Canadiens trade Brandon Prust to Canucks for Zack Kassian

Matt Larkin
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images Sport)

The Montreal Canadiens knew they need to get bigger and stronger at forward, so it’s no surprise to see them trade for a massive winger on Wednesday. The fact it was Zack Kassian, however, may raise an eyebrow or two.

Kassian, 24, was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres and was dealt for Cody Hodgson at the 2012 deadline. The Canucks hoped they’d found their very own Milan Lucic, a mammoth power forward at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds who could put the puck in the net.

It just didn’t quite materialize for Kassian, though. He showed it in bursts, like when he sniped 14 goals in 2013-14, and he even saw some stretches with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. But Kassian had a penchant for taking bad penalties and didn’t click with any of his coaches, from Alain Vigneault to Willie Desjardins. Kassian was an occasional healthy scratch.

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Rumor Roundup: Bieksa drawing interest, Sharp still on the market

sharpdressedman

NHL unrestricted free agency begins on July 1, but the thin market for available talent has teams considering better options via the trade market.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa is garnering considerable interest. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports 10 teams are looking at the 34-year-old blueliner who has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4.6 million. Friedman also claims Bieksa was nearly dealt to the San Jose Sharks, but after a week of talks the deal fell through before the draft.

The Canucks have just over $6.1 million in cap space for 2015-16 and must shed salary for other potential moves. Given the interest in Bieksa, the Canucks could ship him out before the free agent market opens. Failing that, they could gauge interest from clubs that failed to land the few decent UFA defensemen currently available. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel, Skinner, Sharp & Bieksa trade buzz

Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2015 NHL draft saw its share of trade activity involving established NHL players. Among the notables to change teams were Dougie Hamilton (Boston to Calgary), Milan Lucic (Boston to Los Angeles), Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado to Buffalo) and Carl Hagelin (Rangers to Anaheim). Even the rights of all-but-retired defensemen Flyers Chris Pronger was moved as part of a swap that also saw Nicklas Grossman shipped from Philadelphia to Arizona for Sam Gagner.

Despite this unusually high volume of players traded, several others who’ve been frequent fixtures in the rumor mill remain on the market.

On Friday, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported multiple source claiming the Pens were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner was on the Pens’ list of trade targets. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Montreal Canadiens must think big

Alex Galchenyuk. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In what has been an otherwise impressive record of drafting and developing, the Montreal Canadiens have a black hole, the effects of which are being felt by the organization today. In the 2008 and ’09 drafts, amateur scouting director Trevor Timmins and his staff selected 13 players, none of whom has made an impact at the NHL level. Those players are in their early 20s now and should’ve been in position to not only make contributions, but also carry the team in future years. Perhaps if the Canadiens had been able to mine some talented players with size, they wouldn’t be one of the smallest and poorest possession teams in the league.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 26
Round 3, pick 87
Round 5, pick 131
Round 6, pick 177
Round 7, pick 207

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The Habs have size on the blueline but desperately need some bigger forwards who can play. They drafted hulking Michael McCarron in the first round in 2013, but he’s a few years away, if he makes the NHL at all.

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Rumor Roundup: Will Thornton and Marleau bid the Bay Area farewell?

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

During the summer of 2014, there was considerable trade speculation regarding San Jose Sharks’ veteran stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks were still reeling from their opening-round playoff elimination by the Los Angeles Kings. General manager Doug Wilson promised significant changes, stoking the rumors Thornton or Marleau would be dealt.

The trade chatter about the duo fizzled out when both made it clear in media interviews they weren’t waiving their respective no-movement clauses. With the Sharks going on to miss the playoffs this season, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz speculates over the possibility Thornton or Marleau will be part of a blockbuster move this summer.

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Top 5 NHL stars-turned-coaches

Larry Robinson (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Members of the NHL’s coaching community come from a wide variety of backgrounds – some, like Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, have degrees in social work; others, like Dallas’ Lindy Ruff, are hockey lifers with a background as a worker bee NHLer – but, for the most part, very few of the game’s elite stars have found success as bench bosses. The reasons for it are complex, but by-and-large, the best of the best usually prefer to spend their time away from the type of high-pressure environment occupied by a coach in hockey’s top league. And that’s why news the Red Wings were close to naming Hockey-Hall-of-Famer Chris Chelios as an assistant to new head coach Jeff Blashill is interesting: you rarely see a former player of his calibre at ice level without his equipment on.

