• Interest in Edmonton’s Broberg
• Why the Senators brought back Jacques Martin
• An optimistic outlook for the return of best-on-best international hockey
No one on Wednesday gave it a better effort than Justin Bourne and Nick Kypreos. With Brad Treliving on their show, they tried to get some William Nylander information out of the Toronto GM — but he swatted their attempts into the 15th row like prime Dikembe Mutombo.
Talks with Nylander have been on and off, with at least one face-to-face meeting with the winger’s representatives when the Maple Leafs played in Washington in October. There’s no need to panic, no bad news, but nothing to report on that subject, yet.
The reason Treliving made the media rounds on Wednesday was to announce that John Klingberg will miss the rest of the season. Another hole on the blue line. Timothy Liljegren (ankle) is skating again and Mark Giordano (finger) is out a few weeks. William Lagesson has done a very nice job playing a bigger role than expected.
But you can’t always dance with the date you brought and Treliving is looking to see what’s out there.
Toronto is a funny team. Before losing to Boston in a crazy overtime last Saturday, the Maple Leafs were 6-1-1 in their previous eight games. A couple of players were half-laughing, half-rolling their eyes at the perception of their group.
“Any other team with that record missing three defencemen would be praised for finding a way,” one said. “Here … ”
The doubt comes from their non-overtime/shootout record. Toronto owns five regulation wins, tied for last in the league with Chicago, Montreal and Seattle. In the 18-season salary cap era, no team even close to that has won the Stanley Cup. Only four teams out of the top 10 did it — 2009 Pittsburgh (12th), 2012 Los Angeles (tied for 13th), 2014 Los Angeles (tied for 11th) and 2019 St. Louis (tied for 14th). Ten of the 18 were in the top five (although only 2008 Detroit was first overall). Last season, Vegas was tied for seventh, with 38.
So, that’s the debate. What do you do here? Do you spend your best assets for rentals or do you take a more long-term view?
Treliving pointed out during his interview with Justin and Nick that Toronto has spent a lot of assets chasing the Stanley Cup the last few years. It wasn’t a criticism, simply a recognition of what the organization was trying to accomplish. Eventually, the well runs dry. That’s a hint. Toronto is trying to be careful, particularly for a rental.
“Would we like improve the defence? Absolutely,” Treliving said. “It all comes at a cost. There just isn’t a lot of high-end defencemen that people are dying to give you for low cost. Ultimately, what is the cost you’re going to have to pay for somebody to come in and make a significant difference?”
The word is Toronto prefers a right shot and some edge, or “snot,” as the GM said before the season. If it gets to the point where he feels he must add a body, he will do that for a lower price.
Calgary and Toronto considered a complicated deal for both Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov, which collapsed when the two sides could not agree on what the Maple Leafs would have to pay for salary retention. In addition to what Toronto needed to include to acquire the defenders themselves, there would be additional compensation to get Calgary to eat cash. Assuming the Flames keeping 50 per cent on both, the total would be around $3.1 million. That’s significant. (When I went into sports media, I was told there would be no math.)
From what I understand, Calgary drew a hard line on what it would take — as is the Flames’ right — and the Maple Leafs weren’t willing to go there.
Bourne asked Treliving about rumours the Flames don’t want to trade with their ex-GM, which Treliving pooh-poohed.
“I have a great relationship with the people in Calgary. They are not unlike any other team that you deal with,” Treliving replied, in the sense that they are trying to make the best deal for themselves.
I do think Toronto has taken a look at Philadelphia’s Rasmus Ristolainen, who has three seasons remaining on a five-year, $25.5-million contract. But, I don’t believe the Flyers are eager to give him away, and there’s no rush for them to do anything while their group is playing well. That’s not to say it couldn’t be something down the road, but when the team is competing hard, getting good results and generally doing what is being asked of them — why throw a stink bomb into your dressing room?
Another player I wondered about was San Jose’s Matt Benning, who considered an offer from Toronto in the summer of 2022. (Different GM, I know, but a lot of the same people are around.) San Jose beat the Maple Leafs on term, sending Benning westward. But he’s injured and not expected back anytime soon.
