Tag Archives: Boston Bruins

Working Overtime, Coach

By: Nick Lanciani

This week I present to you a short post on my thoughts on changing the OT format and the addition of the coach’s challenge, as well as a tidbit on the potential Las Vegas expansion.

Overtime

Shootouts have got to go- at least for the most part, that is. The only shootout scenarios that belong in hockey are penalty shots and the breakaway skills competition (which on another note, the skills competition was a bit stale this year).

I get it, when the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins meet up in a shootout, we’re all in for entertainment. Watching Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, and Evgeni Malkin trade shootout goals while Corey Crawford and Marc-Andre Fleury stuff others is highly addictive.

But then we get long shootouts- like the one that went twenty rounds this season between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals before Nick Bjugstad sent everyone home with his second attempt of the shootout, or basically every shootout the Boston Bruins have been in this season.

Please NHL, make it stop.

I’m all in favor of adopting the AHL’s overtime format that they began using this season. Overtime is seven minutes long, split between three minutes of 4 on 4 hockey and four minutes of 3 on 3 action (of course, the change between 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 isn’t technically done until the first whistle after three minutes of overtime).

If nobody scores in overtime, then the game heads to a shootout.

Personally, I’m a fan of simplifying an adaption of the AHL’s current overtime format and having ten minutes of sudden death overtime (5 minutes of 4 on 4, stop, switch sides, 5 minutes of 3 on 3). My format would eliminate the absurdity surrounding when teams make the switch from 4 on 4 to 3 on 3 and keeps the initial swapping of sides from the 3rd period to the beginning of the 4 on 4 overtime (and adds another swapping of sides between 4 on 4 and 3 on 3).

Ultimately, whatever reduces the number of overtime games that end up going to a shootout to about 5% (the equivalent of the actual effects of the AHL’s current overtime policy) is good enough for me. The league doesn’t completely throw out shootouts, but doesn’t have to rely on them more than necessary.

Coach’s Challenge

Another topic for consideration next season is the coach’s challenge. While this new addition would make sense for the league, it is nothing more than a procedural show that would slow the pace of the game way down.

I’d vouch for something similar to college hockey- simply making offsides, goaltender interference, and delay of game penalties reviewable. You’re probably saying, “but that’ll just slow the game down anyway” and you’re right. But this would take away the extra formalities of making the ref have to listen to what the coach is challenging, why he’s arguing, and so on an so forth.

Essentially, it’d streamline the decisions similar to how the refs and linesmen already confer when there’s a situation they can presently discuss amongst themselves (goals on the ice before they’re reviewed, delay of game penalties, and whatnot). Most of the time, if something needs to be reviewed, it gets reviewed. If not, then some off ice official steps in and makes the on ice officials take a look at it again (under video review).

Look, the coach’s challenge is just a way to drum up business, whereas simply making the plays in question (goalie interference, delay of game, and offsides) reviewable eliminates intentional stalling by a coach challenging the play at hand and ensures that for a call on the ice to be overturned or confirmed, conclusive evidence must determine the right way of the call.

As was seen in the Hockey East Championship this year, the refs went to video review for a play that was deemed a goal on the ice, but awfully close to being offsides. Video conclusively showed that the Boston University forward entering the zone was, in fact, just barely offsides, overruling the call on the ice and reverting the score from being 2-0 to 1-0 in the first period.

The entire process didn’t take longer than any current reviewable play in the NHL. So at the end of the day, if college hockey can make something look easy, then the NHL should be able to implement it seamlessly, right?

And after all, aren’t the purpose of the minor leagues, college hockey, and the junior leagues simply a testing ground for not only who teams draft and develop, but also the development of the game and subsequent rules of the game ultimately in the major league (the NHL)? If not, then- well, come on people…

This Week’s One Liner- VEGAS BABY!

Look, if the National Hockey League is sold on the results of the feasibility of an NHL franchise in Las Vegas, then fine- build an arena of about 15,000 and see how long it lasts- otherwise, if you’re looking to add to the Western Conference before adding to the Eastern Conference, for God’s sake Seattle is dying to get a team. Oh and so are Quebec City and Hartford, but you know… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Wild Card Roundup

By: Nick Lanciani

The Wild Card spots are pivotal in determining first round Stanley Cup Playoffs matchups. As things are right now, we’re in for a special treat. All standings are as they were at the time of when this was written at approximately 1 PM on Saturday.

Eastern Conference Standings

Atlantic Division

  1. MTL 97 pts. (72 GP, 45-20-7)
  2. TB 95 pts. (72 GP, 44-21-7)
  3. DET 87 pts. (70 GP, 38-21-11)

Metropolitan Division

  1. NYR 95 pts. (69 GP, 44-18-7)
  2. NYI 90 pts. (72 GP, 43-25-4)
  3. PIT 88 pts. (71 GP, 39-22-10)

Wild Card

  1. WSH 88 pts. (72 GP, 39-23-10)
  2. BOS 83 pts. (71 GP, 36-24-11)
  1. OTT 81 pts. (70 GP, 35-24-11)
  2. FLA 78 pts. (71 GP, 32-25-14)
  3. NJ 73 pts. (71 GP, 31-29-11)
  4. PHI 73 pts. (73 GP, 29-29-15)
  5. CBJ 68 pts. (71 GP, 32-35-4)
  6. CAR 61 pts. (70 GP, 26-35-4)
  7. TOR 60 pts. (72 GP, 27-39-6)
  8. BUF 47 pts. (71 GP, 20-44-7)

The Eastern Conference divisional standings are pretty much set with roughly ten games to go across the league. In the Atlantic Division a raging battle for first place continues for the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Detroit Red Wings sit comfortably in third place.

The red hot New York Rangers sit atop the Metropolitan Division lead with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins battling for second, while the Washington Capitals are in control of the first Eastern Conference wild card spot and tied with the Penguins at 88 points.

Realistically, the Capitals are a shoe in for making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season given that their wild card status could become a divisional spot earned in the playoffs, meanwhile the battle for the second wild card position is anybody’s guess.

Last year’s President’s Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins, find themselves in a bit of a predicament. Jekyll and Hyde hockey certainly isn’t Eddie Shore hockey. With 83 points on the season, the Bruins sit two points ahead of the Ottawa Senators who have 81 points and a game at hand on the Boston.

The Sens hot streak is just as fiery red as their jerseys currently. With Andrew Hammond stealing games and Curtis Lazar stealing burgers off the ice, the Senators look to be a point eating machine.

At one point in the year, the Florida Panthers looked like they were capable of the seemingly impossible- making the playoffs. After both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured at the same time, creating a desperation situation in net for the Panthers, at least Luongo is back in the lineup as Florida maintains a shred of hope.

The Bruins take on the Panthers Saturday night in what should be one of Boston’s biggest tests in the month of March. If the Bruins cannot beat the Panthers, then not only are the Senators that much more of a legitimate playoff contender, but they become that much more of a threat to thwarting Boston’s playoff run.

We know Boston is coming off of a loss to Ottawa heading into the game with Florida, however one loss to the Senators in an otherwise dominating month of March for the Bruins isn’t enough to knock them off of their game entirely. The Bruins effort was questionable, but if they are able to come out playing like a team that wants to win and ensure a win against the Panthers, then there’s a chance they can hold off the rallying Senators.

Past Boston, Ottawa, and Florida in the standings the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers still have a chance at pulling themselves up in the standings and stealing the last wild card spot. However, realistically the Devils haven’t been a contender all season (or for that matter, since the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals), while the Flyers have plenty to do to make their franchise better before taking on a playoff run in the next couple of seasons.

Ultimately for Bruins fans, they hope their team decides to make a choice and stick with it- either win and be in, or be ready to do some restructuring in the offseason, without any playoff hopes for 2015. For Senators fans, streaking at the right time with a youthful and energetic roster just might make them the unlikely heroes of this season, similar in fashion to the Los Angeles Kings recent playoff success.

And if Florida, New Jersey, or Philadelphia somehow remarkably made the playoffs at this point, then perhaps it is time to head to the bunkers.

Western Conference Standings

Central Division

  1. STL 96 pts. (71 GP, 45-20-6)
  2. NSH 94 pts. (72 GP, 43-21-8)
  3. CHI 92 pts. (70 GP, 43-21-6)

Pacific Division

  1. ANA 99 pts. (73 GP, 46-20-7)
  2. VAN 84 pts. (70 GP, 40-26-4)
  3. CGY 83 pts. (71 GP, 39-27-5)

Wild Card

  1. MIN 85 pts. (71 GP, 39-25-7)
  2. WPG 84 pts. (71 GP, 36-23-12)
  1. LA 82 pts. (70 GP, 34-22-14)
  2. SJ 78 pts. (71 GP, 35-28-8)
  3. COL 78 pts. (71 GP, 33-26-12)
  4. DAL 76 pts. (71 GP, 33-28-10)
  5. EDM 51 pts. (71 GP, 19-39-13)
  6. ARI 50 pts. (71 GP, 21-42-8)

The Western Conference has been the more dominant conference for the last five or six years. The top three teams in the Central Division are comfortably perched with enough points spread between them and the first wild card spot. The St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and the Chicago Blackhawks all make great choices for potential deep runs in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks are much further than the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames- so much so in fact, that Anaheim’s 99 points currently hails them as first in the league standings and the race for the President’s Trophy.

All season long, the Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets have looked like teams that could make a playoff run and be surprised by what happens. While the Wild look like a much better team than they were earlier in the season, the Jets are beginning to trend the other way.

The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, and even the Dallas Stars look hungry enough to try to take one of the current Western Conference wild card teams out of contention. While the Kings and Sharks could certainly pressure the Flames and Canucks and bump them out of their current divisional tickets to the playoffs, both teams are just as capable of obtaining a wild card position.

While earlier in the season the Avalanche and Stars looked like they would be immensely distanced from playoff hopes, they find themselves in position to strike as long as they win and their divisional, conference, and current wild card holding foes lose. Colorado now has 78 points on the season, which is exactly what San Jose has.

Whereas the Sharks have been trending away from playoff hopes, the Avalanche have been quietly stepping towards a potential playoff run. Intriguingly the defending Stanley Cup champion, Los Angeles Kings, are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. While there’s a chance they’ll miss out on being able to defend their 2014 title, the Kings still are the Kings.

