We're halfway through the season and there have been just six minor trades. Here's a look at the factors adversely affecting this season's trade market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks made the first trade of 2017, as the Leafs dealt goaltender Jhonas Enroth to the Ducks for a seventh-round pick in 2018. It's the first move made in the NHL trade market since Dec. 8, when the Leafs shipped center Peter Holland to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional 2018 pick.
Since the start of the season, there have only been six trades. None of them involved notable talent. The combination of few sellers, high asking prices, few teams carrying sufficient salary-cap space and concern over June's expansion draft is adversely affecting the trade market.
Since late December, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion's been shopping around for a forward. He told the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch he thinks trade discussions are starting to warm up, but it's still difficult to make a move right now.
Only the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche can currently be considered out of playoff contention. Since November, Coyotes' forwards Martin Hanzal and Anthony Duclair have featured prominently in the rumor mill. Meanwhile, talk of the Avs shopping center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog is dominating recent media speculation.
With so few clubs in sell mode, the Coyotes and Avalanche are seeking substantial returns for those players. It's believed the Coyotes want good young players, preferably at center, capable of helping them right away. The Avalanche need a significant shake-up, especially on defense. They reportedly spoke last week with the Boston Bruins regarding Landeskog, but sought promising blueliner Brandon Carlo as part of the return.
Only five of the league's 30 teams – the Senators, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes – have over $5 million in projected salary-cap space. That makes it difficult for the Avalanche to find clubs willing to take on players such as Landeskog ($5.5-million annual cap hit) or Duchene ($6 million).
Teams taking on players signed through 2017-18 must ensure they can protect them in the expansion draft. It makes no sense to acquire a player they could lose for nothing in June to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Some teams could look at moving out players they can't protect in that draft before the trade deadline.
It's assumed the Pittsburgh Penguins intend to ask goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to waive his no-movement clause prior to the March 1 trade deadline in order to protect Matt Murray.
Others could attempt to move out a player in order to protect a more valuable one. The New York Post's Larry Brooks points out the Rangers could lose leading goalscorer Michael Grabner unless they can ship out another forward.
During a recent appearance on Calgary's Sportsnet 960, Elliotte Friedman took note of these issues. He said several teams want to make moves now but cannot find any willing trade partners yet.
Friedman said the Tampa Bay Lightning want to do something. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports the struggling Bolts need another top-four defenseman. Limited activity in the trade market, however, is hampering GM Steve Yzerman's efforts.
Friedman also speculated the Los Angeles Kings want to add a scorer, while the Chicago Blackhawks need a winger for center Jonathan Toews' line. Both clubs, however, are squeezed for cap space and must move salary to address those needs.
The trade market could open up by the end of January as more clubs fall further out of playoff contention. The Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks could join the sellers ranks. The effects of limited cap space, high asking prices and the expansion draft, however, will continue to be felt through the trade market leading up to deadline day.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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Joe Thornton spears Paul Stastny
Joe Thornton hit the showers early on Saturday night, getting tagged with a major and game misconduct for a spear on Blues center Paul Stastny. Officials made the right call, too.
Joe Thornton has never been all that afraid of mixing it up or using some stick work here and there to let opponents know he’s going to be in their face all night, but even the most wily of veterans can have their best attempt at a sneakily dirty play backfire. That’s exactly what happened midway through the Sharks’ Saturday meeting with the St. Louis Blues.
Shortly after the midway point of the second period, Thornton got mixed up with Blues center Paul Stastny, who delivered a subtle hack to the upper thigh of Thornton. As retaliation, Thornton used his stick blade as a pitchfork and dropped a slight stab into the gut area of Stastny, causing him to buckle and stumble before he got back to his feet.
At the time the play happened, it was hard to tell exactly what referees were about to tag Thornton for, but the eagle-eyed officials picked up the spear and they came down hard on Thornton for his transgression. He was handed a major penalty for spearing and given the gate:
The more rough and tumble of hockey fans may look at the play and scoff at Thornton getting handed both a major and game misconduct for a spear that really didn’t look all that bad, but by the letter of the law, the officials got it right.
Rule 62 pertains to spearing, and the penalties handed out for Thornton’s actions fit the crime. According to rule 62.3, a major penalty is handed out to any player who spears an opponent and makes contact, with rule 62.5 indicating that any major penalty for spearing is to be paired with a game misconduct. The only thing that would have saved Thornton in this instance — aside from, you know, not spearing Stastny — would have been if he missed Stastny with the stick. A spearing attempt that misses an opponent can be met with a double minor.
