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Colorado Avalanche 2018-19 Season Preview

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Colorado Avalanche

43-30-9, 95 points, 4th in the Central Division

2nd Wild Card in the West, lost in First Round to NSH 4-2

Additions: F Cody Bass (signed to a PTO), F Matt Calvert, D Ian Cole, G Philipp Grubauer (acquired from WSH), F Scott Kosmachuk, F Logan O’Connor

Subtractions: G Jonathan Bernier (signed with DET), F Blake Comeau (signed with DAL), F Felix Girard (signed with the Manitoba Moose, AHL), D Jesse Graham (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Rocco Grimaldi (signed with NSH), G Andrew Hammond (signed with MIN), D Brooks Orpik (acquired from WSH, bought out, then signed with WSH), F Nail Yakupov (signed, KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Joe Colborne, F Reid Petryk, D Duncan Siemens, F Trent Vogelhuber

Re-signed: G Joe Cannata, D Ryan Graves, D Mason Geertsen, G Spencer Martin, D Patrik Nemeth, D Matt Nieto

Offseason Analysis: Now that Erik Karlsson has been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic has had one of the best offseasons. Kidding aside, the Senators lottery protected their 2018 1st round pick in the three-team Matt Duchene trade, meaning the Avalanche have Ottawa’s 2019 1st round pick in addition to their own.

The #LoseForHughes watch has begun.

But as for Colorado’s offseason, things have gone swimmingly as Sakic’s roster made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014. Blake Comeau’s 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 79 games in 2017-18 have departed for Dallas. In his top-nine forward role, Sakic replaced the 32-year-old Comeau with 28-year-old, Matt Calvert.

Calvert had 9-15–24 totals in 69 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and is looking to turn things around in health and in offensive production as a top-nine forward.

While Colorado’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen look to continue leading the team in production, Alexander Kerfoot seeks to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump on the second line.

On defense, Sakic knows time is on his side.

Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie have made an effective pairing with Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson contesting for more ice time. Girard had an impressive rookie debut with three goals and 17 assists (20 points) in 68 games played, while Barrie and Johnson played veteran roles– anchoring the blue line for the Avs.

Patrik Nemeth proved to be a smart pickup off waivers from the Stars last season as a bottom-pair defender, so it was an easy decision to re-sign with the NHL’s hottest up-and-coming team from a 48-point season in 2016-17 to a 95-point effort (and playoff berth) in 2017-18.

To complete his top-six defensemen on the depth chart, Sakic signed 29-year-old durable defender, Ian Cole, to a three-year contract worth a friendly $4.250 million per season.

Cole had 20 points in 67 games with the Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins last season and is looking to prove that he’s more than just a flash in the pan at this point in his career.

A two-time Cup winner with the Penguins, Cole is in the midst of his prime and brings a competitive edge to the Avs in his quiet stability.

In goal, Semyon Varlamov has some competition for the starting job– if he can stay healthy– as Philipp Grubauer was acquired at the draft in June and signed to a three-year extension at a cap friendly $3.333 million per season.

Grubauer, 26, dropped the first two games of the Washington Capitals postseason run in April while Braden Holtby was figuring himself out, but managed a 15-10-3 record in 35 games played in the 2017-18 regular season as Washington’s backup. He also had a 2.35 goals against average and .923 save percentage in his most games played in a season since reaching the NHL during the 2012-13 season.

Varlamov, 30, managed to play in 51 games last season, despite injuries, and amassed a 24-16-6 record to go along with a 2.68 GAA and .916 SV%. Last season was much better than his 6-17-0 record in 24 games played in 2016-17, in which Varlamov had a career-worst 3.38 GAA and .898 SV%.

With one-year remaining on his contract at $5.900 million a season, Varlamov’s reached a make-or-break point in his career, let alone his time in the Mile High City. Grubauer is the way of the foreseeable future and a little healthy competition never hurt anyone for the starting job.

Sure Jonathan Bernier’s moved on to the Detroit Red Wings, but Colorado has one of the most sought after goalies that was on the slim trade market among options in the crease.

Offseason Grade: B-

The Avalanche had some needs and they filled them. In accordance with hockey logic, Colorado shouldn’t be as good as they were last season this season, but for the first time in at least a few years it appears they’ve found a reliable goaltender.

