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LeBrun rumors: Attractive NHL trade candidates (O’Reilly? Horvat?) and potential deadline buyers emerging early in 2022-23

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Barely a month into the NHL season, we can already start looking at possible scenarios for the March 3 trade deadline.

Including, perhaps, some that we did not see coming.

Take the Blues, for example, mired in a franchise-record eight-game losing streak and already have their general manager, Doug Armstrong, warning of the possible consequences if there isn’t a trade.

I mean, who saw this coming for the Blues?

It could have trade deadline implications for some players.

The two names that jump out at you are unrestricted free agents Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, though the latter has a full no-trade clause, so all roads would go through him.

But O’Reilly, the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, could be a pretty coveted target closer to March 3 if the Blues don’t salvage their season. He hasn’t played very well at the start of the season, with two points (both goals) and a -12 rating in 11 games, but I think his work would give contenders enough confidence to take a serious look.

The preseason plan was for the Blues and O’Reilly’s camp, led by veteran agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports, to meet in the New Year regarding an extension. But if the Blues’ season is beyond salvation, and considering Armstrong’s comments last week, it’s hard to imagine an extension in that scenario for O’Reilly, who turns 32 in February.

O’Reilly doesn’t have any trade protection, so the Blues would have an open field to work with if they decide to go down this path in a few months. On the other hand, his $7.5 million salary cap hit wouldn’t be easy to absorb with so many playoff contenders right on the salary cap. The Blues would have to be willing to eat 50 percent of that and/or bring in a team of third-party running backs to further minimize the impact of the cap.

If they do, you’d have to imagine the market would be healthy for a proven playoff winner and such a reliable two-way center.

But it might not be the only such hub on the market.

While the Canucks continue to suggest they still hope to re-sign pending UFA Bo Horvat (president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford mentioned it last week in an interview on Sportsnet Vancouver radio, a week after he told me the same thing) I think The reality is that unless the Canucks start to resemble a playoff team very soon, it makes much more sense to explore the trade market for the 27-year-old Canucks captain, who is off to a poor start. offensive season, with 12 goals and 16 points in 14 games.

Horvat doesn’t have no-trade protection, so it’s a clean process for the Canucks as far as being able to talk to any team. And they’ll be very interested, especially if they’re willing to eat some of their $5.5 million salary cap to maximize return.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even non-playoff teams with a commercial interest in Horvat, to start July 1 and sign him to an extension.

Then there is Jonathan Toews. I went over the Patrick Kane trade scenario last month, but only briefly mentioned his friend Toews, for the obvious reason that Kane would be the most in-demand product, still one of the best offensive players in the world.

But Toews, 34, in the first month is playing his best hockey in a couple of years in the top six, with seven goals and nine points in 12 games. He scored just 12 goals in 71 games last season.

What remains to be seen is whether Toews really wants to be traded. He controls the process with complete non-motion. And there’s the matter of his incredible $10.5 million cap hit, which would almost certainly require a team of third-party brokers. If Chicago and another team each kept 50 percent of him, that hit would drop to $2.625 million.

In that number, the contenders would definitely be intrigued.

All of which brings us to an obvious suitor when it comes to a potential trade for O’Reilly, Horvat or Toews: Colorado.

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Avalanche lost second center Nazem Kadri to the Flames in free agency last summer, and I’m convinced they’ll try to come out and replace him, if only for this year’s playoffs, closer to the March. 3 business deadline.

O’Reilly, Horvat and Toews would be a good fit in Colorado’s second row.

Horvat would be the most expensive acquisition, hands down, but it’s worth noting that the Avs still have their first-round pick for the June NHL Draft. (The Canucks would surely want a first-round pick as part of a larger package.)

Toews, by virtue of its complete immobility, limits Chicago’s ability to fabricate a true market, so it is likely the cheapest to acquire, asset-wise, although someone has to pay an asset for the outside broker get involved.

A healthy Sean Monahan (also UFA pending) from Montreal could be another option for Colorado.

But if I were Avs GM Chris MacFarland looking to bolster my lineup for a chance to repeat, O’Reilly and Toews are the two guys I’d focus on closer to March 3: two captains who they have won and understand what it is. It’s time for the playoffs.

It would be ironic, of course, if O’Reilly ended up in Denver, where he began his NHL career, especially given what happened there. As you may remember, he signed a two-year, $10 million offer sheet with the Flames in February 2013 coming out of the lockout, which the Avs grudgingly matched. That eventually led to the June 2015 trade of him to Buffalo. But he has spent a lot of time since then. I can’t imagine Joe Sakic holding that kind of grudge.

The rental defense market

It’s still early days to get here, but there are already three pending UFA blueliners worth noting before March 3.

John Klingberg will be the defensive starter among the pending UFAs, having signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Anaheim late in free agency last summer, knowing full well that he will be traded at the trade deadline. could be part of the plan. It’s the same kind of scenario in which the Canadiens tried to sell Klingberg earlier in the offseason, offering him a one-year deal, but he refused at the time. The Habs had the idea to trade him at the trade deadline, which is what the Ducks likely will do unless they decide to extend him.

Klingberg’s contract with the Ducks actually has a full no-trade clause until Jan. 1 and then changes to a partial no-trade clause, which includes a list of 19 teams he can be traded to.

Ducks teammate Kevin Shattenkirk is also a pending UFA, and his $3.9 million AAV will be easier to manage in a trade. Shattenkirk has a modified no-trade that includes a list of 12 teams he cannot be traded to without his consent. That list was sent in the offseason.

And finally, if the Wild falls out of contention this season, pending UFA blueliner Matt Dumba will likely be trade bait. It has an unchanged 10-team roster. He could be part of trade discussions, even if Wild remains in the playoff race, as part of a hockey trade to boost Minnesota’s roster.

(Top photo by Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


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