The New York Rangers are using this season as a development year for many of their young players, but at least one will now miss up to a month. Brett Howden has suffered an MCL sprain and will be out for three to four weeks.
In his most recent 31 Thoughts column earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned that now-former Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli was close to making a blockbuster trade back in 2016, just days before he traded Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Friedman, however, had no knowledge of the details of that blockbuster. However, New York Post’s Larry Brooks got a confirmation from multiple sources that the trade would have been with the New York Rangers.
Brooks reports that just before pulling the trigger on the Hall-Larsson deal, Chiarelli was close to a deal that would have sent the 2016 fourth-overall pick (used to take Jesse Puljujarvi) to the Rangers for defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The belief is that New York was interested in drafting Clayton Keller of the U.S. National Development Team with the fourth pick to begin the rebuild process then. Brooks adds there were other pieces to the deal, but points out that after the team’s first-round exit to Pittsburgh that year, the team felt it needed to re-tool their team with McDonagh being the most marketable player on the Rangers at the time.
Instead, Chiarelli turned the deal down, took Puljujarvi and sent Hall to New Jersey for Larsson, while the Rangers instead packaged Derick Brassard to Ottawa in a deal to get Mika Zibanejad. The team did discuss McDonagh with other teams at that time, including a deal with Colorado for either Nathan MacKinnon or Gabriel Landeskog, but the Avalanche weren’t that high on McDonagh’s value.
Considering how Puljujarvi has turned out in Edmonton thus far and how successful Hall has been since leaving the Oilers, the trade could have altered the outcome for Edmonton as well as Chiarelli, as McDonagh could have helped stabilize the team’s defense. However, there is no guarantee that Chiarelli still wouldn’t have moved Hall later on anyway.
Of course, the Rangers team may look quite a bit different with Keller on their team now as the 20-year-old put up a 23-goal, 65-point campaign in his rookie season last year and currently has 11 goals and 35 points this year and would have been a great piece to build around. Instead the franchise held onto McDonagh until last year’s trade deadline when they sent him and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov, propects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden as well as a 2018 first-round pick (Nils Lundqvist) and a conditional 2019 second-rounder.
Ten teams are on bye this week, but the NHL schedule isn’t slowing down and neither will the transactions as we head toward the All-Star break and the trade deadline. Sunday’s slate of five games is spread throughout the day, with the Capitals and Blackhawks squaring off early this afternoon, two more later matinees, and then two night games. Highlighting the lineup is a battle between two teams active on the trade market and desperate for a postseason berth this season, the Hurricanes and Oilers. With both teams needing a win in the worst way to stay relevant in the playoff race, expect an intense match-up between two teams that normally have little ill will between them. Keep up with all of today’s moves – and there have already been a lot – right here:
- The Dallas Stars, one of the teams taking the week off, have sent several players to the minors for that stretch, including defenseman Connor Carrick, who is reassigned on a conditioning loan. Young forwards Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov will also head to the AHL’s Texas Stars for at least the coming week. The trio have all seen limited play time in the NHL this season, so rather than let them sit for a week while healthy, Dallas has opted to give them the opportunity to get some work in with the AHL squad.
- The Carolina Hurricanes announced that they have recalled defenseman Haydn Fleury from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Fleury, who played in 67 games with the ’Canes last season, has only been with the team for ten contests this year. The 22-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, but thus far has been unable to show elite offensive ability at the top level. Carolina will continue to give him chances when they can, but behind a deep and talented group of defensemen, Fleury will have to do more with his opportunities moving forward.
- Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post suggests that the New York Rangers, also on bye, will send top pro defensive prospect Ryan Lindgren down to the AHL during the break rather than make him sit for a week. Lindgren’s recent recall received great fanfare from the Rangers’ faithful and this bye week demotion back to the Hartford Wolf Pack won’t change the team’s plans, which likely are to keep Lindgren in the starting lineup for as much of the remainder of this lost season as possible. Cyrgalis adds that another Rangers rookie, Brett Howden, will not be sent down, as the team hopes some time off will help him break his recent slump.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have reassigned recently-acquired forward Joseph Blandisi to the AHL, the team announced. It wasn’t clear where Blandisi fit in the Pittsburgh lineup after the trade that sent Derek Grant back to the Anaheim Ducks, so the team will let him serve as minor league depth for the time being. Blandisi has found success as a scoring forward in the AHL and will be an asset to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but he has been unable to translate that ability to the NHL in stints with the Ducks and New Jersey Devils and will need to adopt a more physical, energy line role to stick at the top level.
