The Dallas Stars decision to ink Curtis McKenzie to a one-year contract extension has obvious expansion draft implications in that it gives the team another forward that meets the minimum requirements making him eligible for exposure in the draft and allowing Dallas to protect someone else instead. However, as Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News writes, the Stars would prefer to hang onto the 26-year-old left wing rather than lose him to the Golden Knights.
Several players the Stars believed would play key roles up front (Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark and Jiri Hudler among them) have missed significant portions of the season and McKenzie has proven invaluable by filling a number of roles for the team. He adds grit and penalty killing while sliding up and down the lineup as needed. McKenzie has tallied only four goals and 11 points in 43 games this season but that production is solid for a versatile, defensively responsible bottom-six forward. At a salary of just $700K for 2017-18, McKenzie represents a relative bargain, whether for Dallas or Vegas next season.
- As is often the case with players joining a new team at the trade deadline, Martin Hanzal has struggled to find his way since being acquired by Minnesota from Arizona for a package of draft choices. But as Michael Russo of the Star Tribune notes, if anyone understands the difficulties of adjusting to a new team and new systems, it’s Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau, who played for 17 different pro hockey clubs over the course of a 20-year career. Since joining Minnesota, Hanzal has had a rotating cast of linemates, a situation that complicates his adjustment but also one that allows Boudreau to figure out how best to ultimately deploy the veteran pivot. The coach’s patient handling of Hanzal may be starting to pay off. The 30-year-old had his best game as a member of the Wild in Minnesota’s 7 – 4 win over Florida Friday night. Hanzal recorded an assist, finished with three shots on goal and adding five hits. It’s that type of performance that made the 6-foot-6 pivot an attractive trade option at the deadline and if he can continue that level of play throughout the postseason the Wild will be pleased.
- Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hosted his regular chat yesterday and covered a variety of Blues related topics. As usual, the entire piece is well worth the read but one item of particular interest was a look back at a March 2, 2015 trade which saw defenseman Ian Cole shipped by St. Louis to Pittsburgh in exchange for fellow blue liner Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh-round draft pick. Since joining the Penguins, the 28-year-old Cole has developed into a quality regular on the team’s back end. The seven year veteran is enjoying the best season of his career in 2016-17, registering four goals and 21 points in 63 contests while posting a +23 plus-minus rating. Meanwhile, Bortuzzo has failed to make much of an impact with his new club and has been a healthy scratch often. While the scribe understands the criticism of the deal in hindsight, he also believes that Cole wouldn’t have evolved into a legitimate top-four blue liner had he remained with the Blues. Rutherford believes that Cole simply didn’t mesh well with the Blues at the time. He goes on to write that the team needed more physicality and got that in the form of Bortuzzo. Ultimately, if they had it to do all over again, Rutherford isn’t sure St. Louis would pull the trigger on that deal.