Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love for the week of March 22, 2021.
The April 12th NHL trade deadline is approaching, leaving teams with three weeks to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers. Let’s look at the deadline through a North division lens.
The Ottawa Senators are confirmed sellers. The Sens are in a good place in their rebuild but still have unrestricted free agents (UFAs) that may be moved to contenders for picks and prospects. Forward Ryan Dzingel and defencemen Erik Gudbranson are noteworthy.
Throwing the season will not be easy for the Vancouver Canucks following last year’s success. They eliminated the reigning cup champions before a second-round loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. But they will be sellers and UFAs Alexander Edler, the veteran defenceman, and centre Brandon Sutter, are trade chips. They’d love to offload a bad contract, but in this environment that will be like trying to sell fire to the devil.
The other five Canadian teams are expected to be buyers, and some will compete for the same players. By the time you’re reading this, some deals will already be done.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for a top-six forward to strengthen what is already a powerhouse of a forward group. GM Kyle Dubas is on the record saying he is willing to trade a top prospect to get what he wants.
After renovating their forwards earlier in the season, the Winnipeg Jets desperately need to improve their defence group. Connor Hellebuyck is an elite goalie, but the crew in front of him needs help.
The Montreal Canadiens needed a left-side defenceman before they loss Ben Chiarot to injury. A veteran centre is also on the wish list to support their kids and help in the face off circle. Fans want Bergevin to swing for the fences, but this time of year he’s usually fonder of small ball.
As predictable as Christmas, the Edmonton Oilers are looking for scoring wingers to complement their elite centres. They should also be looking for a goalie, but far be it for me to suggest their stellar model to date should be revisited.
The Calgary Flames – not good enough to contend and iffy to make the playoffs – should not be confident buyers. But they didn’t just fire a coach and hire old flame Darryl Sutter so they could enjoy regular season moral victories. They will be cautious shoppers for a top-six right winger.
As is the case every trade deadline, some GMs have accepted their fate boldly and announced they are open for business. They will trade veterans for prospects and draft choices to rebuild for another window. I’m watching the Nashville Predators, the Anaheim Ducks, the New Jersey Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks, and expect significant trades for each.
The other certainty of every season is a train wreck or two – the teams that have come completely undone and are left with few options but sell and try to get it right next time. Let’s call this crowd the door crashers.
What in the name of Joey Smallwood is happening in Buffalo? A fired coach, a fortune spent on goal scorers that can’t score, and a miserable franchise player. The Sabres have some dandy pieces to move, but they’ll have to eat salary to make it happen. What would the Oilers give to turn James Neal into Taylor Hall with salary retained?
Hockey in the desert has been a struggle since it was just a gleam in Gary Bettman’s eye, but this iteration is special. Last season the Arizona Coyotes traded for Taylor Hall and were in “win now” mode. Hall left, and a new leadership is installed and focused on restocking a cupboard low on draft picks after a combine testing debacle. Wouldn’t it be delicious to see Phil Kessel back in Toronto?
The Columbus Blue Jackets have become the mother of all train wrecks. Every week is a new episode of “Who’s Being Benched?” There is an apparent gaggle of available players. I wonder who will be next to try and make Max Domi a top-six centre.
The Raptors were hit pretty hard by the coronavirus and quarantine rules and are officially outside of the playoff picture as of press deadline. The argument to sell Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell at the March 25th trade deadline is gaining strength on the daily.
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays open their season on April 1st against the New York Yankees, leaving Manager Charlie Montoyo 10 days to finalize his roster. On Wednesday, pitcher Thomas Hatch left the game due to discomfort in his pitching arm. He joins starting rotation hopeful Nate Pearson on the questionable health list.
The starting pitching rotation will continue to be a story for the Jays until they are able make a trade, perhaps using chips from their crowded outfield. A best guess for starters is Hyun Jin Ryu as the ace, followed by Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark and Steven Matz. If healthy, Pearson will also be a starter.
Spring is finally here folks. You’re probably excited enough to wet your plants.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.