As MacKinnon continues to emerge and the kids grow into their own, Sakic’s roster looks set to make some waves in the coming years– at least as a spoiler (they took Nashville to six games before being eliminated after all), if not something more.

Despite acquiring Brooks Orpik only to buy him out as some sort of larger scheme the Capitals secretly wanted all along to sign him to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, Colorado didn’t make a bad choice this offseason. It’s just the beginning of making themselves an attractive free agent destination once again.

TRADE: Vegas ships Leipsic to Vancouver

It’s another first for the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m just kidding, they technically existed at the deadline last season (though they could participate because they had just filed their papers that day).

Anyway, the Golden Knights traded F Brendan Leipsic to the Vancouver Canucks for D Philip Holm.

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Leipsic, 23, has two goals and 11 assists (13 points) in 44 games for Vegas this season after making his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 season. In 50 career NHL games, Leipsic has 3-13–16 totals.

The 5’10”, 180-pound left wing is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 3rd round (89th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

vegas_golden_knights_logoHolm, 26, appeared in his first career NHL game this season with the Canucks on February 23rd against the Golden Knights and was a minus-two in 15:12 time-on-ice.

As a depth-defenseman, Holm brings his 6’1″, 190-pound frame as some added insurance for Vegas as they journey down their first stretch run in franchise history before the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A native of Stockholm, Sweden, he was undrafted and signed a one-year entry level contract with the Canucks on May 26, 2017. He has 11-18–29 totals in 44 games with the Utica Comets (AHL) this season– his first in North America. Holm will join the Golden Knights’s AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #83- What’s Brewing In Seattle?

Nick and Connor address the latest potential-expansion news regarding Seattle, recap the process thus far and speculate about many hypothetical relocation possibilities. Charlotte is better than Raleigh, another Subban was traded and— oh yeah— there’s games on the schedule this weekend.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Vancouver Canucks 2017-2018 Season Preview

imgres-2Vancouver Canucks

30-43-9, 69 points, 7th in the Pacific Division (’16-’17)

Additions: F Alex Burmistrov, D Michael Del Zotto, F Sam Gagner, G Anders Nilsson, D Patrick Wiercioch

Subtractions: D Chad Billins (signed with Linköping HC, SHL), G Michael Garteig (signed to an AHL deal with the Utica Comets), F Alexandre Grenier (signed with FLA), D Philip Larsen (signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL), G Ryan Miller (signed with ANA), D Tom Nilsson (signed with Djurgårdens IF, SHL), F Borna Rendulic (signed with Pelicans, Liiga),  F Drew Shore (signed with ZSC, NLA), D Nikita Tryamkin (signed with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, KHL), F Michael Zalewski (signed with Straubing Tigers, DEL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Cramarossa, F Bo Horvat, F Jack Skille

Offseason Analysis: Despite finishing 29th in a league of 30 teams last year, the Vancouver Canucks have much to be looking forward to this season. Sam Gagner joins the club after one successful season with the Columbus Blue Jackets that has reinvigorated his career and looks to add much needed depth to compliment the likes of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Derek Dorsett and Bo Horvat (though Horvat is still an unsigned RFA).

Yes, production was down all-around for the Canucks last season, but one thing was always missing and that was a durable group of bottom-six/top-nine forwards. Gagner’s 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) are sure to improve the -61 goal differential for Vancouver’s 2016-2017 campaign as Eriksson seeks to rebound from a dismal 24-point season (11 goals, 13 assists in 63 games) in his first year of a 6-year, $36 million contract.

The Sedin twins aren’t getting any younger (they’re 36-years-old entering the 2017-2018 season) and finding the right winger to join their tandem is imperative to scoring success. Luckily for the Canucks, they’ve got options, but only if the price is right.

Horvat still needs a contract as we embark on the month of September, where training camp lurks around the corner and preseason action kicks off. General manager Jim Benning knows just how important it is for the 22-year-old to not miss a step in his development.

Ideally, a fair contract for both sides should’ve been worked out by now, but with Leon Draisaitl‘s pay raise in Edmonton setting an example for fellow young, talented players, like Horvat and Boston’s David Pastrnak, it’s no surprise that neither side has budged to an agreement.

