A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. We’ll get moving once the price for unleaded gas and/or Ben Chiarot comes down.
1. When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ No. 1 trade deadline priority, Josh Manson fits the bill as a rental. But what if he re-signs or uses his no-trade clause to nix a move to Canada?
Jakob Chychrun’s youth and contract structure are to be envied, but there’s no urgency for the Coyotes to drop their asking price in the next nine days.
So, of the rentals that must go — or leave their general managers holding the bag — there is a strong case to be made for Seattle Kraken captain Mark Giordano.
Sure, he's a lefty. But would it not serve Toronto well to rent the best defenceman available?
“What an individual. I had talked to a lot of people, read a lot of things about Gio in the past and watched from a distance. But until you're around him every day, it's hard to understand just how impactful he is as a human being and as a player,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “He's been awesome inside of our dressing room, and he's been great for us.”
The 38-year-old left shot may not be best deployed on a contender at 21-plus-minutes a night the way he is now. But in Toronto he wouldn’t need to run a power play or be counted on to fuel offence (six goals, 23 points). That would just be a bonus to smart, D-zone play and help killing penalties.
There’s also a romance to bringing in a local kid, the only undrafted Norris winner, and a respected character desperate to win a Stanley Cup while he can still have an impact.
“He’s been a very good player in the league for a long time. New team and different situation for him here this season. He's versatile and helps teams in all sorts of ways,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe.
Morgan Rielly has chatted with T.J. Brodie about Giordano and has even hung out with him a bit through mutual friends.
“He plays hard. We were just watching clips as a team on what (the Kraken) do well and what their strengths are,” Rielly said Tuesday. “In D-zone, he's always working hard. He's always taking the body. He’s very physical, and he can still move well.
“He's always up in the rush, even on the penalty kill. ... That he's able to get up and down the ice and play as hard as he does has always been impressive.”
How would you feel about Toronto’s blue line looking like this until Jake Muzzin is healed?
2. Jack Campbell’s save percentage this season is .914. His goals saved above average is 6.7.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s save percentage is .908. His goals saved above average is 0.1.
Campbell’s save percentage in last year’s playoffs was .934. Fleury’s was .918.
Besides reputation, how certain are you the Maple Leafs would be getting an upgrade?
3. Jared McCann called his agent right away when he saw that infamous leaked video of the flying “Alexander Kerfoot” fish ahead of the Seattle expansion draft, wondering if plans had changed.
“Oh, am I staying in Toronto?”
No. Despite the Stratford, Ont., native’s phone blowing up from friends hoping he’d be a Maple Leaf for good, that idea fizzled within hours.
“A lot of people jumped the gun and thought maybe I’d be a Leaf, but they didn’t think about the expansion draft. Everything happened pretty quickly, but it worked out for the best,” said McCann Tuesday, fresh off signing his five-year, $25-million extension with the Kraken.
"My buddies don't let me forget about it, that's for sure. I was a Leaf for 72 hours there. It was pretty funny."
McCann’s newly earned security takes “a lot of pressure off my shoulders.” Now he and his girlfriend can rest easy knowing they can plant some roots in Seattle, a city he’s fallen in love with.
“Big sushi guy,” the former Canuck said, smiling.
“It's more motivation than pressure. It's not going to change me at all.”
There is still plenty of respect for McCann, a former Soo Greyhound, in Leafland.
“Dangerous shot. Lots of speed. Can score around net, and they try hard to get him the puck,” Keefe says of the first-time 20-goal man.
“He’s in a good spot now. You know, he's come into a situation where for the first time in his career, he's been able to be the guy that is relied on to do those kinds of things. He's played behind a lot of others in different places but seems to be doing well with the role he’s got.”
4. When Muzzin went down with his second concussion, Keefe made the difficult decision to spread out his most reliable defensive pairing, Rielly–Brodie, in the name of balance.
“Obviously, those guys have developed great chemistry together," Keefe said. "They've been an important pairing for us since Brodie’s arrival last season and then of course throughout this season. But you have to adapt and adjust when you have injuries.”
