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Photo Credit: © Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Nation Notebook: No, Matthews and Price aren’t getting traded

This a weekly feature that rounds up news, rumours, and interesting things happening around the NHL. 

Since Matt Duchene was dealt, the dominoes seem to be falling. Lots of teams are in pursuit of forwards and there’s a good chance we’ll see more deals made well before the deadline. Apparently, we might also see Carey Price and Auston Matthews dealt, too? Oh boy!

According to Bob McKenzie, trade talk around forwards has heated up since the completion of the Matt Duchene trade a couple weeks ago. The Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, and New York Rangers are looking for a centre, the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, and Columbus Blue Jackets want scoring help, and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins want another third line checking forward.

Judging by the standings and the massive glut of teams in the middle of the pack with a chance to make the playoffs, there seems to be more teams wanting to buy assets than there are teams wanting to sell them off. It seems like the Avalanche got a good haul for Duchene, but in hindsight, I wonder if they could have held out for more as teams in need of scoring get into a bidding war.

McKenzie also mentioned that many teams are reaching out the Golden Knights about their impending free agents James Neal and David Perron. Both are having strong seasons and are key reasons why Vegas is inexplicably sitting in a playoff spot mid-way through November. Apparently George McPhee isn’t looking to deal either forward, which seems odd for an expansion team that likely wants to build through the draft.

Surely by the time the deadline rolls around McPhee will fire off both of his best two rental assets, but it makes some sense he doesn’t want to pull the trigger this early. Being in the first season, the Golden Knights are gaining a lot of traction with their surprising success and taking away from that before the New Year wouldn’t be great for generating momentum within the fanbase. Still, it’s best for Vegas to get more draft picks because Perron and Neal likely aren’t going to be around when this team is actually ready to compete a few years from now.

Earlier in the week, Doug MacLean discussed the Maple Leafs’ impending difficult decision on James van Riemsdyk. JVR is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He’s one of the better free agent forwards on the market this summer and will command a raise on his current $4.25 million annual salary.

The Leafs, of course, will soon have to pony up extensions to Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner, making it difficult to keep JVR around. Even if JVR doesn’t have an extension, they’ll sooner let him walk for nothing as a free agent than trade him as a rental this year considering the spot they’re in in terms of their window of contention.

The Leafs inked Josh Leivo to a one-year extension on Friday, raising speculation about what it means for the team’s long-term picture. Leivo is trapped behind a gauntlet of wingers and seldom plays. It seems odd Leivo is rushing into another year of spending more time in the press box than on the ice, but maybe they promised the young forward there’ll be more of a role for him next season.

This week we were also blessed with some ridiculous speculation.

First, Norman Flynn of RDS suggested that the Montreal Canadiens could deal Carey Price as early as next week. Flynn claimed that Price’s injury situation was mysterious because he said after his last game (Nov. 2 against the Wild) that he wasn’t hurt but hasn’t played since.

This, uh, doesn’t make much sense because Price has a no movement clause in his contract and the team six months ago signed him to an eight-year, $80 million contract.

I mean, there’s no doubt that given Price’s struggles with injury and declining performance that this contract is troubling, but you can’t just bypass his no movement clause. Surely nothing could have happened in that period of time that sent the Habs from 0 to 100 that quickly. You don’t just go from committing eight years to a player to wanting to deal them, right?

Maybe this is why the Habs claimed Antti Niemi? They needed a proven Stanley Cup winner to lead the team after they dealt Price? He might have an .822 save percentage, but backup goalies with experience are like the left-handed relief pitchers of hockey. They’re the twinkies that would live through a nuclear explosion.

After that, Howard Berger offered a take so hot that you need to be wearing oven mitts while reading it. Berger, who used to be a reported with the Fan 590, claimed he had an inside source that said the Leafs were looking to move Auston Matthews.

Matthews has been out for four games and the Leafs have won all of them, and despite the fact they’ve been outplayed throughout the mini streak, this performance is an indication that the team doesn’t actually need its star player. As a result, the team will look to deal Matthews at the peak of his value rather than paying him the big bucks like the Oilers did with Connor McDavid this summer.

I don’t even know what to say to that. That seems like a great way to manage a team in an EA Sports game but, unfortunately, this is real life.