We’ve been taking your off-season inquiries over the weekend in the comments and using #PHRMailbag on Twitter. Here are some questions and answers to ponder:
Conorsoxfan: Is Matt Duchene still going to be moved? What about Landeskog? Are the Avs waiting for the right offer or are they holding on to all their assets for now?
We received several questions about Matt Duchene and for good reason. The Avalanche have been speaking with teams since the Trade Deadline about moving the talented forward and Duchene himself is on record as saying that he is open to a move, but months later he is still in Colorado. It seems that GM Joe Sakic has a very specific (and lofty) return in mind and is hesitant to move Duchene without getting exactly what he wants. That return certainly includes a young, proven defenseman, which is not exactly a commodity that most teams are eager to move. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes seem like they have the best chance of meeting Sakic’s demands, as both teams are loaded with young, NHL-ready defenseman. However, the rumor that Colorado rejected a deal for Travis Hamonic that included Duchene makes you wonder if Sakic is searching for a caliber of player that is simply unavailable. It would be best for Duchene, the Avs, and the rest of the NHL trade market if a deal would get done sooner rather than later, but don’t be surprised if Duchene is still a talking point at the next Trade Deadline.
As for Gabriel Landeskog, rumors of his deaparture have definitely been on the back burner this summer after he too was hot topic at the Trade Deadline. Although the Avalanche are coming off a historically bad season, they seem to be playing it safe with their rebuild. They have not sold off all of their veteran pieces, nor have they operated like a team that’s pushing for a playoff spot. Their only major additions this season are a backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, and a low risk-high reward gamble, Nail Yakupov. They got potentially the best player in the draft at #4 overall in defenseman Cale Makar, but he is at least two seasons away from seeing NHL ice time. It seems that Sakic is content with keeping his roster intact and slowly adding in younger players and moving out older pieces. That type of status quo strategy would seem to indicate that Colorado isn’t keen on losing its captain unless the return could truly change the course of the franchise. Especially if Duchene does end up traded, don’t expect Landeskog to follow. He’s likely to remain in Colorado for the time being.
@Wings16Canes13: When and will Pittsburgh trade Kessel? Or does another coach have to go first?
It always seems like there’s some controversy surrounding Phil Kessel. This question alludes to rumors coming out of Pittsburgh that the uber-talented winger and head coach Mike Sullivan don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. Moreover, it’s been said that assistant Rick Tocchet acted as go-between for the two these past two seasons, and with Tocchet likely headed to Arizona as the head coach of the Coyotes, the relationship between Kessel and Sullivan could get worse. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins are also back-to-back Stanley Cup champs, with both Kessel and Sullivan playing major roles in each title. Neither is likely to be on the move any time soon, especially not because they dislike each other. It may not be the most comfortable locker room, but the two will learn to live with each other and any struggles for the Penguins in 2017-18 will be attributed to Stanley Cup hangover, not a feuding coach and player. With that said, Kessel has a $6.8MM cap hit for five more years, which could cause cap trouble down the road for the Penguins, while the team has also shown a willingness to move on from head coaches after just a down season or two. Both Kessel and Sullivan could be gone in a few years, but it’s impossible to know which first and when, only that it’s highly unlikely to be this year.
mikedickinson: Hurricanes are loaded on defense and have three kids who can play in the AHL as well. They aren’t trading any of their top 4. Can they trade from their strength to address a weakness (center)? Also, JVR to Raleigh to play with his brother?
The Carolina Hurricanes boast one of the youngest, deepest, and most talented defensive corps in the entire league. All-Star Justin Faulk leads a group that includes 2015 #5 pick Noah Hanifin, 2012 fourth-rounder Jaccob Slavin, 2013 third-rounder Brett Pesce, 2014 #7 pick Haydn Fleury, 2014 second-rounder Roland McKeown, and now the recently-acquired Trevor van Riemsdyk, not to mention dependable depth defender Klas Dahlbeck and 2016-17 AHL surprise Jake Chelios. There’s also 2016 first-rounder Jake Bean to consider as well, though he remains in juniors. That group has one thing in common: none of them are more than 26 years old. When the Hurricanes acquired van Riemsdyk from the Vegas Golden Knights last month, many felt that the move indicated that Faulk, the team’s top right-shot defenseman, would be on the move. After all, the team has been linked to Matt Duchene as well as others as they try to bring their forward depth up to the same level as their defense. However, GM Ron Francis has stated since that he wants to keep his starters together. It also seems unlikely that he’s keen to move talented teenager Bean, leaving promising, but slowly developing players like Fleury, McKeown, and Chelios as his top trade chips from the blue line. None of those players will get a Duchene or similar-caliber player, but don’t be surprised if the ’Canes use them to add some depth forwards this off-season or along the way next season. If Francis is posturing, then yes any of Faulk, Hanafin, Slavin, or Pesce could be used to bring in a big fish.
As for James van Riemsdyk, it is an interesting development to have his brother in Carolina, an up-and-coming team (like the Maple Leafs) that’s in need of an impact forward. JVR is entering the final year of his contract and it seems unlikely that Toronto will re-sign him, considering the expensive extensions coming down the line for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. The question then becomes whether or not the Leafs are interested in moving him this off-season and whether the Hurricanes are willing to pay the price for his services this year when they can sign him next summer for free. If the Leafs look to deal him, Fleury or McKeown as the centerpieces likely won’t cut it. The Leafs are on the hunt for a top-pair right-shot to pair with Morgan Rielly and Faulk certainly fits the bill, but that’s a high price to pay for an impending free agent. I think you’re on to something with JVR and TVR teaming up in Carolina, but I think it could come at a lower price toward the Trade Deadline or via free agency next off-season.
mpfallon: Will the bruins make some big offseason moves?
This depends on your definition of “big”. Despite rumors that the Bruins have been looking into acquiring a top-four left-handed defenseman and a top-six winger, GM Don Sweeney has also made it clear that he doesn’t want to acquire players that will block Boston’s talented young prospects. College star Anders Bjork, 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik, who got a taste of the NHL last year, and possibly even Danton Heinen and Jesse Gabrielle will all compete with Frank Vatrano, Matt Beleskey, and recent signing Kenny Agostino for a top-nine spot on the left side, and Ryan Spooner could join the mix if the B’s prefer rookie Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at third line center. The left wing battle could spill over to the right side as well, where top forward prospect Zach Senyshyn will also look to make the team. On the blue line, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon will all fight for the final spot on the left side, and the recent signing of Paul Postma could indicate that the team is okay with moving Kevan Miller to the left side to free up a spot for Adam McQuaid to continue to be a starter with Postma as the seventh man.
There is more than enough depth in Boston that the Bruins may make no moves for the rest of the off-season. Odds are that they do something, but likely not anything “big”. A trade for a left-shot defenseman, possibly a Nick Holden or Jonathan Ericsson, or the signing of a stopgap winger, like Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, or Alex Chiasson seems possible, but anything bigger could be a long shot. So the short answer to your question is no, they won’t make “big off-season moves”. They could make a small, but significant move or two, but chances are a big trade would come closer to the Trade Deadline after they give the kids a shot first.