Each Monday during the NHL season, Rob Mixer takes a look at the biggest storylines from the hockey week that was.
The NHL trade deadline is exactly two weeks away.
Nothing of substance has materialized yet, but the chatter and speculation are ratcheting up as teams start to see their needs crystallized. Some names are beginning to pop up, as well, only adding to the intrigue of what’s usually an exciting day in the NHL.
But if one thing can deter Feb. 26 from being an entertaining day, it’s the market.
TRADE TRACKER: Rumors, reported deals before the 2018 deadline
Let’s take Rangers forward Rick Nash as an example. The Rangers, in what was a welcomed and transparent message to their fans last week, basically admitted their run of playoff appearances on the backs of Ryan McDonagh and crew are over. GM Jeff Gorton said the time had come to rebuild, acquire faster and younger players, and remake the roster.
Nash, at 33 years old, is one of the players who is likely to be dealt before the deadline. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent, can still put the puck in the net, and will be in demand from several suitors. And listening to several prominent NHL insiders discuss Nash’s availability and potential acquisition cost, it’s easy to see why this could hold up a lot of activity.
Will the Predators or Stars shell out three pieces — including a first-round pick — for potentially two months of Nash’s services?
David Poile is all-in this year. The Predators know this is their best chance yet to win a Stanley Cup; they’ve added Kyle Turris, convinced Mike Fisher to come out of retirement for another run, and already have Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino locked in down the middle. We know how good their defense is and they’re getting a productive year from Pekka Rinne … but all that for Nash? That’s a tough sell.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston mentioned the Blue Jackets as a potential suitor for Nash a couple weeks ago, but if the asking price is what has been reported (and mentioned above), you can confidently cross Jarmo Kekalainen off the list of interested parties.
The rental market is going to be wild. GMs, as they typically do, will find a way to do something crazy and we’ll all holler about how bad the deal was. Chuck Fletcher probably still has nightmares about last year’s Martin Hanzal trade, which got the Wild absolutely nowhere.
Those kinds of deals haunt GMs. And at this point, it’s reasonable to think this logjam of “competitive” or “contending” teams combined with sky-high prices could result in a stalemate.
Could there be more hockey trades this year? Possibly, yeah. But they’re hard to make at the deadline with money and term remaining. Most of those trades are made in the summer.
One thing is for sure: A lot of this is likely to be proven wrong when one deal breaks the seal, and the trade frenzy goes off in the hours leading up to 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 26. At least right now it looks like a few major dominoes need to fall before that can happen.
Have a week, Philly
The Eagles won the Super Bowl, as you may know.
And now the Flyers are making a run at the Metropolitan Division. Seriously.
Dave Hakstol’s team could have bowed out earlier this season when they lost 10 straight. But they didn’t.
The Flyers are 20-8-2 since early December and are only five points behind the Capitals for first place in the division. They’re dangerously close to leap-frogging Pittsburgh for second place, and after becoming only the fourth time all season to beat the Golden Knights in regulation at home, it’s safe to say Philadelphia is for real.
And they’re doing this (for the foreseeable future) without No. 1 goaltender Brian Elliott, who was injured late in Saturday’s shootout win over the Coyotes. Michal Neuvirth is the guy for the Flyers right now and he played well this weekend in Vegas.
The playoff races are getting tighter by the day…
— Four points separate first, second and third place in the Central Division.
— Boston, with a game in hand, has closed within three points of first-place Tampa Bay and has won eight of its last 10.
— Three (!) points separate five (!) teams — New Jersey, Carolina, Columbus, NY Islanders, NY Rangers — for two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
— Out West, Minnesota (66 points) is being chased by Los Angeles and Anaheim (65) as well as Colorado (64) for the final playoff spot.