As a rental, Tanev is a bit of a different case. He’s a Toronto guy, and they’d probably be confident they can sign him. That’s what they are looking for: some control.
Right shot, some snot, term a lot.
1. Another possibility for Toronto (and everyone else) is Ethan Bear. There is word tonight that interested teams will now be allowed to watch him skate. He’s based in Kelowna, B.C., and a few are going to take him up on the offer. Vancouver would like to keep him — he’s interested in a return — but the Canucks are cap-tight and there are others who can try to outbid.
2. There may not be official permission for Philip Broberg to talk to other teams, but the word is out and there is interest. Edmonton may send him to AHL Bakersfield because it’s much better for a 22-year-old to play there than sit in the NHL.
I thought he may go down sooner to make room for Jack Campbell. The plan was to bring back Campbell after three strong starts, but the fourth one — a 6-4 win over Texas — didn’t go well, halting the idea. I still believe the Oilers will give Campbell another shot, as it’s better to try to solve your problem than pay whatever it will take to trade your problem (which would be significant), but it might not be until next week. Bakersfield backup Olivier Rodrigue, a good prospect, needs his playing time, too.
3. Steve Staios and Jacques Martin were well-prepared on Wednesday, making sure Martin’s return as senior advisor to the Senators would not pour gasoline on the fire. Both used the term “resource” to describe his role. Staios started the availability by saying of the coaching staff, “I watch them work their tail off every day to prepare our players.” Martin added, “I was telling the coaches earlier today, when I look at the team this year compared to last year, it’s not about wins and losses, it’s about commitment away from the puck. A lot of young players, when they come into the league, the focus is all on offence. They need time to realize that in order to win on a consistent basis, in order to win championships, you need to play the 200-foot game. What I’ve seen the last three games is really encouraging.”
He also relayed a Mike Sullivan quote from Pittsburgh: “You need some elite players to win a championship, but the team mentality has to be first.” Martin will be around full-time, but not on the bench. There’s a lot that fits here. First, he played a massive role in turning the organization from laughingstock to contender, and should be on the team’s Ring of Honour. It’s not a coincidence the return follows Daniel Alfredsson’s, either. He always praised Martin’s technical know-how.
4. Martin is 71, I can’t imagine he’s looking to be a day-to-day coach. It’s not connected to this, but when the Senators fired Guy Boucher in 2019, they considered him as a replacement. Marc Crawford finished the season.
5. Heard a great story about Senators coach D.J. Smith this week. While he was an older player at OHL Windsor, he was dressed for a pre-season game, but not needed to play much. A senior player on the opposition ran a couple of Spitfires’ rookies. Smith turned to the coach, and asked to be put out there. The problem quickly dissipated.
6. San Jose needed 10 games to score 16 goals at the start of the season, then scored 16 in its drive through New Jersey, New York and Long Island. GM Mike Grier let it be known he’s willing to consider many options with his defence. I was surprised to hear that included Mario Ferraro, a good young player under contract for two more years at $3.25 million. Apparently his underlying numbers aren’t great, but I’d be more than willing to take my chances.
7. A few execs said the same thing about Marc-Edouard Vlasic, less than a decade ago one of the NHL’s top defenders: “The fire is gone.” I used to love San Jose’s annual trip to Toronto, because Vlasic was a gold mine for quotes. He’d say things to the media like, “It’s about time you guys gave me some credit.” Seeing him healthy-scratched four games in a row is mind-boggling.
8. Nashville GM Barry Trotz was upset Tyson Barrie’s permission to talk to other teams got out. I certainly understand his disappointment, you want to keep your business private, but once those other clubs are notified, it’s hard to keep a lid on things. Too many people know, too many people are asked for their opinion.
9. A few Tweeters (Xers?) questioned my note that Buffalo trading for Eric Robinson “makes sense.” Here’s why: He was squeezed out in Columbus this season, but deserves more NHL run and the Blue Jackets certainly don’t want him making $1.6 million in the AHL. So, it makes sense for them to move him. He had 22 goals, 51 points the last two years and plays hard. The Sabres can use him and the price is hardly prohibitive. Listening to Jacques Martin talk about playing away from the puck made me think of Buffalo. They have so much talent, but you can see the missed coverages in the defensive zone. It’s a talented team with more to learn about what it takes to win.
