Chris Johnston's Inside the NHL Newsletter: Subscribe Here
Holy smokes. What a weekend!
As the New York Rangers made a series of cap-related moves to clear the decks for their expected acquisition of Patrick Kane before Friday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the New Jersey Devils sent out a siren call from the other side of the Hudson by landing Timo Meier in a Sunday evening blockbuster.
Here’s the real kicker: Those two teams are on a collision course to potentially meet in Round 1 of the playoffs.
When you step back and look at the flow of NHL trade activity in recent weeks, it’s hard to believe that there’s only room for one Eastern Conference team to play in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.
We’ve got at least six on that side of the bracket spending like contenders.
The Devils are in that conversation a year ahead of even they expected, and general manager Tom Fitzgerald rewarded his team’s strong performance by outbidding division rival Carolina and the always-aggressive Vegas Golden Knights to land Meier.
He gave up a heavy volume of picks and prospects, but didn’t part with anything that will weaken their chances of having a long playoff run this spring. In Meier they get a powerful winger scoring above a 40-goal pace and one who has one more year of team control remaining, although it comes with a pricey $10-million qualifying offer attached to it.
A longer-term extension could yet be worked out, but those talks will be put off for another day.
Trade:— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) February 27, 2023
Meier @ 50% (3M-RFA)
Hatakka Yr 2/3 851K-RFA
Mukhamadullin Yr 2/3 894K-RFA
Okhotyuk Yr 2/3 789K-RFA
“Carpe Diem!” seems to be the theme of this deadline period.
It was only a few weeks ago when the Rangers decided they weren’t going to wait around on Kane and instead acquired right-winger Vladimir Tarasenko and defenceman Niko Mikkola from St. Louis. They then committed more cap space to a subsequent trade for fourth-liner Tyler Motte. But as more time passed and it became clear that Kane remained open to waiving a no-movement clause for a move to Manhattan, they got to work on making it happen.
That included basically giving away former ninth overall pick Vitaly Kravtsov to Vancouver on Saturday in order to start accruing more cap space. They also waived Jake Leschyshyn and then dressed Braden Schneider and Ryan Carpenter for Sunday’s game against Los Angeles but chose not to play them because an injury to either would have further complicated the cap picture.
Add it all together and the Rangers should have created the room necessary to execute a deal for Kane by either Wednesday or Thursday.
It’s believed the framework of the trade with Chicago is already in place, including a third-party broker that will retain an additional 25 per cent of Kane’s cap hit.
Barring a last-second change of heart or unexpected hiccup, he’ll be the latest Western Conference talent headed east.
Bo Horvat has already gone from Vancouver to Long Island. Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari moved from St. Louis to Toronto. And Boston took advantage of Washington’s unexpected selloff by acquiring Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway.
A couple days remain before the NHL’s trading window closes, but no matter how those play out we are already guaranteed some real heartache when the playoffs start.
Six of the NHL’s top-seven teams as measured by points percentage are currently based in the East – the Bruins Hurricanes, Devils, Leafs, Lightning and Rangers – and at least two of those teams are guaranteed not to win a playoff round this spring.
Do you think the Leafs will be making any more moves before the deadline? Whether it be big splashes or depth bolstering? - @LuvTheFluff
I definitely expect them to make at least one more trade. They’re actively seeking upgrades. It was notable that the Leafs passed depth defenceman Jordie Benn through waivers over the weekend because that allows them to send him to the AHL and free up more cap space before the deadline.
Any updates on Erik Karlsson to the Oilers? Or are any other teams in on Karlsson? - @ComradeGuero
The talks between the Sharks and Oilers on Karlsson didn’t gain any momentum. My understanding is the sides weren’t able to get very far down the road because of the gap between how much salary Edmonton needed San Jose to retain in order to make the money work. Now, could that still change? You never say never, but it doesn’t seem overly likely.
