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
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.
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
I’ll start this post with a disclaimer: don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not saying this story is true, only that the rumor exists.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos tweeted the following yesterday:
Wow. If that’s true, it’s extreme. Well, sort of. It makes sense for the Leafs to aggressively pursue change this off-season. They have a new team president in Brendan Shanahan and since, to the surprise of many, GM Dave Nonis and coach Randy Carlyle were retained, it’s easy to read between the lines. If management isn’t going anywhere, players are.
Shopping captain Dion Phaneuf? Perfectly reasonable idea, especially with the entirety of his seven-year, $49-million contract remaining. Trading up to try and draft Aaron Ekblad? Sure. Even the rumors about Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri aren’t mind-boggling. Not that I’d rush to move either player, but each is as enigmatic as he is talented, so moving one for a useful return wouldn’t be sacrilege.
If Kypreos’ report is true word for word, however, I draw the line at James van Riemsdyk. If Toronto is actively shopping every player except Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly, deductive reasoning tells us JVR is on the block. Not just available, but actively being shopped. Whoa, daddy. And since his modified no-trade clause doesn’t activate until 2016-17, there’s nothing he can do about it.
The New York Islanders’ acquisition of the rights to defenseman Dan Boyle Thursday is the latest in GM Garth Snow’s continuing efforts to boost the experience quotient of his franchise. He’s had a spotty record in that regard, but until the franchise relocates to Brooklyn in 2015, the only way the Isles are going to augment their youth with veteran savvy is via a trade – and, if they want to sign Boyle, by overpaying him.
It’s accurate to say the Islanders weren’t at the top of Boyle’s destination list as the former Sharks and Lightning blueliner looked toward unrestricted free agency this summer. The soon-to-be-38-year-old has entered the stage of an NHLer’s career where, in terms of priorities, money is a distant second behind the opportunity to win (he’s earned more than $54 million during his 14-year-career). Although the Isles have a number of players any NHLer would want to play alongside, nobody believes they’ll be in position to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup. And in a UFA market that’s thin on veteran D-men, he’ll still have a number of suitors (including, perhaps, the Bolts) for his services.
So, why would he agree to play on Long Island? Good question. Read more
Growing up in Toronto, I loved Guy Lafleur. Even as a young Leafs fan, I found little was more thrilling than watching him motor down the ice along the boards and pick the top corner with a perfectly-placed slapshot. But when I saw the comments Lafleur made to French language publication La Presse yesterday – comments that ripped the team, and in particular, star wingers Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek – I wanted to immediately drive to Quebec and shake him by the shoulders until his ears were unclogged by whatever intellectual flotsam and jetsam was plugging them up.
“Guys like (Thomas) Vanek and (Max) Pacioretty, you can not keep (them) in your team,” Lafleur said. “They stay home if they are not willing to pay the price. Your team will never win with players like that (who) fade when there is adversity.”
Say what you will about Vanek, but trade Max Pacioretty? Twenty-five-year-old Max Pacioretty? Just-scored-a-career-high-39-goals Max Pacioretty? This might be something worth considering if Lafleur has invented a fountain of youth and plans to come out of a retirement as a 19-year-old rookie with the Habs next year, but otherwise, it’s exceedingly preposterous. If Montreal traded Pacioretty at 9 a.m. tomorrow, by brunch they’d be searching desperately and in vain for what he brings to the lineup.
Also preposterous were Lafleur’s comments directed toward Canadiens players “bragging” about Montreal’s stellar season. Read more
The opening round of the NHL Draft is over a month away but speculation is already brewing over what the Florida Panthers could do with the first-overall pick. USA Today’s Kevin Allen reports Panthers GM Dale Tallon isn’t ruling out trading that pick, admitting he’s already “had a few guys kicking the tires” and he anticipates more calls in the coming weeks.
Tallon said he’d like to add “a couple of top-notch defenders,” but Allen notes the Panthers GM could also use the pick to trade down in the draft order. He notes the Edmonton Oilers need to bolster their defense and could have interest in selecting promising Aaron Ekblad, but they’re picking third and Ekblad could be gone by then. Allen speculates they might contact the Panthers about swapping picks. He also wonders if the Oilers would consider moving young winger Nail Yakupov in a swap of players or draft picks.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson claims Tallon is interested in Swedish forward William Nylander, son of former NHL center Michael Nylander. Matheson suggests if Tallon believes Nylander might still be available later in the first round it could bring the New York Islanders (fifth overall), Vancouver Canucks (sixth) or Carolina Hurricanes (seventh) into the trade picture. The Panthers lack depth on the wings and blueline. If the Oilers won’t part with Yakupov in a swap for the first overall pick, Matheson feels winger David Perron might be attractive for the Panthers. Read more
I’m going to go ahead and disagree with my colleague Adam Proteau, who believes Jim Benning – if he is in fact the next GM of the Vancouver Canucks – needs to immediately start tearing down the Canucks franchise by trading away all of its best assets.
It’s a path always easier said than done.
To be sure, the Canucks have some problem areas on the roster and a ton of uncertainty in goal. Tweaks need to be made and work needs to be done on the roster before the team returns with any sort of optimism in 2014-15. It would take a minor miracle for this franchise to win the West again next season, but I believe the fan base – and the ownership – has more of an appetite to at least try and stay in the running, rather than throw in the towel.
Let’s start with the Sedins, who had an awful season by their standards, but still finished 1-2 in team scoring. How much of an impact did John Tortorella’s system have on their free-wheeling cycle game that dominated the West before 2013-14? It’s worth noting Daniel was second on Team Sweden in scoring at the Olympics, while Henrik was injured. Read more