- Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty is seeking a six- to eight-year term if he is going to sign an early extension with the team, reports TSN’s Frank Seravalli. However, Montreal does not appear to be willing to give him that long of a deal which is why his name has come up in trade speculation as of late. Seravalli links the Kings as a possible suitor as they look to add a top-six winger while the Sabres have been linked to him recently as well.
Simon Despres was once an up-and-coming defenseman in the NHL. A first-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2009, Despres played a key depth role for the Penguins from 2011 to 2015. Although Despres was limited offensively, even in the AHL, he proved himself to be a very dependable presence in his own end. Annually a positive player with strong possession numbers, Despres eventually worked himself into a full-time role with the Penguins in 2014-15. In that season, he also showed off an improved physical game and a superior puck-moving ability. However, it was also in that season that Despres was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, a deadline deal that sent veteran Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh. Despres continued to play well for the Ducks down the stretch and was perhaps at the peak of his NHL career in the postseason that year with a dominant stretch. Yet, the rest of Despres’ tenure in Anaheim would not go as well.
In 2015-16, just four games into the regular season, Despres took a hard check to the head from the Colorado Avalanche’s Tyson Barrie. Despres would miss the next 42 games of the regular season and never truly returned to form in the campaign. Despres suited up for Anaheim for the opening game of the 2016-17 season, but concussion symptoms limited him to just that one appearance for the year. Despres was bought out by the Ducks at the end of the season and, at age 25, was considering retirement. Instead, Despres decided to continue his career overseas. Able to finally leave his concussions in the past, Despres had a strong season with HC Slovan Bratislava of the KHL this year. Now, he wants back in the NHL.
Speaking with Jean-Francois Tremblay of La Presse in his native Quebec, Despres states that money is not an issue and that he will do what it takes to get back into the league. He says that he will visit with teams this summer or attend camp on a tryout basis if that is what it takes. He even says he would be open to an AHL contract as a first step, specifically noting that he would not hesitate to accept an offer from the Laval Rocket, the Montreal Canadiens affiliate in his hometown that did not exist when he was in the NHL. Despres goes on to describe how he has changed his diet and lifestyle to get healthier and has even trained in martial arts in an effort to learn how to avoid bad hits and further concussions. He also describes how his time in the KHL has improved his skating and puck possession. It seems Despres has done all he can to work his way back from a potentially career-ending injury and now feels ready for a return. Now all he can do is wait for a team to give him a second chance.
If and when John Tavares re-signs with the New York Islanders this off-season, there will be a lot of teams left in need of a center with few options to turn to. The trade route is an option, although a costly one when searching for a top-six pivot. Not many teams are openly shopping their top centers either. The draft is no help in a class largely devoid of pro-ready talent down the middle. The restricted free agent offer sheet has all but gone extinct. For those teams in need of center help, this leaves the free agent market as the most realistic choice and, behind Tavares, pickings are slim. Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash, and Derek Ryan are all top-five scorers among free agent centers despite all being two-way focused forwards best suited for third-line roles. Joe Thornton, Valtteri Filppula, and Tomas Plekanec are all well past their primes and their recent production proves it. There are simply very few good options.
For these reasons, it is no surprise that teams are already lining up for the services of Paul Stastny. Easily the top UFA center behind Tavares, Stastny is coming off a 53-point season with St. Louis and Winnipeg. Add in a dominant 15-point postseason with the Jets, and Stastny has greatly improved his stock heading into the open market. Both an offensive threat and a defensively responsible player, Stastny is a complete, two-way player. He is also a twelve-year veteran who dismissed talks of being past his prime this season and seems capable of high-end play over the course of another long-term contract.
In fact, the 2017-18 season was Stastny’s best offensively since his early days with the Colorado Avalanche. Ironically, the Avs reportedly would like to see if he still has that 70-point potential he showed as a younger player in Denver. Both Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland and BSN Denver’s Adrian Dater believe that Colorado is the leader in the chase for Stastny. As a team with which he has chemistry, as well as a young, exciting roster in need of a leader, it would be easy to see why a return to the Avalanche could be appealing to Stastny. Strickland also names the Winnipeg Jets as a top suitor. After acquiring Stastny at the deadline and seeing him fit in so well down the stretch and in the playoffs, it is no wonder that they would like to retain him. However, the Jets are inundated with valuable restricted free agents in need of extensions and may run out of the cap flexibility needed to compete for one of the market’s biggest names. Dater hears that the Montreal Canadiens, one of the more desperate center-needy teams in the league, is also in the hunt for Stastny. The Canadiens would be able to keep up with any bid the Avalanche could make and it would likely come down to which team Stastny feels is the best fit.