Whereas Draisaitl improved from a 51-point season in 2015-2016 to a 77-point year last season as a 21-year-old, Horvat is only riding back-to-back 40-plus points a year since the 2015-2016 campaign (18-24-40 totals in ’15-’16– 81 games played, 20-32-52 totals in ’16-’17– 82 games played). Likewise, Horvat doesn’t have the whole “Connor McDavid is literally my linemate so pay me like the demigod that I am” argument going for him.

Nonetheless, Horvat is a player to build around, with the Sedins nearing retirement and Markus Granlund coming into his own as a 24-year-old forward who had a career year last season (19-13-32 totals in 69 games played).

Gaining experience pays off and it is destined to help Vancouver ascend the rungs of the Pacific Division standings.

While the future of the Canucks’s offense seems intent on rolling with their young guys, one thing that needs attention is the other end of the ice. Vancouver’s defense is nothing to write home about, but luckily Chris Tanev is the only blue liner with three years remaining on their current deal.

This will provide incentive for each defenseman to get better as they age into their prime. Olli Juolevi might be penciled in on the NHL roster sooner rather than later and has an opportunity to compete for a top-6 role.

Finally, goaltender, Ryan Miller, has moved on to role of the Anaheim Ducks backup, leaving Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom as the presumed starter heading into the preseason. Markstrom has yet to appear in more than 33 games in a single NHL season, but has proven to be durable as he enters “goaltender prime” (if you’re new to the sport, goalies typically develop a little later than skating prospects– this is, of course, not always true when Braden Holtby or Matt Murray exist).

His 2.63 GAA and .910 SV% in 26 games last season is nothing to go crazy over, until you consider what a more experienced and retooled roster in front of him can do to limit shot attempts against of all kinds (on net, wide of the net and blocked). Keep in mind, a goalie has to react to every puck that’s even remotely coming at his/her direction, which can be a lot of work depending on your defense.

Anders Nilsson was signed via free agency, coming off of an impressive role as the backup for the Buffalo Sabres, where he posted a 2.67 GAA and .923 SV%. Nilsson will make a run for the starting role, without a doubt. There’s going to be some healthy competition in front of Vancouver’s twine. All things considered, that’s pretty remarkable for an organization that traded away two, All-Star quality, franchise goaltenders (Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider) in less than a decade.

Now, Markstrom and Nilsson are no Luongo and Schneider, but they both are only 27-years-old and have shown signs of brilliance.

The untrained eye-test says that this could be a breakout season for Nilsson and a respectable year for Markstrom, showing improvement as his minutes are increased from past years.

Combined, the Canucks are only spending about $6.167 million on a pair of goalies that aren’t going to slow down, like how Miller’s play deteriorated over his years in Vancouver (okay, really since his days in anything but a Sabres uniform).

The Canucks have a shot at moving up from 7th in the Pacific last season to at least 6th in 2017-2018– though they could always surprise everyone and go further.

Offseason Grade: B

As deserving of criticism as Beinning’s moves as general manager have been, this offseason had a different flavor for the Canucks– one in which an emphasis on letting talent develop and bringing the right guys in to help others flourish is apparent, reminiscent of when Vancouver dominated the Western Conference in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

What’s going on with the ECHL?

Last week a second ECHL team in less than a month announced that they would be ceasing operations at the end of the 2016-2017 season.

The Elmira Jackals are joining the Alaska Aces in the soon-to-be-defunct-teams category of sports trivia at your local bar that actually asks questions about ECHL teams. First of all, if such a bar exists, I am impressed. Secondly, real talk, stump trivia could really up their game by asking all sorts of questions relating to the ECHL, but I digress.

The more important question to be asking right about now is what is happening with the ECHL? Is there some sort of financial instability league wide that has yet to be exposed (similar to the concerns that have pained the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) since its birth) or is the loss of two organizations in one season simply a matter of growing pains for the growing in popularity– and importance– second-tier minor league?

As a fan of the forthcoming 29th team in the league– make that 27th team– the Worcester Railers, there is reason to be concerned about the ECHL, if not simply its franchises.

Worcester, Massachusetts as a professional hockey market has long been a staple to minor league hockey in its accessibility to a wide market of fans in the New England region, as well as its affordability compared to some of the major league NHL tenants in the area.

