Rumor Roundup: With nine UFAs, Leafs aren’t done dealing

Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.

The Toronto Maple Leafs trading defenseman Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators served to stoke speculation over which Maple Leafs could be next out the door. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail notes the Leafs have nine players — goaltender James Reimer, defenseman Roman Polak and forwards P-A Parenteau, Michael Grabner, Shawn Matthias, Brad Boyes, Nick Spaling, Marco Arcobello and Rich Clune — eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

It’s expected Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello will try to move as many as he can for prospects and/or draft picks. Mirtle believes Reimer and Parenteau hold the most value, suggesting they could fetch second-round picks or prospects.

Lamoriello could also try moving a player with term remaining on his contract if there’s a decent returnn to be had. Mirtle claims the Leafs discussed moving goaltender Jonathan Bernier and center Daniel Winnik. He also suggests center Tyler Bozak could hold interest in the trade market, but left winger Joffrey Lupul’s injury history makes him difficult to move.

Mirtle doubts Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner will be shopped. He considers them part of the young core the Leafs wish to build around.

The Phaneuf trade also increased anticipation the Leafs are preparing to pursue Tampa Bay Lightning center Stephen Stamkos if he becomes a UFA in July. Having traded away their captain in Phaneuf, the Leafs will be lacking experienced leadership and star presence. Stamkos could fill both roles.

But as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times points out, there’s no guarantees the Leafs can land Stamkos, who wants to win a Stanley Cup. Smith believes the Lightning captain could receive lucrative offers from clubs in better position to win than the Leafs.

SENATORS FRONT RUNNERS FOR DROUIN?

Having bolstered his blueline with Dion Phaneuf, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray could turn his attention toward adding a top-six forward. TVA Sports reporters Louis Jean and Renaud Lavoie claim the Senators are now the front-runners for suspended Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin.

The Senators surfaced last month among the suitors for the 20-year-old Drouin, who struggled to establish himself as a playmaker with the Lightning. Murray is also interested in adding a player with term left on his contract. Drouin is in the second season of a three-year entry-level deal, making him quite affordable for the cost-conscious Senators.

For weeks, the St. Louis Blues were considered the prime candidates to land Drouin. However, it seems their interest has faded, especially with left winger Jaden Schwartz returning from a fractured ankle. The Senators also have depth in young players and prospects to dangle for Drouin. It’s believed the Lightning seek either a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot or a couple of top prospects.

KINGS EYEING JETS’ LADD

In the wake of the Winnipeg Jets re-signing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to an expensive new contract, there’s increasing chatter over pending UFA left winger Andrew Ladd’s future. Consensus among the punditry suggests the 30-year-old Ladd will be playing elsewhere by the end of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

If the Jets shop Ladd, they won’t lack for suitors. Teams in need of scoring depth, like the Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils, could come calling soon.

Prior to Byfuglien signing his new deal, there was talk the Los Angeles Kings were interested in him. NBC Sports’ Mike Halford cites a Winnipeg Free Press report claiming the Kings could shift their interest to Ladd.

Their rumored interest in Byfuglien was to fill the gap left by the departed Slava Voynov on their blueline. If so, it’s odd that they would suddenly go after Ladd, especially when they’ve got Milan Lucic and Marian Gaborik on the left side. Gaborik, however, has struggled offensively this season, so perhaps the Kings see the need to bolster their left wing if they can’t land a top-four blueliner.

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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.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Development key for new Maple Leafs prospect Tobias Lindberg

Tobias Lindberg  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Toronto Marlies have a luxury not many, if any, teams in the American League enjoy. When the parent team is out of town, the Marlies have access to two ice surfaces in the same building. And they use them. At one point during practice, coach Sheldon Keefe splits the groups up, with one going to one rink for skill development, the other on another sheet working on systems.

