• By: Dave Gross

When late June becomes a hockey hornet nest

No hockey on the ice. No problem.

As TSN’s Gino Reda pointed out (roughly) Monday night: ‘Welcome to the busiest week of the hockey season.’

Trades, NHL entry draft, free agency, rumours, rumblings and another painfully awkward NHL awards show . . . it’s all here for the taking.

Good thing we got the award show out of the way first – clears the road for the meat and potatoes. And what a spread.

From Toronto to Calgary to Winnipeg to Karlsson (see notes section below), the business at hand is steep and substantial. Even Ottawa, currently sitting without a draft pick in the first three rounds, is bound to be engaged and active.

You might have heard the name Alex DeBrincat lately. Lots. And lots.

It’s previously been determined by the league’s ‘insiders’ that the 25-year-old winger’s days as an Ottawa Senator are done. He’s not signing here. Buh-bye.

So what to do here with a two-time 41-goal scorer?

First, let’s get a bit of perspective on that number 41. DeBrincat made it there twice, in Chicago. And DeBrincat made it there twice while playing on a line anchored by one of the league’s best playmakers in Patrick Kane.

“Not only did we have some great chemistry on the ice, but he was one of my best friends and closest teammates off the ice as well,” Kane said when DeBrincat was traded to Ottawa one year ago.

Kane’s loss was also DeBrincat’s as he tumbled to 27 goals last season in Ottawa. The eye test revealed a skater that just didn’t seem to fit.

The dip in numbers likely affects DeBrincat’s market appeal. One destination being floated is Nashville and potentially star goaltender Juuse Saros. Ask yourself this though – if you’re Predator GM Barry Trotz, do you even consider that type of swap: a small, zippy and capable winger for an absolute game-changer in Saros?

Hell, if you throw Shane Pinto into the deal . . . sure.

(Not sure that’s going to happen unless Pierre Dorion really wants to be shown the door pronto.)

If Dorion gets a deal done in the next few hours, perhaps he gets back that first rounder he lost in the initial DeBrincat swap. Although getting as high a pick as No. 7 (part of the cost of the package last summer) might be too much of an ask.

If you’re asking me for my opinion, which you don’t need to because this is a column and a column is built on opinion (right-o), swap the winger for a live, productive body (as opposed to a dead, unproductive body). Bulk up the defence or netminding if you can there PD. The addition of Jake Sanderson last season makes Ottawa’s a decent blueline. Not great, but decent.

A Top-4 add-on? Sure thing.

See what you can do.

The goaltender-availability index is high this summer. Surely Ottawa won’t head into next season – a must-make-the-playoffs-year – with the current crop maintaining guard?

Freddy Andersen, Joonas Korpisalo, Semyon Varlamov would be steady add-ons. If PD wants to swing for the fences (but it’ll cost), there’s Connor Hellebuyck or Saros (it’ll cost, Part II).

Restricted free agency beckons as well. Top of the charts is Pinto. That’ll take some wrangling.

Summer break? Not so much.


THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Interesting note from The Sun’s Bruce Garrioch this week who wrote regarding Alex Formenton: “. . . the expectation is he will be moved.” . . . Completely appreciate the work being done in Philadelphia by new management. Cut-and-sever is a much more cleansing process than what had been going on – drag-and-bleed . . . Sure, Erik Karlsson wants to move on. Sure, there are plenty of organizations wanting to move towards him. I’m just not one of them . . . Contract, age, wear-and-tear makes EK riskier than Evel Knievel on Snake River . . . Trading for EK is, well, such a NY Ranger thing, back when the Rangers were, well, doing Ranger things . . . Get that? . . . Ottawa somehow gets tied into the Karlsson rumours. It’s just not a good fit at this point . . . And since I’m playing GM, no way I’m considering trading Quinton Byfield. The LA kid isn’t even 21 years of age yet . . . And let’s get this straight – Byfield is not Logan Brown. Bad take . . . Woke up this morning to check Twitter and saw Byfield was trending big, big-time. Didn’t realize it was RoslynByfieldTherapy (@RoslynByfield) . . . Soon-to-be 35-year-old Jordan Staal lands a four-year deal to stay in Carolina at $11.6 million US. A little plum on the term, but the dollars are good. That’s the reality in today’s NHL – term’s a killer . . . Eight years ago this week, Connor McDavid was drafted first overall. Eight years ago. Zoinks.

SWINGS AND THINGS: Your Toronto Blue Jays are becoming that shiny new bike you bought that keeps getting flat tires. Looks great but just as you getting rolling, ka-chunk . . . Did anyone remotely see this kind of ‘apparent’ decline for Vladdy Guerrero when he was storming the American League as a can’t-miss rookie? . . . There was hope after this weekend though. Not sure his difficulties are mechanical as much as they are thinking-the-game-at-the-plate . . . Make that: over-thinking . . . Kick me in the ass but I can’t help rooting for Cavan Biggio . . . In their last three years (that truly count, due to COVID), the Blue Jays’ attendance has risen from an average of 21,000 to 32,000 to (this year at roughly the halfway mark) 35,000 . . .  CM Punk gets booed in his return to AEW? Probably a good thing, the Chicago native is a much stronger heel than face . . . You might boo, but without Punk, AEW is a directionless mess . . . Rewatching Sopranos. New fixtures in my dialogue: “Whaddya gonna do?” and “Take it easy!” and “Christophuh’!”. . . This is viewing No. 4 of the series. Now in a dead heat with The Wire . . . And finally, a big thanks to Spotify who looped me in to Susan Tedeschi on a smoke-filled Sunday morning. Janis Joplin meets Bonnie Raitt meets Lucinda Williams. Nothing better.


Photo: Courtesy NHL.COM