Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom has missed the entire season due to a shoulder injury, one that he recently underwent surgery on. While the surgery went well, the blueliner told reporters, including Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, that there remains no timeline for when he’s able to play next season, if he’s able to return at all:
Despite being lauded for his trade deadline moves, Montreal Canadiens general manager finds that his team is struggling, much because of the team’s sudden roster inflexibility. The team has already used up all but one of their post-deadline recalls, bringing up Xavier Ouellet, Alexander Romanov and Paul Byron immediately after making the trades to acquire Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson as well as putting defenseman Victor Mete on waivers (and losing him to Ottawa). Most of these moves were made to accommodate the loss of Mete and the pending additions of Merrill and Gustafsson, both who have to quarantine for seven days before being able to join the team.
Now, with just one recall remaining and quite a few games left to go this season, head coach Dominique Ducharme doesn’t have many options to make roster moves, according to The Athletic’s Arpon Basu (subscription required). One significant issue the team could address is the sudden poor play of Eric Staal. Despite scoring the game-winning goal in his debut, Staal has struggled in the seven games he’s played since, scoring no points with just seven shots and boasting a minus-eight plus/minus. However, the team doesn’t have the ability to replace him in the lineup for a game or two with energy-man Jake Evans, who currently is sitting on the taxi squad since they are not ready to use their final recall.
That leaves the team with multiple roster issues for the next few weeks until the team is ready to spend their final recall.
- Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby writes that Toronto Maple Leafs’ newly acquired Nick Foligno and Ben Hutton will have their seven-day quarantine expire in a couple of days. However, it remains unknown whether either player would join the team for their five-game road trip that starts today due to their quarantine as well as the recent COVID-19 breakout that forced the postponement of three Toronto Marlies’ games. Of course, getting both Foligno and Hutton into the Toronto lineup so both can pick up their system is crucial.
- The Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins writes that the Edmonton Oilers have another internal candidate they should consider when it comes to boosting their offense: Ryan McLeod. The 2018 second-round pick has had a great season in the AHL so far with 14 goals and 28 points in 28 games. At $834K and the ability to play center, he could be a valuable chip for the team as the playoffs approach.
- Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek is still several weeks away from returning to the lineup, the team announced (Twitter link). The 27-year-old has been out for nearly two months with a broken collarbone but is expected to start skating with the team in the coming days. Koekkoek is currently on LTIR but at the moment, they have enough space remaining to activate him when he’s ready.
6:50pm: NHL insider John Shannon reports that Holloway’s contract will begin in 2021-22, so even if his thumb does heal in time, he won’t be playing for the Oilers until next season.
4:05pm: One of the most impressive players in college hockey has decided that two years is enough. Dylan Holloway has turned pro and signed his entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. It is not immediately clear whether the contract is for this season or next. Since he turns 20 in late September, Holloway’s three-year deal will not be eligible to slide, meaning if it is for 2020-21, the first year will be burned no matter where or how many games he plays this spring. Alternatively, if it begins in 2021-22 he would not be eligible to play for the Oilers this season, though could still join the Bakersfield Condors on an amateur tryout. The young forward is currently dealing with a broken thumb suffered at the end of his college season, so he can’t play for either of them at the moment.
Holloway, 19, was the 14th overall pick in the 2020 draft and exploded at the University of Wisconsin, registering 11 goals and 35 points in 23 games. He was named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for his performance, though teammate Cole Caufield would eventually take home the trophy. Caufield also got the better of Holloway at the World Junior tournament, where the latter’s Team Canada finished with a silver medal.
If you hadn’t already started to respect the AJHL as a breeding ground for top NHL prospects from Cale Makar’s emergence, Holloway might be able to change your mind. The Alberta native decided not to play in the WHL to maintain his NCAA eligibility and scored 40 goals and 88 points for the Okotoks Oilers in 2018-19, earning AJHL MVP honors. He also was part of the Canadian contingent that won gold at the Hlinka-Gretzky in 2018, playing on a powerhouse squad with the likes of Alexis Lafreniere, Bowen Byram, and Dylan Cozens.
Because he turned 18 just a few days after the cutoff for the 2019 draft, Holloway is a more advanced player than some of his 2020 contemporaries. That is only magnified by the fact he has already played two years of NCAA hockey, developing from a talented but inconsistent freshman to a dominant sophomore. His puck protection skills have hit a new level and he was one of the most reliable two-way players on a strong Wisconsin roster.
