Tag Archives: David Clarkson

October 6 – Day Three – Welcome to the league

Man, a week goes by fast when there’s hockey involved. All of a sudden it’s Friday!

Speaking of, we have three games on the schedule tonight in anticipation of a 15-game Saturday. The action starts at 7 p.m. with the New York Islanders visiting Columbus, followed half an hour by Florida at Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup. Finally, Vegas heads to Dallas (NHLN/SN360/TVAS) to close out the night at 8:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

There’s only one chance for a franchise to play its first NHL game, so is there any doubt which game we’re featuring tonight?

 

 

 

 

 

Now that it is officially game day for the Golden Knights, allow us at Down the Frozen River to welcome Vegas to the NHL!

Officially, the process of bringing the NHL’s 31st team to Las Vegas began in late 2014 when Commissioner Gary Bettman allowed Bill Foley to test the season ticket market, though the league has had a presence in the city since the early 90s (not counting the bookies).

Over 13,000 season tickets and 18 months later, the Golden Knights were approved for business and preparing to start winning hockey games.

Unfortunately, history is not on their side in this contest. The last expansion franchises to win their opening games were Tampa Bay (7-3 against Chicago) and Ottawa (5-3 against Montréal) in the 1992-’93 season. Since then, expansion teams have gone a dreadful 0-6-1 in their first-ever regular season games, getting outscored 25-11 in the process.

Ouch. Maybe the Golden Knights can do better.

For them to buck the trend, they’ll need exemplary play from stars like G Marc-Andre Fleury, F Jon Marchessault and W Reilly Smith. Considering Vegas’ lack of an effective blue line and the prowess of the Stars’ forwards (more on them in a minute), Fleury’s job description is simple even though it’s not simply filled.

And it’s with that in mind that puts even more pressure on the Knights’ forwards. Given that Dallas doesn’t necessarily play the best defense in the league, Marchessault, and Smith will hopefully be able to find some chemistry on the top line with C Vadim Shipachyov to keep Vegas competitive.

In addition to playing their first game, the Knights are also bringing with them some the Stars’ old friends. In particular, C Cody Eakin spent the last five seasons in Dallas before being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. During his tenure in the Lone Star State he registered solid 61-85-146 totals, but last season’s 3-9-12 performance was a drastic decline that forced General Manager Jim Nill to leave him exposed.

Speaking of Nill, now that Eakin is on the Golden Knights’ second line, he had the opportunity to make some much needed changes to the Stars’ roster. After finishing 15 points behind the eighth-seeded Predators last season, Nill was able to improve his team by adding the likes of G Ben Bishop, C Martin Hanzal, D Marc Methot and RW Alexander Radulov.

Pair that group of players, who should provide at least a 10-point improvement in the standings compared to last year’s team, with Dallas’ mainstays of LW Jamie Benn and F Tyler Seguin and you find a club that should have something to say about the Blackhawks winning the Central Division for a second-straight season.

Considering the poor history of expansion teams in their first regular season showing and the fact that RW David Clarkson, F Mikhail Grabovski, W James Neal and D Clayton Stoner are all on injured reserve, I’m not expecting much from the Golden Knights this evening. Instead, I’m going to be enthralled by what could be the best top-line in hockey (Benn-Seguin-Radulov) backed by the first number one goaltender Dallas has seen in years.


Of all the teams to make it a priority to defend their new home, I suppose I should have pegged Detroit, who beat Minnesota 4-2 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings scored two goals in 23 seconds – both courtesy of their second power play unit. First Star of the Game W Anthony Mantha (RW Martin Frk and Third Star D Mike Green) claimed the honor of scoring the first goal in arena history by burying a five-on-three wrist shot with 5:20 remaining. Under normal power play conditions, that lead doubled 23 seconds later when F Dylan Larkin (Green and Mantha) tipped a loose puck past G Devan Dubnyk.

Not to be outdone, the Wild had a scoring blitz of their own, starting with C Joel Eriksson Ek‘s (W Chris Stewart and LW Marcus Foligno) wrister two minutes into the third period, followed by Stewart’s (F Tyler Ennis and D Kyle Quincey) wrister only 48 seconds later to level the game at two-all.

The tie lasted 4:19 before F Henrik Zetterberg (Green and F Tomas Tatar) found the game-winning snap shot on his stick. From between the face-off circles, he collected a Green pass deflected off W Jason Zucker‘s skate and fired it five-hole on Dubnyk to set the score at 3-2.

Frk (Mantha and Green) secured the win by burying a slap shot with 9:21 remaining in the contest, setting the 4-2 final score.

Second Star Jimmy Howard earned the victory after saving 37-of-39 shots faced for a .949 save percentage, leaving the loss to Dubnyk, who saved 27-of-31 (.871 save percentage).

