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DUNLAP ISLAND… The NHL trade deadline has now passed and while there was some activity today of varying levels, there was nothing approaching a Gretzky to Kings status, but nonetheless some clubs did well and some didn’t do anything. That’s not to say that there weren’t some pretty important deals made, with both short and long term implications, it’s just that I don’t think anyone fell off of their chairs today if they were taking in the days proceedings. From my viewpoint the Jason Zucker deal (MN to PIT) from 2 weeks ago today was one of the bigger deals made of the trade “season”, the NY Islanders made a significant impact deal today by obtaining forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Ottawa, the NY Rangers made an in-house deal by extending forward Chris Kreider for the next 7 seasons, and the Vegas Knights made a move to bolster their D corps last week by obtaining Alec Martinez from the LAK, and today strengthened their netminding by trading for Robin Lehner from CHI.
I was surprised to see the NYR trade D-man Brady Skjei to CAR, but the lanky Minnesotan was basically a salary cap casualty. With some of the recent deals the Rangers have made in the past few months that will alter their cap dynamic in the upcoming seasons, someone had to go and Skjei pulled one of the Canes 2020 1st Round picks in the deal. If the Canes are making a push for this year's playoffs, their effort might go the way of Columbus’s effort of last year. Their high end D-man Doug Hamilton is out indefinitely with a broken fibula, and both netminders were injured last Saturday eve in Toronto. James Reimer is day to day, and with a concussion situation going on, there is no set return for Petr Mrazek. They also obtained a very good D-man in Sami Vatanen from the NJD, but he too is injured. So the team has stabilized it’s D corps but questions abound regarding their goalie situation.
To me, those were solid roster maneuvers, on the other hand, even without their current injury challenges, I wasn’t looking at the Canes as hardcore Stanley Cup contenders. Who IS on my short list? First off, I believe the power of the league this year lies within the East. And all things considered, I believe these clubs have the best shot at a Cup Final appearance; TAM, WAS, BOS & PIT. These teams are showing me the most strength of game across the board whenever I see them play. Next level in the East are PHI, NYI, CAR and the NYR. The latter two are just outside of a playoff spot right now, but both are solidly on their games at this point. (NYR 8-2 in L10) TOR and CBJ hold spots right now, but both are struggling to maintain. And in spite of their team qualities, all four of my Eastern frontrunners have their own idiosyncrasies.
In the West I see only three teams with the juice to grab a Cup victory. STL, COL & the VGK are showing some power in their games at this time. Realistically though, the favorite to go to the Final from the West would have to be STL, but their game has been up and down the past few weeks. It looks like their Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko could return soon and that would be huge for them. The Av’s have injury problems right now and did nothing to address them at the deadline today. With the moves the Knights have made recently, they could knock the Blues off of their perch and Lehner could push the sometimes struggling this season Marc-Andre’ Fleury back toward the top of his game. The Flower lost his father late last year and looks to me as if he has been playing with a heavy heart at times.
For our locals, the Minnesota WILD, apart from the recent Zucker deal, they stood still today, but not for a lack of trying. Toward the later part of the morning news broke quickly that Zach Parise was willing to waive his No Trade Clause if a deal could be worked out to get him to the NYI where he could reunite with his first NHL GM Lou Lamoriello. The proposed deal was a straight up trade for Andrew Ladd, whose injury has limited him to play in only 26 tilts for the Isles this year. (torn ACL) He is approaching 1k NHL games and has had a decent career. Like Parise he also has a contract that limits his trade ability. So the moment I began to hear terms like “cap recapture” and possible “salary retention” thrown about I kind of knew that a deal was a longshot. And about 115pm the air went out of the deal. Parise has made it known that he hopes to get one more legitimate shot at a Cup and he has earned that right to control where he wants to be. Some WILD fans will harangue him for it, not me. This guy gives it his all 24/7.
GM Bill Guerin did not move the oft rumored to be traded Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin. I think this is a positive. If you are going to build or rebuild a team, it starts on the backend and both of these players are going to be upper level for the foreseeable future. Guerin had been shopping them for a #1 or 2 Center, but they are in high demand. Nothing could be worked out. The roster is set for the rest of this campaign and Guerin stated that the playoffs were still the team target. Well, don’t look now but the club is 5 points out of a Wild Card spot. No matter how I look at this equation the math does not favor the team. I’m just being honest. My go-to ranking source says that it will take 91 points to get the 2nd WC spot in the West. The Wild are at 65 points with 21 games to go. I am projecting the team to finish with 87 points. While the teams in front of them, CAL ARI, WIN & NAS made no big deals today that would alter their path to the playoffs, neither did the Wild, and they are still behind them… PEACE
WILD DATA: The ATHLETIC, 21st, trending for 88 pts, 31% chance for playoffs, 0% chance for a Cup. The Sagarin; 22nd on a 29-32 record, 11-14 vs top ten, 15-20 vs top 16, 4th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 6th in the Central on a 29-25-7 record, 17-10-5 @ H, 12-15-2 @ A, 2-3 in SO, 6-3-1 in L10, streak of 1L.18th/GF/184, 20th/GA/194, t12th/PP/21.1%, t27th/PK/75.7% and 13th in PIM’s w/494. Last week; 2-1, won @ VAN and @ EDM, lost to STL. This week; vs CBJ, @ DET, @ CBJ, vs WAS… OVER & OUT!