2020 NHL Trade Deadline

What should Canadiens do with Kovalchuk?

Leave a comment

When Ilya Kovalchuk and the Los Angeles Kings decided to part ways, it became clear that the veteran winger wanted to suit up for a contending team. Boston and Pittsburgh were immediately thought of as potential landing spots, but that never ended up working out.

Instead, he signed a low-risk contract with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs aren’t contenders by any means, but they’ve been the perfect fit for Kovalchuk. But what does the team do with him now that the trade deadline is approaching?

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin still has plenty of time to make his decision. The trade deadline isn’t until Feb. 24 anyway. But unless another team is willing to offer something the Habs can’t refuse, they should seriously think about keeping Kovalchuk around for another season.

For example, if any team is willing to ship them a first or second-round draft pick (very unlikely), Bergevin should take that deal. If not, there’s really no point in trading away a player who has fit in so well in such a short amount of time.

Let’s take a look at how well the 36-year-old has played since going to Montreal.

Montreal has suffered through some tough injuries this season. Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron have all missed an extended period of time. When they brought Kovalchuk in, they were desperate. They had just lost Gallagher and they needed healthy bodies with the slightest amount of offensive upside.

He had three goals and nine points in 17 games with the Kings before leaving there. In eight games with the Canadiens, he’s managed to score four goals, four assists and a shootout goal. The Russian forward also hasn’t looked as slow as advertised in his small sample. He’s not a speedster by any means, but he’s been able to keep up with the pace of play on the ice. And his teammates really seem to like him.

“Obviously, he’s a legend first of all,” teammate Max Domi said, per the Montreal Gazette. “And you see the plays he can make now are like he’s still in his heyday. I know he’s getting older, but you can never tell. He’s got a great sense of humour, he’s a great guy. Super-positive, super-vocal, which I was surprised about. But he’s one of the most positive guys in our locker room in terms of keeping guys accountable and stuff like that. So it’s great to see and he’s a big part of our team.”

When he first joined the Canadiens, he spent some time on a line with Domi. Head coach Claude Julien quickly decided to move him to the top line with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar in the absence of Gallagher. Kovalchuk isn’t known for his defensive awareness and the Danault line handles the heaviest defensive responsibilities. Somehow, he’s found a way to fit in really well with his teammates.

His advanced numbers also indicate that he’s been the perfect fit in Montreal. His CF% is at 56.03 percent, his FF% is at 56.83 percent, his GF% is at 77.78 percent, his xGF% is 63.25 percent and his HDCF% is at 55.10 percent.

51.76 percent of his starts have been in the offensive zone, but he’s also surprisingly been on the ice for 41 defensive zone starts, which is a little surprising.

Assuming the Canadiens don’t get blown away by a trade offer from another team, they should bring him back on a year-to-year basis. As good as Kovalchuk’s been, they can’t commit a multi-year deal to him. If he’s willing to sign a one-year deal at a reasonable amount of money, there’s no reason why a team like the Canadiens shouldn’t bring him back.

Yes, the Habs should probably be looking to get younger, but if Kovalchuk can produce at a level anywhere close to what he’s doing right now, there’s no sense in getting rid of him so quickly. Is he a 30, 40 or 50-goal scorer? No way. But if he can net you 20 goals, make your power play more dynamic and help recruit a free agent or two during the off-season, he’ll be worth the investment.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Kreider focused on helping Rangers as NHL trade deadline approaches

Leave a comment

ST. LOUIS — There are 31 days until the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline and 13 games for the Rangers to play before Feb. 24. Sometime in the next month Chris Kreider could be leaving the only NHL organization he’s ever known.

The 28-year-old Kreider is coming to the end of a four-year, $18.5 million deal he signed with the Rangers in 2016. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, which means if no extension is hammered out in the next 30 days he could be a valuable trade chip for general manager Jeff Gorton.

NHL teams are always on the look out for scoring forwards, and Kreider can provide goals on the wing for any suitor. He’s scored 17 times in 48 games this season and an injury to Rangers teammate Artemi Panarin opened the door for him to be his replacement on the Metropolitan Division All-Star roster this week.