After three games, road teams have a slight one-point advantage in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a 2-1-0 record.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2017-2018 Season Preview

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

Columbus Blue Jackets

50–24–8, 108 Points, 3rd in the Metropolitan Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Pittsburgh

Additions: D Andre Benoit, D Cameron Gaunce, F Tyler Motte, F Artemi Panarin, F Jordan Schroeder, D Doyle Somerby

Subtractions: F David Clarkson (Traded to Vegas), G Oscar Dansk (Signed with Vegas), G Anton Forsberg (Traded to Chicago), F Sam Gagner (Signed with Vancouver), F William Karlsson (Claimed by Vegas in the 2017 Expansion Draft), D Kyle Quincey (Signed with Minnesota), F Brandon Saad (Traded to Chicago), D Ryan Stanton (Signed with Edmonton), F T.J. Tynan (Signed with Vegas)

Offseason Analysis: As the 2017-2018 season approaches, one club that people are keeping their eyes on are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although that comes as a surprise to many, Blue Jackets faithful know the quality product that their team can put on the ice. If anything, they certainly have created many high expectations for themselves, with a roster that seems poised to repeat regular season success.  *If you didn’t catch the bold font, please re-read the above sentence and note the specific terminology*

The Blue Jackets, entering the league as an expansion team in 2000, have now reached the playoffs three times, including two trips in the last four years. Although they did not achieve playoff success, the 2016-2017 season was still the best in franchise history, as they eclipsed the 100-point marker for the first time. The sixteen-game winning streak the team managed looked pretty and filled the seats at Nationwide Arena, but it left many wanting more. They slowed down (basically like a freight train screeching to a halt) and crawled into the playoffs, where they were beaten by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was seemingly a two-part tale to the season, so which Columbus Blue Jackets team will we see this year?

The front office wanted to make some noise, but at the same time, not create too much change. They achieved their goal when they acquired young star, Artemi Panarin, which forced them to send a talented Brandon Saad back to Chicago after only a couple years with the Blue Jackets. Forwards Tyler Motte and Jordan Schroeder will also be making moves to the Buckeye State, but they may be searching for homes in Cleveland rather than in Columbus. Both players have NHL and AHL experience, but they will need to compete for a full-time roster spot, not to mention ice time. The remaining three additions, all defensemen, could assist the already well-rounded corps, but it will probably be in the form of call-ups. Although doubtful at this point, one looming deal could still take place as the season nears (COME ON SAKIC, MAKE A DEAL… sorry, impulsive reaction). Other than that, the front office will take their current roster and hope to still be playing hockey in June.

So where does this leave the Blue Jackets? They will rely heavily on the talents of three award-winners this past season; Head Coach John Tortorella, Captain Nick Foligno, and especially goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. If Bob can remain healthy and put together another Vezina-quality season, the net will be secured. It will also be interesting to watch the production of the ‘Bread Man’ and see his results with a new team and line-mates. Panarin is motivated by critics who say he was simply riding the coat-tails of Kane back in Chicago.

Lastly, is this defense capable of winning a Presidents’ Trophy or Stanley Cup? They have steadily improved and now have great depth at the position, including talented, puck-moving defensemen like Zach Werenski and Seth Jones.

Offseason Grade: B-

Is this the year Columbus can make a big push? Although it seems doubtful, its honestly the closest they have ever been. After some early struggles, they have built their team the right way and are now solid in net and both ends of the ice. They need to act quickly, as contract renewals and the salary cap could hurt them in the near future. Players surely remember getting taken out by their rivals early in the playoffs, who eventually went on to hoist the cup, and have something to prove this season (boy, their first game with the Pens will be fun to watch). They also understand the high expectations from management, coaches, and the fans. The recipe is there, so let’s see if the Jackets can get something cooking.

Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 Season Preview

vegas_golden_knights_logoVegas Golden Knights

0-0-0, 0 points, 1st in only existing on paper as an expansion team

Additions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, D Jake Bischoff, F William Carrier, F David Clarkson, G Oscar Dansk, F Reid Duke, F Cody Eakin, D Deryk Engelland, G Dylan Ferguson, G Marc-Andre Fleury, D Jason Garrison, F Mikhail Grabovski, F Nikita Gusev, F Erik Haula, D Brad Hunt, F Tomas Hyka, F William Karlsson, G Maxime Lagace, F Brendan Leipsic, F Oscar Lindberg, F Jon Marchessault, F Stefan Matteau, D Brayden McNabb, D Jonathon Merrill, D Colin Miller, F James Neal, C Tomas Nosek, F David Perron, G Calvin Pickard, F Teemu Pulkkinen, D Griffin Reinhart, D Luca Sbisa, D Nate Schmidt, F Vadim Shipachyov, F Reilly Smith, D Clayton Stoner, D Shea Theodore, F Paul Thompson, F Alex Tuch, F T.J. Tynan

Subtractions: D Trevor van Riemsdyk (traded to CAR), D David Schlemko (traded to MTL), D Marc Methot (traded to DAL), D Alexei Emelin (traded to NSH), F Connor Brickley (signed with FLA), F Chris Thorburn (signed with STL), G Jean-Francois Berube (signed with CHI)

Still Unsigned: None

Offseason Analysis: The Vegas Golden Knights are set to make their NHL debut as the league’s 31st and newest franchise and fans are ready for action on the ice in the Sin City. With so many offseason transactions, it’s almost like George McPhee was trying to build a team or something! Oh, wait, that’s what he was supposed to do?

Love them or hate them (and really, who could hate the Golden Knights, because they just might have one of the best social media teams in the league), Vegas is here to stay and they came to play.

James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault (51 points in 2016-2017, led the Florida Panthers in scoring) look to lead their veteran core of forwards, while their 2017 1st round pick, Cody Glass, hopes to crack the NHL roster. Oscar Lindberg beckons to breakout, while Vadim Shipachyov aims to leave fans wanting more in his NHL career debut as a 30-year-old after having been a vital part of the KHL (26-50-76 totals in 50 games) last season.

