While the lead story of the NHL’s weekend is — and should be — Montreal GM Marc Bergevin ignoring all decency, logic, and the player’s own wishes to draft alleged sex criminal Logan Mailloux, that doesn’t mean it was the only story. The NHL is in a strange place these days, with the salary cap staying flat for at least the next few years (though expect a fight somewhere in the near future about whether it should, given the spanking-new TV deal and everything else). This means a majority of teams are having to toss stuff overboard, even useful stuff, to get cap compliant. You’d expect some trades to be lopsided given the handcuffed position some teams are in, but the past few days were a bright, shining example of just how little clue most GMs have.
The weekend started with the Carolina Hurricanes just giving away goalie Alex Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings, nominally for Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick. Nedeljkovic was a Calder finalist and had a .932 save percentage in his first full season. That was better goaltending than the Canes have ever gotten. In the playoffs, he had a .920 save percentage, and that’s while facing the firing squad of Tampa for five games. And the Canes reportedly dumped him over $1.5 million, which gives you some idea of just how tight the margins are. The Wings gleefully, and perhaps in their own shock, signed Nedeljkovic to a $3 million per year extension. The Canes do have an extension to work out with Andrei Svechnikov, and would like to bring Dougie Hamilton back, but they also have nearly $30 million in cap space. GM Don Waddell claims he wants to find a veteran netminder for the expected Cup push for the Canes, but it’s hard to fathom how any of those on the market are better than Nedeljkovic. It’s a position the Canes have tried to get cute with for years, to their detriment, and like most teams, they just refuse to learn.
The fact that this move is barely in contention for the dumbest of the weekend tells you about the barf-a-palooza front offices around the league were performing.
We move onto the Flyers, who continually think they can solve their goaltending problems by finding more shitty defensemen. They gave up Robert Hagg and a first-rounder to acquire Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo. Ristolainen has been a punchline for most of his career, and the league should have learned through Tyler Myers that anytime Buffalo calls offering one of their blue liners, you have to hang up the phone immediately, if not throw it against the wall. Ristolainen has a relationship with positioning and angles that could be best described as “estranged,” and Flyers fans will have the batteries out by Thanksgiving for this dope.
And again, might not be the most bewildering trade of the weekend. The New York Rangers, in a quest to prove they can be the most knuckle-dragging organization after seemingly “getting it” during their rebuild, launched genuine top-six winger Pavel Buchnevich to St. Louis for plow-horse Sammy Blais (“TO BLAIS! Which we all know means to bluff, so you two were playing cards….”). The Rangers are going through that phase that every team gets afflicted with seemingly where they think the answer to their problems is being more “grind-y” because some palooka in the blue seats kept screaming about it on WFAN once (do the blue seats at MSG exist anymore? You get it). This decidedly makes the Rangers worse, but you can’t really count on a GM like Chris Drury, who retired due to head injuries, to notice that the Rangers’ problem was having just one line and that Kaapo Kakko might not be any damn good.
And again, maybe not the worst! The Hawks, desperate to hand out yet another ridiculous contract otherwise they might die (which would be doing us all a favor), not only gave up promising, 20-year-old d-man Adam Boqvist, not only gave up two first-round picks to get Seth Jones, but then handed Jones an eight-year, $76 million extension. Jones is a good player, but was woeful last season, and has done nothing to prove that he’s worth the third-biggest cap hit for a defensemen anywhere. The analytics are not kind to Jones the past three years, and, according to those, it looked like he peaked three years ago. He will only be 27 when the season starts, so it’s hard to believe that he’s on the downside of his career yet. But he’s rarely if ever shown to be a team-turning player, and yet the Hawks couldn’t wait to pay him like one. Can’t fathom how they’ve missed the playoffs four years running.
(This is where I would insert the disgust some Hawks fans, including myself, have of the team making a Q-pilled, MAGA shithead like Jones the face of their team in the near future, but let’s do that another time).
And then there’s the special Arizona Coyotes division of this weeks’ bonanza. They took on the salaries of Andrew Ladd and Shayne Gostisbehere from the Islanders and Flyers, respectively, which got them a couple of second-round picks next year. But it didn’t do anything about the first-rounder they had to forfeit this year thanks to Hockey Theranos Co-Founder John Chayka’s illegal workings of draft picks in the past. Then the Yotes were able to punt Oliver-Ekman Larsson to Vancouver for $12 million worth of trash in Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Loui Eriksson, which did get them a first-rounder back for this season. But they also gave up Conor Garland, who might have been their only trade piece anyone had any interest in. So they got more lottery tickets in return for a known value. The only players they have signed beyond 2023 are Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, and Jakob Chychrun. Good luck with all that. Definitely worth keeping this team around, they’re really making the league look good.
As for the Canucks, acquiring OEL would have been a great move four years ago. Ekman-Larsson definitely turned odd colors in the desert sun in recent years, and if they do indeed go into next season with OEL, Myers, and Nate Schmidt in tow, they’ll have the league’s largest collection of foul-smelling D-men with weird hairs growing off of them. Jim Benning is a narcotic.
All of these deals reek something fierce, but are business as usual in a league that keeps hiring members of the Doofus Formidable to run their teams.