Reading lots out there that Ken Holland is reluctant to make a big move and trade assets to land a big name player to help his club. A, how is that possible given the Oilers window? B, is this true? - @kevinstockman98
I wouldn’t label Holland’s approach as “reluctant.” It’s more like “stuck.” The Oilers are in a precarious cap position and have struggled to move out money all year long in order to free up more breathing room. That’s kept them out of some of the action we’ve seen already. I still expect to see Edmonton make moves before the deadline passes.
With Forsberg out for the season, are the Sens hesitant to move Talbot? Or does the play of Søgaard make them more comfortable to make that move? - @JordanMllls
The Senators made an attempt to sign Talbot to an extension earlier this season and are willing to part with the pending unrestricted free agent now. The goaltending market isn’t particularly robust at this deadline, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shipped elsewhere even with Ottawa’s current goaltending situation.
Will the Avs weaponize all this LTIR space? - @ProducerDrew_
This remains to be seen. The Avalanche need to be certain that both Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson won’t be able to return before the end of the regular season in order to make use of their LTIR cap space. That’s still not clear. Chris MacFarland is a little short on draft capital, too, which will limit what he can do.
What’s next for the Caps? - @ginheriju
They’ve got the ‘For Sale’ sign up on the lawn now. Any number of the pending UFA’s could still be moved – Lars Eller, Conor Sheary, Nick Jensen and Erik Gustafsson, among them. However, don’t expect this to become a full-scale rebuild. The Capitals promised Alex Ovechkin that they’d remain competitive as long as he was part of the team and that may result in them doing some buying at this deadline, too. Keep an eye on Jakob Chychrun as a possible target.
What now with Vladislav Gavrikov? - @jimboslice316
When Boston pivoted away from a potential deal for Gavrikov and acquired Dmitry Orlov instead, the Blue Jackets were left in a difficult spot. They had been seeking a first-round pick as part of the package for the bruising blue-liner and may have trouble getting that now. There isn’t believed to be another one of those out there for a rental. Should the price get lowered, teams like Toronto, Edmonton and Los Angeles could be brought back into the bidding.
Ongoing NHL scratches for "trade-related reasons," with the number of games missed so far:— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 27, 2023
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona (7)
Vladislav Gavrikov, #CBJ (7)
Luke Schenn, #Canucks (3)
Patrick Kane, Chicago (1)
Sam Lafferty, Chicago (1)
Tanner Jeannot, #preds (1)
Which Coyote moves first – Schmaltz, Chychrun, Gostisbehere, or Bjugstad – and most likely landing spot? - @MattMM88
It wouldn’t surprise me to see all four of these players gone by the deadline. Gostisbehere and Bjugstad should be relatively easy to ship out given that they’re rentals on low-cost contracts, and the interest in Chychrun continues to be high. Schmaltz is a little bit more of a wild card, but his name has started to surface quite prominently in trade rumours.
Are the Panthers buying or selling? - @solarbearfan
They’d ideally like to add with the team hanging around the wild-card race, but they don’t have a ton to offer right now. They parted with a ton of draft pick capital last season and are right up against the cap ceiling. Barring a surprise, this will be a quiet deadline for the Panthers.
How do you stay afloat during this time? When any break away from your phone could be a missed report or news break. - @ManiacMatt87
I’ve always been partial to the saying “do what you love and love what you do.” I feel very, very fortunate to call this a job. That disclaimer aside, though, my eyes are popping out of my head after being glued to the phone non-stop these last few weeks. My screen time will be down considerably starting Saturday.
Will there be any deals left for deadline day or will TSN be airing eight hours of skits featuring O'Neill, Duthie and the rest? - @MichaelZanette
There will be skits! I’m sure I’ll catch some grief for the outfit I’m wearing in one of them. And worry not – there’s still going to be plenty of trades, too.
👏 Parting Thought
Tip of the cap to David Poile, who is stepping down from his job as Nashville Predators GM at the end of June and handing over the chair to Barry Trotz. Poile has held that position for nearly 26 years and he’s still making trades today. He’s also one of the finer gentlemen you’ll ever encounter.