While Brayden Schenn could be a strong player in the future, Wayne Simmonds is a solid checking winger right now and a second round pick might yield some nice results of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Mike Richards trade is a resounding victory for the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings scratched and clawed their way to two consecutive playoff berths without many high-end offensive options beyond Anze Kopitar (unless you count the offensive gifts of blueliners Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson) but now they have a one-two punch at center that can compete with the best duos in the league. Richards is a premier two-way center who ranks as one of the most dangerous shorthanded threats in the NHL and comes in at a very manageable $5.75 million annual salary cap hit.
That cap hit could be even easier to digest if the Kings find a way to unload expensive, aging winger Ryan Smyth on the Calgary Flames, as many rumors suggest. The latest buzz is that the two sides are very close to a deal, although TSN’s Gord Miller reports that Flames ownership needs to approve it first.
It is unclear what the Kings would get back if the trade goes through, but there aren’t many Flames players who cost more than Smyth’s bloated $6.25 million cap hit (to be fair, his 2011-12 salary is significantly lower at $4.5 million). Smyth remains a likeable leader with a nose for the net, but his production – 47 points in 10-11, no more than 59 points since he signed that five-year, $31.25 million deal in 2007 – simply cannot justify his paychecks.
The Flames seem intent on making changes this off-season, although it might be grimly accurate to say that they are making the same mistakes that got them into this mess. Reports indicate that the Flames want to unload Robyn Regehr’s $4.02 million salary cap hit to the Buffalo Sabres if Regehr will waive his no-movement clause. That seems like a semi-reasonable idea in a vacuum, but possibly adding Smyth makes the Flames’ moves look downright foolish in context.
On the other hand, pulling off that trade makes Kings GM Dean Lombardi look like a genius. There was a sense that Lombardi’s cautious rebuild of the Kings franchise might stall out during this off-season, but adding Richards for prospects and getting rid of Smyth’s problematic cap hit could cast Los Angeles as serious Stanley Cup contenders. Honestly, it’s quite possible that Lombardi’s Kings won the off-season before we learn the name of the first pick of 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Then again, from the looks of things, we could see plenty of other jaw-dropping decisions before Friday night ends.
If the St. Louis Blues were enjoying another season like they enjoyed last year, they wouldn’t have traded Kevin Shattenkirk.
But in the words of GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues are currently “in a precarious playoff spot,” so yesterday Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington for a haul that included a first-round draft pick in 2017 and 22-year-old forward Zach Sanford.
“It just felt that where we are and where we need to go, it was time to make a move,” Armstrong said.
“I think when we got through last year’s playoffs, knowing that we were going to be entering unrestricted free agency with a number of players over a two- or three-year span, we wanted to turn the tide over to a different core group of players, and this just continues down that path.”
Armstrong listed Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, and Robby Fabbri as parts of the new core.
“There’s change in this game,” said Armstrong. “All organizations go through it.”
The Blues enter tonight’s game against the Oilers just two points clear of the Kings for the second wild-card spot in the West.
The Ottawa Senators made Alex Burrows‘ contract extension official this morning.
The day after acquiring the 35-year-old forward from Vancouver, the Sens announced that Burrows had signed a two-year, $5 million extension with a 10-team no-trade clause.
Ottawa gave up 19-year-old prospect Jonathan Dahlen to get Burrows from the Canucks.
“I think we’ve become a tougher team to play against and with the acquisition of Alex Burrows we’ve become an even tougher team to play against,” said GM Pierre Dorion, per the Ottawa Sun. “We all know how games are at this time of the year and, hopefully, when our team gets in the playoffs, how they’re grinding, difficult games.
“Getting someone of Alex’s character is something we couldn’t turn (away from). Our players have done exactly what we’ve asked of them. They’ve played hard, they’ve played a system and we just felt it was time to add another piece. In Alex Burrows, we’re ecstatic to have that piece.”
After last night’s 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay, the Sens only have a four-point playoff cushion, so there’s still work to be done down the stretch.
Ottawa hosts Colorado Thursday.
Related: Canucks GM says he isn’t done after trading ‘heart and soul’ guy Burrows
Chicago re-upped with a pair of veteran skaters on Tuesday, agreeing to one-year contract extensions with d-man Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo.
At first glance, these deals certainly appear to be expansion draft-related. The Sun-Times notes this will allow ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman to protect former first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who’s enjoying a breakout campaign with 15 goals through 57 games.
Rozsival, 38, has been the more active of today’s signees, appearing in 51 contests while notching a pair of points. He’s won a pair of Stanley Cups in Chicago.
Tootoo, 34, was signed last summer and has appeared in 36 games. He’s gone scoreless while racking up 21 PIM.
Rozsival’s current deal pays $600,000, while Tootoo’s is at $750,000. Terms of their extensions weren’t released but it’s fair to suggest the dollar figures will be similar, given Chicago’s pressed right up against the cap ceiling.
Bowman certainly seems to be getting his house in order ahead of the aforementioned expansion draft. Last week, he inked journeyman goalie Jeff Glass to a two-year deal, another move that appeared to be with Vegas in mind.
Having already dealt away Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could be on the verge of moving another veteran out of town:
Fippula, 32, is in the fourth of a five-year, $25 million deal with a $5M average annual cap hit. He’s had a nice bounce-back offensive campaign, with 34 points through 59 games — last year, those totals dipped to 31 in 76 — and has been a dependable, defensively responsible center during his time in Tampa Bay.
So, why might he get moved?
Yzerman has plenty of business to attend to this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are all pending RFAs requiring new deals, and it’s going to be expensive trying to keep all three in the fold.
It’s also worth noting that Victor Hedman‘s monster extension kicks in next year and, per ESPN, Yzerman is still searching to add a top-four defenseman to the mix.
McKenzie notes it’s unclear if Filppula has agreed to waive his NTC. If he does, though, teams would undoubtedly be interested in acquiring an experienced middle man, with tons of playoff experience.
Filppula’s appeared in over 150 career postseason contests, winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.