• Why Brad Treliving got out in front of the trade deadline
• What Chicago's GM hire may say about Patrick Kane's future
• Sam Reinhart's second life in Florida
Jaromir Jagr turned 50 today. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. Not exactly a bold prediction, a total slam dunk.
Fun conversation: Should he be there now?
Jagr’s last NHL game was Dec, 31, 2017, playing 11:49 for Calgary in a 4-3 overtime win over Chicago. Four weeks later, he was put on waivers at his request. Once cleared, he joined Kladno, where his professional career began, in 1988-89. He bought the team from his father in 2011 and still plays for them.
When Jagr returned, they were a level below the Czech Extraliga, the country’s best tier. He’s got them there now, where Kladno’s trying to avoid relegation. He’s been injured and missed nine of their 44 games, but there’s no question his presence, will and desire to make a difference is impactful.
It’s meaningful to him, and another amazing accomplishment in a career full of them.
We’re taking about the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame. That matters. Jagr’s still going, not eligible for induction because he needs to be retired for three seasons. There’ve been exceptions, 10 greats inducted without the mandatory waiting period: Dit Clapper, Maurice Richard, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Terry Sawchuk, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
After Gretzky’s retirement and immediate induction, the Board of Directors eliminated the ability to waive that three-year wait. Every once in a while, the boundaries are tested.
In June 2015, Chris Pronger was named to the Hall even though he was still under contract to the Arizona Coyotes for two more years. Due to injury, Pronger had not played a game since Nov. 19, 2011. And he never returned.
“At times, there have been discussions (about unique cases),” Mike Gartner, chairman of the selection committee, said Tuesday. “That was one where we asked for clarification.”
There are two recent post-induction careers: Guy Lafleur was inducted in 1988, returning for 165 games from 1988-91; Mario Lemieux returning for 170 from 2000-06 after being inducted in 1997.
“What it comes down to is, do you want someone who is in the Hall of Fame playing hockey?” Gartner said, before indicating Jagr’s situation has at least been informally discussed.
“What if you’re like an owner-slash-marketing-guy carrying sticks and still going? You’re not really retired. It falls into the same category. You haven’t stopped playing pro hockey.”
Then, Gartner paused and laughed.
“So when Jaromir decides to retire at 65, we’ll look at him when he’s 68."
1. I really don’t like doing this, but it’s too juicy not to pursue. On a potential Marc-Andre Fleury/Vegas reunion, Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon: “No truth to it.”
2. One team to watch if and when Claude Giroux talks get serious: Florida. No guarantees, but it makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.
3. Philadelphia deployed operatives to watch both the Avalanche and the AHL Colorado Eagles last week. That signals Philadelphia’s priority isn’t necessarily a first-round draft pick, but a prospect who is ready to compete at the NHL level. It fits with what GM Chuck Fletcher and Comcast Spectacor Chairman and CEO Dave Scott said last month: the Flyers want to be right back in the thick of things next season. One player I could see Philly liking is not in either of those two places: defenceman Drew Helleson from NCAA Boston College, who was at the Olympics. He was taken 47th overall in 2019, a real nice pick by the Avalanche.
4. Giroux, by the way, ranks second in the NHL in faceoff percentage among righties. Patrice Bergeron is first (63.3 per cent), then Giroux (60.5). That hasn’t gone unnoticed. This is, of course, if you remove Filip Forsberg’s 1.000 number for winning his only attempt of the season. (Forsberg should refuse to take any more.)
5. The Tyler Toffoli trade/Ben Chiarot temporary injury got the trade juices flowing. On the Jeff Marek radio show, Calgary GM Brad Treliving said he’d tried to get the winger twice before: as a draft pick in 2010 (Treliving was in Phoenix at the time) and when Los Angeles made him available, eventually sending him to Vancouver.
At that draft, the Coyotes took Brandon Gormley 13th and Mark Visentin 27th. They had another pick at 52, but the Kings took Toffoli five selections earlier. Giroux is the best offensive player available, but that option wasn’t available to the Flames. Toffoli fits them very nicely -- two years more on his deal, friendship with Milan Lucic, knowledge of Darryl Sutter. When you’ve got a good hand in poker, you can milk it or drive people out of the game. Calgary chose option B. They’re in it to win it, that’s what you do.
6. As conversations intensified Sunday, there was a point where Calgary talked about both Toffoli and Chiarot. It seems likely the Canadiens can maximize return by trading them separately, but those discussions occurred. The injury shouldn’t scare anyone off, although it may accelerate things. Carolina, Florida, Los Angeles, St. Louis are among the pursuers.
7. Another reason Toffoli might be more valuable now? Is there any chance Dallas looks at Joe Pavelski, 38th in the NHL with 1.04 points per game, and says, “Why don’t we keep him?”
8. Washington’s looking for forwards. They’re going to be eying the Pacific Northwest. Several potential matches in Seattle and Vancouver.
