Defense-desperate Oilers land rights to Nikita Nikitin as hunt for blueliners heats up

Nikita Nikitin (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers on Friday tried to get a head start on what promises to be a desperate, league-wide off-season search for capable blueliners by acquiring a negotiating rights window with Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin.

There was no immediate word on what Oilers GM Craig MacTavish surrendered to land the rights to Nikitin, but given that the 28-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks, it won’t be much. Nikitin has size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds), but the Russian isn’t a physical threat and was a third-pairing d-man for Columbus last year, averaging just 17:06 of ice time and posting two goals and 15 points in 66 games. In 2011-12, his first year with the Jackets after being dealt from St. Louis, he amassed more than twice that amount of offense (seven goals and 32 points in 54 games), but if he does sign with Edmonton, Oilers fans shouldn’t expect a return to those totals.

Nikitin earned $2.5 million in 2013-14 and in a weak free agent market, he’ll get some type of raise. MacTavish clearly wants to avoid the inevitable inflation of a player’s worth that occurs when free agency kicks off; that’s not to say he’ll have to give Nikitin $4 million a season, but he will have to offer him enough to forego free agency. Read more

Avs sign Jamie McGinn, but Colorado’s real contractual crossroads are still to come

Adam Proteau
Jamie McGinn 2014 in Denver, Co.  (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche settled up one piece of financial business Thursday night when they re-signed left winger Jamie McGinn to a two-year, $5.9-million contract extension.

Their biggest off-season negotiations, however, are still to come.

It’s a decent deal for McGinn, a 25-year-old restricted free agent who posted career bests in goals (19) and points (38) for Colorado last season after bouncing between the American League and NHL in San Jose’s system for four years. His new contract takes him to unrestricted free agency and if he can break the 20-goal barrier, the Fergus, Ont., native will earn himself a handsome raise.

That brings to 18 the number of players Avs executive vice-president of hockey operations Joe Sakic has under contract for next season. The problem is, two of the players who aren’t in that category are two of their most important: UFA center Paul Stastny and RFA center Ryan O’Reilly. And Colorado fans should be nervous, because scenarios certainly exist that lead to at least one, if not both players being ex-Avs in the not-so-distant future. Read more

Ask Adam: trading Jason Spezza and Mike Green; amnesty buyouts; and national pride

Mike Green

After an unexpected absence, THN’s online mailbag is back, and better than ever. Well, maybe just back. Thanks to all who submitted a question.

Hi Adam,

Now that Jason Spezza has requested a trade from Ottawa, and that GM Bryan Murray said “I know I won’t get the value, in all likelihood, that I should get for him”, what will it take to acquire him?
Niclas Emanuelsson, Säffle, Sweden

Hi Niclas,

Although Spezza is still a valuable NHLer, you’re not looking at an Eric Lindros-to-the-Flyers-type trade package to land him. Spezza just turned 31 and is in the last year of his contract, so any team that acquires him won’t be ponying up draft picks, prospects and NHL-ready young players.

Murray surrendered one of each of those to acquire Bobby Ryan from Anaheim last summer, but if he can get two of those three components (depending, of course, on the prospects and/or players and/or picks involved) for his captain, he’ll be satisfied and pull the trigger on a trade. As you said, Murray already has acknowledged he’s not going to get equal value for Spezza – that’s always the case when a player’s trade request goes public – so the best he can hope for is to create a bidding war (preferably, among Western Conference teams) and drive up the price as best he can. Read more

Spezza requests trade: These five landing spots make sense

Matt Larkin
Jason Spezza

Bombshell? No, more of a “bombshell.” Jason Spezza has long been attached to trade rumors, so the news he’s demanded a trade out of Ottawa merely makes things official.

For some fans, this is a sad goodbye. Spezza, who turns 31 Friday, ranks second all-time for the franchise in goals, assists and points. He’s been a crucial part of Ottawa’s plans since it drafted him second overall in 2001 (stick tap to Mike Milbury).

But from a cold, calculating, hockey perspective, this is great news for Spezza and the Senators. He gets a new beginning and perhaps a chance to pursue a Cup, depending on where he lands. The Senators relieve themselves of a $7-million cap hit before the season starts and will likely get the best possible return before Spezza commences the final year of his deal. He’d command less as a trade deadline rental and, given how injury-prone he’s proven in recent years, there’s no guarantee he’d be an available chip by next March. Even better for all parties, Spezza’s actual 2014-15 salary is only $4 million.

Should Ottawa pursue a hockey trade or look to, er, reacquire the type of young talent it gave away in the Bobby Ryan deal? We can’t read GM Bryan Murray’s mind, so let’s focus on the other half of the impending swap. Here are five destinations that make sense for Jason Spezza, keeping in mind he can veto trades to 10 teams as part of his modified no-trade clause.

1. Nashville Predators. I’m not the first pundit to suggest Music City as Spezza’s ideal destination, but that doesn’t mean I can’t agree. Sens beat writer and THN Ottawa correspondent Bruce Garrioch listed the Preds as a team after Spezza, and the deal makes too much sense. The Preds have the cap space, Spezza would have instant familiarity with old teammate Mike Fisher, Spezza would fit coach Peter Laviolette’s high-octane system, and Nashville would have its first and only No. 1 pivot since it borrowed Peter Forsberg for an hour.