- The “bye week” claims another, as the resting Columbus Blue Jackets have sent Kevin Stenlund down to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. Stenlund made his NHL debut last week and did not look out of place in a bottom-six role, but nevertheless is better suited to get some additional work this week in the minors rather than sitting. Don’t be surprised to see the big 22-year-old center back up in Columbus after the break.
- CapFriendly reports that defenseman Anton Lindholm has been recalled by the Colorado Avalanche. Lindholm has been up and down several times for the Avs this season, but has only skated in two games with the team after suiting up for 48 games last year. The small, but solid stay-at-home defender has shown some more offensive ability with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles but until he can provide a little more production at the NHL level, he’s likely nothing more than a replacement-level depth option. The Avalanche also announced that forward Dominic Toninato has been recalled as well.
- CapFriendly also adds that the Winnipeg Jets have sent little-used defenseman Cameron Schilling down to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for the bye week. The veteran has only skated in four games with the Jets in his first season with Winnipeg, but did record his first NHL point back in November. Schilling is a ways down the depth chart for the Jets, but has the experience to step in if need be down the stretch. To keep him sharp, they’ll send him back to the AHL, where he’s played 27 games this season. With no game until Jan. 28, the Jets also have assigned defenseman Sami Niku to Manitoba, according to CapFriendly. The 22-year-old has fared quite well filling in on Winnipeg’s blueline.
- Peter Cehlarik has played well alongside David Krejci and Jake Debrusk since his recall three games ago, but with the Boston Bruins hitting their bye week, they have announced that Cehlarik is headed back down to the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Cehlarik has been perhaps the closest thing to a solution on the Bruins’ second line all season and is sure to be back up after the break. In the meantime, The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver suspects that Cehlarik could replace the injured Ryan Fitzgerald at the AHL All-Star Game.
- The San Jose Sharks announced they have placed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic on injured reserve today and have recalled defenseman Jacob Middleton. The team has been without Vlasic for eight games already with an undisclosed injury, so he can return to the lineup whenever he is ready. Vlasic’s number’s and play have dropped a little this season, but the team still misses his blueline skills as the Sharks have now lost two straight. The 23-year-old Middleton has appeared in one game for the Sharks this season. He has two goals and 12 points with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL.
The Panthers have gotten off to a slow start this season, posting a 3-5-3 record that has them last overall in the NHL. Accordingly, speculation has picked up about whether it’s time for them to shake things up. In an appearance on TSN 1260 (audio link), TSN’s Darren Dreger stated that he doesn’t expect GM Dale Tallon to make a significant move but instead may try to make a smaller one to see if that gets the team going:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s pretty eager to try and shake the culture of this group a little bit. I don’t get the sense that there’s going to be anything significant, but if it continues to drag on where this team is still playing sluggishly, maybe then the general manager does step in in some way, shape or form.”
It’s at least worth noting that the Panthers have at least four games in hand on every team in the Atlantic Division so while they sit seven points out of a Wild Card spot heading into tonight’s action, they can work their way back into the mix fairly quickly. A healthy Roberto Luongo should help their fortunes but if they continue to scuffle, a small move could be on the horizon.
Elsewhere in the East:
- The Rangers will be without winger Mats Zuccarello for at least the next two games due to a groin strain, notes Newsday’s Anthony Rieber. He will be re-evaluated by team doctors when they return from their road trip this weekend. New York will, however, have center Brett Howden back for their game on Friday though after he missed Tuesday’s victory over Montreal because of an upper-body injury.
- New Jersey will have winger Jesper Bratt back in the lineup tomorrow against Toronto, reports Abbey Mastracco of the Bergen Record. He has missed the entire season due to a broken jaw. The 20-year-old surprised many by making the Devils last season but he wound up having a strong rookie year, tallying 35 points in 74 games. Meanwhile, winger Stefan Noesen and defenseman Steven Santini participated in practice but aren’t expected to be taken off IR. As the team has a full roster (Bratt will be activated into Eddie Lack’s soon-to-be-opened slot), some more movement is likely on the way.
The Pittsburgh Penguins could find themselves down a defenseman for a while after Justin Schultz went down Saturday with what looks to be a gruesome leg injury (video link here). According to the Penguins, he needed to be helped off the ice after falling awkwardly in slow motion and either injuring his ankle or knee, after getting tangled up with Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec.
While more information won’t be known until Sunday at least, the idea of losing Schultz, one of the top defenseman isn’t a good sign. The 28-year-old already had four assists in three games played this season. Assuming he’s out for any length of time, the team could look to insert Juuso Riikola into the rotation. The Finnish free-agent, who signed with the team this summer, has impressed the Penguins throughout training camp and earned a spot as an extra defenseman, but has played in just one game so far this season.