Colin Miller looks to step up his role on the blue line and improve off of an impressive couple of seasons in Boston, while being surrounded by a bunch of other respectable top-4 defensemen.

Arguably their only weakness from the offseason, the Golden Knights have a defense with an average age of 27. That’s with the 11 defensemen currently on the roster before training camp, mind you, and it sounds about right for a team looking to hit the ground running with a defense in its prime.

However, McPhee selected Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Chicago Blackhawks, Alexei Emelin from the Montreal Canadiens and Marc Methot from the Ottawa Senators (three solid defensemen that would make a good core) only to trade them all away to Carolina, Nashville and Dallas, respectively.

It’s fair to say the 2017 Expansion Draft was the most expansion franchise friendly draft of it’s kind in NHL history.

It’s also fair to say the Golden Knights were average at robbing the 30 other teams in the league making their selections. Sin City’s adopted son, Deryk Engelland, is 35 and is not getting any younger. While he’s sure to attract the local crowd, Gerard Gallant cannot rely on him alone to carry the defense,

And Clayton Stoner and Jason Garrison’s combined salary cap hit of $7.850 million doesn’t look spectacular with the likes of Jon Merrill, Miller and Shea Theodore as pending-RFAs. Then again, despite their age (32) Stoner and Garrison are pending-UFAs themselves at season’s end, so it looks like everyone is playing for 1) their jobs in Vegas or 2) their next contract somewhere else.

Vegas’s defense is not bad, just not great.

Though the likes of Jake Bischoff and 2017 draft pick, Nicolas Hague, look promising down the pipeline.

Finally, there’s no question regarding their starting goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury will surely be true to form in the regular season as one of the NHL’s top-notch goalies. Calvin Pickard is no competition for the starting job, but should perform much better than last year with the Colorado Avalanche because, at least this season, he’ll have a team defense in front of him.

Yet, the biggest question surrounding Fleury’s playing ability for the first time on a team not named the Pittsburgh Penguins concerns just how much playing time he’ll see.

Capping Fleury off around 50 games seems fair, given he’s no Braden Holtby (super elite, 70-plus games-a-season) and he hasn’t reached Henrik Lundqvist status (beginning to age out of playing 1,000,000 minutes– give or take– for the New York Rangers). But even leaving 32 games for Pickard to prove he’s worthy of future starter consideration seems a bit much.

Clearly McPhee identified something in Pickard that he wants him to be part of the team, but with a change of scenery for Oscar Dansk from the Columbus Blue Jackets– where Joonas Korpisalo is the surefire stellar backup to two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky— to the open skies of Vegas, there’s a chance Pickard might have a run for his money.

In fairness, Dansk has yet to appear in a NHL game, but one thing’s for certain– the Golden Knights have a wide open opportunity to foster goaltending depth via healthy competition.

There’s really no telling how the team in Vegas will do in their first year of play. Owner, Bill Foley, expects to be a competitive team out of the gate, while reality might say otherwise (give them two or three years). Nevertheless, their offense is strong, their defense has room to improve and their goaltending is world-class.

One thing is certain, they won’t finish 31st in the league, but they might finish last in the Pacific Division.

Offseason Grade: B

They get a little extra credit for having built one of the better expansion teams on paper since the modern era (1990s).

Numbers Game: The Inaugural Vegas Golden Knights Season

The NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, are set to begin play in the 2017-2018 season and T-Mobile Arena is sure to be packed with 17,500 fans in the stands cheering on the league’s 31st team.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

But how many times will Golden Knights fans be on their feet in euphoria after a goal, big save or otherwise amazing play?

After careful consideration, Vegas selected their team from the other 30 NHL teams at the 2017 Expansion Draft, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and via free agency, both before July 1st and since July 1st.

And after further careful consideration, I once again navigated Microsoft Excel to project some stats for the 2017-2018 Vegas Golden Knights roster. Players that have yet to play a game in the NHL are not included, since it wouldn’t feel right to predict something at a level of play that they’ve never seen before, so hold yourselves back a moment, Vadim Shipachyov fans. Give it until at least 20 games into the season, thanks.

Or at least until I can figure out how to use the forecast function for a player who’s yet to see the NHL a formula for KHL players bound for the NHL– or anyone that’s making their NHL debut.

Sample size must be kept in mind when approaching these projections. A player who scored one goal in six career NHL games over the last two seasons, having spent last season primarily in the AHL or as a healthy scratch is for some inexplicable reason, going to look promising on paper before an 82-game season begins because that’s just the way Microsoft Excel works.

This is by no means a shot at the professional ability of a player, as someone like *ahem, if you look at the chart* Brendan Leipsic. It is always plausible that Leipsic could pan out and make enough of an impression to stick around with the Golden Knights NHL roster and amass at least ten goals.

As always, keep in mind that I am no math major and you’re (probably) not a general manager, head coach, assistant coach or whatever might give you some credibility for statistical reasoning in hockey.

But if your name is George McPhee or Gerard Gallant and you’re reading this… ‘Sup? *slides résumé across the table*

And if your name is Jon Marchessault, then you’re in for a very fun season with an excellent followup to a 51-point season. Marchessualt is projected to amass 28-22-50 totals in his first season as the pinnacle of Vegas Golden Knights prime-age-driven offensive production.

