In the Oct. 12 edition of NHL rumors, TSN’s Bob McKenzie had interesting news on Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien earlier this week. Do the Los Angeles Kings have any shot at trading goaltender Jonathan Quick? Is Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock feeling the heat of the team’s slow start? Plus, Arizona Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta will make his season debut tonight after missing most of 2018-19.
Byfuglien Didn’t Skate or Train This Offseason
Winnipeg Free Press writer Jason Bell wrote a column on Friday that there is no news regarding Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who’s been away from the team since training camp started. (from ‘No update on Byfuglien’s status,’ Winnipeg Free Press, 10/11/2019) Even though the Jets reportedly had contact with Byfuglien as recently as last week, it’s thought that no progress was made. As a result, the Jets won’t say when, or even if, he will return. Head coach Paul Maurice addressed the rumors, but it appears as though he too knows very little.
“Any updates will be coming from (general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff). I’m just dealing with the guys in the room,” he said. “We don’t have a daily conversation or a weekly conversation. (Cheveldayoff) will come in and tell me. I’ve got nothing for you on that front.”
Since Byfuglien took his leave of absence, little information has been leaked as he’s kept a low profile. Earlier this week, Bob McKenzie, appearing on TSN 1050’s OverDrive, mentioned that he heard that Byfuglien “didn’t skate or train all summer. And he’s not had a training camp.” He also pointed out that Byfuglien is coming off a bad ankle.
So even if Byfuglien announced his return, it’s not as though he could jump back into the lineup and play effective top-pair minutes right away. In the meantime, Josh Morrissey and the other Jets defensemen have held down the fort for the most part as the team has gone 3-2-0 through five games.
Does Quick Have Any Trade Value?
The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper recently wrote a column looking into the trade value of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. (from ‘Is it too early to worry about Jonathan Quick’s slow start? What are the Kings’ options?,’ The Athletic, 10/11/2019) Quick’s name has been involved in trade rumors in recent seasons, however, the two-time Stanley Cup champion has struggled over the past one-plus seasons. Last season, in 46 starts, he had a 3.38 goals-against average (GAA) and an .888 save percentage (SV%).
He’s been even worse in two starts this season with a 7.17 GAA and a .750 SV%. He’s allowed 14 goals in two games, including six against the Edmonton Oilers and eight versus the Vancouver Canucks. The 33-year-old also has three more years left on his contract, after 2019-20, with a $5.8-million cap hit. All of these aspects, plus his lengthy injury history which has allowed him to only make 50-plus starts once in the past three seasons, have depleted his trade value. That is bad news for a team in the midst of a rebuild and would likely prefer to deal their veteran goaltender.
At this point, trading Quick seems unlikely, although that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. As Dillman and Cooper point out, the Oilers and Calgary Flames swapped James Neal and Milan Lucic over the offseason and both players have overpriced contracts and had little trade value. Perhaps a team with a quality goalie coach who’s familiar with Quick will take a chance on him, but the Kings would all but certainly have to retain some salary. For now, it’s likely the Kings hold onto Quick and see if he can regain his form. The team has quality alternatives in Jack Campbell and Cal Peterson, so perhaps Quick receives less playing time to see if he can work out his struggles.
Is Babcock on the Hot Seat?
In a column yesterday, the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox wrote an intriguing column on the status of Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. (from ‘Mike Babcock may be set up for a fall after Kyle Dubas’ uninspiring summer,’ Toronto Star, 10/11/2019) Cox questioned whether the coach is already beginning to feel the pressure of the team’s lackluster 2-2-1 start and whether he may take the fall for the team’s questionable roster construction.
At this point, it appears more like his boss, Kyle Dubas, has tasked Babcock with the unenviable job of getting better results out of a roster that is no better than last year’s, and quite possibly weaker.
Cox points out that general manager Kyle Dubas should also be at fault for the team’s struggles since he never addressed the issues that plagued them in last season’s playoffs and focused on cost-cutting moves at depth positions rather than bringing in effective players. Cox specifically mentions the team’s porous defense that now includes Cody Ceci and Rasmus Sandin, the latter of whom may not yet be ready for full-time NHL duty. He also brings up that Dubas didn’t attempt to solve the team’s lack of goaltending depth, something that impacted them in their loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 5.
However, while Dubas has certainly played his part in the team’s struggles this season, it’s also Babcock’s responsibility to get the most out of the roster he’s given, which he hasn’t thus far. Babcock is rightly on the hot seat because he’s now in his fifth season as the Maple Leafs head coach and the team has bowed out in the first round each of the past three postseasons.
Raanta Returns to the Lineup
Yesterday, The Athletic’s Craig Morgan announced that Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta is set to make his season debut tonight when the team takes on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. It will be Raanta’s first game since Nov. 27, 2018 when he went down with a lower-body injury and missed the remainder of the season.
He only played in 12 games last season and had a .906 SV% and 2.88 GAA. This came after he only made 46 starts in 2017-18. In his two seasons in Arizona, Raanta has been great, with a .925 SV% and a 2.37 GAA, however, his biggest issue has been injuries, having never appeared in more than 47 games in a season. For the Coyotes to reach their ceiling and compete for the playoffs this season, they need Raanta to return to the lineup and continue his stellar play.