And what exactly does that have to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring prospect Tobias Lindberg in the trade with the Ottawa Senators for Dion Phaneuf? Actually, quite a bit. Because how Lindberg develops under the watchful eye of Keefe will go a long way to determining how good he’ll be as an NHL player. And how good he’ll be as an NHL player will go a long way to ultimately deciding how well the Leafs did in the trade.

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Phaneuf trade shows exactly why the Leafs went out and got Lamoriello

Ken Campbell
New teammates Chris Neil (left) and Dion Phaneuf (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Back on July 23 when the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they’d hired Lou Lamoriello to be their GM, it was fair to wonder whether or not they had made the right move. In a way, it actually seemed a little counterintuitive at the time. After all, Lamoriello was approaching his 74th birthday and had presided over a New Jersey Devils franchise that was in an on-ice decline. It was at least reasonable to debate whether he’d lost his touch or had the chops to oversee a painful rebuild.

Question answered, accompanied by a conga line of exclamation marks. The Maple Leafs, who have gotten very adept at trading untradeable players and contracts, did it again, moving a veteran, middling defenseman with five years and $35 million remaining on his deal in Dion Phaneuf in their division to the Ottawa Senators and getting back a young defenseman with a ton to prove in Jared Cowen, a second-round pick in 2017 and a 6-foot-3, 215 pound prospect who has been a pleasant surprise wherever he had played in Tobias Lindberg. Milan Michalek, who has one year left on his deal at $4 million, will be long gone by the time the Maple Leafs become a competitive team. Colin Greening has spent most of this season in the minors and carries a cap hit of $2.65 million, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to play on this NHL team as a bottom-six player until his contract runs out after next season.

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Leafs trade Dion Phaneuf to Senators in nine-player blockbuster. Let’s sort through it

Matt Larkin
Dion Phaneuf (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Whoa. Whoa. A nine-player trade? Between two teams historically characterized as bitter divisional and geographical rivals? Involving one of the team’s captains? Let’s breathe and try to sort through the blockbuster between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.

Credit to Bob McKenzie for being first on the story. The official trade:

Toronto Maple Leafs receive…

Jared Cowen, D
Milan Michalek, LW
Colin Greening, LW
Tobias Lindberg, RW
2017 second-round pick

Ottawa Senators receive…

Dion Phaneuf, D
Matt Frattin, RW
Casey Bailey, C/RW
Ryan Rupert, C
Cody Donaghey, D

Before we dive into the specifics of each piece, let’s get to the point and examine what this trade is really about.

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Senators’ Mark Stone takes skate to the face, somehow escapes serious injury

Jared Clinton
Mark Stone (via Streamable)

Senators winger Mark Stone doesn’t head to the penalty box often, and he might be even more wary of committing stick infractions after a trip on Joffrey Lupul nearly resulted in Stone’s face being sliced open by Lupul’s skate.

With three minutes remaining in the first period, Lupul was battling with Stone for the puck in the neutral zone when Stone got his stick into Lupul’s skate and hauled the Maple Leafs winger to the ice. The trip of Lupul resulted in his upper body falling forward and feet kicking up into the air, with his left skate coming up and catching Stone in the face.

Stone immediately clutched his face and headed for the dressing room as referees on ice whistled the play dead because Stone had been tagged for tripping: Read more

Chris Phillips ‘just trying to get healthy’ in hopes of returning to action

Jared Clinton
Chris Phillips (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

When Toronto hosts Ottawa in their third game back from the all-star break, it will mark exactly one-year that Chris Phillips has been sidelined from the Senators’ lineup.

The 37-year-old blueliner missed the final 34 games, six of which were post-season contests, of Ottawa’s 2014-15 campaign with a back injury. He had surgery to repair the injury in April 2015 and it was believed he would be ready for the beginning of the 2015-16 season. However, Phillips suffered a cracked vertebrae in his back during the summer and it has put his chances of returning this season — or at all — in jeopardy.

