The TSN Hockey Insiders discuss the Habs' timeline to determine if they're buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, the latest on the messy situation between Lias Andersson and the Rangers, the Penguins' interest in moving Alex Galchenyuk, and the next step in Dustin Byfuglien's recovery process and his potential return to the NHL.
Habs will decide game plan by break
Let’s look at the Montreal Canadiens. Right now, they’re closer to 30th, not 31st because they won’t get to the Red Wings, than they are to a playoff spot. So where are they at?
LeBrun: Well first things first is they have their pro scouting meetings on Friday, that’s always important, every team does that this time of year ahead of the trade deadline. But really I’m looking at the week of Jan. 20. That’s when the Habs have a bye week followed by the All-Star break. I believe that’s when they’ll really decide their game plan for the rest of their season. Have they made hay in the six games that they have between now and then as far as getting back into the playoff race? If not, then it will be time to start selling pieces. By the way, one interesting piece could be Ilya Kovalchuk, who they just got off the scrap heap for $700,000. He’s looked OK so far. It’s early returns but if he keeps it up, could be a player they flip along with a few others, before the trade deadline.
Andersson's trade request complicated
Let’s talk New York Rangers and one of their great young talents, first rounder Lias Andersson, not happy with what the Rangers are doing with him. He asked for a trade. Now he’s back home playing in Sweden and now news trickling in on that front.
Dreger: Yeah it’s a bit messy and certainly sounds like it’s going to get more complicated. Know this, Lias Andersson is not happy, he’s upset by his situation with the New York Rangers. But it’s been implied in recent media reports that he’s also dealing potentially with some mental health issues. Both Lias and his agent Jarrett Bousquet want to clarify that there are no mental health concerns so that’s good news from a young player perspective but he’s slated to have a minor surgical procedure on his foot so that will at least keep him on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks.
McKenzie: The New York Rangers are getting calls on Lias Andersson and they are prepared to trade him before the deadline if they get the right prospect in return. They are less interested in a draft pick, more interested in a prospect but they can afford to be choosy because the second consideration is they are a little concerned that this might send the wrong message if they make a quick trade for Lias Andersson. That message being is if you’re in our system, and you pack up and quit and go home, and we immediately gratify you with a trade, to another organization and a fresh start, does that set a bad precedent for other players? So they can afford to be choosy and they will [be] leading up to the deadline.
Penguins trying to move Galchenyuk
Back in 2012, Alex Galchenyuk went third overall to the Montreal Canadiens. Things did not work out with the Habs. Things did not work out in Arizona. And now could he be on his way out in Pittsburgh as well?
LeBrun: That’s the plan. The Pittsburgh Penguins have started to talk to teams they’re willing to move Alex Galchenyuk, that’s the desire at this point. I think the Penguins in return would look for either a draft pick or a bottom-six forward because that’s where he’s playing right now. He’s essentially a fourth liner. It’s not a good fit for his skillset to be in that role. For whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out in Pittsburgh and the Penguins certainly could move him between now and the 24th.
Penguins prefer hockey deal to rental
McKenzie: The No. 1 priority for the Pittsburgh Penguins and general manager Jim Rutherford right now is to replace Jake Guentzel in the lineup. Guentzel of course underwent shoulder surgery, he’s done for the year. They need to find somebody who can play with Sidney Crosby or Geno Malkin. Now they have the available cap space, $6 million a year with Guentzel gone but obviously they need to make a commitment to spend those $6 million on a real player. Everybody assumes that the Penguins are going to dip into the winger rental market with names like Chris Kreider and Tyler Toffoli being premiere amongst those possibilities but I think general manager Jim Rutherford is also looking at the possibility of making “the old hockey trade”, that is trading for players with term, trading players off his roster, doing whatever is necessary to get that top six forward and I think he’d like to do it sooner rather than later. He likes to shop early before the deadline and I think that’s the priority right now.
Byfuglien ready for next step in recovery process
Going into the deadline, GMs have to know how much cap space they have. That’s something the Jets don’t know right now because the Dustin Byfuglien situation is in the air. We know he had the ankle problems, the ankle surgery, he’s been rehabbing and now there’s a next step.
Dreger: Well as we reported on Wednesday, that next step is skating and Dustin Byfuglien is right there. He’s got to test that ankle on the ice, see how it feels and then he’s got to assess his overall conditioning before he makes a final decision as to whether or not to return to the NHL. Then the Winnipeg Jets come in. Do they reinstate him, put him on their blueline, do they consider trading him at that point? There is a lot of uncertainty that continues to swirl around Dustin Byfuglien and the final piece of the chapter is of course is the arbitration battle which will include a fight over lost money. So all of this under the heading of: to be determined.