- Vancouver Canucks fans have to be worried after rookie Elias Pettersson took a massive hit from Florida Panthers’ Mike Matheson and then was thrown down on top of that (video link here). The 19-year-old rookie immediately left the game with a trainer, according to TSN’s Brennan Klak. Pettersson had already put up a power play goal in the game and led all rookies with five goals and eight points this season. No word on the severity of the injury.
- NBC Sports Joe Haggerty writes that Detroit Red Wings defenseman Joe Hicketts will likely struggle all season as the diminutive blueliner at works his way through his rookie campaign with his physical brand of hockey. While the 5-foot-8 defenseman played an impressive 23:39 against the Boston Bruins Saturday and had five hits, he finished with a minus-3 and showed that he’ll struggle against top competition and skaters such as the Bruins depth that he faced Saturday.
- Rick Carpinello of The Athletic (subscription required) profiles the play of the New York Rangers’ Brett Howden, who seems to be showing the team that he’s more than just a grinder. The 20-year-old has been impressive since training camp and his play forced the Rangers to send 2017 first-rounder Lias Andersson to the AHL. The Rangers acquired Howden, a 2016 first-round pick, from Tampa Bay in the Ryan McDonagh deal last season, but has already posted two goals in the Rangers’ first five games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have done it again, extending one of their players for a reasonable cap hit. This time it is Ryan McDonagh, who has signed a seven-year extension that carries an average annual value of $6.75MM. The deal will kick in for the 2019-20 season, after the final year of his current contract.
The move allows Tampa Bay to keep their new defensive core. The team acquired McDonagh in a giant trade from the New York Rangers right at the trade deadline this year. The Rangers traded McDonagh, a dominant top-four shutdown defenseman along with J.T. Miller (who already signed an extension) for Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2019. While he was coming off an injury when he was traded, he came exactly as advertised, leading the defense’s second unit, while Victor Hedman manned the first.
The seven-year deal should run until McDonagh reaches 36 years of age. However, to get the veteraen defenseman at $6.75MM is a reasonable cost and much lower than some of the other defenseman who have recently signed such as Drew Doughty and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. McDonagh, who is solid two-way defenseman, didn’t post his best offensive numbers between both teams as he combined for four goals and 29 points, but a healthy full season in Tampa Bay should get him back to his regular numbers.
Tampa Bay still has to lock up superstar Nikita Kucherov, who is in the final year of his contract, although he will only become a restricted free agent next season if he gets there, although the general belief is that the Lightning fully expect to sign him to an extension in the next few months.
With many teams in the league looking for center help this offseason and seeing few options on the free agent market, the trade market seems to be the best way to fill that heavily in-demand. Just earlier this week, the Montreal Canadiens traded Alex Galchenyuk, who failed to succeed at the center position for the team in previous years, to Arizona. The Coyotes have already stated they intend to move him back to center in hopes that he can make the conversion and fill their No. 2 center hole.
The New York Rangers seem to be in a unique situation. Despite the franchise suddenly finding themselves in rebuilding mode, the one thing the Rangers have plenty of is reliable centers. In fact, the team has eight potential centers currently on the roster, including Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Spooner, Boo Nieves and Brett Howden. While some of those eight will be forced to move to the wing position, there is also a strong possibility that the team will move at least one of those centers during the offseason, and very possibly, before next week’s draft.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes that while the team has a solid combination of Zibanejad, Chytil, Hayes and Andersson currently penciled in as their top four centers next season, that’s a logjam at that position that likely would not aid the development of Chytil and Andersson, two teenagers who need as much playing time as possible at the NHL level. Andersson especially, last year’s No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, needs time on the ice and a fourth-line role isn’t going to cut it.
The scribe writes that Hayes may be available after quietly putting up a career-high 25 goals while playing center for New York last year. The restricted free agent is in line for a potential five-year deal worth about $4.5MM per year based on his success last season and there is no guarantee that Hayes would earn the No. 2 center spot with all this depth. Regardless, Hayes would be a highly coveted commodity for many teams who are in desperate need for help at that position.
The key for the Rangers is to trade him straight out for help on their blueline, according to Brooks, who adds that New York is unlikely to use Hayes as part of a package to move up in the draft. The team’s biggest need is at defense and there are many teams that could use a center and have defense to trade, including the Calgary Flames who might be ready to move Dougie Hamilton.
