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The Vegas Golden Knights have given NHL fans a great many things this season, from the thrill of watching an expansion team challenge for a conference title to a seemingly inescapable mangling of "Sweet Caroline." Alas, they've also taken away something from us with their success: The veritable buffet of players who should have been available at the deadline but instead will be sticking around for a playoff run. (And, in some cases, signing long-term deals.)
So with Vegas off the board as a seller, what might the run up to the NHL Trade Deadline -- set for Feb. 26 -- look like, as far as teams that are open for business and teams that are looking to add assets?
Here are four sellers and four buyers to keep an eye on for the next several weeks:
Buyer: Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford making a deal to jump-start his middling team would be about the least surprising development of the season for the two-time defending champs. CenterRiley Sheahan, acquired earlier this season from theDetroit Red Wings,hasn't been bad at all, but might be most effective as a fourth-liner for Pittsburgh. The Penguins still need another center, but that -- and whatever other kick-in-the-pants moves Rutherford can make -- are going to be limited because of the Penguins' cap crunch.
Keep this in mind, via the Tribune-Review: Rutherford has made 21.3 of his career trades in December and January, so expect something soon if it's going to happen.
Seller: Arizona Coyotes
The only player the Coyotes are concerned about at this point is potential No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, so everyone not on an entry-level contract or named Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Niklas Hjalmarsson could go. That includes Anthony Duclair, the 22-year-old winger who has requested a trade. Hey, at least the players left on the roster know they'll be back in Glendale next season.
Buyer: St. Louis Blues
The Blues feel like a team that knows it's one significant forward piece from really making a full-on assault for the Stanley Cup. They're pretty much capped out, which means if they're going to acquire someone like Max Pacioretty from theMontreal Canadiensor Mike Hoffman from theOttawa Senatorsit's going to take some maneuvering. But St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong is nothing if not aggressive in making that kind of move, as we saw in the Jori Lehtera-for-Brayden Schenn swap last summer.
Seller: Montreal Canadiens
Speaking of Pacioretty, the Canadiens are a smoldering tire fire and their captain is having one of those offensive seasons that screams for a change in scenery. For my money, given the way the season was set up and given the significant investments the franchise made to create this roster, this is the most disappointing team in the league this season. Its fire sale should go beyond Pacioretty.
Buyer: Los Angeles Kings
Freed from whatever former coach Darryl Sutter was doing to make them lose their collective smile, the Kings look like the Kings again. Heck, they look even better than that, what with Dustin Brown having more goals (15) than Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid this season. The Kings are going to get a significant boost when centerJeff Carter finally returns from injury, but the additions aren't going to stop there for a team looking for its third Stanley Cup in six years. It has cap space and prospects to trade, as well.
Seller: Buffalo Sabres
One player the Kings might be in on: Buffalo winger Evander Kane, of the expiring contract and 15 goals this season. But they're not going to be alone in pursuing him. It's another lost season for the Sabres, and GM Jason Botterill has yet to really put his stamp on this roster. If your name isn't Jack Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt, you may want to keep a suitcase packed.
Buyer: New York Islanders
The conditions are right for the Islanders to make a move, as they've been treading water on the playoff bubble for the past two weeks. They have some cap space ($2.1 million) and could also trim some fat from the roster. How about getting New Canaan, Connecticut, native Pacioretty to play withMathew Barzaland Jordan Eberle?
Seller: Ottawa Senators
Take owner Eugene Melnyk's comments on player salaries for next season, combine them with a truly bad year for the Senators, and you have a recipe for a sell-off. Hoffman has been mentioned, but one assumes everyone fromCody Cecito Derick Brassard will be on the block as well.
There are other buyers, there are other sellers. Let's hope they do their thing, so that the Matt Duchene trade doesn't end up being the only significant move of the season.
Pass/Fail: NHL All-Star jerseys
Now that the NHL All-Star Game jerseys have been summarily ridiculed upon their release, let's all take a deep breath and re-evaluate them, starting clockwise from the top left:
Atlantic: PASS. I love this jersey, even if it looks like the Los Angeles Rams started an AHL team. The colors pop. Clean up the sleeves a bit, and you could hand this to the Seattle expansion team as their home sweaters the minute the expansion check clears.
Metro: FAIL. According to adidas, "the 'energy' colors of UV yellow and solar red have been uniquely applied to evoke the warm, vibrant sunset tones and the energy of the Tampa Bay area." One supposes the gray evokes the region's other atmospheric trademark: abrupt, saturating thunderstorms.
Pacific: FAIL. Looks like someone took a generic soccer jersey and dunked the shoulders in wing sauce.
Central: PASS. These are the jerseys the evil team of rich kids wears in a Mighty Ducks sequel, where you're simultaneously rooting against them and jealous of their style.
What say you about the All-Star jerseys? Pass or fail them in the comments.
Jordan Greenway, Olympic pioneer
History isn't lost on Jordan Greenway. The Boston University forward and Minnesota Wild prospect understands that the NHL's decision not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics opened the door for a slew of players who might not otherwise ever have a chance to go. But for Greenway, the moment means slightly more than simply going for gold: He's the first African-American player to ever suit up in an Olympic hockey tournament for the United States.