The split has benefitted Brodie’s new partner, Justin Holl, and taken a toll on Rielly when he’s trapped in his own zone. He’s been on the ice for more goals against than normal.
It would be foolish to expect Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren to match Brodie’s composure or experience. “Two young guys he's never played with very much. So, it's been more of an adjustment for him,” Keefe said.
While some No. 1s might bristle at a move like this, remember that Rielly gave up his power-play minutes to try to get Tyson Barrie rolling in 2020. He’s team-first in action, not just in words.
“Certainly, you don't have your partner that you've come to know and develop chemistry with and know what to expect from,” Keefe said. “It’s another thing to be thinking about out there. But he's handled it as well as we can expect him to.”
5. A pair of fantastic and brutally honest post-game pressers from two stars Thursday.
There was Jack Eichel’s embracing of the villain role after getting booed in his toxic Buffalo homecoming.
“That’s about the loudest I’ve heard this place ever, really. It only took seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game,” Eichel said. “They must be booing me because they wish I was still here.”
And there was Gabriel Landeskog’s calm and thorough criticism of the officiating — and defence of Nazem Kadri — after the Avalanche’s loss to the Hurricanes:
Regardless if you agree with either’s comments, you have to appreciate star players speaking their true thoughts.
The linemates both celebrated like they were the one to score the game-winner, then argued over whose stick last touched the puck when they returned to the bench.
"We were arguing back and forth, jokingly, and then we were just like, 'Ah, whatever, it's a big goal for our team. Who cares?'" Matthews explained.
For those scoring at home, the goal counted toward Bunting’s Calder case and not Matthews’ Rocket bid.
“I don’t want to be taking goals away from him,” Bunting said. “He’s going for a race here, and he’s lighting it up.”
"I heard the two just bickering back and forth," linemate Mitch Marner said. "It's kind of like a divorced couple, to be honest, sometimes with those two. It's funny."
Bunting adjusts Marner’s analogy.
“I don't think we fight like a divorced couple. Maybe an old married couple. That’s it, yeah,” Bunting said, smiling. “We have a great relationship off the ice. We joke around a lot. We're always chirping one another, and we hang out a lot.”
Coach Keefe is all for it.
"Having that type of banter and that type of chemistry is important," the coach said. "It makes you excited to play with a guy. And when things are good, things are usually really good — because you're feeding off that energy. It also allows you to have difficult conversations and push and challenge each other at the same time."
7. When Conor Garland skated up to Bruce Boudreau during Canucks practice, the coach had one thought: Uh-oh. He's gonna ask me about rumours.
But he didn't. Garland wanted to dig into a play on the ice.
“There’s been nothing said,” explained Boudreau, speaking from the eye of the trade rumour storm. “So they're either keeping it all bottled up, or it’s not bothering them. And most nights, the way they play, it's not bothering them. They're playing for the Vancouver Canucks, and they’re playing to win and to get in the playoffs.”
In Boudreau’s experiences, it’s not uncommon for a player to approach his coach for truth at this time of the season, where honesty is elusive.
“They’ll come up and say, ‘Listen. Any truth to what's going on, or what I'm hearing every day?’ And then I give them the answer. But there has been no talk. Even when I talk to Patrick (Alvin, the GM), there's no talk about anything going on. So, it’s just a lot of speculation,” Boudreau said.
“Iit's a fun time of year for the media to speculate who's going where and why and everything else. And then come March 23 to go, ‘Jeez, I was wrong on that one.’ ”
As for Garland, he’s learned well from the gossip that engulfed him at the 2021 deadline, when he was an affordable target on a bad team. This time around, he’s coping better.
“It's awkward sometimes when you see it on TV as you stand there, and they're talking about where you might end up,” he said. “So, just change the channel and keep moving.”
But if your name isn’t Conor Garland, tune in all day March 21 for Sportsnet’s wall-to-wall coverage!
