Puck Daddy Countdown: Sakic pulls the rabbit from the hat

Joe Sakic got a sizeable return for Matt Duchene. (Getty Images)

7. Even KHLers who wanted to go the Olympics (maybe)

Gotta love the KHL. Now it, too, is threatening to not go to the Olympics if the IOC doesn’t let its players compete under the Russian flag.

The reason for this wrangling, of course, is the massive amount of doping allegations in a slew of international sports around the Sochi Olympics. They’re really mad about it because so much of their national identity is wrapped up in Being Good At Sports.

Whether this happens for real remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the KHL take its ball and go home. This is the kind of thing you honestly can’t put past them.

I kinda hope the KHL does pull out. The men’s hockey in PyongChang would be horrible! I mean, it’s probably going to anyway, but at least the Russian team would have been really good. How funny would it be if this protest led to the Russians blowing their only legitimate shot at an Olympic gold since the Soviet Union disbanded? (You can bet they’re not counting the unified team medal from Albertville, and I’m not either!)

Anyway, if the Russians pull out, probably like Switzerland or Finland will win. I dunno. It’ll be funny, but also bad.

6. The Bruins

If you play for the Boston Bruins right now, you might want to invest in some bubble wrap.

Brad Marchand is hurt. David Krejci is hurt. Adam McQuaid is hurt. David Backes is hurt. Noel Acciari is hurt. Ryan Spooner is hurt. Anton Khudobin is hurt. That’s seven guys, just hurt right this second, and a bunch of other guys have also missed a number of games.

Their roster has often looked like a mix of Providence and Boston. Not ideal! Of course, even in ideal situations, this isn’t a great team, but who even knows what this team actually is right now? No one, that’s who.

5. Tyler Seguin

Turns out if you live in Texas long enough, you become one of those “You’re in America, so speak American!” guys, even if you’re Canadian.

Hockey’s an international game, buddy. You want to only speak English, go sign up for football. But make sure it’s the American kind or you’re not gonna like what happens!

4. Vladimir Putin

Oh right, I mentioned Russia a little while ago. Hold on, I have a take…

Earlier this year, Randy Newman put out a record called “Dark Matter” and the lead single for it was, oddly*, a good examination of how Vladimir Putin and Russians in general view themselves and their leader. There’s a vanity there, a willingness to continue viewing Russia as a world-bestriding bear that can and should take what it wants, but also that all this self-aggrandizement can and should flow through — but also into — Putin himself.

Putin and the Russian propaganda machine have a vested interest in showing that the Russian president is Just One Man but also the guy who will lead Russia back to its place atop the world’s ladder of power, both militarily and economically. (Obviously a country with its economic eggs in so few baskets as Russia will struggle to get there, but that doesn’t stop the dreaming of a Greater Destiny). That’s why you see so many pictures of Putin without a shirt on — “This guy could beat the hell out of Trump or Obama, no problem!” — but also why he’s sometimes treated so fragilely, as a sort of benevolent but stern father, within Russia itself.

The line to open the Newman song is, appropriately, “Putin puttin’ his pants on, one leg at a time. You mean he’s just like a regular fella? He ain’t nothin’ like a regular fella.”

Which is where Alex Ovechkin’s social media campaign, to vaguely support Putin somehow, comes in. Putin doesn’t need support. It’s still technically unclear whether he will run for another term, but he’s going to run and he’s gonna win with 90-plus percent of the vote easy. Ovechkin has, of course, stated his support for and friendship with Putin on multiple occasions in the past, and all the people who acted shocked by the latest revelation had no actual right to be shocked or concerned. This is business as usual for just about any rich Russian; when was the last time you saw anyone from that country with any sort of power or name recognition speak out against him without promptly being served a polonium salad?