There’s a real chance that Holloway could grab a spot on the Oilers roster right now if healthy, but at very worst he’ll be in the mix for a full-time spot in 2021-22.
In response to the Vancouver Canucks’ recent medical testing (as well as some choice comments from J.T. Miller) the league decided that tonight’s game was not able to be played. Tomorrow’s scheduled match against the Toronto Maple Leafs has also been pushed, with it now being set for Sunday evening. The ripple effect of these changes spread out across the entire North Division (save for the Ottawa Senators), with more than a dozen other schedule alterations announced today.
- Game #697, Toronto at Vancouver, scheduled for April 17, is now scheduled for Sunday, April 18 at 7 p.m. ET
- Game #710, Toronto at Vancouver, scheduled for April 19, is now scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 9 p.m. ET
- Game #726, Toronto at Winnipeg, scheduled for April 21, is now scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. ET
- Game #829, Edmonton at Vancouver, scheduled for April 16, is now scheduled for Monday, May 3 at 10 p.m. ET
- Game #844, Edmonton at Vancouver, scheduled for May 6, is now scheduled for Tuesday, May 4 at 10 p.m. ET
- Game #593, Vancouver at Edmonton, scheduled for May 4, is now scheduled for Thursday, May 6 at 9 p.m. ET
- Game #526, Edmonton at Montreal, scheduled for May 11, is now scheduled for Wednesday, May 12 at 5 p.m. ET
- Game #647, Vancouver at Calgary, scheduled for May 3, is now scheduled for Thursday, May 13 at 9 p.m. ET
- Game #741, Toronto at Winnipeg, scheduled for April 23, is now scheduled for Friday, May 14 at 8 p.m. ET
- Game #673, Vancouver at Edmonton, scheduled for May 13, is now scheduled for Saturday, May 15 at TBD
- Game #567, Calgary at Vancouver, scheduled for April 21, is now scheduled for Sunday, May 16 at TBD
- Game #864, Calgary at Vancouver, scheduled for May 15, is now scheduled for Tuesday, May 18 at TBD
- Game #634, Vancouver at Calgary, scheduled for May 16, is now scheduled for Wednesday, May 19 at TBD
Tomorrow’s game between the Oilers and Jets has also been pulled up three hours to fill the now-vacant primetime spot on Hockey Night In Canada.
Important to note here is that the North Division schedule now extends through May 19, the last day the NHL had built into their “buffer” before the playoffs are set to begin. Perhaps even more telling is that all those games scheduled past May 15 are between the Canucks and Flames, two teams who could be eliminated from postseason contention at that point.
4:10pm: The league has officially delayed the Canucks’ return to play, allowing additional time for recovery and preparation. They will not play Friday against the Oilers, and though the official release does not address the Saturday game against the Maple Leafs, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the expectation is that it will also be postponed.
2:20pm: The Vancouver Canucks haven’t played a game since March 24. They haven’t even really practiced during that time, with most of the team testing positive for coronavirus and quarantining for the last few weeks. Now, with players coming out of the protocol the team was expected to play a back-to-back on Friday-Saturday and fit the rest of their schedule—19 games—into just 31 days. Yesterday, J.T. Miller spoke up about the issue, telling reporters including Thomas Drance of The Athletic that what the Canucks were being asked to do isn’t safe, suggesting that even the players who did not contract the virus aren’t ready to compete at the NHL level.
Today, after medical and conditioning testing in the facility—a practice that was closed to the media at the last moment—it looks like at least one more game will be postponed to give the team some more time. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the team will not play their Friday game against the Edmonton Oilers, though it is unclear whether Saturday’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs is still a go.
At one point, the Canucks had basically their entire roster on the COVID Protocol list, with more than 20 positive test results in the organization. The team recalled 20-year-old goaltender Arturs Silovs–he of one game of professional experience–to the taxi squad along with Guillaume Brisebois yesterday in preparation for fielding an uncertain lineup.
Perhaps the most striking debate regarding the Canucks season is whether they need to play all 56 games at all. The team is now ten points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the North Division and seems unlikely to close that gap with such a condensed schedule (not to mention coming off such a long break). Games against the last-place Ottawa Senators for instance could potentially be chopped off the schedule, but it’s hard to decide just how to go about the rest of the games that could have playoff implications for the opponent. For instance, the Canucks have already played their full allotment of matches against the Montreal Canadiens, going 3-5-1 in the process. If the other playoff teams are not allowed to play their remaining games against one of the worst teams in the league, there could be some who feel the North Division standings are unfair, even if points percentage is used to determine seeding.
