LeBrun rumblings: What Chris Tanev trade means for the defense market ahead of the deadline


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Let’s unpack the impact of the Chris Tanev trade on the rest of the market ahead of the deadline.

And, no, this isn’t just about our obvious concern for the mood of poor James Duthie, who’s so selfish about wanting trades to wait for the actual deadline day next Friday, March 8, for our TradeCentre extravaganza on TSN.

My understanding is that the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs were the other finalists in the Tanev sweepstakes before the Calgary Flames sent him to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.

That’s important to remember moving forward when it comes to the Oilers, Avalanche, Canucks and Maple Leafs.

The Stars making the move should come as no surprise, even just based on what Dallas general manager Jim Nill told The Athletic earlier this week in our interview.

“It’s what every team says: Your team dictates what moves you’re going to make,” Nill said. “Well, they’ve shown that we’re in the mix. That’s all I can ask for. So I want to see how I can help supplement this and give them the best opportunity going in (to the playoffs).”

Bingo, Tanev becomes a Star a few days later. He had been at the top of Nill’s wish list for a while. And last year’s Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award recipient got Tanev without having to spend his first-round pick — and with his salary reduced by 75 percent.

It’s pretty impressive work by any measure. And it’s exactly what the Stars needed, fit-wise.

Now how does that trade affect the rest of the defenseman rental market?

The fact that Tanev didn’t go for a first-round pick wasn’t welcome news for the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers (Sean Walker) or Arizona Coyotes (Matt Dumba). I can certainly assure you of that. Both of those front offices are asking for a first-round pick for their respective pending-unrestricted-free-agent right-shot defensemen, so they weren’t doing cartwheels Wednesday night after the Tanev trade was announced.

Maybe they’ll still get what they’re looking for, maybe not, but often these types of trades nine days out from the deadline have a way of setting the market prices.

The reality is when it comes to Walker is that the Flyers just won’t trade him if teams don’t step up enough in their offers. They view him as being more valuable to them for the rest of the season and won’t settle for a bad trade return. Teams interested in Walker should know that.

As for Calgary, my understanding is that the Flames did, in fact, have a first-round pick on the table in one of the other offers they had for Tanev. The problem is that that offer wasn’t a first-round pick alone. Calgary would have had to take a player with term on his contract back, and that didn’t make sense for the Flames. Which is understandable. (But maybe Arizona with all its cap space would be willing to do just that to get a first-round pick for Dumba.)

I don’t know for sure which team it was that offered the first-round pick to Calgary with a player attached to it, but two teams that would make sense are Edmonton offering its first-round pick for Tanev as long as Calgary took Cody Ceci (signed through next season at a $3.25 million average annual value) and Colorado offering a first-round pick but wanting the Flames to take back Ryan Johansen (signed through next season at a $4 million AAV).

Regardless of which team it was, I’m confident in saying there was no stand-alone, one-for-one first-round pick offer to Calgary for Tanev.

Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving, as many of us have reported throughout the past few months, absolutely was engaged on Tanev and remained so to the end. I believe the Leafs and Flames had one more chat about it Wednesday but Treliving still wasn’t ready to give up his first-round pick. (Maybe he would have, had Calgary waited another week.) And again, the Leafs don’t have a second-round pick until 2027.

What now for Toronto? As mentioned before, the Leafs have checked in with Anaheim on pending UFA defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin. I wonder if he doesn’t make the most sense for them now, depending on the price, given his physical style. (I should note that it’s not 100 percent guaranteed that the Ducks move Lyubushkin. I think they appreciate the impact he’s had on their younger players — in particular 20-year-old rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov.) Toronto has also shown interest in Dumba.

As for Calgary, a dozen teams had shown interest in Tanev in the past two months, including some non-contenders like the Ottawa Senators (seeking Tanev’s leadership) and Buffalo Sabres, both of which would have wanted to extend him as part of a trade. But Tanev had some measure of control over things with his modified no-trade clause, and in the end, Dallas was a destination that was alluring to Tanev — where he can go chase a Stanley Cup.

I think Flames GM Craig Conroy also wanted to do well by Tanev. That stuff matters — how you treat a player who’s given his all for your organization on the way out. Who’s to say the Flames don’t try to sign Tanev back on July 1?

The Flames also liked the Stars package. They view it as getting two second-round picks instead of one first-rounder. (The Kings got two second-round picks for Alec Martinez in February 2020 in a trade with the Golden Knights, just as a comparable deal.) The Flames also really like the blueline prospect they got from Dallas in Artem Grushnikov, a 2021 second-rounder who has Tanev-like attributes.

One thing, too, that shouldn’t be lost is how the Flames have staggered their deals. Calgary is not left trying to deal all of its pending UFAs on the same day. The Flames began the season with Tanev, Elias Lindholm, Nikita Zadorov and Noah Hanifin all looking like they could be in play before March 8. Now three are gone.

Could they have gotten more for Tanev in a week? Maybe. Some teams think so. But there was no guarantee of it, and there was risk every time Tanev suited up. The warrior way he plays the game is what you love about him, but it’s also why the Flames front office held its collective breath every time Tanev blocked a shot over the past few weeks. They felt they couldn’t wait any longer.

And the Flames now can focus all their efforts in the final week before the deadline on Hanifin.

As of Thursday, it didn’t sound like the Flames had anything close yet on him. There remains interest in Hanifin from Boston and Tampa Bay (neither of which has a first-round pick this year), as well as two or three other teams. But there’s nothing on the table that the Flames feel is close to good enough. That’s kind of surprising, given how talented Hanifin is and the kind of season he’s having, but perhaps it speaks to the fact that he’s a left-shot defenseman and many teams are fixated on right shots at this point. Hanifin also has a modified no-trade list (eight teams that require him waiving for a trade).

So this might be a case where Conroy remains patient and uses all the time he has before 3 p.m. on March 8 to further explore the Hanifin trade market.

What it means for Canadiens-Savard

If you’re looking for the next closest thing to Tanev — a right-shot, rugged blueliner with experience come playoff time — it’s David Savard in Montreal.

But as I’ve said before, the Habs aren’t committed to trading him. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean they won’t. Based on conversations I’ve had with other front-office sources around the league, the Canadiens would need a certain bar to be met in trade offers to move him.

Savard is also signed for another year at a $3.5 million AAV, so moving him could wait for this summer. Or the Habs might want to keep him around next season, based on how important he’s been as a leader in that dressing room and the fact that they’re trying to move the program ahead in the coming year or two and don’t want to keep unloading assets.

There’s value in what Savard brings in the here and now. That’s a Habs dressing room that was absolutely dejected when Sean Monahan was moved, even though it was a slam-dunk decision by GM Kent Hughes in terms of netting a first-round pick from Winnipeg for a pending UFA with an injury history (Monahan’s been great in Winnipeg).

There’s clearly a conversation happening within that Habs front office, though, about Savard’s value, both in terms of staying put and what it would take to move him. It’s a healthy debate. I think it would take a first-round pick, a young player with value equivalent to a first-round pick or multiple picks with combined value equivalent to a first.

So, a high enough price. Because the Canadiens aren’t motivated to move Savard.

But for two playoff runs, I could certainly see a contender taking a real swing before next Friday’s deadline. Especially now with Tanev gone.

(Top photo of Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev: Sergei Belski / USA Today)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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