NHL Notebook: Where the Winnipeg Jets could be trading Connor Hellebucyk, Ottawa Senators examining trade market for Alex DeBrincat, and more

Photo credit:James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
The rumour mill is starting to heat up around the NHL.
Just the other day Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported that the Winnipeg Jets could be preparing to make franchise-altering moves by trading core pieces of their organization in Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
It would mark a serious change of guard for the franchise after this group of players failed to bring playoff success to the city.
And on Monday, Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin speculated about seven destinations two of which being other Canadian franchises in the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs:

Ottawa Senators

Why he makes sense:
It’s close to put up or shut up time for GM Pierre Dorion and coach D.J. Smith. After an aggressive and exciting 2022 offseason in which Ottawa added Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot, among others, the net result was a modest improvement in the standings from 73 to 86 points. Durability between the pipes held the team back, with Talbot and Anton Forsberg both getting hurt, forcing the Sens to rely on prospects Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandolese before they were necessarily ready for NHL duty. With Josh Norris healthy to start next season, they’ll have an enviable top-six forward group, and the Jakob Chychrun acquisition creates a strong top four on ‘D’ along with Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson and Artem Zub. Getting the elusive marquee goalie would level up Ottawa to Wildcard contender status at worst.
Fly in the ointment:
The status of RFA sniper Alex DeBrincat could impact whether Ottawa is a realistic suitor for Hellebuyck in more ways than one. If he signs an extension, it will presumably eat up at least half the Sens’ $17 million in current cap space. If it become clear he doesn’t want to sign? It changes everything. He could even become an asset Ottawa uses as part of a play for Hellebuyck.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why he makes sense:
From Korpisalo to Carey Price to Andrei Vasilevskiy to Sergei Bobrovsky, the Leafs have been goalied out of the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. They haven’t had a puck-stopper capable of frustrating the other team and singlehandedly stealing playoff games since…Ed Belfour? Curtis Joseph? With new GM Brad Treliving stepping into an urgent win-now situation, all types of upgrades should theoretically be on the table. Given they have important extensions to figure out for Auston Matthews and William Nylander that would kick in for 2024-25, the Leafs might actually find Hellebuyck’s one remaining season to be appealing.
Fly in the ointment:
Ilya Samsonov was a top-10 goalie in the NHL during the regular season. While he wasn’t consistent in the playoffs, he was good enough to get Toronto into Round 3, including going perfect after regulation in the Leafs’ three overtime wins over Tampa. Given the tremendous promise Joseph Woll showed late in the regular season and in relief of the injured Samsonov in Round 2, are we sure the Leafs wouldn’t be totally fine with a Samsonov-Woll tandem and mothballing Matt Murray on LTIR? Could the Leafs’ cap space be better spent on improving their defense corps, something that historically has been a focus on Treliving teams?


Senators looking to trade DeBrincat?

The Ottawa Senators are reportedly gauging the trade market on winger Alex DeBrincat.
The team had acquired DeBrincat last offseason from the Chicago Blackhawks for 2022 draft picks in the first and second round, as well as a fourth-round pick in 2023. In his first year with the Senators, he appeared in all 82 games scoring 27 goals and 66 points, both good enough for fourth on the team.
Now, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the club is doing what one source told him is “Ottawa’s due diligence.” Due for a new contract ahead of next season, DeBrincat previously had said he was waiting to see what came of the Senators’ sale before committing to a long-term deal.
If he were to hit the market, there would surely be teams lining up to try and acquire his services.

Canadiens sign Caufield

The Montreal Canadiens have signed forward Cole Caufield to an eight-year contract extension with an annual average of $7.85 million per season.
His new deal kicks in this upcoming season and comes after Caufield scored 26 goals and 36 points in 46 games this past season. He was shutdown partway through the year due to a shoulder injury.
Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis wrote about the winger:
Caufield is coming off his NHL entry-level contract, which saw him record 53 goals and 84 points in 123 games over parts of three seasons. He has yet to play a full NHL season, and missed nearly half of the 2022-23 campaign due to shoulder surgery in January. Caufield was on pace for nearly 50 goals at the time, so the loss was significant for Montreal.
Considered to be one of the better young goal-scorers in the game today, Caufield holds the record for the most goals in a single United States Development Team season with 72 back in 2018-19. He was a 30-goal scorer in his final year with the University of Wisconsin in 2020-21, earning him the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey, among other accolades. Caufield joined the Habs for the team’s run to the Stanley Cup final later that year, where he put up an impressive 12 points in 20 games.
Caufield struggled early for Montreal in 2021-22, and even was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. But the hiring of coach Martin St. Louis seemed to spark him, and he finished with 23 goals and 40 points in 67 games. With St. Louis in charge, Caufield quickly became one of Montreal’s best players.
This move should help the Canadiens add some long-term stability to their core. The team is still a work in progress after finishing in the bottom five in each of the past two seasons. The club has $725,834 in current cap space, according to Cap Friendly, with rumors swirling about the future of Anderson and Gallagher and their hefty contracts. Carey Price is unlikely to return with his $10.5 million cap hit until 2026 due to injuries, as well.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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