Two days away from the first in-person NHL Draft in three years and the rumour mill is kicking into full gear.
Here is the latest buzz from around the league in the middle of a busy week.
WOULD CLAUDE GIROUX CONSIDER EDMONTON?
It’s fair to say there’s a lot of buzz around the seven Canadian teams this week.
Toronto is trying to sort out its goaltending. Vancouver is considering major turnover. Winnipeg is dealing with two centres who have questioned their long-term fit with the team. Ottawa is contemplating moving the seventh overall pick. Calgary is trying to keep it together but may have to consider a Plan B without Johnny Gaudreau. Montreal holds the first overall pick and may try to get the second overall selection as well.
In Edmonton, there are a few trade candidates. Tyson Barrie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian and Warren Foegele are all possibly available. It’s not yet clear if Mike Smith or Duncan Keith will be back or instead opt for retirement (or possibly LTIR in Smith’s case). And, of course, GM Ken Holland has to consider the possibility of bringing back Evander Kane, whose contract dispute with the San Jose Sharks is unlikely to be settled by the opening of free agency on July 13.
On Monday, Pierre LeBrun floated the possibility of the Oilers jumping in on the Claude Giroux UFA sweepstakes if Kane isn’t brought back. According to LeBrun, a key element Giroux will consider is term on his next contract. Giroux will turn 35 mid-way through next season, but he has a young family that he may want to settle in to wherever the next stop is in his career.
“I think Edmonton has a lot going on,” Elliotte Friedman said on Tuesday’s 32 Thoughts Podcast. “I think they are moving pieces across the chessboard. They’re trying to move money out so they can create some room to do things.”
The Oilers will be a team to watch and while they aren’t traditionally a preferred landing spot for top free agents, one wonders if that calculation could be different with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl there, and the fact the team is coming off an appearance in the Western Conference Final.
Giroux, who has not yet won a Stanley Cup in his career, may see the Oilers as a destination where he could achieve that goal, and the organization may get into position to offer the term Giroux could want.
Of course, Giroux had a one-track mind to waive his no-move clause for Florida at this season’s trade deadline, and the Panthers are doing their best to keep him around.
“I will tell you that I had some people say to me today [Giroux] wouldn’t go to Colorado [at the deadline] are you sure he’d want to go to Edmonton?” Friedman said. “But I do think that’s been discussed and I do think it’s possible that Edmonton’s willing to give him more than one year.”
COULD JEFF PETRY REMAIN WITH THE CANADIENS?
One of the names on our top 15 off-season trade candidates list, it’s more likely than not Jeff Petry will be wearing a different jersey at the start of next season. It appears he no longer fits into Montreal’s window at age 34. As the Habs look to reload, this is an important week for GM Kent Hughes, who is considering a major facelift and all trade options.
But, this doesn’t appear to be a scorched earth rebuild situation and so, hypothetically, there is a situation where Petry could return.
“There’s possibility he’ll be here because I’ve said from the get-go we’ll try to accommodate him, but he’s an important defenceman and he eats a lot of minutes up, and for us to move him it will put us in a certain situation,” Hughes said Monday. “We have to feel comfortable that in trading Jeff Petry we’re advancing the interests of the Montreal Canadiens. If we can and we can accommodate him we will. But if we’re not advancing our interests we won’t do that.”
Petry will turn 35 mid-way through next season and still has three years left on his contract paying $6.25 million against the cap. And while his final numbers weren’t spectacular in 2021-22, that was mostly due to a slow start. When Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench, Petry finished the rest of the season as a top 25 scoring defender.
As Hughes outlined Monday — and as Eric Engels captured in his draft preview — the Canadiens are open to making something big happen this week, which could already be a legacy-defining moment for the new front office.
“We’re having conversations [on Petry],” Hughes finished. “There’s nothing I can tell you is imminent or will necessarily happen.”
COULD BARRY TROTZ BE A MID-SEASON COACHING REPLACEMENT?
