- The Canadiens have activated winger Andrew Shaw off of injured reserve and have transferred winger Paul Byron (forearm) to IR, reports Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports (Twitter link). Shaw has been out since suffering a neck injury in late December. Byron’s injury isn’t believed to be a significant one but it’s worth noting that with Montreal carrying a full 23-man roster, they will have to waive or trade a player to make room for him when he’s ready to be activated.
The Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers have agreed to a rather rare trade, in which each club has sent two players that have not worked out with their team to the other, with neither really trading anyone that they considered valuable. The Canadiens have announced that veteran forward Dale Weise is returning for a second stint with Montreal and will be accompanied by defenseman Christian Folin. Heading to Philadelphia is journeyman defenseman David Schlemko and minor league forward Byron Froese.
Weise, 30, signed a four-year, $9.4MM contract with the Flyers as a free agent in 2016, but quickly fell out of favor in Philadelphia. After two and half seasons and a total of 34 points in 152 games, the Flyers waived Weise and, after he cleared, sent him to the AHL last month. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reports that it was around that time that the Canadiens and Flyers began putting this trade together, as Weise was done in Philly and desperately wanted to return to Montreal. Weise previously played for the Habs for parts of three seasons from 2014 to 2016 and found his greatest success with the team, recording 59 points in 152 games. Montreal hopes he can return to that level of production, as he is signed for one more year at $2.35MM, but for now they will take advantage of his waiver status. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that Weise has been assigned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
Folin though could be an asset right away for the Canadiens. The impending free agent was used sparingly in Philadelphia, skating in just 26 games for the team, but just last year played in 65 games and registered 13 points for the Los Angeles Kings. The 28-year-old is a bargain depth addition, as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that the Flyers will retain $150K of Folin’s $800K salary, bringing his cap hit down to just the $650K. The addition also gives Montreal another right-handed option on the blue line and a solid physical defender who plays well in his own zone. Karl Alzner has again been placed on waivers in an effort to bury him in the AHL to make room for Folin.
As for Philadelphia’s return, they add a veteran piece not all that different from Weise. Schlemko, 31, also cleared waivers and was sent to the AHL in January. The Canadiens initially acquired Schlemko, and his four-year, $8.4MM contract, from the Vegas Golden Knights after he was selected from the San Jose Sharks in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Hoping he could be a fixture on their blue line, injuries and simply poor play have instead limited Schlemko to just 55 games with the Habs over two years, as well as several minor league stints. While his cap hit next season, especially while buried in the AHL, is less of a burden for the Flyers, Schlemko is not even as much of an NHL option at this point in his career as Weise was. Case in point: NBC Sports’ John Boruk reports that youngster Phil Myers will be recalled to Philadelphia to fill Folin’s spot, while Schlemko will report to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Also headed to the Phantoms is Froese, who has not played in the NHL this season. Froese is a veteran of 110 NHL games and set a career high with 11 points in 48 games with Montreal last season, but has struggled to show that he is anything more than a fourth-liner at the top level. However, Froese is enjoying a strong AHL campaign and was the captain of the Laval Rocket. Lehigh Valley could use his leadership and production down the stretch and in the postseason and perhaps Froese will even get a look in Philly at some point. The 27-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will try to show the Flyers’ brass that he is worthy of an NHL contract.
All things considered, this is a big trade in terms of the number of players and some notable names, but means very little. New Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher saved himself some cap space next season by swapping out Weise for Schlemko and strengthened his AHL roster this year by adding Froese. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, whose team is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, adds some needed depth in Folin and a fan-favorite who has a chance to rebound next season in Weise. Weise is a slight risk as a salary cap burden, and neither player has extraordinary upside, but it cost Montreal nothing of value to acquire them. Could the Flyers have gotten more? Probably, but at the end of the day neither team will likely end up regretting this trade as it is.
If any Montreal Canadiens fans were hoping for a late season Michael McCarron call-up, it isn’t coming. The team announced today that McCarron’s season is over after undergoing shoulder surgery yesterday. The 23-year old forward had been playing with the Laval Rocket in the AHL, and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year.
McCarron has not turned into the player the Canadiens hoped they were getting at 25th overall in 2013, but was at least having a positive impact in the AHL. With this injury that impact on Laval is over, and there are now serious doubts about McCarron’s future in Montreal. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, there is a real chance that the Canadiens could decline to extend a qualifying offer to the young forward, which would allow him to search for another deal elsewhere around the league. His performance so far in the NHL doesn’t scream success in the future, but perhaps a fresh start would spark some development.
