Why Phil Kessel should be Montreal’s top trade target

Phil Kessel. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury, to name a few, were Boston Red Sox and then New York Yankees.

Brett Favre was a Green Bay Packer and then a Minnesota Viking. Edmonton Oilers legend Grant Fuhr finished his career with Calgary. So there is precedent for a high-profile player to join his franchise’s most bitter rival.

That’s just one reason why I ask you not to gasp at this mental image: Phil Kessel in bleu, blanc, et rouge. Frank Mahovlich did it. Doug Gilmour did it. It can happen.

More importantly, it should happen, not in the sense that it will – fat chance – but in that it would be a smart idea for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens to engineer a Phil Kessel deal before this June’s draft.

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Bolts’ Ben Bishop fooled by wrist shot from Habs’ Jeff Petry for first career NHL playoff goal

Jeff Petry (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

One of the great talents of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is finding role players who can contribute for Montreal at key moments; for example, Dale Weise has been a playoff hero for the Habs both this season and last. And Sunday in Game 2 of their second-round series against Tampa Bay, another trade acquisition – this time, veteran defenseman Jeff Petry – stepped up, scoring his first career NHL playoff goal for the first lead of the game.

Brought in from Edmonton at the trade deadline for a second-round and conditional fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the 27-year-old Petry took a wrist shot from the blueline shortly after the seven-minute mark. As Hockey Night In Canada analyst Craig Simpson noted, Bishop was looking to his left for the shot, but the puck went to his right: Read more

Senators’ summer will include a goalie trade – and the return in any goalie deal must address Ottawa’s needs on the blueline

Adam Proteau
Andrew Hammond (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators’ season came to an end Sunday when the Montreal Canadiens eliminated them from the first round of the playoffs in six games. It was a valiant run by the Sens just to make it to the post-season, and after nearly being swept, they fought tooth-and-nail to extend the series an additional two games. But in the end, they ran out of teeth and nails, and now the focus must turn to their summer plans to get better.

Almost certainly, Ottawa’s off-season will include the trading of a goalie. The late emergence of Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond has crowded the picture in the Sens’ net, and one of the three netminders with NHL experience on the roster will be moved to address the franchise’s needs. The goaltender they deal may be veteran Craig Anderson – who replaced Hammond in the Canadiens series and showed why he’s still got three years and $12.6 million left on his contract – or it may be 23-year-old Swede Robin Lehner, signed for another two years at a salary cap hit of $2.25 million. Heck, it could be the 27-year-old Hammond (an unrestricted free agent) they wind up shipping out. But at a time when many teams (including Edmonton and perhaps St. Louis, among others) are looking for a new option in net, it would be foolish for Ottawa to bring all three back and not get as much as they can for one of them.

And when they do trade one of their goalies, the Sens need the return to help improve their blueline corps, which, despite the presence of Norris Trophy finalist Erik Karlsson, still needs a ton of work. Read more

Todd McLellan Era in San Jose looks to be over, but roster move of consequence is also necessary

Adam Proteau
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan talks to players including Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the highly rumored split between the Sharks and head coach Todd McLellan may happen as soon as Wednesday, with both sides announcing a “mutual agreement” to sever McLellan’s employment with the franchise and make him one of the most highly sought-after bench bosses on the market this summer.

McLellan – who was announced Tuesday as Team Canada’s head coach at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic – will be fine. But what about the Sharks? I’ve argued recently San Jose isn’t necessarily destined to continue sliding down the Western Conference standings, but some major roster move is likely – and I’m not just talking about another shocking signing like the Sharks adding one-dimensional John Scott. Read more

Why the Maple Leafs should try to get Mike Futa or Paul Fenton

Mike Futa  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It has been exactly 25 years and one day since notorious tyrant, skinflint and former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard died. And you could argue that 9,131 days later, the franchise is in even more disastrous shape on the ice than it was a quarter century ago.

Ballard died 11 days after the Leafs posted a record of 38-38-4 and a goal differential of minus-21 and one day before they were knocked out of the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues in five games. This season’s edition of the Leafs just put a bow on a miserable 30-44-8 season with no hope of the post-season and a goal differential of minus-51. Read more

NHL’s SnapChamp Era begins: Flames, Jets make playoffs; defending-champ Kings – & maybe, Bruins or Pens – are out

Flames players celebrate a 3-1 home win over L.A. – and making the playoffs this year – in front of a raucous home crowd in Calgary. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Watching the NHL’s action play out Thursday night was kind of like covering a political election and seeing the polls come in and herald a new leader for a new era. In one polling station, you had the Boston Bruins – the league’s top regular-season team last year – falling to the Florida Panthers and putting their playoff fate in the hands of the surging Ottawa Senators and wobbly Pittsburgh Penguins (who, like the Bruins, won a Stanley Cup not too long ago); In another station, you saw the Calgary Flames hold off the desperate Los Angeles Kings and register a 3-1 win, eliminating the defending Cup champions from the post-season and securing a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets.

Change was everywhere, and more change could be coming. Depending on what happens Friday and Saturday, the Eastern Conference playoff picture could have three teams (the Sens, Capitals and Islanders) who weren’t in the 2014 post-season, and the Western Conference will have four teams (Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Winnipeg) in this year’s playoffs who weren’t there last year. A 43.75 percent playoff turnover rate is one thing, but it’s not just the fact there are potentially seven new post-season teams this year that’s so intriguing; it’s the great distance teams are falling that has NHL executives clenching their teeth and always worrying about what’s ahead. Read more

Bruins pushed to the brink of elimination after falling to Florida; are big changes coming in Boston?

Boston's Milan Lucic (center) chases down Alex Petrovic  of the Panthers (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

With a 54-19-9 record, the Boston Bruins were the best regular-season team in the NHL last season. But one year later, and with one game to go in the 2014-15 campaign, they’re on the brink of elimination: if they win their final game in Tampa Bay Saturday, the Bruins still need the Senators to lose in regulation or the Penguins to lose their final two games (against the Islanders on the road Friday and in Buffalo Saturday) to avoid the ignominy of being eliminated from the post-season tournament.

If the Bruins fail to make the playoffs, there’s an overwhelming sense a good deal of change will take place within the organization, and not just in terms of the roster. There have been persistent rumors all season that the job security of GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien would be jeopardized, with current team president Cam Neely perhaps replacing the former and choosing a new face to take over for the latter. And given that star defenseman Zdeno Chara just turned 38 years old, it’s difficult to not conclude the window with this current group of players is in the midst of closing.

But is widespread change the best move in this particular situation? It’s not as if we haven’t seen strong NHL teams fall off the map one season, and rebound the next. The Philadelphia Flyers made it to the second round in 2011-12, missed the playoffs by a hair in 2012-13, and were right back in the post-season mix last season. The New Jersey Devils made the playoffs 13 straight years, missed out on them in 2010-11, and then went to the Stanley Cup Final the following year. There’s not always a need to tear things down when you don’t have this minimal level of success as an organization.

However, the more you put this team under a microscope, the more it’s clear: cosmetic changes aren’t going to cut it. It doesn’t have to be a full-on rebuild involving every facet of the franchise, but in an Atlantic Division that now includes the up-and-coming Florida Panthers, the newly-energized Senators, and the already formidable Canadiens and Lightning, Boston cannot afford complacency and second chances for everyone. Read more