Anyway, pretty funny that Ovechkin starting a social media campaign to lend “support” to a brutal oligarch who does as he pleases got a few days’ worth of headlines and no formal dealings from the league — after all, he said he was not a “politics man.” Meanwhile, JT Brown had to wait three weeks to get in the lineup again, and was publicly scolded by the league, after he raised his fist to protest police brutality. If Brown wanted to be able to get away with doing anything he wanted politically, he should have tried being one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. That makes you bulletproof, baby!

Classic stuff.

*Not odd if you’re a true Newman Head but certainly if you only know his work as “The Toy Story Guy”. And if that’s the case, do your homework! The Newman back catalog is incredible.

3. I guess the Senators?

Okay here’s me breaking down all sides of that big three-way trade, which I think all three teams can count as a W:

Nice for Matt Duchene to get out of Colorado, first and foremost. Goes without saying. He’s going to a team that thinks more highly of itself than it should, but you can’t say the Sens didn’t upgrade from Kyle Turris. Not really a bold take, that, but the Senators are better today than they were on Sunday morning, and the fact that they only gave up a good-ish prospect (Shane Bowers), a salary dump (Andrew Hammond), a protected 2018 first, and a 2019 third ain’t bad.

On the other hand, they only made the trade in the first place because they weren’t going to re-sign Turris, due to how much he would have wanted to stay and how budget-constrained the team is generally. Problematically, Duchene isn’t locked up long-term either. He’s locked up longER-term, sure, but he’s a UFA in July 2019 (and thus not eligible to re-sign until this summer) and who knows for sure if he’ll want to stick around.

It’s really just Pierre Dorion throwing the cap concerns down the road a little. The Sens will have a lot more money to throw around then (they have just $38.8 million committed to nine players for 2019-20 at this point) but nonetheless, it’s a gamble.

2. The Predators

Remember going into the year how we were all like, “Ah, but the Preds need a No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen.” Well now they have one, and he’s locked up relatively cheap and long-term. He’s not as good as Duchene, who David Poile unsuccessfully pursued for some time, but he’s a huge upgrade over Nick Bonino, their de facto No. 2 so far this year (or would be were he not hurt, which he is).

And yes, Samuel Girard, Vlad Kamenev, and 2018 second is a decent amount to give up for Turris, but this is: a) a team in win-now mode, b) better than giving up a rostered defenseman like Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis.

Girard is probably an NHLer at 19, and posted huge numbers from the blue line in the Q. The Preds don’t exactly need D help, so he was expendable in the grand scheme of things. Likewise, Kamenev is a promising 21-year-old forward who lit up the AHL since he came to North America. Scoring 96 points in 137 career games for a U-21? That’ll play.

Like a lot of the Central, Nashville is kinda shuffling right now, and as long as the competition is doing the same thing, it’s not that big of a deal. Ryan Ellis is out until the new year and Bonino might be another week or two away, but when this roster is fully complete and if the goaltending holds up, this is once again a very scary team.

Anyway, Kyle Turris is a winner here, too, because he goes from the Senators (not good) to the Predators (probably very good), and Nashville is a cool-as-hell place.

1. Joe Sakic? Hold on…..

I would’ve bet a million dollars of Joe Sakic’s money that my man would have punted this trade as he did with Ryan O’Reilly, but nope, there was a huge market for Duchene after all.

To disenfranchise your franchise center as he did for so long, then still get Hammond (who cares), Bowers (a first-round pick in June’s draft), Girard and Kamenev (a pair of second-round picks with impressive extant pedigrees in pro hockey), as well as a first-, second-, and third-round pick? That’s magic. Jeez.

The Avs blue line a few years from now could look very, very good, and that forward depth might be rounded out a bit too, for once.

I honestly can’t believe it. Game gotta recognize game here.

(Not ranked this week: Nathan MacKinnon.

Okay so there was a big loser in all this. Poor Nathan MacKinnon is going through another rebuild that probably won’t be over for a few years. Gotta think he’s, what, 24 or 25 before this team is legitimately good again? And even then: Maybe. This poor kid!)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)