All posts by Sean O'Leary

5 teams that need to make a move before the trade deadline

The right trade can go a long way in vaulting a contender closer to the Stanley Cup. With the Feb. 24 trade deadline around the corner, we've identified five teams vying for playoff berths that need to make a move to bolster their respective lineups.

Note: Deadline cap space indicates the amount by which a team's total cap hit can be increased while remaining below the cap ceiling at the end of the regular season. All figures courtesy of CapFriendly.

Edmonton Oilers

Projected deadline cap space: $1.1M
Area of need: Offensive depth

The Oilers have managed to stay afloat without captain Connor McDavid and are making a push for top spot in the Pacific Division. Leon Draisaitl has been superhuman with McDavid sidelined, and the club could be back at full strength before the deadline. Still, it would be wise for general manager Ken Holland to seek out some offensive reinforcements.

Holland is unlikely to deal any of Edmonton's coveted prospects or the club's 2020 first-round pick, so big-game hunting may be off the table. But a hockey deal targeting a forward with term or some bargain-bin shopping in the rental market remain viable deadline strategies to give the Oilers some help for the stretch run and the playoffs.

Potential targets: Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Senators), Chris Kreider (Rangers), Andreas Athanasiou (Red Wings), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ilya Kovalchuk (Canadiens), Tyler Ennis (Senators).

New York Islanders

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Projected deadline cap space: $18.6M
Area of need: Offense

The Islanders already made a splash by adding Andy Greene to shore up their blue line, but general manager Lou Lamoriello should still be looking to buy. New York plays a notoriously stingy style, and it's been crucial to the club's success since Barry Trotz took over as head coach. Still, it's hard to see the team keeping up with its Metropolitan Division adversaries come playoff time if it doesn't add some offensive punch.

New York ranks fifth in goals against this season but 22nd in goals for. The team has a ton of deadline cap space and could theoretically add some depth up front without sacrificing any key contributors. The top six is in good shape, but a boost to the bottom half of the Islanders' attack could better the club's chances in a playoff series against the likes of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Potential targets: Kreider, Pageau, Kovalchuk, Mikael Granlund (Predators)

Colorado Avalanche

Projected deadline cap space: $29.7M
Area of need: Anything to bolster Cup chances

Colorado is already a championship contender as currently constructed, but general manager Joe Sakic is well-positioned to make the Avalanche even stronger as the deadline approaches.

The Avalanche have a top-tier prospect pool, a strong collection of draft picks, and more cap space than any other team with realistic Stanley Cup aspirations. But Colorado won't have this kind of financial flexibility forever. Whether that means going for gold and renting Kreider or merely tinkering to acquire depth players up front or on the blue line, Sakic should set out to add where he sees fit. As one of the top teams in the wide-open Western Conference, the Avalanche could make their playoff path a little easier depending on what they do at the deadline.

Potential targets: Kreider, Pageau, Jesper Fast (Rangers), Melker Karlsson/Brenden Dillon (Sharks), Wayne Simmonds (Devils), Trevor Lewis (Kings), Dylan DeMelo (Senators)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rene Johnston / Toronto Star / Getty

Projected deadline cap space: $8.8M
Area of need: Forward depth, defense

At full strength, the Maple Leafs operate dangerously close to the cap ceiling, but a bevy of recent injuries has presented general manager Kyle Dubas with an opportunity to add. Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, and Andreas Johnsson are all in the midst of lengthy stints on the shelf, affording Toronto a significant chunk of financial flexibility if it decides to leave the trio on long-term injured reserve until the playoffs - when the salary cap is no longer a factor.

It's well-known the Maple Leafs could use some defensive upgrades. With three blue-liners aged 23 or younger currently patrolling the back end, adding an experienced rearguard is something Dubas would be prudent to explore. That said, Toronto's depth forwards haven't been producing much of late, and shoring up the bottom six before the deadline could go a long way in a potential first-round battle with the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Potential targets: Dillon, DeMelo, Mathew Dumba/Jonas Brodin (Wild), Alec Martinez (Kings), Sami Vatanen (Devils), Josh Manson (Ducks)

Calgary Flames

Projected deadline cap space: $1.4M
Area of need: Top-nine winger

Injuries to Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic may prompt general manager Brad Treliving to dip into the pool of available defensemen, but the Flames would be best served targeting a forward to aid their playoff push.

Treliving has been in the market for help up front since before last season's trade deadline, when a deal for Jason Zucker fell through at the last minute. One year later, Calgary is still struggling with a lack of offensive depth, ranking 23rd in goals for this season.

In an extremely tight Western Conference, it's far from certain that any trade the Flames orchestrate will sufficiently move the needle and help them secure a playoff spot. With Hamonic and fellow top-four defenseman TJ Brodie both playing on expiring contracts and Calgary clinging to a playoff berth, it remains to be seen if the Flames elect to buy rather than sell. Still, not trying at all could signal a wasted season for a core that isn't getting any younger.