“I haven’t been skating a lot,” Phillips told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. “It’s been frustrating and, right now, I’m at a point where I’ve taken that pressure off of where I’m skating and pushing to get back. Right now, I’m just trying to get healthy and then I’ll go from there.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Lightning begin negotiating with Stamkos as Drouin sits and awaits trade

Steven Stamkos (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

For most of January, the trade request by Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin and his recent holdout overshadowed the contract negotiations between the club and captain Steven Stamkos However, recent talk of a rumored offer by the Lightning pushed those negotiations to the forefront.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports it’s believed the Lightning pitched a deal to the Stamkos camp worth $8.5 million annually. Stamkos subsequently told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times he had no comment about the report, adding his contract discussions will remain strictly between himself and management.

Assuming that offer was the Lightning’s opening bid, the club’s fans probably shouldn’t worry that GM Steve Yzerman is playing hardball. As with most negotiations, the Bolts make a low opening offer. The Stamkos camp likely counters with something much higher, perhaps comparable to the $10.5-million annual cap hits of Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. After that, the two sides negotiate toward a more mutually beneficial number.

Drouin, meanwhile, remains the subject of ongoing trade speculation. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch lists  the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens among the potential suitors. Garrioch also claims Yzerman’s asking price for the 20-year-old left winger has changed from a roster player to a couple of top prospects.

Friedman’s colleague Damien Cox claims the Senators and Lightning had discussions about Drouin. The Sens, however, aren’t parting with defenseman Cody Ceci.

One blueliner the Senators could move is the disappointing Jared Cowen, but don’t expect Yzerman to give up a prized asset like Drouin for an expensive under-achieving blueliner. Garrioch believes the 25-year-old’s actual salary ($4.5 million next season) makes him difficult to move.

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin last week publicly stood by embattled coach Michel Therrien and his staff, shouldering the blame for the club’s free-fall in the standings. Bergevin also noted the difficulty in trying to acquire some scoring punch for his anemic offense.

That doesn’t mean Bergevin stopped trying. Garrioch believes the Habs GM wants to add some size to his forward lines. So far, however, the asking price is young assets.

Center Alex Galchenyuk is attracting interest. Friedman reports a couple of teams made inquiries about the 21-year-old, but were told he’s not on the trade block.

Given the Canadiens’ plight, Bergevin isn’t dealing from a position of strength. His rivals hope he’ll succumb to pressure and try to make a big season-saving deal. While Bergevin has a reputation for pulling off surprising moves, he’s unwilling to sacrifice his youngsters for a quick fix.

BLUE JACKETS NOT DONE DEALING

The Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the hockey world earlier this month by shipping center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones. Ongoing media chatter suggests Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could make other moves before the trade deadline.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie speculates the Jackets’ roster restructuring will continue through the trade deadline and into the off-season. Garrioch claims Kekalainen is working the phones seeking a center to replace the departed Johansen.

Recent Jackets’ speculation suggests they could move out a couple of veterans with term remaining on their contracts. Left winger Scott Hartnell ($4.75-million annually through 2018-19) and defenseman Fedor Tyutin ($4.5 million through 2017-18) recently surfaced as possible trade candidates.

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.)

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Senators’ Michalek breaks finger on right hand for second time in two months, out indefinitely

Jared Clinton
Milan Michalek (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On Dec. 1, Ottawa Senators winger Milan Michalek blocked Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas’ shot and broke the index finger on his right hand. The injury forced him out of 16 games, but he returned Jan. 7. Barely two weeks later, Michalek finds himself right back on the shelf though after breaking a finger on his right hand once again.

In the second period of the Senators’ Friday night tilt with the Islanders, New York defenseman Nick Leddy would up and let go a slapshot from the blueline. Michalek, who was the first up to pressure Leddy, got low to the ice to break up the shot attempt and took the puck off his right hand. Michalek immediately shook his hand and headed to the Senators bench, and left for the dressing room shortly thereafter: Read more