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The Edge of Lori: Time for some trades

By Lori Bennett Sports Columnist

NHL Noise Trade rumours are beginning to heat up in the NHL. As teams approach the 20-game mark and have a sense of the holes on their rosters, combined with a growing injury list, general managers are ready to talk.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been managing injuries to their defense corps since camp, but they can no longer ignore the obvious. Jake Muzzin is going to be out long term with a cervical spine injury and the Leafs need to deal for a top-4 defender. GM Kyle Dubas may choose to draw from the same well where he found Muzzin.

The Los Angeles Kings have a very deep blue line with young defenders waiting for positions to open. It would be an interesting strategy for Dubas to use his first round draft pick to land a player rather than get rid of one.

After a transformative off-season, the Ottawa Senators have not yet gotten rolling. The Sens went into the season with high expectations and looking to add a veteran defenseman. The urgency has magnified with the team struggling. Speculation is that GM Pierre Dorion is waiting for Arizona’s Jacob Chychrun to return from injury, and that is the player he will target.

The Winnipeg Jets are in tough with their forward group. Nicolaj Ehlers is injured and may require surgery, and he joins Mason Appleton and Morgan Barron on the injury list. The Jets are currently testing some young players to see if they will rise to the occasion but won’t be too patient. Having had a strong start to the season, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to go find some help for his team if the kids can’t keep it going.

Both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers are reportedly in the market for a goal-scoring winger and are rumoured to be interested in Josh Anderson of the Montreal Canadiens. GM Kent Hughes isn’t trying to move Anderson, but for a strong offer that would contribute to the rebuild Hughes could be coaxed. As the season wears on, this could take the Battle of Alberta to a whole new level.

The Habs have made it known that several of their forwards are available. Jonathan Drouin (now injured), Mike Hoffman, Evgeni Dadanov and Joel Armia have been available for months. But a new dynamic has evolved in Montreal – they suddenly have a glut of defensemen.

Hughes began the season looking for veteran defensemen who could place-hold while their young blueliners developed in the AHL. But injuries and a stingy market threw a wrench into that plan, and they accidentally discovered their kids are readier than expected. Joel Edmundson returned from injury, and it was veteran Chris Wideman who was scratched. With Michael Matheson returning, blue line decisions are on the daily menu. Might GM Kent Hughes be convinced to part with a veteran Cup-winner like Edmundson?

The Vancouver Canucks are also ready to shake up their team, and the player that looks like he will be sacrificed is Captain Bo Horvat. The goal-scoring centre is off to a strong start, but is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and will likely command more than the Canucks are prepared to pay. He will fetch an enormous return from a Cup contender, and I’m keeping my eye on Colorado and Carolina. Horvat would be a nice replacement for Nazem Kadri on the Avalanche roster, and the Hurricanes will eventually run out of patience with Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the second line centre role.

It feels like one domino could drop and a bunch will follow.

Raptors Racket On Wednesday night, Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat were in Toronto to face the Raptors, and O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet put on a show in front of their old mentor for the 112-104 victory. With the win, the Raptors are at 9-7 on the season and hold fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Toronto Blue Jays traded Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for two pitchers last week. – © All-Pro Reels / Flikr

Blue Jays Babble The Toronto Blue Jays pulled off their first big off-season deal this week, trading outfielder Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for two pitchers. Erik Swanson is a right-handed reliever who is a legitimately elite option coming out of the bullpen, an area where the Jays struggled this season, including in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series. Adam Macko, a leftie, is a pitching prospect that the Jays hope will develop and eventually join their starting rotation.

Hernandez, the second-longest tenured player on the team, was a fan favourite in Toronto. His power hitting prowess will be missed – since 2017, Hernandez has hit 61 home runs with runners on base, the most for the Jays during that time. He is also eleventh on the all time home run leaders list for the team. But the player was one year away from free agency, and GM Ross Atkins chose to cash in.

The Jays freed up more than $12 million in the deal, added to the dollars found when they designated outfielders Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer for assignment. This means significant payroll flexibility, and that the Jays intend to go shopping. What might be on their shopping list?

With these moves, there will obviously be a retooling of the outfield in Toronto. The Jays need to add more versatility to their batting order, along with improving their pitching rotation. For the last two seasons, the young, plucky club came close but with no cigar. The time had come for Atkins to shake up the roster, and he’s created both the holes and the salary to make that happen.

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