Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
Here are the NHL’s top 10 storylines for this week:
Will Columbus finally move Rick Nash? Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson put the power forward up for bidding again. Nash is ready to waive his no-trade protection to go to the right team. Trade talks are heating up. The Sharks and Rangers appear to be the front-runners and New York is especially eager to upgrade its offense. But the number of serious suitors could reach double figures. The Blue Jackets should hire Blues president John Davidson before letting the hapless Howson make this move – but when was the last time this franchise made the right move?
Will Edmonton Nail its first overall pick? The Oilers have lots of young offensive talent. They need to strengthen their defensive corps. The organization loves young Ryan Murray. The Oilers are also smitten with defenseman Griffin Reinhart. But . . . most everyone agrees that Russian scorer Nail Yakupov is the top talent in this draft. Trading down from the top pick seems like a good idea, but will another team make an offer than the Oilers can’t refuse? This decision could go down to the wire.
Can the Devils retain Zach Parise? He would love to stay in New Jersey, but he needs to get paid. As the top potential unrestricted free agent, he can look at teammate Ilya Kovachuk’s $100 million contract as his guideline. Parise rejected the Rangers as a suitor, but the Red Wings, Kings and Maple Leafs are some of the teams that could interest him should the Devils fail to come up with appropriate money. The Devils franchise needs new investors and fresh cash to make this deal happen.
Can the Predators retain Ryan Suter? Nashville GM David Poile is holding out hope that he can re-up Suter and his running mate Shea Weber for the long haul. But Suter would attract top-dollar interest from the Red Wings and other attract teams in free agency, so he seems determined to play out that process into July. Should Suter stay put, the value of other potential UFAs like former Blue Dennis Wideman would rise precipitously.
Will Roberto Luongo move on from Vancouver? Young Cory Schneider replaced him in the postseason and seems ready to do the same for the 2012-13 season. Ideally the Canucks will off-load Luongo’s massive contract – a $5.3 million salary cap hit until 2022 – and gain the flexibility to keep the rest of its core group together for years to come. The draft would be a good time to make that move, since Florida or Toronto could make a big play for a cornerstone netminder.
As an unrestricted free agent come July 1, would Kovalev seriously consider a return to the NHL? And if so, would he have a jersey preference?
“Hopefully, I’ll find an NHL team,” he said. “The preference is always going to be a team I’ve played on (Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators) because you know the environment.
“And I’d definitely like to come back to Montreal. They’re all about the young guys, but I can help in all different ways. And I can still play. I have a lot of energy.
“I always think about having left Montreal,” he said of signing a two-year, $10-million UFA contract with Ottawa in July 2009, having played four-plus seasons with the Canadiens.
“You make a mistake in life and you learn from it. I would make a different move if I could have that back.”
That summer, depending on your source, Kovalev agent Scott Greenspun failed to contact the Canadiens before then-GM Bob Gainey began his dramatic rebuilding, or Gainey was so vague about deadlines for the two sides to speak that a phone never rang before he moved.
A free-agent flood poured into Montreal and Kovalev soon was washed down the highway towards Ottawa, leaving a big piece of his heart in Montreal.
Kovy lifted you out of your seat with excitement some nights – ask those who held a spirited rally outside the Bell Centre before he signed with the Senators – and sent you home maddeningly frustrated by his ghostly apparition on others.
But he was never, ever dull, something that’s not changed in the two years he’s been gone. And Kovalev still gets a kick out of being recognized in Montreal, toying with those who think they’ve spotted him as they trail him down the street, their calls to him ignored – just for awhile.
The Leafs are expected to be near the front of the line if former Anaheim Duck first-rounder Justin Schultz becomes a free agent in a couple of weeks.
Schultz, a big defenceman with 44 points in 37 games, is leaving the University of Wisconsin a year early to play pro. But he’s thus far not signed with the Ducks, who could lose him if a deal is not reached by June 24. After that, a number of teams are in the picture, his home province Vancouver Canucks, the needy Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers, Oilers and the Leafs.
Toronto’s connection is that Burke drafted him just prior to leaving the Ducks in 2008, 43rd overall, the round after another Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner. Anaheim was so anxious to get Schultz signed, it was reportedly prepared to burn a year of his entry-level contract just to play him in the final few games of the regular season. The Ducks might also work a trade for his rights before the 24th.
Alexander Radulov is believed on his way back to the KHL in light of an offer from Sergei Fedorov’s CSKA club that considering tax implications, we’re told, would make him the world’s highest-paid hockey player.
The regret regarding the Stanley Cup Finals is Ilya Kovalchuk’s back injury deprived the Devils of the club’s most singular, dynamic weapon against the Kings. It’s not as if the Devils are unique in dealing with a significant injury to a significant player. The Canucks had to deal with issues that eliminated Ryan Kesler as a factor in the 2011 defeat to the Bruins.
It’s just unfortunate that, if for nothing else but the sake of entertainment value, the most explosive and compelling player on either side was so diminished.
Rangers’ prospect Jesper Fast will be attending the club’s development camp following the Entry Draft, but the 20-year-old winger is contractually committed to playing the 2012-13 season for HV-71 of the Swedish Elite League.
The world of goaltending options is closing in on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Tomas Vokoun signed in Pittsburgh and Anders Lindback acquired by Tampa Bay, the list of available quality goalies has shrunk by two. And while there are many teams interested in inquiring about Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier, at this time the Kings prefer to maintain the status quo with Jonathan Quick as starter and Bernier behind him.
The pro-active trade Steve Yzerman made for Nashville’s Lindback hurts the Leafs in two different ways: 1) It removes a goalie they should have had interest in from the marketplace; 2) It provides one of their opponents in the Eastern Conference with potentially better goaltending than it has had in the past (and you know the Lightning, with Steven Stamkos, can score goals).
