Jason Brough

Pre-game reading: Sakic talks trade speculation

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— Up top, Kevin Shattenkirk addresses the trade rumors that have been following him for a while now. With five straight wins, Shattenkirk’s Blues are rolling under new coach Mike Yeo, and that’s going to make for an interesting deadline decision for GM Doug Armstrong.

— Avalanche GM Joe Sakic isn’t going to make a trade just to say he did. “If it’s the best possible deal for us long term, we’ll look at that possible deal and make that decision. But … it’s not going to be, ‘Let’s do it and shake things up.’ It has to be what’s best for the Avalanche.” Sakic has a tough challenge ahead of him. He desperately needs to address the Avs’ defense, and that’s not an easy thing to fix, even with chips like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to play. (Denver Post)

— Expect to see a fair number of draft picks thrown around at the deadline. But what if that draft pick turns into a star? Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe lists 10 such occasions, starting with the third-round pick the Jets sent the Canadiens in 1984 that turned into Patrick Roy. (Sportsnet)

— The Associated Press delves into all the short-side goals that are being scored in the NHL these days, and how it relates to the Reverse-VH technique that goalies use to stop sharp-angle shots. Says goaltending analyst Justin Goldman: “The problem is because goalies rely on this stance so often, they’re dropping down into it before the puck is actually off the shooter’s stick.” (Associated Press)

— On Senate Bill 1149, a.k.a the Arizona Coyotes’ plan to get a new arena built in a yet-to-be-determined location. As reported by Arizona Sports, “the team would contribute $170 million and the host city $55 million. Another $170 million would be raised through bond sales.” This legislation is obviously key to the team’s survival in the desert. If it doesn’t pass…. well, let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it. (Arizona Sports)

— An interview with Eric Lindros, who apparently still has his Quebec Nordiques jersey, which he keeps in a safety deposit box. Lindros was drafted first overall by the Nords in 1991, but he did not don their jersey, choosing instead to simply hold it. He was eventually traded to the Flyers, but not before another team, the Rangers, got involved in what proved to be a very mess situation. (Yahoo Sports)

Enjoy the games!

Report: Leafs put three players on LTIR, have lots of cap space now

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The Toronto Maple Leafs suddenly have a boatload of cap space.

From Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

They quietly placed Nathan Horton, Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) earlier this season — giving themselves the flexibility to operate more than $15-million above the $73-million cap for the remainder of the year.

That unlocks a world of possibilities in a cap-strapped league, especially since the cap itself is projected to rise only minimally in 2017–18.

It remains to be seen how the Leafs will use the cap space. Last year, one of their deadline moves was taking Brooks Laich’s contract off the Washington Capitals’ hands, for the price of Connor Carrick and a second-round draft pick.

But the Leafs are in a different position this season. They’re currently in the hunt for a playoff spot, and though their focus will remain long-term, if it’s the right deal, there’s at least the ability to be a serious player in the rental market.

The trade deadline is March 1.

Related: Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again

Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has new priorities following a life-saving liver transplant — and renewed focus on some old ones, too.

Away from the rink, he’s taking up a close-to-home fight. Melnyk launched his new foundation, The Organ Project, on Wednesday, with an aim on ending wait lists for transplant patient. Melnyk received a live liver donation in May 2015 and wants to take an active role in creating more awareness about organ donation.

Meanwhile, at Canadian Tire Centre, Melnyk’s hockey team is making a push for the postseason.

In the 14 years since he bought the Senators, Ottawa has played in the Stanley Cup Final once, in 2007. Since then, Ottawa has not made it past the second round.

Entering Wednesday night’s games, the Senators (29-19-6) were tied for second place in the Atlantic Division. A postseason berth is a real possibility, and Melnyk sees reason to be hopeful.

“I think now, finally, (we) have dug out of a three-year hole,” he said. “It was kind of sad. One out of three years you get into the playoffs, and you get blown out and the others you don’t get in. Now it’s exciting.

