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The Edge of Lori: April 5, 2021

Earl Grey may not get to watch his Sens in the playoffs, but his eyes will be peeled for the trade deadline. – © llcway (via Instagram)

Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love!

NHL Noise

It looked like the April 12 NHL trade deadline would become much ado about nothing, but then Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin broke the ice with the first significant trade leading up to the deadline. The Habs sent 3rd and 5th round draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres for veteran centre Eric Staal.

The Sabres retained half of Staal’s salary to make the deal work. Bergevin has now stockpiled six players who have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, and you can be sure those guys are not in Montreal to be collectibles.

A day later the Canadiens added a goal scorer when they signed Cole Caufield to his entry level contract. Caufield was the Habs first round pick (15th overall) in the 2019 draft and is expected to be a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the player voted best in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey. Caufield will report to Laval following quarantine but will doubtless get a look in Montreal before the regular season ends. To make that happen, Bergevin will have to clear some cap space, so the wily GM is not done yet.

On Tuesday, March 30, the Philadelphia Flyers placed defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere on waivers. At noon on Wednesday, he cleared.

“The Ghost” is just two seasons removed from a 37-point campaign, and three seasons from 65 points. But his game has suffered since Alain Vigneault became head coach in 2019 and brought with him Talent Whisperer Michel Therrien. Ghost comes with a $4.5 million cap hit for two seasons after this.

The Flyers, in the meanwhile, have been labouring like a sloth on a treadmill, and are in tough to make the playoffs. It was speculated that that placing Gostisbehere on waivers was an attempt to clear cap space in anticipation of a big move, perhaps to add a goalie with Carter Hart also struggling. Nothing had materialized as of press deadline.

The Habs and Flyers are not the only teams tight to the cap. In the North division, the Leafs, Oilers and Jets would all like to add talent for a playoff run but will need help on the salary cap to swing a deal.

Several teams are strong options to make a trade and absorb a bad contract, including the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils. In the North Division, the Ottawa Senators are sellers who can weaponize their cap space at the deadline.

The Sens are in last place in the division and have several UFAs that will be of interest to teams, including Ryan Dzingel and Erik Gudbranson. But they also have significant cap space and hope to be able to land some assets that come as sweeteners from teams hoping to offload bad contracts.

Suppose Montreal, looking for a depth defenceman, wanted Gudbranson. Suppose they were willing to offer a 5th round pick, but then Ottawa agreed to take the Paul Byron contract in return. Does that 5th then become a 3rd? Or Perhaps a prospect is added?

Similarly, what might Philly be willing to offer the Sens to take Gostisbehere? What if the Oilers wanted Dzingel for scoring help, and the Senators were willing to take James Neal in return? What would Edmonton be prepared to add to be free of that monster contract?

In a flat cap season, cap space becomes an asset. By the time you’re reading this, a deal or two of this ilk may already be done as teams look to clear space in advance of April 12.

Raptors Racket

After a drama filled trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors are adjusting to a new roster and still struggling to find their game. Questions remain about the future of Kyle Lowry, and the Raptors are hoping they can string some wins together and make the NBA play ins.

Blue Jays Babble

The Toronto Blue Jays opened their season with a series against the New York Yankees, and this week will face the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels. The first couple of weeks will be the calibration period for a roster with significant new additions. The Jays also had a couple of players dealing with minor injuries – George Springer (oblique) and Robbie Ray (bruised elbow) are most noteworthy.

We have learned some things from the NHL adapting a baseball-style schedule for this season. It’s a good idea to not get too high or too low based on one series. In baseball, we wait for a few teams to come and go before we have a real sense of how our team matches up.

The Jays may be tested early by injuries, but this is a young core ready to take the next step. As baseball icon Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly about hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.

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