While these three teams are surely not the exclusive list of contenders, they are three teams that are logical fits for Stastny. Two teams that whose absences are noteworthy though are the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, the Blues traded away Stastny and when they had him it wasn’t enough to be a true Stanley Cup contender. However, a healthy St. Louis team would have been much more competitive this season and one of the holes they now need to fill to return to that place is at center. Bringing back Stastny is an idea that no one would dismiss, yet Strickland – a Blues beat writer – makes no mention of them. The Hurricanes, like the Canadiens, are simply a team in drastic need of a top center. While Stastny may not put them over the top, he would be yet another piece to a roster that has the potential to turn things around next year. Carolina also has near limitless cap space to contend for the rising price of Stastny’s services. At the end of the day, Strickland states that Stastny just wants to go somewhere where he will have a “chance to win”. Winnipeg and Colorado fit the bill, while Montreal, St. Louis, and Carolina may not. Others are sure to enter the fray too in a free agency market that may end up being defined by the choice made by Paul Stastny.
The Montreal Canadiens have been the biggest story of the last few days, after trading enigmatic winger—or is he a center?—to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Max Domi, a younger, cheaper option for their top-six. Domi signed on for another two seasons, at which point he’ll still be under team control. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Domi, and he could very well reach a career-high in points next season playing in Montreal.
Despite Domi’s relatively short experiment at center this season, and Jonathan Drouin’s progress at the position, the Canadiens still suffer from the same issue that has plagued the team for years. There’s just not enough talent or consistency up the middle.
It comes as no surprise then when Eric Engels of Sportsnet tweets that he’s heard the Canadiens will pass on Filip Zadina at third overall, and instead select Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Finnish center’s name has been floating around for weeks as a possible top-five pick, but there were several rumors of the Canadiens trying to trade down—namely to five with the Coyotes—but Engels now believes that they are willing to take Kotkaniemi even in the position they currently have.
Obviously everything you hear around draft season should be taken with a huge grain of salt, as front offices are trying to throw off competitors with misinformation and deception. Still, there’s no hiding the fact that Montreal wants a center, or even a defenseman ahead of a winger. Even with Zadina’s obvious talent—or Brady Tkachuk’s for that matter—the team may choose to pick the potential first-line center instead, much as the Columbus Blue Jackets did when they selected Pierre–Luc Dubois over the more consensus pick of Jesse Puljujarvi in 2016.
Either way the Canadiens turn, there is risk in their decision. Many believe Kotkaniemi needs at least one more year in Finland before he makes an NHL impact, and Montreal needs to contend in the short-term as Shea Weber and Carey Price continue to enter the back half of their careers. Zadina could be a plug-and-play offensive threat, but doesn’t offer the type of positional potential long-term. It will be an interesting week to be sure for GM Marc Bergevin, who is already feeling the heat from his latest transaction. The third-overall pick doesn’t come around every year, meaning the team must make the right decision this Friday.
The NHL has restricted free agency for a reason, but instead of it being a way for talent-deprived teams to sign away top young players, offers sheets are ignored and never used. The last offer sheet signed was five years ago when Ryan O’Reilly signed an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames in 2013 and there have only been eight offer sheets signed in the salary cap era.
After all, with a weak unrestricted free agent class this season, teams would benefit if they had an equally good chance at competing for restricted free agents. This year’s restricted free agent class is quite impressive. Led by Vegas’ William Karlsson, Ottawa’s Mark Stone, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba and Toronto’s William Nylander, teams should be making a move on some of these players.
Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe writes the main reason for the lack of offer sheets comes down to the compensation that is returned if a team allows a team to leave. The scribe writes that the compensation is not good enough and forces teams to sign their restricted free agents regardless of their cap situation. He points out that the compensation looks impressive when dealing with a player that makes more that $10.15MM per year. A team that signs a restricted free agent in that bracket would receive four first-round picks. Unfortunately, few players are in that salary bracket unless your name is Connor McDavid. If he was a restricted free agent, any team would give up four first-rounders for McDavid.
If the NHL wants to improve on restricted free agency, then they must double the compensation so teams really need to think about whether they would rather have that player or let him go and take the compensation package. Unfortunately right now, no team wants the compensation package.
- Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun writes that unrestricted free agent Chris Wideman said that he wants to return to the Ottawa Senators next season, but isn’t sure he’s in the team’s plans for next season. The 28-year-old defenseman said he talked to general manager Pierre Dorion recently and was told that the organization had other matters to attend to before addressing whether they plan to bring him back. Wideman missed most of the season last year after having surgery in December to repair a torn hamstring after Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin fell on him on Nov. 16. Used as a depth defenseman for his three years in Ottawa, he averaged a career-low 11:33 of ATOI in 16 NHL contests, despite putting up eight points in that time period.
