- Sharks winger Matt Nieto could return this season, or not. That’s certainly an odd way to update the status of a player but head coach Bob Boughner told Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News (Twitter link) that it’s possible that Nieto can play next week but at the same time, “it might be a marginal call whether he goes back in or not”. Nieto has been dealing with a lower-body injury for the last month and it appears that they are going to ere on the side of caution when he is cleared and if there isn’t enough time left in the year (or they fall out of the playoff race entirely), he could just be shut down. Nieto has five goals and two assists in 28 games this season.
When the San Jose Sharks dropped the puck tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, history was made. Patrick Marleau was in the lineup for San Jose, the 1,768th time that he has suited up for a regular season NHL game. This sets a new NHL record, breaking the age-old mark set by the one and only Gordie Howe in 1961.
While no one is comparing Marleau to Howe, who played six additional seasons in the WHA in addition to 26 years in the NHL and is considered one of the greatest of all time, Marleau has had a storied career of his own. The 41-year-old began his NHL story as the 1997 No. 2 overall pick, just one spot behind eventual long-time teammate Joe Thornton. Marleau played immediately for the Sharks, earning Calder Trophy votes in his first season, and the rest is history. Marleau played 19 consecutive seasons with San Jose before finally departing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017. After two seasons in Toronto, Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently bought out. He returned to San Jose, though the Sharks gave him potentially his last chance to win a Stanley Cup last year when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It unfortunately didn’t work out for Marleau, but he was still welcomed back to San Jose again this season for a chance to break the games played record. While Marleau’s long career may not include a title, he has many other accolades. A three-time All-Star, Marleau has also received votes for the Hart Trophy five times, the Selke Trophy four times, and the Lady Byng trophy a whopping 15 times, not to mention earning a number of Sharks franchise records as well. Altogether, Marleau has 566 goals and 1196 points in his career, second and fourth respectively among all active players and top-50 all-time.
Beyond the statistics, Marleau has always provided the most important ability as well: availability. Outside of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and these past two COVID-impacted campaigns, Marleau has never played fewer than 74 games in a season – and that low mark occurred in his rookie season. In fact, Marleau already shares in another impressive NHL games played mark. He, Jarome Iginla, and Henrik Sedin are the only players in league history to have played every game in an 82-game schedule 11 times (although Sedin holds the record with 12).
Marleau’s new career games played record could stand the test of time as well. The only active players within even 500 games of the mark are Thornton, 41, Zdeno Chara, 44, and Eric Staal, 36. Marleau has the remainder of this season to further tack on games as well. What happens beyond that point is unknown, though many speculate that Marleau could retire now that the record is set, but also given the drop-off in his performance this year. However, Thornton and Chara are also equally likely to retire, while Staal is about six full 82-game seasons from matching the mark. Marleau should be safe for quite awhile atop the all-time games played list.
Congratulations to Marleau on this tremendous achievement from everyone at PHR.
Perhaps the story of the NHL Trade Deadline, since it certainly wasn’t the quantity of trades or the numerous star players on the move, was the advent of the third-party salary cap broker in trades. Three different deals were made at the deadline that included three teams, with the third team strictly being used as a means to retain salary on the centerpiece player moving to a contender short on cap space. In each one, the third team retained the maximum 50% of salary after the seller had also retained 50%, leaving the buyer with just 25% of the player’s cap value. For their part, the third team received a draft pick from the buyer and were able to shed a minor league salary as well.
The Tampa Bay Lightning first used the Detroit Red Wings to broker the trade of defenseman David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tampa had been expected to be quiet at the deadline given their miniscule cap space, but ended up getting one of the best defensemen on the rental market. Next, the Toronto Maple Leafs employed the San Jose Sharks as the middle-man for their acquisition of Nick Foligno, again from the Blue Jackets. Toronto had little cap flexibility and a long shopping list at the deadline and would not have been able to add Foligno without help. Finally, San Jose volunteered to be the third team again the deal that sent Mattias Janmark from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas has had the worst cap situation of any team in the league this season, restricted from making standard roster moves and several times forced into short-handed lineups. Yet, using this new three-team retention format they were able to add a top rental.
