Category Archives: Hockey News

NHL trade deadline primer: Strategies for all Western Conference teams

Ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline, we examine where each Western Conference team stands and what strategies they should employ heading into Feb. 25.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are in a precarious position.

A month ago, selling seemed like the obvious path. Now, with the Western Conference jammed up and the Hawks back in the playoff picture on the strength of nine wins in their last 11 games, the plan is far from concrete.

GM Stan Bowman recently stated the decision to buy or to sell hadn't yet been made. The smart strategy might be to hold tight; the Blackhawks shouldn't expect to compete with the West's giants in the postseason - if they make it - but they also don't want to wave the white flag.

A fringe player in, a late round draft pick out. That's the type of deal that aligns with Chicago's place in the current landscape.

Verdict: Hold

Colorado Avalanche

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

There's likely little long-term benefit to the Avalanche acquiring anything of substance as the season winds down. They're desperate for depth at both forward and defense. A few deadline deals won't change that reality.

Plus, according to GM Joe Sakic, the club's biggest trade chips - two 2019 first-round picks, both of which could end up being top-10 selections - are being kept under lock and key.

From a selling perspective, who, aside from Colorado's untouchables, might be of interest to other general managers? Perhaps a contender takes a flyer on a pending unrestricted free agent, like Gabriel Bourque, Patrik Nemeth, or Colin Wilson (currently injured). That's about it, though.

Don't expect fireworks out of Denver.

Verdict: Hold

Dallas Stars

In a contentious, name-calling state at the end of 2018, the Stars organization has recently focused on winning hockey games, and it's worked wonders.

It's mid-February and the dysfunctional Stars are in a position to add, not subtract, as they move to snag a divisional playoff spot. There are some phone calls to be made by general manager Jim Nill; he says he wants a scorer, but the club will likely be taking a vigilant approach to acquiring anything that can help a playoff run.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported Tuesday that the 29-24-5 Stars are in the hunt for Artemi Panarin and Mats Zuccarello. The outcome of the pursuit remains to be seen.

Verdict: Buyer

Minnesota Wild

Mike Stobe / National Hockey League / Getty

Paul Fenton, the Wild's rookie GM, has reportedly been given the "green light" from ownership to "do whatever he sees fit to improve this team either now or for the future heading into the trade deadline."

If Fenton resets for the future, Eric Staal (soon-to-be UFA making $3.5 million) and Charlie Coyle ($3.2M this season and next) may be out the door, with contenders usually looking to add a forward with size at this time of year. Then again, Staal has some say in his fate with a modified no-trade clause.

The definition of an average NHL team, Minnesota could be ripe for a teardown sooner than later. Sometime prior to the deadline wouldn't be a terrible starting point, seeing as the Wild's 23-man roster includes five pending unrestricted free agents.

Verdict: Seller

Nashville Predators

As per tradition, the Predators are set on the back end and in goal, but not up front. Despite ranking 13th in offense, Nashville's forward group feels incomplete, and recent additions - Brian Boyle from New Jersey and Cody McLeod from the Rangers - don't do enough to solve the lack of finishers.

Numerous scoring threats are believed to be on the trading block, and the Preds are after one of Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Longtime GM David Poile is no stranger to significant deals. Could forwards Kevin Fiala, 22, and Eeli Tolvanen, 19, be part of a package going the other way?

Verdict: Buyer

St. Louis Blues

Bruce Kluckhohn / National Hockey League / Getty

The Blues are a complete mystery at the moment.

Undisputed winners of the offseason, they fell on their faces out of the gate, winning just nine of their first 25 games and firing their coach in the process. Fast forward and St. Louis is a league-best 16-4-1 in 2019. The team is finally on the right side of the playoff line and currently riding a 10-game winning streak.

So, the Blues are buyers, right? Or, at the very least, they'll hold, no? Not so fast.

GM Doug Armstrong traded away Paul Stastny around last year's deadline because he didn't think his squad, which had been sniffing a playoff spot, was a contender. Will the same scenario play out again?

Right now, it appears it's all up in the air.