It is unimaginable to count out Los Angeles at this point of the season. Both of their Stanley Cup championship runs began with a late season surge that continued well into and all the way through the playoffs. Would the Kings like to be a bit more comfortable at this point than they are now? Certainly. But at the end of the day, they have risen above the pressure they’ve felt before and could make a statement to do that again.

Although the Stars have a mathematical chance, their realistic playoff hopes are just about as doomed as the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes seasons have been. So for Calgary fans and Canucks fans, maintaining ground in the divisional standings is everything right now. The Wild look to continue to improve and solidify their wild card position, as the Jets look to start turning things around and distancing themselves from potential organizations that could overtake them.

San Jose fans simply look for a redeeming horizon from last year’s playoff exit that has them as the current annual playoff joke, as Avalanche fans simply look for pulling the goalie with five minutes left to actually work in their favor. The Sharks season is a bit of an embarrassment, considering the occasional lack of drive in their roster. At least Colorado can say that they’ve had the kind of season that they’ve had based on the fact that injuries have plagued their goaltending all year long.

In any case, the race is on for Western Conference wild card teams to make the playoffs. And like I said, we’re in for a treat as hockey fans that can’t get enough of watching every waking minute of game action and the playoff atmosphere that is just about to come around this time of year.

2015 NHL Trade Deadline Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

I finally got a chance to get around to recapping all of the trades made today at the deadline, so I present to you my hard work. This post will be updated throughout the day. What is known is shown.

The Boston Bruins started the day off with the acquisition of F Brett Connolly (who is a pending restricted free agent) from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick.

The Tampa Bay Lightning then made a move to get D Braydon Coburn and sent D Radko Gudas, a 2015 1st round pick, and a 2015 3rd round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In the third move of the day, the Montreal Canadiens acquired D Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2015 conditional 5th round pick. If Montreal wins in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, then the pick becomes a 4th round pick. If Montreal advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, then the pick becomes a 3rd round pick.

Montreal then made their second move at the deadline, as the Canadiens sent a 2016 5th round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for F Brian Flynn.

The St. Louis Blues acquired D Zbynek Michalek and a 2015 conditional 3rd round pick from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Maxim Letunov.

Chicago Blackhawks F Ben Smith was traded to the San Jose Sharks for F Andrew Desjardins. San Jose retained 50% of Desjardins’s salary on his current contract (he’s a pending unrestricted free agent).

New Jersey Devils D Marek Zidlicky was sent to the Detroit Red Wings for a 3rd round draft pick. New Jersey retained $1 million of Zidlicky’s salary.

The San Jose Sharks traded F Tyler Kennedy to the New York Islanders for a 2016 conditional 3rd round pick.

San Jose sent F Freddie Hamilton to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for D Karl Stollery.

The Pittsburgh Penguins traded D Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 7th round pick to the St. Louis Blues for D Ian Cole.

The New York Islanders sent backup goalie G Chad Johnson and a 2016 3rd round draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for G Michal Neuvirth.

In their second move of the day, the New York Islanders sent F Cory Conacher to the Vancouver Canucks in a swap for F Dustin Jeffrey.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded D Jordan Leopold to the Minnesota Wild for D Justin Falk and a 5th round pick.

Toronto Maple Leafs F Olli Jokinen was traded to the St. Louis Blues for F Joakim Lindstrom and a 2016 conditional 6th round pick. The draft pick can become a 4th round pick in 2015 if the Blues reach the Stanley Cup Finals and Jokinen plays a role in it.

Buffalo Sabres F Torrey Mitchell was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for F Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick. Buffalo retains 50% of Mitchell’s salary.

D Ben Lovejoy returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a deal with the Anaheim Ducks that sent D Simon Despres to Anaheim.

The Minnesota Wild kept their friendship going with the Sabres and acquired F Chris Stewart from Buffalo in exchange for a 2017 2nd round pick. The Sabres retained 50% of Stewart’s contract (so $2.1 million if you’re curious).

F Sven Baertschi has been traded from the Calgary Flames to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2015 2nd round pick.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded D James Wisniewski and a 2015 3rd round pick (DET) to the Anaheim Ducks and got F William Karlsson, F Rene Bourque, and a 2015 2nd round pick in return.

The Arizona Coyotes acquired G David Leggio from the New York Islanders in exchange for D Mark Louis.

The Boston Bruins sent F Jordan Caron and a 2016 6th round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for F Max Talbot and F Paul Carey. The Avalanche will retain half of Talbot’s salary.

Toronto Maple Leafs D Korbinian Holzer was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for D Eric Brewer and a 2016 5th round pick.

Anaheim also acquired F Michael Sgarbossa from the Colorado Avalanche for D Mat Clark.

F Jared Knight of the Boston Bruins was traded to the Minnesota Wild for F Zack Phillips.

Viable Trade Options- Part Four- Pacific Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Pacific Division Standings

  1. ANA 83 pts. (38-17-7) 62 GP
  2. VAN 73 pts. (35-23-3) 61 GP
  3. LA 70 pts. (29-19-12) 60 GP
  4. CGY 70 pts. (33-24-4) 61 GP
  5. SJ 68 pts. (30-24-8) 62 GP
  6. ARI 47 pts. (20-35-7) 62 GP
  7. EDM 46 pts. (18-34-10) 62 GP

UnknownAnaheim Ducks (1st in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 38-17-7 record, 83 points)

What could the- 2nd place in the Western Conference- Anaheim Ducks possibly want or do at the trade deadline on March 2nd? The tremendous acquisition of Ryan Kesler in the offseason has flourished in impact with the Ducks. It’s a fresh breath of life in Kesler’s career as he is on pace to better his performance of the last few seasons.

Only Matt Beleskey, Sami Vatanen, and Frederik Andersen are on the injured reserve currently. Beleskey would have been the Ducks most viable asset to move should they have made an offer or seen an offer than would enhance their roster.

There seems to be no sense in worrying about the injured Vatanen as the rest of the defense is solid and Andersen’s injury, while it sets the Ducks back a bit in goal, is certainly not a challenge for John Gibson and Jason Labarbera to handle.

So the only thing that the Ducks really had to do to make their team better was Thursday’s placement of Ilya Bryzgalov on unconditional waivers for the mutual termination of his contract. As long as the Ducks stay healthy and focused, they’ve got great chances of seeing a second or third round (or maybe longer) playoff run.

Unknown-1Vancouver Canucks (2nd in the Pacific Division, 61 GP 35-23-3 record, 73 points)

The Vancouver Canucks have been a pleasant surprise in the Western Conference standings this season. With that said, their place near the top of the Pacific Division podium has come with a bit of a price.

With Ryan Miller out four to six weeks the Canucks are likely to face a bit of shakiness in goal with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom defending the twine. But Miller isn’t the only injured player on Vancouver’s roster currently.

Brad Richardson, Kevin Bieksa, Frank Corrado, Alexander Edler, and Christopher Tanev are all on the injured reserve with Ryan Miller. The Canucks have faced crushing blow after crushing blow to their defensive aspect of their lineup and would likely seek to acquire a depth defenseman out of fear of more injuries heading into the long run.

Otherwise, in terms of forwards Vancouver could look to move Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian, and Shawn Matthias. Kassian and Matthias are obvious skaters to send elsewhere as Kassian has struggled to live up to anything since being brought in for Cody Hodgson (but then again, Hodgson is practically a fourth liner in Buffalo, so maybe the Canucks won that trade).

Kassian brings some size to any lineup and would be suitable for a fresh start in an organization looking to turn things around, such as the Ottawa Senators or the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Vancouver dealt with Ottawa they could try to get Patrick Wiercioch or Jared Cowen in return, but in either case a package offer would have to make the deal worthwhile for Ottawa, given Kassian’s track record. By no means am I saying that Wiercioch or Cowen are tremendously better, but they are worth more than Kassian alone.

Likewise, if the Canucks struck a deal with Toronto a suitable package offer including Tyler Bozak could favor Vancouver’s chances of getting a deal done. Then again, at this point Toronto might make just about any deal, so why not? The Canucks could use a guy like Higgins as the right kind of a player to sweeten a package deal without damaging their roster too much.

Meanwhile, Vancouver is continuously on the search to find a home for goalies it seems these days. Eddie Lack could be moved at the deadline, although where I am not sure. A Lack for Anders Lindback deal with Buffalo would help solidify the Sabres backup goaltending and wouldn’t be that much of a hassle for the Canucks to send Lindback to Utica if they insist on going with Ryan Miller (once he’s back from injury) and Jacob Markstrom as it appears they do.

In any case, Vancouver must carefully construct without subtracting too much of a good thing. Unlike the past couple of seasons, the Canucks actually have a ray of hope on paper, heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

UnknownLos Angeles Kings (3rd in the Pacific Division, 60 GP 29-19-12 record, 70 points)

Let’s face it, the Los Angeles Kings will find a way like they have since 2012. They’ll find a way to get into the playoffs, they’ll find a way to come out as big winners at the deadline, and they’ll find a way to break the hearts of San Jose Sharks fans- again.

One of the more interesting storylines for the Kings that has settled down a bit heading into the deadline is that of Mike Richards. He’s currently in Manchester (AHL) and wasn’t claimed when he was on waivers, so it’ll be intriguing to see if he ends up traded or not.

But what might be even more perplexing is that one of the variables for the Kings is the future of Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll. Stoll is a pending free agent and unless Los Angeles tumbles down a mountain over the weekend before Monday, then he’s probably not going anywhere. Unless the Kings get an offer they can’t refuse- a younger player, with less of a cap hit, for a longer period of time under contract, potential, and points to prove currently.

Hypothetically, it’d be impossible for the Kings to trade defending Conn Smythe trophy winner, Justin Williams, but it could happen. If a team like the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, or the Winnipeg Jets were offering Los Angeles an offer they can’t refuse, consider him as good as gone (albeit still producing Game 7 miracles wherever he goes). If not, then Williams’s job is safe and secure in LA.

The bottom line is, go back and reread the first paragraph of this little tidbit about the Kings until it sets in and ignore the rest.

Calgary Flames LogoCalgary Flames (4th in the Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference Wild Card, 61 GP 33-24-4 record, 70 points)

The Calgary Flames have been a pleasure to watch this season and it seems like their patient process is has turned into progress and results. Johnny Gaudreau has emerged as one for the rest of the league to keep an eye on while the rest of the team is built on youthful forwards and strength on defense.