Who are the best modern-era players who have evolved into NHL coaches or assistant coaches? Here are the Top 5:

5. Adam Oates. Like the other players who made this list, Oates is a Hall-of-Famer who amassed 1,420 points in 1,337 regular-season games and is regarded as one of the better playmakers in league history. He began his post-career coaching days as an assistant in Tampa Bay and then New Jersey, before the Capitals made him their head coach in June of 2012. And although he failed to make the playoffs in two years guiding the Capitals before he was fired at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, Oates quickly returned behind the bench with the Devils as a “co-coach” alongside Scott Stevens midway through this past year. He’ll likely get another shot, at least, as an assistant, with another NHL franchise. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel trade talk heating up entering draft weekend

Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the Stanley Cup playoffs finally over and the NHL Draft weekend (June 26-27) drawing near, speculation continues to grow over possible trade destinations for Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel.

The 27-year-old right winger has a limited no-trade clause listing eight teams he will accept being dealt to. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reminded everyone those teams were Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh leading up to the March 2015 trade deadline.

Recently, there was talk of the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues Florida Panthers or Calgary Flames possibly pursuing the Leafs star. None of them were on his list. McKenzie suggested the Leafs could ask Kessel to broaden his list if they receive strong offers from other clubs. He also speculated Kessel could submit an updated list at the end of June.

The inclusion of the Bruins on Kessel’s list prompted CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty to examine the pros and cons of bringing him back to Boston. Considering the seven years remaining on Kessel’s contract (at an annual cap hit of $8 million), that’s far too rich to fit on the cap-strapped Bruins payroll.

NBC Sports’ Jason Brough raises the possibility of Kessel making it difficult for the Leafs to move him, pointing out all the clubs on his preferred trade list carry limited cap space.

RANGERS PLANNING MOVES THIS OFF-SEASON?

The lack of goaltending depth in this summer’s free-agent market is boosting the trade stock of New York Rangers backup Cam Talbot. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites “well-placed sources” claiming there’s significant interest in Talbot. The 27-year-old goaltender starts a one-year, $1.45-million contract for 2015-16 and becomes eligible next July for unrestricted free agency.

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal cited a rumor out of Ottawa claiming the Oilers could part with the 16th overall selection in the upcoming draft for Talbot. The Oilers certainly need depth between the pipes so it’s no surprise they’re linked to the Rangers backup in the rumor mill. However, Staples considers parting with such a high pick an overpayment for Talbot, who has yet to establish himself as an NHL starter.

If the Rangers shop Talbot, they could face competition in the trade market from the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Sens could move Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner, while the Canucks could deal Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom for second- or third-round picks.

Speaking of the Rangers, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (cited by Today’s Slapshot) wondered if the Buffalo Sabres might take a run at acquiring right winger Rick Nash. Friedman admits, however, he’s not 100 percent certain the Sabres will make that move.

Sabres GM Tim Murray might be aggressive, but Nash simply isn’t a fit with his club. Though the 31-year-old’s full no-movement clause becomes a partial no-trade clause on July 1, Friedman notes Nash still has control over potential trade options. Going from a two-time Conference Finalist to a rebuilding club probably won’t be to Nash’s liking.

CANADIENS LIKELY TO SHED SALARY

On Monday, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed center Torrey Mitchell to a three-year contract extension worth an average annual cap hit of $1.2 million. Over the weekend, they also re-upped defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year deal with a $1- million average annual salary.

Those signings pushed the Canadiens cap payroll in 2015-16 to over $66.4 million. That increases the likelihood GM Marc Bergevin could shed salary via trade in the coming weeks.

Bergevin still has yet to re-sign RFA forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Flynn. With the cap projected to rise to $71 million, that won’t leave much room to re-sign those two while still leaving space for other additions as required.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels notes the Habs have over $28 million invested in defensemen, suggesting one of them could be moved. Engels cites Tom Gilbert (one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $2.8 million) or Alexei Emelin (three years remaining, $4.1-million annual cap hit) as possible trade candidates. Forward options could include Tomas Plekanec (one year left, $5 million), David Desharnais (two years, $3.5 million annually) or Lars Eller (three years, $3.5 million per).

Plekanec and Emelin could fetch the best returns, but both are carrying no-trade clauses. They could be asked to waive them, but finding suitable trade destinations could be difficult. Eller might also interest GMs willing to gamble that a change of scenery might do him good.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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