Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
“There is [trade] interest that’s in place right now,” Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman told reporters gathered for a sidewalk press conference late Thursday afternoon. “It is conceivable that we could make a deal this weekend. That being said, it’s also possible we don’t do anything before leaving Pittsburgh.
“The draft may be the most opportune time to make trades because you have 30 teams, 30 general managers and all their personnel in close proximity. It also happens on the eve of free agency. The situation lends itself to talking trades.
“We’ve tried to be methodical in our approach since we’ve been here — that’s the way Mike has operated the team — and it won’t change with respect to making a move this weekend.”
The Canucks could make a blockbuster if talks with Toronto involving Luongo result in the kind of draft-day deal for which Leafs general manager Brian Burke is known.
Despite speculation that Vancouver may not get a valuable asset in return for another team absorbing the final 10 years of Luongo’s $64-million-US contract, the Canucks believe they can make a genuine hockey trade for the 33-year-old that strengthens their lineup.
Toronto picks fifth in the first round, but the Leafs probably aren’t going to give that up as the Canucks try to move nearer the front of the draft line.
Brian Burke is in a bit of a pickle.
He’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend to participate in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft where teams hopefully add prospects to their puzzle. And the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager will no doubt attempt to do exactly that, but the draft will be his secondary concern.
Somehow managing to get experienced players to fill some of the holes on his roster will be his No. 1 priority.
That is why for the past few weeks you’ve heard more about Burke possibly acquiring veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks and how he’ll be a player in the Rick Nash sweepstakes than what he’ll do with the No. 5 overall pick.
No player Burke chooses with that selection — should he not trade it — will come in and single-handedly lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs.
Burke’s reputation as one of the top GMs in the NHL has taken a hit since he engineered his escape from Anaheim to join the Maple Leafs on Nov. 29, 2008. That was not too long after The Hockey News named him the best GM in the business. You sure don’t hear anybody making that claim these days.
Burke came to Toronto guns-a-blazing, telling the hockey world how his Maple Leafs would be bigger and bolder than ever; how they would be a tough team to play against and how he’d build the club from the goaltender out. Suffice it to say those words now ring hollow.
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Incumbent: James Reimer, 24, signed through 2013-14
Goals against in 2011-12: 259 (29th in NHL)
Goals against, 5v5: 182 (29th in NHL)
Why here: In his season-ending news conference, general manager Brian Burke said the Leafs had tried and failed to acquire a veteran goaltender before the trade deadline. When asked about trying his luck this summer, he said: “We’ll have to see what the options are, and what the price tags are.” Reimer had a save-percentage of .900 last season — Luongo had a .919
Incumbent: José Theodore, signed through 2012-13
Goals against in 2011-12: 216 (12th in NHL)
Goals against, 5v5: 144 (8th in NHL)
Why here: If the Tampa Bay Lightning have removed themselves from the market with the acquisition of Anders Lindback from Nashville last week, the Panthers would become another intriguing trading partner for the Canucks. Luongo played five seasons with the Panthers
Incumbent: Corey Crawford, 27, signed through 2013-14
Goals against in 2011-12: 231 (22nd in NHL)
Goals against, 5v5: 170 (27th in NHL)
Why here: According to capgeek.com, the Blackhawks have 23 players under contract, with about US$8.2-million left under the cap. That would leave more than enough space to fit Luongo.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Incumbent: Steve Mason, 24, signed through 2012-13
Goals against in 2011-12: 257 (28th in NHL)
Goals against, 5v5: (166 (26th in NHL)
Why here: Columbus finished 46 points behind Vancouver, holding the polar opposite position in the NHL standings.
Incumbent: Roberto Luongo, signed through 2022-23, Cory Schneider, restricted free agent on July 1
Goals against in 2011-12: 191 (4th in NHL)
Goals against, 5v5: 135 (6th in NHL)
Why here: Gillis has the laws of supply and demand working in his favour. The supply of proven or potential starters has dwindled, with Lindback (Tampa Bay, via trade with Nashville)
Given that he has no desire to trade Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, one has to think, is looking at parting with at least a player or two off the club’s roster in the coming days or weeks.