Jonas Hiller has provided some much needed stability in net for the Flames and as it turns out Karri Ramo isn’t too bad of a backup either (at least based on his larceny of a save the other day against the New York Rangers).

But for Calgary one thing is certain approaching the deadline, it’s time for life without Curtis Glencross as the organization looks to maintain a grip on the 2nd wild card in the Western Conference. Moving Glencross with the right trading partner could be beneficial to the Flames and help them regain control of third in the Pacific Division, giving them just enough of a leg up on the Los Angeles Kings.

The Flames have been one of the only teams to corral the Kings this season. Whether that translates into the playoffs is yet to be seen, as both teams have got to make the playoffs first. Trading Glencross with a valuable team such as the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, or the Winnipeg Jets would bring in a tremendous return for Calgary.

And perhaps there isn’t a plan for Sven Baertschi in Calgary’s rebuild anymore, so maybe the Flames could dangle him over the competition as a chance to take on a young player who could use a fresh start in different scenery. A combination of Glencross and Baertschi in a package deal with Buffalo for Chris Stewart and some other asset could be all the Flames need in the long run for a decent playoff run to build off of in the coming seasons.

Regardless, I’m glad to see at least one team in Alberta is heading in the right direction.

Unknown-3San Jose Sharks (5th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 30-24-8 record, 68 points)

The San Jose Sharks have been turning things around from some low parts of the season, however, things have to improve in order to actually get better. Los Angeles is starting to heat up as they always tend to do at this point in the year and that annoys Sharks fans deeply. It’s not that the Sharks haven’t been able to maintain in years past during the regular season, but it is that the floor falls out from underneath them when it comes time for the playoffs.

Given the ultimate disappointment of last year (Los Angeles came back from being down three games to none in the series to eliminate San Jose in seven games- sorry to remind you Sharks fans) it’s no surprise to see that this year’s roster has a bit of a different look to it.

San Jose has done a respectable job of building from within and quietly adding versatile pieces to their roster, but it’s time for more than just a minor deal at the deadline to supplement the Sharks in the long run.

The Sharks are a young team and I get that, but some of their young “talent” isn’t working out and could be moved. Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins have largely been underperforming for the Sharks when they need it the most. A fresh opportunity for Kennedy and Desjardins would likely benefit both San Jose and the club they trade with.

I won’t discredit the value of Kennedy or Desjardins as both players would be vital depth forwards for playoff bound or playoff seeking candidates, such as the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, or the Vancouver Canucks. James Sheppard could become an expendable asset for San Jose is they are offered something worthwhile, if they decide to move either just Kennedy or Desjardins.

On defense, San Jose could move Scott Hannan given the substantial interest in older defenseman for teams looking to make a push for the playoffs or a deep playoff run, yet that would leave the Sharks with their next oldest defenseman, Brent Burns, becoming their oldest- at only 29 years old. Then again, the Sharks could try to move Hannan for a depth defenseman older than thirty but younger than thirty-six.

The bottom line is that maybe San Jose doesn’t have to move Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton after all (or at least, not yet).

Arizona_Coyotes.svgArizona Coyotes (6th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 20-35-7 record, 47 points)

The Arizona Coyotes have nothing-attractive going for them. Plain and simple they’re playing ugly hockey given where they are in the standings. They haven’t hit Edmonton Oilers hockey- oh wait, they’re only a point ahead of them.

The Coyotes will undoubtedly be sellers at Monday’s trade deadline with the rest of the league chomping at their bits over Antoine Vermette, Zybnek Michalek, and Keith Yandle. Arizona has the right parts and pieces to control the asking price and drive up competition among teams aiming at landing the solid third liner, Vermette, and or shut down defenseman Yandle or Michalek.

If Vermette and Chris Stewart are the hottest commodities available on the trade market this year, then that doesn’t reflect too well by any means. However, Vermette could at least be promising as rental player for any playoff looming organization.

Vermette has drawn interest from the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, and Colorado Avalanche. The least likely of those teams to land Vermette in the short run between now and the end of this year is Colorado. However, if the pending unrestricted free agent decides to test the waters of free agency, then by all means, throw the Avalanche back into consideration on July 1st.

Boston, New York, and Detroit have assets to offer in return, with perhaps all three teams also taking an interest in a package deal that includes either Michalek or Yandle. However, Montreal could steal the deal of the day for the second year in a row at the deadline if they landed Vermette in a move similar to their acquisition of Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders last year.

If the Coyotes are at all to be like the Toronto Maple Leafs, then they would not be open to sending any player to a Western Conference team, perhaps ruling out Anaheim’s hopes.

As for Michalek and Yandle, had Los Angeles not acquired Andrej Sekera on Wednesday the Kings would have been more inclined to be on the hunt for a Coyotes defenseman. With that, many teams in the Eastern Conference, especially, are looking to bring in talented blueliners. Boston, Montreal, New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, Florida, Ottawa, and the New York Islanders could all be looking for fresh defenders.

But in reality, aside from moving Vermette, Michalek, and Yandle, Arizona should look to dump a player like David Moss, Martin Erat, or Lauri Korpikoski for a younger forward that could bring a little rejuvenation to the roster.

And perhaps the Coyotes could be on the charge for a backup goaltender, with the likes of Eddie Lack potentially being shopped around by the Vancouver Canucks. In any case, Arizona has a long road ahead both on the ice and off the ice still.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgEdmonton Oilers (7th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 18-34-10 record, 46 points)

It is clear that nothing is working in Edmonton. It is also clear that something needs to be done. Jeff Petry, Derek Roy, and Viktor Fasth are all options to trade at the deadline for the Oilers.

Petry could be moved to a team like Detroit, Tampa Bay, Montreal, or Pittsburgh with the target of a prospect and a draft pick in return for the Oilers. Roy could fit in with a team like the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, or (would it be crazy to think) the Chicago Blackhawks. And Fasth could be a quick short term fix for the New York Rangers behind Cam Talbot while Henrik Lundqvist is out with an injury.

But as for the rest of Edmonton’s roster…

Boyd Gordon, Jordan Eberle, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Hamilton, Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, and Nail Yakupov are all forwards that could be relocated. Edmonton needs to rid themselves of the God awful Matt Hendricks.

One would think that Edmonton would recognize a bad player if the saw one, but they have Hendricks in their lineup. Gordon and Pouliot were failed attempts at bringing in the wrong kind of experience and veteran leadership in the locker room (just because Pouliot had a great playoff run last year with the New York Rangers doesn’t actually mean he’s good). And Eberle, Gazdic, and Yakupov are all young players that if Edmonton had to, they could move in a package for some tried and tested hockey ability.

Overall, the Edmonton Oilers are a mess that is beyond me. Frankly, I’m not sure what they need to do, other than burn everything to the ground and start over. The front office has messed up as many times as their players do on a nightly basis, and coaching is just left in the middle of it.

Good luck Edmonton.

Viable Trade Options- Part Three- Metropolitan Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Metropolitan Division Standings

  1. NYI 79 pts. (39-19-1) 59 GP
  2. NYR 74 pts. (34-16-6) 56 GP
  3. WSH 74 pts. (32-17-10) 59 GP
  4. PIT 73 pts. (32-17-9) 58 GP
  5. PHI 59 pts. (24-23-11) 58 GP
  6. CBJ 55 pts. (26-27-3) 56 GP
  7. NJ 53 pts. (22-26-9) 57 GP
  8. CAR 47 pts. (20-29-7) 56 GP

New York Islanders LogoNew York Islanders (1st in the Metropolitan Division, 59 GP 39-19-1 record, 79 points)

The New York Islanders need not worry about adding assets at this year’s trade deadline. While they do need to maintain their focus and avoid peaking too early, the Islanders appear as thought they are serious playoff contenders.

Their early acquisitions of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have really paid off. Coupled with Jaroslav Halak’s stellar goaltending- the New York Islanders have been nothing short of fantastic this season in the Eastern Conference. It appears as though for once the Islanders have just the right combination of youth and experience in their entire roster.

So with all of that in mind- there’s really nothing that New York needs in the long run. Sure the Islanders could pick up a depth forward or defenseman. The Islanders could move Lubomir Visnovsky or Matt Donovan to pick up that missing piece that might get them completely over the hump that is the first round of the playoffs (in recent memory for the Islanders).

Again, however, the Islanders might as well be perfectly content if they don’t do anything at the deadline. After all, it’d be better for them to get the experience and fail than get no experience at all. Regardless, they are going to be a fun team to watch heading into the playoff run.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Rangers (2nd in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 34-16-6 record, 74 points)

The New York Rangers are shaping up to be a delightful team to watch heading into the playoff run. Provided a healthy Henrik Lundqvist is able to work his way back in the lineup- although, in all honesty, a little time off for Lundqvist might be the most dangerous wild card for the rest of the league.

Think about it. In a typical season, Lundqvist tends to play in upwards of 65 to 70 games before the playoffs begin. Both in 2012 and in 2014 the Rangers ran out of gas in deep playoff runs (including the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals). Regardless of how you feel the Rangers ran out of gas, a goalie that has played nearly 100 games at the end of the day probably doesn’t help your chances- no matter how elite the goalie is.

All I’m saying is, if the Rangers can keep up with momentum and Lundqvist gets right back in it, then New York becomes that much more of a serious contender. Aside from the fact that the Rangers have figured out a balance of youth and experience in their lineup and that Rick Nash is having a stellar season.

Both J.T. Miller and John Moore are really the only assets the Rangers could possibly move. Miller could be in play in the player from the Arizona Coyotes that every team is trying to land, Antoine Vermette. But it wouldn’t be an easy one-for-one swap between the Rangers and the Coyotes. New York would have to offer a draft pick or something to make the deal a little more worthwhile for Arizona.

New York has also been in the hunt at acquiring Carolina Hurricane’s defenseman, Andrej Sekera. Moore is one of New York’s expendable defensemen that they could use as part of a deal to land Sekera. In any case, any deal has to be just right for both sides engaged in negotiations.

If the Rangers can’t address all of their needs, then the least they should do is focus on their defensemen. They are a fast skating team with skilled forwards. Adding a depth defenseman or adding a player of Sekera’s caliber would complete New York’s lineup and become a force to be reckoned with.

