- Craig Custance of The Athletic was on Sportsnet 960 radio this morning, talking mostly about his outlet’s new take on sports journalism. He did offer an interesting take on the Matt Duchene situation though, saying that there has been some frustration around the league that Joe Sakic is holding out for “a homerun”. Custance says that Colorado is “really trying to win that deal and do it lop-sided” which is holding up any potential move. With the Avalanche struggling to reclaim relevancy, and with bad trade examples in recent history, Duchene has to be a win for the franchise.
The Colorado Avalanche have signed Duncan Siemens, Felix Girard and Gabriel Bourque to one-year, two-way deals for the 2017-18 season. The team did not release any financial details on the contracts. All three players were restricted free agents this summer, and though Siemens and Bourque were both arbitration eligible neither filed.
Siemens is perhaps the most interesting and confounding player of the trio, an 11th-overall selection who has still yet to make an impact at the NHL level. His professional career to this point has been a huge disappointment, but a glimmer of hope yet remains. At the end of last season, Siemens played three games with the club and actually showed he may still have some potential as a Mark Borowiecki-type physical presence on the back end. Though the offensive upside he showed in junior has all but disappeared, the 10 hits he recorded in three games (including six in a single contest) gave fans some hope.
Girard and Bourque, both former Nashville Predators prospects came to the Avalanche in the past year to try and take the next step in their careers. Bourque signed with the team last summer on a professional tryout which earned him a contract, while Girard was the return for Cody McLeod in a mid-season trade. At very different points in their careers, Bourque is trying to hold onto the last strings of his NHL career while Girard is just trying to earn a promotion for the first time. Both will see substantial time in the AHL next season.
That leaves the Avalanche with three restricted free agents, in three very different circumstances. One, Matt Nieto filed for arbitration and will have a hearing on July 31st should the two sides not find a common ground. Two, Rocco Grimaldi is hoping for a deal to prove that his big time AHL scoring talent can translate to the NHL if given the chance, and three, Nikita Zadorov and a potential long-term deal to keep one of the Ryan O’Reilly trade pieces in Colorado as a young building block. That all comes under the shadow of the KHL for Zadorov though, as rumors have persisted that he has a deal in place with CSKA Moscow should he be unable to reach a contract with Colorado.
When Nail Yakupov didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Blues this spring, many people around the league believed it may take a move overseas to find new life in his career. We even wrote on the subject here on PHR, saying that a move back to the KHL seemed like his best option. Yakupov was clear that wasn’t his goal, and instead he secured a one-year, $875K contract from the Colorado Avalanche who may prove to be an even better fit.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus updates Blackhawks fans on prospect Alex DeBrincat in the midst of a changing Blackhawks roster. Gone is Artemi Panarin, but waiting in the wings is DeBrincat, who scorched the OHL last season as a member of the Erie Otters. Though Lazerus points out his 5’7 stature as possibly hindering his abilities in the NHL, Lazerus is just as quick to write that DeBrincat has been working with Blackhawks strength coach Paul Goodman to bulk up for the bruising NHL. The 19-year-old has the attention of fans, which Lazarus writes puts “outsized expectations” onto his shoulders. Such expectations don’t seem to faze DeBrincat, whose goal is to “make the team” and work at “his own pace” to to match his own expectations for making the Hawks’ roster. One thing is for certain: all eyes will be on him once the exhibition season begins, to see if his torrid goal scoring find its way to the Hawks.
- Just because a move still hasn’t made doesn’t mean Matt Duchene is staying in Colorado. CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin reports that though the market is slow, the talks to acquire the forward are hardly cooling off. Benjamin cites Elliotte Friedman’s report, saying that Nashville and Pittsburgh are teams poking around to find the right deal. Duchene has been in trade purgatory, and though general manager Joe Sakic is seemingly asking for the moon in trade talks, it behooves the Avs to acquire something that will bolster their fortunes after a disastrous 2016-17 season. Patience for the right deal is certainly important, but it deserves stating that should Sakic wait too long, he may end up missing an opportunity to significantly improve the team.
- Fresh off its first Stanley Cup Final appearance, the Nashville Predators unveiled another change for next season. In commemoration of its 20th season, Nashville will use a special logo for the 2017-2018 season writes the Tennessean’s Adam Vingan. Little else accompanied the news, however, as Vingan reports that more information will be available as the season draws closer.
