Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
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?
Hearing ANA’s Bobby Ryan is “available” again after being taken off trade market after Randy Carlyle’s Duck departure
Of all of the uncertainties that are bound to spill out of the National Hockey League draft in Pittsburgh this weekend, there are a couple of storylines that might have a little more solidity.
One, if Rick Nash finally is traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s unlikely that it will be to the Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are thought to be in the thick of the Roberto Luongo race, and if so, good for them. Goaltending is where it starts, and starting next season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens would be selling themselves short. A duel involving the two for the starter’s role might make for a juicy story during training camp, but the Leafs need experience in net. Luongo would provide that, and, if he could prove that last season with Vancouver was a blip, it would allow either Reimer or Scrivens to develop at a pace that doesn’t feel rushed.
For all of the names that have been connected to the Leafs in various rumours, whether it has been Nash or Luongo or Jordan Staal or just about any other skilled player who is on the market, it will be difficult for Burke to acquire more than one.
Burke simply does not have the assets at his disposal to complete a couple of significant trades.
“I call it the secondary trade market, but it’s fairly significant. So my objective will probably be to wait unless something falls in my lap.”
That willingness to wait until the “secondary trade market” gives with what Chiarelli told CSNNE.com in an interview last week: the B’s general manager is looking for a “Mark Recchi-type” winger that can bring a veteran presence and some interior toughness to his current forward group.
“If we’re going to add somebody I would rather add a piece like a Mark Recchi. Those guys are hard to come by,” said Chiarelli. “They wouldn’t be exactly like Rex, but those kinds of guys are out there via trade or free agency.
“We have guys that are growing into that [kind of leader], but he’s a Hall of Fame player. We talked about the quality of chances and getting into those scoring areas [that was lacking during the playoffs] and he’s a guy that epitomized that. He gets to those areas and other guys will follow that. Our guys will do it and they’ll have learned from that [Washington] series that it’s required. But that’s something you miss when Rex isn’t around.”
The big names potentially available via trade or free agency and interesting the B’s would be in the Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Jarome Iginla and Steve Sullivan range.
But there are other names like Mike Knuble and Dustin Penner that could always be big-bodied possibilities. Free agent price tag and potential chemistry with the rest of the Bruins will be considerable factors for whatever forward ends up joining the Bruins group.
Luke Schenn, Toronto
The Maple Leafs love the depth they have on the blue line, and though others might not think it’s that great, Schenn is a guy who would have the best chance of being on the move if Brian Burke can pull off a trade. Schenn has been involved in speculation for months, and wouldn’t be the least surprised if he is traded. Including Schenn in a trade would be a lot easier for Burke to swallow than, say, using Jake Gardiner as a piece of a deal. Toronto is ready to promote Korbinian Holzer to the NHL next season, and there will not be room for everyone on the Leafs blue line. Schenn’s contract is fairly cap-friendly, another factor that could make him attractive.
Patrick Kane, Chicago
As much as the Blackhawks would love to see Kane get his life in order away from the rink (few NHLers are as aware of the power of pictures posted on-line as much as Kane), it’s not a stretch to wonder if the 23-year-old will figure it out. Though he is coming off the least-productive of his five NHL seasons — he had 66 points in 82 games — Kane remains one of the brightest young stars in the league, and every other team could convince itself rather easily that it can be the one to send him on the proper off-ice path. The Hawks should be assured of getting a strong young player in return if they decide to deal Kane.
The New York Post writes that for the second time in four months, sources have confirmed the Rangers are engaged in a high-speed pursuit of Rick Nash.
Just as was the case during the chase leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, general manager Glen Sather remains unconcerned about the cap implications of the Columbus winger’s contract that runs through 2017-18 at an annual $7.8 million charge that is exceeded in the NHL by only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal.
Rather, the GM is more apprehensive about the Rangers’ lack of offense during the playoffs, in which the team was limited by Ottawa, Washington and New Jersey netminders to two goals or fewer in 15 of 20 games and could score as many as four only once, that in the opening game of the first round.
The question now, as it was in late February — when Columbus GM Scott Howson got greedy and demanded a combination of players including Chris Kreider; Derek Stepan or Carl Hagelin; Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto; plus Brandon Dubinsky and a first-rounder — is what the Jackets will be willing to accept and how much Sather will be willing to yield in return for the 28-year-old winger, whose numbers on the ice have never quite matched the hype attached to him.
The question within that question is how much Nash, whose average season yields 35 goals and 31 assists, has been weighed down trying to carry an inferior franchise through the entirety of a nine-year NHL career in which his team has made the playoffs once, only to be swept?
Up to a half-dozen teams — including Philadelphia, San Jose, Carolina, perhaps Toronto and perhaps Boston — are in the race, but the Rangers could end the derby in a heartbeat by agreeing to send Kreider to Columbus. There is less chance of that occurring than of Sean Avery returning to the team as an assistant coach.
The question might not be whom to select in Friday’s NHL draft, but this: To trade or not to trade?
The combination of a relatively even distribution of talent among the first-round prospects, certain needs for teams selecting at the front end and a new collective-bargaining agreement looming has the potential for some big deals this week and into the weekend, when all 30 general managers will be in Pittsburgh, ostensibly to make their teams deeper through the draft.
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said this past week he has no plans to trade the No. 1 overall pick, but he listened to offers, a new development from the past two seasons, when Edmonton did not hesitate to make Taylor Hall and then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the top selections of 2010 and 2011.
Edmonton — like several teams, including the Islanders — has a crying need for help on defense.
So it might be more of a difference-making forward who gets dealt this week. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash heads the list, having nearly been dealt at the trade deadline, although he still has a no-trade clause to determine where he’ll go.
The Rangers could be the biggest movers this week. Nash, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks, and defensemen Shea Weber of the Predators and Tobias Enstrom of the Jets could be targets, with the Rangers using their No. 28 pick and/or some of their deep prospect pool to swing a deal.
Under GM Garth Snow, the Islanders have refused to deal picks and/or young players for established NHLers. This year is no different, although Snow is trying hard to land a defenseman to shore up a thin mix. Only Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald will be back from the team’s regular 2011-12 defense corps.
A restricted free agent such as the Canadiens’ P.K. Subban would have gotten Snow to strongly consider dealing the fourth overall pick, but new Montreal GM Marc Bergevin isn’t moving Subban, according to those who’ve spoken with him.
One player who figures to have his name whispered often leading up to Friday’s first round is Derek Roy. The center had a disappointing season and is entering the final season of his six-year contract. Roy will earn $5.5 million next season but has a manageable $4 million cap hit.
If the Sabres move Roy or another big name, it wouldn’t be the first time they used draft weekend to significantly alter the roster. Names such as Jochen Hecht, Michael Peca, Tim Connolly, Don Edwards and Tony McKegney have been part of selection meeting swaps. The biggest blockbuster came in 1990, when the Sabres acquired Dale Hawerchuk and a first-round pick from Winnipeg in exchange for Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and a first-round pick.
The most recognizable star on the market this year is Columbus right wing Rick Nash. The captain wants out, and the Blue Jackets are expected to accommodate him after failing to find a suitable deal at the trade deadline. The 28-year-old has six years remaining on a deal that averages $7.8 million.
The main purpose of the draft, though, is to pick young players. Nail Yakupov is likely to be No. 1.
The 18-year-old Russian forward is ranked first by NHL Central Scouting, a position he also held at the midterm rankings. Yakupov recorded 31 goals and 69 points in 42 games with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League and added nine assists in seven games for Russia at the world junior championships.