Trade. Trade. Trade.
Forget about spotting celebrities trying to dine together in relative secrecy – in the National Hockey League, media and fans are clamoring for sightings of who is scouting whom nightly.
Trade potential. Speculation. Can’t get enough.
A recent contingent of New York Rangers staff taking in the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens caused quite a stir, and was still the talk on Montreal’s TSN 690 for a Wednesday morning radio hit with hockey’s No. 1 Insider.
Dots are being connected between the Rangers and Canadiens.
“Well, obviously they’re talking,” indicated Bob McKenzie. “And it is highly unusual for Glen Sather and Doug Risebrough and Jim Schoenfeld to be part of the traveling group that would go out to see somebody. Gilles Leger, he’s at most Ottawa Senators games anyway as part of his pro scouting responsibilities with the Rangers, so they’ve obviously had some conversations. I think the reported names that are out there – obviously Galchenyuk, Shaw are two of the more prominent ones – is it possible something gets done? Sure.
“You’ve got to be a little bit careful too and not jump to the conclusion that just because they were there that something is imminent. Last I heard, and again it’s always subject to change with one phone call, but it wasn’t front-burner, pot-boiling, ready to make a transaction as much as it was two teams that are on really hard times talking to each other about some possibilities.”
McKenzie’s colleague, Pierre LeBrun, was asked about this same scouting mission during his radio hit on TSN 690 on Tuesday evening, and if he could shed any light on the situation.
“Not a whole lot,” noted LeBrun. “The one comment that I heard from a source is that for the Rangers, this was more sort of a ‘file away the game for perhaps something down the road,’ which you see a lot of this time of year. Pierre Dorion himself was in Brooklyn last night, not even at his own game. Kevin Cheveldayoff was at a Habs game last week. There are a lot of GMs that sneak into Toronto without even their name being posted. So you see a lot of that this time of year where GMs run out of time and can’t do it in person try to get in as many games themselves as the eye test.
“So there’s no question that something has to give with the Rangers at some point if the ship doesn’t turn. Now whether Alain Vigneault and costing him his job, or a trade, obviously all bets are off if they don’t start winning.”
After LeBrun’s radio hit, the Rangers went on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 6-4.
The Rangers are still last in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-7-2 record, but have won three of their past five outings and have eight out of a possible 14 points over their last seven affairs.
LeBrun was also presented with the notion that it’s probably fair to say that Marc Bergevin needs to see what he has with his Canadiens once Carey Price returns to his dominant form before making any decisions.
“I think it’s absolutely fair,” agreed LeBrun. “And again, it’s still early in the year for a lot of teams. We’re getting there. November is always a more fertile environment because GMs have started to see enough of their team.
“But yeah, I think that first Marc Bergevin wants to see his real team, and he’s starting to see it now in the last four games. But absolutely, his real team with his superstar goalie doing his thing.”
Wednesday morning, while on Vancouver’s TSN 1040, LeBrun was asked just how close Vigneault was to being fired in New York.
“I don’t know if anyone really knows that unless ownership would tell you that,” said LeBrun. “I would tell you that the sense I get from talking to people around there is that they can’t keep losing. Obviously they came back to win last night, huge third period with four goals against the Golden Knights. Of course, normally you’d say, ‘Well, expansion… ’ but I think we know by now that any win over Vegas isn’t taken for granted, that’s for sure.
“But it certainly feels like the clock seems to be on Alain Vigneault if they don’t show a real spark here. But again, that’s just a feel thing. No one connected to the Rangers is saying that, for sure.”
McKenzie waded into the waters on the future of Vigneault during his Wednesday morning hit on TSN 690 as well.
“Part of the problem with the Rangers is that one of the alarming traits of the team is that they generally come out – and they broke the trend last night against Vegas, they scored early and got the lead – but historically here and certainly this season… they’ve come out and immediately given up a goal or two and found themselves down three goals,” noted McKenzie. “And as the game goes on, they seem to get their equilibrium back and they start to claw back and play some pretty good hockey. But they don’t seem like they’re ready to play, and that often falls on the coach. Whether it is or not, I don’t know, but in any case that’s one of those damning traits that the Rangers have had.
“I do think that – I would imagine that Jeff Gorton, the general manager of the Rangers, isn’t keen on getting rid of a coach, who within the last year has been extended and effectively – I don’t know if his salary got doubled, but if it didn’t with the extension it was close to it. So it’s never great if you’re the general manager to be going to the owner less than a year after you extend a guy by a couple of seasons and give him a huge raise, and then say, ‘We want to make a change.’ They’re like, ‘Well, could you not have thought of this when you were doing this costly extension?’
“That said, it’s New York and money is not exactly an issue in New York with any of the professional sports teams, including the Rangers.
“So I don’t think there’s a desire to want to make a coaching change. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to try to go down the trade route first. And in a perfect world, sometimes you can’t get a trade, sometimes you don’t want to fire the coach, and sometimes a team starts to play better. Now, whether last night was an indication or not – I don’t think they were playing great for the first 40 minutes and they rallied in the third period against an expansion team, albeit it one with a really good record.
“So we’ll see where it goes from here.”