Only James Neal (30-27-57 projected totals) is bound for a better season at the age of 29, which, for all intents and purposes of the today’s NHL is on the older side of a youth-driven offense, but still in the arch of a player’s prime. With only a projected six-point difference between Neal and Marchessault in expected scoring for Vegas, we’re all in for a treat in Sin City’s intra-roster battle for lead scorer.

The ever efficient, Reilly Smith, is in for a quietly successful season with 18 goals and 26 assists (44 points) in the latest projections (a seven-point improvement from 2016-2017 with the Florida Panthers). Smith’s familiarity and chemistry with teammate, Marchessault, fits brilliantly in the design of McPhee’s Golden Knights, especially with Gallant at the realm behind the bench.

While Smith provides an underrated star quality to the roster, David Perron looks to keep pace with last season’s 46-point year in his 2nd stint with the St. Louis Blues, by bringing in a 19-28-47 expected totals for Vegas in 2017-2018. Injuries aside, Perron puts up quality consistency for two or three seasons in a row and is in the midst of just that as the Golden Knights get out of the gate in their first season.

From the 2008-2009 season through the 2014-2015 season, Perron recorded 40-plus points a season with only two exceptions– an injury shortened 2010-2011 season, in which Perron only played 10-games as a 22-year-old member of the Blues and the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, where Perron amassed 25 points in 48 games played for St. Louis.

In 2014-2015, mind you, Perron combined 5-9-14 totals in 38 games for the Edmonton Oilers and 12-10-22 totals in 43 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 41-point effort in 81 games played that season. And in 2015-2016, the now 29-year-old split time among the Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks, so he’s been around the league enough to know how to bring some of the intangibles (a.k.a. veteran leadership/a locker room presence) to the expansion team in Vegas.

Check out what to expect from everyone on the Vegas Golden Knight’s inaugural season’s roster below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

2017 NHL Awards Ceremony & 2017 NHL Expansion Draft Live Blog

Tonight is a special night for the National Hockey League as it presents it’s 2016-2017 season awards to its players and continues to welcome the league’s 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights, with their very own 2017 NHL Expansion Draft reveal.

If you can’t tune in to the action tonight at 8 PM ET on NBCSN (in the U.S.) and Sportsnet (in Canada), then follow along with us as we track the action!

Ted Lindsay Award winner- Connor McDavid (EDM)

Other finalists- Brent Burns (SJ) & Sidney Crosby (PIT)

Frank J. Selke Trophy- Patrice Bergeron (BOS)

Other finalists- Ryan Kesler (ANA) & Mikko Koivu (MIN)

James Norris Memorial Trophy- Brent Burns (SJ)

Other finalists- Victor Hedman (TB) & Erik Karlsson (OTT)

EA Sports NHL 18 Cover Athlete- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Other finalist- none announced

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award winner- Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) and Mark Giordano (CGY)

King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner- Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- none announced

NHL Foundation Player Award- Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders

Other finalists- Wayne Simmonds (PHI)

Calder Memorial Trophy winner- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Other finalists- Patrik Laine (WPG) & Zach Werenski (CBJ)

NHL General Manager of the Year- David Poile, Nashville Predators

Other finalists- Peter Chiarelli (EDM) & Pierre Dorion (OTT)

Jack Adams Award- John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Mike Babcock (TOR) & Todd McLellan (EDM)

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner- Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Other finalists- Andrew Cogliano (ANA) & Derek Ryan (CAR)

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Other finalists- Mikael Granlund (MIN) & Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)

Vezina Trophy- Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Braden Holtby (WSH) & Carey Price (MTL)

Hart Memorial Trophy- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Other finalists- Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) & Sidney Crosby (PIT)

Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)

William M. Jennings Trophy- Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals

(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Art Ross Trophy- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

 


2017 NHL EXPANSION DRAFT– VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2017-2018 ROSTER (pending trades and free agency)

Vegas Selects:

G Calvin Pickard (Colorado Avalanche)

D Luca Sbisa (Vancouver Canucks)

F Teemu Pulkkinen (Arizona Coyotes)

D Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils)

F William Carrier (Buffalo Sabres)

F Tomas Nosek (Detroit Red Wings)

F Cody Eakin (Dallas Stars)

F Jonathan Marchessault (Florida Panthers)

D Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles Kings)

F Connor Brickley (Carolina Hurricanes)

F Chris Thorburn (Winnipeg Jets)

F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Philadelphia Flyers)

D Jason Garrison (Tampa Bay Lightning)

G Jean-Francois Berube (New York Islanders)

F James Neal (Nashville Predators)

D Deryk Engelland (Calgary Flames)

F Brendan Leipsic (Toronto Maple Leafs)

D Colin Miller (Boston Bruins)

D Marc Methot (Ottawa Senators)

D David Schlemko (San Jose Sharks)

F David Perron (St. Louis Blues)

F Oscar Lindberg (New York Rangers)

D Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oilers)

D Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens)

D Clayton Stoner (Anaheim Ducks)

F Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild)

F William Karlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets)

D Trevor van Riemsdyk (Chicago Blackhawks)

G Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins)

D Nate Schmidt (Washington Capitals)

Vegas Trades:

Vegas Golden Knights acquire a 2017 6th round pick from the Buffalo Sabres (tied to the F William Carrier selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Reilly Smith from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick (in addition to the F Jonathan Marchessault selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire a 2017 5th round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes (tied to the F Connor Brickley selection).

The Vegas Golden Knights traded a 2017 1st round pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 3rd round pick.