Potential targets: Pageau, Fast, Kapanen, Kyle Palmieri (Devils)

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Leafs’ Keefe: ‘This is the worst we’ve been in a really long time’

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was blunt in his postgame assessment after his team let two important points slip away Sunday versus the Buffalo Sabres.

"This is the worst we've been in a really long time," Keefe said, according to TSN's Kristen Shilton. "We haven't really put our game together for quite some time, but this was different today where for most of the game it didn't feel like we were in the building at all."

Buffalo heavily outplayed Toronto through the first 40 minutes, but the Maple Leafs managed to tie the game at 2-2 in the third period. The Sabres went on to score three goals in 1:31 and win the game 5-2.

The Maple Leafs, playing their third game in four nights against a rested Sabres team, were dominated in nearly every aspect. Buffalo outshot Toronto 36-22 while owning 63.63% of expected goals and 64.62% of scoring chances at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick.

"We need to find more solutions to our depth, injuries, and things we've had." Keefe said, according to the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan. "We're finding some challenges on our third and fourth lines and on our defense on the back-to-back and the schedule the way it's been, it revealed itself in the game today."

Toronto has managed just one regulation win in its last nine contests. The club currently sits third in the Atlantic Division, four points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who have two games in hand.

The Leafs return to action Tuesday for the first of consecutive games versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the home-and-home set, Toronto will play the Hurricanes, Lightning, and Panthers in what should be a critical stretch in the Eastern Conference standings.

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Watch: Panarin scores controversial shootout winner vs. Wild

Artemi Panarin may have gotten away with one Thursday versus the Minnesota Wild.

The New York Rangers star had his name called in the shootout and delivered a goal after putting a series of moves on goaltender Alex Stalock. However, before he deposited the puck upstairs, Panarin came close to going backward, which would have caused the play to be blown dead.

The Wild called for the play to be reviewed, but the referees upheld their decision. Zach Parise then hit the post on his attempt and Minnesota lost 4-3.

After the controversial result, NHL public relations offered the following explanation:

Video review confirmed Panarin kept the puck in constant motion towards the goal line in his shootout attempt, therefore, scored legally. The decision was made in accordance with rule 24.2, which states in part, "The puck must be kept in motion towards the opponent's goal line and once it is shot, the play shall be considered complete."

Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau was none too pleased with the call.

"It should've been (called back). I just read the rule and the rule says the puck has to be going forward at all times. I may be blind, but it doesn't look like it was going forward at the end," he said, per The Athletic's Michael Russo.

By earning one point, the Wild now sit three points back of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The victory for the Rangers was their third in a row.

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Report: Maple Leafs expected to extend Muzzin by trade deadline

The Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Jake Muzzin are expected to come to terms on a contract extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Thursday's edition of "Insider Trading."

"It's getting closer. It's not done yet, (but) the expectation is - if all things progress in the fashion that they are - that they should have a contract extension in place for Jake Muzzin as early (as) or before the trade deadline," Dreger said.

The term and value of the extension are unclear at this point, and Dreger added the Maple Leafs are working through different scenarios to determine what's best for their salary-cap picture.

Toronto acquired Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings last season. An unrestricted free agent as of July 1, the 30-year-old said in late January he'd "love to stay" with the team beyond this campaign.

The Maple Leafs are projected to have roughly $10 million in cap space for the 2020-21 season, according to Cap Friendly. That figure excludes any potential increase to the league's salary cap. Along with Muzzin, Toronto defensemen Tyson Barrie (unrestricted), Cody Ceci (unrestricted), and Travis Dermott (restricted) are all slated to become free agents at season's end.

Muzzin's been limited to 46 games this season due to a broken foot he suffered in December. He's posted three goals and 12 assists while averaging 21:38 per contest in 2019-20.

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Wild trade Zucker to Penguins for Galchenyuk, 1st-round pick

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forward Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk, a conditional 2020 first-round pick, and prospect Calen Addison, the team announced Monday.

The first-round pick is protected if the Penguins miss the playoffs, Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford told Michael Russo of The Athletic via text message. The first-rounder can be deferred to 2021 should the Penguins fail to qualify, according to CapFriendly.

Pittsburgh has long pursued Zucker, who was believed to be the centerpiece of the Penguins' return in the offseason trade that Phil Kessel ultimately nixed. It's understood a deal sending Zucker from the Wild to the Calgary Flames fell apart in the final hours leading up to last year's trade deadline.

Zucker represents a significant boost to the Penguins' forward corps with Jake Guentzel out for the season. The 28-year-old winger has notched 29 points in 49 games this season and is under contract for three more years at $5.5 million per season.

