The lowly Avalanche seem poised to make some big moves, but potential deals for forward Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene keep stalling.
For several weeks, Colorado Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene featured prominently in NHL trade speculation. With the Avs at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and considered out of playoff contention, GM Joe Sakic is reportedly listening to offers for his core players, with Landeskog and Duchene the most notable trade candidates.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Sakic's set a high asking price. On Jan. 3, Friedman said the Avs GM sought “legit young defensemen or defensive prospects.” Recent rumors linking the 24-year-old Landeskog to the Boston Bruins claimed Sakic sought promising defenseman Brandon Carlo in return, an offer the Bruins apparently rejected.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports Sakic's asking price for Landeskog is higher than originally thought. He said the Avs seek a “top-level defenseman, a first-round draft pick plus.” He adds that's generated a negative reaction from his peers.
Every GM sets an initially high price when shopping a core player, but Sakic's dreaming if he thinks he'll net that type of return for Landeskog. While he has four 50-plus points seasons on his resume, including a career-high 65-points in 2013-14, his production doesn't merit such a lofty return. His sub-par production this season (13 points in 30 games) won't bolster his trade value.
There's been no word on Sakic's asking price for Duchene, but one can assume it's similar to Landeskog's. The 25-year-old center has better stats this season (24 points in 36 games) than the Avs captain and exceeded 50 points five times in his career.
First-line center Nathan MacKinnon is the only Avalanche player who might fetch that big return. Given his age (21) and skills, he could reach his full potential on a deeper roster. Still, a rival GM must give considerable thought toward deciding if MacKinnon is worth a top defenseman, a first round pick and more.
Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun thinks Sakic could make a move involving Landeskog or Duchene in the off-season. Interested parties should have more salary-cap space to work, plus there's usually more willingness at the NHL draft weekend in June to swing deals involving established stars.
DROUIN COULD MAKE FOR GOOD TRADE CHIP FOR LIGHTNING
A year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin generated headlines with his demotion to the club's farm team, followed by a holdout and refusing to play and requesting a trade. Eventually, Drouin withdrew his request, returned to action and became a productive part of the Lightning roster.
But with the Bolts sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture and in danger of sliding further out of contention, perhaps Drouin could be used as a trade chip. In his trade-season preview of the Eastern Conference, ESPN.com's Craig Custance suggests the 21-year-old could be the type of player that fetches some much-needed help for the Bolts' blueline.
Custance observes Drouin is a restricted free agent this summer, along with fellow forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. All will be in line for significant raises, leading Custance to suggest that “at some point the cap space is going to disappear.”
The Lightning's biggest need is another top-four defenseman. If there's one to be had via trade of the same pedigree as Drouin, Custances feels it would make sense to make that move.
Adding a quality rearguard won't be easy. GM Steve Yzerman repeatedly said he's making calls but there's not much happening in the trade market right now. So far, there's no indication out of Tampa Bay suggesting Drouin is available.
Yzerman could be forced to wait until the market improves, but that could be weeks away. By that point, it could prove too late to save the Lightning's season.
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.).
Martin St-Louis had a penchant for big playoff goals during his time with the Lightning, and those highlight his five best moments in Tampa Bay as the team gets set to retire his jersey.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will pay tribute to Martin St-Louis Friday night with a jersey retirement ceremony, making him the first player to receive the honor in franchise history.
It’s a fitting honor, too, because St-Louis will almost certainly go down as one of the greatest players to play at the tail-end of the clutch-and-grab era and one of the more impressive talents the league had as the game opened up and speed and skill were the dominant forces.
While a member of the Lightning, St-Louis captured two Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer, three Lady Byng’s as the most gentlemanly player in the game and was crowned the league MVP by both the press and the players for his fantastic 2003-04 campaign. St-Louis’ remains the greatest scorer in franchise history, and his impact on the Lightning will likely never be forgotten.
Here are the five greatest moments from St-Louis’ time in Tampa Bay:
5. Passes Lecavalier for good on all-time scoring list
St-Louis was part of Tampa Bay Lightning lore well before he became the franchise’s most decorated scorer, but the moment that he took the scoring lead for good and never let it go came during the 2012-13 campaign.