Verdict: ?

Winnipeg Jets

Do you hear that? It's Mark Stone's music.

Stone heading to the Jets is far from a guarantee, but based on recent rumblings, there's a believable scenario in which the Senators ship the Winnipeg native home if a contract extension in Ottawa can't be reached.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't tipping his hand but it's only a matter of time before he pulls the trigger on a sizeable deal. The 2018-19 edition of his club is stacked, especially on offense, but could use an infusion from the outside.

The haul may be Stone or his teammate - and potential Jets No. 2 center - Matt Duchene. Or, perhaps, another forward with name value.

Winnipeg has a 2019 first-round pick and prospects Nic Petan and Sami Niku to dangle. Buckle up.

Verdict: Buyer

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Matt Zambonin / National Hockey League / Getty

The Ducks are 2-1-0 with GM Bob Murray as head coach, but he likely inserted himself behind the bench to get a closer look at his team moving forward. Anaheim is just five points out of a playoff spot but the underlying numbers suggest this team is lucky to be within striking distance.

A decision will need to be made on the team's lone key pending unrestricted free agent in Jakob Silfverberg. The Ducks would like to re-sign the two-way forward, but without a deal in place, he'll need to be traded. There will be no shortage of suitors for Silfverberg and Anaheim has some up-and-coming forwards who could replace him in the lineup.

Veteran netminder Ryan Miller is also a pending UFA and could generate some interest as insurance for a contender, but he'd have to waive his no-trade clause.

Verdict: Seller

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have dealt with so many injuries they're tough to properly evaluate. Like most teams in the logjam that is the Western Conference, Arizona is still in the playoff hunt, but mortgaging the future for the top rental doesn't seem smart.

With Jordan Weal and Richard Panik as the team's top pending free agents, the Coyotes aren't primed to be deadline sellers either. A deal to help the team's offense beyond this season without giving up a first-rounder would be ideal, though unlikely. A depth forward such as Thomas Vanek, for example, could be added for a late-round pick. Otherwise, don't expect Arizona to make much noise.

Verdict: Hold

Calgary Flames

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

How confident are the Flames going into the playoffs with David Rittich between the pipes? He saved Calgary's season in the early going but has authored an .889 save percentage over his last 13 games. Could general manager Brad Treliving be in the market for someone like Jimmy Howard?

Regardless of whether the Flames decide to trust their goaltending, finding a top-six winger to play alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk should be a priority. Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, Mats Zuccarello, and Gustav Nyquist would all be nice fits.

Verdict: Buyer

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers should be looking toward next season. Believe it or not, Alex Chiasson is Edmonton's only attractive rental chip, and interim GM Keith Gretzky should move him for the best offer possible.

How the Oilers handle Jesse Puljujarvi could be interesting. The organization has a history of giving up on players too early, but it's clear the young forward needs a change of scenery. If the right deal presents itself, then pulling the trigger isn't a bad idea, but Gretzky should by no means simply take the best offer he gets for the young Finn.

Verdict: Seller

Los Angeles Kings

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Kings already dealt one of their best trade chips, sending Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-rounder and two prospects. Carl Hagelin is L.A.'s top pending UFA, but any veteran not named Drew Doughty or Anze Kopitar should be made available ahead of the deadline. That includes Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alec Martinez.

With most veterans signed beyond this year, the Kings don't need to ship off their best trade chips before Feb. 25, as they could get better offers in the summer. Still, there could be deadline movement in Los Angeles.

Verdict: Seller

San Jose Sharks

Doug Wilson did most of his heavy lifting in the offseason, acquiring perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson. Even though Wilson is one of the league's savviest GMs and the Sharks are in win-now mode, it could be a rather quiet deadline in the Bay Area.

San Jose's biggest weakness this season has been in goal, but Martin Jones' impressive playoff resume (.927 save percentage, 2.07 goals-against average in 42 games) provides optimism he can come up big when it matters most.

Even with limited cap space, Wilson should still be able to add one more top-nine forward and perhaps a depth defenseman, but don't expect the Sharks to be players for any of the high-profile names.