8. Bummer winter in Columbus, but a fantastic moment last weekend as the franchise hoisted its first number to the rafters. Sometimes the stars align just right.
How great is this photo of the Blue Jackets’ past three captains all taking part in one ceremonial face-off?
9. The list of first-round picks from the 2016 draft who have appeared in fewer NHL games than the 33 played by Olli Juolevi (fifth overall, to Vancouver) is short and stuffed to the back of the class: German Rubtsov (22nd overall, Philadelphia), Riley Tate (25th, Dallas) and Lucas Johansen (28th, Washington).
Juolevi, 23, was scooped off the waiver wire by Steve Yzerman in Detroit this week and, cast off by Florida, will have a shot to stick with his third NHL organization.
The defenceman has played a grand total 100 games (including playoffs) spread out over his four pro seasons in North America. Nearly impossible to develop at that work rate.
“It’s a pretty legendary organization here and of course a lot of young guys coming up to the team,” Juolevi said. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”
Coach Jeff Blashill won’t rush the Finn into action, despite the Wings’ left-side deficiency. The coach views Juolevi as a no-risk acquisition.
“For whatever reason, it didn’t go right in Vancouver, and it hasn’t gone right in Florida,” Blashill said. “That doesn’t mean it will or won’t here.”
10. The spotlight will be on Giordano, but the Kraken also have a couple of playoff-tested, middle-six, two-way forwards who should be available.
Calle Jarnkrok, 30, is a responsible support contributor (26 points in 47 games) on an expiring deal, and he has 63 postseason games from his Nashville days.
Winger Joonas Donskoi, 29, scored 15 goals in his 69 playoff games with San Jose and Colorado. He’s struggled in Seattle and could be a buy-low option for a team willing to take on his $3.9-million salary in 2022-23 and bet on a bounce-back.
“He's really struggled offensively; nothing has come easily for him offensively,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol admitted. After four seasons of 14-plus goals, Donskoi has just two this season.
Perhaps he’d excel surrounded by more offensive talent.
“It just hasn't happened for him. So, he shows up and works hard every day,” Hakstol said. “He's been important for us in terms of his ability on the PK and his steadiness there.”
11. Good luck getting Hakstol to utter the words “Vegas Golden Knights.”
“I've stayed away from that comparison,” said the coach, whose expansion team has won one of its past 12. “There's a foundation to be built. I believe that's what this year is, in large part, about.
“In essence, of building a foundation, that determination, that togetherness is very, very important. So, on any given night, we know that we're going to be in a tight, hard-fought battle. The comfortability in those situations is really important. And finding ways to come out on the successful side. Because you'll learn from winning; you'll learn from success. I believe we know what our formula is.”
We don’t blame the coach from spinning optimistic, but he’s overseeing the worst team in the West — and it certainly wasn’t the front office’s plan to fall flatter than the Coyotes, who are supposed to be tanking on purpose.
We’re not questioning the Kraken’s effort, but the Squids are desperate for saves and star power.
Outside of some slick threads and a climate-friendly rink, there’s no tangible identity, and goals are hard to come by.
A smart thing the Golden Knights did was resist naming a captain until one emerged.
Seattle sewed the “C” on Giordano, a fine choice of course — but one on an expiring contract.
The smart move is to trade him and recoup assets. But who will be the face of this franchise?
12. On the same day Alex Ovechkin — still cheesing with Vladimir Putin on the ’Gram — tied Jaromir Jagr in all-time NHL goals, Jagr raised more than $160,000 for Ukrainian refugees though actual and virtual ticket sales for his club Klado’s regular-season finale, which was moved to O2 Arena in order to increase capacity and maximize his fundraising. (The NHL kicked in $68,000, a nod to Jagr’s sweater number.)
"I feel so sad when I see people fleeing and taking just one bag with them," Jagr said. "Mothers and kids part with their dads as the dads go fight and have no idea if they ever come back. The only thing they hope for is that the world will take care (of) their wives and children.”