The facts aren’t wholly apparent, but it sure appears like Lightning captain Martin St. Louis took significant offense to initially being left off Team Canada’s Sochi Olympics roster (he was later named as an injury replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos). Asked Wednesday to comment on recent trade rumors linking him to the New York Rangers, St. Louis responded in a way he had to know was the equivalent of parachuting a crate of fireworks into an oil refinery fire.
St. Louis “left it” without saying his opinion had changed since winning a gold medal with Team Canada, or that he was still invested in remaining with the team for the rest of his career. Either one of those definitive statements would have quashed the issue once and for all, but it remains unquashed and speculation as to the 38-year-old’s future will now intensify both in the short term (i.e. the March 5 trade deadline) and again in the off-season. If Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman does decide to move St. Louis, where are the best fits for both team and player? These teams (in no particular order) make most sense:
1. New York Rangers. St. Louis holds a full no-trade clause, giving him control of his destination in a deal. And because he makes his off-season home in Connecticut, the Blueshirts are rumored to be his first, and perhaps only choice. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan’s name is most prominently mentioned, but the pending unrestricted free agent would need to agree to a contract extension first, and there would likely need to be a draft pick or prospect added to the pot to make the deal palatable for Yzerman. Read more
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.
Yesterday on the blog, we featured Chicago backup goalie Antti Raanta’s Stadium Series mask that he’ll use in this Saturday’s outdoor game. But he likely won’t be playing in the game, so we won’t get to see much of the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ throw back look.
Today we turn our attention to the two starters: Marc-Andre Fleury and Corey Crawford.
Since the game will be played at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, the design Fleury is going with perfectly fits the day’s theme. When you think of all-time NFL defences, you think of Chicago’s Monsters of the Midway or Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain. The two teams are in different conferences and have never met in a Super Bowl, but both franchises are legendary and pride themselves on a strong ‘D.’ Read more
If you’re in a keeper league and first place is out of reach, it’s always a good idea to look ahead to next year and position yourself for victory in 2015. The best way to do that is not only smart drafting and off-season trading, but also in-season trading. In fact, the time to get the best return for an asset who is producing well is now because the contenders are getting desperate to get an edge that will put them over the top when the dust settles.
Star players are usually pretty hard to acquire, especially when you don’t want to give up a star yourself. Often targeting an underachieving star is much easier. After all, other owners may be reluctant to go after the underachiever, fearing the decline is a sign of things to come. So the trade market for that player isn’t as much of a boom as it should be.
Here are my picks for underachieving star players you should target.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton
Eberle is on pace for 62 points, which is the same production rate as last season. But in 2011-12 he was nearly a point-per-game player and next year he’ll be 24 years old. He still hasn’t hit his prime and frankly neither has the rest of the young Oilers. If you could trade an overachieving Joe Pavelski or David Krejci and get Eberle and a good draft pick in return, that’s the way to go. Read more
The Edmonton Oilers are among the handful of teams considered sellers leading up to the March 5 trade deadline. Right winger Ales Hemsky and defenseman Nick Schultz are among the Oilers expected to be shopped once the Olympic trade freeze lifts Feb. 23.
Hemsky is no stranger to rumors, but he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer earning $5 million this season and isn’t expected to be re-signed. Schultz, earning $3.6 million, is also a pending UFA.
Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer claims the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins could be interested in Hemsky. Stauffer also commented on a proposed deal with Hemsky going to the Phoenix Coyotes for prospect Henrik Samuelsson. While doubting the Coyotes would part with Samuelsson, the Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis believes if the Oilers agreed to pick up half of Hemsky’s remaining salary it could make the 30-year-old winger attractive to teams with financial issues, like Phoenix.
SOCHI – Who knows what Mike Babcock is thinking right now? But sit tight and get ready for this. If you can believe it, Chris Kunitz has worked his way back up to Canada’s top line.
Well, using the term ‘worked’ might be gilding the lily just a little bit. Perhaps reuniting Kunitz with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron on the top line is just a case of Babcock throwing up his hands and deferring to Crosby’s preference of wingers. Or it might be a case that he’s so impressed with Jamie Benn, and he should be, that he sees Benn as the guy who can revive the second line. Read more
SOCHI – Canadian Olympic team coach Mike Babcock intends to use his day off Saturday to do a lot of thinking about how his roster will look for the rest of the tournament. He certainly wasn’t tipping his hand at his news conference, but seemed to enjoy the cat and mouse game with reporters.
Which brings us to Chris Kunitz. Babcock faces a vexing question with respect to Kunitz, who has been almost invisible in Canada’s first two games, despite drawing significant minutes on the top line with his Pittsburgh Penguins running mate Sidney Crosby. Kunitz has looked overmatched and out of place against the two weakest opponents Canada is going to face in this tournament and there have to be concerns about how he responds to the tougher competition, which begins Sunday when Canada closes out its preliminary round against Finland. Read more
We’re right in the midst of Olympic fever, but that doesn’t mean NHL franchises aren’t plotting out the rest of their regular season and playoffs. I spoke to a GM this week who was vacationing in Maui, yet still was holding telephone meetings with staff when he wasn’t catching a few tropical rays.
So don’t fool yourself into thinking that trade chatter is dormant. Indeed, there are teams that have to make deals once the Olympic break ends Feb. 24. Here, in no particular order, are six that absolutely need to do something by the March 5 trade deadline:
1. Vancouver. Few teams looked more deeply mired in dire straits heading into the Olympic break than the Canucks, who’d lost seven straight and had only four points (two regulation wins) in their 10 most recent games. They’re at a development crossroads with this group – 12 members of it will be 30 or older by the end of the calendar year, and cornerstones Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be 34 in September – and if they go all-in on short-term fixes to improve their playoff chances, they’re going to find themselves on the same track as the Calgary Flames were all the seasons they thought they could contend with Jarome Iginla and the center du jour. Read more