Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
It’s easy for NHL fans to lull themselves into a sense of false security during the long months of summer. July 1 always brings some action as free agency opens—the John Tavares Saga made this year’s edition particularly enthralling—but the best available players are typically gone within hours.
Insiders start to vanish from Twitter, taking some much-deserved time off to unwind next to crystal-clear bodies of water…or do whatever it is that remarkably plugged-in reporters do to recharge their news-breaking superpowers.
At this juncture, most of us are wondering about what opening-night lineups will look like.
Folks in Detroit are wondering if the Red Wings will have space for Evgeny Svechnikov come October. Could Morgan Frost make the Philadelphia Flyers since they didn’t sign a third-line center during free agency? How big of an impact can Robert Thomas have for the St. Louis Blues?
These are the kinds of questions most fan bases have at this time of year. Still, the chance of a trade looms large as the heat index rises. Big moves are tough to make in-season, so if star players are going to be swapped, odds are good that it will happen over the next several weeks.
Here’s the latest on some of the top names that are reportedly available for the right price.
Tampa Bay Lightning Still Pushing for Erik Karlsson
One gets the feeling that Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman wants to bring the Stanley Cup back to Florida and that he wants to accomplish that in 2018-19. According to various sources, including Darren Dreger of TSN, the Lightning was one of the final teams left standing during the Tavares Saga.
After watching Tavares sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs—which still feels like an odd sentence to type—Yzerman turned his attention to the trade market, where Erik Karlsson is essentially living nowadays.
He’s been in on the defenseman for most of July, at least, to the point where TSN’s Shawn Simpson reported that a deal between Tampa Bay and the Ottawa Senators was done late last week. Whatever that trade was, it never went through, prompting Simpson to apologize on Twitter, but it doesn’t sound like the Lightning have given up on landing the defenseman yet.
Kathryn Tappen @KathrynTappen
The @TBLightning continue their trade talks with the @Senators for Erik Karlsson. Tampa looks to clear cap room to accommodate the all star defenseman. #NHLNews
This is a complex situation with more layers than a season of Westworld, but Yzerman pursuing Karlsson has been one of the few constants.
Chicago Blackhawks Balk at Asking Price for Justin Faulk
The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t make the playoffs last year, and depending on who you ask, there are many people to blame for that. The main two issues were Corey Crawford’s health and a leaky defense, though.
Maybe they could have made the dance with Crawford playing in more games, but there is no denying that this is a team that needs help on the blue line.
Last season, only seven teams gave up more shots per night than the Blackhawks did, and head coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t make magic out of the 11 different defensemen Chicago dressed for at least one contest in 2017-18.
While they don’t have the cap space to pursue an elite talent like Karlsson, the Blackhawks are still looking to upgrade their blue line. One option that they’ve been connected to since early July, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, is Justin Faulk.
While the Original Six squad would love to add a top-four defenseman, it sounds like they aren’t willing to include Brandon Saad in a trade to make that happen; at least not for Faulk. Freidman touched on that subject in the most recent edition of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, noting that the “hangup” on a possible deal getting done was the Carolina Hurricanes wanting Saad in return.
Chris Nichols @NicholsOnHockey
Friedman: “I’d heard Chicago had been in on Faulk, but I heard the hangup there was Brandon Saad; that Carolina wanted Saad, and Chicago didn’t want to do that.” #Blackhawks #Canes
Boston Bruins Reluctant to Trade Torey Krug
Few teams in the NHL can boast as much depth on defense as the Boston Bruins. After adding John Moore as a free agent, the B’s have a whopping eight defensemen on their roster heading into next season.
Having depth is one thing; carrying eight true NHL-caliber defenders is another matter entirely. The collective cap hit of these eight players isn’t particularly jarring—according to CapFriendly.com, Boston’s blue line will hit the cap for less than $22 million in 2018-19 as is—but there isn’t enough ice time to go around.
Moreover, the Bruins have Stanley Cup aspirations but are in dire need of help at forward. They have no proven talent at right wing after David Pastrnak and are looking to boost their top six after missing out on Ilya Kovalchuk earlier in the summer and while Rick Nash decides whether or not he wants to play another season.
Trading from a place of strength is always preferable for an NHL team, so it stands to reason that Boston could look to move one of its eight defensemen for a top-six wing. According to Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, the Bruins don’t want that blueliner to be Torey Krug.
But assuming that Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and the newly signed Moore aren’t going anywhere, the organization doesn’t have any other defenders to trade who could net them the kind of help up front that they are looking for.
Something has got to give, and the skilled-but-undersized Krug might be the odd man out in Massachusetts.