The most sought-after head coach this off-season was Barry Trotz. Name a team that needed a replacement and they probably reached out to him at some point. The Winnipeg Jets were the last team connected to Trotz until he informed them, and everyone, that he just wasn’t ready to get back into coaching quite yet.
Trotz, who had coached in the NHL for 25 consecutive seasons, and another seven years in the AHL before that, said he just needed some personal time.
“There were some opportunities and a few teams reached out. I just needed time and on some teams I wasn’t on their time frame,” Trotz said on the Bob McCown podcast. “But at the same time, I thought about a lot of things. I put some things on the back burner for a number of years. Some advice I got is you always think you have time, and you really don’t. So there are some things in my life I need to get done and I’m going to get them done this summer and then I’ll get right back at it. I think it’s part of my DNA, it’s in my blood.”
All head coaching vacancies in the NHL had been filled until the San Jose Sharks surprisingly let go of Bob Boughner and his staff over the weekend. The Sharks are expected to announce the hiring of Mike Grier as their new GM on Tuesday, and finding Boughner’s replacement will be high priority. Friedman floated David Quinn as a potential fit with the Sharks.
Interestingly, Trotz did not close the door on the possibility of a relatively near-term return to the NHL.
“I don’t know if it’s a year, it’s just taking time,” Trotz said.
Naturally, this will lead to speculation next season, and Trotz inevitably will top any list of replacement coaches when the first bench boss hops on the hot seat in 2022-23.
“I know when I want to get back into it I’ll be more productive, be in a better frame and be ready to go,” Trotz said. “I don’t have that time frame. It might be 3-4 months from now, six months from now, a year from now. I just don’t know that right now.”
Could Trotz be an in-season replacement for the right team? Or, as has been rumoured, will he be more interested in landing somewhere for a front office role or some hybrid?
We may not have to wait until the summer of 2023 to find out what Trotz’s next step will be after all.
HOW MUCH COULD NAZEM KADRI MAKE ON HIS NEXT CONTRACT?
It’s silly season and some wild ideas will be tossed out there, but before you scoff at any of them, remember GMs do often make questionable calls and throw around the dollars this time of year — especially on the UFA market.
This year, Nazem Kadri could be an interesting case on the market. Coming off an 87-point season that overperformed his previous career-high by 26 points, Kadri then also followed through with a solid, suspension-free playoff for the Avs as one of their more important players.
And now, Kadri is in line to be the best centre available come the opening of free agency next week, a position that tends to pull in a few more dollars than wingers.
POINTS PER GAME
Colorado would like to keep Kadri, but while they do have $25 million in cap space, they also have to re-sign Darcy Kuemper or find a replacement netminder, re-sign breakout player Valeri Nichushkin, RFA deadline pickup Artturi Lehkonen, plus fill out the rest of the roster and be mindful of Nathan MacKinnon’s extension, due by next off-season.
Kadri could just get priced out of Colorado.
“The number I hear starts at eight and could go as high as $10 million. Two teams that could stroke that check right now are Seattle and the Boston Bruins,” Nick Kypreos said on Real Kyper and Bourne Monday.
He also suggested the Arizona Coyotes as a possible fit. While rebuilding, Kypreos suggested they might try to add a player or two to give fans something to hold on to as they shift to a much smaller arena for the next few years.
The Calgary Flames also came up as a possible landing spot for Kadri, especially if Johnny Gaudreau hits the market and signs elsewhere. However, Kadri rejected a trade to the Flames before Toronto sent him to Colorado, and Friedman wondered if that would dampen the team’s interest in Kadri now.
“I have looked into that one because it makes sense, but I don’t know how they feel about it because he turned down a trade there once,” Friedman said.
Kadri figures to be one of the more fascinating and desired free agents this summer. Does he want to be a 1C? Will his focus be on Cup chasing and perhaps settling in with Colorado? Will he go after the highest paycheck after playing for a $4.5 million value the past six years?
The list of suitors is long, but the right fit can’t be clear without knowing Kadri’s goals and intentions
LATEST ON ALEX DEBRINCAT TRADE RUMOURS
It does appear the scales are tipping in favour of an Alex DeBrincat trade at some point this off-season, and the draft is a great time for a deal like this to occur.