This all poses a question that at least a few other NHL clubs have been asking: should this be legal? The NHL has cracked down on salary cap circumvention in the past and there appear to be some who believe this is simply the newest version, allowing cap-strapped contenders to acquire players that they never could otherwise. However, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun on the latest edition of “Insider Trading“, this is one perceived problem that the league will not tackle. LeBrun reports that the league has been well are of this method of trade and were not fooled by the deals made at the deadline this year. After all, it was more than three years ago now when the Pittsburgh Penguins seemingly invented this formula – albeit in a more complete hockey trade – in the Derick Brassard deadline deal with Vegas and the Ottawa Senators. The Golden Knights then used the format to their advantage just last year, adding Robin Lehner from the Blackhawks via a cap-retention pitstop in Toronto. Clearly, there is a group of teams who have taken to this specific style of three-team trade, with Vegas and Toronto chief among them, and there are others who are not happy about it. As such, the NHL has already done its due diligence on the legality and will not take action.
Their reasoning? There simply is no cap circumvention occurring here. LeBrun relays that the league has no issue with a third team being used solely for cap retention, as hockey capital is being acquired by all parties. The Red Wings and Sharks received mid-round draft picks in exchange for their assistance and were even allowed to help balance the checkbook by sending out another contract. The NHL feels that this is a valid use of cap space as an asset to make a legitimate trade. So while it does create situations in which the rich get richer without otherwise having the cap space to do so, all parties are being reasonably compensated within the NHL rulebook. Teams may not like it, but that doesn’t make it illegal. And with the flat cap environment likely to continue for another year or two, this style of trade isn’t going away any time soon.
The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline came and went with relatively little fanfare. Deadline day saw just 17 trades made (a new 8-year low) that involved only 26 players (a new 20-year low). The obvious downside to a quiet deadline is that it’s not very exciting to follow and doesn’t create the same number of stretch run storylines to follow. The upside? With so little news to cover, nothing slipped through the cracks. Insiders, such as Elliotte Friedman, have come out with more “almost-trades” than in most years and they have been compiled below. Enjoy reveling in what could have been:
Nicolas Deslauriers to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins and Anaheim Ducks came so close on a trade for Deslauriers that an article was published on the topic. Friedman reported that a deal was done, but then backtracked as talks fell apart. Pittsburgh ended up adding experience to their bottom-six from another West Division source, adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings.
Jamie Oleksiak to the Edmonton Oilers
In the middle of the deadline day chaos, several pundits reported that Dallas Stars defenseman Oleksiak was on his way to Edmonton. Yet, as time ticked by and there was no announcement, it became clear that a deal had not been completed. Oleksiak had been linked to both Edmonton and the Toronto Maple Leafs but stay put, with the speculation now being the the Stars hope to re-sign him. The Oilers, who also missed out on Patrik Nemeth, ended up finding their stay-at-home defenseman in the New Jersey Devils’ Dmitry Kulikov.
One of the biggest misses of the deadline was the Jets’ failure to add an impact defenseman. Winnipeg did add Jordie Benn late, but that hardly fills their gaping hole in the top-four. In retrospect, the mistake may have been focusing too much on defensemen who weren’t truly available. Friedman believes that the team tried to acquire either Gavrikov or Goligoski, or perhaps even both. Gavrikov would have been a very nice addition for the Jets, but by all accounts the young Columbus Blue Jackets defender was not really for sale. And while the Arizona Coyotes were expected to listen to offers for their expiring contracts, they ended up standing pat and not moving the veteran Goligoski. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Chicago Blackhawks were at least listening to offers for RFA blue liner Zadorov as well and the Jets made a push, but to no avail.