Washington Capitals LogoWashington Capitals (3rd in the Metropolitan Division, 59 GP 32-17-10 record, 74 points)

The Washington Capitals are in a commanding spot having jumped from the first wild card position in the Eastern Conference to the last divisional spot currently in playoff position. While Washington has been keeping in contention this season, they’ve been doing so oddly quiet. The Capitals are keeping pace with their dominant division rivals and are comfortably in the option of buying and selling constructively.

Braden Holtby is having a great season as the Capitals starting goaltender, certainly providing a spark of hope for the victory each night that he takes to the net. Alex Ovechkin an the rest of the Capitals offense continues to produce and it turns out signing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik is working out well for Washington (for now- Orpik’s contract is still a horrible claim to infamy from a general manager’s perspective).

Speaking of defense, however, it appears as though something is about to drop in Washington, as Mike Green appears to be the biggest asset the Capitals are looking to move at the trade deadline. The 29-year-old defenseman is exactly what any playoff lurking team with room for Green on their roster in the future is looking for. Conversely, any retooling team would gladly take him as well. But it’s going to take the right package for Washington to rid themselves of Mike Green without any regrets.

In terms of interchangeable parts that the Capitals are looking to use to improve, Joel Ward, Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle are striking options to move with the intent of picking up a much needed right wing scorer.

Alas, all of them are pending unrestricted forwards and Green would likely see the best return in the form of a winger, unless Washington is able to pull off a miracle package deal with Ward, Volapatti, and/or Beagle.

In terms of moving Mike Green, the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Detroit Red Wings are appealing options. Although if you’re going to mention two California teams, you might as well mention the Los Angeles Kings as dark horses that could add to their defensive strength with a Green acquisition.

Regardless, Washington has to keep gaining momentum at this part of the season in order to head into the playoffs at full strength and no mercy. Enough is enough from a talented organization that has only been able to get so far in the playoffs before faltering- it’s a deep playoff run or bust for the Washington Capitals given their current lineup and their quest for constant improvement.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoPittsburgh Penguins (4th in the Metropolitan Division, 1st Eastern Conference Wild Card, 58 GP 32-17-9 record 73 points)

No surprise here, the Pittsburgh Penguins talented roster has kept them afloat after their offseason front office transition (this being their first year with new GM Jim Rutherford and new head coach, Mike Johnston).

Only Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta are on the inured reserve for the Penguins, who are a young team that is sprinkled with talent and experience. Marc-Andre Fleury looks to be reliable this season, but only time will tell if he can maintain throughout the playoffs. None of the offseason maneuvers have upset Pittsburgh’s defense and the Penguins have been able to build their roster throughout the season pretty well so far.

With that said, the Penguins have got plenty of free agents coming up at the end of the season in an already tight salary cap situation. Pittsburgh could try to lessen this problem at the deadline by moving pending restricted free agents Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Dumoulin. The two defensemen could be a decent package for either Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry or Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera.

Bortuzzo appears to be the more attractive defenseman the Penguins could offer and would fit any team looking to retool and rid themselves of a potential rental player defenseman, which makes teams like Edmonton, Carolina, New Jersey, or Buffalo viable trading partners, as Pittsburgh could look for Petry, Sekera, Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador, or Tyson Stratchan in return. Dumoulin might take a little convincing for any team to acquire.

Needless to say, if the Penguins don’t make a move, they’re still readily prepared for a playoff run based on how the roster is currently shaped. They might not be the talk of the town right now, but they can skate with some of the better teams in the Western Conference, which certainly makes Pittsburgh one of the favorites as Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Finals representatives (at least on paper).

Philadelphia Flyers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers (5th in the Metropolitan Division, 58 GP 24-23-11 record, 59 points)

While the Philadelphia Flyers continue to cause frustration among their fan base, this season certainly has been better than the last few years. For once, it doesn’t appear as though the Flyers are having as much of a goaltender struggle that they usually have.

Instead, this year, the focus tends to be more on a lack of offense and a ho-hum defense. The best asset Philadelphia has to offer at the trade table on deadline day are their versatile defensemen. That’s right, I just went from calling their defensemen “ho-hum” to “versatile”.

That’s because the system doesn’t appear to be working very well for Michael Del Zotto and Carlo Colaiacovo in Philadelphia, however they are quality top four defensemen that are valuable to a team looking for a deep run. Pending the status of Kimmo Timonen, certainly the Flyers could feel offers out on the blood clot recovering defenseman. If not, then Del Zotto and Colaiacovo remain their main focus.

Del Zotto appears to be the more attractive defender, with the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vancouver Canucks being a good fit as teams that are in solidified standings. Boston and Buffalo seem to be the only other teams that come to mind as organizations that are unsure of what the future holds, but could benefit from the services of Del Zotto as well.

Colaiacovo on the other hand, would be a great addition for any of the above-mentioned teams. He would likely do better with a Western Conference organization, given that Colaiacovo has spent time in St. Louis and Detroit (prior to realignment). In that case, would even St. Louis be willing to pass up on him, if Anaheim is close to acquiring his skillsets, or would there be a welcome back parade through the streets of St. Louis leading to the Scottrade Center.

In any case, the Flyers have some developing to do and retooling in free agency with their forwards (it might be next to impossible to move Vincent Lecavalier’s contract at the deadline, or ever, for that matter). But the overall outlook of the organization is getting better as they are finding a direction to head in.

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoColumbus Blue Jackets (6th in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 26-27-3 record, 55 points)

Sadly, one of the biggest surprises of last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets, have been unable to keep their Cinderella story momentum going this season with the injury bug plaguing most of their chances. It seems that when one player is ready to return to the Blue Jackets lineup, another player goes down (or a player returns to the injured reserve, because that has happened too).

Right now Boone Jenner, Jeremy Morin, Ryan Murray, and Sergei Bobrovsky are on the injured reserve for Columbus. Nick Foligno is having a career year, despite all of the negative detractors from the Blue Jackets this season.

But come March 2nd, the Columbus Blue Jackets should be looking to move Mark Letestu, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Curtis McElhinney. Letestu, Atkinson, and Calvert are all attractive to playoff looming organizations- so the ones you’ve already heard about thousands of times by now, Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Anaheim, and even St. Louis or Chicago.

McElhinney on the other hand, is not a solid backup goaltender and cannot hold the team over when Bobrovsky is out of the lineup.

If Columbus gets the chance to pull a move similar to how Buffalo brought in Anders Lindback for Jhonas Enroth, then nothing will be costly for the team that is not likely to make this year’s playoffs. Columbus could benefit from a rental backup goaltender that might bring some stability to the organization in the short term in effort to allow the front office to get things together and go after a solid backup in free agency.

With that in mind, maybe its worth exploring Eddie Lack’s availability. If injuries aren’t a problem next season and the Blue Jackets aren’t able to get going, then things are going to get worse before they get better from the looks of things.

New Jersey Devils LogoNew Jersey Devils (7th in the Metropolitan Division, 57 GP 22-26-9 record, 53 points)

The New Jersey Devils might be the new nursing home of the NHL (previously held by the Florida Panthers). With that in mind, the Devils should come as no surprise as one of those teams that needs to sell at all costs if they want to improve in any aspect.

Jaromir Jagr, the ageless wonder, is a pending unrestricted free agent that could be a top bargaining piece as a rental player for any team looking to make the playoffs. The Devils need look no further than their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders as viable options to swap Jagr with. The Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and practically any other team should come as no surprise to be in on the Jagr sweepstakes as well.

But aside from Jagr, the Devils have a plethora of pending UFA forwards in Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Jordin Tootoo, Steve Bernier, and Scott Gomez. While some are nowhere near what they used to be, namely Tootoo, Bernier, and Gomez, others may be more attractive.

Havlat and Ryder are attractive options for teams looking for roleplaying forwards that can also bring a decent forechecking game and two-way aspect in their play on a second or third line. I get it, Ryder has really faltered at this stage of his career, but he still has a good wrist shot and a fresh change of scenery, combined with a little stability would be good for him.

New Jersey defensemen, Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador could also be moved at the deadline. Zidlicky is a right-handed defenseman that could fill the hole in Anaheim or Detroit, given that neither the Ducks nor the Red Wings were able to land Tyler Myers last week. Zidlicky wouldn’t cost that much and is a pending UFA. Then again, Zidlicky might be what a team like the Boston Bruins are looking for, in terms of experience and stability for the short term.

Salvador is also a rental player defenseman that could fit in with practically any team on the outside looking in, such as Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Minnesota, but then again, he could also work well on a team on the cusp on the playoffs or well on their way to a deep run. Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington, Montreal, and St. Louis all seem to be decent fits for Salvador’s play and cost.

In any case, it comes down to sell the players, or sell the team for New Jersey, because the ownership is clearly not expressing a commitment to winning in the team’s current state.

Carolina Hurricanes LogoCarolina Hurricanes (8th in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 20-29-7 record, 47 points)

Plain and simple, the Carolina Hurricanes have been bad. Defensemen are in demand at this year’s trade deadline, and Carolina has a couple to offer in Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason. The Hurricanes could also move forwards Jiri Tlusty or Jay McClement at the deadline.

The obvious landing positions for the hot commodities- Sekera and Gleason- would likely be teams looking to make a successful playoff run, such as the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and even the Pittsburgh Penguins, if it means they can get their hands on a package deal that would include either Tlusty or McClement.

Taking a look at Carolina’s roster, one can easily see that moving one of the Staal brothers really might not make sense after all. Nor would moving a player like Alexander Semin be a smart idea. The Hurricanes made an investment in Semin and they might as well get as much as they can out of him. Looking down the line, Patrick Dwyer is another forward over thirty that could certainly use a change of scenery for the better (not just for his own career, but Carolina’s future as well).

So if the Hurricanes are unable to move at least Tlusty, McClement, or Dwyer by the deadline, then all is not lost on the front end of their roster. Some definite retooling is in order for Carolina come July 1st. One of the things that the Hurricanes must explore is a better balance between youth and experience. Right now, they have an abundance of youth, but they have a stale group of experienced players that have spent too long in Carolina.

On the point, the Canes are looking to move Sekera and Gleason, but it would also do them service to look for a potential suitor for John-Michael Liles. It would be worthwhile for Carolina to move Liles for a player of equal status or experience, or perhaps a few years younger to help balance their blueliners.

