The NHL trade deadline is nearly upon us. Here’s the latest on the notable names in the rumor mill.
Ryan Kesler: Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports Kesler gave the Canucks a short list of preferred trade destinations. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers are believed among them. Kypreos notes the Canucks are reluctant to move the 29-year-old center to a Western Conference team.
Various reports claim the Canucks seek a 20- to 25-year-old center to replace Kesler, along with a first-round pick and a top prospect. The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports the Penguins, Flyers and Detroit Red Wings are among the front-runners. Kesler apparently won’t waive his no-trade clause for the Columbus Blue Jackets, possibly because of an old feud with former college teammate R.J. Umberger. Kuzma believes the Flyers can address the Canucks’ need for a young center by offering either Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier.
The Penguins and Flyers have reportedly made offers for Kesler. It’s also believed the Flyers have interest in Canucks defenseman Alex Edler. Given the limited cap space of the Flyers and Canucks, salaried players would have to be exchanged to make the dollars fit. One wonders what effect the Canucks shipping Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers will have on the Kesler trade talks.
With the NHL trade deadline a week away, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly is concerned the Philadelphia Flyers defense isn’t strong enough to get them into the playoffs. He feels they lack an impact defenseman, but acknowledges the difficulty of landing one by the trade deadline.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he likes how his blueline has played this season. He admits “it’s not a sexy defense,” but praised their performance. Holmgren adds he’s on the lookout for anything that could help his team, but he doesn’t foresee making a major trade. When it comes to trades, Holmgren has a history of saying one thing and doing another. One shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he’s looking around for blueline depth.
Panaccio suggests New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald would be “a very nice upgrade for any club,” noting his $550,000 salary is very affordable. Other options are Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, Dallas’ Trevor Daley, Edmonton’s Nick Schultz and Calgary’s Dennis Wideman, though Panaccio observes they all carry substantially higher cap hits.
This year’s trade deadline lands on March 5, which is just over a week away. There are a lot of names being churned through the rumor mill right now, but you and I both know that once the player is dealt your odds of acquiring him from a fellow owner start to become slim. And even if he’s still available, the price of said player goes up.
So you have to roll the dice a bit and try to land the player before he gets traded. But that’s not without its risks. First of all, he’ll actually need to be traded. Secondly, he’d need to go to a team that would actually help his production (i.e. linemates and ice time). Read more
Time for another THN mailbag. Thanks to all who submitted a question.
Adam, what teams can we expect activity from before the trade deadline?
Skjalg Hougen, Baerum, Norway
Although I recently posted my picks for NHL teams that need to make a deal immediately after the Olympic break, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number of teams that will make one. Why? Because circumstances can change at any moment between now and March 5; injuries can force a GM’s hands, as can team slumps and other franchises breathing down their necks in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Certainly, the NHL’s bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary, Florida and the suddenly John Tavares-less Islanders) are extremely likely to engage in a number of deals. But other than that, there’s nothing that suggests any Stanley Cup contender is guaranteed to make roster changes. There are simply too many variables that can impact their present and their future. Read more
The Nick Larson from Apple Valley, Minn., is the winner of the unofficial outlast-the-other-Nick-Larsons competition.
The Calgary Flames draft pick is one of four players named Nick Larson playing high level competitive hockey in the past decade.
Unrelated, three of the Nick Larsons hail from Minnesota. The other is from Pennsylvania.
Defenseman Nick Larson was the first Nick Larson to hit the competitive scene in 2000, playing a couple of seasons with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints before moving on to the WCHA’s University of Denver Pioneers. He was undrafted and retired in 2005.
Then came Nick Larson from Cranberry Township, Pa. The forward played three seasons in the NAHL with the Texas Tornado, Toledo IceDiggers, Dayton Gems and Central Texas Marshals before a stint with American International College in 2005-06. He also went undrafted and retired.
The Philadelphia Flyers could use some help on their defense to boost their playoff hopes, but pickings are slim on the trade market. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio doesn’t see anyone the Flyers could acquire who would bolster their blueline.
Responding to questions from his readers, Panaccio notes the Nashville Predators’ stockpiling of young defensemen suggests they could be willing to part with captain Shea Weber and his massive contract. Weber signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Flyers in July 2012, which the Predators subsequently matched.
Panaccio believes the Flyers still have interest in Weber as a replacement for the all-but-retired Chris Pronger, but doubts such a move will occur by the trade deadline. The Predators are battling for a wild card berth in the Western Conference. They wouldn’t handicap their chances by trading Weber, whose contract would be difficult to move during the season. Read more
In the days leading up to the Olympic roster freeze, there was growing anticipation Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner would be dealt to Los Angeles. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun reported of ongoing negotiations between the two clubs, with Kings left winger Kyle Clifford mentioned as part of the potential return.
The deal failed to materialize, as Oilers management reportedly weren’t willing to absorb part of Gagner’s contract, worth $4.8 million per season. The cap-strapped Kings would have to shed more salary than Clifford’s $1.1 million to make the dollars fit. Doing so risks further weakening their depth.
The Oilers also feel they can get a better return at the trade deadline or in June leading up to NHL draft. Considering the centerpiece of the rumored return from the Kings was a checking-line winger, it’s not surprising the Oilers opted to wait for better offers. They do need skilled checkers, but should get more for a valuable asset like Gagner.
The NHL’s Olympic roster freeze passed quietly, disappointing those expecting an early preview of the March 5 trade deadline.
One reason is only five teams (Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders) can be considered sellers. Another is 23 teams each carry $5 million or less in cap space. Most buyers will wait until next month’s deadline for a little more wiggle room under the cap, hoping more sellers get into the trade market by then.
While GMs are restricted from making deals during the freeze, which runs Feb. 7 to 23, they are permitted to hold trade talks. Those discussions could lay the groundwork for potential moves once the freeze lifts.
Expect most of the focus to remain on Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, New York Islanders left winger Thomas Vanek and New York Rangers’ right winger Ryan Callahan. Their eligibility for unrestricted free agency at season’s end made them fodder for speculation prior to the Olympic break.