Taylor Hall to the New York Islanders or Vegas Golden Knights
Friedman began his post-deadline “31 Thoughts” by confirming the suspicions that Hall left the Buffalo Sabres little choice but to trade him to the Boston Bruins, stating that Hall had decided that was where he wanted to go and used his No-Movement Clause to make it happen. However, two other teams made a strong push and that was the Islanders and the Golden Knights. Hall was even open to joining New York, but once they acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac he turned his focus to Boston even though the Isles maintained interest. The Sabres were seemingly very interested in making a deal with Vegas, as Friedman notes that multiple teams were contacted about acting as a salary cap broker for a potential deal. In the end, Hall preferred Boston and that is all that mattered.
Many have been critical of the Sabres’ return for Hall – a Boston second-round pick and forward Anders Bjork – but they tried their best to get more. Friedman reports that Buffalo asked Boston about moving one of their promising young keepers, as both Vladar and Swayman have shown NHL ability in recent weeks as the injury replacements in the Bruins net. However, once Boston knew that Hall wanted to go there and could control the decision, they held all the leverage. The team easily declined moving either talented netminder.
Conor Garland to the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vegas Golden Knights
While the team ended up acquiring Nick Foligno instead, Friedman notes that the Toronto Maple Leafs did express interest in affordable Arizona Coyotes forward Garland. Garland would have fit nicely under the cap, but would have been expensive to require and near impossible to re-sign for the cap-strapped Leafs. The team thus went in a different direction. The Golden Knights were also linked to Garland, but could not make a deal work with their division rival. Garland remaining with the Coyotes could be what is best for both parties in the long run anyhow.
Ryan Getzlaf to the Vegas Golden Knights or Montreal Canadiens
The Golden Knights just missed out on seemingly everyone, huh? Friedman notes that the team was close to adding Anaheim captain Getzlaf and the career Duck was open to the nearby move. However, Vegas allegedly was unwilling to meet the trade demands for the veteran center. For the same reason, the Canadiens likely missed out. Friedman notes that they had serious interest, but talks never got far. Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now adds that the Penguins kicked the tires on Getzlaf as well, but never made a serious offer. Anaheim clearly put a high price tag on the face of the franchise and never even approached him about waiving his No-Movement Clause.
Travis Zajac to the Pittsburgh Penguins
While it’s easy to lose track of when trades were made and talks were had around the deadline, per Friedman it seems the Penguins had their sights first set on Zajac from New Jersey, then Getzlaf, and finally Carter. The Kings veteran is not a bad acquisition for a third choice. The Penguins do have to face Zajac on a fellow East Division contender the rest of the way though and surely hope that Carter proves to be the superior player head-to-head.
The San Jose Sharks snuck a signing in before the deadline, as AHL goaltender Zach Sawchenko has earned his first NHL deal. The Sharks have announced that Sawchenko has signed a two-year entry-level contract that starts this season. CapFriendly adds that the deal carries the minimum salary for both years, $700K in 2020-21 and $750K in 2021-22, for an AAV of $725K. Sawchenko will have an AHL salary of $80K in both seasons, albeit prorated for the current year.
Sawchenko, 23, was once a highly-regarded young prospect. A two-time WHL First Team All-Star with the Moose Jaw Warriors and a member of Canada’s 2015 U-18 World Juniors team, Sawchenko looked like a budding NHL prospect, but was somehow never drafted. He even attended two years at the University of Alberta, with his stellar numbers again pointing toward pro potential. The Sharks finally gave the netminder a shot last season, signing him to a minor league contract. He found success right away, putting up strong numbers in limited AHL and ECHL action, and this season has been even better. Through two seasons, Sawchenko has a .912 save percentage and 2.76 GAA in 16 AHL games and a .928 save percentage and 2.42 GAA in 20 ECHL games.