The future in goal for Carolina is moving past Cam Ward, but Anton Khudobin is no long-term solution. Sure, Khudobin is projected to be a decent (backup) goalie, but the Canes must avoid too much of a similar situation as Buffalo was having with Jhonas Enrtoh and Michal Neuvirth. Who’s the starter? Who’s the backup? And why aren’t either of them clear cut starters or backups? At least Buffalo now has more hope in making Neuvirth their starter and Anders Lindback their backup, by definition.

For Carolina, though, neither Ward nor Khudobin are fitting any definition in goal. A trade involving Ward must be coming, albeit likely in the offseason. But if the Staal’s are hanging around, then certainly Ward’s got to go in the midst of a little roster shake up. Perhaps the Hurricanes have gotten too comfortable with the way things are, but that only makes actions need to happen more.

The outlook for Carolina is tough to envision, since not much direction has been or is being set presently for the organization.

Viable Trade Options- Part Two- Central Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Central Division Standings

  1. NSH 78 pts. (36-12-6) 54 GP
  2. STL 74 pts. (35-15-4) 54 GP
  3. CHI 69 pts. (33-18-3) 54 GP
  4. WPG 66 pts. (28-18-10) 56 GP
  5. MIN 59 pts. (26-20-7) 53 GP
  6. DAL 58 pts. (25-21-8) 54 GP
  7. COL 55 pts. (22-21-11) 54 GP

Unknown Nashville Predators (1st in the Central Division, 54 GP 36-12-6 record, 78 points)

The Nashville Predators are having themselves a remarkable season with a healthy goaltender, Pekka Rinne, in their lineup and everyone else playing their position fluidly. Filip Forsberg has been a tremendous surprise as a rookie with 18-30-48 totals in 54 games played. What might be more impressive is that their young defense has been able to step up to the task on most nights.

The Predators are holding up on the injury front, with only Ryan Ellis currently on the injured reserve, and lead the Central Division standings. While last season proved to be a bit shaky, their consistency this year should come as no surprise given their elite goaltending in Rinne and their head coach, Peter Laviolette’s, brilliance.

Nashville, surprisingly, has yet to see a long playoff run, though. This year is no exception to their hunger for more and they could be active in trying to acquire that one last key piece or two in order to perfect their roster and bolster up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then again, the age-old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” could work well for the Predators when it comes to deadline day.

However, going into the stretch run of the season, it might be smart for the Nashville to pick up a depth defenseman or two, as well as a possible depth forward. Especially with the moves their division rival, Winnipeg Jets, have made acquiring Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford- both of which will likely be regular components to their lineup, but in both cases, the Jets added to their plethora of options. That is just about the only thing advisable to the Nashville Predators organization heading into the trade deadline and I’m sure they are already well aware.

Unknown-1 St. Louis Blues (2nd in the Central Division, 54 GP 35-15-4 record, 74 points)

Despite some recent struggles, the St. Louis Blues are rolling along this season. Brian Elliott and Jake Allen have held up strong in goal, Vladimir Tarasenko emerged as one of the league’s most prolific scorers, and their defense has been solidifying their presence on the ice on a nightly basis.

Much like the Nashville Predators, though, the St. Louis Blues could use some depth. We are reaching the point in the season where any injury could make or break your chances of a deep run in the playoffs. With only Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Porter on the injured reserve, the Blues have found a way to remain healthy at this point in the season.

There really are no holes in their roster that contains an excellent mixture of youth and experience, so there’s nothing that immediately needs filling or getting rid of. Sure, Saint Louis could go with this roster moving forward, but I think their best bet would be to try to add without subtracting in order to avoid yet another early playoff exit.

As it is right now, the Blues would be playing the Chicago Blackhawks and I’m pretty certain history would show that Saint Louis wouldn’t fare too well against Chicago. That is why the Blues must focus on depth skaters to combat injury and give them options heading into the playoffs.

Unknown-2 Chicago Blackhawks (3rd in the Central Division, 54 GP 33-18-3 record, 69 points)

The Chicago Blackhawks, in recent years, are annual contenders for the Cup. Their legitimacy is what keeps the rest of the Western Conference teams trembling and stockpiling as much bang for their buck on their rosters.

Currently the Blackhawks are just trucking along in 3rd place in Central Division standings. With a roster that includes superstars, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and (when it really counts) Corey Crawford, how could Chicago A) have any more room for talent and B) be able to keep them all with the uncertainty of next year’s salary cap figure?

Regardless, nothing is plaguing the Blackhawks in the current state of the league. So it comes as no surprise that I don’t expect Chicago to be wheeling and dealing at the deadline. Could they bring in a depth skater or two? Certainly. I think most successful teams looking to make a deep playoff run operate on a basis of trying to get a depth rental player if they can- in order to have a dependable player to fall back on if an injury were to occur.

To summarize, it’s a keep on keeping on mentality in Chicago at this point of the year. As long as they have home ice in the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter where they end up in the standings, although I’m sure they’d prefer to be at the top anyway.

Unknown-3 Winnipeg Jets (4th in the Central Division, 56 GP 28-18-10 record, 66 points 1st Wild Card in the Western Conference)

The Winnipeg Jets have made the biggest splash in both the terms of being a delightful surprise this season, as well as on the trade market so far with the acquisition of Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, and Branden Lemieux from the Buffalo Sabres.

The Jets are currently the first wild card representative from the Western Conference and are situated in a tight battle for the Central Division. With the Buffalo deal, Winnipeg stockpiled on talent and could even still make further moves come March 2nd.

There are no guarantees, but then again, there also doesn’t seem to be that much needed within Winnipeg’s roster (at least on paper). Michael Hutchinson has played some stellar goaltending and the league’s smallest market has certainly been heard all season as one of the loudest voices talking serious about playoff hockey hopes, chances, and a potential run for the Cup.

But cool your jets before you get too far ahead of yourself. While the entire Central Division may be the NHL’s strongest division in the league, only a couple of teams from the division may even advance far enough into the playoffs.

Based on recent playoff experience and success alone, the Jets have a mountain to climb to overcome the playoff dominant Chicago Blackhawks and the annual playoff contending St. Louis Blues, in their division alone. If either team stays quiet on the trade front, then I’d expect Winnipeg to make at least one more move to get them over the hump- and trust me, they’re already getting plenty of calls.

 Unknown-4Minnesota Wild (5th in the Central Division, 53 GP 26-20-7 record, 59 points)

The Minnesota Wild are one of those teams you just got to feel bad for this season. Despite their recent growth in depth and playoff experience, the injury bug continues to plague the Wild organization.

No one is certain what the future in goal holds for Minnesota. How much older can Niklas Backstrom get and still be considered their starting goaltender? Has Devan Dubnyk finally found a stable place to play? And then there’s always Darcy Kuemper and whatever the future brings for his goalie career.

While the Wild might not be able to pull off a deal at the deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them shopping around Backstrom, given his age and the uncertainty of how he’ll hold up, injury wise (one can’t forget his recent injury struggles).

But the problem for Minnesota may not reside in their goaltending. Perhaps their roster could get younger, at least among the forwards. A player like Stephane Veilleux might be expendable enough to bring in something fresh. The Wild have a young, largely unexperienced defensive core and it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to take away from it. I tend not to think that Minnesota is in dire need of anything really (much like the rest of the Central Division), however if they could acquire some healthy players, that would be a good thing.

The strength of the Central Division is so strong currently, that if your roster even has one or two players on the injured reserve, you could be in for a dismal season. Minnesota has four players on the injured reserve, meaning that hope is likely gone for this season (by no means, technically, is their season a complete lost cause), but their future may be brighter. I’d expect the Wild to continue doing what they’ve been doing recently- building from free agency.

Unknown-5 Dallas Stars (6th in the Central Division, 54 GP 25-21-8 record, 58 points)

Fans of the Dallas Stars are riding a rollercoaster of emotion for the last couple of seasons. After finally getting back to the playoffs last season for the first time since the Detroit Red Wings knocked the Stars out of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Dallas finds themselves on the outside looking in.

While none of the Central Division teams are mathematically out of contention for a playoff run, the jury remains on recess in the spiritual and realistic manners. Dallas only has two players on the injured reserve currently (Patrik Nemeth and Valeri Nichushkin) and they just acquired some much needed backup goaltending in their trade with Buffalo this week for Jhonas Enroth- finally ridding themselves of the overhyped Anders Lindback.

Yet with stars on the Stars, such as Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Alex Goligoski, and Kari Lehtonen, how is it possible for Dallas to be situated 6th in the division? The answer may reside in their forwards, who surprisingly can provide enough of a spark some nights, but other nights lack consistency.

A player like Vernon Fiddler may be very attractive to a team looking to make a playoff run and would probably fit well with a team like the Washington Capitals or the Pittsburgh Penguins with the way he currently is playing, especially as a valuable second or third liner (something that at least the Penguins could use). Come to think of it, perhaps the Boston Bruins could find a way to fit in a guy like Vernon Fiddler into their roster. Either way, if Dallas is forced to sell at all on the deadline, the phone lines should remain open on Fiddler.

Another forward worth dangling on the fishing line for a potential trade is Erik Cole. The veteran has found a way to find the net again with the Stars and at the very least would bring in a veteran presence to any playoff inexperienced team looking for some locker room stability in the long run.

Last but not least- well, maybe least- Shawn Horcoff is 36 and definitely has got to be on the move from the Stars. The center has proven to be inconsistent and an injury waiting to happen in recent years. If the Stars seek to improve, they’d at least move Horcoff and either Fiddler or Cole for a younger player to compliment the likes of Spezza, Patrick Eaves, and Ales Hemsky in their currently over thirty-years-old lineup.

If the magic works out and the Stars start to go on a tear with their veterans leading the charge up in the Central Division standings, then go ahead and prove me wrong and don’t trade anyone. But if inconsistencies continue to plague the organization, then it might make sense to move on in the right way.

Colorado Avalanche Logo Colorado Avalanche (7th in the Central Division, 54 GP 22-21-11 record, 55 points)

The Colorado Avalanche have taken a page from the book of the Boston Red Sox apparently, as they have gone from one of the worst teams in their division to first in the Central Division last year- back to their current status of last in the division so far this season. Their rise and fall in divisional standings has been one of the most perplexing situations this season.