The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline came and went with relatively little fanfare. Deadline day saw just 17 trades made (a new 8-year low) that involved only 26 players (a new 20-year low). The obvious downside to a quiet deadline is that it’s not very exciting to follow and doesn’t create the same number of stretch run storylines to follow. The upside? With so little news to cover, nothing slipped through the cracks. Insiders, such as Elliotte Friedman, have come out with more “almost-trades” than in most years and they have been compiled below. Enjoy reveling in what could have been:
Nicolas Deslauriers to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins and Anaheim Ducks came so close on a trade for Deslauriers that an article was published on the topic. Friedman reported that a deal was done, but then backtracked as talks fell apart. Pittsburgh ended up adding experience to their bottom-six from another West Division source, adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings.
Jamie Oleksiak to the Edmonton Oilers
In the middle of the deadline day chaos, several pundits reported that Dallas Stars defenseman Oleksiak was on his way to Edmonton. Yet, as time ticked by and there was no announcement, it became clear that a deal had not been completed. Oleksiak had been linked to both Edmonton and the Toronto Maple Leafs but stay put, with the speculation now being the the Stars hope to re-sign him. The Oilers, who also missed out on Patrik Nemeth, ended up finding their stay-at-home defenseman in the New Jersey Devils’ Dmitry Kulikov.
One of the biggest misses of the deadline was the Jets’ failure to add an impact defenseman. Winnipeg did add Jordie Benn late, but that hardly fills their gaping hole in the top-four. In retrospect, the mistake may have been focusing too much on defensemen who weren’t truly available. Friedman believes that the team tried to acquire either Gavrikov or Goligoski, or perhaps even both. Gavrikov would have been a very nice addition for the Jets, but by all accounts the young Columbus Blue Jackets defender was not really for sale. And while the Arizona Coyotes were expected to listen to offers for their expiring contracts, they ended up standing pat and not moving the veteran Goligoski. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Chicago Blackhawks were at least listening to offers for RFA blue liner Zadorov as well and the Jets made a push, but to no avail.
Taylor Hall to the New York Islanders or Vegas Golden Knights
Friedman began his post-deadline “31 Thoughts” by confirming the suspicions that Hall left the Buffalo Sabres little choice but to trade him to the Boston Bruins, stating that Hall had decided that was where he wanted to go and used his No-Movement Clause to make it happen. However, two other teams made a strong push and that was the Islanders and the Golden Knights. Hall was even open to joining New York, but once they acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac he turned his focus to Boston even though the Isles maintained interest. The Sabres were seemingly very interested in making a deal with Vegas, as Friedman notes that multiple teams were contacted about acting as a salary cap broker for a potential deal. In the end, Hall preferred Boston and that is all that mattered.
Many have been critical of the Sabres’ return for Hall – a Boston second-round pick and forward Anders Bjork – but they tried their best to get more. Friedman reports that Buffalo asked Boston about moving one of their promising young keepers, as both Vladar and Swayman have shown NHL ability in recent weeks as the injury replacements in the Bruins net. However, once Boston knew that Hall wanted to go there and could control the decision, they held all the leverage. The team easily declined moving either talented netminder.
Conor Garland to the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vegas Golden Knights
While the team ended up acquiring Nick Foligno instead, Friedman notes that the Toronto Maple Leafs did express interest in affordable Arizona Coyotes forward Garland. Garland would have fit nicely under the cap, but would have been expensive to require and near impossible to re-sign for the cap-strapped Leafs. The team thus went in a different direction. The Golden Knights were also linked to Garland, but could not make a deal work with their division rival. Garland remaining with the Coyotes could be what is best for both parties in the long run anyhow.
Ryan Getzlaf to the Vegas Golden Knights or Montreal Canadiens
The Golden Knights just missed out on seemingly everyone, huh? Friedman notes that the team was close to adding Anaheim captain Getzlaf and the career Duck was open to the nearby move. However, Vegas allegedly was unwilling to meet the trade demands for the veteran center. For the same reason, the Canadiens likely missed out. Friedman notes that they had serious interest, but talks never got far. Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now adds that the Penguins kicked the tires on Getzlaf as well, but never made a serious offer. Anaheim clearly put a high price tag on the face of the franchise and never even approached him about waiving his No-Movement Clause.