With a lot of attention that has gone towards the success of trade acquisition Paul Stastny in the playoffs this season, the Winnipeg Jets and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff look to have scored at the trade deadline this offseason. The GM was able to pick up Stastny’s expiring contract (50 percent of which was retained) as the team traded away Providence College prospect Erik Foley as well as their 2018 first-rounder and a conditional 2020 fourth-rounder (if Foley doesn’t sign with the Blues before he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019). While losing a prospect and a first-rounder, the Jets have defintely benefitted by Stastny’s play, especially in the playoffs. The 32-year-old center, alongside youngsters Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine has put up six goals and nine assists in 13 games during the playoffs and has helped vault Winnipeg into a one-game lead in the Western Conference finals.
Of the other three teams that remain in the playoffs, the trade deadline also seems to have benefitted the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their acquisition of defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers at the deadline also brought some stability to the Lightning from both players. McDonagh added a stable presence on the defense’s second line, while Miller has excelled playing next to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. McDonagh has aided the team’s offense with five assists in 11 games, while Miller has had two goals and five asissts in 11 games as well. In exchange for those two, the Lightning were able to avoid trading off any elite prospects to the Rangers, but still gave up a lot of pieces, including Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, their 2018 first-rounder and another potential first-round pick in 2019 if Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup in either of the next two years.
The Washington Capitals, with little cap room to work with at the trade deadline, still were able to pull off a couple of small trades, although the addition of Michal Kempny has had a major affect on the Capitals’ defense. With a number of young, inexperienced blueliners and little money to add a high-profile player, the team traded the Toronto Maple Leafs’ third-round pick in 2018 for Kempny. While the former Blackhawks’ defenseman had never played a full season in the NHL, he is 27 and had quite a bit of experience in the KHL and Czech Republic.
Finally, the Golden Knights did make one big trade at the deadline, sending a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick to acquire Tomas Tatar. While the addition of Tatar is not a rental like many of the others (he has three years left at $5.3MM AAV after this year), the team gave up a lot for a player who has made little impact in Vegas. The 27-year-old has been a healthy scratch for much of the playoffs, having only played in four games with no points.
So, which team has benefiited the most from this year’s trade deadline?
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.
After a month of lead up, a sprinkling of trades over the last week or so, and a wild deadline day today, NHL teams are done with transactions for the 2017-18 NHL season. Here are the deals that improved contenders in the Eastern Conference:
Columbus Blue Jackets receive:
F Thomas Vanek
Columbus Blue Jackets receive:
D Ian Cole
Ottawa Senators receive:
F Nick Moutrey
2020 third-round pick
New Jersey Devils receive:
F Patrick Maroon
Edmonton Oilers receive:
F J.D. Dudek
2019 third-round pick
New York Islanders receive:
F Chris Wagner
Anaheim Ducks receive:
F Jason Chimera
Boston Bruins receive:
F Tommy Wingels
Chicago Blackhawks receive:
Conditional 2019 fifth-round pick
Pittsburgh Penguins receive:
F Josh Jooris
Carolina Hurricanes receive:
F Greg McKegg
Like USA Hockey did yesterday, Hockey Canada has announced their preliminary World Junior Championship roster for the upcoming tournament in Buffalo, NY. The Canadian selection camp will have 32 players in it, but will have to whittle it down before the tournament begins. That group could potentially get a bonus should someone like Nolan Patrick or Victor Mete be sent back from their NHL squads in the next few weeks. The tournament officially begins on December 26th.
The roster is as follows:
D Kale Clague (LAK)
D Cale Makar (COL)
D Dante Fabbro (NSH)
D Jake Bean (CAR)
D Connor Timmins (COL)
D Logan Stanley (WPG)
D Cal Foote (TBL)
D Josh Mahura (ANA)
D Dennis Cholowski (DET)
D Mario Ferraro (SJS)
F Sam Steel (ANA)
F Michael McLeod (NJD)
F Jordan Kyrou (STL)
F Robert Thomas (STL)
F Dillon Dube (CGY)
F Brett Howden (TBL)
F Boris Katchouk (TBL)
F Nick Suzuki (VGK)
F Max Comtois (ANA)
F Alex Formenton (OTT)
F Jonathan Ang (FLA)
F Drake Batherson (OTT)
F Jonah Gadjovich (VAN)
F Cody Glass (VGK)
F Tanner Kaspick (STL)
F Kole Lind (VAN)
F Taylor Raddysh (TBL)
F Tyler Steenbergen (ARI)
The biggest surprises for Team Canada may be in the exclusions. Owen Tippett (FLA), Cliff Pu (BUF), Michael Rasmussen (DET), Adam Mascherin (FLA) and others were all expected to at least receive an invitation to the selection camp, but they will have to watch as their countrymen battle it out for the final spots.