In 70 NHL games across the regular season and playoffs McCarron has recorded just eight points, and will be turning 24 before free agency begins. While the Canadiens could extend him a qualifying offer and risk arbitration, there is also the option of trying to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent to a less expensive two-way deal. That would give him a chance to continue to play for the Rocket, where he had 21 points in 32 games this season. It’s not the end of the line for McCarron, but a major injury like this is just the latest setback in a disappointing career so far.
The New York Islanders are expecting to get back two significant players from injury in the next few days as defenseman Thomas Hickey and winger Andrew Ladd took part in the Islanders’ optional morning skate Saturday in non-contact jerseys, according to New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. Hickey has been out with a concussion since Dec. 17, while Ladd has been out since Nov. 13 with a lower-body injury.
However, while many people look at their eventual returns as like picking up a couple of deadline acquisitions, Cyrgalis writes that Hickey and Ladd won’t stop general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz from going out and adding to the team at the trade deadline.
“We sat down and talked about where we are, our chemistry, our team. We’ve discussed maybe some of the areas we could improve,” Trotz said. “Lou is as diligent as anyone you’re ever going to meet in terms of making calls and seeing what’s out there. And if he’s going to do anything, it’s going to be in the best interest of the New York Islanders. He’s not going to do anything that’s — he’s looking to improve us all the time, either internally or externally.”
With the team in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 66 points, four points in front of both Washington and Pittsburgh, the Islanders are in a position to be buyers and have plenty of roster flexibility and cap space to make the right deals for the team. The team has a number of players on expiring deals, including Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and goaltender Robin Lehner, but it doesn’t make any sense for the team to move them if their goal is to bulk up for the playoffs. So while many don’t know what to expect, Lamoriello is well known for pulling off some big moves at the deadline.
- It’s a season to forget for Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron. Already having made a six-month recovery from offseason surgery on his right shoulder, Byron went down again Sunday after getting his left shoulder jammed after taking a hit from Edmonton’s Matt Benning. The forward was ruled out of the game Sunday, according to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, and was steaming mad on his way off the ice. The 29-year-old has only appeared in 36 games. He has 10 goals and 19 points in that span. No word on how serious the injury to Byron was.
- Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi reports that Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott is making progress. The veteran goaltender practiced with the team Sunday, but there remains no timetable for his return, but could be back within two weeks. Elliott has been out of the lineup since Nov. 15. No word on whether he will go to Lehigh Valley on a conditioning stint, but early rumors suggest that Philadelphia will likely keep three goaltenders once he returns.
- The Athletic’s Scott Powers reports that while Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he didn’t have an update on injured goaltender Corey Crawford, he does expect Crawford to return this season. The veteran goalie has been out since Dec. 16 with a concussion. He already missed the second half of the 2017-18 season as well as the start of this season with a concussion.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the eyes of the world’s sports fans will likely be fixated on just that one big event later on tonight. Yet, the NHL will continue with business as usual, albeit with a small three-game slate today. The Boston Bruins will face the Washington Capitals early this afternoon before rooting on their football counterparts, the New England Patriots, later on tonight. The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens square off later this afternoon, as do head coach Bill Peters and the Calgary Flames in a homecoming against the Carolina Hurricanes. Other teams will be active as well, just in the front office, making minor changes to their rosters in anticipation of the coming week of games. Keep up with all the transactions here:
- One day after handing Michael McNiven his first NHL call-up to serve as the team’s backup, the Montreal Canadiens have sent the young goaltender back down, per the AHL. Curiously, the team has flipped yesterday’s transaction completely and have recalled buried defenseman Karl Alzner. Alzner has played in just one game with the Habs since November and has suited up for the AHL’s Laval Rocket for more games than he has with Montreal this season. Yet, the team seems open to giving him another chance to earn his keep in the second half. Alzner is signed for three more seasons at $4.625MM and the Canadiens would undoubtedly like to see his play improve to the point that he can win his job back.
- As hinted at yesterday, the Washington Capitals have now officially reassigned defenseman Christian Djoos to the AHL’s Hershey Bears on a conditioning assignment. Djoos has returned from a serious bout with compartment syndrome sooner than expected, but the Caps would rather he work out the kinks in his game and get back up to speed down in the minors. He’ll get the start for Hershey right away today. Djoos should be patrolling the D.C. blue line again soon enough, though.
- After clearing waivers today, the Buffalo Sabres will be sending forward Remi Elie to the Rochester Americans of the AHL, according to CapFriendly. Elie played just four regular season games in the AHL last season with the Texas Stars, but he did return and play for the veteran-laden team in the playoffs as they went all the way to the Calder Cup finals before losing to the Toronto Marlies, playing 19 games, scoring two goals and nine points.