The Blackhawks, staring down a rebuild, will be after futures and something along the lines of the Kevin Fiala trade from two weeks ago. Chicago currently does not have a first-round pick — their own was traded to Columbus in the Seth Jones deal last year.
The Philadelphia Flyers are one team believed to be in on DeBrincat, and they hold the fifth overall pick on Thursday night.
“I do think Philly and Chicago were engaged in talks on Alex DeBrincat definitely,” Friedman said. “What I’d heard was that things being talked about there included the fifth overall pick, the one the Flyers have. And when I was on with Kyper and Bourne on Thursday morning I mentioned was the fifth going to be included in this? And someone reached out to me on Monday night before we recorded and said, ‘Don’t continue going down that road.’
“What I think happened is that Chicago asked Philly for the fifth overall pick and I don’t think Philly wants to do that. I think Philly has decided, at least at his time, that that does not make sense for them and they’re better off keeping the pick than trading it for DeBrincat.”
The Flyers are engaged in their own rebuild and have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. They have been connected to Johnny Gaudreau in UFA rumours as well but must be cautious in what future assets and cap space they commit to a roster that seems in need of a further shake-up.
DeBrincat is surely an attractive asset, a 24-year-old who already has two 40-goal seasons on his resume. He’d help a team in need of adding scoring and even also be of use to one rebuilding, given his age. However, one factor any team has to consider with DeBrincat is his contract situation.
DeBrincat has one year remaining on a deal that pays $6.4 million against the cap, and when that expires in 2023 he’ll be an arbitration-eligible RFA. However, he’d be just one year away from qualifying for UFA status at that point and could slow play his way into a situation where he could pick his destination.
That brings us to the New Jersey Devils, another rebuilding team that has one playoff appearance in the past decade. They will be looking to settle their uneven goalie situation this summer, but are an organization trending up and one that could make a big splash (or a couple of them) this off-season.
The Devils are also connected to DeBrincat, and they hold the second overall pick.
“Knowing how New Jersey feels about this I wonder if they would consider two years of DeBrincat acceptable to trade second overall for,” Friedman wondered.
COULD MARC-ANDRE FLEURY BE TORONTO’S NEXT GOALIE?
It’s no secret that goaltending is Toronto’s biggest question going into the summer. And while outlooks can change at any moment, right now just eight days away from the opening of free agency, it does not look likely that Jack Campbell will be back.
“I’ve heard that there’s like nothing really going on there right now [with Campbell]. I think Edmonton’s interested, I think New Jersey’s interested,” Friedman said.
So where would the Leafs turn their focus to, if not Campbell? The goalie free agent market is thin on starters this summer, with Marc-Andre Fleury and Darcy Kuemper joining Campbell as mostly proven options, and Ville Husso a dark horse to consider as well. And, as Friedman noted in the podcast, there seems to be a decent chance Kuemper will return to the Avalanche.
Fleury, who will turn 38 in November, could be who Toronto turns its attention to … if the Minnesota Wild don’t re-sign him before the market opens.
And if he does make it to July 13 there will be plenty of suitors.
“I do think the goalies and their representatives are trying to figure out who’s in, who’s out and where the chairs are at the table,” Friedman said. “I think Fleury is one of the guys who has to figure out what he’s thinking because he could have multiple options. One of them is Minnesota, one of them is Pittsburgh. I think one of them could be Colorado if Darcy Kuemper is not back there. And the other one I think could be Toronto.”
The Leafs made an attempt to acquire Fleury through trade at this past season’s deadline but ultimately didn’t want to pay the price Chicago was asking for. The Wild wound up moving a second-round pick for him.
The next question is if Fleury would want to go to Toronto at this stage in his career.
“There were people who said he did not want to go to Toronto. I don’t think that’s true. I just think the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks could not agree on the trade and that’s because Chicago wanted [Matthew] Knies and Toronto wasn’t willing to do that,” Friedman said.