- Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday, the team announced on Twitter. The 20-year-old has missed the last five games due to an upper-body injury. Edmonton’s top pick in 2017, Yamamoto has been quiet offensively in his stints with the big club this season as he has picked up just a goal and an assist in 13 games. Accordingly, his name has come up in trade speculation following the report yesterday that suggested that the Oilers are willing to part with a young forward in an effort to get someone that can make more of an immediate impact. As the team has a full roster, they’ll have to make a move in order to activate Yamamoto off injured reserve.
Like Wayne Simmonds and Sergei Bobrovsky over the last few weeks, Jesse Puljujarvi has become the hockey world’s favorite trade chip recently as the Edmonton Oilers search for help up front. According to several reports, the Oilers are all-in for the playoffs this season and are not willing to waste another year of Connor McDavid’s prime out of the postseason race. Puljujarvi, likely because of Ryan Rishaug of TSN’s report that the Oilers are willing to part with a “young developing forward,” has become the piece most bandied about in trade speculation.
But would the Oilers actually trade a fourth-overall pick less than three years after selecting him?
It’s important to remember that Puljujarvi, the big talented Finnish winger, was expected to go third overall behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine at the 2016 draft. He had just finished a professional season for Karpat in the Finnish Liiga where he recorded an impressive 37 points in 60 games as a teenager and had won both U18 and U20 World Junior Championship gold medals. In fact, Puljujarvi was named the U20 tournament MVP after leading it in scoring with an incredible 17 points in seven games. It was hard to imagine anyone passing on him at #3, but the Columbus Blue Jackets did just that.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was roasted on draft night for selecting Pierre-Luc Dubois instead, opting to go after who he believed was the next best center in the draft. Dubois has since become a first-line staple for the Blue Jackets and has 40 points in 45 games this season. The 20-year old center could very well crack 30 goals and is a key reason why the Blue Jackets are heading to the playoffs this year.
Puljujarvi meanwhile has stagnated in Edmonton, bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL and recording just 35 points through his first 128 NHL contests. Even in the AHL the big winger isn’t at a point-per-game pace expected of many top prospects.
In today’s NHL that is becoming more and more populated by fresh faces right out of junior ranks around the world, it’s easy to forget that not every player reaches his potential before the age of 21. Puljujarvi won’t hit that age threshold until this May, and still has plenty of time to develop into the dominant, puck-possessing beast he had shown on the international stage. Whether the Oilers are willing to wait is the bigger question.
With GM Peter Chiarelli desperately trying to fix things in order to get McDavid and Edmonton to the playoffs—likely in order to save his own job as much as anything—the idea of trading Puljujarvi no longer strikes as unbelievable. Still, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet said on radio recently that the Oilers first-round pick might actually be the better trade chip at this point, given it could potentially be a lottery pick in the 2019 draft. It would be tough for the Oilers to accept that Puljujarvi brings back less than a draft pick regardless of how high, which may lead to them holding onto their young prospect and hoping his play rebounds.
Where do you think Chiarelli will land as the deadline approaches? Will Puljujarvi be dealt for an immediate upgrade? Or do the Oilers have enough other assets to improve the club for a 2019 playoff run?
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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Boston Bruins thought they could slide Colby Cave through waivers this week, but with the Edmonton Oilers looking for any sort of forward help it wasn’t to be so. The Oilers have claimed Cave, meaning he will join their NHL group and likely get another chance to establish himself at the highest level.
It’s not the first time this season that the Oilers have taken a stab at a young forward on waivers, given their dramatic need for help in the bottom half of their lineup. Cave played 20 games with the Bruins this season and actually impressed many with his unending work ethic and two-way ability. The 24-year old recorded five points in those games but has also dominated the AHL level this year with 18 points in 15 contests for the Providence Bruins. There’s little reason to believe he can become a top-six forward for Edmonton, but they’ve struggled so much to create any offense outside of their top few players that even a professional fourth-liner may be an upgrade.
The Oilers have just four forwards with at least five goals this season—not counting Drake Caggiula who recorded seven before being traded away—and amazingly fewer with even 25 points. Jujhar Kaira’s 13 points puts him fifth among all forwards, a production level that is not possible for a team expecting to challenge for the Stanley Cup. Cave should immediately challenge for a full-time role in Edmonton, and could even push out some of the more veteran options.