Verdict: Buyer

Vancouver Canucks

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

Many predicted the Canucks would be a lottery team, but the emergence of Elias Pettersson has them right in the playoff hunt. Pettersson's rookie year, however, isn't the time to be dealing future assets for rentals.

In fact, Vancouver should be looking in the opposite direction. If defenseman Alexander Edler is willing to waive his no-trade clause, there'd be no shortage of suitors lined up for his services. He's expressed a desire to stay in Vancouver, but he could conceivably join a contender for the stretch run before re-signing with the Canucks on July 1. It'd be a win-win.

Verdict: Seller

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights sit comfortably in a playoff spot but will likely face a daunting first-round playoff matchup against either the Sharks or Flames without home-ice advantage. They shouldn't be looking to deal from their thin, top-heavy prospect pool in exchange for short-term gain.

Vegas does, however, hold a combined seven picks in rounds three through five of the 2019 draft, and could use that capital to add depth to the lineup. A third-line right winger would give the Golden Knights three formidable lines.

Verdict: Buyer

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DeBoer thinks Sharks will get apology for officiating vs. Bruins

Peter DeBoer thinks the NHL will apologize for the refereeing during Monday night's defeat to the Boston Bruins.

The San Jose Sharks head coach said as much when asked about Chris Wagner's controversial late tying goal. The Bruins forward appeared to bat the puck out of the air with a high stick before it went into the net.

DeBoer confirmed the officiating crew told him Wagner was allowed to play the puck at shoulder length. However, the goal didn't get reviewed because the initial high stick wasn't called.

"It was above his shoulders, but really, the officiating (for) the whole third period ... was ... I'm sure we'll get an explanation and some type of apology," DeBoer told reporters postgame. "It doesn't help us in the standings, but that's usually how it works."

Wagner's stick appeared to make contact with the puck above the crossbar prior to the goal. Then he seemed to touch the puck again with his stick, but the issue is whether his second touch occurred before or after the puck crossed the goal line.

If the second touch came before the puck crossed the line, Wagner would have been eligible to play the puck at his shoulder and not crossbar height on the first touch.

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NHL owner puts $250M into AAF, reportedly saves league from folding

The startup AAF has been saved by the owner of an NHL franchise.

Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, made a $250-million commitment to the new football league last week after its first week of play, the Hurricanes announced Tuesday. The investment was necessary to save the league from missing payroll, David Glenn of The Athletic reports.

"Without a new, nine-figure investor, nobody is sure what would have happened," a source told Glenn. "You can always tell people their checks are going to be a little late, but how many are going to show up on the weekend for games when they don't see anything hit their bank accounts on Friday?"

Dundon will serve as chairman of the AAF's board of directors, effective immediately, according to the Hurricanes. The nascent league just completed its second weekend of action.

"This was a terrific opportunity for Tom to expand his investment in the sports world," Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said in a release. "The AAF is off to an exciting start as a league and was founded on some truly unique and groundbreaking concepts."

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Watch: Bruins score late game-tying goal on controversial high stick

Boston Bruins forward Chris Wagner scored the game-tying goal in the waning minutes of regulation during Monday's 6-5 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks. It didn't come without controversy though, as Wagner's stick appeared to make contact with the puck above the crossbar prior to the goal.

Wagner then swatted the puck into the net after batting it down. If he did so before the puck crossed the goal line, the legality of the high-stick would be determined by shoulder height instead of crossbar height. The play was not reviewed.

Boston blue-liner Charlie McAvoy notched the overtime winner to give the Bruins two key points.

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Kucherov’s 5-point night highlights all-world season

Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov continues to push his ceiling to new heights.

His historic campaign added another chapter Monday night, as he recorded his second five-point effort of the season by registering a point on each Lightning goal in a 5-1 win over the Blue Jackets. The big night lifts the All-Star to 99 points on the year with 22 games left.

With the incredible performance, the Russian winger is now on pace for 135 points on the year, a mark that has not been hit since the 1995-96 season. But that's hardly where the incredible facts about Kucherov's torrid pace end.