The Penguins acquired Galchenyuk from the Arizona Coyotes in their eventual deal for Kessel. The 25-year-old never managed to get it going in Pittsburgh, registering just five goals and 12 assists in 45 contests. He's a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Wild will be his fourth NHL team since the Montreal Canadiens drafted him third overall in 2012.

Addison, 19, was considered one of the Penguins' top prospects. Selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft, the right-shooting defenseman has 43 points in 39 games for the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes this season. He was also a member of Canada's gold medal-winning squad at this year's world juniors.

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Wild trade Zucker to Penguins for Galchenyuk, 1st-round pick

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forward Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk, a conditional 2020 first-round pick, and prospect Calen Addison, the team announced Monday.

The first-round pick is protected if the Penguins miss the playoffs, Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford told Michael Russo of The Athletic via text message. The first-rounder can be deferred to 2021 should the Penguins fail to qualify, according to CapFriendly.

Pittsburgh has long pursued Zucker, who was believed to be the centerpiece of the Penguins' return in the offseason trade that Phil Kessel ultimately nixed. It's understood a deal sending Zucker from the Wild to the Calgary Flames fell apart in the final hours leading up to last year's trade deadline.

Zucker represents a significant boost to the Penguins' forward corps with Jake Guentzel out for the season. The 28-year-old winger has notched 29 points in 49 games this season and is under contract for three more years at $5.5 million per season.

The Penguins acquired Galchenyuk from the Arizona Coyotes in their eventual deal for Kessel. The 25-year-old never managed to get it going in Pittsburgh, registering just five goals and 12 assists in 45 contests. He's a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Wild will be his fourth NHL team since the Montreal Canadiens drafted him third overall in 2012.

Addison, 19, was considered one of the Penguins' top prospects. Selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft, the right-shooting defenseman has 43 points in 39 games for the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes this season. He was also a member of Canada's gold medal-winning squad at this year's world juniors.

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Bruins’ Lauzon suspended 2 games for hit to head of Coyotes’ Stepan

Boston Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon has been suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Arizona Coyotes forward Derek Stepan, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced Sunday.

The incident occurred late in the first period of Saturday's contest.

Lauzon was given a match penalty for the hit. Stepan was able to play the rest of the game after laying on the ice for a few moments.

The 22-year-old Lauzon has appeared in only seven games for the Bruins this season, notching one goal.

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Report: Coyotes believed to have committed 20-plus recruiting violations

The Arizona Coyotes are believed to have committed at least 20 recruiting violations by fitness testing draft-eligible players, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.

The news of Arizona's alleged violations first became public in late January. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and a team of lawyers are currently managing the case, and there's no firm timeline on when a decision will be reached, Dreger added.

Physical testing of draft-eligible players prior to the NHL combine is prohibited under league rules. Multiple teams from the CHL, which governs Canada's three major junior leagues - the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL - apparently reported contact from the Coyotes to the NHL.

The Coyotes released a brief statement on the matter on Jan. 30.

"We are aware of the reports," the statement read. "We have discussed the matter with the NHL and we will have no further comment at this time."

If the Coyotes are found guilty, each violation can carry a fine of $250,000 or more, according to Dreger.

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Maple Leafs recall Liljegren after Ceci hits IR

The Toronto Maple Leafs recalled defenseman Timothy Liljegren from the AHL and placed fellow defender Cody Ceci on injured reserve with an ankle injury, the team announced Friday.

Ceci was injured Wednesday against the New York Rangers and will be re-evaluated in one month. Toronto is also without top-pairing blue-liner Morgan Rielly, who's on IR due to a broken foot suffered in January.

Liljegren made his NHL debut last month but was sent back to the Toronto Marlies shortly after. In the minors this season, the 20-year-old has recorded 29 points in 38 games.

Toronto will be in action twice this weekend, squaring off against the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Canadiens on back-to-back nights.

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Campbell to make Maple Leafs debut vs. Ducks, Andersen out for back-to-back

Newly acquired netminder Jack Campbell will make his Toronto Maple Leafs debut Friday versus the Anaheim Ducks, he confirmed to TSN's Kristen Shilton.

Meanwhile, starter Frederik Andersen is unavailable for both of Toronto's games this weekend as he battles a neck injury that has him listed as day-to-day, head coach Sheldon Keefe said, per Shilton.

Depending on how his debut goes, Campbell could start Saturday in Montreal as well, Keefe added.

The Maple Leafs acquired Campbell and winger Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in exchange for forward Trevor Moore and a pair of third-round draft picks.

Campbell was brought in to reinforce Toronto's backup position, which has been a glaring hole for the club. The 28-year-old posted an 8-10-2 record with the Kings this season along with a .900 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average.

The Maple Leafs enter Friday's tilt with the Ducks having lost two in a row, and sit one point back of the Florida Panthers for third spot in the Atlantic Division with one extra game played.

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