In a season where it appears as if trades will be occurring less frequently than normal, it was a pair of deals that grabbed the headlines in the NHL over the past seven days and they are highlighted among the key stories of the week.
Change Of Venue: The 2021 World Hockey Championships were slated to be held in Latvia and Belarus but the search is on for a new partner for Latvia after the IIHF announced that they were pulling the portion from Belarus due to the ongoing political unrest. As of now, the plan remains to hold the tournament as scheduled beginning on May 21st but they will either need to find another city to serve as co-host, see if Riga can host the entire event, or look for a new host entirely with Latvia getting another opportunity in the near future. With the tournament less than four months away, it’s a decision that will need to be made sooner than later.
Capitals Hit By COVID: While there have been teams with multiple players on the COVID Protocol list, there hadn’t been any fines for players’ conduct until the league levied a $100K fine to Washington to four of their players not adhering to protocols. Goalie Ilya Samsonov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, and winger Alex Ovechkin were all in the same hotel room without a mask and Samsonov wound up testing positive for the virus. As a result, all four have placed on the COVID Protocol list, making them ineligible for at least four games. Two of those have been played already with the other two coming next week.
Blockbuster: Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic, and Pierre-Luc Dubois had all made it clear that they would welcome a change of scenery and they all got their wish as they were traded for each other, as Laine and Roslovic went to Columbus for Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick. Winnipeg also retained 26% of Laine’s contract (which expires after this season) and Roslovic received a two-year, $3.8MM contract. Winnipeg has been seeking a second impact center that isn’t just a rental acquisition and gets that in Dubois while Laine, who went one spot before Dubois in the 2016 draft, gives the Blue Jackets one of the elite scoring wingers in the league while Roslovic should fit in their middle six. The trade deadline is still more than two months away but there’s a good chance this winds up as the biggest swap of the season.
Ekman-Larsson Out: The Coyotes will be without their top defenseman for a while as Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s lower-body injury, which was originally listed as a day-to-day issue, will now cause him to miss the next three-to-four weeks. The 29-year-old has logged at least 23 minutes per game over each of the last eight seasons, leaving a big hole to be filled. On top of that, they had been dealing with work visa issues for Ilya Lyubushkin so the Russian, who played 51 games for Arizona last season, has yet to be available for them as well.
Avs/Wild Swap: There was another trade in the NHL with Minnesota acquiring blueliner Ian Cole from Colorado in exchange for Greg Pateryn; the Avalanche also paid down $800K of Cole’s $4.25MM price tag. On paper, it’s a big upgrade for the Wild as they add an upgrade to their third pairing at the expense of someone whose role had been limited. Meanwhile, Colorado still preserves some cap room and also opened up a spot on the left side of their blueline for top prospect Bowen Byram who has gotten into his first two career NHL games since the swap.
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