While there’s no certainty that Thornton will receive a fine for spearing Stastny, he has opened himself up to potential supplemental discipline. He has only a minor history with the Department of Player Safety over the past several seasons, with the lone incident coincidentally occurring against St. Louis. Thornton received a two-game ban for a hit on Blues winger David Perron back in November 2010.
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Canadiens winger Andrew Shaw was booted from Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers for a blindside hit on Jesper Fast. Shaw was playing in his first game after missing nearly a month due to a concussion.
Andrew Shaw made his return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup Saturday night after spending the past 14 games on the sideline with a concussion, and less than 17 minutes into his first period of play in nearly a month, Shaw found himself hitting the showers early.
Shaw earned himself the boot from Saturday’s game with the Rangers late for a highly questionable hit on Jesper Fast as he was exiting New York’s zone. Shortly after Fast moved the puck up ice, Shaw approached from the right wing, cut hard towards Fast and drove clean through Rangers winger. The hit sent Fast crashing hard to the ice, and Shaw was chased down by New York’s J.T. Miller, who dropped the gloves in defense of Fast.
With only minutes remaining in the period, Shaw headed to the dressing room as a result of the fight, but the officials ensured that his night was over by handing a major for interference and a game misconduct:
The hit by Shaw is definitely one the league will be taking a look at, but it’s unlikely the hit warrants supplemental discipline. Despite the fact it’s a blindside blow and one that came far later than it should have, Shaw appears to have caught Fast squarely on the shoulder. The result of the hit was unfortunate, to be sure, but that alone won’t make the hit worthy of a suspension for Shaw. In addition, the league may very well rule that Shaw’s punishment of a major penalty and what amounts to two-thirds of a game with the misconduct will suffice.
Even with all of that, though, it wouldn’t be shocking if someone from the league reaches out to Shaw, at the very least. He hasn’t been in the good books with the league almost from the outset of the season. In his very first game in a Canadiens uniform during the pre-season, Shaw landed himself a three-game pre-season ban for a hit from behind and upon returning to the lineup found himself again the target of suspension chatter for a slew foot in his regular season debut. The league reviewed the play, but no discipline was handed out beyond the match penalty Shaw was given.
When he’s been making headlines for the right reasons, Shaw, 25, has been exactly as advertised for the Canadiens. He has six goals and 15 points in 29 games and has been an agitator in the middle of the lineup.
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If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need speed. And for players on their way up through the ranks, skating acumen is going to be the price of admission for an NHL job
I was having a conversation with an NHL team scout yesterday, which is one of the best parts of my job. I learn so much from these chats and not just about the draft prospects we are discussing, but of the bigger picture as well. While discussing the pros and cons of some prospects, we began to talk about skating and its place in the game today. Simply put, it's becoming a must-have.
"The No. 1 priority is skating," said the scout. "Even if your hockey sense or skills aren't the greatest, at least we can point you in the right direction."
We all know it's a fast game today and you just have to look at all the recent champions to validate the skating argument. Team Canada's World Cup squad suffocated opponents with their skating, taking away time and space at both ends of the ice – though their excellence in the puck possession department dramatically narrowed the amount of time they had to use their speed on the defensive end.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past summer thanks to a team that had speed up and down its lineup. Think about it – how many Penguins from that team would you characterize as slow, by NHL standards? Maybe a couple, at most? Meanwhile, teams had to contest with Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang, among many others.
At the world juniors, Team USA won gold with a similarly dangerous lineup, trotting out the likes of Colin White, Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic to terrify teams.
What's really interesting for me is how speed is going to change bottom-six roles in the NHL. We're already seeing it, with teams employing fewer enforcers, but how far can the concept be pushed? Roslovic might be the perfect case study to keep an eye on, because as a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, he's got a lot of talent ahead of him in the form of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. But if Roslovic, who is leading AHL Manitoba in scoring as a rookie, despite missing games due to the world juniors, is ready for the NHL leap next season, why hold him back if he can contribute from the third line? If defense is coming from speed these days anyway, it seems like a pretty nice way to get more skill in the lineup.
Tampa Bay will have a similar query to address in a year or two when prospects such as Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph come knocking on the door. All three have skill, but they can also skate and play with grit. It's a great problem to have if you're the Lightning.
What happens to prospects that aren't blessed with foot speed? Well, it's going to take them a little longer. We're seeing it with Dylan Strome, whom most of assumed would be full-time in Arizona this season. But thanks to his abundance of other talents and attributes, Strome can zero in on improving on his speed and strength, knowing that an NHL career is close. It can certainly be done, but he'll have to watch out for all the young burners out there on the fast-track while he does it.