Travis Zajac to the Pittsburgh Penguins
While it’s easy to lose track of when trades were made and talks were had around the deadline, per Friedman it seems the Penguins had their sights first set on Zajac from New Jersey, then Getzlaf, and finally Carter. The Kings veteran is not a bad acquisition for a third choice. The Penguins do have to face Zajac on a fellow East Division contender the rest of the way though and surely hope that Carter proves to be the superior player head-to-head.
The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone. A relatively slow day ended with a late burst, as many teams jumped into the mix at the last minute. How do you think your team did? Share your deadline grades in the comments for teams in the North Division.
In – D Dmitry Kulikov
Out – conditional 2022 fourth-round pick
In – F Ryan Dzingel, F Michael Amadio, D Brandon Fortunato, 2022 third-round pick (BOS), 2022 seventh-round pick (NYI), 2023 seventh-round pick (NSH)
Out – D Mike Reilly, D Erik Gudbranson, D Braydon Coburn, F Cedric Paquette, F Alex Galchenyuk, D Christian Wolanin,
Toronto Maple Leafs
In – F Nick Foligno, G David Rittich, D Ben Hutton, F Alex Galchenyuk, F Riley Nash, F Stefan Noesen, F Antti Suomela, G Veini Vehvilainen
Out – F Alexander Barabanov, D Mikko Lehtonen, D David Warsofsky, F Yegor Korshkov, 2021 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, 2022 fifth-round pick, conditional 2022 seventh-round pick
In – D Jordie Benn
Out – 2021 sixth-round pick
The Edmonton Oilers have added some defensive depth at the deadline, acquiring Dmitry Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils. The Oilers will send a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick that will become a third if Edmonton wins a playoff round.
Kulikov, 30, has been arguably the Devils’ best defenseman in his own end this season and has played more than 700 games in his NHL career. He will no longer offer much offense—he has just two points in 38 games—but is a nice addition to an Oilers team that needs to keep the puck out of their end and in the hands of their talented forwards.
The veteran can play the penalty kill and add some physicality, likely skating beside Adam Larsson in something of a shutdown pair. Kulikov is on a one-year deal with a salary of $1.15MM, adding affordability to effectiveness. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
For the Devils, it’s all about collecting assets at this point after a disappointing season. The team has some nice pieces coming, but the overall depth of the organization just hasn’t been good enough. A mid-round pick by itself isn’t going to change that, but it’s another small step towards building the full system out.
Saturday: All four players passed through waivers unclaimed, reports Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Friday: The Ottawa Senators have placed Clark Bishop on waivers in order to be able to place him on the taxi squad once again. He’s not the only one on the wire, as the Edmonton Oilers have placed veteran forward Kyle Turris and the Montreal Canadiens have placed Paul Byron on waivers. The New York Islanders have also signed Kenneth Appleby to an NHL contract, meaning he has to clear waivers to remain in the AHL.
For Bishop and the Senators, this is a simple move to regain the roster flexibility they have had for most of the season. After clearing waivers before the season began, Bishop was able to move freely between the active roster and taxi squad depending on need, saving the Senators some cash on off days. His exempt status expired earlier this month, meaning he needed to clear again to be assigned to the taxi squad. With just three points in 12 games, Bishop is likely to clear again.
Byron too should be used to this by now, given he has cleared waivers twice this season and is part of a near-daily rotation through the taxi squad. The 31-year-old forward was once an important part of the Canadiens attack but is limited to mostly fourth-line duties these days. Given his contract carries a $3.4MM cap hit through the end of the 2022-23 season, he will clear again.
Turris hasn’t cleared this season, but it won’t be a surprise if he does. The 31-year-old forward is a shadow of the player that once scored 64 points for the Ottawa Senators and is overpaid even at $1.65MM this season. Turris signed a two-year deal with the Oilers in the offseason that the team is probably already regretting after he registered just five points in his first 25 games this season. Moving his deal to the taxi squad could bury $1.075MM of it, giving the Oilers some added flexibility.
Appleby, the biggest unknown of the bunch, is a 25-year-old minor league goaltender that would need an NHL deal in order to serve as the taxi squad netminder. In two appearances with Bridgeport this season he has an .896 save percentage and there is no suggestion that he’ll ever see time in the Islanders net. CapFriendly reports that Appleby receives a two-year contract, making him eligible to be exposed to Seattle in the upcoming expansion draft.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images