By Lori Bennett
The countdown is on. The NHL trade deadline for the 2021-22 season is March 21st at 3 p.m. EST. Get your vacation day requests in and be sure to check out my podcast that will cover all the wheeling and dealing!
Teams have been busy shuffling bits around and making minor deals in advance of the one of the busiest weeks of NHL business. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Kyle Clifford to a two-year contract extension. The Detroit Red Wings waived veteran defenceman Danny DeKeyser, to make room for a forward returning from injury, and perhaps with hopes he would be a more appealing to teams looking for playoff depth after clearing waivers.
Several teams made waiver claims – the Anaheim Ducks claimed D-man Andrej Sustr from Tampa, Detroit claimed Olli Juolevi from Florida, and the Islanders claimed Austin Czarnik from the Seattle Kraken. Not exactly earth-shattering moves.
The Philadelphia Flyers signed defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen to a five-year contract extension. This shrinks the list of available defencemen as the deadline approaches. The Seattle Kraken also extended Jared McCann, who was claimed from Toronto at the expansion draft. McCann is the leading scorer for the Kraken and became the first drafted player to re-sign with Seattle. I wonder if the Leafs look back at McCann in the way they look at most post-seasons – wondering what could have been.
On Thursday the Leafs announced Goalie Jack Campbell would be out for a minimum of two weeks. With Petr Mrazik flopping around his net like a flatfish on a wharf, the Leafs need help in net. Kyle Dubas may have a big task ahead to shore up his team at the trade deadline, but a couple of players are worth their weight in gold right now. Auston Matthews has been on an absolute tear and is a leading candidate to win the Hart Trophy. Meanwhile, Michael Bunting is making a case that he is the Rookie of the Year.
Speaking of rookies, this is the time of year when teams are looking to the NCAA to strengthen their rosters. As the college hockey season winds down, players developing in that system are considering their options.
The Montreal Canadiens are focused on Jordan Harris, who has been developing with the Northeastern Huskies. His college career is ending and the Habs have a brief window to ink him to a contract before he becomes a free agent. Harris was named the top defensive defenceman in the Hockey East Conference this week. He enters his final college playoffs this week as the Huskies face Boston College.
Speaking of Boston College, eyes are on Jack McBain, a big centre whose rights are currently owned by the Minnesota Wild. It has been reported that the Wild are not able to get him under contract and are listening to trade offers. According to local media, the Habs have reached out to the Wild to express interest. McBain leads his team with 29 points in 22 games this season and is projected to be a bottom six centre at the NHL level.
Owen Power, the first overall draft pick in 2021, is expected to shorten his college career at the University of Michigan and sign with the Buffalo Sabres at the end of his season. Hockey Insiders report that the Sabres are in the trade market for an experienced defenceman to play with Power and mentor him.
It was a bad week for NHL officials – is this even news? On Wednesday night, an Ovechkin hook on Zach Hyman was overlooked in overtime, but no damage was done as the Oilers still won. Then on Thursday night the Leafs battled back in a game against the Arizona Coyotes only to lose in overtime due to missed penalty calls on Matthews and Tavares. Also on Thursday, Avalanche Captain Gabe Landeskog opened a post-game presser with a lengthy speech about the officiating.
It sounds like the zebras are right ready for the playoffs.
On Thursday night Fred VanVleet returned from a five-day absence due to knee soreness and had 26 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs. With the win, the Raptors maintain their hold on seventh place in the conference with less than a month left in the regular season. They hope forward OG Anunoby, who has been out with a fractured finger, is able to return to the line up for the end of season run.
Blue Jays Babble
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached a deal to end the lockout. News broke on Thursday that the deal had been reached to end a 99-day lockout. The season is set to begin on April 7th, and the plan is to play a complete 162-game schedule. Spring training was due to open on Sunday, March 13th.
There are some noteworthy changes introduced in the new collective bargaining agreement, including expanding the playoffs to include 12 teams and a raise in the minimum salary.
With just three weeks to get ready, we’re about to see utter chaos. All the things that should have been happening over the winter – free agent signings and trades – will be compressed into three weeks. The Jays need infield help, particularly at third base, as well as a closing pitcher and bullpen help. They’ll be looking to improve on what was an impressive season last year, despite a disappointing end.
Okay Blue Jays! Let’s Play Ball!