Getty

Six players who should be traded this summer

11 Comments

Ah, yes. The offseason. That one month of craziness and mayhem after the Stanley Cup gets awarded where the NHL’s general managers get together and make the majority of their moves to assemble their teams and shape their organizations.

One of the busiest times is the four or five days surrounding NHL draft — which is less than two weeks away — where the majority of the league’s significant trades will get made.

Sometimes teams make themselves better. Sometimes teams make themselves worse. Either way it is always fascinating to watch unfold, even if it tends to underwhelm us in terms of the moves that actually get made.

Sometimes the trades that don’t get made are more interesting than the ones that do get made.

Either way, there will be trades, and they could involve significant players. With that said let’s start taking a look at some of the candidates to be on the move with six players that probably should, for one reason or another, be moved this summer.

[Related: Six players who should stay put this summer]

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.  Whether it happens during the summer or before the trade deadline this split just seems inevitable, even before all of Tuesday’s news broke. He is entering the final year of his contract, he was quite clearly on the trade block all of last season, and even though the Senators front office seems determined to try and sign him to a new long-term contract extension it just seems like it is a long shot at this point.

If he rejects the Senators’ offer in early July — when they can officially sign him to a new deal — the team is going to have little choice but to move him. The team itself is almost certain to stink this year so that one extra year of Karlsson isn’t going to make much of a difference, and you can’t afford to lose a franchise player for nothing as a free agent. As painful as it would be to move a player like this the Senators have to make sure they get something back in return.

Vegas made a run at him before the trade deadline and has the salary cap space, prospects, and future draft picks to deal from to try again.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators. Simply put, the Senators are a mess in more ways than one and while Hoffman is an extremely productive player and signed for two more years it would probably be best for everyone involved to just go scorched earth with this thing and tear the whole bloody thing down to the ground.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes. My first instinct when I hear or read speculation about a Jeff Skinner trade is to laugh about it and dismiss it because we’ve been hearing this stuff for what seems like five years now.

Every summer, every trade deadline it is the exact same thing — the Hurricanes might trade Jeff Skinner! Jeff Skinner could be on the market! Is this the year the Hurricanes finally trade Jeff Skinner!?

Hey, look, maybe all of those times he has in fact been available for trade. Maybe the Hurricanes have fielded offers or shopped him around. General manager talk. Trades get discussed. Players get offered. It is part of the business. But through it all Skinner has always still been there in Carolina. He is always still there in Carolina. And that has not been a bad thing for the Hurricanes because Skinner has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL at a salary cap hit that is probably a bargain.

But allow me for one year, for one time, to join the chorus of people saying … “hey, maybe this is the year?”

Because this really could be the year.

The environment is certainly right for it. Skinner is entering the final year of his contract, the Hurricanes have a new owner that seems to be looking to shake things up, and that all makes Skinner a logical candidate to be moved.

It’s a tough situation because the Hurricanes have some flaws and one of those flaws is not having players that can finish and put the puck in the net. Skinner is one of the few players on the team that has proven he has the ability to do that, so it it’s a hard sell to move him, especially when he is still in his prime years.

But all of the pieces for a trade just seem to be in place, and there are no shortage of teams in the league that could be in the market for him (looking at you, Los Angeles).

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals. Grubauer is good enough to be a starting goalie but is stuck on a team that also happens to have one of the best goalies in the NHL in front of him. Braden Holtby still has two years left on his contract and is coming off of a Stanley Cup win where he was mostly fantastic, cementing his status as one of the best, most productive postseason goalies in league history (that is not hyperbole! Just look at the numbers).

He is not going anywhere.

Grubauer, on the other hand, is ready for a full-time starting job, is a due a raise as a restricted free agent on a team that will not have a ton of salary cap space and has some important players that it has to try and re-sign, and there are at least two teams in the NHL that might be a good, young starting goaltender away from becoming a playoff team in the Carolina and New York (Islanders) that should be willing to pay for him.

