NHL Rumour Roundup: Will Canadian buyers be at a trade disadvantage?

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Ahead of a brief St. Louis Blues road trip to Vancouver and Calgary on Sunday and Monday, Justin Faulk was asked about playing north of the border and if it was a sign of things starting to return to normal. Faulk had a surprising answer, one the Flames poked fun at after they beat the Blues 7-1.

“Not looking forward to going Canada one bit, but we’ll play some hockey games and get it over with and then come back,” Faulk said. “It just seems to be that things are going a little bit differently up there than they are here. I like where we’re at in this country.”

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On its own, one player’s opinion about travelling into a country with greater restrictions isn’t the end of the world. However, when the number of NHLers who share in that frustration grows, then the ability of Canada’s seven teams to acquire their top targets in trade or free agency may come into question.

Faulk isn’t the first to hold this opinion. Ontario protocols were one reason Zach Bogosian left the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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“I had a couple guys tell me this morning that Justin Faulk comment about Canada is a bad omen for the trade deadline,” Elliotte Friedman said Tuesday on The Jeff Marek Show.

“How many Canadian teams here will be buyers? I think Toronto is a buyer. Calgary is a buyer. Edmonton, we’ll see. I want to see how that straightens out … but I’m just wondering if these teams are thinking if we have to buy, we have to buy up here.”

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Not every player is in control of their destination of course, but this could add a negative wrinkle into not only the trade deadline market, but the off-season free agent market, when players are in full control.

Faulk is not believed to be a player who could be moved from St. Louis any time soon, but if his comments are an indication of what a certain sector of players are feeling, then Canada’s buyers could be at a disadvantage and working within a narrower market.

“I do know one player right now, and he won’t confirm it, but I know it’s true,” Friedman said, “I do know one player who’s pretty prominent who already said to his team, ‘Don’t even think about Canada.’”

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, whose building is under a capacity limit of 500, aired his frustration on the provincial limitations.

“They’re misinformed and they’re miscalculated,” Melnyk told the Ottawa Sun. “They should be challenged and they will be challenged.”

The trade deadline is a little under two months away and restriction policies may yet change in various provinces before then, or certainly before next season. But this remains unpredictable and the uncertainty of where things will go in the coming months could be enough of a deterrent for some to not choose to play in Canada even into next season.

It’s a major factor to keep an eye on for the Canadian teams who want to make an upgrade.

NHL Rumour Roundup: Will Canadian buyers be at a trade disadvantage?
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NHL Rumour Roundup: Will Canadian buyers be at a trade disadvantage?
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CLAUDE GIROUX’S FUTURE ‘WILL BE HIS DECISION’

The Flyers have not won a game since Dec. 29 as their attempt to make off-season shake-up moves to bring better results appears to have failed.

Philadelphia is now 24 points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division and 16 points behind Boston for the East’s second wild-card spot. The Bruins also have four games in hand. In fact, the Flyers have played among the most games in the league so far.

GM Chuck Fletcher spoke to the media Wednesday where tough questions were asked about the state of the team, and what the plan is from here.

“There’s no question we need more top-end talent,” Fletcher said. “We have some good young players and some of those players their career arc is still going to play out, but we do need more top-end talent, there’s no question. I do believe there’s a group of players here that can be part of a winning core, but we definitely need to add more pieces and that’ll be the focus going forward.”

One of the biggest questions is how the team handles Claude Giroux, the captain who has been with the Flyers since they drafted him 22nd overall in 2006. It would be excruciating to part with him, but at 34 years old, on an expiring contract and with the Flyers reeling and sliding well out of the playoff picture, it might be the best move to get assets for a playoff difference-maker now and explore the possibility of re-signing him back later.

In his 32 Thoughts column Tuesday, Friedman floated the Colorado Avalanche as a potentially interested trade partner as they eye a Cup run.


Video: How Canada’s elite athletes fuel for performance at the Canadian Sport Institute (cbc.ca)

Fletcher spoke about Giroux’s future with the team amidst an acknowledged need to make further change to the roster.

“He’s one of the best Flyers to ever play. He’s been our best player this year. Nobody cares more about the Flyers than he does. We have to recognize what we’re dealing with here. He’s a franchise icon,” Fletcher said. “But Claude has a no-move clause in his contract. Ultimately, it will be his decision. We’re two months until the trade deadline … we’ll continue to have conversations and ultimately a decision will have to be made. But it’ll be Claude’s decision.”

Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers has been amazing this season again. One of the most underrated players in the NHL. He really, really deserves a chance to win Stanley Cup. It’s unreal how the Flyers wasted his time in Philadelphia.

And I’ll cry, I’m not ready for this. pic.twitter.com/YBQnrgCKzT

— Andy & Rono (@HockeyStatsCZ) January 24, 2022

The Flyers will also have to make a decision on other pending UFAs such as Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle, who set the new ironman record Tuesday night. Beyond that, with attendance slipping, losses piling up, and general frustration in the organization and around the city, there are some who are wondering if the Flyers will take the opportunity to tear it all down and start again. That is probably not where this goes.

