Nashville Predators v Los Angeles Kings

Smyth trade to Edmonton not done, Kings GM “I don’t think we’re closer”

The on-again, off-again deal that would send Ryan Smyth back to the Edmonton Oilers is (for the moment) off according to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi. The deal that was originally reported by TSN at the beginning of the first round at the 2011 Entry Draft on Friday would not be confirmed by the Oilers, nor the Kings.

Now we know why.

Apparently the major piece in the deal from the Kings’ point of view was not Gilbert Brule, but the cap space they’d save from buying Brule’s contract out as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles. Even though the Oilers have insisted that Brule has already been cleared to play, the Kings feel that certain assurances have not been made within the context of the trade. TSN’s Darren Dreger has the story:

“Sources say the Kings were willing to accept Brule as part of the deal with the intent of buying him out, however the collective bargaining agreement forbids teams from buying out an injured player.

Long after the conclusion of first round of the Entry Draft on Friday night, representatives from Los Angeles, Edmonton and the NHL engaged in a group discussion in an attempt to salvage the trade, but were unsuccessful.”

Clearly, this poses a significant problem for both sides. At this point, the Kings will continue to trade Smyth to a team somewhere closer to his home. Rumors before the announced trade had the Kings sending Smyth possibility to the Calgary Flames. Since the deal (as currently constructed) with the Oilers has fallen apart, Lombardi has already given a call to Flames GM Jay Feaster to rekindle talks with Edmonton’s rivals.

Even though the Kings are in the difficult position of being forced to trade one of their best wingers, Lombardi has insisted that any deal will have to work for both sides. Without the flexibility of a possibility of a possible Brule buyout, the Kings GM has stated the trade doesn’t make sense:

“To me, it was kind of simple, but it’s, OK, if something has to come back (to the Kings) to make this work, then there has to be certain things in place to allow me to run my (salary) cap. If they’re not in place, then this makes no sense. Because I have to replace this player. That’s the only urgency for me. I have to replace him. In order to replace him, whatever I’m taking back has to allow me full freedom to keep that (cap) space available. If that is not there, I can’t do this deal. And those conditions were not there. So there’s no deal.

“It makes no sense for me to lose this player and lose the flexibility. I need to replace him. That’s where it broke down. When it was clear that I couldn’t do what I needed to do with that player I’m taking back, then it’s not what the deal was based on, in any stretch of the imagination, and it certainly doesn’t make any sense for me.”

The Kings are to the point that they’ve all but guaranteed they’ll trade Smyth. Now we’re just waiting to find out where he’s going, when it’s going to happen, and who’s coming to southern California. Obviously there’s plenty more to this story and we’ll keep you updated as the soap opera continues to unfold.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.