With the loss of Nick Bonino to Nashville via free agency, the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins have a gaping hole down the middle. For the first time in over a decade, the center position is now one of relative weakness. It’s always a possibility that Matt Cullen decides to re-sign for one more year, but he will not be able to carry the load of a typical 3rd-line center. Cullen showed signs of slowing down toward the tail-end of the team’s playoff run, and he was only averaging 13:55 a game through the regular season. At 41 years old, he simply won’t be a viable long-term option. The Penguins likely have high hopes for Zach Aston-Reese to make a push in training camp, but he is an unknown quantity at the NHL level. GM Jim Rutherford had 5 potential trade options in the works prior to July 1st, according to the very reliable Josh Yohe of DKPittsburghSports. Talks either fizzled or were put on the back-burner, but one might imagine the number of available targets is far fewer now. With Dallas’ three-year signing of Radek Faksa, there is one fewer name left for consideration. Vegas seems to be content with merely flipping defensemen from here on in, although names such as Cody Eakin and William Karlsson shouldn’t be thrown out entirely. Erik Haula is likely a pipe-dream, but he’s another possible target. Matt Duchene was linked for a time, but between the high cost and the stubbornness of Colorado GM Joe Sakic to make a move, he seems incredibly unlikely.
Bozak has made tons of sense since his name was first mentioned. A lot has been made of his relationship with Phil Kessel. When they played on a line together in Toronto, Kessel saw some of his best career production. More than that however – the Leafs are in a bit of cap pinch as they will look to free up dollars for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander in the next two seasons. They certainly aren’t in any hurry to drop underneath the ceiling due to LTIR intricacies, but moving out Bozak’s $4.2 MM for this next season would be a forward looking move. If he’s due a raise, it’s likely they’ll lose him for far less, as his contract expires at the end of 2017-18. The move makes sense for Pittsburgh because of the Kessel relationship, but also because he fits the mold of the Pittsburgh squad. He’s a solid skater, sees the ice well, and hustles back into his own zone. His playmaking abilities would be a wonderful fit on the cheap to aid the high-powered offense, and the player would be a positive possession asset to remove the stress from the bigger guns. Bozak does have a modified no-trade clause, but it’s hard to see Pittsburgh being included on his list of non-tradeable teams.
Staal saw a lot of success in Pittsburgh before he was traded away to Carolina at the 2012 draft. Jordan was traded to that team in particular due to his desire to player with his older brother Eric Staal. Seeing as Eric is no longer in the picture, it would make sense that Staal might be open to a Pittsburgh reunion. Staal is one of the better defensive centers in the league, and has been forced to take a more uncomfortably offensive role in Carolina. Staal’s biggest downside is that he isn’t the most agile skater, but he’s not any slower than Nick Bonino was. That said, he can play the shutdown role and be a total nuisance for top opponents. Rutherford loves the player, as he was the GM of Carolina when they initially acquired the player, for a hefty sum of Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and a 1st-round pick (which became Derrick Pouilot). According to Yohe, Staal is apparently open to a return, and the nostalgic element of the team’s fanbase is clamoring for this to happen. Rutherford stated on a local radio segment with Ron Cook that “to his knowledge he (Staal) isn’t available”, but he’s played coy with the media in the past.
Out Of Left-Field
Rutherford has been known to throw the hockey world for a loop with some of his trades. The James Neal–Patric Hornqvist trade shocked just about everyone, and the Phil Kessel trade is still being discussed to this day. If there’s one thing we should expect from him, it’s the unexpected. There are a few lesser options out there for Rutherford to explore, and management may want to have the Conor Sheary and Brian Dumoulin contracts put to paper before making any sort of transaction. It seems unlikely that anything will happen until those deals get done. Rutherford told Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette that there are “hundreds of names on (his list)”, and that it’s “a patient process”. Could Detroit be willing to move Andreas Athanasiou? Could Bryan Little be pried from Winnipeg for a young defenseman? It’s hard to speculate as to where exactly management have set their sights, but Rutherford is generally willing to overpay to “get his man”. There is the slight likelihood that they enter the season with that hole left unfilled, but it’s hard to imagine. Until more dominoes fall, Rutherford is likely to bide his team and search for the correct deal.
- Matt Duchene is still on the market, but Friedman is clear that it’s now possible he starts the year in Colorado. That would be an unsatisfying ending to a saga that has been burning on the hot stove for months now, with seemingly half the league connected at one point or another to the Avalanche center. While obviously Duchene doesn’t lose all his value the day the season opens, the Avalanche do need to be careful here. Though he has two years left on his deal, a serious injury or another disappointing season could drastically lower his value and leave them trying to find any deal available before losing him in the summer or 2019. Duchene scored just 41 points last season, and Colorado looks like one of the worst teams in the league once again.