- Already potentially clearing two roster spots, the Minnesota Wild announced they have placed Pontus Aberg on injured reserve after leaving Friday’s game against Dallas with a lower-body injury. Aberg has played five games so far for Minnesota since being acquired via trade from Anaheim. He has three assists so far.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have loaned defenseman Martin Marincin to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL after he cleared waivers earlier today. The 26-year-old Marincin is familiar with playing with the AHL squad as he played 52 regular season games with them last year as well as playing another 20 in the playoffs, helping the franchise win the Calder Cup. His NHL experience should only help the AHL squad, full of prospect defensemen.
With the bye weeks now complete, it’s a very busy slate on the NHL schedule with a total of 26 teams in action. Accordingly, there should be plenty of roster movement throughout the day. We’ll keep track of those moves here.
- The Senators announced (Twitter link) that they have recalled winger Rudolfs Balcers from AHL Belleville. It will be his second stint with Ottawa after playing in eight games with them last month where he fared relatively well, picking up a goal and an assist but he was sent down during Ottawa’s bye week. He has been quite productive in the minors with 15 goals and 13 assists in 38 games and with Ottawa likely to be sellers in the coming weeks, he may not be spending too much time down there over the rest of the season. Balcers will be taking the place of winger Mikkel Boedker who is dealing with an undisclosed injury.
- The Ducks have transferred winger Ondrej Kase to long-term injured reserve, CapFriendly reports (via Twitter). Doing so allowed Anaheim to activate winger Corey Perry from LTIR without requiring another roster move and Perry is likely to make his season debut tonight. Kase will remain on LTIR for the rest of the year as his season is over due to a shoulder injury.
- The Montreal Canadiens announced today that veteran defenseman Karl Alzner has been returned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. While the steep decline of the former Capitals stalwart remains a fascinating story, the player taking his spot on the roster is more intriguing right now. The Habs have recalled goalie Michael McNiven from the AHL. McNiven, 21, is in his second pro season and split last year between the AHL and ECHL. The undrafted OHL product has spent most of the season in Laval thus far, but as the backup to established Montreal third-string Charlie Lindgren. Yet, with Carey Price sitting out the next game on a suspension for skipping the All-Star game, it is McNiven who has gotten the call to backup Antti Niemi instead of Lindgren. McNiven has slightly better numbers than Lindgren this season, albeit in fewer starts, and it could be that the hierarchy in net is shifting withing the Canadiens organization.
- Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson reports that the Calgary Flames have recalled defenseman Rinat Valiev from the Stockton Heat of the AHL, which gives Calgary seven healthy defensemen with Travis Hamonic out with a lower-body injury. It’s likely that Valiev will serve as the team’s extra defenseman, which is why the team didn’t recall Juuso Valimaki, who the franchise believes more playing time in the AHL before bringing him up. The 23-year-old Valiev has already played for three franchises in his short career, but has not made an appearance as a member of the Flames yet.
Reports have differed over the last week on the extent of the injury suffered by Montreal Canadiens prospect Noah Juulsen, but the team has now addressed it directly. In a statement, the Canadiens have explained that Juulsen is out indefinitely with a “vision-related issue that will require time to heal.” There has been some speculation that the injury may be career threatening, but the statement goes on to say that the organization expects a full recovery.
Juulsen was struck in the face by a puck twice earlier this season, but had made a return and played games for both the Canadiens and Laval Rocket of the AHL. Unfortunately if his vision is being affected it may be dangerous for him to continue playing for now.
It’s a tough break for Juulsen, who seems to have one of those every time he’s close to an NHL job. The 21-year old defenseman has dealt with several injuries through his short professional career, only suiting up for a total of 80 games across two levels since his WHL season ended in 2017. The 26th-overall pick from 2015 has flashed real potential in those games, but is going to have to get healthy before any more development can occur. Hopefully he can recover at least by the time the 2019-20 season begins so that he can try to have a full season under his belt when heading to restricted free agency in July 2020.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without Boone Jenner for at least another week after a cut on his ankle has become infected. The team announced a one to three week timeline for Jenner today, noting that the laceration happened after Jenner blocked a shot on January 12th. This explains why Mark Letestu has been recalled, though the veteran center is still not expected in the lineup for the Blue Jackets tonight.
