On Monday, the Maple Leafs were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by the Bruins. But for Toronto general manager Dave Nonis, there’s not much time to dwell on the past.
Nonis believes there’s going to be a flurry of trades this offseason as teams adjust to a lower salary cap. He also believes the Leafs, who don’t necessarily need to shed salary, may be in a position to take advantage of other clubs’ problems.
As for certain key Leafs players…
“At this point, I would say he’d be back as a No. 1,” said Nonis, adding that goaltending wasn’t a weakness for Toronto this season. Reimer finished the playoffs with a .923 save percentage. The Leafs, of course, were reportedly in talks to acquire Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff at the trade deadline.
The 25-year-old winger has one year remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Nonis heaped praise on his top sniper, but also said there’s no “urgency” to get an extension done.
Kessel’s linemate can become an unrestricted free agent on July 5, and Nonis didn’t sound so sure about getting an extension done: “The numbers have to make sense.” Given the dearth of free-agent centers, Bozak could be looking at a big payday. But maybe not from the Leafs.
Like Kessel, the Leafs’ captain has one year left on his contract before he’s free to sign anywhere. Phaneuf came under fire during the Boston series after his Game 4 pinch led to the Bruins’ winning goal in overtime. Nonis said today that no Leafs were “untouchable,” and with younger, cheaper blue-liners like Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, and Carl Gunnarsson, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if Phaneuf was quietly shopped this summer.
Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.
Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.
Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.
For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.
— Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.
— Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.
— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”
— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.
— The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.
— Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.
Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.
“We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”
That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.
The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.
Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity
The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they’ll be without defenseman Alex Edler (fractured fibula) for six weeks and center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw that required surgery) for six to eight weeks.
So basically those two are gone for the remainder of regular season, save for possibly a few games at the tail end of the schedule.
For a bubble team that doesn’t boast a ton of depth, the injuries are significant. Edler leads the Canucks in ice time, averaging almost 25 minutes per game. Sutter, arguably their best defensive center, already missed a big chunk of games earlier in the season following sports-hernia surgery.
But GM Jim Benning still isn’t giving up on the playoffs. Yesterday, he went on Vancouver radio and suggested the Canucks could actually be buyers at the trade deadline.
Benning only has a couple of weeks to decide what to do with pending unrestricted free agents defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata. The trade deadline is Feb. 29.
The Canucks, currently just two points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot, have a pair of winnable games coming up. They host Toronto Saturday and Minnesota Monday.
Related: Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline
Winnipeg’s goalie of the future is off to continue his development in the AHL.
On Friday, the Jets activated veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from injured reserve and, in a subsequent move, sent rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck back to their affiliate in Manitoba.
Hellebuyck, 22, arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare, having starred for Team USA at the 2015 Worlds while being named an AHL All-Star as well.
This was his first-ever stint with the Jets, and it went OK — Hellebuyck posted an 13-11-1 record, .918 save percentage and 2.34 GAA — but he did struggle of late, getting hooked in two of his last three outings.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Pavelec.
His numbers prior to getting hurt weren’t any better than Hellebuyck’s — .906 save percentage, 2.82 GAA — and there will be considerable rust to knock off, given he’s been out since late November with a knee issue.
There’s also the long-term implication.
Pavelec, a lightning rod for criticism over the last few seasons, has one year left on his five-year, $19.5 million extension, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of ’17.
It could be his last season in Winnipeg (assuming he’s not bought out of the final year of his deal), which makes one wonder what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has in store.
It’s also worth noting there’s a third goalie in this equation: Michael Hutchinson, who’s a pending RFA.