After a quiet start to the week, we're starting to see more movement on the trade market thanks to Lou Lamoriello's big swing to bring Devils Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to Long Island Wednesday night.
Less than 24 hours later, Lou has clearly wasted no time getting his new players acclimated to the Islanders way:
A trade between Florida and Chicago opened Thursday's action, with plenty more speculation to come when it comes to how GMs are navigating what's a particularly tricky trade deadline.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 8, 2021
Here's the latest on the league's rumour mill ahead of Monday's deadline:
Panthers preparing for a big swing?
Earlier this week, the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders were projected as the two teams most likely to take the biggest swings at the deadline. So far, that's looking very accurate.
One day after Lamoriello called dibs on the Devils' most eligible trade targets, it appears that Florida is laying the groundwork for some big move of their own by clearing some cap space:
Florida's biggest need is defence, especially after losing a leader like Aaron Ekblad long-term. With all this new cap space, might they bring in another goal-scorer, too?
Has Hoffman played his last game for St. Louis?
It sure looks that way. The Blues held Mike Hoffman out of the lineup for Wednesday's matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights, and it wouldn't be surprising if he's dealt soon. The Hoffman experiment was promising, but simply hasn't worked. Moving him could provide the jolt St. Louis needs for a final playoff push.
The 31-year-old is a pure goal-scorer, and he filled that role well with Florida, with back-to-back career years with the Panthers.
Is a return to Florida in store? A short stint elsewhere on a team that needs a scoring boost, like Dallas? The Toronto Maple Leafs have been rumoured to be seeking the best forward available. While it's unclear where he'll go, it feels more and more certain that he's on the move.
We've seen the last of Hall in Buffalo
The Sabres held Taylor Hall out of Tuesday's game against the New Jersey Devils, clearly keeping the star winger healthy in order to move him at the deadline.
"It does seem as though the pace of the trade talks have picked up speed," Sportsnet's Chris Johnston said recently. "Really, we're at the phase where Kevyn Adams is trying to leverage Taylor Hall. He's done playing for Buffalo. He's there to be had, and now it's about trying to pit the few teams that are in the sweepstakes against each other and see if you can maybe get a first-round pick."
Word around the league's insiders, including Johnston, over the past few weeks is that it's feeling less and less likely Adams will be able to land a first-round pick for Hall. The market imbalance (we've got more sellers than buyers this year) combined with Hall's $8-million AAV in this flat-cap world will make anything better than a second-round pick a tough get.
"Some team's gonna have to twist itself into a pretzel to make this happen, and probably have Buffalo retain some or half of the salary on Taylor's contract," said Johnston.
One team with the motivation and means to get this done? The Colorado Avalanche.
"I'm keeping my eyes on Colorado in this one," said Johnston. "They were definitely interested in him at a certain price point in free agency. ... They already have the best team in the league, I would say, at this point and for them it's not necessarily something they need, but when you're in a win-now year, as they are, you probably try to add the best assets you can. So to me, that one makes a lot of sense, but we'll see if it happens."
Foligno talks future with Kekalainen
One of the biggest questions being asked right now is whether or not the Columbus Blue Jackets will make captain Nick Foligno available.
Now firmly outside of the playoff picture with several injuries halting any progress, it's clear Columbus is a seller. But it's also clear that the only way Foligno's getting traded is if he's completely involved in the process. There'a a great amount of mutual respect here, and a lot to consider for both sides.
Per NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika, Foligno spoke with GM Jarmo Kekalainen about his future with the team on Wednesday, but didn't divulge details.
"I'm sure if there's something that needs to be presented, then we'll talk," Foligno said, via Cotsonika.
"Otherwise, I'm just going to go about my business the way I always have. It's definitely unique having your name out there in the situation that we're in as a team, but having said that, it's just, until I'm told otherwise, I'm just going to continue to do come here and do what I need to do and be the same person I always am. I don't want to give you too many clichés here, but it's hard for me to speculate on something."
Penguins' hunt for a forward continues
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall was clear about what's on his trade deadline shopping list:
"We would like a big, physical forward," Hextall told The Athletic's Josh Yohe on Wednesday. "We've said that right from the start. The right guy has to be out there at the right price. Sometimes you have to wait for something to come along that a team is willing to part with."
As he indicated, this is consistent with what the Penguins have been saying all along. Centre might not be as necessary as once thought, considering the emergence of Freddy Gaudreau and Jared McCann stepping up in depth roles there.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested Philadelphia's Scott Laughton would be an excellent fit, but it's unclear if, a) he's available; and b) if the two hated foes can find a third team to help facilitate this deal.
Wild "all in," but expecting a quiet deadline
While other GMs are serenaded by the ringing of phones and tweets of texts, Wild GM Bill Guerin's office is... a little quieter.
