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‘Tis the season to trade in the NHL

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

On Tuesday, November 28th, unrestricted free agent Patrick Kane signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings worth $2.75 million. The 35-year-old veteran goal scorer had been away for the early part of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery and, as he approached health, speculation was growing about where he might sign. Kane’s camp was working hard to build the anticipation, releasing occasional videos of the small and skilled forward preparing for his return. Insiders did their best to pump up the volume on the imminent signing of a sometimes controversial NHLer. Ironically, his landing in Detroit was overshadowed by drama out of Kane’s former team, the Chicago Blackhawks. On the same day Kane signed in Detroit, Chicago placed veteran winger Corey Perry on waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. On Wednesday, Perry cleared and became an unrestricted free agent. The saga began when Perry had been healthy scratched on November 22nd for a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The decision was certainly odd at the time, with Perry having been among Chicago’s most productive forwards to start the season. But Perry is 38 years old and a minor injury or a little load management might have explained the absence. Of course, things went from odd to bizarre quickly. The next day, Coach Luke Richardson revealed that the decision to scratch Perry was an organizational decision rather than a coaching decision. On November 25th, GM Kyle Davidson reported Perry would be away from the team “for the foreseeable future”, while Perry’s agent indicated that Perry was stepping away for personal reasons. The apparently conflicting information about whose decision it was for Perry to be away caused a lot of buzz. Rumours circulated, which Davidson shut down in a press conference following placing Perry on waivers. He revealed that there had been an incident in Columbus involving a team employee, and that Davidson described as “a workplace matter.” The incident left some wondering if this signalled the end of Perry’s career. The veteran played his best years for the Anaheim Ducks, but in recent years has carved a new role for himself as the grizzled veteran who can bring leadership to a locker room. Perry was signed to a lucrative deal by Chicago based on that reputation, and how he could support their young players. As much as this incident may have raised questions about this leadership role, he had barely cleared waivers before rumours of interest from other teams were buzzing. Then on Thursday Perry released a statement apologizing for the incident and announcing that he would be working with mental health and substance abuse professionals with respect to his “struggles with alcohol.” No doubt this story will continue to unfold in the weeks ahead. The Vancouver Canucks dipped their toes in the trade market this week. They dealt forward Anthony Beauvillier to the Blackhawks for a fifth-round pick. Beauvillier was presumably added by Chicago to fill the hole left by Perry, and the value to the Canucks was freeing up cap space. The 26-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent who has two goals and six assists in 22 games this season. The Canucks are off to an unexpected hot start this season and have been feeling the chokehold of cap space. They have needed help on the blue line but lacked the cap flexibility to go get it. Moving out Beauvillier helped with that, and they didn’t waste too much time repurposing their found cap space. On Thursday, Vancouver acquired defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2024 and a third rounder in 2026. Coach Rick Tocchet loves a big defender and GM Patrik Allvin went out and got him one. December is that awkward time of the season for NHL teams where American Thanksgiving has passed and they have a pretty good sense of their place in the league and the gaps they have to fill, but potential trade partners are not necessarily prepared to call their season and throw them a lifeline. Add to that the fact that Christmas is coming, and the timing of a trade is delicate for families. Last year three trades happened in December, and they were all for depth or minor league players. In December 2021 there were four trades of the same variety. There are a couple of Canadian teams that should swim against the tide this December. The Edmonton Oilers have managed to avoid complete disaster with the resurrection of Connor McDavid. After a start that didn’t look much like the generational talent that he is — perhaps due to an injury he was nursing — McDavid has picked up his game since about mid-November and the Oilers are trying to climb out of the hole they dug. But McDavid’s efforts, just like his prime years, will be wasted unless the team can get some half-decent goaltending. The Oilers are still searching for both goaltending and defense and had three representatives in Columbus for a couple of games this past week. They included an AGM and a goalie scout, and one of those games was between the Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens. Both teams have players that are available by trade. If the Oilers have not already made a move by the time you’re reading this, they have a couple of weeks before trades go on hold for Christmas. If they’re serious about redeeming this season, surely we will see a deal before the holiday break. Things aren’t quite as desperate for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are in playoff position with a winning record, but no one in Toronto is confident about their performance so far. The Leafs need help on defense, with the latest hit being an injury to Mark Giordano, who will be out week-to-week with a broken finger. There is no rush for a move before Christmas, perhaps, but no doubt the management group in Toronto have their eyes on the defensemen available in Calgary, and Zadorov was one of the guys on their list. The Canucks beat them to it, and GM Brad Treliving may not be keen to miss out on another.

Blue Jays Babble

The Maple Leafs are not the only team in Toronto ready to make a deal. The MLB winter meetings are underway in Nashville, and the Blue Jays leadership group will be there and looking to do some business. The winter meetings are when the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are expected to ramp up. It might sound too good to be true, but the Jays are reportedly one of the teams Ohtani’s camp is considering. Certainly, it feels like a long shot, but it would be franchise-altering if Ohtani chose Toronto. A franchise player might not be in the cards, but it is realistic to expect that these winter meetings will lead to business for the Blue Jays.

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