While there is a lot of benefit to keeping two outstanding goalies (especially when it comes to the workload over a full season) there simply may not be enough room for both of them.

Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres. My colleague James O’Brien recently put together a strong argument for why the Sabres should keep Ryan O’Reilly (read it here), whose name has surfaced in trade speculation heading into the summer. And it makes sense. But allow me to offer the counterpoint: The Sabres stink, have holes all over their roster, and could probably get a pretty strong return on a two-way center that plays big minutes. It might also be good for him to get him out of Buffalo where the losing seemed to really to take its toll on him this season.

Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers need salary cap space. They missed the playoffs by a mile, have significant cap space tied up in their young core, and have to find a way to not only fill out a roster around that core, but also have it be a roster that is good enough to complement them.

This is not going to be easy!

Somebody, simply, has to go.

The easy and most sensible answer is Lucic but there is one very big problem with that: Nobody is really going to want to take on that contract. He still has five years remaining on his contract (a contract that includes a no-movement clause) at a salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Who is going to want to take on that commitment for a 30-year-old winger that managed just 34 points in 80 games this past season, including only 27 at even-strength, despite playing a healthy chunk of the season alongside Connor McDavid?

To move him the Oilers are either going to have to 1) Throw in one hell of a sweetener, or 2) pick up a significant portion of the salary.

Neither option is ideal.

But neither is that $6 million salary cap hit for what Lucic is likely to produce this season.

Sometimes you just have to take a little bit of a hit to try and make yourself better.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Kings hope to get over 1st-round playoff hump with Kovalchuk

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings made one significant addition during the offseason, but the question is whether it was enough to help them advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

While the top teams in the Pacific Division were busy, the Kings mostly stood pat. Their only major move was signing Ilya Kovalchuk, who returns to the NHL after five seasons playing in Russia.

The 35-year old left winger fits a familiar blueprint for the Kings – he’s over 30, has a big body and can control the puck but lacks quickness in getting up ice. Kovalchuk joins what is one of the oldest rosters in the league with nine players who are 30 or older. He will be paired on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Kovalchuk’s addition should add some punch to an offense that has struggled to score goals. The Kings averaged 2.89 goals per game last season, which was 16th out of 30 teams, and their 155 goals in 5-on-5 situations was the third lowest of a team that made the playoffs. They had only four skaters score 16 goals or more. Only Arizona and Edmonton had fewer skaters with three apiece.

Coach John Stevens said at the start of training camp that he was happy with some of the improvements made last year, which included creating more in the middle of the ice and scoring off the rush, but that more progress needs to be made.

”I don’t know if I want to say we want to do a whole lot of things different, but we want to do some things a whole lot better,” he said.

With the addition of Kovalchuk, Kopitar thinks the Kings can continue to build on some of the progress they made last season. He said early in training camp that last season was the best hockey they’ve played in the regular season since winning their second Stanley Cup in three years in 2014.

”I thought we showed more positives than negatives,” he said. ”We’re trying to look forward, draw on the positives and go about our business.”

Here are some other things to watch as Stevens begins his second season in charge:

KOPITAR’S ENCORE: Kopitar finished third in the Hart Trophy voting last season with a career-best 35 goals, 57 assists and 92 points. It is unlikely that he will repeat those numbers, but he shouldn’t revert to the form of 2016-17, where he struggled and had 52 points, which was the second-lowest of his 12-year NHL career.

SCORING BEYOND THE FIRST LINE: The Kings are hoping some of that comes from center Jeff Carter, who missed 55 games last season due to a lacerated ankle tendon.

Forwards Alex Iafallo (six goals, 11 assists) and Tyler Toffoli are expected to take another step. Toffoli (24 goals, 23 assists) was the only player not on the top line who had more than 16 goals.

COUNTING ON QUICK: Jonathan Quick was one of the league’s top goaltenders down the stretch last season with two shutouts and a 1.99 goals-against average in his last 11 regular-season starts. Managing Quick’s workload will be more of a priority this season as he usually ranks in the top 10 in minutes played.