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.
While many expected the Avalanche to deal Matt Duchene by now, he remains in Colorado with no trade on the immediate horizon. BSN Denver’s Adrian Dater notes that the holdup stems from GM Joe Sakic’s insistence on getting a proven defenseman and more in any return. The fact that Duchene is coming off just a 41 point season (the second lowest of his career) is causing other general managers some concern and questions as to whether or not he’s still a legitimate top line forward. Teams aren’t likely going to willingly part with a top defender for someone they have doubts about being a top forward. Sakic has remained firm on his asking price dating back towards the trade deadline so it will be interesting to see if he sticks to his guns or lowers his ask as the offseason progresses.
Given the relatively weak NHL free agent market and the financial instability of the KHL, it would not have been a surprise to see an influx of talent come overseas this off-season. When Vadim Shipachyov signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in June, it seemed that floodgates were about to open. Yet, one month later, it’s been quite the opposite. Other than Shipachyov’s SKA St. Petersburg teammate Evgeni Dadonov signing with the Florida Panthers, most big names in the KHL have re-signed, while others in North America have crossed over. Already, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov have left the NHL for a return to Russia, as have Sergey Kalinin and Roman Lyubimov; prospects Nikita Gusev, Kirill Kaprizov, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Ilya Sorokin have decided to stay put, and so too have former NHLers playing overseas like Ben Scrivens, Paul Szczechura, and of course Ilya Kovalchuk; and even Nashville Predator’s first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen, spurned by Boston College, has signed in the KHL.
- Joining the trend of former NHLers staying in the KHL and joining Tolvanen with Helsinki, Finland-based club Jokerit is defenseman Matt Gilroy. The team announced the signing this morning, inking one of the KHL’s top-scoring blue liners to a one-year deal. Gilroy, 32, is a former Boston University standout who played in 225 NHL games over six seasons with the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. Unable to ever find a long-term home or lock down a regular role, Gilroy crossed the Atlantic in 2014 and has never looked back. Gilroy had the best season of his professional career in 2016-17, but nonetheless decided to stick it out overseas.
- NHL veteran and four-time 20-goal scorer Derek Roy has bucked the trend of staying in the KHL, but he’s also not heading back to the NHL next season either. Roy continues his tour around Europe, as he has left Russia to sign in Sweden. Roy originally left the NHL to sign in Switzerland with the NLA’s SC Bern in 2015, and after a strong campaign, took a step up to the KHL. Roy played 21 games with Avangard Omsk last year before a mid-season trade sent him to Traktor Chelyabinsk for 34 games and the postseason. Altogether, Roy posted just 11 goals and 11 assists in the KHL last year, a drop off from his production in the NLA and from his NHL days as well. Roy will try his hand at the SHL this season, after signing with Linkoping HC, and will try to boost his offense back toward the 30+ point mark that he hit in the NLA and annually reached in the NHL, even at the end. At 34 years old, Roy is still trying to make the most of his ability overseas, but the door is not closed for a member of the NHL’s 500-point club to eventually try to make his North American comeback
- CSKA fans shouldn’t get their hopes up, but KHL insider Aivis Kalnins is reporting that the club has a deal in place with young Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov if the restricted free agent cannot come to terms on a new NHL deal. The news has gained traction today, but seems unlikely to be anything more than jsut a negotiation tactic. The 22-year-old blue liner is from Moscow, where CSKA plays, but played his junior hockey with the London Knights of the OHL before being drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013. Zadorov may have connections to his hometown team, but has always shown a commitment to North American hockey. The 6’5″, 230-lb. defender logged almost 20 minutes of ice time per game last year for Colorado, and even though they were historically bad, it seems extremely unlikely that they would let their best young defenseman go unsigned. The Avs have plenty of cap room and will budge on term if need be. Even if they couldn’t come to terms, the rebuilding Avs could get plenty in return for dealing Zadorov. Don’t expect him to use the CSKA safety blanket this off-season or any time soon. Grigorenko will be the only 2016-17 Avs member headed to Russia next season.
- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Ray Bennett as an assistant coach, and Jussi Parkkila as the team’s new goaltending coach. Parkkila has been rumored for a while, as he is close with Semyon Varlamov and has worked extensively with him in the past. Bennett on the other hand comes from the St. Louis Blues organization after a decade with the club, and brings a long track record of NHL experience.