Here’s what you need to know about the sports you love for the week of April 12, 2021.
You’re waking up and reading this on the NHL’s trade deadline day. By 3:00 p.m. EST, teams will complete their rosters to finish the season and for the playoffs.
COVID-19 presents challenges. The cap is flat. Some teams may have cap space but lack actual budget without fans in arenas. GMs are doing a cost-benefit analysis of adding complementary players who will have to quarantine.
The New York Islanders took the plunge on Wednesday night, Apr. 7 when GM Lou Lamoriello decided it was time to get the band back together. Lou made a deal with his former team, the New Jersey Devils, to acquire Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for AJ Greer, Mason Jobst, their 1st round pick in 2021 and a conditional 4th round pick in 2022. The Devils retained 50% of the salary on both departing players. Can you say buyer’s market?
Four Canadian teams are expected to be buyers. Having acquired veteran centre Eric Staal last week, the Montreal Canadiens are expected to add a defenceman, and perhaps a forward to help replace the injured Brendan Gallagher.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have made it known they want a goal scorer, but with Freddie Anderson injured they have to be thinking goaltending depth.
The Winnipeg Jets still need help on defence and may bob for more than one apple.
The Edmonton Oilers are looking for a top six forward and a top four defenceman – a tall order indeed.
In this market, I expect trades to break beyond the deadline as deals are finalized last minute. My prediction is that the biggest splash will come out of Toronto.
GM Kyle Dubas believes this is a contention year for his team and might be prepared to mortgage his mother to get ready for a long run. I won’t be surprised if Dubas makes several moves before shops close.
So where might these new players come from?My modest calculation is that at least 10-12 NHL teams should face the facts and sell some pieces to help themselves for the future. That makes for a flooded market, and a flooded market works in the favour of the buyer.
A couple of teams who were expected to be sellers have upped their game.
Arizona and Nashville may not be as wide open as previously thought. But there is a surprise team who may be on the list. It was just two years ago the St. Louis Blues hoisted the Stanley Cup, but they’re currently outside the playoff picture. GM Doug Armstrong, not exactly timid to make a deal, may use the opportunity to do some tweaking.
Restricted free agent defenceman Vince Dunn has been in trade rumours for some time. He is a young puck mover with upside that would be a good fit for the Habs or Jets.
The Blues also have a couple of unrestricted free agents to move for value. Forwards Tyler Bozak, Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman may be on the move for the right price. It would be quite the disappointment to go from that beautiful Blues jersey to a Leafs jersey, no?
Hoffman isn’t the only UFA signed just a few months ago to a one-year deal that may be on the move.
Taylor Hall signed in Buffalo with a plan to improve his stock playing next to Jack Eichel. But he was not predicting the gong show that would unfold there, and now he is in the bargain bin again.
Jim Rutherford, appearing on The Athletic Show podcast, expressed his expectation that “the flurry of deals will come after the Stanley Cup Final when teams are preparing for the expansion draft, the amateur draft and free agency.”
Here’s hoping he is wrong and another GM or two has inherited his brass balls before the trade deadline closes.
As of press deadline, the Raptors were two games back of the Chicago Bulls for the final play-in spot for the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Realistically, Toronto may be better served by a high draft pick than a play-in experience.
Blue Jays Babble
Also on Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced they had signed General Manager Ross Atkins to a five-year contract extension. Atkins spent 15 years in Cleveland prior to coming to Toronto in 2015.
Since joining the Jays, Atkins has taken the team to two post-season appearances in 2016 and 2020. On the field, we have seen early glimpses of the success Atkins enjoyed in the off-season.
Injuries continue to be a factor for the Jays. George Springer has been out with an oblique strain and was nearing return. But on Tuesday Springer’s training session was cut short due to tightness in his right quad. The plan for him is dependent on the outcome of further testing.
The Blue Jays continue to lean on pitching depth while they wait for Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson and Thomas Hatch to return from injury. Ray is anticipated to be the first to return.
“Accumulating injuries are the price we pay for the thrill of not having sat around on our asses.” ~ Mark Rippetoe
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