10. Jeff Marek with a good note on Monday’s podcast, that the NHL asked Devon Levi to stop commercial-break meditation either in or in front of his crease. The league wants that area cleaned. Levi, a Star Wars fan, clearly was playing 4-D Dejarik (thank you, producer Dom Sramaty for this knowledge). During one of his AHL appearances last week, Levi was kneeling in a face-off dot.
11. One of the things I try to do at Board of Governors is take the temperature of the various owners. How do they feel about the overall state of the league? This time, there were fewer complaints than normal — except about the rain. Sure, there’s always grumbling about something, but most of the stress came from their team’s on-ice issues rather than the business.
One of the current challenges is cord-cutting and the collapse of once-lucrative regional sports television networks, but that seems to be, in their eyes, more of a speed bump than a massive tornado. (Some of the technologically-savvy organizations are excited about the possibilities.)
I’m always concerned about growth — is the sport getting to where it needs to go? — but the valuations for minority partnerships are a massive win. Forbes’ Mike Ozanian reported Wednesday that Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin is selling 10 per cent of his stake at a $1.75-billion valuation. The purchase price for Malkin and Jon Ledecky was $485 million. No wonder the feeling is zen.
12. The CBA between the NHL and NHLPA states next year’s salary cap should be $87.675 million, although $87.7 million was used at the meetings. Commissioner Gary Bettman predicted $6.2 billion in revenue, up almost 3.5 per cent from 2022-23. There’s some worry about the Canadian dollar, but if that growth stays consistent, we’re headed for some nice cap jumps now that the players’ debt from COVID is repaid. I understand the economics and the deals that were made by the league and union, but when the cap stays as flat as it did for as long as it did, it gives the appearance you are not growing, even if that’s not technically true.
13. I’m not as concerned about the construction delay for the 2026 Olympic ice hockey venue — yet — because I’ve seen this movie before. Before the 2004 Athens Summer Games, there were rumours the facilities would not be completed. Same with Sochi in 2014 and Rio in 2016. The NHL/NHLPA complained on a site visit about lack of work being done on the player residences for Sochi, only to see busloads of workers arriving to finish the job.
We’ll see if there’s any reason to change my opinion, but, behind closed doors, Bettman reiterated the players’ position on the Olympics — it is very important to them — and indicated the fans feel just as strongly. A few of the governors who left the meeting were chuckling about the construction issue, but didn’t think it was catastrophic. As deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, “I can’t say I’m pessimistic at all.”
14. I enjoyed the NBA in-season tournament quarterfinals. I was not alone, judging by the number of people who asked if the NHL would consider something similar. Bettman made a quick, but relevant point — if the league is going to do anything in-season outside the regular schedule, it is going to be a World Cup/Olympic combo. They will go best-on-best before anything else.
15. With that on the horizon, one more note I meant to include from our European chat with Canucks’ Elias Pettersson. We asked him: It’s the Olympic gold medal game. Sweden is down 3-2 to Canada with a minute left. The Swedes need a goal. We know he’s going on the ice. Let’s say your coach says, “Which five other Swedes do you want on the ice?” First name he says is Erik Karlsson.
“Oh, it’s tough,” he continues. “(Rasmus) Dahlin’s so good, too. Karlsson and Dahlin on the blue line. William Nylander. Gabriel Landeskog because he’s a bull.” Then he pauses and smiles. “It’s hard, it’s hard. I don’t like the tough decisions.” This is when he really starts to think, and you can see the wheels turning. I love these conversations, because they reveal hockey smarts, the way elite players think. He makes a switch. “Mika Zibanejad, Filip Forsberg and Nylander, because then I have three righties to pass to, so they can shoot.”
All right, let’s go next-level: There’s five seconds left. You’ve got one pass to make to tie the game. Who’s burying that shot? He smiles some more. “You’re putting me on the spot here, I thought this was going to be an easy interview,” he says, laughing. “I’ll say Zibanejad.” And he buries it? “Yeah, he’s got a hard shot.” Then, of course, Pettersson wins it for the Tre Kronor in overtime. “In a perfect world, that’s the dream. Bring home a gold for all of Sweden to share.”
