The NHL trade deadline is looming (Feb. 29), with general managers scrambling with coaches and scouts to determine which final piece to their team’s puzzle will be needed to transform a contender into a Stanley Cup champion.
Also, clubs out of the picture will assuredly be dispensing that key player in an attempt to rebuild.
Here’s a look at the teams – besides Chicago; GM Stan Bowman always tinkers his roster – which didn’t procrastinate and pulled the trigger on a potential make-or-break deal.
“My” Kings got a steal when sniper Vincent Lecavalier, who wasn’t playing much in Philadelphia following his retirement announcement, gets a chance to become a two-time Cup titlist (Tampa Bay, 2004).
Lecavalier, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2007, comes at the perfect time. Over the Kings’ recently completed seven-game “Grammys” road trip, they lost Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar to injuries; Gaborik could be lost for the balance of the regular season.
So it will be up to Lecavalier and Tanner Pearson, who twice scored game-winners in overtime (at Rangers and Nashville) during L.A.’s 3-4-0 trip, to carry the already sluggish offense.
Los Angeles once had a double-digit lead in the Pacific Division, but is now holding on by a thread with slow-starters San Jose and Anaheim on a rage. However, like Detroit, could the Kings be “trying” to manipulate the playoff structure by finishing in second or third place in order to avoid a Central Division opponent in a first-round playoff series?
The Senators acquired Dion Phaneuf from Toronto in a nine-player swap, but the deal may set up Ottawa for more maneuvers by clearing cap room. It also allows the Maple Leafs to clear a polarizing player from the old management regime, who may not hold a future with head coach Mike Babcock anyway, while gaining a top prospect.
Should Babcock cut some of the new additions, the Leafs would create room to sign Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos (a native of Toronto) in the offseason – a heavy rumor in Canadian media.
In order to protect their assets, the Lightning need to sign Stamkos before the trade deadline, or else…? It sounds like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ situation with LeBron James before he fled to Miami.
Over the weekend, “The Hockey News” reported that deal could be a sign-and-trade to the Detroit Red Wings – how would Babcock, the former Wings coach, feel about that one!
Bolts GM Steve Yzerman countered, “As February 29 approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline,” in a statement released by the team.
The Leafs, now with extra men on the roster, sent pending free agent Shawn Matthias to the Avalanche for a prospect and a draft pick. This could be considered a rental trade.
Matthias, a 28-year-old veteran with nearly 500 games with Florida, Vancouver and Toronto, is listed at center yet has played exclusively at left wing all season.
The Avs have won 4-of-5 to gain fourth place in the Central by one point over Nashville. The Preds are in playoff position, too, holding a better mark than the fourth place team in the Pacific, Arizona, by five points.
We keep hearing how Jets winger Andrew Ladd will be traded to (insert you favorite team here). Ladd is a two-time Cup winner (Carolina, 2006; Chicago, 2010) before becoming captain of the Jets (then Atlanta Thrashers).
J.J. is Dy-no-mite
The ageless Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers supplanted Brett Hull after a two-goal night over the weekend, becoming the third-highest scorer in NHL annuals. Only two to go for the record: Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.
Jagr, who turned 44 on Feb. 15, insists he will play six more seasons and retire at 50, yet holds no interest in breaking The Great One’s record.
See you in 2022.
Washington’s 43 wins are the most victories through a team’s first 57 games of a season in NHL history. The Caps are also the first team to earn 90 points through 57 games since Philadelphia did it in 1979-80 (91 points), the year they had a 35-game unbeaten streak.
The Caps are also two wins shy of equaling their total from last season (45-26-11). They are also 16-1-1 in their last 18 games at Verizon Center (22-4-2 overall) and have outscored their opponents 68-38 during that span.
Washington has earned a point in 11 consecutive games against Metropolitan Division opponents (9-0-2), marking its longest single-season point streak against division foes (including Southeast Division) since the 1999-2000 season when they went 12-0-1. The Caps are also a league best 32-7-2 against the East.
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