- Stu Cowan of The Montreal Gazette writes that general manager Marc Bergevin said today that the team is willing to trade the No. 3 pick in the NHL Entry Draft. “I’ll listen, I’m open,” Bergevin said. “I’ve told teams if they want to make me an offer, I’ll look at it. But again, sometimes teams don’t want to move up. As much as a team wants to move back or move up, if there’s no takers or buyers then you just sit where you’re at.”
The first big trade of the offseason hit the NHL Friday when the Montreal Canadiens sent forward Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for youngster Max Domi in a rare one-for-one deal. For Montreal, the Canadiens finally move on from a forward, who failed in their experiment to move him to the center position and while they didn’t get a center in return for the 24 year old, they have high expectations for the 23-year-old Domi to step in at a cheaper price. For Arizona, this gives the team another established scorer to potentially pair with Derek Stepan and push Arizona out of the cellar in the Pacific Division.
Here’s a rundown from across the league:
- While there is a lot we don’t know, The Athletic’s Arpon Basu (subscription required) writes that Galchenyuk was a valuable asset for Montreal, who put up a 30-goal season while playing center for the team and for reasons that will never entirely be clear, the team decided he couldn’t play that position again. Basu writes that Montreal needed a center desperately, but the team opted not to work with him, or build his confidence or let Galchenyuk know they believed in him. Instead, they did the opposite of that, pointing out his defensive deficiencies, especially publically. The scribe writes the Canadiens didn’t want to give him an opportunity last season to return to the center position, because they feared had he played well, it would make the organization look bad.
- Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette writes that despite failing to succeed in Montreal, the Arizona Coyotes are looking for Galchenyuk to play some center this coming season, potentially even taking the No. 2 center spot behind Derek Stepan. “I think having depth at that position and having players who can play that position is something that we desired in this trade,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka Friday after the trade. “He’s had success playing the centre position. I don’t think we’d make this trade if we didn’t think he had the ability to play centre.”
- TSN’s Frank Seravalli writes that the trading of Galchenyuk reminds him of a trade last year when the St. Louis Blues traded for Brayden Schenn and turned him into a full-time center. Back then people had said that Schenn couldn’t play the center position either, but St. Louis got a great season out of Schenn and he proved that he could play there. Seravalli writes that Arizona hopes they can get the same spark out of Galchenyuk this season.
- AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan writes that Galchenyuk asked if he could move back to center earlier this season, but it never happened. He was told it wasn’t his job to worry about it and it was his job to produce whether as a winger or at center. Regardless, Galchenyuk wants to play center in Arizona. “You’re more involved in the game and I feel you touch the puck, you have the puck on your stick way more than a winger,” Galchenyuk said. “I feel really comfortable when I have the puck on my stick. I really believe in my offensive abilities when I have the puck.”
- Cowan also reported that while general manager Marc Bergevin has a policy about not talking about contract negotiations, the GM says that he expects winger Max Pacioretty to be back with the team next season. Could an extension be near?
- The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun writes that this trade should have no impact if Montreal attempts to acquire Buffalo center Ryan O’Reilly. The Sabres would have had no interest in Galchenyuk and would want a different mix of assets.
- Basu writes that Bergevin used the word “intangibles” multiple times while discussing Domi and why the Canadiens are a better team today.
- Cowan tweeted that Bergevin said that while Domi can play center, the team acquired him to play the wing position.
- Speaking with reporters to discuss Friday’s trade, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin stated (via Arpon Basu of The Athletic on Twitter) that they currently have no plans to buy anyone out. Montreal had several veterans that underachieved in 2017-18 but most are signed for at least the next two years which would make a buyout somewhat prohibitive long-term.
The Canadiens didn’t waste much time getting a new deal done with forward Max Domi. After acquiring him last night, the team announced that they have signed him to a two-year, $6.3MM contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger adds (Twitter link) that the contract carries a base salary of $2.9MM plus a $250K signing bonus for each season.
The fact that he received a bridge deal doesn’t come as much of a surprise as he is coming off somewhat of a quiet season. While he picked up 45 points, he failed to hit the double-digit goal mark for the second straight year so it wasn’t likely that Montreal was going to commit to a long-term pact right away without seeing how he’d fit in first.
It will be interesting to see how Domi slots in with the Canadiens. The team is desperate for help at center but the 23-year-old has spent the majority of his three-year NHL career on the left wing although he did see some time down the middle in 2017-18. If he gets to play there and succeeds, he’ll position himself nicely for a long-term pact two years from now.
Regardless of which position he plays, the team will certainly be counting on more goal production from him after tallying just nine times in each of the last two years. On a team that struggles to score as much as Montreal does, the fact that they moved a goal scorer in Alex Galchenyuk for someone who is more of a pure playmaker certainly raised some eyebrows.
Domi will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this deal and will have arbitration rights, something that he was not eligible for this time around.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The first big trade of the 2018 off-season has dropped and to no surprise, the Arizona Coyotes are right in the middle of it. After making two minor deals on Thursday, Arizona GM John Chayka has made a much bigger trade, acquiring forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens. In return, Max Domi is headed to Montreal in a one-for-one swap. Both teams have confirmed the deal.