Despite an uncertain future, Kreider isn’t focused on what might happen, he’s trying to help win games for the Rangers, who entered the break dropping three of their last five.

[MORE: NHL All-Star Game 2020: Rosters, schedule, jerseys, more]

“No challenge,” he said during NHL All-Star Media Day on Thursday. “You might not believe it but there’s no challenge. I’m just worried about winning hockey games. Winning solves a lot of problems. It’s the old adage and probably a little bit cliche, but we take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just try and get better. I think we are getting better. Our group’s worlds better than we were at the beginning of the year.”

With 34 games to go, the Rangers sit 11 points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot. The team is currently in a transition phase getting younger and more skillful. But after the rich addition of Panarin last summer, the 2020-21 season is set to become one where making the playoffs is a priority. Kreider could be a part of that if both sides want to make that happen.

A year ago it was Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, who were set to become UFAs, dealt away before the trade deadline to recoup assets. Kreider’s mind hasn’t gone down that road yet.

“I’ve only ever pictured myself in a Rangers jersey,” Kreider said, “and until I’m not a Ranger, I’m a Ranger.”

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

————

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.

Sharks stick with GM Doug Wilson — for better or worse

Sharks Doug Wilson vote of confidence
Getty Images
1 Comment

The San Jose Sharks are sticking with GM Doug Wilson despite a huge letdown of a season.

Majority owner Hasso Plattner gave Wilson a vote of confidence on Thursday. While it makes sense to comment on a disappointing season, it’s interesting to see it in an official release.

“While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” Plattner said as part of the statement. “The last time we failed to meet our winning standards in the 2014-15 season, we were able to quickly rebound and re-establish a winning culture for the next several years. I am supportive of Doug’s plan to get our team back on track.”

Wilson has overseen a long run of Sharks success

Wilson deserves credit for a remarkably strong and consistent run since being named GM in May 2003. The oft-tanned executive must make other GMs feel like he’s a shark smelling blood at times. While the Joe Thornton trade is Wilson’s masterstroke, he often wins other trades — sometimes by a lot.

The Sharks have also won a lot since he took the reins.

The Sharks won four Pacific Division titles in a row from 2007-08 to 2010-11, grabbing the 2009 Presidents’ Trophy along the way. Those peak years ended with heartbreak, yet a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final silenced a lot of the “choker” claims.

Each time the window appeared ready to close on the Sharks, Wilson would pull a rabbit out of a hat, drafting gems like Logan Couture or trading for key players such as Brent Burns.

Sharks seem stuck

Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season might represent Wilson running out of magic.

Strangely, the Sharks are so stuck that they might just be better off sticking with Wilson, though.

An incoming GM would only be able to do so much about an aging, expensive defense and other concerns. So, again, hoping Wilson has some tricks up his sleeves ranks as an understandable gamble.

Back on Jan. 13, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported (sub required) that the Sharks are looking more at a “reset” than a tear-down, trades-wise. LeBrun points to sensible pieces to auction, such as defenseman Brenden Dillon and defensive-leaning forward Melker Karlsson.

Maybe Wilson could pull off a sequel to getting a bucket of picks for marginal players, like he did with Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray in 2013? If anyone can pull that off again, it’s Wilson.

The Sharks see little incentive to tank since Ottawa owns their 2020 first-rounder anyway. Taking baby steps seems like the only reasonable option, really.

How Wilson must succeed where he once failed

For all of the smart (and/or “smart at the time”) moves Wilson made, goaltending continues to doom the Sharks. Navigating that problem with better results should be Wilson’s top priority, even if it’s a tricky challenge.

Martin Jones served as a nice answer for a while, but the Jones – Aaron Dell tandem has been a disaster for some time. The Sharks could no longer outscore such problems in 2019-20. Jones and/or Dell show up on the wrong end of far too many charts like this GSAA one from Charting Hockey:

Jones, 30, stands as one of the more cringe-inducing Wilson contracts. He’s been abysmal, has a no-trade clause, and the $5.75M AAV runs through 2023-24. (You just cringed, didn’t you?)

(Did I mention that a different GM would face a huge mess if they wanted to blow this up? Yeah, it’s a dicey situation.)

