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OTR: Bruins, Kings Big-Game Hunting; Teams Called About Price | VHN+

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Carey Price Montreal Canadiens Vegas Golden Knights

What should we make of Carey Price’s struggles? A rival team executive weighed in on what could be coming down the road for the Montreal Canadiens goalie, the most likely course of action, and if he has any value on the NHL trade market. Also in this week’s OTR, the LA Kings joined the Boston Bruins as teams that are big-game hunting, and how do the Colorado Avalanche figure into both of those scenarios?

It’s been an interesting week Off the Record. The NHL trade whispers have quieted as the Jake Virtanen to Anaheim deal petered out (for now). Penguins GM Ron Hextall said the Penguins would consider adding toughness, and the Seattle Kraken are lurking.

More on all of that in the latest Off The Record:

1. Teams Called About Carey Price; Habs Goalie is Lost

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price’s start has him on a path to his worst season. He is a mediocre 5-4-3 with a 3.13 GAA and .888 save percentage. Mediocre may be kind. Price has one game in his last six starts, but more importantly, Price served more softies than Dairy Queen. He’s coughed up leads and has been outplayed by back-up Jake Allen.

However, because he’s Carey Price and carries a $10.5 salary cap hit for this and the next five seasons, the Canadiens troubles in goal surely contributed to the coaching change this week. 

Numerous NHL sources told ‘Off The Record’ heading into the 2020 NHL Draft and unrestricted free agency last October that teams inquired on Price’s availability. Price didn’t hit the NHL Trade market, but there was interest. OTR has confirmed that two of those teams were the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers.

Bergevin and the Habs are standing by their embattled goaltender, but even if they didn’t and decided a change of scenery would be best for all involved, is there still a desire for Price on the NHL Trade Market?

Off the record

“Look, Price is lost right now. There’s no arguing it,” an NHL management source pointed out to OTR recently. “Is there a market for him still? I think so. He could still turn it around. The problem obviously is the contract and how much the Habs would need to eat. Also, his value in terms of return is obviously down right now. 

I think the best-case scenario right now is that the Habs give him some time off, get his head straight, and he comes back and helps them on a deep run. Then, if Bergevin is smart – and I know him to be just that – he moves him in the offseason when his value is up again. Price is going to be 34 next season. That contract will just become an even bigger albatross if he waits any longer.”

2. Are the Bruins Going to Stick with Their Young Blueline?

Is Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen back on the NHL Trade market?

In mid-November, my partner in crime at Boston Hockey Now Joe Haggerty reported that the Boston Bruins were ‘shopping’ the rookie defenseman. Of course, that was just over a month after Torey Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues, and it was before longtime Bruins captain Zdeno Chara signing with the Washington Capitals. The Bruins had not yet decided they were all in on Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and the youth on their blue line.

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was looking for a young but more experienced left-shot defenseman with Krug gone and Chara likely to follow. 

Surprisingly Sweeney didn’t acquire that much-coveted top-four LHD. The Bruins went with the youth movement on the blue line, and it was working well until the last two weeks.

With Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril all missing pockets of time, Vaakanainen, who started the season in Providence (AHL), was called up on Feb. 19. He two assists in three games with the big club. Clearly, Vaakanainen was called up and is in the NHL right now due to those aforementioned injuries but are the Bruins also using this to showcase him on the NHL Trade market and get a left-shot d-man like Vince Dunn or Mattias Ekholm?

Off the record

“I know Donny would still like to get that top-four guy for the left side, and he’s definitely keeping tabs on guys like Dunn and Ekholm,” an NHL source told ‘Off the Record’ recently. “Vaakanainen has struggled a bit, but he’s shown more promise out there and is still the trade chip I think they use if they really push hard. Lauzon and Zboril have likely secured spots for now, so that leaves Vaakanainen.

I still wonder if Donny’s hands are tied and how much money he can add even if he has the cap space?”

We’re hearing whispers the Boston ownership has limited Sweeney, but we’ll call that unconfirmed for now.

3. Could Blake Turn To Former Team For A Defenseman?

This past Thursday, TSN Insider Darren Dreger reported that the Los Angeles Kings are big-game hunting for a young (25-or-under) and ‘dynamic, left-shot defenseman. Off The Record has confirmed that the Kings have inquired with the Blues about Dunn but one NHL source speculated to OTR whether Kings General Manager Rob Blake would reach out to his former team, the Colorado Avalanche? 

As colleague Adrian Dater speculated back in December, there’s an excellent chance that the Avs are in grave danger (pun very much intended) of losing 25-year-old, left-shot defenseman Ryan Graves to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Graves, who led the NHL in plus/minus last season, signed an attractive three-year contract this past offseason that carries a $3.1 million cap hit.  

Off the record:

“A guy like Graves makes a lot of sense for the Kings,” the source said. “Like your buddy [Dater] pointed out, they could lose him in the expansion draft, so why not try and get something for him. The issue, though, is he is playing quality minutes for the Avs right now. Maybe that’s something more for the offseason? I still think Graves is a name to keep an eye on here, though with other teams as well.”

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