When the season began, St-Louis was 10 points back of Vincent Lecavalier on the Lightning’s all-time scoring lead, but the diminutive winger picked away at Lecavalier’s point lead before finally squeaking past him for good on March 7, 2013 against the Winnipeg Jets.
4. Four-goal night highlighted by natural hat trick
For the tremendous goal scoring ability that St-Louis possessed, one might think he had a number of big goal scoring nights to his name. While he did score eight hat tricks throughout his career, the last time he completed the feat was the most impressive of his career.
Almost everything was going in for St-Louis during the Jan. 18, 2014 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. He scored the Lightning’s first goal of the game, then their second, third and fourth goals over a period of less than seven minutes across the end of the first period and into the second.
Unfortunately, Joe Pavelski fired back with a natural hat trick of his own to give the Sharks the win.
3. Sparking Lightning Stanley Cup run with series winner in OT
Almost every Stanley Cup run has the one moment that you can pinpoint that started the miraculous chase for a championship, and while the Lightning were absolutely favored to down the eighth-ranked New York Islanders, the excitement necessary for a big run came when St-Louis put Tampa Bay through to the second round with his first of two huge overtime goals in the post-season.
It’s probably a shot Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro could have stopped, but the booming slap shot sent New York packing and Tampa Bay marching towards the Stanley Cup.
2. Overtime winner gives Lightning first playoff series victory
Maybe the Lightning should have known they’d have their franchise’s overtime hero on their hands when he was the architect of the team’s first ever series win with a spinning overtime goal in Game 6 of the Lightning’s 2003 first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals.
There are few moments bigger for a franchise than winning their first playoff series, because it’s an indication that things are really starting to move in the right direction. For the Lightning, that was exactly the case. The 2003 playoff run was stopped short in five games by the New Jersey Devils in the second round, but Tampa Bay would use their post-season experience to their advantage the next season.
1. Double OT-winner forces Game 7 in Stanley Cup final
This goal has to go down as the biggest of St-Louis’ career. While he had netted two playoff overtime winners in his career before Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final, it was his marker 30 seconds into the second overtime of a potentially series-deciding game against the Calgary Flames that opened the door for the Lightning to capture the Cup.
Two nights later, the Lightning downed the Flames in front of a hometown crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum on two goals by Ruslan Fedotenko. It remains the only Stanley Cup in franchise history for the Lightning.
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.
Bryan Bickell has been sidelined for much of the season as he gets treatment for multiple sclerosis, but the 30-year-old took part in practice for the second time in less than a week.
The hockey world was shocked in mid-November when news came that Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
At the time of the diagnosis, Bickell, 30, said he had been struggling to understand what had been going on with his body for more than a full season, dealing with health issues that were at the time diagnosed as the symptoms of vertigo. The issues dated back to the 2015 Stanley Cup final, during which Bickell captured his third Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Upon learning of the MS diagnosis, though, Bickell said he was hopeful that he would eventually find his way back into action and continue his NHL career, and in December, Bickell told reporters that it could be a month or more before he was able to return.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s going to be a marathon, and it’s going to take some time to get things right, ideally, to get me back on the ice,” Bickell said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “That’s what I’m hoping for…It could be a month, it could be a couple months to get back on the ice.”
Well, two months after the diagnosis, Bickell appears to be on his way back, even if that just means getting onto the ice with teammates. Bickell returned to the ice in a non-contact jersey late last week and was again out for practice with teammates on Monday. It could signal the start of what would be an inspiring return to the lineup.
Bickell was last able to suit up on Oct. 30, but it was almost clear then that something was ailing him. He skated only 5:45 in the outing, was out the next four games, listed as out with an illness five games later and the announcement of his diagnosis came on Nov. 11. In seven games with the Hurricanes before he hit the injured list, Bickell scored one goal and was averaging less than 10 minutes per game.
There may be some hope that knowing what is ailing him could even help Bickell get his career back on track. According to Lazerus, Bickell said he had grown frustrated with his play and not knowing what was wrong didn’t help matters. Now, with Bickell knowing what he’s dealing with and getting proper care, there’s the potential for him to find his game. But, if nothing else, everyone around the league will be thrilled just to see him get back on the ice.