2. St. Louis Blues. Doug Armstrong doesn’t have to extend Vladimir Tarasenko for another year, leaving Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund as his high-priority restricted free agents to re-sign. Even if that takes $15 million, the Blues should have enough left for Spezza. The main thing they lacked against Chicago in the playoffs was a game-breaking offensive weapon. Imagine Spezza dishing passes to Tarasenko?

Read more

Joe Thornton would accept a trade if “the fans didn’t want him in San Jose”

Rory Boylen
Joe Thornton

Remember when the San Jose Sharks held a 3-0 series lead on the Los Angeles Kings and were outscoring them 17-8 in the series?

Good times, those.

Of course, the Sharks lost the next four and the Kings have imposed their will on everyone else as they now glide across the Stanley Cup finish line. Meanwhile, San Jose is in complete panic mode. Is Antti Niemi able to bounce back and win with this team? How will the Sharks replace Dan Boyle, beyond moving Brent Burns back to the blueline? Is this team a real contender, or should it get blown up?

Conventional wisdom is that something needs to change to answer such a miserable exit. Boyle is already gone and Havlat will be bought out at some point – but lately the conversation has shifted towards a much bigger star.

Do the Sharks need to trade Joe Thornton? Read more

Trading Spezza will spell end of an era in Ottawa – but that’s the circle of NHL life

Jason Spezza (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The expected trading of Senators captain Jason Spezza in the coming weeks spells the end of an era in Ottawa. Seven years after the Sens won the Eastern Conference, Spezza and fellow key cornerstone Daniel Alfredsson (who left via free agency last summer) will be gone – and only two players (Chris Phillips and Chris Neil) from that Stanley Cup finalist roster will remain with the franchise.

But that’s about the maximum life cycle of a Cup frontrunner in the modern era. If you’re an NHL GM talented and fortunate to build an elite team, you get seven years – if you’re lucky – to win with a particular group of players before you have to almost completely reboot your system.

Go back 10 years to the then-champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They thought they were set for a long time with two 24-year-olds (Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier), but only four years later, the team’s struggles and cap imbalances forced them to trade Richards to Dallas and the slow dismantling began. Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis lasted longer than most in one market, but they too eventually moved on. It was unthinkable at the time to picture them in other uniforms, but it should’ve seemed inevitable.

History shows us how fleeting ultimate success in the NHL can be. Read more

“Mistakes” on trade deadline day guaranteed to result in a Stanley Cup

Brian Costello
2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

A wise GM once said, “More mistakes are made on trade deadline day than the other 364 days combined.”

The rationale behind Brian Burke’s claim is teams in quest of the Stanley Cup grossly overpay to get a player for one month, plus whatever might happen in the playoffs.

It’s an easy claim to make because 15 teams that qualify for the playoffs won’t go home with the Stanley Cup. But does that mean they made a mistake on trade deadline day? Hardly.

More often than not, the team that goes on to win the Stanley Cup can, in part, look back to an important move made on trade deadline day as a contributing factor in reaching the pinnacle of success.

That will be the case again this year.

Read more

Top 10 off-season trade candidates, from Ryan Kesler to Evander Kane


If you judge the potential of this off-season by the trade rumors ramping it up, summer has all the makings of blockbuster heaven.

First, you have a combination of teams that failed to meet expectations, or completely fell apart and are desperate for change. The Pittsburgh Penguins will surely make changes to their lineup this off-season, but with an eye on the present. This will be a team looking to add to improve their chances, rather than dress down with draft picks. San Jose, Washington and Vancouver each had their own kind of implosion and we can expect all sorts of movement in those cities.

Second, you have a few players in an individual situation that puts them on the block. Ottawa’s Jason Spezza finds himself in RumorLand thanks to his expiring contract, while Kesler finds himself there because he demanded it. And what about Evander Kane – is this the summer his tumultuous relationship with the Jets ends?

With so many players to keep an eye on this summer, we take a look at the top 10 trade candidates. Players who will become a UFA on July 1 (whose rights can be traded) do not qualify. Honorable mentions go to Kris Letang, Nail Yakupov, Brent Burns, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner.

1. Ryan Kesler
Kesler reportedly first mentioned wanting a trade out of Vancouver at the Sochi Olympics, but we thought a new GM and a new coach might change the center’s mind. No so. Kesler apparently still wants to be traded out of Vancouver this summer and since the Canucks need change anyway, it’s a good opportunity to inject something new. The question is, will the Canucks want to acquire contributing NHLers, or promising futures? Simply losing a No. 2 center on the level of Kesler could have devastating effects. There will be no shortage of teams interested, from Anaheim to Pittsburgh, but this summer’s trade market is also unusually busy with solid pivots.

2. Jason Spezza
With one season left on his contract at a cap hit of $7 million, the Senators are seeing if they can move Spezza by the June 27 NHL draft. And why not? The draft has become a busy place for big trades and since Ottawa doesn’t hold a first round pick this year, it’s a good time for them to make a transition. The Anaheim Ducks appear to be a contender for Spezza’s services, who becomes affordable for them because he’s only owed $4 million in actual salary in 2014-15. The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek writes about using “trade backs” in a move like this. Could the Sens get a similar return out of Anaheim as they gave up for Bobby Ryan? Read more