Don’t rule out Jason Spezza-to-Nashville deal just yet

Ken Campbell
Jason Spezza

PHILADELPHIA – The best chance for Jason Spezza to get the trade out of Ottawa that he supposedly wants might be for him to change his mind about going to the Nashville Predators. And while the Predators are one of the 10 teams that Spezza had on his no-trade list, that doesn’t mean that won’t change.

Senators GM Bryan Murray said after the NHL draft that he had a deal to send Spezza to the Predators Friday night, but the deal was scuttled because the Predators are on one of the 10 teams to which Spezza listed on his no-trade list. When asked whether his client would change his mind about going to Nashville, Spezza’s agent Rick Curran said, “I really can’t say one way or another. Nashville was on Jason’s list that we put together a while ago and without the benefit of a crystal ball, I can’t say. Call me in three or four days and we might have a better answer.” Read more

Predators steal the show, Senators still stuck with Spezza

James Neal

PHILADELPHIA – In the end, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL draft stayed put and so did Jason Spezza. So there you go, all you armchair GMs out there, making trades in the NHL aren’t quite as easy as they look.

Unless, of course, you’re the Nashville Predators. Once the draft started, it was Predators GM David Poile who made the biggest splash on the trade front, acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. It’s a trade that won’t go over real well with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin and it’s hard to see how this deal makes the Penguins a better team, but this is a team that needed a shakeup in the worst way and trading Neal for a couple of guys who might provide this group of fancy-pants with some grit might not be the worst idea in the world. Read more

Canucks continue tear down, Lightning move closer to contender status in Jason Garrison trade

Rory Boylen
garrison-457441349

In one day – so far, at least – the Vancouver Canucks shaved $5.6 million off their cap and that’s what the Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison deals were about. Yes, the Canucks are moving into a new phase and the cap space they’ve picked up will help them achieve it.

Now, Vancouver can get a little more aggressive in acquiring the elite futures they couldn’t get in a Kesler trade. For instance, they could go after a top four pick in this draft, or a good young player or two from some other team, and have the ability to take back an overpriced contract to help facilitate such a move. It also gives them plenty of room to chase free agent Ryan Miller in a few days, if GM Jim Benning so chooses.

Either way, Vancouver’s first two moves Friday are only the beginning of a much bigger shift, it seems Read more

Canucks were doomed to be fleeced on Ryan Kesler trade from the start

Ken Campbell
Kelser

PHILADELPHIA – There are probably only two people in the hockey world who were colossally disappointed with the return the Vancouver Canucks got for Ryan Kesler. One of them, we’ll call every single fan of the Vancouver Canucks. The other is Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray.

Now that is not to say that new Canucks GM Jim Benning swung and missed when he dealt Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Nick Boninio, Luca Sbisa and the 24th pick in today’s NHL draft. In fact, given the circumstances, Benning got as much as he could have hoped. He was in an untenable situation and made the best of it, so good for him. And if he turns that pick and the sixth overall selection into a higher pick in this year’s draft, then the deal becomes better. Read more

Signing of Patrik Berglund could kick off momentous week for offense-hungry Blues

Patrik Berglund (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues re-signed forward Patrik Berglund – who has been and will remain the subject of trade speculation – to a three-year, $11.1-million contract extension Thursday. The signing kicked off what could be an eventful week for the franchise, which is still looking to make its first conference final appearance since 2001.

Getting the 26-year-old Berglund (a restricted free agent who earned $3.25 million last season) under contract doesn’t mean he’s a lock to stay with the Blues; this could be a precursor to moving him. The Blues (and Berglund, who had a disappointing 2013-14 regular season with 14 goals and 32 points in 78 games) have been linked in trade rumors with Senators captain Jason Spezza – and depending on what happens with Canucks trade requester Ryan Kesler, he could be wearing a St. Louis jersey sometime this weekend and Berglund could be in Ottawa. The Blues have also kicked the tires on Avalanche unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny as an alternative. Either player would be an immense help to a squad that finished with the third-worst goals-per-game average (2.33) in the playoffs.

