Marek said this could be a quiet deadline for the Canadiens, and their absences make it likely. Yes, someone like Evgenii Dadonov could go for a later-round pick, but it’s hard to see too much else. A lot of their big moves were done last year. If the Rangers need to move salary and are willing to move prospects, I could see Jeff Gorton (who knows them well) interested. The Canadiens will also be very careful about leaving their young players without key veterans until the youth are ready to run the team on their own.
27. Vancouver Canucks: Luke Schenn was scheduled to return home, out of the lineup until dealt. As of Tuesday night, I’m not convinced the team is finalized, but I do think after a few quiet days, talks around him intensified to the point where there was a feeling it would happen. If Vancouver didn’t get at least a third, they weren’t going to do it.
They are working hard on Boeser too. I’ve had mixed messages on Washington, some sources saying there’s never been interest, some saying there has. Whatever the case, it’s complicated. It’s unlikely anything happens with J.T. Miller, but I think teams wanted to see what the Canucks might be willing to do. If there’s a group of players who can’t wait for this to end, it’s this group.
28. Arizona Coyotes: Chychrun returned to practice on Tuesday, and we’ll see where this goes. One executive predicted last weekend Chychrun doesn’t get traded at all, which is a bad outcome for everyone involved. I don’t think Boston is doing it, because they’ve got future cap issues. So, that leaves Columbus, Los Angeles, St. Louis and anyone else I haven’t uncovered (Winnipeg?).
Is it as simple as GM Bill Armstrong sticking to his price? Is it that the Coyotes can’t add money? Is it that someone needs time? Hopefully, we find out soon. Shayne Gostisbehere is the other defender to watch. The Coyotes have some nice forwards, but in a tight cap world, it’s not easy to move them.
29. San Jose Sharks: Thank you, Daniel Negreanu, for the Twitter clarification on “slow-playing.” There’s no real book on Mike Grier yet, so we’re all learning together about how he’ll play the deadline. And, what we’re seeing is someone with the best player available taking his time. The entrance of the Blues allows Grier — if he wishes — to slow down things even further.
The Sharks want as many picks as possible so they can move throughout this year’s excellent draft and restock their prospect base, which they are said to be unhappy with in terms of overall depth. There’s a little bit of frustration with how long this has taken (one agent said he heard one of the contenders for Meier was going to hold out players, then changed their mind because it didn’t get as close as they hoped).
If Grier didn’t have the belle of the ball, he’d risk teams going elsewhere. But he does, so it’s a calculated gamble. Teams include Carolina, New Jersey, St. Louis, Vegas and Winnipeg. Another thing: Is there an extra cost for the Western teams? Do the Sharks prefer to send Meier east? As mentioned earlier, Karlsson to Edmonton appears unlikely — way too complicated now. There’s also Nick Bonino and James Reimer to look out for. Marek, by the way, wonders if the Sharks will consider reuniting Dante Fabbro with his NCAA coach, David Quinn.
30. Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane’s decision is due any day now. It sounds like it’s down to two options: First is pick a team (and it will likely be one team, which is why it’s taken this much time). Then, the Blackhawks can negotiate with that club for a Kane trade. Second is Kane taking longer-term care of his career. Instead of a trade now, he makes a decision for next season (and beyond), getting whatever treatment is necessary for his hip injury so he can be fully healthy for 2023-24.
I don’t want to handicap it, but it sounds like that’s where we are. Watching his last two games at home (which could be his final games at the Madhouse on Madison as a Blackhawk), I still don’t understand why returning for one more year isn’t an option. If Kane can’t stand the losing, that’s one thing. But there wasn’t a ton of entertainment in Chicago this season, and it’s hard to sell tickets under those circumstances. If Kane does go, they’ll make this work wherever he chooses. Otherwise, Chicago’s had big asks (Lafferty, McCabe). We will see how things play out.
31. Columbus Blue Jackets: We wait on Gavrikov. After that, we watch to see if Act II is indeed Chychrun. As I’ve written before, that’s a sell job for the Blue Jackets, but they don’t seem scared of it. They like his term and are willing to take the chance. Joonas Korpisalo and Gustav Nyquist are other targets. I’ve heard some love for Boone Jenner, but there’s not many who can handle his contract.
32. Anaheim Ducks: John Klingberg took a shot off his foot on Monday, but it doesn’t look long-term. Aside from the obvious UFAs, there are other Ducks to watch. That list includes Max Comtois. A year ago, it appeared he’d move. But after a season under the new regime, it’s time.
With 22-year-old Lukas Dostal ready for more netminding time, Anaheim will open room for him. They’d like to try now, instead of waiting for next season. Anthony Stolarz is more obvious than John Gibson, although I think Gibson and the Ducks would love to find a way to get him a new home. Then there’s Adam Henrique. There are teams who like him. The issue is, who can take him without asking the Ducks to retain, because Anaheim will demand a premium for that.