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.
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.