What noteworthy players might get moved at the draft?

36 Comments

June 26th is the day that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will finally be drafted, but that’s not all that will happen. Each year there are typically some major trades made just before or during the draft. In that spirit, here are some of the popular candidates to be moved this time around:

Phil Kessel — Toronto is looking to go in a new direction and it seems likely that will involve Kessel finding a new home. The big question though is if Toronto can get what it would consider fair value for him. Toronto is reportedly willing to take on a contract to make his $8 million cap hit through 2021-22 more palatable, but it would still be difficult for many contending teams to take him on. At the same time, Kessel has five 30-plus goal seasons under his belt and has reached the 80-point mark on two occasions. He doesn’t have much playoff experience, but he has scored 13 goals and 21 points in 23 postseason games.

Patrick Sharp — Chicago has had to part ways with a lot of talented players over the last several years in order to stay under the cap. The Blackhawks once again have cap issues after winning its third Stanley Cup in six years. They might be able to address it without moving Sharp, but he’ll be 34 years old in December and he has two more years with a $5.9 million cap hit, so now might be the time to move him from a value perspective. Speaking of which:

It would be surprising to see Chicago get that, but this might also be a case of the Blackhawks starting the bidding high so they have something to work down from.

Cam Talbot — In two seasons with the Rangers, Talbot has a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage in 51 games. That’s made him the ideal understudy, but it also means that the Rangers aren’t likely to retain his services when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. With that in mind, it would make sense for New York to move him now, especially seeing as there’s reportedly considerable interest in him. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted, Talbot isn’t eligible to sign an extension until Jan. 1, 2016, which means any team acquiring him will have an increased risk of watching him walk as a free agent. That might hurt the Rangers’ return a bit.

Kyle Okposo — He is a recent addition to the rumor mill as Newsday’s sources said that he could be on the trading block. Okposo only has a year left on his contract and while he currently comes with an affordable $2.8 million cap hit, he’s due for a big raise after recording 120 points in 131 games over the last two seasons. Still the Islanders have cap space to spare and they’re only now emerging as serious contenders, so it would be surprising to see them turn around and trade Okposo this summer. He certainly wouldn’t be the first player moved to catch people off guard though.

Craig Anderson/Robin Lehner — When the Ottawa Senators decided to sign Andrew Hammond to a three-year extension, it all-but guaranteed that they would move a goaltender this summer. The only question is which one. Lehner is just 23 years old (24 in July) and is locked in for two more years at roughly $2.2 million. That would be a pretty good deal if he lived up to his potential, but he’s had a rough couple of years. Anderson was the better netminder in 2014-15, but the fact that he’s 34 years old and still has three years left on his contract at $4.2 million per might give other general managers pause.

This shouldn’t be taken as a complete list, just a sampling of some of the more interesting cases.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
André Ringuette/Getty Images
1 Comment

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.