Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NHL POINT SHOTS DEADLINE LOOMING

Under a week away until the NHL trade deadline and the logjam may continue until Deadline Day with so many teams still believing they are in the playoff race.

Take the Carolina Hurricanes for example. Given up for dead months ago, Kirk Muller has the Canes within 7 points of division leading Florida with 4 games remaining against the Panthers. Eric Staal has fueled the optimism. A candidate for most disappointing season much of the season, Staal has made a dramatic turnaround in February with 7-5-12  and +11 in 8 games this month.

A few examples of why GMs should proceed with some caution at the deadline. Back in 2004 the Ottawa Senators acquired big name scorer Peter Bondra from Washington to put them over the top. Bondra's contribution was minimal, 7 goals in 23 regular season games and pointless in 7 playoff games. The price was Brooks Laich who has become a solid two way player for the Caps and a 2nd round draft choice.

Sometimes its all about timing. Last year for the Penguins the timing was wrong on James Neal who floundered after the move from Dallas. Fortunately for the Penguins, Neal is in Pittsburgh for the long term and is paying huge dividends now.

The Bruins nailed it last year with the acquisition of Rich Peverley near the deadline for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart. Peverley is out for the next month but remains an important asset for the Bruins. But one year after the deal its hard to imagine that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli could acquire Wheeler straight up for Peverley now. Wheeler has blossomed into the Winnipeg Jets leading scorer and there appears to be an even greater upside for the Jets right winger. Nevertheless, the Bruins won the Cup with Peverley and for that it will always be a good trade for Boston.

There was some speculation last week that Olaf Kolzig's public criticism of Alex Ovechkin was choreographed by the club and not quite the off the cuff comments that they were portrayed. GM George McPhee quickly backed Kolzig in what sounded like a rehearsed attempt to get the not so Great 8 going without creating a rift between Ovie and coach Dale Hunter.

Caps owner Ted Leonsis tweeted that the Capitals 5-0 loss in Carolina was their worst of the season. So bad that its not if, but when George McPhee makes a significant move. Bruce Boudreau was clearly not the problem.

Hands up if you thought the Senators would be within a point of the Bruins (albeit 3 games in hand) With a strong final month Jason Spezza should get Hart trophy consideration. And if Mike Green has been a Norris finalist twice, Erik Karlsson has certainly demonstrated Norris credentials. Heading into Tuesday night's games Karlsson had a 17 point lead on the second highest scoring blueliner, Brian Campbell. Karlsson's +14 is only 3 fewer than Shea Weber. In his 3rd season, the 21 year old Karlsson is on pace for 76 points. Green had 73 points in his 3rd NHL full season at the age of 22. Karlsson and Green will go head to head tonight in Ottawa.

Nashville's acquisition of Hal Gill caught some off guard. Not only did many believe that offence would be the Preds first priority, there were a number of other teams lining up for Gill's services, including two of his former teams, Boston and Pittsburgh. Its clear that the Predators are positioned to go for it now which may loosen their hold on some of their top young players. The Oilers should be pitching for Ryan Ellis who would be the perfect PP offensive defenceman prospect for the young gun Oilers.

Since Nick Grossman cost the Flyers a 2nd and 3rd round pick I thought Pavel Kubina would fetch more for the Lightning than a 2nd and 4th. But GM Steve Yzerman looks good flipping Steve Downie into a 1st round pick in that 3 way deal with the Red Wings and Avalanche. Quincey started in Detroit and should be a useful add for the Wings. It might even be a great audition for him to stay since Brad Stuart is likely to leave Motown at season's end. Yzerman has been stockpiling picks. There's speculation he'd love to deal with St. Louis for a goaltender. Not Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott but 6' 7" prospect Ben Bishop who is in Peoria.

There have been reports that a team made an offer to the Leafs of a 2nd round pick and a prospect for Mikhail Grabovski. Although he's cooled off of late, thats not an offer, but an insult for one of the better 2nd line centres in the NHL.

GM Brian Burke has made some solid moves in Toronto but it has to make him burn that Mike Komisarek and Colby Armstrong and their cap hit of 7.5 million dollars were healthy scratches Tuesday night against New Jersey. Tim Connolly's 4.75 million a year hit doesn't help.

Two of the most interesting trade pieces are hurt as the deadline approaches. Nikolai Khabibulin's groin injury might scare some suitors off, with many believing he's destined for Chicago. Travis Moen, a Cup winner in Anaheim, is still out of the Canadiens lineup. When healthy Moen brings similar intangibles as Michael Rupp, who is a significant playoff upgrade for the New York Rangers this season.

With Eric Staal's birdie binge, the Carolina Captain is out of the running for the NHL's Green Jacket. The new leader is Milan Jurcina of the Islanders at minus-27. Curiously, tied for second on the leader board before last night's action is trade deadline darling, Rick Nash.

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