For the third year in a row, the NHL has scheduled a mandated multi-day break for each team in the middle part of the season. Meant to give each team a rest, much like the bye week in the National Football League, this break also includes limits on practice, including several days in which all team activities are prohibited. A seven-day break this season, on paper an increase from the original five-day break, the “bye week” is actually less intrusive this season than it has been in the past despite the longer length. All 31 teams will take their break either right before or right after the upcoming All-Star Weekend, with those two days counting toward the seven and simply extending what has always been a short break for non-participants. Below are the lists of teams who will take leave on one side of All-Star festivities or the other:
Before All-Star Weekend (January 20 – 24)
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
After All-Star Weekend (January 27 – 31)
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New York Islanders
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Golden Knights
How each team feels about taking an extended break in the middle of the season generally varies based on situational factors. While many players would enjoy getting to spend some time away with their families, others would rather keep the pedal to the metal mid-season. More specifically, a team that is playing well and stringing together wins would rather keep playing and not lose out on that momentum. Another team may be in a slump or struggling with injuries and desperately in need of a break. Either way, not every team will be in favor of the bye week each season.
There also remains some scheduling flaws with the mandated break, as most teams will only get the actual seven days or an eighth day off for travel, but others are set to go ten or eleven days without a contest. The “bye week” seems to be a move by the NHL that has enough support to continue in future seasons, but the league could work on sharpening the schedule so as to give teams as close to an even break as their competition as possible.
The Edmonton Oilers came into today just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. That proximity is not because of their own success though, as almost every team vying for the wild card spots in the west have struggled to find any sort of consistency of late. In face, the Dallas Stars have gone 5-4-1 in their last ten and yet have still pulled ahead of the plummeting Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division. The struggles of the rest of the conference may be a blessing for the Oilers, who are still well within striking distance if they can figure out how to get the most out of their current roster, or make an addition to change up the on-ice dynamic.
It seems as though the front office has focused in on the latter of those two options, as Ryan Rishaug of TSN reports that the team has put on a “full-court press to find help at forward.” Rishaug goes so far as to say that the Oilers may be willing to part with their first-round pick, a goaltender and a young developing forward, though no specific players are mentioned.
With exactly six weeks left before the trade deadline, the league has been deemed a buyers’ market given the amount of teams that know they’re not ready to compete this season. That’s not the case for the Oilers, who can’t afford to waste another prime year of Connor McDavid on a playoff-less team. There’s unimaginable pressure on GM Peter Chiarelli to make this club a winner given McDavid’s talent, but so far the young forward has seen just 13 playoff games in his short career.
Part of that is because of the lack of secondary scoring in Edmonton, something that has plagued the team since McDavid came into the league (and even before that). The Oilers have three players with 40 or more points, but their fourth-highest scoring forward is Alex Chiasson with just 22. Chiasson’s 17 goals make him one of only four forwards with more than four, not counting the seven Drake Caggiula scored before being traded out of town.
Interestingly, one of the players with four goals is Jesse Puljujarvi. That name will immediately come to mind for anyone who reads “young developing forward” in Rishaug’s tweet, though there is nothing to indicate that is the player he is referring to. Puljujarvi has just seven points this season and 35 total in a 127-game NHL career, clearly not the production the team was hoping for when they picked him fourth overall in 2016.
If the Oilers are actually committed to improving through trade, there are certain to be a number of names available as the trade deadline approaches. Even if Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone don’t hit the open market, there have already been reports that teams like the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers are willing to listen on nearly any of their veterans, while other teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers will have to quickly decide what to do with some expiring assets.
With rumors that the Edmonton Oilers are looking to add a quality top-six forward at the trade deadline, there is one question that keeps coming up, which is where is the money going to come from to pay that winger. The team only has $2.2MM in available cap space, which won’t be enough to acquire the type of forward they want to add. Even if a team retains some salary, the Oilers are going to be forced to move a significant salary.