"It's special. There's not a ton of African-Americans who play this game. I think you see more white people playing the game," Greenway told ESPN at the Winter Classic on Monday. "So this gives me a chance to influence kids who have my skin color. To have them try out different things. To have them not stick to the stereotypes of what sports they're supposed to play."
The upcoming Olympic tournament has been maligned by a lot of hockey fans as being inferior, because the NHL players won't be a part of it. From a hockey perspective, that's probably undeniable. But off the ice, there are stories like Greenway's that wouldn't have played out otherwise, and they're stories that might just resonate more with people than, say, Sidney Crosby going two whole games without a point.
In Greenway's case, that means representing something that could inspire a new generation of players. Representation matters.
USA vs. Canada, part 1
The captain of the U.S. men's ice hockey team at the 2018 Olympics will be Brian Gionta, the only player on the current roster with Olympic playing experience, from the 2006 Turin Games.
He opted not to sign a contract with an NHL team before the season, despite a few solid offers, both for family reasons and to potentially play in the Olympics. Now there's the chance he could use a performance in this stage to up his ante for a late-season NHL job once the Games are over.
Gionta has played internationally in tournaments, and has played in both Canada and the U.S. in the NHL. So he gets the rivalry, and what a win for the U.S. over Canada in the Olympics would mean.
"Obviously, that's your main rivalry, because you're so close, and there's been so much over the years. But our focus is to win, no matter who we play," he said.
But like I said to him on Monday: Isn't there going to a be a caveat or an asterisk if the U.S. beats Canada in this tournament? Like, "Hey, great win ... too bad you can never do that when we all have our NHL players on the roster?"
Isn't there a built-in excuse if Canada falters against the U.S. in Pyeongchang?
"There always is," Gionta said.
USA vs. Canada, part 2
Speaking of Canada vs. the U.S., the annual IIHF world junior tournament remains the quickest way to divide an NHL locker room.
The Chicago Blackhawks experience this every winter, and did once again when the U.S. played Canada in an outdoor game in Buffalo last weekend.
"We were playing in Edmonton that day. So I went down for my nap and [the U.S.] were down 2-0," said Patrick Kane, a Team USA alumnus. "I woke up, went down the lounge, and all of a sudden they were scraping the ice for the shootout."
His teammates had been watching the American comeback that ended with a shootout win over Canada in a frigid, snowy game.
"It was pretty cool. We were all just sitting there, watching the game," said Kane. "The American guys are all cheering when we scored. The Canadian guys are all pissed off when we do. It was cool."
Listen To ESPN ON ICE
On the ESPN ON ICE podcast this week, me and Emily Kaplan talked goaltending, world juniors, the Rangers and much, much more with Linda Cohn of ESPN. We also had Brian Gionta on to discuss how to create an Olympic roster in such a short time, the "Bills Mafia" in Western New York and being a captain. Plus, our usual fun with the "Phil Kessel Loves Hot Dogs" and Puck Headlines segments. Stream it here and grab it on iTunes here.
Jersey foul of the week
We were sent two different reports of this Edmonton fan.
Here's one look:
Here's the other:
So we've got an Oilers jersey with a Canucks logo, and then "NUCKS4LIFE" on the back.
Our only conclusion is that this person lost a bet. A fairly huge bet. Like, "it's your car or this" kind of bet.
The greatest hockey video of the week
With due respect for Bobby Butler having a Hallmark moment with his dad after making the Olympic team, nothing tops this rant from Air Force coach Frank Serratore about the officiating in his team's 6-0 loss to Denver: "There are three things I've never seen in my life. I've never seen Bigfoot. I've never seen the Easter Bunny. And I've never seen a referee say he had a crap game. I have seen Santa Claus. I met him in a bar in San Francisco. Good dude, Santa. Likes his pops."
So many questions about this nugget that Darren Dreger dropped about the Edmonton Oilers having a deal in place that would have sent Taylor Hall to the Ottawa Senators forCody Ceci.Like, does Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli get enough sleep? Like, where do trade negotiations start if "they finally got to a place where Ottawa was willing to consider" trading Cecifor Hall? Like, what was Senators owner Eugene Melnyk doing that he couldn't immediately rubber-stamp what would have been one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history? [Fanrag]
I wouldn't doRyan Nugent-Hopkins for Max Paciorettydeal because of my unyielding belief that the Nuge is a Jordan Staal Who Can't Win Faceoffs onConnor McDavid's first Stanley Cup team. And also because I don't trust Edmonton management to trade a hockey card at this point. [Cult Of Hockey]
I agree with Hannah Bevis here: USA Hockey had better know what it's doing in cutting Alex Carpenter from the women's Olympic team or we're going to have a Phil Kessel/World Cup scenario on our hands. [The Ice Garden]
Adam Eaton of the Washington Nationals has a hockey-loving kid who's basically Ovechkin in diapers. [MLB]
Ken Dryden on banning all contact to the head in hockey. He spells it out a little better here than he has in other places, but I still can't -- pardon the pun -- wrap my brain around the notion that hockey can remain a contact sport if any contact with the head, intentional or accidental, results in a penalty. [NYT]
The Seattle NHL expansion "tournament of names" on Sonics Rising is down to the final four: Thunderbirds, Totems, Steelheads and ... Emeralds. Not a Squatch among them? [Sonics Rising]
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn't read)
The transformation of the world junior tournament into a television event for TSN. [National Post]