Making trades to improve the Leafs is the way to go. Burke has said it as much himself, knowing a thin free-agent market has few attractive players that could come in and help the Leafs become a playoff contender.
When you manage a team that finished 13th in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, a full dozen points short of the eighth and final playoff spot, few players on your roster would be deemed untouchable.
But there are a few Leafs who know they aren’t going anywhere. Captain Dion Phaneuf, forwards Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski, defenceman John-Michael Liles, goaltender James Reimer — none of these young men have trouble sleeping at night because they’re worried they might be traded the next day.
For the rest of the Leafs outside of Gardiner, there is no such certainty. Defenceman Luke Schenn likely will be hearing rumours until the time comes that he actually is traded, though Burke would have to eat some fairly significant words that he uttered last September when he signed Schenn to a five-year contract.
“What you see is a classic, hard-nosed Canadian defenceman,” Burke said at the time. “Luke plays the game we all dream about finding players to play that way. He plays hard, is hard to play against, he finishes his checks.”
On the surface, it appears that Burke has on his hands several unmovable contracts. Forwards Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong
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The Blues still need to address the defense position before next season which they’ll do either through a trade or in free agency. Finding a player to play with Alex Pietrangelo should be a priority. Sure he could play with Kevin Shattenkirk but that’s only if there are no other options. I don’t doubt Pietrangelo can play the left side but there’s no sense in taking him away from his natural side unless it’s really necessary.
There’s limited players available in free agency that register on the excitement meter. I’m not sure the Blues can afford a player like Matt Carle who will fetch north of $4 million come July 1st. Others such as 36 year old Bryce Salvador missed a full season with an inner ear issue two seasons ago. Salvador could still return to New Jersey but will be hoping for a three year deal similar to the contract Jackman received. He may have to settle for two.
The Blues have told Ian Cole he’s guaranteed a top seven spot but it’s up to him to nail down a top six position. He’ll need to improve his skill level to play with Pietrangelo. Blues assistant coaches worked several days towards the end of last season on improving his skill while the former Notre Dame standout was out of the lineup.
Just look at the defense of the last two Stanley cup winners and it gives you a good idea of how much the Blues probably need to improve to truly contend.
Look for both Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol to both re-sign one year deals with the Blues sometime this week or next.
Another day, another goalie locked up.
While Josh Harding may not be a well-known puckstopper, or one of particular note, he’s likely to come close to splitting the workload in Minnesota this season with Nicklas Backstrom, and so the Wild have locked him up with a three-year deal.
Harding, along with Anders Lindback, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier, was viewed as a young backup netminder who might be able to become a starter elsewhere. Now Harding is signed, Lindback has been traded to Tampa, Bernier may stay in L.A. for the time being until Jonathan Quick is locked up long term and Schneider, most believe, will be the unchallenged as the No. 1 goalie of the Vancouver Canucks when the next NHL season begins.
If there were a plethora of teams anxious to upgrade in goal, that would create a nice situation for Canucks GM Mike Gillis in his efforts to move veteran goaler Roberto Luongo and his ridiculous contract, which still has 10 years left to run.
Except there aren’t many teams looking to upgrade. Indeed, unless Ondrej Pavelec flees to the KHL and leaves the Winnipeg Jets in the lurch, only two teams seem to be seriously prowling for a starter in the crease, the Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Even then, the money-losing Blue Jackets aren’t likely to be interested in Luongo and his massive contract, while Luongo, with a no-movement clause he can still exercise, isn’t likely to be too excited about Columbus.
Which leaves the Leafs as the only destination. Chicago? Most GMs don’t think the Hawks are looking, and why would the Canucks move Luongo to a conference rival? Florida? They have Jose Theodore and hot prospect Jacob Markstrom, and dicey ownership in south Florida makes it unlikely the Panthers would want to absorb that contract with $46.8 million still to pay, including $40.3 million cash in the next six years.
The temperature changed a little last week for the Vancouver Canucks when they filed to arbitrate against winger Mason Raymond. The environment may be dramatically altered this week as general manager Mike Gillis tries to trade goalie Roberto Luongo.