Whether it’s making life easier for Jones or finding a different answer in net, the Sharks need to fix this. Doing so quickly is crucial, too, with an aging core.

Honestly, many of us — probably Wilson included — figured that this team would hit a wall eventually. It’s just that the wall popped up faster than expected, and the Sharks went splat.

It’s up to Wilson to make sure that the Sharks leap over that hurdle next time around, kind of like a … well, a killer whale.

Otherwise it could be, you know, crushing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Who will Red Wings, Wild sell before deadline?

Getty
Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Red Wings and Wild aren’t currently sitting in playoff spots, but there’s several reasons why this will be an intriguing matchup. If both teams miss the postseason, they’ll have several key assets to sell off before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Which players could these teams put on the market? The Red Wings have a few rentals they could send to various contenders. Wild GM won’t have the luxury of making many “easy” rental deals between now and the deadline. A lot of his players are under contract beyond this season. Will the Wild be able to make multiple hockey deals? Can they find a way to get younger in a hurry?

One of the expiring contracts on the Wild roster is Mikko Koivu. It just doesn’t seem likely that they would move him at this point. Even though he’s 35, he’s been with the Wild his entire career and he probably won’t be going anywhere unless he wants to anyway.

Let’s take a deeper look at who both teams might make available:

Trevor Daley – D – Red Wings: 

Daley missed four games with an undisclosed injury earlier this month, but he’s managed to return to the lineup for the last three games. The 36-year-old is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. He has two assists in 25 games in 2019-20. He could be an intriguing depth addition for any team looking to add a bottom-pairing defender to their roster. Daley can provide the Red Wings with a 15-team no-trade list.

Mike Green – D – Red Wings: 

Green is expected to miss a couple of weeks after suffering an injury against Colorado earlier this week. The veteran isn’t nearly as productive as he was during his days with Washington, but he could provided some depth on the right side of a contender’s defense. He has just eight points in 41 games, but he’s averaging over 21 minutes of ice time with the Wings this season. Green has a full no-trade clause until Feb. 1. After that date, he submits a list of 10 teams he doesn’t want to go to. Like Daley, he’ll be a UFA at the end of the season.

Jonathan Ericsson – D – Red Wings:

Ericsson is another potential rental for a team looking to add a depth player. He’s been limited to just nine games this year, which limits his already limited value on the trade market. The 35-year-old also has a limited no-trade clause that prevents him from being dealt to 19 teams of his choosing. If the Wings can move him, it won’t be for very much.

Andreas Athanasiou – W – Red Wings: 

It’s been a tough year for Athanasiou. Not only has he missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury, he’s also been a lot less productive when he’s actually in the lineup. After scoring 30 goals and 54 points last season, the 25-year-old has five goals and 19 points in 36 games this year. Athanasiou is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Wings shouldn’t be in a rush to trade him. Even though he’s having a down year, he should be able to net the team some significant assets.

Jonas Brodin – D – Wild: 

Sometimes, you gotta give to get. This draft class is considered to be one of the deepest we’ve seen in years. If the Wild want to accumulate more draft capital, they’ll need to trade someone with some heavy value. Brodin doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but he’s a reliable defender that would be a welcomed addition on many teams. The 26-year-old has 20 points in 49 games. He has another year remaining on his contract at a reasonable cap hit of $4.166,667 million. If the Wild want to move him, multiple teams will be interested.

Ryan Donato – W – Wild: 

Donato was a big part of the trade that sent Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins last year. Unfortunately for the youngster, things haven’t worked out that well in Minnesota. He’s been a healthy scratch on four different occasions this year and he’s been on the fourth line recently, too. Donato has a year left on his current contract (he’ll earn $1.9 million) before he becomes a restricted free agent. He’s still only 23 years old. Someone out there will be interested in taking him on if the Wild want to unload him. Donato was the 14th player mentioned on Frank Seravalli’s Trade Bait board.

Marcus Foligno – W – Wild: 

Foligno isn’t known for his offensive skills, but he’s actually picked up eight points in his last eight games. The 28-year-old has the frame that a lot of teams are looking for for a Stanley Cup run (he’s 6-foot-3, 228 pounds). The veteran has one more season remaining on a contract that pays him $2.875 million. If Guerin wants to move him, he’ll find takers.

