NHL TRADE DEADLINE DAY
The Eastern Conference continues to look daunting for a Stanley Cup hopeful team like the Penguins that will likely have to go through two of their three division rivals in the Rangers, Islanders or Capitals, just to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and than figure to have to go through the Canadiens, Lightning or Red Wings in the Conference Finals.
The Eastern Conference hasn’t been this strong in years.
For a Penguins team that doesn’t match up very well against the Rangers, Capitals for instance, getting through the Metropolitan Division is daunting and why claiming first in the Eastern Conference has more significance this season than years past and going to be so important. There is just such a huge difference between who’s going to be the 8th seed (Last wildcard spot) and the rest of the field. The Penguins, though, are six points behind the Canadiens and Pittsburgh would need to go on a serious run to end the season and it starts with coming out of their West Coast trip with at least a 3-1 record as the schedule is very favorable the rest of the way.
RANGERS, RED WINGS, LIGHTNING MAKE IMPACT MOVES
— The New York Rangers were wheeling and dealing Sunday making a splash with the addition of Keith Yandle. They mortgaged the future but getting Yandle at half price ($2.65 million cap hit) for this season and next is huge for them. While he has warts in his game, he’s the type of defenseman they lack, someone who can bolster their power play, transition game and get the puck out of the zone when in trouble. Potential great fit in Alain Vigneault’s system and he’s only 28. Yandle is a player who can impact a series and that team has as good of a chance as anyone to get out of the East again.
New York also added some needed size at forward with the trade for depth forward James Sheppard and capped off the day with a new deal for Mats Zuccarello.
— The Red Wings addition of Erik Cole has the chance of being one of the most impactful of all rental deals. Detroit’s a team that’s overachieved this season but a clear threat in the East. One knock on them is they’re easy to play against and have relied on their power play a bit too much. With Franzen out, Cole makes them harder to play against and his 15 even strength goals were very attractive to the Red Wings.
— The Lightning paid a steep price for Braydon Coburn, who is not a rental, giving up a first and third round pick, but this is another deal where a contender gets much better without giving up anything from the NHL roster. The Lighting needed to get tougher to play against and accomplish that with the Coburn deal. Steve Yzerman than sent underachieving young forward Brent Connolly to Boston for two second round picks. Tampa Bay had two first round picks prior to the Coburn trade.
— The Montreal Canadiens bolstered their backend with the trade of Jeff Petry moments ago. Petry went for a second and conditional fifth round pick. Petry is not an impact defenseman but can skate and helps the Canadiens transition game.
RED WINGS, CANADIENS TO MAKE BIG MOVES?
Are the Red Wings and Canadiens done making moves? There is certainly some Dion Phaneuf to Detroit trade chatter heating up and don’t count out the Canadiens making a play for Joffrey Lupul.
While coveted by Western Conference teams like the St. Louis Blues, In the East, the Bruins, Canadiens, Capitals and Penguins have looked into Lupul at various points over the last month. The contract, injury history and salary cap settling at $69-$70 million next season is a primary reason General Managers are leery about moving forward in a trade for Lupul and why he’s regarded as a 50/50 bet to be moved.
Lupul, though, when healthy is a very good hockey player and can impact a playoff series. The two most interesting teams in the East that have some level of interest in Lupul are the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, two teams looking for a long-term winger with size to play in the top-6, though, the Capitals are believed to be done with the addition of Curtis Glencross.
Montreal has around $58 million committed to 16 players (10 forwards, 4 defensemen, 2 goaltenders) next season with Alex Galchenyuk a restricted free agent. Montreal has moveable contracts in Lars Eller ($3.5 million) and Alexei Emelin ($4.1 million) that they are expected to try to move this summer to get off the books for future seasons. Montreal also has the likes of PA Parenteau ($4 million), Brandon Prust ($2.5 million) entering the last year of their contracts next season. The Canadiens have a lot of wiggle room to take on Lupul’s cap hit for the next three seasons.
He’s a big bodied winger that would fill a critical need for them. Chris Stewart is another name to watch for Montreal.
MORE TRADE BUZZ
The fascinating name to watch today will be Phil Kessel. As one executive said this morning, it’s been too quiet where some believe the Leafs are working on something…….The St. Louis Blues are closing in on a deal for former Penguin Zbynek Michalek…….Jason Mackey of the Tribune-Review reports the Penguins have some interest in Flames defenseman Kris Russell. Russell, though, is under contract for next season with a $2.6 million cap hit and to be blunt he isn’t any good. Jim Rutherford might be due for a dumb move but don’t see that happening….Depth defenseman on the move, Marek Zidlicky, Jan Hejda, Scott Hannan……
All three are players the Penguins have looked at with Zidlicky at the top of their wishlist.