The first domino has fallen in the NHL’s annual trading deadline season. It involved the Los Angeles Kings, who finally acquired the top-four defender they have been searching for. LA pulled the trigger on a deal with Ottawa, acquiring Dion Phaneuf and depth forward Nate Thompson in exchange for veteran forward Marian Gaborik and depth forward Nick Shore.
LA’s defense gets a nice boost here, and this deal should strengthen their top-four unit. Dion gets his fair share of criticism, but he’s a very good NHL defender who can help a team win. His contract isn’t ideal, but the Kings made the money work and I believe they are a better team right now thanks to this deal.
Besides, first year GM Rob Blake had to do something at this deadline. I suspect he isn’t done, and wouldn’t be shocked if the Kings were in the market for a top-six winger between now and the 26th. It’s a god start for LA on the trade front.
Edmonton Open For Business:
The Edmonton Oilers could be a very active seller come the trade deadline. This past weekend, they had Assistant GM Keith Gretzky and pro scout Paul Messier in Montreal to take in the Habs/Preds matchup. Also on Saturday, Senior VP of Hockey Ops Craig MacTavish and VP if Player Personnel Duane Sutter were in Boston as the Bruins hosted the Sabres.
Edmonton has Patrick Maroon to sell, and rumors have connected the pending UFA forward to both Nashville and Boston. There’s little doubt at this point that he’ll be moved by the club, and it is highly likely that center Mark Letestu will be joining him. In terms of a market for Letestu, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Columbus could make sense for the veteran.
CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group Bob Nicholson stated earlier this week that he hopes the club adds another top defenseman. In addition to that, Nicholson mentioned that the Oilers will look to try to improve the team both in the short-term and long-term. Should be an interesting run to the deadline, and by extension summer, for the Oilers.
As the San Jose Sharks battle down the stretch, they’ll be without top pivot Joe Thornton, dealing with a MCL injury. That means you can expect GM Doug Wilson to be in the market for a center. Edmonton’s Mark Letestu could make sense, but the Sharks are likely to aim a little higher.
Montreal pivot Tomas Plekanec has been connected to the team, and could be the perfect fit. Plekanec can come in a play a top-six role, but then shift down to the bottom-six once Thornton returns. That gives the Sharks cover right now, and even more depth come the playoffs. You’d have to imagine the Sharks will be active and pursue this avenue heavily.
The Rest Of The Group:
– At some point, the Ducks are going to have to make a decision on where this season is going to go. They are currently a bubble team, but odds are they finish the season on the outside looking in. Will they add? I suspect Bob Murray may look to a forward like Maroon or Buffalo’s Evander Kane, but I’m not sure that’s the smartest move right now.
The prudent thing may be to keep their powder dry, chalk this up to being a one-off season and prepping for next year. Tough to do that when your core is as old as this group’s is, however. I’d argue of the disappointing teams, Anaheim has the most to lose outside of Chicago.
– A lot of Max Domi rumors coming out of Arizona, but the Coyotes should take a deep breath and realize this is a bad year for everyone and that Domi is dealing with some serious bad luck. He’s a good young player and should be part of the solution in the desert. Arizona should be buying low on young forwards who are struggling, not selling off young players at their lowest value.
– So, Vegas certainly isn’t going to sell at the deadline in two weeks. This is a playoff team and, if anything, they’ll be buying. Could Plekanec make sense for this group? After all, center depth is insanely important in the playoffs and Vegas could use a little more. What about going all in and adding another scorer like Kane or Maroon? What about a longer term solution like Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. I’d wager the Knights go shopping, but won’t compromise their plan or young talent in the heat of the moment.
– The Calgary Flames avoided a major disaster when Mike Smith got hurt Sunday night in Brooklyn. The Flames’ netminder missed their loss on Tuesday in Boston, and will miss the next two games, but will be listed as day-to-day after that. David Rittich has done a damn good job this season, but the Flames will need Smith if they are to qualify for the playoffs.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman disputed the Zack Smith to the Flames theory in his 31 Thoughts piece this week, but did mention the Flames had been scouting the Sens. Could Calgary pull off a Mike Hoffman deal?
– Vancouver extended GM Jim Benning yesterday, which I think was the right move. Benning has done a good job drafting in Vancouver, and I believe the Canucks’ prospect system is slowly becoming one of the better ones in the NHL. Now, they key will be shifting from the Sedin era to the Horvat/Boeser era and putting a solid NHL team together around them. Benning has earned that right.