Trade deadline day could be a snoozefest at this rate.
The trade: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquire Tomas Plekanec and Kyle Baun from the Montreal Canadiens for Rinat Valiev, Kerby Rychel and Toronto’s second-round draft pick in 2018. The Canadiens will retain 50 percent of Plekanec’s salary in the deal.
Why the Maple Leafs are making this trade: Plekanec slides right into a fourth line center role with the Leafs as an upgrade over Dominic Moore. The 35-year-old’s production might be waning, but he’s still a solid two-way center that can be counted on to be responsible in the defensive zone. He could also move right into the mix on Toronto’s top penalty kill unit. Immediately, he could also help fill the gaps with Auston Matthews out of the lineup due to injury.
With the Canadiens retaining 50 percent of Plekanec’s salary in his final season of a two-year, $12 million contract, the Leafs can still stay busy in the trade market without immediate worry about cap woes.
According to CapFriendly, the Leafs still have $3,423,334 worth of cap room to play with.
Why the Canadiens are making this trade: Well, for starters, getting a return for Plekanec, a pending unrestricted free agent, was a must. And they certainly got a nice haul for him. The Canadiens, who look to be entering a time of rebuilding, now have four second-round picks — and nine total — in the 2018 draft after Sunday’s trade. That pick is the primary factor in this trade.
Rychel led the Toronto Marlies in scoring last season, but hasn’t been able to crack the Leafs after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rychel was taken 19th overall in the 2013 draft and has 37 NHL games under his belt.
Valiev has 10 NHL games. He’s shown some promise as a depth, safe defenseman.
Who won the trade? It’s a trade that benefits both sides. The playoff-bound Maple Leafs add depth to the spine of the forward contingent. Also, they get a guy who has quite a bit of playoff experience. Plekanec has played in 87 postseason games, amassing 16 goals and 49 points, including 11 points in 19 games during the 2009-10 season. The Canadiens add another pick to their stable, and get two prospects that will likely get looks before the end of the season.
St. Louis Blues
Starting goalie: Jake Allen
Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
At this rate we’ll only have minor league deals going down on NHL Trade Deadline day on Monday. The Boston Bruins make another trade with the New York Rangers as the sell off in the Big Apple continues, while it’s Stanley Cup or bust in Beantown.
The trade: The Bruins have acquired Rick Nash from the New York Rangers for a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 seventh-round pick, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner and the rights to Ryan Lindgren. The Rangers will retain 50 percent of Nash’s salary (a UFA this summer), while the Bruins are retaining half of Beleskey’s salary (his contract runs through 2020-21 season).
Why the Rangers are making this trade: Well, since general manager Jeff Gorton sent out that letter to season ticket holders, it’s been selling season for the Blueshirts. Nick Holden and Michael Grabner were the first to go, and now Nash heads out the door as the Rangers stockpile draft picks and future assets. Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh, who each have one more year left on their respective deals, could be the next ones to leave.
While it might be a down season for New York, Gorton is doing well to ensure a brighter future. Opening up cap space and adding draft picks will allow the Rangers to be aggressive this summer as they look to “retool” rather than “rebuild.”
Why the Bruins are making this trade: Since the Bruins replaced Claude Julien with Bruce Cassidy, they’ve played at a different level. They’ve played their way into contender status and adding Nash bolsters their second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, but also gives them an option on the first line should they feel the need to re-jigger things.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney sees his team being one of the best in the Eastern Conference, with a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final, so here’s a reward to his lineup for having a strong year. It’s a “go for it” attitude in a season that sees a strong crop of teams in the conference.
Who won the trade? Hard not to like it from both sides. The Bruins helped their blue line with Holden’s addition and now get stronger up front with Nash. In order to compete with the likes of Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Washington, this move will help Boston. The Rangers’ addition of a 2018 first gives them six in the first three rounds this year. That’s great for stockpiling prospects or adding roster players in the summer. Gorton’s work still isn’t done with Zuccarello and McDonagh as other possible trade candidates that could add to his haul before the 3 p.m. ET deadline on Monday.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — This was an Olympic men’s hockey tournament played without NHL stars, to mostly half-empty arenas and with tepid interest in North America and in a host country still getting to know the sport.
Until the final, perhaps.
When the Russians beat Germany 4-3 in an overtime thriller Sunday to win the gold medal, they did so in an almost-full Gangneung Hockey Centre amid an atmosphere that built with the tension of the back-and-forth game.
Such an entertaining final may have at least redeemed a men’s tournament that was overshadowed for some by the political overtones of the Korean women’s unified team and by the excitement of the United States beating rival Canada for the women’s gold medal.
”The hearts of all the players on the bench stopped,” Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk said. ”We were waiting for this. … It was a very emotional game and now there is a void.”
There was a void in the Pyeongchang Games without the NHL, devaluing and sucking some interest out of men’s hockey tournament. Now it’s a matter of how the mostly listless tournament and the exhilarating gold-medal game shifts the leverage between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation for Beijing in 2022.
For the first time since 1994, the NHL chose not to stop its season to allow players to go the Olympics. IIHF president Rene Fasel said Saturday the NHL should start thinking about 2022 now.
”I really hope in 2019, 2020, we can have some discussion and they can make a decision,” Fasel said. ”Going to Beijing in 2022 will be another opportunity to promote the game in Asia. We will then see about the possible participation of the NHL or not.”
Even as Fasel used Germany’s run to the final to say nobody in that country cares that the NHL wasn’t there, coach Marco Sturm was lamenting their absence.
”All the NHL guys should be in the Olympics,” Sturm said. ”That’s just what the event is for, and hopefully in the future they will be back on Olympic ice.”
It could only help the buzz around Olympic hockey, which fell short of the anticipation for and the action of the U.S.-Canada women’s final. Even Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and the Russians being in the final didn’t do much to boost ticket sales as the IIHF announced a paid attendance of 5,075.
The fans and many athletes who went to watch Russia-Germany saw Slava Voynov score a crucial goal with 0.5 seconds left in the first period. Voynov is banned from the NHL as a result of his 2015 domestic abuse conviction but was allowed by the IOC and IIHF to play at the Olympics.
It remains to be seen if Voynov, who will turn 32 just before the 2022 Winter Games, would be allowed to play if the NHL is involved and has any say over rosters. That’s far from a sure thing, with commissioner Gary Bettman saying as recently as Saturday he doesn’t know if the NHL wants to go to China, calling it disruptive to a season.
The NHL skipped Pyeongchang in part because the IOC refused to pay for insurance, travel and other expenses as it did for previous Olympics. An average attendance of less than 5,000 and sharing attention with NHL playoff races and the trade deadline in North America might be enough incentive for the IOC to play ball.
Bettman and the NHL certainly do because of interest in the Chinese market. The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks already played exhibition games in Shanghai and Beijing prior to this season, and the league is planning more in 2018 and beyond.
But contrary to Fasel’s wishful thinking about a quick decision, the NHL playing at the Games is a question that will likely linger until the next round of collective bargaining talks that could happen as soon as 2020 if either side opts out in September 2019.
AP Sports Writers James Ellingworth and Teresa M. Walker contributed.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno