Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds projects to be one of the top rental forwards available between now and next month’s trade deadline. In an appearance on the NHL Network (video link), Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned that the Predators are a team that has been linked to the 30-year-old. Nashville has plenty of cap room to absorb Simmonds’ $3.975MM deal this season and has enough players on below-market contracts that it’s certainly possible that they could fit him in on an extension as well. His 15 goals on the year would rank second to only Filip Forsberg among Nashville players and GM David Poile is known for trying to make a splash around the deadline.
Weise, 30, is a perfect example of how the Flyers have underperformed over the last few seasons. Signed to a four-year $9.4MM deal in 2016, the defensive winger has not been able to reproduce the level of offensive production he experienced in Montreal. With just 34 points in his 152-game Flyers career so far, there just isn’t enough reason to keep him in the lineup over some of the team’s younger players if GM Chuck Fletcher is looking towards the future.
Still, Weise is an extremely well-liked teammate and could very well find himself on a new team within the next few days. It may be a stretch for a team to claim him and his entire $2.35MM cap hit—that extends through 2019-20—but should he clear the Flyers could find him a new home with the added benefit of being able to go straight to the minor leagues. We’ve seen moves like this before after a player clears waivers, though there is no guarantee that is what Fletcher has planned.
If Weise does go to the minor leagues for Philadelphia, a pro-rated $1.025MM will come off his cap hit while he is buried in the AHL. That number actually increases to $1.075MM next season, meaning he would be even less of a cap liability if the team decides to keep him there.
The Flyers are moving in a new direction after a season that has seen them go 17-23-6 through the first 46 games and it is obvious that there will be other casualties. Most eyes will be focused on Wayne Simmonds next as the trade deadline approaches, given the apparent lack of any extension interest and his status as an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
For the third year in a row, the NHL has scheduled a mandated multi-day break for each team in the middle part of the season. Meant to give each team a rest, much like the bye week in the National Football League, this break also includes limits on practice, including several days in which all team activities are prohibited. A seven-day break this season, on paper an increase from the original five-day break, the “bye week” is actually less intrusive this season than it has been in the past despite the longer length. All 31 teams will take their break either right before or right after the upcoming All-Star Weekend, with those two days counting toward the seven and simply extending what has always been a short break for non-participants. Below are the lists of teams who will take leave on one side of All-Star festivities or the other:
Before All-Star Weekend (January 20 – 24)
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
After All-Star Weekend (January 27 – 31)
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New York Islanders
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Golden Knights
How each team feels about taking an extended break in the middle of the season generally varies based on situational factors. While many players would enjoy getting to spend some time away with their families, others would rather keep the pedal to the metal mid-season. More specifically, a team that is playing well and stringing together wins would rather keep playing and not lose out on that momentum. Another team may be in a slump or struggling with injuries and desperately in need of a break. Either way, not every team will be in favor of the bye week each season.
There also remains some scheduling flaws with the mandated break, as most teams will only get the actual seven days or an eighth day off for travel, but others are set to go ten or eleven days without a contest. The “bye week” seems to be a move by the NHL that has enough support to continue in future seasons, but the league could work on sharpening the schedule so as to give teams as close to an even break as their competition as possible.
The Edmonton Oilers came into today just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. That proximity is not because of their own success though, as almost every team vying for the wild card spots in the west have struggled to find any sort of consistency of late. In face, the Dallas Stars have gone 5-4-1 in their last ten and yet have still pulled ahead of the plummeting Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division. The struggles of the rest of the conference may be a blessing for the Oilers, who are still well within striking distance if they can figure out how to get the most out of their current roster, or make an addition to change up the on-ice dynamic.
It seems as though the front office has focused in on the latter of those two options, as Ryan Rishaug of TSN reports that the team has put on a “full-court press to find help at forward.” Rishaug goes so far as to say that the Oilers may be willing to part with their first-round pick, a goaltender and a young developing forward, though no specific players are mentioned.
With exactly six weeks left before the trade deadline, the league has been deemed a buyers’ market given the amount of teams that know they’re not ready to compete this season. That’s not the case for the Oilers, who can’t afford to waste another prime year of Connor McDavid on a playoff-less team. There’s unimaginable pressure on GM Peter Chiarelli to make this club a winner given McDavid’s talent, but so far the young forward has seen just 13 playoff games in his short career.
Part of that is because of the lack of secondary scoring in Edmonton, something that has plagued the team since McDavid came into the league (and even before that). The Oilers have three players with 40 or more points, but their fourth-highest scoring forward is Alex Chiasson with just 22. Chiasson’s 17 goals make him one of only four forwards with more than four, not counting the seven Drake Caggiula scored before being traded out of town.
Interestingly, one of the players with four goals is Jesse Puljujarvi. That name will immediately come to mind for anyone who reads “young developing forward” in Rishaug’s tweet, though there is nothing to indicate that is the player he is referring to. Puljujarvi has just seven points this season and 35 total in a 127-game NHL career, clearly not the production the team was hoping for when they picked him fourth overall in 2016.
If the Oilers are actually committed to improving through trade, there are certain to be a number of names available as the trade deadline approaches. Even if Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone don’t hit the open market, there have already been reports that teams like the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers are willing to listen on nearly any of their veterans, while other teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers will have to quickly decide what to do with some expiring assets.
- With the Flyers moving out Jordan Weal to Arizona earlier in the week, it’s a sign that they’re at least ready to start dealing some depth pieces. With that in mind, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall suggests that winger Michael Raffl and defenseman Christian Folin could be in line for a similar fate. Raffl has taken a step back offensively this season and has just two goals in 31 games but has scored at least 13 in three of the last four seasons which will help his market. Folin, meanwhile, has played a sparing role but as he’s a right-shot defender, there should be a little bit of interest. Both players are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.
The Washington Capitals look like they can breathe a sigh of relief as goaltender Braden Holtby was at practice Sunday after Columbus’ Cam Atkinson accidentally put his stick through a hole in Holtby’s mask into his left eye, forcing him to leave the game. It’s still unclear if the goaltender would start against St. Louis on Monday, the first of a back-to-back set, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.
“Obviously anything with your eyes is a little scary,” Holtby said. “It’s fortunate that it wasn’t anything too serious. You just move on. … I didn’t have the sight to keep going. I just wouldn’t have been a benefit to the team. it was one of those things. Eyes heal quickly, so just 24 hours and I’ll be back to normal.”
The incident on the ice Saturday in the second period and the immediate thought looked scary with many worrying that the team’s star goaltender could miss a significant amount of time. However, it looks like the injury isn’t as serious as originally thought. Head coach Todd Rierden said that the team doesn’t intend to recall a goaltender from the AHL at this moment with the general belief that the team could start Pheonix Copley Monday and start Holtby on Tuesday against Nashville on Tuesday.
- While there have been reports out of Pittsburgh that the team may be ready to move a defenseman, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that general manager Jim Rutherford may also be ready to move third-string goaltender Tristan Jarry as well. The 23-year-old and second-round pick in 2013 is a solid prospect, but with 24-year-old Matt Murray locked in as the starter and the fact that backup Casey DeSmith was recently extended for another three years, Jarry could be a nice trade chip. He has one more year at $675K before he hits restricted free agency, although his two-way deal will turn into a one-way deal next season. NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz adds, however, that goaltenders don’t often bring a lot back in trades, pointing out that Filip Gustavsson was a better prospect and he was just one part of a package to get Derick Brassard last season.
- Sam Carchidi of Philly.com writes that Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk has a 50-50 chance of playing Monday after being banged up Saturday against New Jersey. Van Riemsdyk, who has struggled with injuries as well as production, had one of his better games of the season, playing 17:01 and scoring a goal and adding an assist, despite the loss. The 29-year-old has two goals and two assists in the last two games.
- Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports that New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, who has missed 11 straight games with an upper-body injury, has had a slowdown in his recovery, according to head coach Barry Trotz. Hickey has been skating on his own, but was held out of the team’s last full practice on Wednesday. “We want to do what’s best for the player,” Trotz said. “I don’t know if it’s a setback. We just want to be cautious with it. He’s real important for us and we’re not trying to rush him at all. We back him off a little bit and that’s on trainers’ orders.”
While the Colombus Blue Jackets intend to start backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo against Washington Saturday, Sportsnet’s John Shannon writes the team intends to start Sergei Bobrovsky Sunday against the Rangers after the veteran goaltender did not dress Thursday after a team “incident.”
Bobrovsky practiced Friday and then made a statement to the media:
“I let my emotions get to me when I shouldn’t,” Bobrovsky said regarding the incident that caused him to miss Thursday’s game against Nashville to NHL.com. “I pride myself to being a good teammate all the times… We cleaned the air and we’re ready to move on.”
Bobrovsky worked with goaltending coach Manny Legace in Washington this morning while the rest of the team did not have a morning skate, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, suggesting that Bobrovsky is ready to return to the team.
“That’s what solving things and moving on is all about,” General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “Sometimes you can use these types of things to become tighter as a group and as a team. But it’s really important you always air them out face-to-face and you move past them and learn from it rather than letting it linger and doing the talking behind their back. That’s why we always bring it all out in the open.”
Of course, it seems more and more likely that Bobrovsky is heading elsewhere when the season ends unless the team truly considers moving him at the trade deadline. However, while many have suggested that Bobrovsky is heading to the New York Islanders this offseason, New York Post’s Larry Brooks suggests that Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello may already have a different plan with the impressive play of Robin Lehner so far this year. The scribe writes that Lamoriello has an amazing knack for finding impressive goaltenders throughout his tenure, including Martin Brodeur, Cory Schneider and Frederik Andersen as well as Lehner.
- The New York Rangers took another hit today as the team may have lost defenseman Fredrik Claesson for some time after Saturday’s game against the Islanders, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. Claesson hit the boards hard after a hit by the Islanders’ Matt Martin. While nothing official has been announced, head coach David Quinn said it “doesn’t look good.” Quinn also added that defenseman Neal Pionk could be ready Sunday to replace Claesson in the lineup although he’s still considered day-to-day.
- While the Philadelphia Flyers sent off forward Jordan Weal Friday to Arizona, The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription requried) writes that the team made the move because the 26-year-old was no longer in the team’s plans. The team got little in return other than a sixth-rounder and defenseman Jacob Graves, a 23-year-old currently playing in the ECHL, and included because the Coyotes were already at 50 contracts and needed to send one back in the deal. Weal, a favorite of former general manager Ron Hextall, was deemed expendable by new management, but the improved play of Phil Varone also may have had quite a bit to do with the move. Varone, a similar player to Veal, has played in 14 of the team’s last 17 games, while Weal has been a healthy scratch often of late.
If the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is deep at any one type of player, it is power forward. As the February 25th deadline grows closer and teams begin to make tough decisions about who goes and who stays, it is becoming clear that many big, physical scoring forwards are about to be up for grabs before they hit free agency. Just this past week, it was reported that the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds was likely to be moved and inferred that the Carolina Hurricanes and Micheal Ferland were unlikely to come to terms ahead of the deadline. And that’s just the beginning.
Outside of the 6’2″ Simmonds and 220-lb. Ferland, there are plenty of other names out there that fit the power forward mold. Since this summer, the New York Rangers’ Kevin Hayes has been earmarked for a deadline trade. If they cannot agree to an extension, the Ottawa Senators may be forced to move star Mark Stone. Should the New York Islanders or Colorado Avalanche fall out of the playoff race, Brock Nelson and Colin Wilson – neither of whom look like long-term fits on their respective teams – should be on the block. To some surprise, Patrick Maroon’s time with his hometown St. Louis Blues appears to be already running out. Even role player power forwards like New Jersey’s Brian Boyle and Florida’s Troy Brouwer should draw interest.
Many of these players feature on the trade bait lists from both The Athletic and TSN, as well as some non-UFA power forwards like the Blues’ Brayden Schenn, the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the Wild’s Nino Niederreiter, and even young Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers. While it may seem like too many names for too few teams – and it is a buyer’s market this year for sure – The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun mentioned a number of suitors for a power forward who could make a move for one or more of these trade candidates in the coming weeks. At the top, LeBrun sees some of the biggest contenders as likely landing spots, naming the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and Calgary Flames as good fits for Simmonds, Ferland, and the like. He also adds the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights into that group. Of course, the Bruins and Jets also have needs down the middle and could be more ideal fits for Hayes or Nelson, while the wingers would appeal more to Tampa Bay and Nashville. While LeBrun casts doubt on the Toronto Maple Leafs being interested, if an arms race begins the team could feel pressured to add to their forward corps as well. The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, both in need of secondary scoring, could also jump in on the action, while the Patric Hornqvist injury could prompt the Pittsburgh Penguins to make another move.
With so many power forwards potentially available and prices expected to be low, it could be that the majority of playoff-bound teams decide to add a hired gun up front this season. You can never have too much size and grit in the postseason, not to mention scoring touch, and the 2019 deadline could be defined by many players possessing those exact traits heading to new teams. With plenty of talent available, one of the aforementioned players might just end up being the x-factor for the eventual Stanley Cup champions this year.
- Flyers goaltender Anthony Stolarz took part in a full practice today, reports Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News (Twitter link). He appears to be on track to return following the All-Star break. Stolarz has struggled this season, posting a 3.90 GAA and a .880 SV% in nine appearances but he will give Philadelphia another option between the pipes. They could then opt to waive the recently-acquired Mike McKenna or perhaps return Carter Hart to the minors although that scenario seems unlikely at this point given how the youngster has fared so far. The Flyers carried three goalies earlier in the season and could do that again although they’d need to free up a roster spot first to do so.
A day of minor trades continues with a somewhat more high-profile swap between the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes. The third deal of the day sees forward Jordan Weal heading to Arizona in exchange for a 2019 sixth-round pick and ECHL defenseman Jacob Graves, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and later confirmed by the teams. Weal is an impending unrestricted free agent.
While it may seem strange that the Coyotes, just three points ahead of 30th-place Flyers in the league standings, are acquiring a rental player, one look at Arizona’s injury report will help to explain the move. The team has been without Christian Dvorak all season, lost Nick Schmaltz for the remainder of the year, have been missing Michael Grabner since early December, and today added Brad Richardson to the injured reserve. The team is sorely lacking in NHL-caliber forwards and found one in Weal for a relatively affordable price. Weal is likely to slide into a top-nine role for the Coyotes and could treat the opportunity as a tryout for a new contract, so as to avoid what might be a quiet off-season market for his services.
Weal, 26, is just two years removed from a season in which scored better than a point-per-game in the AHL for a half season and better than a half point-per-game with the Flyers for the other half. At 24, Weal hit the open market as a Group 6 UFA, but Philadelphia paid to keep him around with a two-year contract worth $1.75MM per year, despite having less than half a season of NHL experience. He has fallen short of expectations as a full-time player, recording 21 points in 69 games with the Flyers last season and just nine points through 28 games this year, serving as a frequent healthy scratch over both campaigns. Where Weal has excelled this season is at the face-off dot, with an impressive 59.7% mark. He has also been a strong possession player, holding a 54.8 Corsi For % that trailed only Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny among Flyers forwards. The scoring has simply been lacking from Weal, an issue that the struggling Flyers could not afford to let him work out. While Weal may seem like just another depth piece on a Coyotes team filled with similar players, GM John Chayka will likely take a look at him in a variety of situations to see whether or not he would be a long-term fit in Arizona. Don’t rule out the possibility that he could be traded again before the deadline – or waived – if he gets off to a poor start. Regardless, Weal certainly wasn’t going to be a fit moving forward in Philadelphia and new GM Chuck Fletcher will be happy to land a draft pick for a player he planned to let walk.