Losing has consequences. As the losses piled on the NHL also-rans, change became inevitable.
Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon fired his coaching staff, despite his earlier votes of confidence for head coach Kevin Dineen. It seems the franchise’s new owners didn’t enjoy watching that team lose game after game after game in soul-crushing fashion.
The staggering Edmonton Oilers finally addressed their goaltending situation by signing free agent Ilya Bryzgalov, who famously washed out in Philadelphia before getting a massive cap compliance buyout. The Oilers also did some housecleaning by sending Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy to the Calgary Flames for a couple of prospects.
Expect the Panthers to continue making changes. Expect the same from the Oilers. Both teams added to their misery with weekend losses.
Earlier Tallon signaled his willingness to trade veterans like Kris Versteeg and Scottie Upshall, but it remains unclear if the new ownership wants to take the same long view. The new guys inherited Tallon, who suddenly finds himself under intense scrutiny.
Florida's roster is packed with overpaid and underachieving veterans. If the Panthers do opt to “go young” this season, winger Vincent Trocheck should get a long look after his solid start in the AHL.
Meanwhile the Oilers stirred heavy trade speculation by tracking the New York Rangers closely. That had Big Apple fans buzzing about a potential Nail Yakupov deal, but Oilers coach Dallas Eakins tried to quell that chatter by insisting the young winger was staying put.
Here are some of the storylines to keep an eye on:
- The Oilers could use a winger like Chris Kreider, which would account for the team’s scouting delegation on the Rangers’ trail. But Kreider finally snapped to life by scoring seven points in nine games and the Rangers suddenly lost interest in playing Let’s Make a Deal.
- Beleaguered Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would move Ales Hemsky, a pending unrestricted free agent earning $5.5 million, in a heartbeat. But not many teams are that interested in an injury-prone finesse winger.
- A player Edmonton could really use is offensive defenseman Michael Del Zotto, a pending restricted free agent who drew the ire of GM Glen Sather in his last contract go-around. He has arbitration rights, so it is conceivable the Rangers could trade him if the right offer came along.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs shopped for center help after losing Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland to significant injuries, but the Ottawa Sun reports that the team opted not to bid for Dallas Stars pivotman Vernon Fiddler. TSN notes that Buffalo center Steve Ott, a pending UFA, could become a worthy target.
- Jets coach Claude Noel bought a little comfort when Winnipeg stepped on the Predators 5-0, but he still ranks atop the NHL’s endangered coach list after Dineen’s demise. Moving to the tougher Western Conference reduced this team’s travel but increased its challenge. “These other teams never lose twice in a row,” Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec told the Winnipeg Sun. “It seems like everybody is winning around us. We have to keep it going. It seems like we're not able to win back-to-back games and that's really what we have to focus on.”
- Also feeling toasty is Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards. The new Columbus management team inherited him as coach and inherited coaches are easy marks when a team struggles. It’s not Richards’ fault that the Blue Jackets lack offensive depth or that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t duplicated last season’s success. But somebody has to take the blame, right?
- The Flyers could use a top defenseman. Also, they need an offensive boost. When the Oilers visited Philadelphia, CSN Philly noted how the Flyers organization drooled over Edmonton winger Jordan Eberle. But it seems the Oilers consider Eberle untouchable along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. (It appears Yakupov is touchable, despite Eakins’ proclamation.)
- Now that Edmonton has addressed its goaltending situation, the New York Islanders should be next in line. Thus far the blockbuster Thomas Vanek deal hasn’t helped the Islanders keep pace. GM Garth Snow has some decisions to make, such as whether to keep pending free agent Andrew MacDonald.
- Wild winger Dany Heatley has been a good sport about his demotion to the fourth line in Minnesota, but that team won’t be able to offload him until much closer to the trade deadline. Few teams have cap space to gamble on him with his $7.5 million salary.
- Canadiens center David Desharnais became the subject of trade rumors once the team moved Alex Galchenyuk to his natural center position. Center Lars Eller has become an outstanding No. 3 center and Tomas Plekanec is the No. 1, so Desharnais and the last three years of his contract (with a $3.5 million annual cap hit) could come into play.
- Salary cap concerns may force the Penguins to move defenseman Matt Niskanen, who is steaming toward unrestricted free agency. He makes $2.3 million this season and is due a nice raise in his next deal. The Penguins can’t keep everybody.