However, the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins suggests that the team should look into trading goaltender Cam Talbot, whose $4.17MM salary could open up the money to acquire a top-six forward. With both of Edmonton’s goaltenders expected to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, it’s not likely the team will keep both and considering that Mikko Koskinen has a no-movement clause, Talbot would make the most sense to move to a contender who needs goaltending help. Unfortunately, Talbot’s numbers aren’t that impressive this year as he has a 3.17 GAA and a .896 save percentage – not likely to bring a significant return back.
- The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper (subscription required) debate the merits of whether the Los Angeles Kings should trade long-time goaltender Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline. With the impressive play of both Jack Campbell and Calvin Petersen, the team does have the luxury of moving Quick who could bring the team a significant return. The fact that he lacks a no-trade clause also is beneficial. However, each scribe also points out that with so many struggling teams this season, this might not be the best time to move a goaltender as there are so many of them out there. Plus, Quick’s leadership and ability to mentor both Campbell and Petersen might be invaluable to both players as well.
- Paul Gackle of the Mercury News report that the San Jose Sharks could be without forward Joonas Donskoi after he left Saturday’s game against Ottawa with an apparent head injury after taking a hit from defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period. While he returned not too long after the hit, he left immediately after that and didn’t play the final two periods. “He tried to come back. He couldn’t come back,” said head coach Peter DeBoer. Since the Sharks are off today, there will be no official update until Monday, but if the Sharks are without Donskoi for a significant amount of time, the team’s depth will be surely challenged.
- The Vegas Golden Knights chose Jonathon Merrill in the expansion draft last year and he has been used sparingly as an emergency defenseman in the past year and a half, yet Steve Carp of Sinbin.vegas writes that the play of the 26-year-old blueliner has improved dramitcally recently while the team has been without defenseman Colin Miller as he has averaged more than 17 minutes a game and he has a three-game point streak. Although Miller is expected back within the week, Carp writes that his play might get him more opportunities down the road with the team potentially resting players like Nick Holden and Deryk Engelland more often.
Last season, Patrick Maroon was moved by the Edmonton Oilers at the NHL Trade Deadline to the New Jersey Devils for a third-round pick and prospect Joey Dudek. Maroon had 30 points in 57 games with the Oilers, on pace for the best offensive season of his career, but was even better on the other side of the deal, adding 13 points in 17 games to finish with 43 points on the year. This off-season, Maroon was expected to cash in on that success as a free agent. Instead, he signed an unexpectedly small one-year, $1.75MM deal with his hometown St. Louis Blues. Even with the local connection, many speculated that there must be a handshake agreement between the two sides for a more substantial extension once some salary could be moved off the roster this upcoming summer, an idea fueled by the unusual combination of a full no-trade clause on a single-year contract.
Well, it appears that won’t be happening after all. The season has not gone according to plan for Maroon or the Blues. The team has been struggling greatly despite several prominent off-season additions and Maroon has been part of the problem. The big winger has just three goals and eleven points in 32 games for St. Louis and has frequently been a healthy scratch. The Blues are not quitting on the season; in fact, the team with the fewest games played in the league looks far worse in the standings than their actual points percentage rank would indicate. The playoffs are not an impossibility for St. Louis, but the team is listening on all offers and would not be opposed to moving anyone who isn’t actively helping them win. According to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, that includes Maroon, who he expects to be traded by the deadline for a second year in a row.
What about that no-trade clause? Rutherford made the revelation that Maroon’s NTC status changes after January 31st. In the final month ahead of the trade deadline, Maroon no longer has a full no-trade clause, but instead must submit a measly eight-team no-trade list, allowing him to be moved to 22 other teams. So while Maroon is protected through the next few weeks – although Rutherford suggests the team might ask him to waive the clause earlier – the time is coming when the Blues should be able to move Maroon relatively easily.
Of course, the return this season won’t quite be what the Oilers netted last year in a mid-round pick and middling prospect. Especially in the current buyers’ market, the 30-year-old Maroon in a down year will not cost much to a team simply looking to add a bottom-six depth forward. Maroon is a hard-working forward with the versatility to play a scoring role or checking role. Even in a down year, Maroon has the size and motor to be an intriguing addition. He also assured Rutherford that he is not being bothered by any injuries nor has he stopped playing as hard as possible. St. Louis just simply hasn’t been a fit for Maroon, despite his hopes, and no longer looks like a long-term landing spot. The Blues have little reason not to shop him ahead of the deadline and sell him off to the highest bidder. Expect just that to happen by February 26th.