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Nikita Gusev, 2017 2nd round pick and a 2018 4th round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning (in addition to the D Jason Garrison selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Mikhail Grabovski, D Jake Bischoff, a 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick from the New York Islanders (in addition to G Jean-Francois Berube).

Vegas Golden Knights acquired D Shea Theodore from the Anaheim Ducks (as part of the D Clayton Stoner selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Alex Tuch from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 2017/2018 3rd round pick (as part of the F Erik Haula selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F David Clarkson, 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 2017 1st round pick was then traded from VGK to the Winnipeg Jets.

Vegas Golden Knights acquires a 2020 2nd round pick from PIT (as part of selecting G Marc-Andre Fleury).

Tweets of the night that made viewing the Awards Ceremony watchable:

March 31 – Day 163 – Keeping it in Alberta

Welcome to the penultimate Friday in the NHL’s regular season. Unless you’re a fan of one of the 16 teams heading for the playoffs, there’s not much hockey left to be watched so make sure to catch the rest of this season’s games!

Tonight’s festivities start with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers (SN) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by New Jersey at the New York Islanders. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Columbus at Chicago,  with two more (St. Louis at Colorado and San Jose at Calgary) getting underway at the top of the hour. Two contests – Los Angeles at Vancouver (SN360) and Washington at Arizona – share the role of nightcap and get started at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Pittsburgh at New York: Not only is it a rematch of last year’s Eastern Quarterfinals, but the Blueshirts could pull within four points of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
  • Columbus at Chicago: Two of the three best teams in the league? Yes please.
  • San Jose at Calgary: Thanks to the Sharks‘ loss last night, the Flames are only three points out of third place in the Pacific Division.

I’d love to watch the Hawks and Jackets square off, but it doesn’t have major playoff implications – and that’s what we’re all about this time of year. As much as I dislike repeating teams on back-to-back nights, it looks like we have to catch the Sharks‘ plane to Calgary for another important Pacific tilt.

 

If the Sharks can be happy about anything right now, it’s that today is the final day in what has been a dreadful March for them. Their 6-9-0 mark is tied with Arizona for the sixth-worst record in the month, and being compared to Coyotes in anything is usually a sign of trouble.

What makes the recent struggles an even harder pill to swallow is that it is spoiling an overall solid regular season. When the final game in February was played, San Jose was not only leading the Pacific Division by five points, but also trailed Minnesota by only seven points for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Thirty days later, the 43-27-7 Sharks sit alone in third place in the division, and four teams separate them from home ice throughout the conference playoffs. It leaves a club and fan base that entered the season on a quest to hoist its first Stanley Cup wondering if they can even escape what will be a very trying quarterfinals matchup against the Ducks, Flames, Oilers or possibly even the Blackhawks.

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been an nearly all-inclusive collapse (defense notwithstanding) by the Sharks that has resulted in their horrendous run over the past 15 games.

Since 33-32-6 Martin Jones was in net last night, I’d assume 10-6-1 Aaron Dell will start in goal tonight (of course, I tabbed Dell to start yesterday and I was wrong, so who knows?). Dell has actually been a solid backup all season, as his .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA are not only better than Jones’ effort, but also rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league among the 56 netminders with at least 16 appearances.

Whether we get that Dell or the Dell that has seen his save percentage drop to .915 in March remains to be seen, but you can plan on Justin Braun and San Jose‘s defense playing as strong as ever.

All season the goal has been to keep pucks off Dell and Jones’ crease as much as possible, and they’ve done an excellent job in achieving just that. All year, they’ve allowed only 27.5 shots-against per game – the third-best rate in the league – and they’ve actually been slightly better of late, allowing only 27.1 per game in March.

No Shark deserves more credit for that than Braun. He’s been the defensive stalwart of the club all year, and it shows in his team-leading 154 shot blocks. Another that has done well defensively is Joe Thornton, but he does his work before the opposition even thinks about firing at the net. He leads the squad in takeaways with 64 (tied for eighth-most in the league), including 13 this month.

The goaltending issues have proven to be especially detrimental to San Jose‘s penalty kill. Since it has been only an average effort on the season as a whole (80.8% kill rate is 15th-worst in the NHL), taking away the luxury of a usually-reliable backstop has dropped the Sharks to ninth-worst in March, neutralizing only 78% of their infractions. Dell has saved only 85% of the power play shots that have come his way this month, the 14th-worst effort among the 38 goalies with at least six March appearances.

Special teams seem to be a struggle for Peter DeBoer’s squad this year, as his power play has actually been worse than his penalty kill. The Sharks rank seventh-worst on the season with their 17.1% success rate with the man-advantage.

It’s surprising that San Jose has been so poor, mostly because they have one weapon few can match: Brent Burns. The offensive-minded blueliner has notched 24 points on the power play this campaign, which ties for 16th-most in the NHL.

Perhaps the Sharks‘ mojo has relocated itself to Cowtown. Currently in possession of a 43-30-4 record and the West’s first wild card, the Flames have earned a 15-4-1 record since February 15. That ties Columbus for the best mark in that time, though I’d argue the Flames have been better with one fewer game played.

I may actually be on to something regarding San Jose‘s mojo, as Brian Elliott has been fantastic during this run. After a rocky start to the season, he’s reclaimed the starting job in Calgary and made it his own. Since mid-February, he’s earned a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA, the fourth and fifth-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 33 goalies with at least nine appearances in that time.