It comes at an unfortunate time for Columbus, given that the next three weeks could be the most important stretch of their season. With the decisions surrounding Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky looming, this could be the last stretch that this group has together before watching two of their best players head to a different locker room. Jenner meanwhile has been his effective two-way self this season, but has just nine goals and 21 points to show for it. That’s a far way off from the 30-goal campaign he put up in 2015-16, a distant memory at this point for the 25-year old center. He’ll need to pick things up in the second half if Columbus is going to continue to put pressure on the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
- David Perron has been moved to injured reserve by the St. Louis Blues, as he continues to deal with an upper-body injury. Perron was in the middle of his best stretch of the season with points in 13 consecutive games, while seeing almost 20 minutes of ice time a night. The veteran forward was listed as day-to-day originally, but has now missed three games for the Blues. His IR stint will be retroactive to January 17th, meaning he can come off whenever healthy.
- Andrew Shaw hasn’t played in a month for the Montreal Canadiens, but is getting a lot closer to a return. The feisty forward returned to the ice for practice today and skated on a line with Kenny Agostino and Michael Chaput. Shaw had 24 points in 36 games for the Canadiens before suffering what would eventually be classified as a neck injury at the end of December. His return would be a substantial boost for a Montreal team that is quietly pushing for second place in the Atlantic Division.
When the Buffalo Sabres take the ice tonight against the Dallas Stars, they will do so without veteran forward Jason Pominville. Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News, after speaking with head coach Phil Housley, relays that Pominville will sit out Wednesday night’s contest as a healthy scratch. Some quick research by the Olean Times Herald’s Bill Hoppe indicates that this is Pominville’s first healthy scratch since April 4, 2006 – during his rookie season. Pominville, 36, has been an All-Star and frequent Selke Trophy candidate over his 15 years in the league, split between two stints with Buffalo and five seasons with the Minnesota Wild. So why now is he out of the Sabres’ lineup? Lysowksi writes that the only reason Housley gave was to rest the veteran of more than a thousand games in the second night of a back-to-back and give young Remi Elie a shot. However, Pominville’s streak of one goal and two assists in his past 24 games likely contributed as well. Even though Pominville is on pace to meet or exceed his 34 total points from last season, he has cooled off significantly after a hot start, much like the Sabres overall. His spot in the lineup could be in jeopardy, especially if Elie proves to be the spark that Buffalo is seeking.
- It didn’t take long for defenseman Michal Moravcik to find new employment. Just a day after clearing unconditional waivers and having his contract terminated by the Montreal Canadiens, Moravcik has returned home to the Czech Republic. HC Plzen has announced a contract with the 24-year-old blue liner for the remainder of the season. Plzen is the same team that Moravcik had come up through the system with and was playing for before signing in North America. As such, Morazcik should soon return to the elite form that first caught the eye of NHL scouts. Plzen is surely looking forward to the boost, as the team that also employs familiar names like Jakub Kindl and Petr Straka hopes to make up ground in the standings.
- The city of Winnipeg already hosts the NHL’s Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, but it will have yet another tenant beginning next season. The WHL’s Kootenay Ice have decided to move to Winnipeg, as first reported by The Winnipeg Free Press’ Jeff Hamilton. The team is expected to keep the “Ice” moniker and same logo and will soon get to work on a long-term development plan for a new arena and sports complex on the south side of the city. While Winnipeggers already have two good teams to root for, no one in the area is likely to complain about the return of major junior hockey and should be excited to watch presumptive top-15 pick Peyton Krebs lead a young, rebuilding team next season.
Tuesday: Moravcik has cleared waivers and will now see his contract terminated.
Monday: The Montreal Canadiens have placed Michal Moravcik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a contract termination, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Moravcik is on a two-year entry-level contract that was signed last May, but will become an unrestricted free agent when the process is complete and able to return to the Czech Republic.
Moravcik just hasn’t found a fit for the Canadiens this season, spending 20 games in the AHL with the Laval Rocket and four with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL. Surely toiling away in the low minors wasn’t exactly what the 24-year old defenseman was expecting when he signed, especially given the success he has found in the Czech league over the last few years. Moravcik recorded 16 points in 52 games for HC Plzen in 2017-18 and suited up for the Czech Republic at the World Championship for the first time. He very well could be back there this year, as he certainly won’t be playing in the NHL playoffs.
For Montreal, terminating Moravcik’s contract opens up another slot under the 50-contract limit that they can use to their advantage come the trade deadline. The team has been open with the idea that they would go after bad contracts in order to acquire good players like Joel Armia, who arrived in Montreal on the back of Steve Mason’s undesirable cap hit. When this deal is terminated, the team will have 43 contracts on the books and plenty of cap space to work with.