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LeBrun’s grumble: Lure NHL commercial candidates (O’Reilly? Horvat?) and potential deadline buyers emerge in early 2022-23

LeBrun’s grumble: Lure NHL commercial candidates (O’Reilly? Horvat?) and potential deadline buyers emerge in early 2022-23

It’s only been a month into the NHL season, and we can already start thinking about potential scenarios for the March 3 trading deadline.

Including, perhaps, some things we weren’t expecting.

Take the Blues, for example, mired in an eight-game losing streak, and they already had their general manager, Doug Armstrong, warning of the potential consequences if there was no turnaround.

I mean, who saw this coming for the blues?

It can have implications for the trade deadline for a few players.

The two names who jump in waiting for unrestricted free agents are Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, although the latter has a complete no-trade clause, so all roads will pass through it.

But O’Reilly, winner of the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff player of the year, could be a somewhat desirable target near March 3 if the Blues don’t save their season. He didn’t play well early in the season, with two points (both goals) and a minus -12 rating over 11 games, but I think his efforts will give the contenders enough confidence to take a serious look.

The pre-season plan for the Blues and O’Reilly camp, led by veteran client Pat Morris of Newport Sports, was to return to each other in the new year in connection with the extension. But if the Blues season is out of reach for preservation, given Armstrong’s comments last week, it’s hard to envision an extension in that scenario for O’Reilly, who turns 32 in February.

O’Reilly doesn’t have any non-commercial protections, so the Blues will have an open field to work with if they decide to go down that path in a few months. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be easy to absorb his $7.5 million success with so many contenders in the final. The Blues will have to be willing to eat 50 percent of that and/or bring in a third-party broker team to cut the cap.

If they did, I would have to imagine the market would be in good health for a proven winner and such a reliable two-way position.

But it may not be the only center of this type in the market.

While the Canucks continue to suggest they still hope to re-sign UFA commentator Bo Horvat — head of hockey operations Jim Rutherford mentioned it last week in an interview on Sportsnet Vancouver Radio, a week after he was told the same thing — I think the rookie truth is that unless a team starts Canucks in similarity with the supplement team so soon, it makes a lot of sense to feel the commercial market for the 27-year-old Canucks captain, who has begun his stinging attack on the season, with 12 goals and 16 points in 14 games.

Horvat doesn’t have non-commercial protection, so it’s as clean a run for the Canucks as they are able to talk to any team. And they’ll have a lot of interest, especially if they’re willing to eat some of his $5.5 million in revenue to maximize the return.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even non-playing teams with a commercial interest in Horvat, to get a quick start on July 1 and sign him to an extension.

Then there’s Jonathan Toews. I reviewed Patrick Kane’s Trade Scenario last month, but only briefly touched on his friend Toews, for the obvious reason that Kane would be the most sought after item – still one of the best offensive players in the world.

But Toews, 34, in its opening month, is playing his best hockey game in two years in the top six, with seven goals and nine points in 12 games. He had only 12 goals in 71 games last season.

What remains to be seen is whether Toews actually wants to be dealt with. It controls the process with complete immobility. And there’s the problem of hitting his massive maximum cap of $10.5 million, which would definitely require a third-party broker team. If Chicago and another team both keep 50 percent on it, that blow will drop to $2.625 million.

In this issue, the contenders will surely be fascinated.

All of this brings us to one obvious suitor when it comes to a potential trade for O’Reilly, Hurvat or Toys: Colorado.

Current Stanley Cup champion, Avalanche, runner-up Nazem Kadri lost to the Flames in free last summer, and I’m convinced they’ll try to get out and replace him – even if only in the playoffs this year – near March. 3 Deadline for trade.

O’Reilly, Horvat and Toews would all be a good fit for the second line in Colorado.

Hurvat will be the most expensive acquisition, but it’s worth noting that the Avs still have their pick in the first round of the June NHL Draft. (Canucks will definitely want to choose the first round as part of a larger package.)

Toews, by virtue of its complete inaction, limits Chicago’s ability to make a real market, so it’s probably the cheapest to get, in terms of assets, although someone would have to pay an asset to an outside broker to participate.

Healthy Sean Monahan (also UFA suspended) from Montreal could be another option for Colorado.

But if I’m at Avs GM Chris MacFarland and I’m looking to bolster my lineup for a chance to repeat, O’Reilly and Toews are the guys I’ll meet near March 3 – two winning leaders and an understanding of what it takes to match time.

It would be ironic, of course, if O’Reilly ended up again in Denver, where he started his NHL career, especially given what happened there. As you might remember, he signed a $10 million two-year offer sheet with Flames in February 2013 to get out of lockdown, which Avs reluctantly matches. This eventually led to his June 2015 trade to Buffalo. But a lot of time has passed since then. I can’t imagine Joe Sakic would hold that kind of grudge.

rent defense market

It’s still early days here, but there are already three suspended strikers in the UFA that deserve a mention before March 3.

John Klinburg will be the frontrunner in defense among the pending UFAs, having signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Anaheim late in free agency last summer, knowing full well that flipping the trade deadline could be part of the plan. It’s the same kind of scenario the Canadians tried to sell Klingberg over earlier in the season, offering him a one-year deal, but he refused at the time. Habs had a volatile view of the trade deadline, which the ducks will likely do unless they decide to extend it.

Klingberg’s contract with the Ducks actually contains a full no-trade clause until January 1 and then moves to partial no-trade, which includes a list of 10 teams he can trade with.

His fellow Ducks teammate Kevin Shattenkirk is also a UFA suspended, and he’d easily manage $3.9 million from AAV in the trade. Shatenkirk has a rebranded roster of 12 teams that cannot be traded without his approval. That list was introduced out of season.

Finally, if Wild is out of competition this season, UFA blueliner Matt Dumba will likely serve as commercial bait. He has a no-trading list of 10 teams. It may be part of the trade discussions even if Wild stays in the playoff race, as part of the hockey trade to increase Minnesota’s roster.

(Top image by Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)



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