Jack Campbell has emerged as Quick’s backup. He earned at least a point in all four of his starts last season and had a 2.47 goals-against average.

THE SCHEDULE: The Kings begin the season with home games against San Jose and Detroit before heading on the road for six of their next nine. They face Southern California rival Anaheim only once before March 9.

AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Blue Jackets aim for playoffs with future of stars in doubt

AP Images
Leave a comment

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — So what’s going on with ”Bob” and ”Bread”?

That question dominated the off-season discussion around the Columbus Blue Jackets, overshadowing everything else surrounding a team coming off consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history.

A legitimate inquiry for sure, considering Bob and Bread – otherwise known as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin – are major pieces of a team that should be a solid playoff contender again this season.

The two Russians are playing out the final year of their contracts, and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s primary goal this summer was to lock up both superstars with multiyear deals. Neither of the deals got done.

Panarin has said he isn’t sure he wants to commit to Columbus for the long haul. Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets haven’t been able to get together on numbers.

”They’re our best players, no question about it,” veteran forward Cam Atkinson said. ”We’re going to treat it as business as usual. I’m not going to look at them any differently, because at the end of the day it’s their decision. There’s only so many times in your career where you’re in the driver’s seat.”

WINDOW IS OPEN

If Panarin and Bobrovsky play to their capabilities, and some other Blue Jackets who battled injuries or otherwise struggled last year can bounce back, the team should be playoff contenders again. Columbus was eliminated in the opening round by the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the past two years.

”I think we’ve crossed the bridge as a team hoping to win,” said coach John Tortorella, who signed a two-year contract extension before camp opened.

”I think we crossed that bridge, I think we know we can win,” he said. ”The players’ mindset, I think they know they can win. I think we showed that the past couple years. We’ve stumbled in the playoffs, and that’s what we have to take note of here.”

Panarin set a franchise record with 27 goals and 55 assists (82 points) in 81 games. The second-highest scorer among forwards was rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who had 20 goals and 28 assists (48 points).

The Blue Jackets grabbed the first wildcard in the rugged Metropolitan Division despite subpar years from usually reliable forwards Atkinson (46 points), Alexander Wennberg (37 points), Boone Jenner (32 points) and Nick Foligno (33 points). Injuries definitely played a part.

THS STATE OF ZACH

Defenseman Zach Werenski is getting healthy again after playing much of last season with a bum shoulder. He started hitting last week and is hoping to be ready to go by the Oct. 4 opener in Detroit.

Werenski suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in the 12th game last season. The rest of the way he wore a cumbersome brace that wrapped around his chest and arm to keep his shoulder from separating. His movement was restricted, which affected his defensive skills, but he still managed to finish with 16 goals.

”It’s awful hard for a defenseman to play all those games that he played and put up the numbers he put up and do some of the things he did with that shoulder the way it was,” Tortorella said. ”He’s one that we’re certainly going to watch very closely.”

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The Blue Jackets added some help at center by signing center Riley Nash, the 29-year-old former Boston Bruin who put up career numbers last year. Nash had 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points in 76 games, besting his previous high by 16 points.

The team also signed 22-year-old forward Anthony Duclair, who had 11 goals and 12 assists in 56 games with the Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes last season,

The Blue Jackets bid farewell to longtime players Jack Johnson (Pittsburgh) and Matt Calvert (Colorado), as well as to Ian Cole (Colorado), a defenseman who played valuable minutes down the stretch after being acquired at the trade deadline last season.

Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Question for Bruins (again): How long can Chara keep going?

Getty Images
1 Comment

BOSTON (AP) — How much longer can Zdeno Chara keep this up?

The Boston Bruins defenseman – and leader in ice time – will turn 42 this season, and sooner or later the window will close on his opportunity to skate around the ice again with the Stanley Cup. For his teammates, that means focusing on this season as their best and possibly last chance to win with him.