This trade is very much about both players getting a fresh start. Both Galchenyuk and Domi have been discussed as trade candidates this off-season and now they have been traded for one another. They are also similar in their struggles with both consistency and injury. Galchenyuk, the third overall pick in 2012, has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to put it all together to reach his ceiling. Galchenyuk has 255 points in 418 NHL games, by no means a disappointing total, and even notched a 30-goal season in 2015-16. However, his scoring has been streaky and when he is not producing offense, his lack of a two-way defense game and difficulties at the face-off dot have become glaring. Under head coach Claude Julien, Galchenyuk struggled to find a defined role and lost play time as a result. On the other side of the deal is Domi, the 12th overall pick in 2013. After a breakout rookie campaign, Domi has been unable to produce at the same level the past two seasons. Altogether, he has 135 points in 222 games, but has failed to hit double-digit goals in each of the past two years and has also lost some of his two-way edge he displayed in year one. Like Galchenyuk, Domi’s issues at the dot and in playing a consistent well-rounded game had caused the Coyotes to question where he fit in their lineup.
The trade is even in many ways. The two players are almost identical in per-game scoring albeit Galchenyuk has done it over more seasons and clearly has a superior goal-scoring touch. Galchenyuk has a higher ceiling as an offensive producer but, while neither plays much of a physical game, Domi has shown a superior two-way ability and has been leaned on to play a bigger role in Arizona that Galchenyuk was ever asked of in Montreal. The deal is actually almost too similar, as both players get a much-need change, but both teams end up with the same type of player with positional questions and consistency issues. There is upside on both ends, but also bust potential for either acquisition. It is very much a gamble for both the Coyotes and Canadiens that their new player will somehow find their game in a way that the old player couldn’t. Both players are obviously talented, but need some work to reach their vast potential.
The only real significant difference in the deal could be a slight reprieve on the salary cap for Montreal. Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 at $4.9MM, while Domi is an impending restricted free agent who is unlikely to command that much given his recent struggles. While Galchenyuk will be an unrestricted free agent when his deal expires and could command market value, Domi is under team control for four more years. We will soon find out exactly how much the Canadiens value their new forward, as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the team is already close on a new contract with Domi, indicating that this trade has been in the works for some time. LeBrun speculates that it will be a bridge deal; a reasonable assumption for a brand new player with some concerns to work through.
The New York Islanders have made a coaching move, but not the anticipated one. Still lacking a head coach for his team, Lou Lamoriello has nevertheless made another change to the coaching staff, firing assistant Greg Cronin. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple confirmed the move, but added that no other coaching decisions have been made yet at the NHL or AHL level. Staple also had nothing to say about any of the motivations behind Cronin’s departure. Ironically, if Lamoriello was to tab Boston Bruins’ assistant Jay Pandolfo as his head coach, the Boston native Cronin would be an easy fix to replace him.
- The Islanders have struggled in net for too long and need to make a change at goalie. That all but rules out recycling any of their unrestricted free agent goaltenders. Jaroslav Halak, Christopher Gibson, and Kristers Gudlevskis are all set to hit the open market and of the three, Gudlevskis faces the lowest chances of finding employment again in the NHL. Once a highly-regarded prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Gudlevskis play in the AHL simply never reached an elite level that would have warranted an extended look at the highest level. This past season, he performed poorly and was handily outplayed by Gibson. As such, he may not have many opportunities in North America next season. It is no surprise then that Latvian news outlet OlyBet reports that Gudlevksis has had preliminary talks with Dinamo Riga, the KHL team in his native country. Gudlevskis was brought up in the Riga junior ranks and even appeared in two games with the big league team before coming overseas. Gudlevskis has never returned to Europe since and his preference would likely be to stay in the NHL, but it would be a natural fit with Dinamo if the offers don’t come from NHL teams this summer.
- In today’s edition of TSN’s “Insider Trading”, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger have set the record straight about the trade market for Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic. It was previously believed that the Oilers were shopping Lucic in hopes of ridding themselves of his contract, but in speaking with several team executives, LeBrun and Dreger feel that is not the case. Instead, they have heard that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is seeking hockey trades rather than cap dump trades for Lucic. This would indicate that it is Lucic who has requested the trade and Edmonton is simply trying to oblige him.
- One team rumored to be in on Lucic is actually out, according to LeBrun. The Montreal Canadiens, who pursued the power forward and former Bruins enforcer vigorously when he initially hit free agency, were speculated to again be interested in acquiring Lucic. The Habs could use some size up front and Lucic shared a strong rapport with coach Claude Julien when the pair were in Boston. However, LeBrun states that they are definitively “out” on Lucic.