Rumor Roundup: Will the Flyers trade a defenseman?

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Add the Philadelphia Flyers to the list of teams (the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks being the others) rumored to be shopping defensemen before the season opens next week. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Flyers could trade a blueliner to shed salary. McKenzie claims Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann as possible trade candidates.

That prompted a swift, angry denial from Flyers GM Ron Hextall, telling CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio not to believe everything we read. A report in the Philadelphia Daily News, however, suggests the rumors are credible, claiming the Flyers hope to move out a veteran or two to make room for younger defensemen. Read more

Bobby Orr pegs Gordie Howe No. 1 all-time – calls game today ‘dangerous’

Canada Post's 2014 NHL commemorative stamps (courtesy Canada Post)

On the day he was honored with his own stamp, the man many hockey fans feel was the greatest player of all-time gave his stamp of approval for that designation to Gordie Howe. Bobby Orr threw his support behind Mr. Hockey in the never-ending debate concerning the greatest player ever to play the greatest game. “Gordie is, in my mind, the greatest ever,” said Orr, who recently penned the foreword for Howe’s memoir, Mr. Hockey. “His numbers are outrageous and most of that was with the six teams, when it was a lot tougher. I don’t think there’s any question. Play any way you want to play…he was special.” Read more

Lame Duck? Mike Babcock doesn’t care – & neither should Red Wings fans

Adam Proteau
Mike Babcock (Getty Images)

In just about any other NHL market, a coach entering the final year of his contract with no extension would be given lame duck status. It’s the reason that, for instance, the most recent bench bosses of the Toronto Maple Leafs (current head coach Randy Carlyle and his predecessor, Ron Wilson) received extensions by the final year of their initial contracts despite delivering less-than-ideal results. If they were allowed to play out their deals without any guarantee they’d be back the following season, fans and media would speculate until their heads exploded – and, more importantly, the players they were responsible for might not buy into their on-ice vision.

However, for every rule, there’s a exception – and in this case, the exception is found in the person of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who doesn’t have a new deal in place beyond the 2014-15 campaign. Call him a lame duck if you want, but understand virtually every other coach in hockey would kill you where you stand to be so lame.

Babcock said he wouldn’t negotiate an extension once the season begins, and barring a last-minute agreement, it looks like he’s going to wait until next spring to get something done – or move on to another challenge. And that’s fine. His boss, GM Ken Holland, signed a four-year extension in August and their working relationship is strong and successful enough to withstand the pressures and questions of him working without a safety net.

If anyone is singularly focused on his job and immune to the chirping of fans and media, it’s Babcock. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Should the Islanders trade for Johnny Boychuk?

Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

With the start of the upcoming NHL season less than two weeks away, interest is growing over the potential moves by Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to free up cap space. It’s been speculated for weeks Chiarelli could move one of his nine NHL-ready defensemen, creating additional room to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

Trading Johnny Boychuk ($3.37 million cap hit), who’s an unrestricted free agent in July, would easily remedy the situation, but Chiarelli seems reluctant to move him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports of speculation the Bruins could re-sign Boychuk, but an extension hasn’t been discussed.

During a recent live chat, ESPN’s Katie Strang stated her belief the New York Islanders could be a logical trade partner for the Bruins, claiming the Isles would like to upgrade their defense via trade. Her colleague Craig Custance, however, suggests it might make more sense for the Isles to evaluate their young blueline core and compliment it closer to the trade deadline with an experienced defenseman.

Sports Illustrated Allan Muir feels Adam McQuaid could be a trade option. Muir suggests a swap with the Detroit Red Wings, who need a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. He also believes McQuaid’s reasonable cap hit ($1.57 million), size (6-foot-5, 209 pounds) and physical presence would be attractive to the Wings. While Chiarelli might prefer shipping McQuaid to a different division, the Wings could tempt him with their prospect depth.

McQuaid could also be of interest to the Islanders, but the Bruins aren’t the only team that could move a defenseman for cap reasons. The Chicago Blackhawks must shed more than $2.2 million to become cap compliant. Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) and Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) are often mentioned as trade candidates. Read more

Pavel Datsyuk injury in pre-season money grab a bad omen for Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Well, this is just a lovely start to the pre-season, isn’t it? They’ve barely begun the series of games that determine one or two roster spots and make the owners more money and already the body count is rising.