9. When it comes to Toronto, I still think the question is if they can clear cap room. They’re trying to move Nick Ritchie, since there’s no path back to the NHL for him barring injury or until the cap disappears in the playoffs. There is interest, but a buyout next season is only $300,000 against the cap, so the Maple Leafs are pointing out retaining anything more than that doesn’t make sense for them. Remember: they also made Justin Holl and Travis Dermott available early in the season. Can they create any flexibility? I’m not convinced yet Toronto does a big rental on defence. Maybe the best depth defender they can find for what they need.
10. A couple people told me Chicago, at one point, indicated it was thinking of interviewing something like 20 people for the GM job. I don’t think that’s still the case, but it sounds like there’s at least one more interview this week. This is going to be interesting. There’s definitely a push for “non-traditional.” Ultimately will be interesting to see who makes the final call.
11. I found Patrick Kane’s comments about the GM search to be pretty interesting. Asked by The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus if he wanted to have a voice with the new GM, Kane replied, “You know a lot about the league. So, I think it’d be smart to lean on players, whether you’re asking about other guys in the league or guys on your team. It’s definitely something that I feel management can lean on, and (I’d) be happy to give answers if they ask.”
I don’t feel that players should have anything close to decision-making power, but I’ve never understood why a manager wouldn’t ask their best players or leaders for insight. When St. Louis won the Stanley Cup in 2019, one of the things they talked about as being important to their organization was having people in the front office like Al MacInnis, who would ask, “How is this going to play out in our room?” GM Doug Armstrong wouldn’t make his decisions based on that, but he sure made it part of the process.
Recent changes in Montreal and Vancouver were made with some eye on, “How can we make our atmosphere better?” In Anaheim, GM search committee members Paul Kariya and Scott Niedermayer definitely brought a players’ perspective to the conversation. Pat Verbeek’s put in the work for a long time and deserves the opportunity, but, at heart, he’ll always be a player. This is not for everyone; Mats Sundin would always get really angry if you intoned that he went to management about moves or linemates -- but Kane would like to be involved on some level. He stood up for Dylan Strome, who was on the trade block earlier this season. The thing that’s particularly interesting about Kane is he’s 16 months from unrestricted free agency, and the Blackhawks have been asked if they would ever consider trading him. So, part of me watches this and wonders if in any way how this plays out foretells his future in Chicago.
12. Tomas Hertl made it pretty clear to San Jose: he wants term. He’s going to find out this week or next how the Sharks feel about it.
13. Looming over San Jose’s cap situation is Evander Kane’s appeal. Doesn’t sound like that will be heard before the trade deadline. I’ve been told by several people it shouldn’t affect Hertl talks, but this isn’t expected to be settled by March 21.
15. I’ve always liked Johan Larsson. He’s never played an NHL playoff game in Buffalo or Arizona, but think his approach would translate well. He won’t be back until after the deadline due to sports hernia surgery, but have heard his name out there. Arbitration-eligible Christian Fischer too.
16. When Florida signed OHL Barrie’s Mack Guzda as a free-agent, it led to some speculation about Spencer Knight’s future. I don’t think those two moves correlate. Guzda needs time, he’s a couple of years from NHL readiness. If Knight was to be in some blockbuster, it wouldn’t be because of this acquisition.
17. I think there was at least one other team considering Edmonton’s Dave Manson as an NHL assistant before he was promoted from AHL Bakersfield with Jay Woodcroft.
18. In the short term under Woodcroft, very noticeable how much more the Oilers are trying to aggressively defend their blue line.
19. Nikita Soshnikov, who played 87 NHL games for Toronto and St. Louis from 2015-19, would like to return to the NHL next season. He’s playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL. Playoffs start in that league right after the Olympics.
20. New lease on life in Florida for Sam Reinhart. Point-a-game player, 44 in 44. He now has 339 career points, 221 behind father Paul — who played 648 games for Atlanta (Flames, not Thrashers), Calgary and Vancouver. When he catches Paul, how soon does he brag about it to his dad? “The moment it happens,” he laughed. “I’ve thought about it. The moment it happens.”
Reinhart says he has “no hard feelings the way everything turned out” with Buffalo. He had some control over his future, getting closer to unrestricted free agency at the time of the trade, but the Sabres could have sent him anywhere. He’s clearly glad the Panthers were the destination, returning from break this week with tasty morsels in Carolina and Minnesota. As he reaches 500 NHL games, the first playoff action of his career awaits. How much does everyone in that room hate the Lightning? “Quite a bit, I feel like every team should hate the Lightning” with all the success they’ve had.
