MONTREAL — I was chatting with a GM Wednesday morning when he made this common observation as the first round of the NHL draft approached.
“There are so many big names floating out there right now,” the GM said.
Well, of course we like to hear that.
And it’s not to say that all of the players he was referring to will postpone his week or at all, but the fact that so many of them are being discussed by teams certainly offers some possibilities.
For example, teams continue to call Vancouver through JT Miller. Rangers are again among those contenders, according to sources. No surprise, especially when Rangers fail to re-sign Andrew Copp. But there is a lot of interest in Miller. The Canucks could wait until next year’s close to move it, but I suspect it could get done this week if a team shows up with the package the Canucks are asking for.
Teams are cautiously approaching the Flames on Matthew Tkachuk, whose Newport Sports-led camp I think is sitting back and waiting to see how Johnny Gaudreau’s UFA situation unfolds before formalizing a game plan for their RFA client. Makes sense. They want to see how the dust clears and how strong the Flames remain as contenders before making any commitments.
Meanwhile, other clubs are calling to feel the flames on Tkachuk. It goes without saying that the Flames’ only intention at the moment is to sign Tkachuk long-term and keep him in the herd. But if he prefers to sign a one-year deal and bring himself to UFA in a year, that puts Calgary in a brutal position.
Sources also said Wednesday that teams began putting their best trade offers to the Blackhawks on Alex DeBrincat, a potential trade that would most likely require a first-round pick on Thursday. So a pressure point is developing on that front.
Then there’s the whole goalkeeping carousel, which is mostly influenced by four upcoming UFA goalkeepers in Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kümper, Ville Husso and Jack Campbell.
Agent Ben Hankinson is scheduled to meet with Avs GM Joe Sakic today regarding upcoming UFA goalie Darcy Kuemper…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 6, 2022
Kuemper’s agent Ben Hankinson was scheduled to meet with Avalanche GM Joe Sakic here in Montreal on Wednesday. The Stanley Cup champions have expressed a desire to bring Kuemper back. And the feeling is mutual. But does that mean an extension that both sides can live with?
If not, and Kuemper comes on the market, the domino effect will be real. So many people in the league see Colorado as the perfect landing spot for Fleury with Kuemper gone.
Incidentally, The Wild remained interested in bringing Fleury back from Wednesday, so that remains on the table. And as mentioned, the Maple Leafs could be another option for Fleury.
Meanwhile, the feeling is that Edmonton and New Jersey are the leading candidates for Campbell when he goes on the market next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington made inquiries about Campbell as well.
Finally, Husso’s agent Todd Diamond was scheduled to meet with Blues GM Doug Armstrong sometime this week. Hard to imagine the Blues could afford to bring back Husso with Jordan Binnington on a long-term contract; that would be a lot of dough in the net. The Leafs and Oilers could be among Husso’s options depending on how some of the other dominoes fall.
So, as always, the whole goalie thing is fun this time of year.
• Flames GM Brad Treliving is expected to meet with Johnny Gaudreau’s agent Lewis Gross in the next few days. Calgary needs clarity, one way or the other. That doesn’t mean the Flames will get said clarity. The team’s eight-year bid has now been sitting in front of Gaudreau for a month. But if they find out this week, say, that he won’t sign it, the Flames can at least try to make other moves on the trade front here around the draft to bolster offense. Although I’m not sure if there’s a move out there that replaces Gaudreau’s influence.
• Add Carolina to potential contenders for Claude Giroux along with Edmonton and Ottawa. The Hurricanes have prioritized adding some offense this offseason if possible, and are likely to lose Vincent Trochek and Nino Niederreiter to a free hand. I understand they discussed the possibility of going after Giroux. Meanwhile, Florida continues to try to figure out a way to bring Giroux back. But the Panthers’ cap situation isn’t helping things on that front.
• Aside from Mike Grier, who won Tuesday’s bid, there were four other finalists for the GM job in San Jose. Sources say Scott Nichol, Scott Mellanby, Ray Whitney and another mystery candidate were part of the final group. This mystery candidate has expressed to the Sharks that his name isn’t coming out, so we haven’t heard from him. I think Mellanby will find a job at another NHL front office soon, I hear. The Sharks’ GM search process was intriguing and exhaustive, starting with about 50 names, then interviewing 13 candidates before moving on to the final five. It’s indicative of Grier’s reputation that I’ve heard many people in the NHL excited about his appointment. He’s really very popular. Yes, the obvious problem is his lack of experience, but I was reminded that many years ago the Sharks turned the GM job over to Doug Wilson, who also didn’t have much front-office experience at the time. That turned out pretty good.
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