Thursday: The Winnipeg Jets are working to bring back a familiar face, as Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press and several others are reporting that the team is closing in on a deal for Vegas Golden Knights center Paul Stastny. If the deal is completed, Murat Ates of The Athletic tweets that it will include draft picks headed in both directions.
Winnipeg has long been looking for a second-line center to play behind Mark Scheifele, and for a few games in 2018 they found one. When Stastny was winding down his last contract with the St. Louis Blues, they sent him to Winnipeg in exchange for a first-round pick and prospect Erik Foley, despite being in a playoff run. The veteran forward immediately found success with the Jets on a line between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, scoring 13 points in the 19 games down the stretch. In the playoffs, Stastny was exactly what the Jets had hoped for and trailed only Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Dustin Byfuglien in postseason scoring.
That offseason, the Jets made an attempt to keep him, even moving Steve Mason’s contract out to make cap room. It didn’t work, as Stastny took a three-year deal with the Golden Knights that carried a whopping $6.5MM AAV and was asked to replace some of the production the team was losing from free agents James Neal and David Perron.
Now, two years into that deal and hours before free agency opens, the Golden Knights obviously feel there are better things they can use that cap space on.
The 34-year-old Stastny was still effective this season, but he did take a substantial step backward in offensive statistics. In fact, his 38 points in 71 games was easily the worst per-game production of his career, though that did still include 17 goals.
More than anything, the Jets may be trying to find a way to recapture that magic the team showed in 2018 when they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals with Stastny in the middle of the ice. Or even perhaps motivate an enigmatic Laine who has expressed his frustration in the past at weaker linemates but did enjoy his time with the veteran pivot. Of course, Laine’s name has also been in the rumor mill quite a bit this summer, and taking on Stastny’s $6.5MM cap hit doesn’t leave a ton of room for upgrades to the rest of the roster.
For the Golden Knights, if they’re able to rid themselves of the entire Stastny cap hit they will not only be cap-compliant again, but a lot closer to taking a swing at one of the high profile free agents. The team has been linked to Alex Pietrangelo, though nothing is certain on that front as the Blues re-engaged their captain recently. They have also been trying to move Marc-Andre Fleury’s deal, which would give them ample space to add on the free agent market. Nate Schmidt and Jonathan Marchessault have also been mentioned as potential trade candidates.
Currently, the Golden Knights project to be nearly $3MM over the salary cap of $81.5MM for next season. While you can operate up to 10% over that ceiling in the offseason, clearing Stastny’s contract off the books would give them a lot more flexibility in the coming days.
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon
The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.
“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”
Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.
The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.
In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.
–Field Level Media
Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.
As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.
Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.
The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.
Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.
Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.
As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.
“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.
“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”
-Field Level Media
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