”The older you get, it’s just about winning,” said David Krejci, one of five holdovers from the franchise’s last title, in 2011. ”We know that we’re not going to be playing in the league for 10 more years, but we have maybe three, four, five years left, who knows, but this is it. We worked really, really hard this summer to get the job done this year.”

Chara was already an eight-year veteran and two-time All-Star when he signed with Boston a dozen years ago, and the Bruins built a contender around him that went to the Stanley Cup finals twice in three years. (They lost to Chicago in 2013.)

Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand and David Krejci are the only other players remaining from the 2011 champs. Bergeron is 33, Rask and Krejci will turn 32 during the playoffs, and Marchand will turn 31. (Steven Kampfer was traded away in 2012 and rejoined the Bruins this summer; he just turned 30.)

Charlie McAvoy, the 20-year-old defenseman paired with Chara for most of his career, has seen players come and go and values the stability brought by the core.

”As long as we have those veteran guys the culture will always be the same, I really believe that,” he said. ”I really think it could be another special year. You bring back all these guys, the veterans, it could be an awesome year and I’m really excited to get it going.”

Here are some other things to look for from the Bruins this season:

SOPHOMORES

Helping to take some of the pressure off the aging core is a group with about one year of experience, led by McAvoy. Also among the sophomores are Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk, and Sean Kuraly.

”None of us are forecasting a setback, I call tell you that,” McAvoy said. ”Something about the experience of having a full season, playing a few playoff series now, seeing that element. I can use all those things to allow me to come in and play great hockey from the start. That’s my goal.”

Those five combined to score 151 points (48 goals, 103 assists) last season.

MORE NEW BLOOD

Joining the youth movement are players in their first full season like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork. Brandon Carlo has two years behind him but is still just 21.

”You need those young guys,” Krejci said. ”And our young guys are fast, they’re good, they’re smart, they make plays. They deserved to make the team last year and I’m looking forward to what they’ll bring again this year, one year under their belts.”

IN NET

Rask returns for his 12th season but he has a new backup.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year contract to come to Boston from the Islanders, where he started 49 games last season and had a 3.19 goals-against average. He replaces Anton Khudobin, who had been the backup for two years and started last season 7-0-2 filling in while Rask had a concussion.

The fast start led fans to call for him to replace Rask, when he won just three of his first 13 games. But the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner did not lose a game in regulation from Nov. 26 until Feb. 10, finishing with a 34-14-15 record and a GAA of 2.36.

LONG TRIPS

The Bruins played two exhibition games in China against the Calgary Flames, with Cassidy and half the squad heading over to Shenzhen and Beijing for a week while the rest of the team stayed back in Boston. The split squad wasn’t ideal, but the Bruins started the 2010-11 regular season with two games in Prague and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Cassidy said that would be a nice precedent to follow.

”Well if it’s a repeat of ’11, yes,” he said. ”I’d love that to happen, trust me.”

AP freelancer Matt Kalman contributed to this report.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

WATCH LIVE: 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA features Blue Jackets, Sabres

1 Comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA game in Clinton, N.Y. between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres begins at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here. 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

SABRES
Jeff SkinnerJack EichelSam Reinhart
Alex NylanderPatrik Berglund – Andrew Oglevie
C.J. Smith – Casey MittelstadtKyle Okposo
Justin BaileyEvan Rodrigues – Danny O’Regan

Jake McCabeZach Bogosian
Rasmus DahlinCasey Nelson
Brendan Guhle – William Borgen

Goalies: Scott Wedgewood, Jonas Johansson

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. – NBCSN]

BLUE JACKETS
Anthony DuclairAlexander Wennberg – Kevin Stenlund
Artemi Panarin – Liam Foudy – Jonathan Davidsson
Boone JennerBrandon DubinskyJosh Anderson
Lukas Sedlak – Sam Vigneault – Eric Robinson

Michael PrapavessisSeth Jones
Gabriel CarlssonAdam Clendening
Dean KukanDavid Savard

Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo, J.F. Berube

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.