Is Nonis ready to make a big splash?
Matthew Sekeres discusses the decisions that lie ahead for Canuck GM Dave Nonis on the NHL trade deadline day:
The decision facing Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis today is one that could alter the course of the NHL franchise.
A trade for Tampa Bay Lightning centre Brad Richards would not only be a huge splash and declare that Nonis believes this is Vancouver's year, but it would also set off a chain of roster moves over the coming months and years.
If, in fact, the Lightning intend on trading the 27-year-old and his massive contract, and if the Canucks are one of three suitors whom Richards might waive his no-trade clause to join, then it sets up some interesting hours in advance of today's NHL trade deadline.
Nonis has made no secret he is looking for scoring help and depth at centre, especially minus an injured Brendan Morrison, is the club's biggest weakness.
Plus, because of injuries this season, the Canucks have been able to develop greater organizational depth with the maturation of defenceman Alexander Edler
, forward Mason Raymond
and, to a lesser extent, defenceman Luc Bourdon — meaning Nonis might feel well-positioned to deal some of the future for an injection of the present.
Vancouver has the main ingredient for any Stanley Cup run — a world-class goaltender in Roberto Luongo
— and should get a boost from Morrison, who is due to return from wrist surgery in mid-March.
Take those elements and add a season-best four-game winning streak, and you can see why Nonis might be tempted to deal for an impact player such as Richards. Richards has averaged 73 points per season over his career, has never scored less than 62 points, and already has a Conn Smyth Trophy on his mantelpiece.
In the NHL's presalary cap era, the risk of trading a young roster player, such as Edler or centre Ryan Kesler
, for an expensive one like Richards would have been easier to absorb. Nonis could have replaced an Edler or Kesler on the free-agent market, assuming ownership was willing to spend the money.
But the NHL now resembles rotisserie baseball. A player's value isn't measured solely by his production, but by his per-dollar production. On that front, Kesler and Edler rank arguably at the top of Vancouver's list, earning $1.75-million and $550,000 (U.S.), respectively.
With nine players set to become free agents next season, the Canucks could free up as much as $15-million in cap. That means they have just $34-million committed for next season, including a total of $5-million in raises for Luongo, defencemen Kevin Bieksa
and Sami Salo
, on a cap that should be at about $53-million.
Richards, meanwhile, is due to make $7.8-million in each of the next three years.
Nonis can fit that salary under the cap, but it ties up much of the money that would be coming back to him should he choose not to resign pending free agents Morrison, Markus Naslund, Matt Cooke and Aaron Miller.
Together, that quartet earn $12.2-million this year. Should Nonis walk away from all those players, he would need to replace three of them (Richards takes Morrison's place) for $4-million, and that presumes a Kesler or Edler isn't used to land Richards.
In other words, making a Richards-for-Edler or Richards-for-Kesler deal in the cap era is a major gamble. It will limit the available dollars for the next three seasons, and it will take away one of Nonis's luxuries.
Dealing one of them not only means losing that player and having to replace him, it also means your roster loses built-in value because the replacements will not be as cheap, or as good.
Perhaps that is why a TSN report yesterday said the Canucks are only offering Tampa blue-chip prospects, such as goaltender Cory Schneider
, compared to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are reportedly offering three roster players, and the Dallas Stars, who are said to be dangling a package featuring burgeoning goalie Mike Smith.
If Nonis's believes this is an all-or-nothing spring, then stepping up and besting an offer from a Western Conference rival might be a prudent thing to do. But given that most players forming Vancouver's nucleus — Luongo, Kesler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin
and five core defencemen — are under contract for at least next year, if not longer, the Canucks' championship window should be longer.
For that reason, if not others, here's betting the Richards temptation isn't that great.
Forsberg opens trading floodgate: Avalanche strike first by signing Swede
Jim Matheson and Ken Warren said that the signing of Peter Forsberg in Colorado should be the factor that jump starts the trading market:
The Colorado Avalanche, with their noses pressed against the playoff glass, are hoping Peter Forsberg can be a difference maker.
The Avalanche won the bidding war to sign their former superstar on Monday, the eve of today's NHL trading deadline. The question remains whether the often-injured Swede can help, having not played since last spring.
Now attention has turned to other stars, like Atlanta's Marian Hossa and Tampa Bay's Brad Richards, who may be available on the market ... at the right price, of course.
