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The Edge of Lori: Kane’t wait

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise NHL business is picking up as the trade deadline approaches. One of the top names on the list, winger Vladimir Tarasenko, was traded by the St. Louis Blues, along with defenseman Niko Mikkola, to the New York Rangers. In return, the Blues received a package that included forward Sammy Blais, defense prospect Hunter Skinner, and two picks that included a first rounder. Perhaps the most entertaining thing about this deal was the reaction from Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Kane is in the last year of his deal and Chicago would like to move him, but Kane has no-movement protection in his contract, so he’s holding the cards. Kane acknowledged publicly that he was not happy to hear about the trade, a statement that hinted that New York was a preferred destination. Kane, along with teammate Jonathan Toews, have been delaying a decision about whether they would co-operate with a trade to a playoff team. Perhaps this outcome was a message – intentional or not – for them both to speed up their decision-making if they want their preferred destinations to be an option. That wasn’t the only shade Kane was throwing at his current team. The Blackhawks were in Montreal to face the Canadiens on Tuesday and Kane was asked about Kirby Dach’s recent surge in play. The Blackhawks traded Dach to the Habs in the summer, even though the young centre could have been an important piece for a rebuilding team. Kane’s comments about Dach’s performance suggested he felt Dach was rushed into the NHL, and perhaps not developed properly by the Blackhawks. “I’m not surprised. What is he? 21? 22? It takes some time sometimes, and he was probably rushed into the league. And playing fourth line minutes, getting sat out games, it’s probably not the best thing for your development.” An interesting dynamic has also unfolded in the trade wars this week. Every year, in the days leading up to the deadline, teams make a decision to leave players known to be on the trade block out of the line up to prevent injury. Usually, those decisions come in the final game or two before the deadline, or when a trade is imminent. Last weekend the Arizona Coyotes announced defenseman Jakob Chychrun would be a healthy scratch “due to trade related reasons.” A trade had not been negotiated, but the Coyotes were playing it super safe. Chychrun is not a pending unrestricted free agent, but the Coyotes have been trying to trade him since last season. Then on Tuesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov, a pending UFA, would also be kept out of the line up due to trade related reasons. With several games yet to play before the deadline, two teams that don’t expect to make the playoffs are protecting their assets and don’t intend to miss out on a good trade return because the player got injured in games that are meaningless in the standings. If this trend continues, the NHL Players Association is bound to eventually have questions. How do these players feel about sitting and waiting to be traded? What is a reasonable amount of time for them to sit? How might missing games impact their statistics, and therefore their negotiating power for new contracts? The Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly interested in both blue liners. Wayne Simmonds was waived this week, presumably to free up cap space with the deadline approaching. The Leafs have also been linked to Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks but would have to do much more elaborate cap gymnastics than waiving Simmonds to make that deal work. The Edmonton Oilers are also looking for a defender and have kicked all tires. The most interesting report is that they are interested in Erik Karlsson, also being made available by the Sharks, but it’s impossible to fathom how they might make a trade work. The Oilers are tight to the cap and functioning with the bare minimum of players, and Karlsson has four years left after this with a cap hit of eleven and a half million dollars. The Calgary Flames are also expected to be buyers, but they are not in the sure position they hoped to be when the season began. The Flames are battling for a wild card spot, but with the effort GM Brad Treliving made this summer to keep them competitive, everyone is expecting more. Questions are being raised about how hot Coach Darryl Sutter’s seat might be. Sutter is an old school coach, the kind that has a shelf life. He can get results for a while, but eventually his schtick gets old. If Treliving isn’t wondering if that time has come, he might be one of the last guys paying attention who isn’t. The NHL does have a history of Stanley Cup winners who made a coaching change mid-season. The St. Louis Blues did it most recently in 2019. There are a couple of unemployed coaches that a team might be wise to pounce on if they have doubts about their current guy. Is that Barry Trotz holding on line one? The sale of the Ottawa Senators continues to be a storyline worth following. This past week, news broke out of Ottawa that Canadian Actor Ryan Reynolds would be teaming up with a Toronto-based real estate development corporation, the Remington Group, to put in a bid to purchase the Ottawa Senators. When Reynolds announced his interest in buying the team, he was quite open about the fact that that he would need a partner with deep pockets to make it happen. It appears that partner has been found. Along with their deep pockets, a real estate developer seems like a perfect owner to step in and build the new downtown arena that Senators fans have been begging for. These Remington guys are no fools either. Have you ever heard of them? Me neither. But I’ve sure heard of Reynolds and making him the face of their ownership group would be pure brilliance. This kind of business marriage is the kind that brings out the Cheshire-cat-grin on the face of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Raptors Racket The NBA trade deadline came and went with the Toronto Raptors pulling off just one move. Expected to be sellers, with several big names on the list of available players, at the end of the day the Raptors had made just one move that looked more like buying than selling, acquiring Jakob Poeltl from the San Antonio Spurs. Since the deadline, the Raptors continue to lurk around play-in tournament contention. But unless they can surprise in the weeks ahead, fans and pundits will be left wondering if the trade deadline was mismanaged by Masai Ujiri and company.

Blue Jays Babble Spring training is underway in Dunedin, Florida. The roster appears to be set with some positions up for competition, and now it’s up to the players to show up ready and claim their spots.

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