16. Very excited about the draft at The Sphere in Vegas. In addition to the cost — definitely no “friends and family” discount from Sphere/New York Rangers owner James Dolan to the NHL — another worry was if the internal footprint would be enough for everyone who needs to be there. The centralized draft is going out in style, even if I still disagree with the decision.
Going to be interesting to see if some of the teams farther away decide to stay in Vegas, run free agency from there instead of rushing home. This could also mean a change to the awards ceremony. The last possible date of the Stanley Cup Final is June 25, three days before the draft. That’s a tight turnaround. The original plan was Los Angeles. During the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, the event was held on an off-night in Tampa. That’s an obvious solution, but there is brainstorming about trying something even more unique.
17. Apropos of nothing, the International Olympic Committee bestowed Salt Lake City with “preferred bidder” status for the 2034 Winter Games. Basically, it means the organizing committee enters exclusive talks with the IOC to close the deal. (The official decision will be made in July.) A successful Olympic bid means a new arena for hockey, which makes Utah an even more attractive (and likely) NHL destination.
18. Brad Marchand knows when the media is looking for something juicy, and almost always delivers. What I also like is when he just talks hockey; he’s got a great mind for the sport and is a terrific teacher. Fluto Shinzawa asked why he took the morning skate last weekend in Toronto. Marchand replied he wanted to try some new sticks. When Kyle Bukauskas asked a bit more about it, Boston’s captain explained he’d experimented with a longer stick and therefore a stiffer flex, and was going back to what he knew. “Too many people in my head,” he said, laughing.
Marchand then scored the winner against the Maple Leafs and followed with a natural hat trick 24 hours later versus Columbus. Marchand also discussed adjustments he had to make to fit the Bruins’ new system. Asked to explain further, he said, “No!” — with a big smile — and then told us that coach Jim Montgomery made a change to their breakouts. It used to be about reading and reacting to each other.
With all of the changes, Montgomery demands more structure, and Marchand joked that there are times he wants to do things the old way, but the coach prefers this method until there is more familiarity. Honestly, I wish there was more time to discuss this stuff with players and coaches. Maybe I’m just asking bad questions.
19. A couple different scouts said to watch Ryker Evans, just called up by Seattle. The first time he was eligible for the NHL Draft (2020), Evans was not picked. The Kraken took him 35th overall in 2021, and those scouts said there are teams admitting they whiffed on this one.
20. One day we are going to wake up and Seattle Stealth Master Ron Francis is going to pull off something big for a scorer. That’s what the Kraken need. Then again, so does everyone.
21. Two things I learned about Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena: it has some of the neatest, funkiest furniture in lounges that I’ve seen and its most popular food vendor sells dumplings. (There’s also a Shaq’s Chicken, which I’m told is quite good.) The furniture came from Rockwell Group, which also does the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas. The venue recently launched a scanner where customers can pay for items/activate tickets with their palms. That’s through an Amazon program. It’s a really unique and interesting arena.
22. Literally, a long route back to the NHL for Calgary’s Ilya Solovyov. Recalled when the Flames traded Nikita Zadorov to Vancouver, he was sitting on the AHL Wranglers’ flight to Vegas for a weekend against Henderson. They hadn’t taken off yet, but the door had been closed, so he had to fly with the team and then fly back. Really tough break if you don’t even get frequent-flier miles for that.
23. Zadorov said after his trade there never was a contract offer from the Flames. From what I understand, it was pretty clear Calgary and Zadorov had different opinions on term. The Flames were going to be careful and the player wanted length. It was a philosophical disagreement from the start.
24. Last week, Tanev didn’t miss a game after blocking a shot with his face, adding to his legend of wild injuries, pain tolerance and refusal to sit. “I hate when everyone talks about that stuff because there’s so many guys who play hurt,” he said during our 32 Thoughts podcast interview. “Sometimes the media (only) hears about certain guys, right?”
What injury hurt the most? “Probably when I got the puck to my mouth here in Toronto. I lost like seven teeth and all my gums up top. Sitting in a dentist chair for eight hours is my worst nightmare.” There’s more: “I sprained both my MCLs on the same play. I don’t know if anyone’s done that. Guys on the team were calling me Bambi. (Like) a newborn deer, I literally couldn’t walk, both my knees were hurt.”
