The Toronto Maple Leafs have been looking for defensive upgrades and it was just a matter of time before they were linked directly to Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports today in his latest 31 Thoughts column that the Maple Leafs have looked into Dumba, who has been involved in trade rumors since a report emerged that the Wild were “open for business.”
The Colorado Eagles welcomed Conor Timmins back onto the ice at morning skate today, and according to Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now, the defensive prospect will make his return to the lineup tonight. Timmins hasn’t played for the last few weeks with a lower-body injury, but is an interesting name to keep an eye on over the next month.
Not only is Timmins a potential call-up for the Colorado Avalanche after playing in two games at the beginning of the season, but his name has also been thrown around in trade speculation for the last while. The 21-year old was selected 32nd overall in 2017 but has dealt with concussion issues that delayed the start of his professional career. In 22 games with the Eagles this season he has 13 points.
- The Toronto Marlies have been terribly recently after sending several of their top players up to the NHL, but will get some pretty impressive reinforcements tonight. Jake Muzzin and Trevor Moore from the Toronto Maple Leafs will both play against the Cleveland Monsters according to Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun. The duo are trying to work their way back from injury to help the Maple Leafs in a playoff race, but will have to prove their health at the minor league level first.
- Another change to the AHL All-Star roster was announced, with Iowa Wild forward Sam Anas taking the place of Milwaukee Admirals forward Yakov Trenin. Anas, 26, is an undrafted forward out of Quinnipiac University that has been a huge part of the Iowa attack for four seasons now. His 45 points in 44 games ties him for second in the league alongside teammate Gerald Mayhew, who is already attending.
Last summer, before he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, Phil Kessel was asked by the Pittsburgh Penguins to waive his no-trade clause for a deal that would send him to the Minnesota Wild. That trade reportedly included Jason Zucker as the main piece coming the other way (with Jack Johnson and Victor Rask also involved at one point). While Kessel decided not to allow the transaction to take place, it apparently hasn’t stopped Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford from trying to get the smooth skating Minnesota forward.
In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts for Sportsnet, he notes that Pittsburgh are still in pursuit of Zucker, though the Wild “aren’t yet ready to concede” the season. Minnesota is in last place in the Central Division, but only seven points out of a playoff spot in the tight wild card standings. Trading Zucker, who not only has been one of the teams most effective offensive players this season but is also signed for another three years, would essentially mean they are entering a rebuild under new general manager Bill Guerin.
A rebuild does seem to be a possibility after a report recently came out that the Wild are “open for business” and Mathew Dumba is potentially available. He and Zucker are likely two of the most valuable trade pieces on the roster, but would also leave huge holes in the current group.
Just as in the summer, Zucker does seem like a perfect fit for the Penguins however. Perhaps even more so now that the team has lost Jake Guentzel for the season, taking away some of their scoring punch alongside star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (and, apparently Bryan Rust). That injury also gives the team a little more cap flexibility, given they could use long-term injured reserve if necessary.
It is important to remember that the Zucker-Kessel trade was worked out with the old Minnesota regime. Guerin obviously has a strong connection to the Penguins organization however and may have a good idea of what they can offer in terms of prospects or young players. Either way, Zucker’s name is one to keep an eye on as the calendar turns to February, especially if the Wild don’t start winning.
- The Wild should have center Mikko Koivu back in the lineup tomorrow against Detroit, notes Sarah McLellan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Twitter link). The captain has missed the last two games due to an illness. As he remained on the active roster while being out, Minnesota won’t have to make any corresponding roster moves. Meanwhile, McLellan adds that defenseman Brad Hunt (who is also dealing with an illness and has missed the last five games) is still getting back to full strength which makes it unlikely that he’ll return.
The Dallas Stars were placed in a tough position back on Dec. 11 when they fired head coach Jim Montgomery due to off-ice, personal issues. The team installed assistant coach Rick Bowness in as interim coach, but general manager Jim Nill recently said that despite there being several big-name coaches available suddenly after a number of firings, he has no intention of making a second coaching change during the season.
However, The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro (subscription required) wonders whether Nill and the Stars might reconsider that stance with their bye-week coming up now that former Vegas coach Gerard Gallant has become available, as well as others like Mike Babcock and Peter Laviolette. The scribe writes that while it might create more unrest in the locker room, the team might not be able to resist a coach like Gallant, while Bowness might be OK with returning to his assistant coach role regardless.
- Sticking with Dallas, Stars defenseman Stephen Johns fared well in his debut after missing 22 months due to post-concussion headaches. He played 18:29 against the Minnesota Wild with two shots on goal, two hits and a blocked shot, but told NHL.com’s Mike Heika that he intends to treat the upcoming bye-week and all-star break as his own training camp to get back into form. “I’m going to treat this bye week like a training camp for me,” said Johns. “Obviously, I need to get in better shape, I was breathing pretty hard out there today. It’s not really a break for me, which I’m fine with. I’ve had a long break.”