Jason Zucker – W – Wild:

Zucker’s been on the trading block since last year when former GM Paul Fenton clearly made him available. The 28-year-old has 13 goals and 27 points in 39 games this season. He missed time with a lower-leg injury, but he’s been back for five games now. Zucker can submit a 10-team no-trade list and he has three years remaining on his deal at $5.5 million per season. Trading him in-season won’t be easy.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET, hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

How aggressive should Blue Jackets be at trade deadline?

Blue Jackets Trade
Getty

We need to talk a little more about the Columbus Blue Jackets because they are one of the most fascinating teams in the NHL right now.

Not only for their recent hot streak, but for what might still be ahead of them over the next couple of months.

Thanks to their win in New York on Sunday night, capped off with an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal with 26 seconds to play in regulation, they hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They are 15-2-4 since Dec. 9, while their overall record through 50 games is actually one point better than it was at the same point a year ago. Considering their offseason and the almost unbelievable run of injuries they have experienced once the season began, they are one of the biggest surprises in the league.

It all creates a pretty interesting discussion for what their front office does — or is able to do — before the NHL trade deadline.

1. They are in a position to buy, not sell

That is not up for much debate, either. This is the same team and front office that went all in before last season’s trade deadline at a time when they were still on the outside of the playoff picture. Not only are they in a playoff position right now, they are just one point back of the New York Islanders for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

There is also this: Their upcoming schedule through the trade deadline and end of February really softens up with only five of their next 16 games coming against teams that currently rank higher than 19th in the league in points percentage. Three of those games (two against Philadelphia, one against Florida) will be against teams they could be directly competing with for a playoff spot.

There is a chance to gain even more ground and solidify their spot even more.

2. What they need and what they have to spend

What they have to spend: A lot. The only teams with more salary cap space to spend ahead of the deadline are the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche. Out of that group, only the Avalanche will be in a position to buy. The Blue Jackets, in theory, could add any player that is theoretically available before the trade deadline.

What they need: At the start of the season the easy — and expected — answer here would have been a goalie given the uncertainty of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins and their ability to replace Bobrovsky. After some early struggles, they have turned out to be the Blue Jackets’ biggest bright spot as that tandem has combined for the second-best five-on-five save percentage in the NHL and the third-best all situations save percentage. They have been great, and especially Merzlikins with his recent play.

What they really need now is some scoring. Getting healthy would help a lot (Cam Atkinson just returned to the lineup; Josh Anderson, Alexandre Texier are still sidelined) but they do not have a single player in the top-77 of the league in scoring (Pierre-Luc Dubois is 78th), and only two in the top-120 (Dubuois and Gustav Nyquist).

As a team, they are 24th in the league in goals per game.

Looking around the league, obvious forward rentals would include Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings), Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Ilya Kovalchuk (Montreal Canadiens), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Ottawa Senators). Potential trade options with term still remaining might include Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) or Tomas Tatar (Montreal).

3. The problem: How aggressive can they be?

The downside to their “all in” trade deadline a year ago is that it absolutely decimated their draft pick cupboard for two years. They were left with just three picks in the 2019 class (none before pick No. 108) and as it stands right now they have just five picks in 2020, with only one of them (a first-round pick) slated to be in the top-100.

While players like Texier and Emil Benstrom are good prospects, their farm system is not the deep and the younger players currently on the NHL roster (Dubuois, Seth Jones, Werenski) are players they are going to build around.

That seriously limits what they can do.

Is general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in a position to trade another first-round pick to add to what is a pretty good, but probably not great team? Is there a player available that can a big enough difference to make that worth it? If there is, that player can not be a rental. It has to be a player that has meaningful term left on their contract and can be a part of the organization beyond just this season.

Even if you assume the Blue Jackets will not be able to maintain their current hot streak (and they will cool off at some point) they have at the very least put themselves in a position where they are going to be in the playoff race with a very good chance of making it. This is also not a team in a “rebuild” mode, either. When you are in that position you owe it to your fans and the players in that room to try to win. For the Blue Jackets, it is just a matter of how much they can do and how aggressive they should be over the next few weeks.

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.