By Lori Bennett
The Montreal Canadiens kicked off their trade deadline business this past week. After trading Brandon Baddock, a 4th liner with their AHL affiliate the Laval Rocket, to the Minnesota Wild for stop-gap goaltender Andrew Hammond on Saturday, they were back at it on Monday. Tyler Toffoli was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 1st round pick in 2022, a 5th round pick in 2023, Emil Heineman and Tyler Pitlick.
The significant pieces joining the Habs are Heineman, a power forward hopeful developing in Sweden, and the 1st round pick which is likely to be in the low 20s. The trade signals that the cuts may go deep in Montreal. Toffoli is on a team-friendly contract and is playing bigger that his cap hit, but he turns 30 in the Spring and it is unlikely the Habs will be competitive again while Toffoli is still in his prime. If I was a member of the Canadiens right now, I’d be having a look at my birth certificate.
The Calgary Flames have added a perfect fit for a playoff run. Toffoli is a low maintenance player that scores reliably, plays a solid 200-foot game, and brings playoff leadership. He is known to Coach Darryl Sutter and will be relied upon to bring secondary scoring. Fans are already falling in love with Toffoli, who scored in his first game with the Flames on Tuesday night. The Flames are hot right now and are expected to load up for the playoffs.
Jack Eichel, returning from artificial disk replacement surgery, made his season debut on Wednesday night with the Vegas Golden Knights. Eichel was traded to Vegas in November, and immediately underwent the controversial surgery that the Buffalo Sabres had resisted for months.
There were concerns that Vegas would have to move a player or two to make room under the cap for Eichel. Instead, they took a page out of the Tampa Bay Lightning playbook and placed Mark Stone on Long Term Injured Reserve. If the Golden Knights somehow manage to stretch the LTIR until the regular season ends, and then both players are iced in the playoffs without cap implications, it may force the NHL to have a look at this loophole in cap rules in the off-season.
In his first game, Eichel lined up on the top line between Max Pacioretty and Evgeni Dadanov. The line got some looks, but Darcy Kuemper and the Colorado Avalanche shutout the Golden Knights 2-0 to put a damper on Eichel’s first game back. He won’t be held off the score sheet for long.
We are now just four weeks away from the NHL trade deadline. The Toronto Maple Leafs can be expected to stock up for a run. A first round exit will not be acceptable this season. To do so they will need to shed some salary. Kyle Dubas and company are actively trying to trade forward Nick Ritchie, according to reports. Ritchie was just acquired in the summer but has not worked out well in Toronto. Travis Dermott has also been on the trading block. The young defenceman has had a tough time staying in the line up.
Neither player is likely to fetch more than a mid to late round pick, but the return is not as valuable to Dubas as the cap space. Toronto is rumoured to be seeking a top-4 defenceman to beef up their blue line for the post-season. Ben Chiarot of the Habs is one player that might have their attention.
Settle in. Business is picking up, and it might become a little silly by the time the dust settles.
On Wednesday morning the Men’s Hockey Team saw their Olympic hopes come to an end as they were eliminated by Team Sweden in the Quarterfinal. Gold medal hopes for Team Canada took a hit when the NHL withdrew from the 2022 Olympics. One wonders if their chances might have been improved if some of those veteran journeymen had been replaced by young talent.
The women, however, would not be denied. Early Thursday morning, while most of us were sleeping, Team Canada claimed gold after defeating Team USA 3-2 in the Women’s Hockey final. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin was the hero once adding, scoring twice. The win was a redemption game after Canada lost to the US in the 2018 Olympic Gold Medal game.
Then on Thursday morning, disappointment struck again. Brad Gushue led Team Canada into the semi-final but lost 5-3 to Team Sweden. It came down to the final stone, when Gushue went for two and the win, but came up short.
The disappointment did not last for long. In the wee hours on Friday morning Canada met the United States in the Bronze Medal game. Gushue’s rink stole two points in the ninth end and curled the American team out of rocks in the tenth to win 8-5. It’s not the colour they were looking for, but third place on the world stage is an enormous accomplishment. Congratulations to Brad Gushue’s rink on Olympic bronze!
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreational softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. Originally from NL and now based in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or debate, as long as it remains respectful. She posts game time thoughts on twitter as @lori10habs.