- Sarah McLellan of the Star Tribune writes that almost a year after coming over from Nashville via trade, Minnesota Wild forward Kevin Fiala has found himself trying to develop himself as a complete player. While he has great offensive potential, he has often found himself as a healthy scratch due to his in-game mistakes and has made it clear he wants to change the way he plays. “I want to be a package, the full package, for sure,” Fiala said. “[But] I want to be me. I want to be offense.”
- The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (subscription required) writes that Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik has forced his way into the Calder Trophy discussions after scoring nine goals in the last seven games. The 24-year-old, whose rights came to Chicago in a trade with Los Angeles a year ago for a 2019 fifth-round pick, arrived from the NLA this summer and currently leads all rookies with 20 goals. Of course Colorado’s Cale Makar is the obvious first choice for the Calder, but the scribe writes that Kubalik is getting comfortable in the NHL now and might continue to improve.
“I mean, what can I say? The [KHL] season is still on. I have to do my best here, but I do have a great desire to move over,” said Kaprizov. “I have to focus on the ongoing season. It’s the end of the regular season—I need to get ready for the playoffs and do well so that we win our second cup in a row. There’s still a lot to be done before I have to worry about it—such as making the World Championship team. There’s still time. I’ll think about it later.”
Kaprizov is expected to be a free agent this spring and could be a key piece in the Wild’s rebuilding effort if the team can convince him to sign an entry-level deal. The 22-year-old, who was a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been one of the KHL’s biggest stars as he has 23 goals and 45 points in 44 games this year with CSKA Moscow.
- The Nashville Predators are hopeful that they might get a forward back into their lineup soon as head coach John Hynes said that the team hopes to get forward Colton Sissons back to practice after the all-star break, according to The Athletic’s Adam Vingan. The 26-year-old, out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 27, has been skating on his own. Hynes also noted that the news isn’t as good on defenseman Ryan Ellis, who still hasn’t stepped on the ice. The blueliner suffered an upper-body injury after taking a hit from Dallas’ Corey Perry on Jan. 1. However, Hynes points out that Ellis, “he is on that protocol to come back,” although he did admit he didn’t know when Ellis might start skating again.
- The Chicago Blackhawks announced they have activated Brandon Saad off of injured reserve and he is expected to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The 27-year-old has missed 12 straight games with an ankle injury and hasn’t appeared in a game since Dec. 19. Saad has 11 goals and 19 points in 36 games. The winger was considered to be out until the all-star break, but practiced fully on Friday.
- NHL.com’s Lou Korac reports that the St. Louis Blues could have defenseman Colton Parayko back after the all-star break. The 26-year-old defenseman has been out since Jan. 2 with an upper-body injury. Head coach Craig Berube said that he is “pretty confident” that Parayko will be ready to return when the team gets back from break.
The Minnesota Wild have lost six of their last seven games and are 6-9-2 since the five-game winning streak that had fans hoping they could climb back into the playoff picture. That disappointing month has the team back in last place in the Central Division and eight points out of a playoff spot (with three teams between them and the wild card as well). With that in mind, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that GM Bill Guerin is considering selling off assets at the trade deadline. Darren Dreger of TSN reported as much on tonight’s edition of Insider Trading:
Another team to watch is the Minnesota Wild. I’m told that Bill Guerin is open for business, and part of the trade bait list could include veteran defenseman Mathew Dumba.
It might be surprising to hear Dumba’s name as part of the speculation. Just two seasons ago as a 23-year old he was a 50-point defenseman for the Wild, while also providing a physical presence every night. The seventh overall pick from 2012 is also right-handed and logs huge minutes every night, but after missing more than half of 2018-19 with a ruptured pectoral muscle hasn’t been able to find his offensive game.
Now 25, Dumba has just 13 points in 46 games this season and just seven of those have come at even-strength. While his shooting percentage of 2.7% is way under his career average, it’s obvious he hasn’t had the season many had hoped for.
Still, with a contract that extends through the 2022-23 season he still could be a valuable piece for the Wild to start a shake-up. Dumba carries a $6MM cap hit for those next three years, but doesn’t see his modified no-trade clause kick in until 2021. The team committed big money to another right-handed defensemen when they signed Jared Spurgeon to a seven-year, $53MM extension in September and still obviously have the contract of Ryan Suter to worry about on the back end.
While Dumba is obviously a useful player, if Guerin is looking to acquire some more financial flexibility he may be one of the only big tickets on the team (along with Jason Zucker) that could really bring back a substantial return. If the team is really “open for business,” Guerin may not be waiting until the offseason to make a change.