“I just think we have the potential, first, of getting into the playoffs and secondly, potentially going into the second, third and even the fourth round. I think finally I’ve become optimistic cautiously.”

With the trade deadline two weeks away, the Senators are still interested in adding a few pieces. However, Melnyk said he would wait until after Saturday’s game against Toronto before sitting down with general manager Pierre Dorion to discuss how to proceed.

“Did you see what they want for (Colorado forward Matt) Duchene and stuff? Oh my God,” Melnyk said. “It’s going to be silly because there’s so many competitive teams, especially in our conference. From bottom to top, even if I was at the bottom I’d still have hope. I think it will be way too expensive, and we’re not going to jeopardize our future. Everyone wants our young stars and I don’t blame them.

“I think we’re going to be smart about it to build a longterm base and a longterm team, but we’re urgently wanting to win of course.”

Melnyk said he’s not opposed to bringing in a player or two, but doesn’t want to spend excessively. He added that team payroll is connected to how well the Senators can draw on home ice.

Over 31 home games this season, the Senators have averaged 16,336 spectators at Canadian Tire Centre. That’s well below the arena’s capacity of 18,572.

“It’s a catch-22,” he said. “You need more people to come to the games to spend more to get a better team and the better your team is the more people come.”

Melnyk is also hopeful the league will soon announce an outdoor game for December.

“We’re done as far as the Senators are concerned, we’re all in,” he said. “We’ve made our deals. I think all the other parties, which includes the city, OSEG, the NHL, they have to do their deal. That’s the only reason. We’re done. We’re in. I want to do it. I’m excited about it.”

‘Hawks are happy with rookies’ progress

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At the start of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks had little choice but to bank on their rookies to keep improving throughout the 82-game schedule.

After losing the likes of Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd, and Teuvo Teravainen in the offseason, and with minimal cap space to work with, it was really all they could do.

Fifty-seven games in, the ‘Hawks are still being paced to a large degree by their veteran stars. But youngsters like Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero have at least shown the potential to make up for what’s been lost.

“Our young guys are showing some progressions in their games, adding balance to our team,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “We have depth. We have experience. We’re strong in all areas, all positions.”

Of course, Quenneville also said that GM Stan Bowman “is always looking to improve,” so don’t be surprised if the ‘Hawks make a minor move or two ahead of the March 1 deadline.

But Bowman doesn’t expect to do anything drastic. When he looks at the Western Conference, he doesn’t see “one dominant team we’re trying to catch” that would necessitate a major addition.

“I’m not saying 100 percent we’re not going to make a trade, but I’m not expecting to make a significant trade,” Bowman told ESPN.com recently. “We’re trying to win the Cup this year, absolutely, but it’s not predicated upon a rental.”

The ‘Hawks (35-17-5) entered their bye week on a five-game winning streak. They don’t play again until Saturday at home to Edmonton.

Therrien releases statement, calls coaching a ‘gratifying’ but ‘thankless task’

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Michel Therrien released a statement today, wishing his successor, Claude Julien, well while thanking the Montreal Canadiens for “the experience of five remarkable years.”

Therrien, fired Tuesday as Montreal’s head coach, left the Canadiens in first place in the Atlantic Division; however, the team was also 6-10-2 in its last 18 games.

“Being an NHL coach is a tough job: it is gratifying on many levels but it can also quickly become a thankless task,” said Therrien, per CBC.ca. “When a team is experiencing difficulties, any head coach knows his job is on the line. I understand and accept this reality.”

That Therrien used the word “thankless” to describe the job suggests he may have felt under-appreciated in the role. But after Julien was fired last week by the Boston Bruins, it was no real surprise that a change was made. The Canadiens endured a painful collapse last year, and now they were headed down a similar path in 2017.

Yesterday, Bergevin explained the move, rejecting the notion that Therrien was fired because Julien had suddenly become available.

“I just felt we weren’t playing the way we’re capable of,” said Bergevin. “So, everything happened for a reason. Maybe the timing was — you know, Claude let go by Boston last week — but I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates, that’s just not how I did it, no.”