Here’s where we are after a wonderfully wild Wednesday on the NHL trade front:
Calgary outmuscled the likes of Los Angeles and Washington for Calle Järnkrok, a versatile forward option. The trade was modelled after previous Viktor Arvidsson (Nashville to the Kings) and Mattias Janmark (Chicago to Vegas) trades, for second- and third-round picks. (The seventh-rounder going to Seattle is for the salary retention.)
Järnkrok isn’t fast, but he’s smart and won’t have trouble fitting in on a chemistry-strong Calgary team.
Florida cleared cap room by moving Frank Vatrano to the Rangers, then acquired Ben Chiarot from Montreal for a first-round pick, prospect Ty Smilanic (taken 74th in 2020) and a fourth. Teams eyeing defencemen groaned at the return, knowing it will drive up asks for the likes of Hampus Lindholm and Mark Giordano. But Chiarot had a lot of interest (Carolina and St. Louis among the other chasers), and GM Bill Zito wanted him.
”When we looked at areas we thought we could help our team in, we thought this particular player checked a lot of boxes for us,” he told Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards.
San Jose removed one of the most highly coveted players from the market, extending Tomas Hertl for eight years at an $8.1375 million AAV. That will have a massive ripple effect on the NHL — impacting Filip Forsberg, Nazem Kadri, J.T. Miller and more.
Brian Bartlett represents Miller.
I’m afraid to write too much, because it changes so quickly. So let’s get to it.
1. Smilanic is a 2002 birth year. Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes and Martin St. Louis all have kids who played against him. They know his game and pushed the Panthers for him.
2. I don’t believe this changes the calculus on Claude Giroux. Colorado is interested, but there’s a preference for the Panthers, although it doesn’t look like anything is close. Thursday will be his 1,000-game celebration and then we really get down to business. (Great idea to do it early; that doesn’t normally occur.) Philadelphia hasn’t been impressed so far with what’s on the table, but, again, everyone had to get past the milestone. Giroux controls this process, the Flyers have to work with where he’s willing to go.
3. Still in the market for a left-shot defender: Boston, Carolina, Los Angeles, Rangers, St. Louis and Toronto.
4. Toronto GM Kyle Dubas continues to indicate he does not want to trade his top prospects for a rental. And, he does not want to move the team’s first-round draft choice for the third time in four years. We’ll see how the Chiarot deal adjusts the market. I believe Lindholm is the Maple Leafs’ top target, although they’ve also taken long looks at Giordano, Philadelphia’s Justin Braun, Dallas’s John Klingberg and San Jose’s Jacob Middleton. Travis Dermott and Justin Holl have been on the market for months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dermott is given a fresh start, regardless of what else happens in the next few days.
5. Completely insane Toronto prediction: Zdeno Chara. The Maple Leafs like veterans with great attitudes. Wayne Simmonds. Jason Spezza. Joe Thornton. Ron Hainsey. Obviously, Chara would have to want to do it. The Maple Leafs wouldn’t mind some blueline meanness. He’d qualify.
6. Toronto is also looking at fourth-line changes. They were committed to getting Simmonds to 1,000 games and, as a long-time Spezza fan, I’d love to see him get the 10 points he needs for 1,000. But they’ve quietly looked into bolstering that trio. They’ve talked to Vancouver about Tyler Motte. As per Irfaan Gaffar, Tampa Bay’s been on Motte, too. Prospects Nick Abruzzese and Matthew Knies are possibilities after their NCAA seasons are over.
7. Finally, on goaltending: Erik Källgren — Swedish for “saviour”? — brought Toronto stability on Tuesday night against Dallas. Edmonton and Minnesota have looked at the goalie market and decided against it, feeling the acquisition cost is too high for the potential solution. There are also teams that feel plugging in a goalie this late in the season is too risky. In Edmonton’s case, GM Ken Holland felt it didn’t make sense as the Oilers slipped toward the playoff cutline. You’re not, he said, going to trade your best picks or prospects if not good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup. I wondered if Toronto would feel the same way as Boston closed in, but the Maple Leafs are far from conceding, even though some private models are less kind to their overall defensive play than public ones. The win over Dallas tied them for fifth in the NHL with a .675 points percentage, and they believe that is a true representation of who they are. They also have a potential option Edmonton didn’t — Marc-Andre Fleury. If the Maple Leafs go down that road, it’ll come down to whether or not Fleury thinks he can win there. A number of you tweeted at me about the possibility of John Gibson … I don’t think so.