Tonight is the fourth of five games between these clubs this season, and the Flames have the opportunity to clinch the series victory with a win tonight. They’ve gone 2-1-0 so far against San Jose, including the last time they met on January 11. It was a closely contested affair, but Dougie Hamilton scored with 2:19 remaining in regulation to earn a 3-2 win for the Flames in the Saddledome.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (42 assists for 59 points [both lead the team]) and Mark Giordano (176 blocks for a+22 [both lead the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

It’s hard to argue with recent success. Vegas has marked the Flames a -130 favorite to win tonight. Just like I said yesterday, the Sharks‘ rebound has to start in the crease. While Calgary certainly doesn’t pose the offensive threat the Oilers did a night ago, the Flames‘ confidence should be enough to get past whichever goaltender DeBoer decides to go with.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bud MacPherson (1927-1988) – For seven seasons MacPherson roamed along Montréal‘s blueline, and he was rewarded with one All-Star Game and the 1953 Stanley Cup.
  • Gordie Howe (1928-2016) – There’s no discussion: this right wing is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 – seven years before his last season in the league – he played in 23 All-Star Games over 26 NHL seasons (all but one with Detroit) and won both the Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies six times apiece, not to mention his four Stanley Cups.
  • Bob Pulford (1936-) – Another Hall of Famer, this left wing played all but two seasons of his 16-year career in Toronto. He won four Stanley Cups in the process, including three-straight from 1962-’64.
  • Bill Hicke (1938-2005) – Spending most of his time in Montréal, this right wing played 13 seasons in the NHL. The three-time All-Star was good for almost as many penalty minutes as points contributed, but that didn’t stop him from being a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
  • Gilles Gilbert (1949-) – Selected by the North Stars 25th-overall in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 416 games over his 14-year career. Spending most of his time in Boston, he earned a 192-143-60 record before hanging up his pads.
  • Tom Barrasso (1965-) – Buffalo selected this goaltender fifth-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but he played a majority of his career for the Penguins. He played well for both clubs, as he earned the 1984 Calder Memorial and Vezina Trophies and the 1985 William M. Jennings Trophy with the Sabres and back-to-back Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.
  • Pavel Bure (1971-) – Though only selected in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver (his longest-tenured club), this right wing had a highly successful career. In addition to six All-Star Game appearances, he won two Maurice Richard Trophies and the 1992 Calder. All of that added up to a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.
  • Michael Ryder (1980-) – Montréal selected this right wing in the eighth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his 11 seasons. That being said, he was wearing the crest of the arch-rival Bruins when he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup.
  • David Clarkson (1984-) – A longtime right wing for the Devils, this Toronto-native played 10 seasons in the NHL. He could’ve been playing his 11th this year with Columbus, but he was denied the opportunity to practice with the club due to failing his physical.
  • Steve Bernier (1985-) – The 16th-overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, this right wing has played 633 games over 11 seasons in the league. His longest -tenured club is New Jersey, with whom he scored 28 goals for 65 points.
  • Jakob Chychrun (1998-) – This rookie defenseman was the 16th-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by Arizona. He shows promise on the offensive end of the ice, as he’s provided 19 points already this year, the third-most among Coyotes blueliners.

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s 38-save effort, Edmonton was able to best the Sharks 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to improve into second place in the Pacific Division.

Though Talbot had a strong night, it didn’t start off the best way. He allowed Jannik Hansen (Paul Martin) to score only his eighth goal of the season 1:01 into play to allow the Sharks to take an early lead. Fortunately for him, Third Star Patrick Maroon (First Star Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) provided a game-tying goal 9:21 later. Though Zack Kassian was sent off the ice for hooking birthday boy Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 3:24 remaining in the period, McDavid (Oscar Klefbom and Drake Caggiula) was able to score a shorthanded backhander only 52 seconds later to give the Oil a 2-1 lead it would not yield.

Maroon (Kris Russell) provided what proved to be the game-winning goal 7:51 into the third period with a tip-in. It became the winner with 6:01 remaining in regulation when Joe Pavelski (Vlasic and Hansen) scored a tip-in of his own, but the Sharks were unable to find another tally before the final horn.

Talbot earned the victory after saving 38-of-40 shots faced (95%), leaving the loss to Jones, who saved 19-of-22 (86.4%).

We’re all squared up once again in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as both home and away teams in the series have an identical 189 points. Road sides still have more wins with their 83-59-23 record.

Some Trade Deadline Analysis- Expert Analysis

Colby Kephart takes a moment out of the week to give some analysis on how he thinks a few teams made out on their deadline deals.

Trade Deadline Roundups

By Colby Kephart

Buffalo Sabres LogoBuffalo Sabres

Cleaning house and praying for McDavid are all things the people in Buffalo are doing. Embrace the Tank, the competition to finish last place in the league might be given Buffalo now. Tim Murray said only a few people were off limits, and this was seen when veterans and small name players were traded.

There were a few surprising moves, such as the trade with Montreal, which saw Buffalo giving up Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell for picks and prospect.

Mitchell, when healthy, was having a good season and became a more consistent scorer than Matt Moulson or Brian Gionta.

Flynn was a very small name at the start of season, but he was a hard worker for Buffalo and a very good penalty killer. Both of them are great role players and I could see one if not both players breaking into the Montreal roster.