He's tallied 18 points over his last five games, giving him more points in that span than six of his full-time teammates have compiled all season, and he's actually registered more games with three or more points (15) than he has games with zero points (14).

The 25-year-old is surrounded by an embarrassment of riches on offense, and his 70 assists has already set a franchise record for single-season helpers.

The Lightning record for points in a season belongs to Vincent Lecavalier who posted 109 in 2006-07, but with Kucherov now just 10 points back and six weeks remaining, a potential injury seems to be the only thing that could prevent the sniper from taking that title.

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Senators, Blackhawks combine for 15 goals in wild affair

Even fans who haven't watched hockey since the '80s would've been impressed with the amount of scoring between the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.

The Sens and Hawks combined for nine goals in the first period of Monday's meeting, with Chicago eventually winning a wild 15-goal game by a score of 8-7.

Here's a look at all nine opening-frame goals:

Blackhawks netminder Collin Delia was pulled after three goals, while Senators goalie Anders Nilsson was yanked after he was beaten for the fourth time. Neither backup performed much better.

Alex DeBrincat (five points), Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane (three points apiece) led the way for the Blackhawks. Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Thomas Chabot each enjoyed multi-point nights for the Sens.

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Brind’Amour: Canes ‘don’t care what other people think’ about celebrations

Rod Brind'Amour is all for his players' post-win routines.

The Carolina Hurricanes head coach left no doubt about his position on the "storm surge" celebrations that Don Cherry criticized on "Hockey Night in Canada" on Saturday night.

"It's not about everyone else. (Critics are) missing the point," Brind'Amour told reporters Monday. "It's about our players engaging our fans and thanking them for sticking with us, being there (for us), and trying to provide a little levity to a pretty serious game. We push these guys pretty hard."

He said the performances aren't taking place while games are in progress, and the team deserves to let loose in a unique way.

"Everything's happening after the game. This isn't during the game. It's not before the game. This is when it's all said and done. They've put the work in and now they're just ... instead of just the traditional salute to the fans which nobody cares about, they're just trying to do something a little different.

"We really don't care what other people think about it. It's been pretty positive around here. I haven't had one fan here say they didn't like it, so I don't think we're changing it."

Brind'Amour said none of the players have been uncomfortable with the celebrations.

"I think they love it, and it's their thing," he continued. "If (team captain Justin Williams) thought they didn't want to do it anymore, he wouldn't do it. We're making way too big a deal of it."

The bench boss added that there are no plans to stop or alter the post-win ritual that the club started this season.

"The fans are enjoying it. You've got to remember, that's what we're here to do. They're the ones that pay the salaries. We have to do things a little differently down here to keep people interested. At the end of the day, it's entertainment and for whatever reason they think that's entertaining. It's fun, people."

Brind'Amour said he hopes Monday was the first and last time he has to talk about the celebrations, calling the discussion "irrelevant to what's going on."

Cherry lashed out at the team, calling Hurricanes players "a bunch of jerks" and warning that "they better not do this in the playoffs."

Shortly after Cherry's rant, Carolina shut out the Dallas Stars and did a limbo contest to celebrate. The latest routine drew praise from Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, and a subtle jab at Cherry. On Sunday, the club revealed "bunch of jerks" T-shirts that will be available later this week.

The Hurricanes are surging on the ice as well, having won eight of their last 10 games to move into the playoff hunt.

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NHL podcast: Roenick on Panarin and Stone, Dangle on becoming a media star

Welcome to Puck Pursuit, a weekly NHL podcast hosted by John Matisz, theScore's National Hockey Writer.

Subscribe to the show on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify.

In this episode, Jeremy Roenick, an NBC Sports analyst and former NHL star, joins John. Steve Dangle, a professional YouTuber and Sportsnet blogger, is also featured. Topics include:

  • Panarin, Bobrovsky situations in Columbus
  • Stone, Duchene, Dzingel situations in Ottawa
  • How to turn a harmless hobby into a career
  • Why you should never take yourself too seriously

... and more!

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