A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Kickin’ tires and takin’ names.
1. If Kyle Dubas wasn’t feeling pressure prior to the weekend, surely he is now.
The Florida Panthers paid the price for one of the most coveted hardnosed defenders available, and the Tampa Bay Lightning snatched Brandon Hagel, a cap-friendly 21-goal-scoring left wing Dubas had been dreaming of slotting beside John Tavares.
Dubas had interest in both.
Neither came cheap, mind you.
Julien BriseBois, firmly living in the now, surrendered two first-round picks for the 23-year-old Hagel, who should be in club control for five years.
“We’re hoping they’re late first-round picks. We know what the odds are of a late-first-round pick turning into an NHL player,” said BriseBois Friday. The GM figures he’s done shooting his shots. “We’re getting a sure thing, a player that’s already established himself in the NHL.
“If we can do anything to increase the odds of our current team being successful and going on another magical run, then I feel like we need to do that.”
The Chicago Blackhawks sent Hagel, plus a pair of fourth-rounders to the champs for a first in 2023, a first in 2024, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk.
A shockingly high price.
But it feels like serious GMs are coming to grips with the fact that windows of contention are cyclical in a salary-cap world. When your time comes, pounce.
And if you have any prayer in the universe of going for a three-peat, why not?
Caution is death.
"I know we are stretched to the cap this year. But if anyone can do it, Julien can find a way,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos correctly predicted last month.
“I mean, if we base it off the last two years and what he's been able to do, then we wouldn't be surprised. You know, it was pretty amazing what he's been able to pull off the last couple years, certainly with the lack of flexibility we had.
“The magic that he’s worked by adding third-party teams and things like that, as a player you really appreciate the effort — because you never know when it's going to be your year.”
Hagel had term and was dealt. Could Jakob Chychrun be next?
2. I’m a fan of Pat Verbeek’s hardline approach to expiring contracts. Free of loyalty to the players he’s suddenly overseeing, Verbeek’s return for Josh Manson is legit. Olympian Drew Helleson is 20 and a highly touted prospect whose prime should coincide with that of excitable forwards Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry.
Somewhat surprised the GM is also ready to part with Hampus Lindholm, but with multiple suitors —Toronto, Boston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles among them — the dynamic puck-mover should fetch a return in the Ben Chiarot range. Or better.
3. Speaking of Chiarot: Holy return, Batman! We’d heard this was supposed to be a buyer’s market for defencemen. Guess not.
The bet is some buyer is going to get a Justin Braun or Jacob Middleton at a steal.
4. Joe Sakic has quietly taken the baton from Lou Lamoriello as the ultimate actions-speak-louder-than-words executive. Imagine acquiring both Devon Toews and Manson in this climate, where teams pay through the nose for decent D-men, without surrendering a single first-round pick.
Quote of the Week goes to Calgary’s Darryl Sutter on Sakic’s Avalanche:
“If you are a wild-card team, I sure as hell don’t want to play Colorado in the first round. Because it’s going to be a waste of eight days.”
5. If the Dallas Stars — a pandemic-damaged organization that would love some playoff gate but doesn’t resemble a true contender on the ice — are really standing pat and hoping for a wild card, why were they sending multiple scouts to so many Maple Leafs games in the lead-up to the deadline?
6. Beautiful touch by the Philadelphia Flyers, bringing Claude Giroux’s father, Raymond, into the dressing room to call out the lineup ahead of his 1,000th game.
Of all the rental forwards about to get moved, it’s difficult to see anyone other than Giroux as the greatest difference-maker.
Forget his age (32) for a second. No impending UFA available has more goals (18), points (42) or points per game (0.75) this season. Add the intangibles — ability to play centre or wing, leadership, desire to win a Cup — and whoever gets this guy (Florida? Colorado? Bueller?) is lucky.
7. San Jose could’ve had the Giroux of this deadline in Tomas Hertl but opted to extend the centre for max term instead. I have mixed feelings on this one.
On one hand, I commend Joe Will, like Doug Wilson before him, for being able to keep talent in the fold.
On the other, these Sharks continually give huge term to good players deep into the 30s.
San Jose got lucky clearing its books of the Evander Kane situation.
Come 2024-25, the Sharks will be paying thirty-somethings Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Logan Couture and Hertl each $7 million or more past their primes.
How can you possibly dress a contending roster under those circumstances?
The next big decision: Timo Meier is a scheduled restricted free agent in 2023. He can re-up as early as this July.
8. While I’m not 100 per cent sold on San Jose’s course of action here, I do appreciate that the team forced Hertl into a decision and didn’t risk walking one of the best UFA forwards all the way to market.
That’s where the Nashville Predators and Filip Forsberg come in.
The Preds are a fine outfit but not an all-in squad the way divisional rivals Colorado, St. Louis, or even Minnesota must be.
GM David Poile and Forsberg’s agent, J.P. Barry, are taking another crack at an extension. Great.
But if Poile can’t get a signature on paper by lunchtime Monday, he must play hardball and trade.
With the assets rentals are yielding this week, imagine how a Forsberg trade could set your team up down the road.
9. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour’s thoughts on the trade deadline heating up: “Everybody's watching the news. I try not to watch the news news. I try to watch the sports news. The real news is too depressing, so let’s stick to sports — that’s entertaining.
“I don't see us doing too much stuff, so I’m not too concerned.”
Carolina has no first-round pick to spend in 2022, a projected cap space of $0 and a preference for trading for players with term. It also has a heckuva team and a bunch of “own rentals,” led by Vincent Trocheck.
Of all the GMs who could actually justify standing pat Monday, Don Waddell might be the one.
(P.S. Waddell apologized for grabbing a slice of pizza Thursday inside the Toronto press box. Don’t apologize. Treat yourself. You’ve helped build a heckuva hockey team.)
10. Travis Dermott appears to be replacing Timothy Liljegren on the right side of the Maple Leafs’ third pairing Saturday night in Nashville.
Some wonder if it’ll be Dermott’s final game as a Leaf.
We wonder why he was healthy scratched all week after playing his best hockey in February. Was it an injury-prevention thing?
Despite his sporadic usage and falling out of favour with the coaching staff, Dermott has been a plus-5 since November.
11. The hockey world has (rightly) gone gaga over the Calle Jarnkrok trade reuniting the Gavle Gang in Calgary.
Just as fun is Frank Vatrano being shipped to the New York Rangers. The salary-clearing manoeuvre reunited the former Panther with childhood pal Jacob Trouba….
12. Despite all the expiring contracts on his roster and management’s obvious objective to tank, Arizona Coyotes coach André Tourigny didn’t feel it necessary to directly address the trade deadline with his players until recently.
Tourigny sensed the trade rumours were messing with his players’ heads following the Ilya Lyubushkin–Nick Ritchie deal. That made the inevitable sink in. For the first time all season, he felt some soul-searching going on.
The best way to deal with it, Tourigny figured, was head-on. He talked it out with the room.
His message: Forget about your individual situation. Don’t stress over a future you cannot control. Win the day.
“The guys really love each other. We really have a good group; the guys have fun every day,” Tourigny says. The eye test bears that out.
“[GM] Bill Armstrong often says, when you watch our practice, you feel like we're first overall,” the coach adds. “We have a good spirit, the guys like each other, so let’s live in the present.”
A handful of team-first veterans — Andrew Ladd, Antoine Roussel, Anton Stralman, Loui Eriksson and Jay Beagle — have helped the upbeat coach keep spirits high when playoff chances have been low.
Really, the culture is refreshingly optimistic in the desert.