LeBrun Rumors: What I’m Hearing About Timo Meier, Buyers/Sellers, The Habs And More

Friday marks two weeks until the NHL trade deadline, and I have a feeling some bubble teams will wait the better part of those two weeks before deciding how assertive they will be in making moves.

“We’ll see how the hockey games go in the next few weeks and if that sways us one way or the other,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis told me last week.

He could also have been speaking for the Flames, the Capitals and six or seven other teams. Each game of those teams influences the deadline decisions. Every win or loss, every injury, everything is shocking. It’s such an intense time of year. I can feel the stress in the voices of the people in the NHL front office.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in Nashville. My perception of the situation there is that the Predators need to warm up, like right now, or else.

Weekend games with Florida and Minnesota loom large, particularly the old four-point matchup with the Wild, a team the Preds are chasing in the standings.

If this weekend goes badly for the Predators, as I mentioned on TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, I understand that veteran GM David Poile will be ready to open up the phone lines and listen to just about anyone.

We haven’t really heard from any Predators players on the trade front in recent weeks. That’s because Poile keeps things under wraps and wants to give his team a chance. But if he doesn’t get going right now, I think Nashville will be ready to listen, with an open mind.

Mattias Ekholm, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter…if the Predators sit out for the next week, I really think the team will be ready to listen to all of those players and more.

The fly in the ointment is that the Predators don’t have any unrestricted free agents pending, the kind of players that normally get traded this time of year.

All the players I mentioned are signed beyond this year. Most of the players on Nashville’s roster are. So if the Predators become sellers, they will try to make hockey deals, not rental deals, which are somehow harder to do during the season. On the other hand, it opens it up to teams looking for signed players beyond this year.

Again, if the Predators start racking up wins, this could all be a moot point. They would rather keep this team together. But if they don’t win, they could be an active team, at least on the listening front.

One of the interesting dynamics in the search for Timo Meier is how teams approach him differently.

My feeling is that if the Devils end up with Meier, it has to be with the player signed to an extension.

But on the other hand, the Hurricanes are open-minded about it. They’re fine with the Meier acquisition and don’t worry about the contract here and now.

Both the Devils and Hurricanes have been in regular contact with the Sharks for the past week or so.

One thing to keep in mind, because I’ve seen speculation in the media about what a Sharks-Hurricanes deal would look like if it comes to fruition: The Dogs have told teams inquiring about 21-year-old Russian Alexander Nikishin that they won’t move him. Carolina sees a great future for the defender within the organization.

Other potential tweaks for Meier? The Maple Leafs have definitely shown interest. That would be quite an accomplishment for GM Kyle Dubas. I just don’t know if the Leafs have the assets available, compared to New Jersey and Carolina, to pull it off, or how much the Leafs really want to push it. I can’t say now.

Vegas? I haven’t confirmed the Golden Knights as true suitors for Meier, but others in the media have brought up the idea. Obviously, they have Mark Stone’s $9.5 million salary cap to play before the deadline, but how does Meier fit under the cap next season when Stone is back on the books? You might only worry about it later if you’re in Las Vegas.

I don’t see the Stars as a player here. With Roope Hintz’s extension taking effect next year and the core all signed, there’s no real room to accommodate Meier beyond this season. A rental forward probably makes the most sense for the Stars. As I mentioned before, Patrick Kane would make sense that way. But there are also other rental forwards on the list.

The Capitals have had pending contract talks with UFA Dmitry Orlov, but it appears that the deadline is a major issue. Unless one side or the other softens, there won’t be an extension anytime soon.

The 31-year-old top-four defenseman is in the final season of a six-year contract with an average annual value of $5.1 million.

I haven’t heard his name mentioned anywhere in the trade talks because I don’t think that’s something the Caps are trying to push. They’re focused on making the playoffs and they want him to be a part of that.

But I also think Caps GM Brian MacLellan is taking a close look at his team before March 3 and will make his buy/sell decision based on where the team is in the standings and how it’s performing. Are they a team headed in the right direction? Are they finally healthy? Or should they listen, last minute, to a guy like Orlov, if it looks like they’re first-round fodder?

difficult call. I’m also not sure it’s much clearer on March 3rd.

Right now, I think the Caps would rather add. They have battled through the adversity of injuries to get to where they are, with a chance to make the playoffs.

Still, if Columbus is successful in his bid to land a first-round pick plus another asset for pending UFA Vladislav Gavrikov, I’d imagine the bar would be tangibly higher for a guy like Orlov.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews timeline

We’re obviously approaching decision time for Kane and Jonathan Toews.

His agent, Pat Brisson, communicated via text message Thursday that things are the status quo. A decision is not expected this week. It sticks to his timeline from last week, when he indicated that there would be a decision on whether each player wanted to stay or enter the trade eight to 10 days before the March 3 deadline. That basically puts that window at some point around Tuesday through Thursday.

And the reason, obviously, they need a decision with buffer time is that we’re talking players with $10.5 million cap hits, which may require outside running back teams to lower AAV. That takes time and work.

Kent Hughes had a terrific trade deadline a year ago after taking over as GM in Montreal, earning quality returns in Tyler Toffoli, Ben Chiarot, Brett Kulak and Artturi Lehkonen.

But the circumstances of this year’s deadline are working against the Habs:

• Joel Edmundson’s extended absence with a back injury has made interested teams nervous, so there’s a chance the veteran defenseman will stay in place now. That’s good for the team, since he has another year on his contract. And it would also be fine with the player, who wants to stay.

• Pending UFA striker Sean Monahan was the team’s most marketable deadline signing before he went down, and his delayed return from injury has worried potential suitors. The team is hopeful that he will return soon. It has to be very soon to revitalize that market before March 3.

• UFA’s outstanding winger Jonathan Drouin has been playing better of late, but there is really little market for him. You never know what happens in the nick of time on March 3, especially if he has more moments like his three-assist night recently, but all I can say is that so far I haven’t heard the name of him connected to other teams.

• UFA outstanding winger Evgenii Dadonov has played very well in recent weeks, arguably one of the team’s top three forwards since all the injuries occurred, and is a guy whose stock has gone from near zero on the market of changes to the point. where there could be chances closer to March 3. After some contenders eliminate bigger names, they may head to Montreal with Dadonov. I wonder about Dallas and Winnipeg as possibilities.

But overall, Habs fans should prepare because this is likely not going to be the same delivery timeline as it was a year ago. That’s the way things are sometimes.

The very talented Arpon Basu has a more detailed look at the Habs deadline situation here.

(Timo Meier Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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