While injury has troubled last season’s Vezina Trophy finalist, Semyon Varlamov, in goal, surely an offense with the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jarome Iginla (a thirty goal scorer last season with the Boston Bruins) would’ve be able to compensate for the carousel of goalies earlier in the year and the young defensemen.

Yet, here they are with six players on the injured reserve (Patrick Bordeleau, Jamie McGinn, Borna Rendulic, Jesse Winchester, Erik Johnson, and Ryan Wilson) at the bottom of the Central Division. Johnson’s absence certainly would send shockwaves through the Avalanche’s defensive unit, as it would to any team that loses their number one defenseman for any extended period of time.

Given that Daniel Briere clearly isn’t working out in Colorado, wouldn’t it make sense to try to move him by the deadline in (if not a desperate attempt to save the season) an attempt to bring in some talent youth that could build on whatever success is left in this season for next season? With the Colorado’s plethora of prospects coming up in the rankings, would it be crazy to think that they could work out a deal with Toronto for Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, Daniel Winnik (a former Av), or Cody Franson?

Any one of those players would be an attractive option for the Avalanche organization, as well as an attractive destination for Toronto to send some or all of those players. Colorado meets several aspects of the Maple Leaf’s trading partner’s checklist. The Avalanche are a non factor this year, they’re in the Western Conference, and if the Avalanche turn things around at all, while the Maple Leafs continue to fall- the odds are that Toronto would end up with a higher draft pick than the Avalanche.

Among Cody McLeod, John Mitchell, Maxime Talbot, Alex Tanguay, and Jesse Winchester, the Avalanche should only commit to two or three of them. Given that Winchester is currently on the IR, a trade involving an injured player won’t happen. With Talbot having mild success in Colorado, he’s one to keep. Tanguay, on the right line, fits the Avalanche style of play (especially since they are the team that drafted him, after all).

But what kind of offers could the Avalanche get in return for the 30 year old Mitchell, who plays center, but could also probably play wing for a playoff contending team? This has to be something that Colorado is at least willing to listen to. And as great as McLeod has been for the Avalanche as an enforcer, perhaps it’s time for someone younger to step into his role and carry the team’s energetic side.

Jan Hejda, Brad Stuart, or Nate Guenin could be valuable older defensemen for any contending team in search of a depth defenseman or someone to get them to the Cup Finals. But the consequences of trading any of their veteran defenseman could be dire, unless Colorado is able to acquire a veteran defenseman or guarantee a veteran defenseman in free agency.

While the Avalanche aren’t quite in the same position as say the Minnesota Wild when it comes to young inexperienced defensemen, Colorado should continue to tread the waters carefully as Johnson and Wilson get back from injury and the rest of the defensemen develop.

Ultimately, Colorado is faced with the choice to buy or sell. Right now, it looks like they’ll be doing some clearance rack shopping, and used merchandise sales.

Viable Trade Options- Part One- Atlantic Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Atlantic Division Standings

  1. TB 71 pts. (33-16-5)
  2. MTL 69 pts. (33-15-3)
  3. DET 69 pts. (30-12-9)
  4. BOS 63 pts. (28-17-7)
  5. FLA 56 pts. (23-17-10)
  6. TOR 50 pts. (23-27-4)
  7. OTT 49 pts. (20-22-9)
  8. BUF 35 pts. (16-34-3)

Unknown-1 Tampa Bay Lighting (1st in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 33-16-5 record, 71   points) Not buying or selling.

Have you heard about the Tampa Bay Lighting recently? No? That’s okay, neither   have I- with the exception of some of the highlights from Steven Stamkos on any  given night. The Lightning are cruising along a successful season currently as the first place team in the Eastern Conference. Tampa’s putting up points consistently this season in one of the most inconsistent divisions (if not conference) in the league, yet they haven’t taken the talk of the town by storm.

Despite their young goaltending in Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevsky, the Lightning seem ready for a playoff run. I question their goaltending based on their youth alone. Bishop is a solid starter that can at least be good on any given night with shut down defense in front of him and blazing offense producing goals (two things Tampa Bay has nailed this year). Some might consider Vasilevsky too young to be a backup.

After being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, this Lightning roster gained valuable playoff experience that can only help them approaching this time of the season. However, the Lightning are currently short a regular lineup defenseman, or two, due to injury.

Their best option this year at the trade deadline is to go out and acquire a veteran defenseman with rental player status. Their best asset in doing so would be to trade Brett Connolly for a defenseman. If we’re talking matching age for age, the other plausible option would be to trade Brenden Morrow for an older defenseman. Otherwise, a straight up defenseman for defenseman swap could hamper the integrity of the Lightning’s current roster.

Unknown Montreal Canadiens (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 33-15-3 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

The Montreal Canadiens are having themselves a decent run so far, currently  seated in the last divisional spot in the Atlantic Division for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t had any major bumps in the road in the injury department or in the any player severely lacking in performing their job.

With that said, the Canadiens look to improve upon their Eastern Conference Finals run in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet the Habs don’t exactly have any players they’re looking to trade and they certainly don’t have that much that they are in dire need of acquiring. Their forwards are young for the most part, and their goalies are young as well- aside from being untouchable given that Carey Price is their starter and how Dustin Tokarski has lived up to his role as the Habs backup.

So what could Montreal do to better their team? For starters, there is always the age old saying “defense wins championships”. For a twenty-four-time Stanley Cup winning franchise that hasn’t seen hockey’s holy grail since 1993, one would think that the Canadiens would be pressing for some type of complete roster. Only three of Montreal’s defensemen are under the age of 32.

Mike Weaver and Andrei Markov are both 36 years old, Tom Gilbert is 32, and Sergei Gonchar is 40 years old. Only P.K. Subban (25), Alexei Emelin (28), and Nathan Beaulieu (22) are under the age of 32. The Habs could certainly use Weaver as trade bait for a younger rental defenseman that could help ease time on ice duties, relieving Markov and Gonchar on the blueline.

The Canadiens are also interested in the hunt that everyone seems to be in right now- the quest for landing Antoine Vermette. While the versatile center- that can also play wing- would fit in with the roster, the asking price might be a bit much for the Habs to cough up. Could it be possible that Montreal moves Manny Malhotra and another forward and/or a draft pick for Vermette, certainly, but Vermette seems a bit out of reach for the Canadiens, given their status and outlook heading into the playoff run.

Another highly touted player currently being shopped around is Jaromir Jagr, though it seems next to impossible to envision Jagr in bleu, blanc, and rouge. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Canadiens pulled off a surprising steal at the deadline, given how they acquired current Minnesota Wild forward, Thomas Vanek, last year from the New York Islanders. The New Jersey Devils would probably do better rebuilding with someone like Manny Malhotra, who is a bit younger than Jagr and has a few more years left in him (although the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon).

One thing is for sure; Michael Ryder probably isn’t going back for a third stint in Montreal.

Unknown-1 Detroit Red Wings (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 30-12-9 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

There’s not that much to worry about this season for the Detroit Red Wings. Their scorers are scoring, their checkers are checking, and their goaltenders are goaltending- which has pretty much been the Red Wings system for eternity it seems. Like the Lightning, the Red Wings are quietly producing.

None of this should come as a surprise really, with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard on the team. Thus none of it should come as a surprise to say that the Detroit Red Wings don’t really need anything.

The lack of a right handed shot on defense hasn’t shot the Red Wings in the foot this year, unlike preseason speculations feared. Could the Red Wings try to land a right-handed defenseman in a deadline deal? Yeah sure, but then again, anyone could if they wanted.

Despite their early playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins last year, the Red Wings don’t need that much to stockpile for a playoff run this year. They’ve got plenty of playoff experience in the depth of their lineup and they’re on top of things (for the most part) right now. I’m not suggesting that Detroit should take the rest of the season lightly (and the playoffs, for that matter). I am merely stating that from a management perspective, they’ve got the team they want to go with for a successful outlook in terms of a playoff run.

Unknown Boston Bruins (4th in the Atlantic Division, currently 2nd Eastern Conference Wild Card, 52 GP 28-17-7 record, 63 points) Buying and selling.

Despite the recent turnaround, there is no doubt that the Boston Bruins so far this year have been a disappointment compared to recent years. After a dismal December, the Bruins found themselves on the brink of a drastic identity change. Now after the month of January, the Bruins, while still not perfect, are trending in the right direction, especially considering that they are in playoff contention.

Patrice Bergeron has been Boston’s most consistent player, as usual, and Tuukka Rask has kept them in games. During the opening months it appeared as though the Bruins were shooting themselves in the foot. They aren’t as much of a Jekyll and Hyde team currently, although some aspects are still lacking. It would be in Boston’s best interest to patch some holes in their roster- they still need a winger and could probably use a defenseman. Especially after some of the small holes in their game pestered them and ultimately plagued them in last year’s playoffs leading to their demise to their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

Everyone wants Antoine Vermette. He could be the solid addition the Bruins are looking for in the short term, but they’d need a little more of a guarantee in the long term. However, could a rental player be enough to suffice for this season with Ryan Spooner and Seth Griffith about a year away from making the roster on a nightly basis? And what would it take to get Vermette?

Certainly if the Bruins wanted to work on a deal for Vermette and Keith Yandle, they’re going to have to offer the Arizona Coyotes something worthwhile. This is where Chris Kelly may be expendable for Vermette and Yandle if the Bruins throw in someone like Matt Bartkowski and a draft pick. As always, though, there’s the salary cap to consider.

In terms of other potential forwards the Bruins could chase after, there’s the whole Chris Stewart or Zack Kassian dilemma. Any deal for Kassian would make the Bruins worse (that’s all you need to know about my position on Kassian). Even if Boston offered the Vancouver Canucks Matt Bartkowski and something else that might sweeten the deal. The Buffalo Sabres have all the advantages in the world given their situation and trying to move the potentially useful Stewart.

They could be demanding and not budge from a high asking price, meaning that the Bruins would have to part with a piece from their core, which isn’t an ideal situation for Boston (yes, even if it were a one for one Milan Lucic for Chris Stewart trade. Take a look people, Lucic is a better player). Besides, Buffalo wouldn’t want someone they hate anyway, right?