"Crickets," he said during Tuesday's episode of The Chirp with Daren Millard podcast. "I mean, hey, look, there's calls being made. I'm sure other teams have things on the go. We don't have much on the go right now. It's just kind of quiet. But talking to different people every day. I don't expect us to be too active, but if something comes up that makes sense, yeah, we'll do it."
That quiet is a good sign for the Wild, who are in good shape right now as a team that's firmly in the playoff mix with the understanding that this is just the beginning of a long run of contention.
"I'm not going to sell the farm just for a rental that's going to blow town in a couple months," he told Millard. "We still want to build. We still want to accumulate prospects and draft picks and things like that, because we're kind of building on the go. But when I say that we are in all-in, yeah, we're all in because we want to win and we expect to win every night, and we expect our players to do the same."
The Wild will have some tricky decisions to make this summer, with several players possessing no-move clauses ahead of the expansion draft. But that's a problem for another day. For now, Minnesota's clearly enjoying the Kirill Kaprizov ride into the post-season.
Gallagher's injury brings salary cap silver lining
The Montreal Canadiens lost forward Brendan Gallagher to a fractured right thumb Monday night, which is undoubtedly a tough blow for the fourth-place team down the stretch. But Wednesday brought an interesting silver lining...
Considering the Canadiens' salary cap outlook, any possible deals would've been complicated by a money-in-money-out transaction. Gallagher going on LTIR is not what we meant by 'money-out,' but it does open up $3.75 million in cap space four days before the deadline.
No addition will fill the skates of Gallagher, but it could certainly help down the stretch and into the playoffs until Gallagher's able to return. Gallagher's six-week recovery timeline won't see him back until the post-season, which means the Canadiens can now afford to bring in some help without worrying about what happens when Gallagher (and his cap hit) are back on the books as the cap doesn't apply to the playoffs.
Marc Bergevin has stated for a few weeks now that he's not looking to make any deals, but that's been met with skeptism -- rightly so, considering that one day after stating this, Bergevin went and traded for Eric Staal.
Canucks exploring Pearson extension
UPDATE: It's a done deal.
The biggest priority for the Vancouver Canucks right now continues to be the health of their players, staff, and families as the organization deals with a widespread COVID-19 outbreak that has seen the number of cases reach 25. While it's still unclear what the future of this season holds, the team does have some contract questions that could have answers soon.
Most pressing among those contract questions is winger Tanner Pearson, whose situation as it pertains to the possibility of a trade is also complicated by a lower-body injury that had him sidelined prior to the team's COVID outbreak. Pearson last played on March 17, with Canucks head coach Travis Green announcing two days later he'd be out at least four weeks with the injury. He is not currently listed on the league's COVID Protocol List.
When it comes to Pearson's future with the Canucks, general manager Jim Benning said in early March that the team would like to keep Pearson in the fold.
Johnston said Wednesday that the latest word on Pearson is consistent with that.
"The Canucks certainly have explored and expressed some interest in re-signing him," Johnston said during a radio appearance on Halford & Brough in the Morning.
Johnston believes we're in for another game of chicken between agents and teams, just like we saw during last fall's free-agency period, which saw only a handful of players -- more specifically, top rearguards and netminders -- score big-money, long-term deals while some of the top wingers on the market were forced to wait and get creative, as was the case with star Taylor Hall and his one-year, $8-million contract in Buffalo.
"If you're someone like Tanner Pearson, who obviously doesn't have the resume that Taylor Hall did going into that negotiation, you like Vancouver. I do think that, all things being equal, he'd be more than happy to stay. But you're weighing what the Canucks can pay you against what you're expected to get on the open market -- and I think that's a mystery right now, honestly," said Johnston.
Pearson was a deadline acquisition by the Canucks in February 2019, and his strong fit with the team was apparent from the start -- as was his $3.75-million cap hit. He put up a career-high 45 points last season, and while his numbers have been down this year in what has been a tough season on offence all around in Vancouver, his value as a complementary winger is clear. The gamble here is the price, with Benning owing big-money deals to pending RFAs Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson and the flat cap offering no room to spare.
If we're to take those lessons learned last off-season, the market might not be kind to a UFA winger in his late 20s.
"It's entirely possible the flat cap is going to be really bad for players in the back half of their careers," said Johnston. "We sort of see it trending that way, but this event of the pandemic and what it's done to the business of the league might speed things up in that regard."
For Pearson, it might be decision time:
"I think ultimately what this will come down to is the Canucks will make a best offer at some point -- maybe it's already on the table, maybe it's still to come -- and Tanner's gonna have to make that kind of bet: Is it worth potentially being traded, having to move right now, and then test the open market? Or take that deal in Vancouver and stay where you're comfortable and where you like playing?"