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The Edge of Lori: An odd business

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise The Toronto Maple Leafs are not messing around. With just a few days to the deadline, General Manager Kyle Dubas has been active and will likely continue to be until Friday’s deadline. Last weekend, Dubas pulled off a blockbuster three-team trade with the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild, who were added to the deal to retain part of O’Reilly’s salary. The Leafs obtained one of the top centres on the market in Ryan O’Reilly, depth centre Noel Acciari, and the rights to centre prospect Josh Pillar. Nothing comes cheap at the trade deadline, and Dubas paid dearly for this package. The Maple Leafs sent their 2023 first round pick, along with three additional picks and forwards Adam Gaudette and Mikhail Abramov. That’s a lot of futures, but no one in Toronto will care if the additions bring success in the present. This is easily the biggest deadline deal of Dubas’ tenure, but he’s probably not done. This week the team announced Jake Muzzin was done for the season, and that likely means they will add another defender. We also have to wonder if Dubas is comfortable with the current situation in net. A lot is riding on this post-season, and it appears that the Leafs are all in. The Ottawa Senators also got in on the action, dealing depth forward Tyler Motte to the New York Rangers for forward Julian Gauthier and a late pick. Then on Wednesday night they dealt Nikita Zaitsev along with second and fourth round picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations. In layman’s terms, the Sens paid Chicago dearly to rid themselves of a bad contract. GM Pierre Dorion has wanted to add a veteran defender all season, and perhaps this transaction indicates he is closer to doing so. The Sens may not be deadline buyers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take advantage of an opportunity to improve their team when others are selling. Also on Wednesday, LTIRetired Defenseman Shea Weber was traded for the second time since he played his last game. After acquiring his contract this past summer, the Vegas Golden Knights traded it to the Arizona Coyotes for depth defenseman Dysin Mayo and a 5th round pick. Sometimes the business of NHL hockey is odd. Weber played for two teams, was traded to two teams he’ll never play for, and never played one game for the only team he actually chose. If you’re struggling with this riddle, recall that in 2012 Weber signed an offer sheet and was a Philadelphia Flyer for a minute before Nashville matched the offer. The trend of healthy scratching players for “trade related reasons” continues. Tyler Motte was added to the list by Ottawa but was traded shortly thereafter, a more traditional use of the healthy scratch. The latest name on the list is Vancouver’s Luke Schenn, who returned from Vancouver during a road trip because the Canucks wanted to protect their asset. Schenn joins blueliners Jacob Chychrun and Vladislav Gavrikov. One theory that had surfaced is that these players may have already been traded in handshake deals that cannot be made official until the receiving team is able to make a separate deal to clear cap space. That’s where things stood at press deadline. By the time you’re reading this more deals will be done, and we will officially be on the final runway before the deadline. Your favourite team might look a little different by the time you shut down for the weekend again. So here are some predictions for a few of your favourite teams. The Montreal Canadiens will not be able to make many of the moves they hoped to because injuries have wrecked them. But Kent Hughes has said he wants a third first-round pick in this upcoming draft, so I’m looking for him to pull a rabbit out of his hat. The Toronto Maple Leafs will add another significant piece or two. Everyone in the Big Smoke is tired of the first round exit schtick, and jobs might depend on the Leafs going deep this Spring. It feels like this may be their year to make a dent. The Boston Bruins may be the team mostly likely to get in Toronto’s way in the East. They are having a renaissance season, and they will want to go on another run in what might be the final season for a couple of their big guys. They’re rumoured to be in one of those handshake deals for a defenseman. In the West, the Colorado Avalanche have recovered from their Stanley Cup hangover but have not recovered from the loss of Nazem Kadri. Will Sean Monahan return to the Habs line-up in time for the Avs to swing a deal to strengthen their second line centre position? The Edmonton Oilers have the fire power to be a force in the post-season, but everyone knows they’re weak in their own end. With Colorado even a little vulnerable, the Oilers should see the opportunity to add a stay at home defender and a forward or two with a defensive conscience. The Calgary Flames are a mess and could become next season’s Vancouver Canucks if they don’t get it together. I wonder if a coaching change will be their biggest deadline move.

Raptors Racket Time is running out for the Toronto Raptors to get their act together and improve their lot for this season. The trade deadline is in the rear-view mirror, and fans and pundits are still puzzling over management’s decision to make one solo move, and a buyer’s move at that. Jakob Poeltl is a nice addition, and he has settled into the familiar Raptors environment, but Toronto is firmly in no man’s land. If they continue at the same pace, they are likely to finish at the bottom of the play-in tournament group. That positioning would mean they’d have two must-win road games, with their best outcome being a playoff berth against the top seed and an almost certain first round exit. You can see why most expected the Raptors to sell and improve their odds at the draft lottery, even with the memory of a championship parade still fairly fresh in our minds. But President Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster chose not to sell. They stood pat, really, with the minor addition of Poeltl. Presumably, they’re not prepared to give up on this group, and they’re crossing their fingers that the Raptors can go on a run and improve their positioning for the play-in. They’d better get at it with just over a quarter of the season remaining.

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