But along the lines of Buffalo, I can only wonder how much a guy like Cody Hodgson runs for. Hodgson doesn’t solve the first or second line (depending on the night) right wing that the Bruins need, but he does carry some value as a third or fourth liner- which also an area the Bruins could use some retouching.

While it’s a stretch, Cody Franson would look like a good replacement for the months departed Johnny Boychuk, however Franson would be a next to impossible piece to land, especially if the Toronto Maple Leafs insist they only move him to a Western Conference team. But if the Bruins are looking for an extra, young, defenseman (and believe me, they are) Edmonton Oilers defenseman, Jeff Petry, might solve that problem.

Then again, general manager, Peter Chiarelli, might see adding another veteran blueliner as an easier option for the short term. Someone like Andrej Sekera or Marek Zidlicky. Sekera wouldn’t take much to pry from the Carolina Hurricanes and Zidlicky would probably require even less from the New Jersey Devils, who will no doubt be forced to sell like there’s no tomorrow, considering the dividends the race to the bottom will pay out in this year’s Entry Draft (Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel).

Given Chiarelli’s track record, the Bruins could very well go out and try to strike a deal with the Ottawa Senators for Marc Methot. Methot is a versatile defenseman that could bring an edge to Boston’s blueline without tampering with it too much.

Whatever the Bruins end up doing, they’re well aware they need to do it now (or by/on March 2nd).

Unknown-2 Florida Panthers (5th in the Atlantic Division, 50 GP 23-17-10 record, 56 points) Selling used parts.

The Florida Panthers are average. Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d write this year (or ever). Last year’s deadline deal brought stability in net in the form of Roberto Luongo. Their youth is starting to come around and general manager, Dale Tallon, has made moves that have begun to payoff on defense.

Yet there is still a major overtone hampering the Panthers from getting any better. A friend once told me that a player only goes to Florida when they know their career is pretty much over. While the Panthers have done a decent job riding themselves of many 35+ club players, Florida has some moveable parts in that demographic.

In order for their youth movement on the blue line to improve, Brian Campbell has got to be swapped for a mid-aged defenseman that brings in the right amount of youth and experience- Cody Franson, perhaps? Again, the problem lies with mid-aged defenseman being a hot commodity and the Panthers being a less than ideal trading partner.

In terms of forwards, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, and Derek MacKenzie are all available options for working out a decent trade. If the Panthers could pull off a move by trading any one of these players for a younger player or two, they could continue to build their roster from within (youth) and bring in young players from outside of the organization (experience, be it elsewhere or in the playoffs). No matter what, Florida has to keep chasing after the right combination of a youthful, energetic, and experienced roster if they want to crack the code to the playoffs.

If anything, for once they don’t have to worry about goaltending heading into the deadline, draft, free agency, off-season, and well pretty much for the next couple of seasons.

Unknown-3 Toronto Maple Leafs (6th in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 23-27-4 record, 50 points) Sell, sell, sell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to commit once and for all to something. That something is the process of a rebuild. I’m not saying they dump their entire roster around the league, but moving players like Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Daniel Winnik, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, and James Reimer just might be part of the answer in the long run. Especially if it means that the Maple Leafs would have a chance at landing the next Connor McDavid, presuming that they don’t obtain the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft, but rather the 2016 draft.

Life without Phil Kessel in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform seems to be getting all the more real as every minute passes. As the rumors swirl around Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson, Phil Kessel’s name is bound to be tossed around in serious consideration as well.

I’m not saying that we’d be looking at a monster deal involving Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson heading to the same team, but then again, I’d find it hard to imagine that it wouldn’t make sense if the right conditions were in place. If Toronto feels like dishing the trio to the same place and out of harm in the process of their rebuild, then the Edmonton Oilers must look like a golden opportunity for a seemingly farfetched deal.

The likes of Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson being swapped for Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Jeff Petry might be exactly what Toronto is looking for, but just out of reach. Likewise, a trio deal to Dallas wouldn’t be able to attract the right return either. Or would it? Perhaps a trade with the Stars wouldn’t give the Maple Leafs immediate replacements for Kessel, Phaneuf, or Franson, but rather a defenseman, a forward, and a 2015 first or second round draft pick.

The options for the Maple Leafs run dry in trying to get Mike Richards from the Los Angeles Kings, considering how Richards is slumping and bringing in the another David Clarkson wouldn’t be optimal for Toronto at this time. While Phaneuf, or Franson alone, might be enough of an asset for the Kings to consider, they’d surely pass on any package that offered either defenseman and Phil Kessel.

What’s likely to happen for Toronto is three separate deals where they can disperse the talents of the players among Western Conference teams (after all, Toronto desires a deal with any Western Conference team).

Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, on the other hand, would be the typical deadline trades to be made for any team looking to improve for a playoff run. Winnik isn’t as valuable in the long run as Kadri might be, but he might be the perfect fit for a playoff contender’s third line.

And one last thing, good luck trading James Reimer, Toronto. Unless they’re thinking a one for one swap with Vancouver for Eddie Lack seems like a good idea, although the Canucks seem intent on making Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom their go to netminders.

Unknown-2 Ottawa Senators (7th in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 20-22-9 record, 49 points) Selling used, buying new.

As much as the Ottawa Senators could be sellers at this trade deadline, it is my belief that they won’t be selling out and cashing out on this season entirely. There isn’t that much hope for making the playoffs this season for the Sens who last made the playoffs in 2013. However, the pieces are in place for success with their roster, all they need is a little time.

That’s where taking advantage of the most they can get out of this season comes into play. Ottawa probably isn’t going to attract the best deal at the deadline this year, but they’ll more than likely be active in the offseason trying to figure out who’s worth signing and who isn’t.

It is plausible to see the Senators move Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Chris Phillips, or Marc Methot by March 2nd. Condra is one of those players that could be attractive to a team looking to make a run at the playoffs and needs to add some depth in forwards. The same goes for Greening. Both Condra and Greening have spent their time well in Canada’s capital, yet moving them could make room for a prospect or the right young player brought in a deal.

Marc Methot is an attractive option for any team that needs a defenseman. At 29 years old, he fits the mid-aged defenseman status with the right combination of experience in the league and hint of youth left. Chris Phillips, on the other hand, is 36 years old and would likely become a sixth or seventh defenseman on a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. But then again, that might just be what he wants and exactly what the team looking to get him needs.

The Dallas Stars are exactly the kind of team that could prosper from either Methot or Phillips (or both). Given their interest in Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf, however, the possibilities of working a deal with Ottawa might be hampered. Then again, the Sens and Stars are trading buddies, having completed the Jason Spezza deal this offseason. Maybe it’s time both GM’s get on the phone with one another again.

Regardless, things aren’t as dire in Ottawa as other Canadian markets (Edmonton and Toronto, namely). An effective run to the end of the season that builds on learning and gaining experience should put the Senators on track for a possible playoff run next season or a 4th or 5th place finish in the Atlantic Division next year.

Unknown-3 Buffalo Sabres (8th in the Atlantic Division, 53 GP 15-34-3 record, 33 points) Selling unwanted parts.

The Buffalo Sabres are without a doubt likely to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Pairing either player with any of their players in the fountain of youth is sure to make them a legitimate contender within one to three years as not only a productive team, but a destination for veterans looking to bring the right amount of experience to a youthful team longing for success.

The Sabres have been in serious talks recently with the Anaheim Ducks concerning a move that would involve Tyler Myers. Trading Myers while knowing the future outlook is a risky move. Myers is still one of Buffalo’s youngest defenseman and is one of their largest (1st in height, tied for 2nd in weight- 6’8”, 219 lbs).

If the Sabres are to move a defenseman, trading Andre Benoit, Mike Weber, or Tyson Stratchan would be better options. Benoit is by far, their worst defenseman. Weber could be a key asset for a playoff looming team and the right price for the Sabres to get something valuable in return. Stratchan, likewise, could bring back something of use for the Sabres- a draft pick if anything.

Chris Stewart is nowhere near the player that he “used to be” if that term can even loosely be used. However, he is drawing significantly enough interest for the Sabres to bargain effectively in both terms of trying to bring something in return and providing security for the future (a second round draft pick, for example).

While the Boston Bruins seem like a prime suitor for Stewart in that they have a plethora of forwards that they could swap and a second round draft pick from October’s Johnny Boychuk trade with the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres could use that knowledge as enough of a factor to drive up Stewart’s selling price.

Among forwards that the Sabres could move, Matt Ellis, Torrey Mitchell, Cody Hodgson, and Drew Stafford seem like reasonable assets to offer to other teams. Ellis and Mitchell are getting in the way of potential roster developments. Likewise, Hodgson is slumping too much to hold onto for the future.

If the Sabres and Stafford think it would be a good idea to reunite former teammates Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville with Drew Stafford in Minnesota, then by all means, there is enough to pick and choose from the Wild organization.

Had Cody McCormmick not been on the injured reserve, then by all means, the Sabres might have been able to do something with him. Although, perhaps the fourth liner could stick around another year or two solidifying four lines in Buffalo.

The only other debate is between Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth in goal, with Matt Hackett and the long list of developing goaltenders in mind for the Sabres. Neuvirth could be worth dealing for the right goalie. Then again, he could be exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning need for added security in net heading into this year’s playoffs.

The Sabres best bet at improving in goaltending is through free agency and the entry draft, despite the time required to develop the next best starter that they could go with. Finding a solid backup goalie in free agency shouldn’t be a hard thing to do for a team that has a bright future just on the verge of the horizon, despite what many say about the currently at the bottom of the standings organization. At the very least, Buffalo is not Edmonton, where surely the light of day isn’t showing for the next million years.

Buffalo has a tough road ahead, but fortunately it can be navigated properly with the development of either McDavid or Eichel in this year’s draft, coupled with young stars like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Gregorenko, and Nikita Zadorov.

New Year, New Beginnings (or Revivals)- Part 2 Return to Hamilton

With the dawn of the New Year upon us I decided to explore the possibilities of relocation and expansion. In this excessively informal post, I’ve taken a look at what some of the best concept jerseys are for teams that no longer exist, but should (or possible expansion teams). In each case, I’ve looked at numerous designs, courtesy of Icethetics.co and the forums over at Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net, and highlighted the ones that I would pick if I were the owner of a new franchise looking to establish its identity.

If you missed part 1, you can read about it here.