One deal got the trade ball rolling Monday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning sent forward Vaclav Prospal to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Alexandre Picard and a second or third round draft pick in 2009.
The Bolts made another big move late Monday, signing veteran blueliner Dan Boyle to a six-year contract extension worth a reported $40 million.
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, an interested bystander, applauded the Avs Monday for plucking Forsberg from under everyone's noses.
"Great pickup for them ... he should help them down the stretch run to make the playoffs," said Holland, whose Wings brought back an old, familiar face Monday in signing veteran tough guy Darren McCarty to a one-year contract for the NHL minimum ($475,000) pro-rated over the final quarter of the season.
"I enquired about Peter a couple of times, the first was when we were coming out of the work stoppage [when he signed in Philadelphia], and last year at the trade deadline I talked to Paul Holmgren [Flyers GM] and Paul traded him to Nashville instead," continued Holland. "Then in November or December I talked to Peter's agent, Don Baizley, but it became apparent, we weren't a candidate."
Maybe Forsberg, who signed a pro-rated one-year contract with Colorado, will perform like Teemu Selanne, who hasn't missed a beat since his return to Anaheim.
Or he could be like Todd Bertuzzi, who didn't give the Red Wings much last February after missing most of the year with back surgery.
Forsberg's sore foot has given him troubles for some time, but Forsberg on one leg might be better than 70 per cent of the current NHLers on two. And the clock's ticking on the Avs, who sit 10th in the Western Conference, four points behind the Predators with 19 games to go heading into tonight's game in Calgary and Wednesday's date at GM Place against the Canucks.
Forsberg, in a prepared statement, said he was tickled to be returning to Denver, where he won two Stanley Cups, recording 741 points in 580 games over nine seasons, before going to Philadelphia, then on to Nashville.
How effective can he be? In regular season play, when he scored a goal the Avs had an .832 winning percentage.
"I've worked extremely hard over the last several months to make this possible. I have so many great memories of playing in Denver," Forsberg said in a prepared statement.
"We're extremely excited that Peter has decided to come back and play for our franchise," said Avs GM Francois Giguere. "This addition should put us at a higher competitive level."
Avs captain Joe Sakic returned Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers after missing 38 games with a sports hernia. Paul Stastny (appendectomy, groin), has been back two games. Ryan Smyth (broken ankle) has played the last six games since his injury. Forsberg gives them a formidable group up front with Milan Hejduk, Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Brunette also in the mix.
That's fine for the Avs. For the NHL's 29 other teams, the focus is on Hossa and Richards.
The Ottawa Senators remain in the thick of the bidding to land Hossa. It's believed the Senators' chief competition for Hossa will come from two Northeast Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
Hossa, 29, who starred with the Senators from 1998 to 2004, has 26 goals and 30 assists in 60 games this season, but his exit from Atlanta was all but assured when he didn't sign a contract extension with the Thrashers over the weekend.
Much of the intrigue leading up to today's trade deadline focuses on the Lightning, one of the few NHL teams definitely out of the playoff mix.
Decisions made by OK Hockey -- the group that earlier this month entered into a working agreement to purchase the Lightning -- on how to deal with Richards and defenceman Dan Boyle could affect how much NHL teams will have to pay for players such as Hossa and Buffalo Sabres defenceman Brian Campbell.
Boyle re-signed late Monday to a six-year deal reputed to be worth $40 million.
He was to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
If Boyle hadn't re-signed, he would have been a valuable commodity on the trade market, if he had been willing to waive his no-trade clause. He would have fallen into the same category as Campbell, who has been unable to come to terms with the Buffalo Sabres on a contract extension.
Each is a smooth-skating, sharp-passing defenceman who can quarterback a power play.
With more players in play, though, the price for Campbell should drop.
With Boyle's new deal, the Lightning will likely trade Richards, who has a no-trade clause. Still, he could waive it for a chance to play a starring role with the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks or Columbus Blue Jackets.
Assuming Richards is available, he joins a pool of other big-name forwards who could be dealt today, including Hossa, Sergei Fedorov of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Olli Jokinen of the Florida Panthers, Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ladislav Nagy of the Los Angeles Kings. One player who definitely isn't going anywhere is Calgary Flames left-winger Alex Tanguay.
Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter told reporters on Monday, "I am not trading Tanguay."
Rumours have linked Tanguay, who has one year and $5.25 million remaining on his contract, to the Canadiens all season, but he also has a no-trade clause.