They’re two American wingers toiling in Canadian markets who’ve been the subject of trade rumours in the recent past. Right now, though, their sell price would be so high you’d expect Reddit was involved.
It’s safe to say neither Johnny Gaudreau nor Brock Boeser need to have any moving companies on speed dial. Gaudreau was the only player on the ice to put a puck past a goaltender during Saturday night’s game between his Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. The left winger’s power-play marker was a beauty, coming just 3:34 into the first period and serving as the game-winning tally in a contest Calgary — which was already at the players-only-meeting stage of concern over its recent bad results — desperately needed to have.
Gaudreau — 5-4-9 on the year — has registered at least a point in each of the Flames’ seven games. Three of his helpers are primary assists and, playing beside usual running mate Sean Monahan, his advanced stats have been chart-busting good. This is on the heels of a 70-game campaign last year that saw “Johnny Hockey” produce at a 68-point pace, well below the high bar he’d set for himself with 99 points in 2018-19 and 84 the season prior.
Historically, trade talk surrounding Gaudreau seemed to stem from a sense something major might have to change with the Flames if they are to stop being a team that falls flat come playoff time. Calgary showed better in the bubble last summer than it did during quick exists in 2017 and ’19, but the clock is still ticking on the core of this club.
Boeser, meanwhile, is tied for the NHL goals lead after he bagged two in the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. He struck even quicker than Gaudreau, delivering the opening salvo just 29 seconds into the night. (His second one came with Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck on the bench).
Half of Boeser’s eight goals have arrived in his past two games and his total through 11 outings this season puts him halfway to the 16 he netted in a frustrating and injury-marred 57-game showing last year. The injury bug has nipped at Boeser in each of his first three full seasons in the NHL, so here’s hoping he gets a full, uh, 56 in 2021.
Everyone knew the Canucks — now winners of four straight by a combined score of 20-4 — were in a delicate cap situation this past off-season, which drove some of the conversation about the potential for Vancouver to clear space by moving the 2018 runner-up for rookie of the year.
Swap talk, of course, can be spurious at the best of times and at least part of the reason Boeser and Gaudreau have cycled through the mill might come down to the simple fact they seem to have such natural landing spots. Boeser is from the “State of Hockey” and wouldn’t the Wild love to get their hands on a homegrown sniper, while New Jersey native Gaudreau — an unrestricted free agent in 2022 — would surely fit well with a Devils team looking to drum up excitement as the club rebuilds with youth.
Set all that aside — at least for now — though, because at the moment, Calgary and Vancouver have to be tickled to have these talented Yanks.
• What a miserable year this has been for the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts entered the year with plenty of dark-horse buzz, but things have gotten just plain dark. The Rangers have a single regulation-time victory, having dropped their most recent outing 5-4 in overtime on Saturday to the Pittsburgh Penguins after blowing a third-period lead for the third time this season.
Things turned soapy on Sunday when New York put offensive-minded defenceman Tony DeAngelo on waivers, the breaking point in the troubled relationship reportedly being an altercation with goalie Alexandar Georgiev after the loss to the Pens. Maybe this strong action will help the Rangers turn the page. Time is already not on their side.
• Ho-hum, just a couple eight-point weekends for Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The Oilers’ megastars combined for 11 points in Edmonton’s 8-5 touchdown-and-a-two-pointer win over Ottawa on Sunday night. The duo better not let its foot off the gas, though: The Oilers are giving up more shots per game than all but four clubs (33.2) and have the fifth-worst team save percentage in the NHL (.888).
• Which unhappy Darren Ferris client would you rather have? Calgary third-liner Sam Bennett and Victor Mete — Montreal’s seventh defenceman — have let it be known via their agent that they would welcome moves. The 24-year-old Bennett hasn’t come close to making good on his fourth-overall selection in 2014, while Mete has greatly outstripped initial expectations after being selected 100th overall in 2016. The small blue-liner has been displaced by the arrival of Alexander Romanov and Joel Edmundson, but his age (22) and high-end skating ability ensure somebody would snap him up.
• Speaking of young defencemen, how about this start to the season for New Jersey rookie Ty Smith? After picking up a goal and an assist in his team’s weekend set with the Buffalo Sabres, the 2018 first-rounder is tied with Kirill ‘The Thrill’ Kaprizov for the freshman scoring lead with eight points in nine contests.
With apologies to Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee and his hat trick against the Islanders on Sunday night (and because we already gave McDavid and Draisaitl their shine), Saturday offered up a great ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment when Finnish rookie Aleksi Heponiemi batted home a puck out of mid-air for his first career goal. The tally doubled as the overtime winner for the, ahem, undefeated-in-regulation Florida Panthers.
The Week Ahead
• After tying former Capital Mike Gartner with career goal No. 708 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, Alex Ovechkin can move into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list with a tally against the Bruins on Monday.
• Montreal captain Shea Weber is slated to play career game No. 1,000 on Tuesday night when the Canadiens host Vancouver for the second time in two nights. True story: This was originally supposed to happen last April in Nashville, where he spent 11 seasons. Just another reason to hate this pandemic.
• Monday marks the start of Black History Month and Sportsnet.ca will feature a wide array of coverage, including from black voices within the game of hockey.