Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion has been fairly active on the trade front lately, taking and making calls about some of his current roster players. There is “significant interest” in forwards Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith and centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Several teams have called about them, with the St. Louis Blues reportedly interested in Hoffman. The Sun also claims the Senators will not trade centre Derick Brassard, despite some teams showing interest in him. Given how the Senators’ roster looks on paper, the team isn’t set for a rebuild. Rather, the club will begin to retool for next season, as the playoffs, at this point, seem too far out of reach. One player whom the Sens could sell off is their veteran defenceman Johnny Oduya, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. A number of teams are looking for depth on the blueline and Oduya, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, will help stabilize a contender’s defensive corps. Dorion is taking in the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo this week and will use the tournament to assess some of the NHL’s up-and-coming talent. Whether any of those players weigh in on his potential trades remains to be seen.
The Vegas Golden Knights have signed centre Jonathan Marchessault to a six-year, $30 million contract extension. Marchessault, 27, has tallied 15 goals and 22 assists for a team-high 37 points, to go with 20 penalty minutes, in 35 games this season for the Golden Knights. Over the course of his five seasons in the NHL, he has recorded 53 goals and 54 assists for 107 points, to date, and 75 penalty minutes in 159 games with the Knights, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets. He recorded the first 30-goal season of his career last year as a member of the Panthers and set career highs in goals (30), points (51) and games played (75). The Cap-Rouge, Quebec, native was selected by the Knights during the 2017 Expansion Draft on June 21 from the Panthers, and entered the NHL after signing as a free agent to a three-year entry-level contract in 2012 with the Blue Jackets.
It’s not enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs to just surprise the NHL’s top teams anymore. Now, they have their sights set on contending with the league’s best. After playing 41 games in 2017-18, the Leafs are on track to make the playoffs – but the learning process is far from over at the halfway mark of the regular season. From the outset of training camp, players talked about the common theme of expectations. They knew there would be pressure from the outside to improve after their six-game postseason run against the Washington Capitals last spring, but as a whole the Leafs maintain that no one and nothing is setting goals on their behalf. Auston Matthews said: “[Our mindset] changed right away [to start the season]. Not [because of] the expectation around us, but I think the expectation within the team. We went on our little merry-go-round in first year – everyone is all happy, we’re doing well. But now we expect to win every night”. It’s that singular idea that Toronto (23-16-2) is a team capable of earning a victory every night that has helped shape this current roster. For some of the team’s younger players, expectation is an entirely foreign concept at this NHL level, while veterans like James van Riemsdyk have learned to keep them in perspective. He said: “It’s nice to be in a position at the start of the year where you know what to expect. Obviously last year there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of new guys. This year, guys have had a chance to get a few games under their belts, so in that sense the expectations shift a little, but you still have to go out there and perform on the ice and just worry about that and we’re going from there”. As coach Mike Babcock’s team continues to mature and develop the “winning habits” he covets, he anticipates they’ll begin letting go of any singular definitions of success and fully embrace that concept as a 23-man group: “We really believe we have enough talent in the room; we have to find a way to be better on a consistent basis and that’s all part of that process. I think learning to win every day and doing things right and sacrificing individual things for the team, I think, is so important. I’m not evaluating when my next shift is, I’m not evaluating whether I played on the power play or didn’t, I’m just working hard to help the guys win and I think that’s the biggest priority for us”.