And we’re not talking about fourth-liners here. Pavel Datsyuk, the player the Detroit Red Wings can least afford to lose, is out at least four weeks with a second-degree separation to his right shoulder after taking a hit along the boards from Rob Scuderi of the Pittsburgh Penguins late in a game Monday night

Speaking of the Penguins, none of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Chris Kunitz is ready for action. The nature of the injuries is clouded in secrecy, but it doesn’t bode well when three players who have had all summer to rest and heal basically aren’t ready for training camp.

Add to that a broken bone in Jordan Staal’s right leg in a Carolina Hurricanes pre-season game, a broken left leg for Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, a possible concussion for Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, a broken nose for Darren Helm of the Red Wings and a fractured tibia for Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha and it looks as though you have a fully blown injury epidemic on your hands with two weeks still to go before the puck drops for the real games.

The Datsyuk injury, which looks as though it will keep him out of the first two weeks of the season, is disturbing. Four minutes left in a meaningless pre-season game and Datsyuk is on the ice and gets taken into the stanchion. Now the Red Wings, who face an uphill climb even with Datsyuk in the lineup, will have to try to get through the first two weeks without him. Making matters worse is the fact that the Red Wings play seven games in the first 14 days of the season.

(If I were running an NHL organization, I’d keep my star players out of these money-grab games and play them in perhaps the last one or two of the pre-season. Let the third- and fourth-line guys fill out the quota of NHL players each team must ice for these games. Sure, fans don’t get to see the stars in the exhibition games and they might grumble about that, but you’d have to think Red Wing fans would have rather seen Datsyuk suit up for the start of the season instead of playing in a meaningless game in September.)

Datsyuk has never before missed the start of the season and has, with the exception of last season, been a pretty durable player for them. Even when you factor in the fact that he missed 37 games last season, he has still played in 75 percent of the Red Wings games over the past four seasons.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland said during the team’s prospect tournament in Traverse City last week that the Red Wings will be a contending team if two things happened. The first is if Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combine for 140 games between them and the second is Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar combining for 50 goals. The third, which was unstated, is if goalie Jimmy Howard can return to the form he displayed in 2012-13, not the one he displayed in ’13-14.

A healthy Daniel Alfredsson would also help. Alfredsson has made it clear to the Red Wings that he will either play this season for Detroit or he will retire from the NHL. Out of respect for the veteran, Holland is giving Alfredsson the duration of training camp to figure out whether his wonky back will be able to handle the rigors of another season of NHL competition. If not, the Red Wings start the season without their leading scorer from 2013-14.

So if Datsyuk misses seven games, that means the most for which he and Zetterberg could combine would be 157. That doesn’t leave much room for two veterans who combined to miss 74 games last season. If that happens again, the Red Wings can forget about making the playoffs for a 24th straight season and will have to concentrate on rebuilding, not reloading, for the first time in more than two decades.

The top 10 goalies most likely to have a down year

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.

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Scouting reports from Traverse City, part two

Dallas pick Julius Honka (LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The championship game of the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan pitted Columbus against Dallas, with the Blue Jacket kids skating off to victory on an overtime goal scored by Josh Anderson during 3-on-3 play. Here’s part two of my filing on how the big games did, this time concentrating on Columbus, Dallas, Carolina and Detroit. I am not including Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings since he missed the last game with knee soreness and I only saw part of his prior game.

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Turns out, money will be an object in Babcock negotiations

Ken Campbell
Ken Holland and Mike Babcock (middle).  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The most intriguing off-ice story of this season will be Mike Babcock’s future with the Detroit Red Wings. Until Babcock re-signs with the Detroit, the questions will continue to follow this team.

And here’s one to ponder: If John Tortorella is worth $2 million a year sitting in his barcalounger, what is the man many consider to be the best coach in the NHL worth? Will Babcock be the first to break the bank and be paid like his NFL counterparts?

The first assumption is that money will not be an object, that the Red Wings will give Babcock all the money and all the term he wants and that if Babcock leaves, it will be for a better situation. There is no salary cap on what coaches can be paid, so that begs the question, why would a superstar coach such as Babcock not make $5 million a year? Joel Quenneville, who has won two Stanley Cups in the past four years, is believed to be the highest-paid coach in the NHL at about $2.5 million, which is ridiculously low because it’s less than the average player salary.

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