“I don’t see this being a three-, four-, five-year rebuild at all,” Comcast Spectactor Chairman and CEO Dave Scott said. “We have a core group to build on. I think as we look at the reality of it two, three pieces would be great. Maybe a little more.

“We should get this thing right and be in it next year.”

Scott also threw his support behind Fletcher as the GM who will guide the Flyers through these next difficult steps.

“I think he deserves a shot to really right this thing. I’m going to give him a blank cheque to get this right.”

MILLER A HOT TRADE TOPIC IN VANCOUVER

Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford is adding key pieces to his new front office, with the hiring of assistant general manager Émilie Castonguay on Monday and of Patrik Allvin as GM.

Rutherford has been on the job since Dec. 9 and should have a much better grasp on his team and what direction he thinks they should go in. Amazingly, the Canucks have been 8-4-3 since Rutherford joined and are battling back into the playoff race with the midway point of the season (41 games) just passed. Vancouver is five points out of a spot, though, and has played more games than the wild-card challengers ahead of them.

It’s still a long road back to actually qualifying within the West’s top eight and Vancouver must still be thinking more about the long term. Because of this, the Canucks may arrive at trade season with a seller’s mindset and one name that is the talk of the town recently is J.T. Miller.

Miller, who was traded to the Canucks in 2019 for a first-round pick, should hold greater value than a rental player both because he leads Vancouver with a point per game pace (40 in 40) and because an acquiring team would get at least two runs with him. Miller makes $5.25 million against the cap this season and next, and his actual salary dips to $4.5 million in 2022-23.

“I think it could be a little bit more (than a first and a highly touted prospect),” Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli told Sportsnet 650’s Halford and Brough earlier this week. “When you look at some of the first-round picks that have been given up, just think back to Nick Foligno last year, a first and two fourths? Nick Foligno was an expiring contract. You look back at Blake Coleman or Barclay Goodrow the sort of missing pieces … I think J.T. Miller is in that middle ground between (Jack) Eichel and those deals.”

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A number of rental forwards could be available to contenders, with Giroux and Phil Kessel among them. With the extra year, solid production and palatable cap hit and salary Miller brings, his value could spike and make a trade worth it for Vancouver. This would especially be true if a bidding war erupts.

“(The Rangers) are certainly not the only team that I think has expressed some significant interest in J.T. Miller,” Seravalli said. “The other three teams I’ve heard that have been on his list include the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames.”

Rutherford was asked about the Miller trade rumblings on Donnie and Dhali this week, and while he acknowledged teams have called and will call, Rutherford also noted the team really likes the player and fit he brings.

Rutherford on JT Miller trade rumours : He is our best forward, I really like him. Teams will call but when we have more voices (GM and AGM) we can make those decisions.

Donnie and Dhali

CHEK TV

— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) January 24, 2022

Will J.T. Miller or Jaroslav Halak be moved by the #Canucks before the deadline?@DhaliwalSports recapped that earlier today.https://t.co/h4e2SL3agJ pic.twitter.com/n4hji4hQed

— Donnie & Dhali (@DonnieandDhali) January 24, 2022

Rutherford has never been shy to strike deals and, according to Friedman, the feeling around the league is the Canucks president is preparing to strike.

“For the first time last weekend, I did have a couple teams say to me, ‘OK, Jim’s getting ready,’” Friedman told Halford and Brough. “I think he’s been a little cautious, I think he’s played it pretty smart understanding and getting to know what he’s got. But I think he’s starting to get ready, and now that his team is closer to being completely put together, I think he’s starting to look seriously at some things.”

Will Miller be the first domino? With Rutherford, you can’t count any option out.

“The one thing I felt about Miller is the Canucks have gotten calls on him for a year and a half,” Friedman continued. “Benning knew the market for Miller, and Rutherford knows the market for Miller. We’ll see what he decides. He could do anything because he’s not afraid.”

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WILL THE HABS THINK BIG IN TRADE, OR WAIT FOR THE OFF-SEASON?

Speaking of new Canadian front offices and a change in direction, the Montreal Canadiens crossed the halfway point of their season with the worst mark in franchise history. Some, or most, of that can be attributed to the many injuries that have piled up — their lineups these days look nothing like last year’s Stanley Cup finalist. But the conclusion remains the same that this team is in need of some sort of shakeup.

Ben Chiarot is the most obvious player who is expected to be moved by the March 21 deadline. A tough rental defenceman should be attractive to contenders. What could happen beyond that?

“I don’t anticipate it being a full blow-out explosion in Montreal where they’re going to get rid of everybody,” The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta said. “But there are a lot of players that other teams have interest in. Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak on the back end. Artturi Lehkonen is generating a ton of interest and Jonathan Drouin is also a player teams are looking at as a potential fit.

“I think the bigger names, (Brendan) Gallagher, (Carey) Price, I think the Canadiens and Kent Hughes will have conversations with them after the season to fully understand the direction.”

Who may be on the move from Montreal?@TheFourthPeriod | #NHLNow pic.twitter.com/NvLkOhGRNv

— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) January 25, 2022

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