Not to discredit the Manchester Monarchs who appear to be killing it in attendance (by ECHL standards) since dropping down from the AHL as a result of the mass exodus of AHL organizations to California, but having Worcester is crucial to the viability of the ECHL.

From the first puck drop in Railers history, having a rival in the New England region is certainly something to work with for both the Monarchs and Worcester. However, my preference for the Worcester organization over Manchester, as a fan, is not simple.

It all harkens back to the days of growing up with the AHL’s Worcester IceCats, the betrayal that was felt when they left (despite no other options), the joy of seeing a return to the AHL in the form of the Worcester Sharks and the consequential loss of yet another AHL team to bigger and better prospects of league sustainability, as well as prospect development from an NHL standpoint– hello, San Jose Sharks.

Losing the Alaska Aces is a shock, despite their declining attendance figures. Losing the Elmira Jackals almost a month later is a blow below the belt for the ECHL.

It’s one thing to foresee the longterm success of a professional sports franchise in Alaska as well, not ideal, but somehow the Aces made it work for years despite all of the travel, especially in the modern ECHL.

Nobody said it couldn’t be done once the Aces made it happen, in terms of both on ice success– having won three Kelly Cups in their venture in the ECHL from 2003 to 2017– and off the ice, however the ultimate downfall of the team was brought forth by a sluggish Alaskan economy, mounting bills on travel and faltering attendance.

Minor league hockey has long been a staple in New York.

Just look at how many AHL teams there are in the state. Now multiply that number by 1,000 and you should have approximately the number of ECHL teams and AHL teams in the Empire State. I’m only kidding.

Acknowledging that hockey has grown to being more than just a Northern sport on all levels, we really should have seen this coming in terms of perhaps overexerting the market and maxing things out on a bunch of affordable, minor league options in one state that also boasts several NHL teams to boot (in state and within a short driving distance out of state).

The New York market contains the Albany Devils, Binghamton Senators, Rochester Americans, Syracuse Crunch and Utica Comets are all AHL teams in state (with the Toronto Marlies not that far from the up-state border in Canada). Albany, of course, is relocating to Binghamton to replace the Senators who are moving to Belleville, Ontario at season’s end.

All of the teams above are in the AHL, which prides itself not only as being the top minor league in the world, as the greatest affiliate of the NHL, but as one of the most family-friendly sports and entertainment options in minor league sports in general.

Coincidentally, the ECHL is in the same market of family-friendly sports and entertainment options.

The Elmira Jackals are the only other ECHL team in New York besides the Adirondack Thunder– and Adirondack had long been a staple in the AHL, despite changing hands and franchises over the years. Similar to the AHL’s situation in New York, where the Marlies are just across the Canadian border, the Brampton Beast (the Montreal Canadiens ECHL affiliate) aren’t that far at all from the states in Brampton, Ontario.

It should be no surprise that the overcrowding of minor league hockey in New York is quickly disintegrating before our eyes, given the AHL’s Californian adventure prior to the 2015-2016 season and all, but at this point there’s no sense in repeating myself.

The ECHL needs to thrive on bigger smaller markets.

They’ve found niche successes with the Allen Americans (San Jose’s ECHL affiliate), Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh’s ECHL team), Orlando Solar Bears (Toronto’s ECHL farm team) and more, although sometimes their successful franchises in market draw has been helped by their NHL affiliates, recent ECHL championships or admittedly necessary constant ownership turnover.

But one thing is constant, the teams above have all done well in non-traditional hockey markets, where fans are sometimes exposed to the game for the first time at its most pure and otherwise violent level. Minor league hockey isn’t for the faint of heart, considering how many players are trying to live out a dream others might easily have given up on two rungs below on the NHL ladder.

Sure, the loss of the Aces and Jackals can probably be chalked up to the changing environment of NHL-AHL-ECHL affiliate systems and where parent clubs prefer their minor league teams physical locations over others, but the loss of two franchises in an otherwise up-and-coming brand of hockey that could rival baseball’s minor league system shouldn’t be handled lightly.

Despite the contraction, there is a possibility for light at the end of the tunnel. A return could be looming in or around the Las Vegas market with the incoming Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL, as well as a return to professional minor league hockey in Portland, Maine, as a group of former Portland Pirates executives slowly explore their options.

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.