Truthfully I find it odd that Hamilton does not have a hockey team when compared to similar sized markets- off the top of my head and in terms of fan support- like Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Calgary. Then again, being smack dab in the middle of the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs had enough to do with that; similar to the chances of the Hartford Whalers returning, given that the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders are all right in Hartford’s backyard. Regardless, let’s say the Hamilton Tigers came back to life. These jerseys are both appealing and retro enough to convey a sense of connection to the once existent Hamilton Tigers of long ago. Similar in nature to the Minnesota Wild, none of these jerseys are close enough to being related to one another, yet they aren’t far enough away from being unrelated. They’re somewhere in-between, just like the physical location of Hamilton, Ontario; somewhere in-between Buffalo, New York and Toronto, Ontario.

 Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 1.34.48 AM

But for you snafu’s that would rather see a more traditional set of jerseys, the Tigers wouldn’t go wrong with these. Quite frankly, I would be inclined to use the yellow home jersey as the third jersey for the set above.

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Florida Panthers 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Florida Panthers. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Florida Panthers (29-45-8, seventh in division & second to last in conference)

After the second straight year of missing the postseason since winning the division in 2011-‘12, Dale Tallon pulled the plug on almost the entire coaching staff. Since then, the Panthers have hired Gerard Gallant to replace Peter Horachek (who was on interim basis after the firing of Kevin Dineen). Mike Kelly, John Madden, & Mark Morris will serve as assistant coaches in addition to Robb Tallas as the Goaltending Coach & Paul Vincent coaching skating & skills.

Gerard Gallant’s only NHL head coaching experience came with Columbus from 2004-‘06. He was promoted from his position as assistant coach following Doug MacLean stepping down due to a miserable record of 9-21-4-3. Under Gallant’s leadership, the Jackets finished 25-45-8-4 (Gallant responsible for the Jackets going 16-24-4-1), failing to make the playoffs. The following seasons offered no new results, as Columbus went 35-43-4 in 2005-’06, again missing the playoffs. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a terrible opening 15 games for Gallant & the Jackets. They went 5-9-1 before MacLean pulled the plug on Gallant.

In the 2007-’08 season, Gallant joined the Islanders in an assistant coaching position before becoming the head coach of Saint John. In every season of his three year tenure at Saint John, the Sea Dogs made the playoffs, winning the President’s Cup twice & the Memorial Cup once. Following the 2011-’12 season, he was hired by Montreal as an assistant coach, a position he held until this summer.

The Panthers’ goaltending situation looks to be already in place. Although the goalie with the most games played & wins from last season, Tim Thomas (16-20-3), was traded to Dallas on March 5th, the Panthers had received Roberto Luongo in a trade with Vancouver the day before. Moving forward with Luongo (6-7-2), the Panthers found their goalie with the best save percentage (92.4%) & fewest goals against average (2.46) over the course of 14 games. I would be very surprised to see Luongo lose his starting position.

In addition to retaining Dan Ellis (0-5-0), who played six games with the Panthers last season, Florida also has Sam Brittain, Michael Houser, & Al Montoya within their organization. Brittain was drafted by Florida in 2010 & last played at the University of Denver, where he posted a 19-14-6 record in 39 games. A particularly striking stat he has to his name coming into this season is posting five shutouts & only allowing 2.22 goals per game last season in the NCHC. Al Montoya posted a 13-8-3 record last season in Winnipeg, saving 92% of all shots on his goal (leads new acquisitions) & only allowing an average of 2.3 goals per game. I expect him to take the backup role from Ellis with Sam Brittain getting the opportunity to develop in the AHL this season.

The Panthers come into the season having lost some important players, most notably Tom Gilbert (signed with Montreal) & Marcel Goc (traded to Pittsburgh).

They lost one of the top seven players with most regular season games with the Panthers last season in Tom Gilbert, who played 73 games last year. The Panthers are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Jussi Jokinen (81, signed from Pittsburgh), Willie Mitchell (76, signed from Los Angeles), & Brett Olson (75, signed from Abbotsford).

Florida is not bringing back two of their top 10 shot takers this year as Marcel Goc (105) & Jesse Winchester (100, signed with Colorado) are not returning. These two players accounted for over eight percent of the Panthers’ shots last regular season. They’ve added Mackenzie Weegar (173, 2013 draft pick), Jussi Jokinen (172), & Brett Olson (150) to the present roster, who should produce more offensive opportunities.

Almost six percent of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Marcel Goc (11) is with the Penguins. The Panthers have added Aaron Ekblad (23, 2014 draft pick), Jussi Jokinen (21), Steven Hodges (21, 2012 draft pick), Brett Olson (17), Rocco Grimaldi (17, 2011 draft pick), & Mackenzie Weegar (12) to more than make up for the missing goals, provided they can acclimate to the NHL when they join the team.

One of the leading two assisters will not be with the Panthers this season as Tom Gilbert (25) is not returning. Florida has more than made up for this, as they have signed Mackenzie Weegar (47), Jussi Jokinen (36), Aaron Ekblad (30), Brett Olson (27), & Steven Hodges (26). These new additions will hopefully provide for more options on offense when the players get acclimated to the NHL.

One of the three positive +/- guys for the Panthers has been lost in Bobby Butler (one). Florida has made many excellent additions to build on a miserable season in this regard by adding Mackenzie Weegar (56), Steven Hodges (20), Willie Mitchell (14), Jussi Jokinen (12), Aaron Ekblad (nine), Brett Olson (eight), John McFarland (three, 2010 draft pick), Shawn Thornton (three, signed from Boston), & Connor Brickley (one, 2010 draft pick). The Panthers hope that these players can continue to be as efficient as they progress through the organization.
The Panthers lost one of their top two penalty minute earners in Krys Barch (99). Sadly, Florida picked up Mackenzie Weegar (97), Aaron Ekblad (97), Shawn Thornton (74), Steven Hodges (65), Willie Mitchell (58), Rocco Grimaldi (48), & Derek Mackenzie (47, signed from Columbus). New hire Jussi Jokinen only served 18 minutes in the sin bin last season, which averaged out to 13 1/3 seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Panthers from defending the power play.

Present roster consists of 26 forwards, 13 defensemen, & five goalies (44 men).

Colorado Avalanche 2014- 2015 Season Preview

2014 Offseason
Losses: (Free Agency) D Andre Benoit, F Bryan Lerg, D Matt Hunwick, F David Van Der Gulik, F Brad Malone, F Paul Stastny (Trades) F PA Parenteau (Retirement) G J.S. Giguere

Additions: (Free Agency) F Jesse Winchester, D Zach Redmond, F Ben Street, D Bruno Gervais F Jarome Iginla, D Brad Stuart (Trades) F Daniel Briere

The Colorado Avalanche certainly had a busy offseason, leaving some with mixed feelings. While the addition of Jarome Iginla seems great, it comes with the price of the subtraction of Paul Stastny- who had helped play a key role in the Av’s ultimate defeat to Minnesota in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon is ready to lead the second line as a center and the Calder Trophy winner is capable of putting up plenty of points this coming season, but how will he perform as the number two center alongside guys like Alex Tanguay, Iginla, Ryan O’Reilly, or Gabriel Landeskog? Head coach, Patrick Roy, has the flexibility to play around with his top six forwards for the first couple of months.Iggy is back in the Western Conference, something he may prefer, however, how must his game evolve given that a lot has changed in the Western Conference during his short time in the East with Pittsburgh and Boston- that and being on a younger team in general. The Daniel Briere for PA Parenteau trade with Montreal looks like it will be a solid in retrospect, however, Briere is nowhere near the scoring capability that he once was. Strength down the middle might concern the Av’s fourth line, but can be resolved with the addition of Jesse Winchester. Perhaps a bigger question of the Avalanche prospects regards Joey Hishon- is he finally ready for the NHL? If he is, is he the one that fits the missing piece to the puzzle on the third or fourth line? The only thing that concerns Av’s fans with regards to Iginla is whether or not they will be able to realistically make a deep Cup run within his three year contract. Let’s face it, Iginla is nearing the end of his career, and as of right now, Colorado appears to be at least three years out of a potential Stanley Cup.

On the blue line, the Av’s have a solidified defense in Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Brad Stuart, and Jan Hejda, but whether Nick Holden and Nate Guenin can successfully complete the top six defensemen remains to be seen. Despite the success of last season, there are plenty of question marks for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014- 2015 season. The Av’s have a little flexibility with excess defenseman that could be utilized from Lake Erie, but their depth at the blue line remains shallow in comparison to other teams. However, given the fact that the Avalanche have rid themselves of the Matt Hunwick atrocity, significant gains have been made. A lot of questions will be asked of the Avalanche this season, but with good intentions. Nobody doubts Roy’s- Jack Adams winning- ability to coach, however some may recall the last time the Av’s made the playoffs and the subsequent years in between playoff runs. To get to the top of the league, this young, relatively inexperienced playoff roster must remain a consistent force in both making the playoffs and lasting for longer than a round or two. Failure to make it back into the playoffs this season and the Avalanche organization suddenly looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Leafs fans). Consistent final bows in the first round and the Av’s will look like the San Jose Sharks (sorry Sharks fans). To win a Cup, a team has to go through a few losses first, but it cannot take forever to do so.

Semyon Varlamov looks to improve on his Vezina Trophy finalist season and will take on more minutes with Reto Berra as his new backup. Quick question, whatever happened to all of that hype about Calvin Pickard? Is he still just a few years off? Varlamov is a clear starter in Colorado, potentially erasing all recent memories of the roulette of goalies and struggles in the crease in the forms of Peter Budaj, Andrew Raycroft (interesting fact, I still have his rookie card somewhere), Brian Elliott (before he was good in St. Louis), Craig Anderson (not that he really struggled, just the team that was in front of him), and whatnot. No matter what anyone says, Berra is a weak backup until proven otherwise. Sure he had that impressive save last year in Calgary, but sometimes it just happens. Regardless, the Avalanche need another year or two of making it into the playoffs and getting to the second round. First of all, they have to avoid the Minnesota Wild; something tells me the playoffs are not kind to the Av’s when they play the Wild. Secondly, the have to see how they can pit themselves up against perennial powerhouses such as Chicago or Los Angeles. Only then will they be ready to take on a Western Conference Final battle and perhaps even a Stanley Cup Finals run. Their number one goal for 2014- 2015 season, though, must be to continue to improve and aim for the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.