He says the Sedins were among the toughest. “I think the twins did a lot of stuff that people don’t know about. As (Henrik) got a bit older, his back wasn’t great, he literally couldn’t walk sometimes. And he’s the best player on the ice. … How those guys conducted themselves was so awesome and professional. They didn’t want any attention at all.”
25. Tanev tells a great story about making his debut with Vancouver. “My first game was in Colorado and I think I was still a little, little skinny kid,” he said, laughing. “I took my shirt off and Keith Ballard was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to get killed.’ I think I was about 168, 170 pounds my first year.” (He’s now just under 200.)
Ballard did teach one life lesson that stayed with Tanev, however. “I don’t think I paid for a dinner in my first three years in the league. I’d always go out and (he’d) be like, ‘No, kid, I got it tonight. When you’re 30, you make sure you pay for the kids.’ That’s the stuff that I would always remember from those guys.”
How about his rookie dinner? Was that a big bill? “My rookie dinner sucked,” he answered. “It was in Minnesota, it was a Tuesday, so we went curling and then to dinner and then out. I’ve been to a lot of better ones than that.”
26. Finally, Chris was asked if he and Kraken brother Brandon have ever discussed playing together. “A little bit. A couple of years ago, I guess it almost happened. One of the GMs called me and it was like, ‘Hey, we might trade for your brother, do you care if you guys play together?’ I’m like, ‘We might get into some yelling matches. I would get mad at him on the bench, but no, it’d definitely be a cool experience to play together.’ But that’s the most we’ve talked about it.”
Did he tell Brandon about the conversation? “I told him a little bit later. I didn’t know what he would think. He’s the opposite of me. He doesn’t stop talking, he’s super fiery, and he’s not afraid to get into people’s faces, so he’s very much like my dad (Mike). Even my mom (Sophia) likes to talk a lot, and I’m sort of the polar opposite. He said he would be excited for it. He also wants to win, too. If there is a chance where we could both be on a good team and play together, that would be awesome.”
27. Also per Jeff Marek, the Professional Women’s Hockey League is experimenting at its camps with two-minute penalties being fully served, even if the team on the power play scores. Also, no icing allowed while on the penalty kill. That would juice scoring. I like it. I also like a power play ending if a team scores shorthanded, but that isn’t being tried.
28. Nice little moment: the celebration around Dylan Larkin right after he set up Jake Walman for the overtime winner last Saturday in Montreal. Someone wearing a “7”— can’t tell if it is Michael Rasmussen, JT Compher or David Perron (it isn’t Daniel Sprong, the camera shows him) makes a point of going to the captain, wrapping an arm around him. End of a tough week for the Larkin family. Small thing, but a big thing.
29. Last week, I had a note about Gordie Howe holding the NHL record for points in a season by a player aged 36 or older. (Howe had 103 at age 40 in 1968-69.) Colleague Eric Engels pointed out that, in 2013, 37-year-old Martin St. Louis won the scoring title with 60 points in 48 lockout-shortened games. That’s on pace for 102.5, a legit run at Howe’s record.
30. In what must be a one-in-200-billion scenario, two Washington goalie prospects were credited with goals on the same night. Last Friday, Antoine Keller of QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst and ECHL South Carolina’s Mitchell Gibson both benefitted from opposition “own goals.” Gibson’s goal came on a delayed penalty, as Savannah put it in its own net at 11:35 of the second period. Keller’s score was even weirder, as he iced the puck while shorthanded, only to have it end up in the net when the opposing goalie had a miscommunication with one of his defencemen. Anyone who bet that parlay doesn’t need to work anymore.
31. Meant to do it last week, but wanted to shout out linesman Tyson Baker, who dove to protect Dennis Gilbert’s head when the Calgary defenceman fell during a fight with Nashville’s Michael McCarron. Nothing makes me more nervous about fights than the falls. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
32. Finally, wanted to shout out Vince Dunn’s grandmother, Judy Paylor. Her goal is to see her grandson play in every NHL arena. She’s about one-third there. Dunn spoke with great pride about her, and I hope she has an awesome time on this journey.