NHL observations: Kings and Ducks among teams getting early jump on trade deadline
So much has happened in the weeks leading up to Monday’s noon Pacific time NHL trade deadline that the folks in Canada who provide all-day TV coverage and analysis — some of which will be simulcast on NHL Network in the United States — might not have many new deals to discuss.
The Kings were the most active team in recent weeks, trading three players who contributed to their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championships. General manager Rob Blake had tiptoed around a full housecleaning for too long. Finally recognizing it had to be done, he plunged in and added a good haul of draft picks and prospects to an already strong pile by dealing forward Kyle Clifford to Toronto two weeks ago and last week sending forward Tyler Toffoli to Vancouver, and defenseman Alec Martinez to the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, the Kings must be right about those picks and properly develop the talent they’ve collected.
Toffoli should help the Canucks, who are clinging to a playoff position and needed a top-six forward after losing Brock Boeser for a few weeks because of a rib cartilage injury. “I think there’s a lot to like about him,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “He’s played over 500 games in the NHL. He’s won in the NHL. He understands how hard it is to score, to win, to win a puck battle.”
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon used two stockpiled second-round picks to acquire Martinez, who had a goal and an assist in his debut on Thursday as the Golden Knights ended Tampa Bay’s 11-game winning streak. “We improved without subtracting,” McCrimmon told reporters. “In the player, we got a two-time Stanley Cup champion. We got a guy with real good leadership ability….We like our team a lot and we didn’t want to subtract.”
The Kings might not be done, if they can find takers for Trevor Lewis or Jeff Carter, also double Cup winners. Carter, 35, has two more seasons with a cap hit of $5.272 million, probably too hefty for most teams to absorb.
The 2004 film ‘Miracle’ didn’t follow the script when it came to most hockey movies. It provided a dramatic retelling of one of the greatest Olympic moments.
The Ducks’ trade of winger Ondrej Kase to Boston for defense prospect Axel Andersson, a 2020 first-round draft pick, and veteran winger David Backes had several layers to it. Kase has a concussion history but could thrive on the Bruins’ second line if he stays healthy. Andersson figures to fortify the Ducks’ thin defense corps, and the first-round pick will accelerate their rebuild. The Bruins kept 25% of Backes’ salary, but the Ducks are still paying a lot for a guy who’s a class act but might not have much left to give on the ice. “One of my biggest disappointments so far this year is leadership. Hopefully this helps with that,” general manager Bob Murray said. That’s interesting, considering he built that supposedly leadership-deficient roster.
In a move driven by unfortunate circumstances, the St. Louis Blues acquired defenseman Marco Scandella from Montreal for a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021. They needed reinforcement after defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac event in Anaheim and underwent surgery to have a defibrillator implanted in his chest. He was placed on long-term injured reserve and has returned to St. Louis. He issued a statement last week to thank the trainers of the Blues and the Ducks, first responders, and hospital staff for their quick action in reviving and treating him. “I am on the road to recovery,” he said.
Two non-playoff teams traded players for assets, with San Jose sending defenseman Brenden Dillon to Washington for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 third-round pick that will shift to this year if Washington wins the Cup this season. Also, New Jersey traded defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for a second-round pick and a prospect, and also dealt forward Blake Coleman to Tampa Bay for a prospect and first-round pick this year or next.
The rich got richer when the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost Jake Guentzel to shoulder surgery, snared Jason Zucker from Minnesota for Alex Galchenyuk, a prospect and a first-round pick this year. A steep price but the Penguins are determined to go all-in and Zucker’s contract has three seasons after this.
The Colorado Avalanche might make a move after losing forward Mikko Rantanen to an apparent shoulder injury. In addition, goalie Philipp Grubauer is day to day because of a lower-body injury he suffered in the outdoor game against the Kings last Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo.
So who’s left?
The best player still on the market as of Saturday afternoon was speedy New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. A solid 6-foot-3, he had 24 goals and 45 points in 58 games through Thursday. The Avalanche and Bruins reportedly had the most interest in Kreider. Another trade candidate is New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen, who is on injured reserve because of a leg injury but isn’t expected to be out long term.
Also, Ottawa scratched forwards Tyler Ennis and Vladislav Namestnikov on Saturday, likely in preparation for a trade.
From the scrap heap to the top of the heap?
Ilya Kovalchuk has bounced back so well after his Kings contract was terminated and he signed with Montreal that he reportedly has drawn trade interest from Cup contenders. It’s also possible the Canadiens will re-sign Kovalchuk, who had six goals and 12 points in his first 21 games with them.
Bobby Ryan is fighting his toughest battle
Admitting he couldn’t end his dependence on alcohol by himself was a brave decision by former Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, who spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Friday for the first time since he entered the NHL/NHL Players’ Assn. assistance program in November. Ryan said the stigma of asking for help led him to try to change his life by himself, but he couldn’t do it long-term. “It was more a realization that the route that I was going had no good end in sight and that’s not just professionally, that’s personally. I didn’t want to continue to do that,” said Ryan, who might return to the Senators’ lineup next week.
Here’s wishing him the strength to succeed, for himself and his family.
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