TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, and Pierre LeBrun have the latest on available players on the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres, if moving Dave Bolland is a possibility for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Steven Stamkos' Olympics situation.
From the moment Thomas Vanek turned down a reported $50 million contract offer from the New York Islanders, the thought was he has to be moved. Is a deal imminent?
Pierre LeBrun: It's not imminent but it could happen before the end of the week, of course we have an Olympic trade freeze Friday at 3pm et. In a perfect world the Islanders would look to divest themselves of that big salary of Vanek's so they don't carry it through the Olympics. But that same big cap number is why some of the contenders – and we know that Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have some interest in Vanek – can't deal yet as they are right at the cap. So it makes this deal difficult before the Olympic freeze.
To get Vanek, the asking price is three assets: any combination of a first-round pick, a young player, and a prospect. Whatever the combination, Islanders GM Garth Snow is trying to get his big haul here because we know how much he gave up to get Vanek at the start of the season.
Bob McKenzie: The Islanders also have another asset in play in defenceman Andrew MacDonald. Here's a guy that is going to unrestricted free agency at the end of the season, he's only making $550,000 right now, but he leads the NHL in blocked shots. And for the last two seasons he's been the minutes leader for the Islanders. There has been a lot of interest in this player. The Islanders could do a deal with him, maybe between $4 million and $5 million a year, which would be a huge increase on what he's currently making, but the Islanders have lots of young defencemen coming and lots of teams are calling. MacDonald's name is definitely in play.
And is one of Thomas Vanek's ex-teammates also drawing interest?
McKenzie: That would be Steve Ott of the Buffalo Sabres. We all know that Matt Moulson has been drawing interest, with upwards of a double digit number of teams inquiring about Moulson's availability by the deadline. But Ott is attracting that much, if not more attention than Moulson.
Obviously keep an eye on the Sabres, they're at the bottom of the league and ready to offload people. In addition to Ott and Moulson there is the Ryan Miller scenario playing out but also Henrik Tallinder is another guy who could be moved as well as Drew Stafford and Cody McCormick.
Dave Bolland hasn't played since November 2. Is he still in play?
Darren Dreger: He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, so Dave Nonis and the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have to figure out what option they want to pursue with Bolland.
There are three of them: No. 1 is they'll negotiate relatively soon and find out what his number would be to avoid free agency.
No. 2 is if they don't like the number at this stage in the season, they wait and use him as their own rental to push for the playoffs.
No. 3, which isn't anywhere near as likely as No.1 but is certainly an option, is to trade Bolland if you know that a deal isn't likely to be made.
By all accounts, everything is going to plan for Steven Stamkos. His plan is to play Saturday and then make a decision with Team Canada at that point. What is Team Canada doing to manage the situation if Stamkos can't go?
Dreger: First of all, there are a couple hurdles Canada has to get by. No. 1: they want to find out what Wednesday's test results are medically speaking on Stamkos. Either way, expect Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman to reach out to at least a couple, as many as four or five, of the replacement players – Claude Giroux, James Neal, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis – to put them on standby. Then you look to Saturday and if Stamkos is able to play against the Detroit Red Wings, then that's a great sign. Obviously they'll monitor how he feels post-game, then they'll make the decision as to whether he or somebody else gets on the Sunday charter flight.
LeBrun: And there's a Stamkos-like situation playing out in Minnesota, obviously not getting as much attention. Mikko Koivu, the best player on the Finnish Olympic team, may not be able to play. This thing is going down to the wire. We know one thing, he's not going to play for the Wild this week. He hasn't played in a month after ankle surgery. He's still recovering and skated on Tuesday, having felt better than he has in a couple days. But at the end of the day, be it Friday or Saturday, Koivu has to get together with Minnesota team doctors and the Finnish Olympic team to make a call on whether or not he's fit to play in the Olympics. That would be a gigantic loss for Finland.