Buffalo fans saw yet another change in goal- ever since Ryan Miller left Buffalo, goaltending has been up for grabs. We saw both goalies leave, the first move sending Jhonas Enroth for Anders Lindback and a conditional 3rd round pick. This was brilliant move, for the operation tank, Lindback has struggled all year and will guarantee Buffalo a few more losses.

The move I am happy with is sending Michal Neuvirth for Chad Johnson for conditional 3rd round pick. Chad Johnson signed a multiply year deal at the start of this season, meaning he will be back next season to be a backup to either a young goalie in our system or a free agent signing.

The Sabres also saw a loss in experienced players with the moves of Chris Stewart, Drew Stafford, and Tyler Myers.B_HSHvkU0AM_N9V

The first deal was the trade with Winnipeg before the deadline; I have mixed feeling about this move. Buffalo gave up a 1st round pick, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, Drew Stafford, and Tyler Myers for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf (prospect goalie). I love the addition of Bogosian, and Kane, but the Sabres gave up a lot for those players.

Kane announced before the trade, he was done for the season due to an injury to his shoulder. That was the best part of the deal, Kane a highly skilled forward, won’t be adding wins the season due to his injury, pushing buffalo closer to McDavid.

The second trade came late in the day of the deadline and sent Chris Stewart to Minnesota for a 2nd round pick. Everyone in Buffalo knew Chris Stewart was going to leave Buffalo, yet the only question was where and for what. I think Buffalo could’ve have gotten a little more from the deal, but it made sense to send another player to Minnesota or “little Buffalo” as I refer to it.

(Tank Photo Credit: Kevin Gee @kgfrombeelo)

Unknown-4Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is trying to hold onto the 1st wildcard, so no surprise they added depth in both forwards and on the blue line. I am very impressed with the management in Minnesota; it was nice to see humility within the NHL. Minnesota is a special case; they have a strong mixture of youth players and have enough experience to keep winning into the playoffs.

Minnesota made 3 deals on deadline day. The first deal was a great story; the deal brought Jordan Leopold home to his family in return for Justin Falk and 5th round pick. Jordan Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn, wrote a letter to Minnesota asking them to trade for the dad, who was in Columbus, but wasn’t playing much. Leopold was a top 6 defender in the past few years, but because of his age he had fallen out of the top 6, so the move to Minnesota could rebirth his career. Even if he becomes a depth defenseman at least he will be home with his kids.

The next pick was the exchange in younger players the deal saw Zack Phillips to Boston for Jarred Knight. In this transaction, both team are hoping that relocation can spark these players and continue developing.

The last deal saw the addition to the forwards with Chris Stewart coming over from Buffalo for a 2nd round pick. Chris Stewart can add a spark to Minnesota. We saw a lot of this in Buffalo, as he is not afraid to drop the gloves. Stewart can also add an explosion of offensive ability with fast skating and being strong with the puck. I think Minnesota will make the playoffs and give a top seed a run in the playoffs.

UnknownNashville Predators

Nashville was one of the biggest surprises of this season, sitting in first place in the whole league. They added James Neal and other pieces and experienced a huge step-up in younger players like Filip Forsberg. However could they have made a huge mistake by not adding at the deadline? Nashville made one trade before deadline day and the deal added depth both offensively and defensively.

After Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis determined no one was off limits and the big names must go, the deal saw Nashville send a 1st round pick, Olli Jokinen and Brendan Leipsic to Toronto for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. I love the addition of Cody Franson; he is only 27 years old and still has the ability to be a top 4 defender.

Santorelli is a role player and can play his role well. He is a step up from Leipsic, but I think the Preds could’ve gotten more from the Maple Leafs. I understand giving up their 1st round pick assuming that they will have either the 29th or 30th overall pick in the draft.

The issue Nashville has is a lack of playoff experience. If you look at teams who go far in the playoffs, they add big name players. The New York Rangers added Martin St. Louis and the Los Angeles Kings added Marian Gaborik last year, and even this year the Chicago Blackhawks added Antoine Vermette.

No offense to Mike Santorelli, but he is not enough of an impact player to get 8-12 playoff goals or even getting to the double digits in points. I personally think Nashville will see an exit in either the 1st or the 2nd round because they didn’t add a big name.

Unknown-3Toronto Maple Leafs

Is the rebuild real in Toronto? I honestly don’t know any more after this deadline day. Toronto has struggled over the past few season to make the playoffs (or they see an early exit, like in 2013). That’s not the issue in my eyes.

The issue to me is they never add players to change their current fate. So when GM Dave Nonis said they were going to clean house and trade big players like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, I saw change and big names on the move. Then they made four trades and only two on deadline day- I was shocked and saw same old Toronto missing a huge chance.

The first deal was possibly the GM move of the year and saw David Clarkson go to Columbus for the injured Nathan Horton. Horton hasn’t played for months and Clarkson was a way overpaid forward, who wasn’t living up to his contract. So Horton gets put on the long term Injured reserve and his contract doesn’t completely count against the salary cap.

The second deal before the deadline was with Nashville. This trade saw Toronto get a 1st round pick, Olli Jokinen, and Brendan Leipsic for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. This deal fit what Nonis had told the media and his team about cleaning out the roster and initiating the rebuild.

This deal got them another 1st round pick and two players who will work hard. Jokinen then played a few games and was very unhappy with his new team. So the next deal still made sense to me at the deadline- Jokinen was traded to the Blues for Joakim Lindstrom and a conditional sixth round draft pick. This move was still smart, sending an unhappy veteran player for a young prospect and a pick.