Gillis confirmed before travelling for NHL meetings on Tuesday that he is talking to teams about his goalie.
“There are lots of teams interested,” Gillis said. “There’s a limited number of proven No. 1 goaltenders in the world. Roberto is, without a doubt, a proven No. 1 all-star goalie.”
The Canuck manager insisted there is no urgency to make a deal this weekend at the draft in Pittsburgh and Gillis said he remains comfortable with the possibility that both Luongo and Cory Schneider, who became the Canucks’ starter during April’s first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings, will be in Vancouver next season.
Neither goalie, however, would be comfortable with that scenario and it is in no one’s interest to have two No. 1s and nearly $10 million committed to Canuck goalies when one of them will be on the bench each night.
If Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is serious about making a splash this week with a big trade, he is going to have to think long and hard about parting with defenceman Jake Gardiner.
That’s the feeling of several National Hockey League scouts who have had more than a few looks at the Leafs’ group of prospects, whether it’s with the big club, the Marlies, or at the junior or collegiate level.
And if the Leafs put a lot of stock in their young group, it’s clear that not every one agrees that Toronto is brimming with bluechip youngsters.
“Gardiner would be the top guy,” a Western Conference scout said. “Two or three years ago, I would have said Luke Schenn. But he has not made that next step.
“For me, Joe Colborne would be the next guy after Gardiner, but to a lesser degree. Nazem Kadri still hasn’t shown he can play with men yet.
“To do something significant, the guy he would probably have to give up is Gardiner.”
If the Leafs have concrete designs on Rick Nash or Jordan Staal, Gardiner almost certainly would have to be part of the package. Burke might get away with not using Gardiner in a swap with the Vancouver Canucks to acquire goaltender Roberto Luongo, but he still would have to attempt to find a No. 1 centre.
Gardiner surprised all with his NHL rookie season in 2011-12, playing in 75 games and recording 30 points (seven goals and 23 assists). No other freshman defenceman had as many points as Gardiner.
The Senators have apparently made a strong pitch for Rick Nash.
Multiple solid sources have confirmed rumblings of Ottawa’s interest, saying GM Bryan Murray has indeed talked with the Columbus Blue Jackets about acquiring the two-time 40-goal scorer.
One insider went a step further by telling Sun Media the players the Senators proposed to send back in the deal for the left winger, a scenario confirmed by another source.
For the just-turned 28-year-old Nash, it appears the Senators are prepared to trade 2011 first-round pick Mika Zibanejad, winger Nick Foligno and goalie Ben Bishop.
It’s not known whether any other moving parts or draft picks would be involved..
While Zibanejad is poised to start his entry-level contract, Foligno, a former first-rounder himself, is a pending restricted free agent in need of a new deal. At the very least, he’ll get a 10% raise on the $1.55 million he made during the 2011-12 season.
Bishop, acquired from the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick when No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson suffered a hand injury in February, has a one-way deal next season that will pay him $650,000.
Nash, the first overall pick in 2002, has six years left on a contract that carries a cap hit of $7.8 million.
For hockey people, sometimes it’s very helpful when tough choices are taken away.
Perhaps that’s the case for the Maple Leafs when it comes to Rick Nash, a player they once coveted. Nobody seems quite certain where the Columbus Blue Jackets sniper will end up if he is indeed traded this week, but the Leafs are convinced that if they ever were on Nash’s short-list of teams for which he would waive his no-movement clause, they aren’t now.
So, apparently, they don’t have to be one of the teams trying to figure out just how much they should give up for a 28-year-old forward who had 59 points last year and comes with a massive contract and cap hit. They aren’t one of the teams chatting with the Jackets as we speak, although that could always change.
On the other hand, another really tricky choice could end up on Brian Burke’s platter in three days.
The Leafs, we’d all agree, need to somehow acquire a big, point-gathering centre, and neither the trade market nor free agency seems to have offered one up. That leaves the draft, and what will the Leafs do if it comes to their pick at No. 5 and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts is sitting there, still available?