With Vokoun and Lindback scratched from the list of the available and the Kings’ Dean Lombardi saying “having only one quarterback is dangerous,” that leaves Roberto Luongo as their best goaltending option moving forward to this week’s NHL draft and trade meet. The good news with Luongo is it won’t cost much to get him. The bad news is it’s a long-term solution for the Leafs and if they still believe in James Reimer and, to a lesser extent, Ben Scrivens, then it isn’t an ideal situation for the development of a youngster.
While there are still run-of-the-mill free agents available such as Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason, there is nothing that would excite Maple Leafs fans here. Luongo remains the most viable option — and that’s not without its pitfalls.
The most likely destination for Nash is the New York Rangers, who, like everyone else, covet pending unrestricted free agent Zach Parise but who were told earlier this week that Parise doesn’t consider that a realistic move for him. The Rangers are still looking to get over the top after losing in the Eastern Conference finals to New Jersey, and need help up front, as it’s expected star Marian Gaborik will be sidelined five to six months following shoulder surgery.
The other likely destination is Vancouver, where the Canucks are looking to unload Roberto Luongo and figure out a way to make good on years of unfulfilled playoff promise. The San Jose Sharks will be looking to make a move, too, after losing in the first round despite making a big splash at last year’s draft by trading for defenseman Brent Burns.
Management is very serious about re-tooling the Wings after a first-round loss to Nashville, but the focus is on doing it via free agency more than via trades.
Expensive accomplished players like Patrick Kane, Nash, Jay Bouwmeester and Roberto Luongo are possibly available for trade. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise appear set to leave Nashville and New Jersey respectively as free agents. Teams are getting set to make moves lockout or no lockout ahead.
Which brings us to the Maple Leafs.
It’s an intriguing time for GM Brian Burke and his staff as they contemplate the future. The expectation among many is that Burke is plotting aggressive ways of making sure the Leafs don’t miss post-season play again next season eyeing a veteran goaltender (Luongo?) in search of quality veterans to bolster Dion Phaneuf and the leadership group in the Toronto dressing room and searching for ways to get the No. 1 pick in next week’s draft.
There’s just not enough there yet even with some promising players with the Marlies to start aggressively thinking short-term like the Kings.
The likeliest scenario then is for something in between:
• A play for Luongo that might cost one good prospect.
• A mid-range NHL free agent.
• An aggressive bid for unsigned Anaheim blueline prospect Justin Schultz.
• No deal for Nash who may have scratched Toronto from his list of preferred destinations anyway.
• No move up from No. 5 in the draft and therefore ending up with a blue-chip youngster who will be back in junior or Europe next season.
The message? Staying the course no short-term fixes or at least none involving players who can only help for one or two years. Luongo, maybe, because he’s a long-term solution in the crease.
It would be a statement that the Leafs aren’t yet in the prospect-rich position L.A. was last summer but also that they believe enough in what they have put in place — Phaneuf as captain, Phil Kessel as the centrepiece up front — that a goaltending upgrade would make everything look better.
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has many ideas running through his mind about how to improve his team. Trading the second-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is one of them and Howson says the pick has already garnered some interest from around the league.
“We’ve certainly listened to people. We’ve had a couple of expressions of interest on the pick in terms of moving down,” Howson told The Morning Show on Sportsnet 960 The Fan on Thursday. “We wouldn’t want to move too far down so we’ll just see how it plays out next week. Traditionally, and if history repeats itself, teams get a little more serious about exchanging picks as we get closer to the draft on the draft floor.”
Howson, who has been the Blue Jackets GM since 2007, said he is looking at any and all avenues to improve his squad and is open to dealing his top pick if the right offer is made. But he also admitted that trading away a high draft pick can be quite difficult.
“We’d be open to any suggestions,” Howson said. “It’s not an easy trade to trade out of the two slot, or one slot or three slot for that matter.”
The Blue Jackets are no strangers to making deals close to draft day either. One day before last season’s draft, Howson traded Jakub Voracek to the Philadelphia Flyers along with the eighth-overall pick (which the Flyers used to select Sean Couturier) in exchange for forward Jeff Carter.
In February, Howson then flipped Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for defenceman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick. Although disappointed Carter didn’t help his club like he anticipated, Howson has no regrets about the signing and was pleased he was able to get a good return when they traded him.
While there are a number of logical reasons why the Flyers would want to pursue Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who is headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, the question remains: Is Suter interested in them?
Recall the Flyers had serious interest in Jay Bouwmeester several summer ago, but it wasn’t reciprocal. As such, they turned their attentions elsewhere by going after Chris Pronger.
According to a well-placed source, Suter has a potential list of clubs he would be willing to talk to even if his rights were traded before July 1. Suter is represented by Neil Sheehy.
Alas, the Flyers are not one of them.
In fact, the source said, all of Suter’s preferred destinations, should he leave the Predators, are in the Western Conference – not the East.
Detroit is generally conceded to be his top choice.
It’s no secret the Flyers have some work ahead of them in the coming weeks to solidify their defense, especially given it appears Pronger’s status as “out indefinitely” with post-concussion syndrome will continue into next season.
Nashville general manager David Poile, the source said, has thus far refused to talk with any clubs about moving Suter or even restricted free agent Shea Weber’s rights right now.
The market for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rich Nash is heating up ahead of next week’s NHL Draft.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, as many as seven teams have had ‘significant discussions’ with the club in the last 10 days about acquiring Nash.
The report adds that the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes are among the teams that have expressed interest.
Blue Jackets’ general manager Scott Howson said that the club had, “significantly more discussions this week,” but would not comment directly on the most recent trade talks regarding the team captain.