It looks like the Arizona Coyotes will be without starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper for a while longer. Despite traveling with the team, giving Coyotes fans some hope that he was close to returning, Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic revealed that Kuemper has been ruled out until before the All-Star break.
While Kuemper had an impressive season last year, challenging for the starters’ role then, the 29-year-old netminder has been even better this year, posting a 2.17 GAA and a .929 save percentage in 25 games. However, he suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 19 and now, at best, isn’t likely to return until Jan. 29. Unfortunately, Antti Raanta has also been out, leaving the team with Adin Hill as its starting goaltender for the time being.
- While the New Jersey Devils intend to undergo a thorough search for a new general manager sometime in the near future, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti wonders whether the team already has that man in new interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald. The scribe believes that Fitzgerald is considered to be a future GM and if he can have a quality trade deadline, he could be the top candidate to take the job permanently.
- Minnesota Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn made his season debut today after missing the first 44 games of the season after having bilateral core muscle surgery, according to Star Tribune’s Sarah McLellan. Pateryn has struggled in his rehab, however, as he was sent to Iowa on a conditioning stint on Dec. 2, but was later activated and placed back on injured reserve. Pateryn should provide the Wild with some defensive depth. While he doesn’t offer much in offensive ability (one goal, six assists in 80 games last year), he did provide much needed defense, including 144 hits and 118 blocks.
After an impressive performance at the World Junior Championships earlier this month, the Ottawa Senators were hoping to convince forward Shane Pinto to sign with them at the end of this collegiate season. In fact, leDroit’s Jean-Francois Plante (translation required) writes that Senators general manager Pierre Dorion visited Pinto Thursday in hopes of convincing him to sign with Ottawa after his season, but he was turned away.
Pinto, the team’s 2019 second-round pick (32nd overall), has been a revelation. Considered a bit of a reach by Ottawa immediately after the draft, Pinto has taken off, posting nine goals and 15 points in 19 games for the University of North Dakota. He joined the United States team at the WJC and was one of the team’s leaders, scoring four goals and seven points in five games. However, Plante reports that Pinto’s agent would like Pinto to continue his development at North Dakota for at least one more year before likely joining the AHL team when he’s more ready physically to compete.
- The Minnesota Wild could be getting back some offensive firepower as forward Jason Zucker practiced with the team Saturday and is a game-time decision for their game Sunday against Vancouver, according to NHL.com’s Dan Myers. Zucker suffered a fractured right fibula after getting hit with a slapshot dump-in by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook on Dec. 15. The forward had surgery and was given a 4-6 week timetable, but looks to be ready early. The 27-year-old has 12 goals and 24 points in 34 games so far this season and could provide the Wild with a much needed offensive boost.
- While Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat missed his first game of the season Saturday with a lower-body injury, NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman reports that Palat is still a possibility to play on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils. Palat has struggled with minor injuries throughout his career, but has produced a solid 12 goals and 26 points in 43 games so far this season.
- The Athletic’s Allan Mitchell (subscription required) breaks down the play of Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect William Lagesson and his potential future with the team. The 23-year-old, currently on the Oilers’ NHL roster, might have trouble cracking the team down the road due to the team’s depth in defensive players and upcoming prospects, which could leave Lagesson on the outside looking in.
It’s a quiet Friday evening around the NHL with only three games scheduled, though one of them is still appointment viewing. When the Pittsburgh Penguins head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche, it’s always a fireworks show between friends Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon. The former has been injured for some time, but after traveling with the team there is hope he’ll be able to suit up tonight. As they and the other four teams prepare for tonight’s action, we’ll keep track of the minor moves.
- The Minnesota Wild have returned Kaapo Kahkonen to the minor leagues after he served as an emergency backup for Alex Stalock last night. The Wild don’t play again until Sunday, and will hopefully have Devan Dubnyk available.
- There was also a minor league trade today, as John Stevens was dealt to the Utica Comets in exchange for future considerations. The 25-year old forward has five points in 16 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season.
- Joel Hanley has been returned to the minor leagues by the Dallas Stars, a good sign that John Klingberg is close to returning. Klingberg hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury in the Winter Classic.
- The Arizona Coyotes have returned Ivan Prosvetov to the AHL, after he helped fill in for some injuries in net. Though he didn’t actually get into a game with the Coyotes, he can use this experience with the big club as motivation as he continues his development.
- Alexander Volkov has been recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning, returning after spending the last two months in the minor leagues. Volkov played four games for the team earlier this season but has spent most of the year with the Syracuse Crunch, scoring two goals and 15 points in 25 games.