Signing Sawchenko now serves a couple different purposes for the Sharks. Firstly, San Jose needed another pro option this season following the trade of Devan Dubnyk. The team plans to use other youngsters Josef Korenar and Alexei Melnichuk as interchangeable backups to Martin Jones for the rest of the year, so Sawchenko is unlikely to see any NHL action too quickly. However, there are no other pro goalies in the system for San Jose and in the event of an injury at the NHL level Sawchenko would become third-string and would likely be on the taxi squad down the stretch or in the postseason should the Sharks qualify. Signing Sawchenko to a two-year deal this season also allows the Sharks to reduce his cap hit for next season below the league minimum without actually having to pay him the full salary for this season. In the event that he is able to crack the NHL roster at any point next season, Sawchenko will be as affordable a player as possible.
The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone. A relatively slow day ended with a late burst, as many teams jumped into the mix at the last minute. How do you think your team did? Share your deadline grades in the comments for teams in the West Division.
In – None
Out – None
Los Angeles Kings
In – None
Out – None
San Jose Sharks
In – F Alexander Barabanov, D Greg Pateryn, G Magnus Chrona, 2021 fourth-round pick (TOR), 2021 fifth-round pick (COL), 2022 fifth-round pick (BUF via VGK)
Out – G Devan Dubnyk, F Stefan Noesen, F Antti Suomela, D Fredrik Claesson, D Nick DeSimone, 2021 fourth-round pick
St. Louis Blues
In – None
Out – None
Vegas Golden Knights
So much for the big KHL signings. The Toronto Maple Leafs have now traded both Mikko Lehtonen and Alexander Barabanov after just a handful of games in the NHL, with the latter going to the San Jose Sharks at the deadline. The Sharks will send Antti Suomela to Toronto in return.
Barabanov played just 13 games for the Maple Leafs after signing his one-year entry-level contract. A strong KHL performer who recorded 46 points in 2018-19, he came to Toronto this season with an eye on regular NHL minutes and wasn’t ever really able to secure them. Even when dressing he averaged fewer than nine minutes a night, and though there were flashes of skill, Barabanov failed to score even a single goal.
With Nick Foligno acquired recently and top prospect Nicholas Robertson back up with the team, there wasn’t going to much more playing time for Barabanov with the Maple Leafs. He’ll try to get some extra playing time in San Jose, but the reality is that a return to the KHL could be coming fast. The 26-year-old is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year.
Suomela, 27, shouldn’t be considered much of a return for the Maple Leafs, even though he does have 51 games of NHL experience. He’s a depth forward that hasn’t even dominated at the AHL level, meaning he’ll be hard-pressed to crack the Maple Leafs skilled forward group.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have added some more depth to the blue line, acquiring Fredrik Claesson from the San Jose Sharks. The Lightning will send the rights to goaltending prospect Magnus Chrona back the other way. GM Julien BriseBois released a short statement on the deal:
Bringing in Fredrik allows us to have five left shot defensemen and six right shot defensemen with NHL experience on our reserve list. History has proven that you will need depth on defense if you are going to have an extended playoff run.
Claesson, 28, has played just nine NHL games since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, but likely won’t be asked to play much more than that for the Lightning unless they suffer some catastrophic injuries. The Lightning already added David Savard to solidify their top-four, and now have brought in a little more depth at the position as well.
He carries just a $700K contract and can report directly to the Tampa Bay taxi squad, meaning he does not affect the cap hit at all.
Chrona, 20, just finished his sophomore season at the University of Denver, where he put up a .907 save percentage in 18 appearances. Selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, the Swedish netminder would need to be signed to enter the Sharks development system.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic was first to report a deal was coming.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been the biggest winners of the trade deadline so far, at least among sellers, having successfully moved defenseman David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning for first and third-round picks Saturday. Now, as TSN’s Frank Seravalli was first to report, the team has traded captain Nick Foligno as well, for another pricey return. After noting that several teams were in the bidding for Foligno, offering up first-round picks to get a deal done, Seravalli revealed that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the lucky club that will land the veteran forward.