21. Reinhart won gold with Team Canada at the 2016 World Championships in Russia. As he went through security for the flight home, his wallet and passport disappeared. “It’s a mystery to this day,” he said, thanking Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations and then-manager of hockey operations Bayne Pettinger (now a player agent) for getting him home. “The amount of strings they pulled and the amount of hair they lost getting me out of there safely and relatively quickly was pretty impressive.” It was done in 15 hours, and could have been a lot worse. So there might be someone out there pretending to be Sam Reinhart? “They could be anywhere, really. I hear those Western passports are a pretty hot commodity on the black market.”
22. One of the subjects we discussed with Reinhart was pre-draft interviews. He remembered the Islanders having three or four people in the room, while others had 15-20, “try to intimidate you, see how you handle the situation.” I brought up one team that used to ask if a player preferred to be Batman or Robin, and wondered what type of response could honestly be expected. “All I’ll say about it is that the kid who chooses Robin in that situation, I want to know how he got to that conclusion,” he said, laughing. Have to agree.
23. Fifty per cent capacity in Toronto for Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Thursday (or is it Brian Burke and the Penguins? Sometimes I forget). Selfishly, I’d like Crosby to wait to score No. 500 until Thursday. Why I don’t like my odds: Tuesday’s game is at home and you know he’d love to do it for those fans, plus he hates the Flyers like any good Penguin should. One former teammate said that when then-Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette proclaimed Giroux “the best player in the world,” Crosby “went absolutely snakey.” It wasn’t about Crosby’s ego, it was that the Penguins lost to the Flyers in that series during a tough point in Crosby’s career. The player joked that, at that point, he thought Pittsburgh would never lose to Philadelphia again.
24. Weird total outlier stat: Connor Hellebuyck, on the second-half of back-to-backs (where he played the first game), has allowed six goals on 110 shots. Winnipeg has five of a possible six points in them, and he’s outperformed the previous day’s totals.
25. One coach read last week’s notes about Pavel Zacha no longer taking as many faceoffs and made a comparison to Sam Bennett moving from Calgary to Florida. Bennett’s draws taken dropped in Calgary from a high of 811 in his second season, now they’re on the way back up in Florida. It comes down to what others plan for you, sometimes.
26. Really want to see Devon Levi at the Olympics. Matt Tomkins grabbed the goal heading into the quarterfinals and earned it. Was hoping to see Levi on this stage.
27. One Canadian junior free agent to watch: OHL Hamilton’s Nathan Staios. Got the good bloodlines (father Steve played 1,001 NHL games), but having a strong overage year for the Bulldogs. He’s been a controlled-exit and -entry machine.
28. Won’t turn out this way, but, at one point, there was an idea to make the seating capacity at Arizona State’s new hockey arena 4,242 — in honour of the late Pat Tillman. Tillman wore that number when he played for the Sun Devils. Totally understand why some things can’t work out certain ways, but was a unique thought.
29. Busy couple of days for the NHL and NHLPA. Brad Marchand appeal on Wednesday, World Cup meeting on Thursday. Marchand’s first appeal is with commissioner Gary Bettman. If he doesn’t like that result, he can go to an independent arbitrator. Bettman has decreased suspensions on three occasions: Jason Spezza from six to four earlier this season; Raffi Torres from 25 to 21 in 2012; and Daniel Carcillo from 10 to six in 2014. He also has the right, if he so chooses, to increase a suspension, but I can’t find an example of him doing that. There were rumours he would have done so with Matt Cooke’s 2014 playoffs kneeing suspension, but the winger did not appeal.
30. What a night Wednesday will be. Grudge match of Minnesota-Winnipeg; two of the NHL’s best teams, Florida-Carolina; Toffoli's second game with the Flames against Anaheim; Jack Eichel returns for Colorado-Vegas — which isn’t even close to being the biggest rivalry of the night. That’s Canada-USA for the women’s Olympic gold medal. Don’t call, don’t text, don’t even bother. My house could be the epicentre of an earthquake and I won’t notice. Or care.
31. On Eichel: I’m excited for this, but I’m also a bit nervous. A couple of weeks ago, someone called me to stand up for Buffalo’s doctors. Obviously, I felt strongly that Eichel deserved to have the treatment he wanted, and we interviewed his surgeon to make the case on our podcast. Some people thought we were biased on his behalf, others didn’t. That’s life, but it’s how I stood.
The person who reached out said Buffalo’s doctors were just never 100 per cent that the disc replacement could hold up to surgery, and they shouldn’t be blamed for not approving something they weren’t comfortable with — which is fair. Eichel, I understand, became incredibly frustrated because he was led to believe there would be approval, which never came. (There was also the intense heat between team and player.) Whatever you believe, we know we’re heading into unchartered territory with the disc replacement. I’m really rooting for it to work. For his health (and Tyler Johnson’s, who underwent the same procedure). If this can become a better option than a spinal fusion, it’s a good thing.
32. Thank you to “Jeff Marek radio show with Jeff Marek” producer Matt Marchese for forwarding Marek’s bingo card: