The NHL season is winding down, with just about four weeks of regular-season games remaining. There is still much to be determined in the standings, but as winter turns to spring it’s hard not to look ahead to the playoffs.
But the end of the season means it’s also time to look back. We at The Hockey News make a lot of predictions during the summer and fall before the season begins. Sometimes they’re solid, sometimes they’re way off.
These are our worst pre-season predictions:
When this season finally draws to a close, the Calgary Flames will likely be in the market for goaltending depth. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are both eligible for UFA status this summer and aren’t expected to be re-signed.
Promising Joni Ortio will get a shot at forming part of the Flames tandem next season, but they’ll still need an experienced NHL starter. Options via the trade market could include Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Flames look toward free agency, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis believes San Jose Sharks backup James Reimer could be a good fit. Francis cites the 27-year-old Reimer’s experience as a starting goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs as reason for the Flames to consider him.
What did Boone Jenner have to do to earn a long-term commitment from GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets?
He’s 22 years old. He scored 16 goals two seasons ago as a rookie. After a broken hand and stress fracture in his back limited him to just 31 games last season, he’s played every game this year, netting 22 goals, second on the team to Brandon Saad’s 24. Jenner ranks 13th among NHL forwards in hits, and Alex Ovechkin is the only man among the 12 players above Jenner with more goals this season. He delivered three goals and five points in six games in his lone tour of playoff duty with Columbus two springs ago. His 82-game averages: 23 goals and 40 points. Did I mention he’s 22?
Seth Jones has just sat down to dinner in Nashville when his phone rings. It’s Predators GM David Poile on the line. Jones has no idea why he’s being summoned. Little does he know, he’ll board a flight to a new home two hours from now.
Ryan Johansen knows exactly what’s happening when his phone rings in Columbus. So does his girlfriend, Madison. They look at each other. “I think it’s done,” he tells her.
Johansen heads to Nationwide Arena, two blocks from his apartment. Waiting for him are GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of the Columbus Blue Jackets management team. The event every rumor mill, television panel and podcast predicted over the past few months is now a reality. Johansen has been traded.
Throughout this season, many pundits believed Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal would be moved by the Feb. 29 trade deadline. With the Hurricanes in rebuilding mode and Staal’s numbers in decline, it was assumed the two sides would part ways.
The Hurricanes’ recent improvement, however, has them in striking distance of a playoff berth. That could prompt GM Ron Francis to reconsider trading his 31-year-old captain. Even if Francis puts Staal on the trade block, TSN’s Frank Seravalli believes finding a suitable trade partner could be easier said than done.
Staal’s $8.25-million salary-cap hit is the sticking point. Seravalli claims only six playoff-bound clubs – the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators – can afford to take it on by the deadline.
Bobby Ryan’s ‘puppy goal’ made headlines after the Ottawa Senators winger notched a goal to earn a young fan a furry friend during a Jan. 24 game against the New York Rangers, but the puppy craze for young fans didn’t end with Ryan.
Two days later, nine-year-old Maddie Wright, a Blue Jackets fan whose favorite player is Cam Atkinson, celebrated her birthday at Nationwide Arena taking in Columbus’ game against the Montreal Canadiens. But she came to the game having made a deal with her father, Brian: if Atkinson scored, Maddie got a dog.
Atkinson scored. And then he scored again. With 25 seconds left in the game, Atkinson completed the hat trick in a 5-2 Blue Jackets win. Three goals didn’t mean three dogs, though, but Wright wasn’t complaining. After his three-goal game netted Wright the puppy, Atkinson finally got to meet Cam, a black lab mix, along with the entire Wright family. Read more
Anaheim Ducks winger Chris Stewart is a tough customer. No one would question that. The only problem for Stewart is Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout is just as tough, and he can pack one solid punch. Stewart may have found that out the hard way.
During Thursday night’s tilt between the Ducks and Blue Jackets, Prout and Stewart got into a tussle as the second period came to a close. The fight, which lasted about 30 seconds, saw both combatants land a number of good shots, but you can see Stewart start saying something to Prout after he lands a solid shot around the 36-second mark. The fight broke up shortly thereafter and both men headed off the ice: Read more
The Columbus Blue Jackets went out and bolstered their defense earlier this season with the acquisition of Seth Jones, but GM Jarmo Kekalainen made another move Thursday to ensure his young, up-and-coming defense corps stays in tact.
The Blue Jackets announced Thursday they have signed 22-year-old blueliner Ryan Murray to a two-year contract extension worth $5.65-million. The extension will keep Murray, who was set to become a restricted free agent this off-season, under wraps until the 2018-19 season.
“Ryan Murray is a talented, smart player who has been a very steady performer on our blue line and we are extremely happy to have this deal completed,” said Kekalainen in a release. “Ryan has earned more ice time, showed steady improvement and contributed in all situations for us throughout the season. We look forward to his continued growth and development with our club.” Read more