That said, there will be competition for the services of Stastny and Spezza, and there’s every possibility the Blues still are hunting for a skilled center by next week. They may have to sacrifice some of their much-envied blueline depth to get a quality pivot in place. Read more

The Maple Leafs must move heaven and earth to land a top center in the draft

Dion Phaneuf Jake Gardiner

There are many things the Maple Leafs have done of late that’s rankled their fan base. Retaining the services of head coach Randy Carlyle tops the list, but after Toronto’s stunning late-season collapse, the general sentiment surrounding the franchise is still one of uncertainty and frustration.

There’s one way the Leafs can change that in the next few days: trade up in the NHL entry draft and select a center to serve as a franchise cornerstone.

That’s easier said than done. Given the fact there’s no consensus on the No. 1 pick, there could be more teams than ever jostling to move up in the draft. The owners of that pick, the Florida Panthers, have made it abundantly clear they’re willing to trade it in return for players who can help them win immediately. The Edmonton Oilers have the third overall selection and they too are under all sorts of pressure to produce in the standings sooner than later. So the opportunity is there. Now it’s about what kind of offer it would take to push the Leafs up from their current No. 8 slot and into a place where they can acquire the type of dynamic prospect they’ve been lacking for most of the past five decades.

Some have linked captain Dion Phaneuf to any move up in the draft the Leafs might make – and he would improve the blueline of the Panthers and Oilers – but his seven-year, $49 million contract extension means Toronto would have to take back an onerous deal. To avoid that scenario, I’d be fine with dealing any other blueliner not named Morgan Rielly, in combination with a young NHL-caliber forward or two and/or a draft pick of note, to acquire a better pick. Read more

Flyers trade Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger, reinforce their status as NHL’s Game of Thrones franchise

Adam Proteau
Scott Hartnell R.J. Umberger (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are a few things you can count on in every NHL off-season: GMs and team officials will step to the entry draft podium and thank the host city (as well as their fan base watching the proceedings back at Jimmy Bob Jesse Joe’s Alabama Steakhouse and Cheesecakery Grill); players will be overpaid in free agency; and the Philadelphia Flyers will conduct major surgery on their roster.

The first two of those summertime staples will take place in the next week or so, but the Flyers got a jump-start on their end Monday afternoon by trading heart-and-soul left winger Scott Hartnell to Columbus for left winger R.J. Umberger and a fourth round draft pick. And once again, Philly’s ever-spinning personnel carousel unsettles a roster that probably just needed to be left alone.

Both Hartnell and Umberger are 32 years old and both make close to the same money – Hartnell has a $4.75-million cap hit, while Umberger has a $4.6-million hit – and while the Flyers save on contract term length in the transaction (Umberger has three years left on his deal and Hartnell has five), there’s little doubt the Blue Jackets are getting the better player. Read more

Why the Edmonton Oilers should trade down at the draft

Matt Larkin
Oilers draft

Another year, another high draft pick for lowly Edmonton. Before Craig MacTavish and company race to the podium, some benevolent GM around the league, I beg you, save this poor team from itself. Trade up and take the Oilers’ No. 3 overall selection. Assuming Aaron Ekblad goes to the Florida Panthers, the best path to improvement for Edmonton is to acquire an established asset for its first pick, move down several slots and use a lower-first round pick on defenseman Haydn Fleury.

I’m a broken record talking about the law of diminishing returns with Edmonton and skilled forwards at the draft. The Oilers’ first selections each year since 2007:

2007 (6): Sam Gagner
2008 (22): Jordan Eberle
2009 (10): Magnus Paajarvi
2010 (1): Taylor Hall
2011 (1): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2012 (1): Nail Yakupov
2013 (7): Darnell Nurse

Last’s year’s selection of Nurse – which I loved – ended Edmonton’s six-year run of applying a “best available” approach and taking a slick forward. Unless you count Taylor Hall as the exception of that group, it’s six consecutive selections of a smallish, defensively deficient, offensively gifted forward. The more clones you have of one player type, the less impactful each one becomes.

Is it any surprise, then, we’ve seen Edmonton morph into the perennially promising team that never delivers? It’s the same song and dance. Sexy video game team, tantalizing offense, no physicality, porous defense, suspect goaltending, nowhere close to the playoffs.

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