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Unless your favorite team is in the market for what amounts to damaged goods, the NHL trade route is the road to take towards marked improvement. There isn’t a team in the league that is simply one Dan Hamhuis away from the Stanley Cup, for example.

The veteran defenseman could fit in—and possibly even thrive—given the right set of circumstances, but the batch of free agents that remains is barebones, to say the least.

That leaves making a swap as the only real way to go about a roster shakeup for general managers and teams around the league. The trade rumor mill never slumbers for long, and all it takes is one unforeseen move to send shockwaves through the NHL.

That’s what makes mid-July and August such an interesting time to be a fan. There isn’t always a lot to keep up with, but the rumblings that are out there tend to be important. As opposed to the regular season, when fans endlessly poke and prod at coaches for who they are utilizing as their No. 6 defenseman.

              

Max Pacioretty Remains a Hot Commodity

At this point, we know a handful of things about the Max Pacioretty situation in Montreal.

First, we know that he was almost traded to the Los Angeles Kings during the 2018 draft. Bob McKenzie of TSN shed some light on what went down and why Montreal’s captain ultimately didn’t end up in California, but the gist is this: Pacioretty switched agents just ahead of the first round, so an extension with Los Angeles couldn’t be finalized once the trade was agreed upon. The terms, of course, were contingent on the 29-year-old signing an extension that would keep him in L.A. beyond this year.

During that period of time, the Kings were able to come to terms with free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, lessening their need to give up assets for a scoring wing.

All the moving parts caused this deal to fall through, which lead some pundits, such as Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette, to opine that the time was right to re-up Pacioretty. 

As Hickey wrote on July 4: At a time when free agents avoid Montreal as if it were ground zero for the plague — hello, John Tavares and bonjour, Paul Stastny — why would the Canadiens think about trading a player who wants to play here, one who has embraced the city and the pressure that accompanies playing hockey here?

Why would the Canadiens think about trading a player who has invested his time and money in making this city a better place to live through his involvement with the city’s hospitals and other charities?”

Fair questions, and based on what we know about general manager Marc Bergevin, it probably has something to do with… culture?

Just a few days after the Gazette published that op-ed, Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic reported that the Canadiens had let Pacioretty know that they wouldn’t be trying to work out an extension for his contract.

Which totally makes sense, right? What with Jonathan Drouin getting a six-year deal from the club in 2017 and Andrew Shaw sticking around for six after inking an extension in 2016. Hey, maybe Max Domi will pan out and he can ink a contract for a half-decade or more too.

But keeping Pacioretty around and paying him what he’s worth? Nah. Apparently.

Not surprisingly, quality organizations such as the Chicago Blackhawks have shown an interest in Pacioretty.

Erik Karlsson Wheels Continue to Turn

At this point, it seems like a third of the teams in the NHL have been connected to Erik Karlsson. They all seem to have more than a desire to add the All-World defenseman in common as well.

That’s because, to this point, no one has been willing to pay the Ottawa Senators’ (bonkers) ask for the blueliner. Back in February, Darren Dreger outlined what a possible Karlsson trade could look like, noting that “multiple first-round picks and top-end prospects” was what general manager Pierre Dorion was looking for.

On top of that, the Senators also want to offload Bobby Ryan’s monster contract alongside Karlsson, likely meaning that it would take getting a third team involved to make something work. If an organization is trading a bundle of first-round picks and prospects for Karlsson, it’s because they think Karlsson helps them win a Stanley Cup in the next three or four years.

And if said team has their championship window open, they don’t have an extra $7.5 million in cap space just lying around until 2022. At least not for the shell of Bobby Ryan.

Chris Stevenson of The Athletic recently weighed in on the situation and wrote the following: “I don’t think Dorion is going to blink here. If he doesn’t get what he thinks is fair value for Karlsson (start with Miro Heiskanen from the Stars and Brayden Point or Mikhail Sergachev from the Bolts), I think he’s ready to start the season with Karlsson, as uncomfortable as that might be for all the parties concerned.”

The Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning have been considered the front-runners for Karlsson for a few weeks now, but neither club seems interested in giving Dorion what he wants. The reality is that, if the defenseman isn’t traded sometime this season, he’ll be a free agent on July 1. At that juncture, no one will have to give up five-plus high-end assets to land him.

They’ll just have to pay him what he’s worth. Which is what this whole spat with the Senators was started over in the first place.

Dallas and Tampa refusing to move their top prospects has bogged down a potential deal, though, opening the door for sleepers like the San Jose Sharks to sneak into the conversations.

Detroit Red Wings Could Still Trade Andreas Athanasiou

The Detroit Red Wings entered the offseason with a handful of important restricted free agents to sign. On July 5, Andreas Athanasiou signed a two-year deal worth a total of $6 million, meaning that his role as a member of the team’s core was safe for at least another two seasons.

Right?

Not so fast, writes Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.: “It would not be surprising to see the Wings trade Athanasiou. If they get a good offer — at least a second-round pick or a good prospect, preferably a defenseman — he could be flipped to help the rebuild.”

The relationship between Athanasiou and the Red Wings has always been a perplexing one. Despite getting third-line minutes, he produces offense like a decent first-line forward would be expected to. In fact, over the last two seasons, no one on Detroit’s roster has scored more 5-on-5 goals than “AA.”

Not Dylan Larkin. Not Anthony Mantha. Not Gustav Nyquist. No one.

Yet Athanasiou is perceived as being expendable due to him not appearing as electric as he should for a player with his speed. It’d be quite fair to point out that the 23-year-old routinely gets caved in defensively, but that’s a team-wide issue.

It’s not like he’s hitting the ice with Patrice Bergeron and putting up negative Corsi differentials. Only three Red Wings forwards finished on the right side of 50 percent in terms of their Corsi for percentage, according to CorsicaHockey.com, and only Mantha finished with a number that wasn’t just a hair over 50.

He scores goals, albeit inconsistently, skates like the wind and put up possession numbers similar to Henrik Zetterberg in 2017-18. And he can be had for a second-round draft pick, apparently. If that’s the case, don’t expect Athanasiou to finish out the year in Detroit.



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