Everything written this time of the NHL’s regular season of is legally and morally bound to include the phrase “it’s early, but…”. And it is indeed early, but after seeing the Edmonton Oilers get rolled for the fourth straight game, I think I speak for their fan base – actually, I know I do, because their vocal cords are paralyzed with rage – when I say the following words:
Enough. No mas. Detener la locura.
That’s right – I’m so done watching these Oilers get humbled virtually every time they take the ice, I’m speaking in short bursts of Spanish. This is all affecting us in different ways. But as a writer who isn’t a fan of any team, I have no horse in this race, so I can only imagine how simultaneously furious and defeated Oilers fans must be feeling this morning. Is there a single barf bag available for purchase anywhere within the city limits right now?
This stopped being comically inept a long time ago. It is now tragically inept. And while you never want to make knee-jerk moves after a bad run, at some point you have to jerk the knee to prove you’re not a cadaver. The Oilers are at this stage. Read more
The Philadelphia Flyers suffered a scare last week when defenseman Braydon Coburn was sidelined by a lower-body injury. It raised speculation they might go shopping for blueline help if the injury was long term, but it appears he could return to action in a matter of days, rather than weeks.
For a defense corps still lacking a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury three years ago, and with Kimmo Timonen sidelined with career-threatening blood clots, the possibility of losing Coburn long term was a genuine cause for concern. Read more
The Boston Bruins resolved their cap issues and blueline logjam with their recent trade of defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders, but there’s another roster problem to be addressed.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty believes Loui Eriksson is a third-line winger with the Bruins, doubting he’ll ever become the offensive force they believed he would become when they acquired him in last year’s Tyler Seguin trade with the Dallas Stars.
Two concussions and a heel injury sidelined Eriksson for 21 games last season, limiting him to 10 goals and 37 points in 61 games. The 29-year-old went scoreless in the Bruins’ opening three games this season before tallying his first goal in the their 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday.
Haggerty believes the Bruins need another top-six forward at right wing to replace the offense of Jarome Iginla, who departed this summer via free agency. Finding such a forward this early in the season, however, won’t be easy.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Jake Gardiner were subjects of trade speculation throughout last season. In a recent interview with the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger, Leafs GM Dave Nonis claims he never actively shopped the pair.
Nonis did say if the right deal came along for a player like Kadri he would trade him. “But there’s a big difference between being willing to trade a player and trying to trade a player. We were never trying to trade Jake or Naz,” he said. Nonis said the Leafs re-signed Gardiner to a long-term deal this summer because they believe in him, and Nonis expects Kadri will also be a special player.
Given the rumors flying around last season about Kadri and Gardiner, Nonis was probably getting calls from rival clubs expressing interest in the pair. If the Leafs struggle again this season, or if Kadri and/or Gardiner fail to improve as projected, the speculation could resurface, but Nonis made it very clear last season he expected to get a comparable young player in return for either guy.
The New York Islanders are pushing more chips to the center of the table as they go hard at pulling in a playoff spot before the team moves to Brooklyn next season. Saturday, they acquired both Johnny Boychuk from the Bruins and Nick Leddy from the Blackhawks.
But rather than a change of address, the real motivation here, of course, is that the Islanders don’t hold their own first round pick this year. They’ve held a top-five selection in five of the past six drafts, but a similar finish in 2014-15 would only make the Thomas Vanek trade so much worse – and possibly land the Buffalo Sabres both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
So the Islanders took advantage of two cap ceiling teams who were looking to shed a defenseman. Read more
SUNRISE, FLA. – Need another example of how quickly and drastically perceptions of a sports trade can shift over time? Here’s one: for the first few years after it was consummated, the 2011 trade that sent blueliner Alex Goligoski from Pittsburgh to Dallas for winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen was judged to have been won, and not by a little, by the Penguins. To be fair, the verdict was hard to deny in the first full season after the trade, as Neal put up a 40-goal performance for the Pens in 2011-12 and Goligoski wasn’t improving on the steady numbers he posted before leaving Sidney Crosby & Co.
But nearly four years later, Neal and Niskanen are former Penguins (the former traded to Nashville this summer; and the latter gone to Washington as a well-paid free agent), and Goligoski – who set personal bests in assists (36) and points (42) last season – was Dallas’ third-best point-producer and averaged more minutes (24:18) than any of his teammates. In the final 13 regular season games of 2013-14, his time on ice average jumped to between 27-29 minutes a game; and in Dallas’ first round playoff series against Anaheim, he never played fewer than 26 minutes in any of the seven games and in Game 5 he played 32:48.
Turns out ex-Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk wasn’t robbed at all on that trade. Turns out Goligoski has turned out just fine and has never been in a better place in his career: as part of a productive No. 1 defensive pairing with Trevor Daley; and on a Dallas team with heightened expectations after veterans Jason Spezza and Alec Hemsky were acquired. Like every player who’s jumped over NHL boards onto the ice, Goligoski has had a showdown with some form of adversity, and he’s overcome it to show why he’s now considered one of the Stars’ key players and leaders. Read more
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters this season facing an uncertain future. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July, and new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t believe this summer was the right time to discuss a contract extension.
Fleury told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe he pondered what life would be like playing elsewhere, but that he prefers staying with the Penguins. Since signing a seven-year, $35-million deal with the Penguins in July 2008, Fleury backstopped them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. In recent years he struggled in the playoffs, but he rebounded last season with a solid effort under goalie coach Mike Bales.
It’s apparent, however, Rutherford intends to take a wait-and-see approach with Fleury, who turns 30 in November. The former Carolina Hurricanes GM has no contract history with Fleury and seems reluctant to offer another lengthy, expensive contract to an inconsistent netminder. It’s up to Fleury to prove his worth this season as a reliable starting goaltender.
Martin St-Louis, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo: these were some of the big names who were traded during the 2013-14 season. Who is in the cross-hairs this season? We look at 10 trade candidates who could move because of their contract situation, or because their team decides it’s time to go in a different direction.
Franson has signed three consecutive one-year extensions with the Maple Leafs, but this time he’ll be a UFA when his contract expires at the end of this season and, at 27, he’s in prime position to score a big deal. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner will surely be looking for a real commitment from the team this time and if he doesn’t get it, the Maple Leafs will have to trade him by the deadline. He’s an important part of Toronto’s (bad) defense and an extension would likely make him the second-highest paid player on Toronto’s blueline. But does management believe he’s worth that long-term investment when they’ve already put down on Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner? If not, they’ll be looking to get something for him. Read more