Over the weekend, I heard a rumor that certainly caught my attention.
It was that the Blues, now armed with three first-round picks in this year’s draft, reached out to the Sharks about Timo Meier.
It was not a rumor that I was able to verify at the time. But it’s not just a rumor anymore. As a colleague Frank Seravalli reported for Daily Faceoff on Tuesday during his podcast, I also confirmed that the Blues have indeed inquired about Meier. I believe they are open to moving two of their first-round picks as part of a potential trade offer for him. I can’t say at this stage whether or not the Blues can attract the Sharks enough to reach a more serious level.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has indicated he wants to make it a quick retool, potentially using some of his first-round picks to do so. Meier is 26 and would fit the criteria, age-wise, of the type of players the Blues hope to re-team with.
I was told that another team inquired about Meier? The Jets. Imagine power skating in that top six. But it’s hard to say whether or not the Jets have the kind of package that can commit San Jose.
New Jersey, Carolina and, I believe, Vegas round out the favorites on Meier. As previously reported, the Devils would likely need a contract extension with Meier to be part of things, while the Hurricanes are willing to make this trade with no extension in place.
Meier’s agent, Claude Lemieux, as of Tuesday afternoon, had still not been authorized to speak directly to the teams.
I still think Carolina and New Jersey are the lead dogs here. I believe they have the most attractive pieces to offer. But it’s obviously interesting to see new teams in the fray.
The Slippery Preds
The Predators haven’t given up on their season, although Sunday’s loss to Minnesota was a crushing one. They have winnable games on the schedule this week. Management has therefore not yet raised the white flag.
But the Preds have no choice but to start making calls about teams’ interest in their players, and that process has indeed begun. Last week I wrote that it could soon be. Again, I think veteran GM David Poile listens to many players on his roster to get a sense of the market. But with no unrestricted free agents pending, getting deals this close to March 3 that involve players on fixed-term contracts won’t be easy. That’s why it could still be a quiet deadline for Nashville.
Mattias Ekholm, 32, who has three years left on his contract after this one at an average annual value of $6.25 million, has drawn a lot of attention over the past week. He’s still a bonafide top-four defender, which is why some teams are intrigued.
But his age, 33 in May, is concerning given the remaining length of the deal. The asking price would be high – possibly as many as two first-round picks. Not sure there is a team willing to pay that. But at the very least, the Preds are telling teams about him.
I think the Maple Leafs, for example, have looked at him, but I don’t easily see how Toronto can meet the asking price, and there’s the matter of his contract.
The Caps aren’t necessarily buying someone intensely, but I feel like GM Brian MacLellan is getting calls about his many pending UFAs and he really has no choice but to at least listen.
What he ends up doing really depends on how he feels about his team’s chances.
I wrote last week about contract talks with Dmitry Orlov. He’s the best UFA pending on the Caps roster, as far as interest from other clubs goes: a bona fide defender potentially available if teams make it nearly impossible for Washington to say no.
But I also believe the Caps haven’t given up on signing Orlov for an extension. So I think it will really depend on what it takes to sign him versus what’s on the table in terms of team trades.
My TSN colleague Chris Johnston also reported Tuesday night on our Insider Trading segment that the Caps were getting calls on Orlov.
More than half of Washington’s list is for expiring deals. It was always going to be a fascinating March 3 deadline for the Caps depending on their standings position.
Center Lars Eller would be another key pending for the UFA whose two-way play appeals to playoff teams.
But again, what the Caps ultimately decide to do before March 3, I think, remains undecided.
Hurricane Business Goals
Carolina has about $10 million in cap space to spend before March 3, so it’s no surprise that Don Waddell continues to be as active as any GM in exploring the market.
Meier, as noted above, remains his main target. I think there’s also genuine interest in Patrick Kane if the Blackhawks star was considering Carolina. And, obviously, the Canes do their homework on just about any forward. There is a hole to fill with Max Pacioretty out for the season.
But I also believe the Canes are looking for potential targets on defense. With that headroom, they can afford to add both forward and defense.
Speaking of Kane
We are still waiting to find out if Patrick Kane wants to undertake a trade. In a perfect world, that decision might have already been made, but it’s understandable that Kane feels like he needs a little more time. It’s an emotional decision after spending his entire NHL career in Chicago.
It is hoped that he will decide by the end of the week, but there are no guarantees.
If Kane says yes to exploring the trade market, it’s my understanding that he and Agent Pat Brisson will find its primary destination and bring it to the Blackhawks to explore. We are therefore talking about a single team here. Not a list of teams.
Now, obviously, there’s a chance the best team on Kane’s roster can’t make it work. Then you have to decide whether to move on to the next team.
But the thing is, I think Brisson will go to Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson with a team if indeed Kane is open to exploring a trade. This is the leverage effect of a complete prohibition clause.
And if Kane’s answer is that he wants to stay put, you have to wonder if that potentially means surgery before the offseason, although Kane has played down his nagging health issues.
Larkin Extension Talks
Contract talks on an extension for pending UFA center Dylan Larkin have been put on hold for the time being as both sides have agreed the focus should be on the playoff race the Red Wings find themselves in.
Obviously, that could change at any time if the Wings lose a few games in a row, but it looks like those contract talks will wait for now. And again, Larkin has the full no-trade clause, so nothing would happen on that front unless he wanted to anyway. And right now, he’s in a playoff race.
(Timo Meier and Mattias Ekholm top photo: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)