8. Dubas has one piece of information the rest of us don’t: true intel on Jack Campbell’s health. A rib injury is not a small thing. If you’ve suffered one, you can barely sit in an office chair, never mind try the splits on a Nikita Kucherov breakaway. Word is everyone’s operating under the belief Campbell will make a healthy return.
9. In the aftermath of the Rasmus Ristolainen extension with the Flyers, there were a lot of Travis Sanheim rumours. A couple of sources warned to be careful. Sanheim’s played with Ristolainen, so it makes sense for Philadelphia to try to keep them together. Then, there’s Ivan Provorov, a tremendous talent who’s really struggled and was taken off the power play. I’m not expecting Philadelphia to rush into anything, but the Flyers are thinking hard about what the next move is with him. Ristolainen was on the market, then the Flyers did an about-face and got a contract done.
10. Vegas, reeling to 10th in the West via points percentage, is back home after a five-game, zero-point road trip where Peter DeBoer’s frustration with goaltending boiled over after Tuesday’s 7-3 loss in Winnipeg. They’re going to get updated timelines on all injuries, and make their decisions. Most important update is Robin Lehner’s, no question.
11. Now that Colorado is muscling up — with the flexibility for more — watch St. Louis. Recent struggles aside, the Blues have indicated they feel they’re good enough to win. The Central Division playoffs are going to be nasty, and GM Doug Armstrong’s been mulling a few options. He’s not afraid to be aggressive and has tried to move out money. They’ve intensely examined the rental defence idea (they liked Chiarot) or the more permanent fixture (the now-injured Jakob Chychrun). Again, I’m not yet sure how to read Provorov’s future, but Armstrong’s history is to prefer term over rental. I’d be surprised if the Blues were quiet.
12. Not much movement between Ottawa and Nick Paul. Big question here is how close everyone is willing to get to $3 million per year.
13. One executive was talking about Vancouver and Winnipeg. He said he didn’t envy those teams making hockey decisions with the financial losses they’ve suffered from lack of crowds. They’ve worked their way into playoff contention, although the math isn’t on their side. In a lot of years, you might punt, but with everything that’s gone on the last two years, a playoff race and a postseason round is incredibly enticing. The Jets’ biggest decisions will likely come this summer, with Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny pressing in the moment. Copp’s got a lot of interest, in particular. Colorado for sure. Boston loves versatile forwards, and he is one.
14. The Canucks don’t have to rush (other than Motte) and seem prepared to wait until the summer unless either someone forces them to reconsider or a player they covet drops on their lap. One example would be Pittsburgh defenceman John Marino, but, as mentioned last weekend, it’s a difficult match. For one thing, the Penguins like their vibe and aren’t inclined to tinker too much with it. For another, with several tricky negotiations to come, they don’t want more. Los Angeles and Boston have checked in for some scoring, just not sure if it happens right now. Don’t see J.T. Miller going anywhere at this time; see that as a postseason conversation, including what it would take to re-sign him.
15. Also wondered if the return for Chiarot would increase Luke Schenn’s value. Good player, locked in for next year at a good number.
16. The Bruins have not forgotten how injuries on defence damaged their chances of beating the Islanders in the playoffs last year. It’s a priority.
17. The Rangers have shown interest in Dallas’s Alexander Radulov.
18. Jeff Marek linked Columbus’s Dean Kukan to Edmonton, but doesn’t think it will happen. That kind of player makes sense for the Oilers. They could always surprise us, but we’re not expecting a blockbuster.