It has been a tumultuous few years for veteran defenseman Jason Garrison. The now 34-year-old defenseman hit a wall after turning 30 and hasn’t been able to get back to the level of play he displayed as a younger player. His latest team, the Chicago Blackhawks, recently placed him on unconditional waivers and, after clearing, terminated his contract. It was the end of the line for Garrison’s NHL career, but he has quickly landed elsewhere. Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League has announced that they have signed Garrison to a contract for the remainder of the season.
Back in 2012, Garrison signed a six-year, $27.6MM contract with the Vancouver Canucks at the height of his career. Yet, he was then traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the draft in 2014. After one strong season in Tampa, recording 30 points at the age of 30, Garrison only managed 20 more points over the next two seasons combined. The Lightning exposed Garrison in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and made a side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights, giving up a second-round pick and the rights to KHL star Nikita Gusev, to ensure he was selected. Vegas then put Garrison on waivers early on last season and kept him in the AHL for all but eight regular season games. With his long-term contract expired, Garrison became a free agent but did not attract much attention in the off-season. He managed to land a tryout offer with the Edmonton Oilers and did enough to earn a one-year minimum contract. The Oilers even gave Garrison ample play time, starting him in 17 games. Yet, even with numerous injuries on the blue line, Garrison had not produced and it became clear he was not a legitimate option for Edmonton. They dealt him to the Blackhawks in late December as a salary dump in their trade to acquire actual defensive help in Brandon Manning. The next day, Chicago placed him on waivers and then again on unconditional waivers just a few days later.
However, through many difficult years and with many teams, including many games spent with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, Garrison has shown a determination to keep playing hockey. It comes as little surprise that he has found a new team so quickly. Djurgardens, who is currently fighting for a playoff spot in the SHL, is eager to add Garrison’s knowledge and leadership to the roster. The team lacks very much NHL experience, outside of former New Jersey Devil Jacob Josefson, but has plenty of exciting young talent in need of some stability and guidance. They hope that Garrison can answer that bell. While his days in the NHL are surely over, Garrison clearly wants to continue his playing career and can make a great first impression overseas by helping Djurgardens reach the postseason this year.
Despite many eyes across North America focused on the NFL Wild Card playoffs, the NHL has a busy Sunday scheduled this weekend. Seven games are on tap today, with the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators—two teams that are in the rumor mill—kicking things off this afternoon. As always, we’ll keep track of all the minor moves around the league today.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo back to the minor leagues once again, and could have him dressed for the Toronto Marlies game this afternoon. Kaskisuo has been serving as the backup for Michael Hutchinson while the team deals with injury, but still hasn’t gotten into an NHL game. With Frederik Andersen expected to return soon, he may have to wait for another opportunity.
- Though the terminology varies on the ECHL and AHL websites, minor league defenseman Nolan De Jong will be playing for the San Jose Barracuda for the time being. With Jacob Middleton recalled by the Sharks, the Barracuda have acquired De Jong to give them some more depth on the back end. The former University of Michigan captain has nine points in 22 games with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL this season.
- The New Jersey Devils announced they have recalled goaltender Cam Johnson from the Binghamton Devils of the AHL. He was recalled with the recent injury to MacKenzie Blackwood, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Johnson will serve as the backup today against Vegas. The former University of North Dakota standout has had an up and down season between the ECHL and Binghamton. While he has had quite a bit of success with the Adirondack Thunder, he hasn’t been as successful in 14 AHL games. Johnson has a 3.91 GAA and a .866 save percentage. To make room for Johnson, the team assigned defenseman defenseman Egor Yakovlev to the AHL.
- The Calgary Flames announced they have assigned forward Dillon Dube and goaltender Jon Gillies to the Stockton Heat of the AHL. Dube has appeared in 23 games with Flames, but if the team is sending him down, it’s likley that forward Andrew Mangiapane is ready to return from injured reserve. And with David Rittich healthy and ready to go, the team didn’t need Gillies, who was serving as an emergency backup. He has yet to make an appearance for Calgary.