The terms of the Foligno deal are very similar to the Savard trade, with a third team being used as a broker to retain salary. The Blue Jackets retained 50% Foligno’s contract, an expiring deal with a $5.5MM AAV, and traded him to the San Jose Sharks, who retained 50% of the remainder before passing him along to the Maple Leafs, leaving Toronto with just a $1.375MM hit. In exchange, the Blue Jackets receive Toronto’s 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-round pick. The Sharks also receive a Toronto fourth-round pick in 2021 and send depth forward Stefan Noesen to the Leafs.
While the biggest buyers tend to get the most attention at the deadline, as the 2018-19 Blue Jackets can attest, this year’s Columbus team already feels like story of the 2021 deadline. In a market that was expected to suffer from salary cap crunches, border logistics, and a plethora of potential sellers, the Blue Jackets have turned two good-not-great players into a pair of first-round picks and two additional mid-round picks by getting creative with three-team deals to solve financial struggles. Both Foligno and Savard have been long-time Blue Jackets who worked hard and found great success, but to receive a first-rounder for either one would have been a surprise in a normal season, nevertheless in this strange market. GM Jarmo Kekalainen deserves all of the accolades coming to him for these trades, especially if Foligno re-signs in Columbus this off-season as many expect.
With that said, Foligno’s acquisition is still a strong move by the Leafs even at a high cost. Toronto is all-in this season and Folingo provides experience, leadership, work ethic, positional versatility, a strong defensive game, and some scoring as well. The 33-year-old also knows that this could be his best shot at winning a Stanley Cup and is sure to give it all he has. Foligno is the type of veteran depth addition that can often propel a team to a deep playoff run, especially when surrounded by other elite talent, of which there is a plethora in Toronto. Foligno has seven goals and 16 points in 42 games this season, as well as over 100 hits, and has shown in the past that he is capable of even more scoring and more physicality than he has already shown this year.
In Noesen, the Leafs add yet another forward option who can safely be sent to the taxi squad or AHL after clearing waivers earlier this season. The 28-year-old rental has over 200 NHL games under his belt and plays a gritty, hard-nosed style. Noesen is easy to forget in this deal, but could slide into a fourth-line role with Toronto if injuries strike. He was not being utilized by the Sharks this season, who will gladly move on and eat $1.375MM of Foligno’s cap in exchange for a draft pick.
Another player is expected to be held out of the lineup tonight, though it isn’t for a traditional seller. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the Carolina Hurricanes will hold Haydn Fleury out of the lineup tonight and notes that the young defenseman could “potentially” be traded by the deadline. Jake Gardiner is going back into the Carolina lineup in Fleury’s place.
The Hurricanes, who are 27-9-3 this season and first in the Central Division, are expected to be buyers at the deadline, but moving one of their defensemen could be a way to improve elsewhere. Fleury, 24, is signed through next season and carries a $1.3MM cap hit, but (somewhat amazingly) has recorded just a single point this season in a limited role.
- Joe Veleno’s season in the SHL has come to an end, and Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports that he has been recalled to North America. Veleno’s week-long quarantine will begin on Sunday, after which he would be eligible to play for the Red Wings or Grand Rapids Griffins. The 21-year-old Veleno hasn’t made his NHL debut yet after being selected 30th overall in 2018, but has two seasons of professional hockey under his belt now. This season with the Malmo Redhawks of the SHL, Veleno recorded 11 goals and 20 points in 46 games.
- After the Tampa Bay Lightning used a third team to make David Savard fit into their cap structure, one might expect other complicated multi-team trades to go down in the next couple of days. The San Jose Sharks could be another team using cap space as a way to collect assets, as GM Doug Wilson told reporters including Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News. Wilson believes that the Sharks will “be a good team come next September” but adds that he will try to acquire some extra draft picks by using that cap space.