Now Detroit was very interested in Phaneuf and Toronto couldn’t make the deal happen. They were asking a lot for their captain, but in the long run wouldn’t let him go. This was confusing because in a rebuild you have to let some players go that you don’t want to, like what Buffalo did with Ryan Miller.

The final deal made absolutely no sense to me at all. The deal was Korbinian Holzer to Anaheim for Eric Brewer and a 5th round pick. Toronto gave up a 27-year-old defenseman for a 35 year old man with a bigger contract. Holzer had less than 40 games played with this team, never really got a long run, and to just get rid of him is beyond me.

The Maple Leafs essentially gave up a future kid that they could have developed (and used, badly). Toronto did not give up any big pieces like they said they would, they have the same base players and if changes aren’t made they will have the same disappointment at the end of each season.

Trades Since the Beginning of 2015

By: Nick Lanciani

With four trades made on Thursday at the hour of this writing, it can get confusing as to who is where now and what was included in each deal. So with that in mind, and a little free time, I gladly compiled a list of trades made since January 1st to recap the trading action as we approach the Trade Deadline on Monday.

January 2nd

The Pittsburgh Penguins sent F Rob Klinkhammer and a 2015 1st round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for F David Perron.

January 14th

The Arizona Coyotes traded G Devan Dubnyk to the Minnesota Wild for a 2015 3rd round pick.

January 27th

The St. Louis Blues sent F Maxim Lapierre to the Pittsburgh Penguins for F Marcel Goc.

January 29th

The Chicago Blackhawks swapped D Adam Clendening with the Vancouver Canucks for D Gustav Forsling.

February 6th

The firesale began for Toronto as the Maple Leafs dealt F Carter Ashton and F David Broll to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2016 conditional pick.

February 9th

G Evgeni Nabokov was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the San Jose Sharks for “future considerations”- or realistically for the opportunity to retire as a member of the Sharks.

February 11th

Things picked up in Buffalo as the Sabres swapped D Tyler Myers, F Drew Stafford, F Joel Armia, F Brendan Lemieux, and a 2015 1st round pick with the Winnipeg Jets for F Evander Kane, D Zach Bogosian, and unsigned G Jason Kasdorf in a move that was beneficial for both hockey teams.

Hours later, the Sabres sent G Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars for G Anders Lindback and a 2016 conditional 3rd round pick.

February 15th

The Toronto Maple Leafs continued selling as they sent D Cody Franson and F Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for F Olli Jokinen, F Brendan Leipsic, and a 2015 1st round pick.

February 24th

The Montreal Canadiens swapped F Jiri Sekac with the Anaheim Ducks for F Devante Smith-Pelly in a one-for-one, even, hockey deal.

The Minnesota Wild sent a 2016 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for F Sean Bergenheim and a 2016 7th round pick.

February 25th

The Winnipeg Jets were active once again and traded a 2016 3rd round pick and a conditional 2015 6th round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for F Jiri Tlusty.

The Toronto Maple Leafs further cleared store shelves by sending F Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins for F Zach Sill, a 2016 2nd round pick, and a 2015 4th round pick.

The Hurricanes then sent D Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings for D Rolan McKeown and a conditional 1st round pick.

February 26th

The day started out with a largely irrelevant deal in the eyes of hockey fans, with the Columbus Blue Jackets sending F Adam Cracknell to the St. Louis Blues for future considerations.

Then the Toronto Maple Leafs continued doing what they had been doing the entire month and shipped F T.J. Brennan to the Chicago Blackhawks for F Spencer Abbott.

But then the Florida Panthers shocked the hockey world by sending a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2016 3rd round pick to the New Jersey Devils for F Jaromir Jagr.

As if things weren’t already weird enough, Columbus then sent F Nathan Horton to Toronto for F David Clarkson.

February 27th

Flyers GM Ron Hextall made sure to get the okay from D Kimmo Timonen before Philadelphia traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2016 conditional 4th round pick, after Timonen was to return to play from a blood clot.

February 28th

The Washington Capitals sent D Jack Hillen and a 2015 4th round draft pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for D Tim Gleason.

The Anaheim Ducks sent F Dany Heatley and a 2015 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for F Tomas Fleischmann.

The Chicago Blackhawks acquired F Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes for D Klas Dahlbeck and a 2015 1st round draft pick.

March 1st

The Calgary Flames traded F Curtis Glencross to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2015 3rd round pick.

The Arizona Coyotes sent D Keith Yandle, D Chris Summers, and a 2015 4th round pick to the New York Rangers for F Anthony Duclair, D John Moore, a 2015 2nd round pick, and a 2016 1st round pick. Arizona retains 50% of Yandle’s salary as well (he is a pending unrestricted free agent).

In their second move of the day the New York Rangers acquired F Carl Klingberg from the Winnipeg Jets and sent F Lee Stempniak in return to complete the one-for-one swap.

The New York Rangers made a third move on Sunday, sending a 2016 4th round pick to the San Jose Sharks for F James Shepherd. San Jose retained $100,000 of Shepherd’s salary in the deal.

The Detroit Red Wings acquired F Erik Cole and a 2015 conditional 3rd round pick from the Dallas Stars in exchange for D Mattias Backman, F Mattias Janmark, and a 2015 2nd round pick.

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.