- The Anaheim Ducks have assigned both forward Ben Street and defenseman Jake Dotchin to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL, according to Eric Stephens of The Athletic. Both players had cleared waivers recently. The team also sent defenseman Korbinian Holzer to San Diego. The moves are expected to open up roster spots for the return of center Rickard Rakell and Cam Fowler, who have been on injured reserve. Rackell has been out since Dec. 5 with a ankle injury, while Fowler has been out since Nov. 12 with a facial fracture. UPDATE: Stephens adds that Fowler has officially been activated off of injured reserve.
- The Edmonton Oilers will get back a key defenseman as they announced they have activated Kris Russell, while placing forward Kailer Yamamoto on injured reserve. Russell has been out since Dec. 11 with a groin injury and has been badly missed in Edmonton, who have since acquired multiple defenseman to add depth to their team. Russell has eight points and a plus-four rating for the Oilers. Yamamoto, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, is still trying to gain a full-time position with the team, but has just a goal and two points in 13 appearances, while having eight points in 11 games in the AHL.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins announced they have recalled Chad Ruhwedel from his conditioning stint with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The 28-year-old defenseman has played the role of the team’s seventh defenseman for several years now, but found himself in the press box for a long stretch of time, since Nov. 19, and the team opted to send him to the AHL to get him back into game shape. Ruhwedel played five games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting one goal, five points and a plus-eight.
With the new year ringing in and the 2019 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks just minutes away, teams are continuing to shape up their rosters for the new year. Keep tabs on roster moves throughout the day as the NHL schedule begins to get really busy over the next week:
- The Colorado Avalanche announced they have recalled goaltender Pavel Francouz from the Colorado Eagles of the AHL. Head coach Jared Bednar said that Semyon Varlamov was a little banged up and Francouz was recalled as a precaution. The 28-year-old was up earlier this month and was impressive in a relief stint on Dec. 22 when he saved 21 of 22 shots against Arizona in 29 minutes of work. Francouz, who signed as a free agent with Colorado in the offseason out of the KHL has performed well in the AHL as well, posting a 13-7-1 record and a .919 save percentage. With Varlamov expected to hit free agency at the end of the season, Francouz could be a strong candidate to fill the backup role next season.
- The Carolina Hurricanes have assigned forward Janne Kuokkanen to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, according to CapFriendly. The 20-year-old prospect has had trouble finding a positive role with the Hurricanes, despite being dominant in the AHL. Kuokkanen has yet to score in seven games and has seen his playing time dwindle to under 10 minutes in the past three games. He will return to Charlotte where he has already equaled his goal output from last year and can continue working on his game. The team followed that up announcing the promotion of Saku Maenalanen from Charlotte to fill Kuokkanen’s shoes. Maenalanen has appeared in just one game for the Hurricanes, but has scored seven goals and 14 points in 31 games for the Checkers.
- While it’s already been reported that the Chicago Blackhawks’ recent trade acquisition Jason Garrison cleared waivers earlier today, NBC Sports Charlie Roumeliotis reports that Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman said Garrison will be assigned to the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. Garrison, picked up in Sunday’s trade with Drake Caggulia for Brandon Manning, has played in 17 games with the Oilers this year. He did play 58 games with the Chicago Wolves last season when playing for the Vegas franchise.
- After two years in the Swiss League, former NHLer Bobby Sanguinetti has returned to North America, as the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL announced they have signed the 30-year-old veteran to an AHL deal. The defenseman, who played 45 games with the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, played with the Checkers for three years before spending the last two years in Switzerland. Sanguinetti, a former first-round pick in 2006, will hope to resurrect his career there.
- The Nashville Predators announced they have assigned Nicholas Baptiste to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. The team recalled him Monday to serve as an emergency player for their game against Washington, but now have returned the 23-year-old without getting him into a game. Baptiste has played 34 games for Milwaukee and has six goals and 14 points.
- The Minnesota Wild have recalled defenseman Ryan Murphy from AHL Iowa per a team release. This will be the 25-year-old’s first stint in the NHL this season but he has 172 games of NHL experience between Carolina and Minnesota over the past six seasons. Murphy has played in 27 games in the minors this season with three goals and 10 assists.