19. Someone who might be on Washington’s radar: Columbus’ Max Domi. (Marek added Boston and Colorado could be also, which fits, too.) Although Vitek Vanecek has played very well, the Capitals continue to monitor the goaltending market. They needed a strong week — five out of six points in Canada, a win over the Islanders — to convince management they righted the ship. I could see a situation where Fleury wants to finish his career in Pittsburgh, another reason he’d be leery about joining the Capitals.
20. Arizona and Chychrun received good news, that his injury doesn’t appear long-term. It’s a unique situation. This kind of mishap so close to the deadline normally would terrify teams, but some non-playoff clubs (Anaheim and Columbus, for example) have been around this. If you’re a contender, and you like him, you’re going to be worried about losing out if unwilling to make the move now.
21. Two teams that make a lot of sense for Minnesota and Jack McBain: Arizona and Montreal. The Wild are looking for a second-rounder. The Coyotes have five. The Canadiens have one this year, but three thirds. The Wild are also looking for a defender with beef. I’d heard they had interest in Christian Dvorak, but that was dated. They like the player, but can’t fit him now.
22. Montreal’s also looked at Pavel Zacha.
23. Teams earlier this year thought for sure Hertl was going to be traded. But acting GM Joe Will made it very clear over the past few weeks he never considered anything but re-signing the centre. Hertl told reporters, “My heart was always with the Sharks,” but he needed to be convinced the team was going to try to win. “This is a commitment to winning now, to pushing forward,” Will said. One thing I’ve always remembered about San Jose: Doug Wilson said that in 2002-03, a year they missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, ticket sales dropped. The franchise was always skittish about rebuilds after that. And a lot of teams are nervous about it coming out of COVID-19.
24. Hertl said that, before the media conference announcing his signing, he went to an escape room in Los Angeles. This only makes him more impressive. I love them and haven’t gone in two years. Several birthdays ago, my wife took me and some friends to one, and I acted like a massive baby because we didn’t get out in the allotted hour. Can’t wait to go back.
25. Negotiations continue with Nashville and Filip Forsberg on an extension. As I write this, don’t have the sense anything is close — but there’s definitely a feeling the desire is to get it done.
27. Before extending Pavel Francouz, Colorado checked out the goalie market. Don’t imagine it was a coincidence Semyon Varlamov started against them last week in New York. Francouz’s extension appears to end that. The Avalanche aren’t done on or off the ice. They have inquired about Patrick Kane (don’t think so), Giroux and Copp (we will see), among others. Assistant GM Chris MacFarland not interviewing for openings in Anaheim or Chicago indicates there is an internal plan for him, too.
28. A couple of sources suggested they don’t believe Varlamov will go anywhere. We will see. Not that I’m expecting any info from GM Lou Lamoriello, but I’ve heard Cal Clutterbuck’s name quite a bit, too.
29. Last weekend’s Hamilton outdoor game was the right place at the right time. As Ontario reopens, you could tell how much people loved being with other sports fans for a fun afternoon. The teams particularly enjoyed the family skate. There was a kid in a Dylan Cozens jersey who could really fire the puck. Right-hand shot, which is always a bonus.
30. Nice touch by the NHL to invite the OHL’s lone Ukranian player, Barrie’s Artur Cholach, to the ceremonial puck drop. The league asked if he was interested six days before the event, and, upon accepting, Cholach requested in return was that his arrival not be publicized in advance. So it was kept under wraps. He wore a Ukrainian national team jersey underneath his Colts’ sweater, revealing it after his introduction. Cholach was allowed to bring a friend, and asked teammate/Los Angeles draftee Brandt Clarke.
31. No Heritage Classic next season. Then, 2023-24 is the 20th anniversary of the one that started it all: Edmonton. Barring a surprise, that’s where we are headed. The Alberta capital was on the radar pre-COVID, too.
32. Needed a strong closing this week, so thank you to the Instagram feed “circleofidiots.” Ending your essay with “in conclusion” is “bland, overused, predictable.” However, ending it with “and them’s the facts” is “compelling, unexpected, confirms that those are indeed the facts.” And them’s the facts, everyone.