Time for another THN mailbag. Thanks to all who submitted a question.
Adam, what teams can we expect activity from before the trade deadline?
Skjalg Hougen, Baerum, Norway
Although I recently posted my picks for NHL teams that need to make a deal immediately after the Olympic break, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number of teams that will make one. Why? Because circumstances can change at any moment between now and March 5; injuries can force a GM’s hands, as can team slumps and other franchises breathing down their necks in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Certainly, the NHL’s bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary, Florida and the suddenly John Tavares-less Islanders) are extremely likely to engage in a number of deals. But other than that, there’s nothing that suggests any Stanley Cup contender is guaranteed to make roster changes. There are simply too many variables that can impact their present and their future. Read more
The Florida Panthers face a daunting challenge to climb back into playoff contention following the NHL Olympic break. After 58 games they currently sit 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, prompting speculation the team will ship out some veterans by the March 5 trade deadline.
Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel reports GM Dale Tallon isn’t giving up on the season, but expressed disappointment over the performance of several underachieving veterans. The Panthers GM said his struggling team lacks self-motivated, self-disciplined leadership and that was something that had to be addressed and changed.
Tallon didn’t single out anyone by name, but Fialkov believes he’s referring to veteran forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias. He notes the trio are signed through next season, making them difficult to move.
The NHL’s Olympic roster freeze passed quietly, disappointing those expecting an early preview of the March 5 trade deadline.
One reason is only five teams (Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders) can be considered sellers. Another is 23 teams each carry $5 million or less in cap space. Most buyers will wait until next month’s deadline for a little more wiggle room under the cap, hoping more sellers get into the trade market by then.
While GMs are restricted from making deals during the freeze, which runs Feb. 7 to 23, they are permitted to hold trade talks. Those discussions could lay the groundwork for potential moves once the freeze lifts.
Expect most of the focus to remain on Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, New York Islanders left winger Thomas Vanek and New York Rangers’ right winger Ryan Callahan. Their eligibility for unrestricted free agency at season’s end made them fodder for speculation prior to the Olympic break.
By Brian O’Neill
Here’s a little trivia tidbit to bust out at your next party: what does Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski have in common with Undertaker of the WWE?
Answer: They’ve both come back after having a hip resurfaced, a relatively new procedure that’s an alternative to a hip replacement.
“Yeah,” Jovanovski says with a laugh. “I looked (into it) a little bit further knowing that he was one of the guys that had this procedure done from throwing his body around.”
Instead of having the “ball” portion of the hip replaced with a new one made of metal or ceramic, it is reshaped and has a metal prosthesis capped on top. It’s a more complex procedure that requires a larger incision than what is needed for a hip replacement, but is more suitable for younger people as it leaves more bone in tact.
Earlier this season there was speculation the Florida Panthers might dump as many of their veterans as possible near the March 5 trade deadline. That talk died down following the Panthers’ improvement after hiring Peter Horachek as interim coach, as well as the new ownership’s willingness to spend to the salary cap next season.
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was believed among those on the trade block, based partly on rumors suggesting he could return to Russia this summer as a free agent. Kulikov strongly denies this, telling the George Richards of the Miami Herald of his intent is to play in the NHL. He adds he has no idea where those rumors came from. Panthers assistant GM Mike Santos said the club’s intent is to re-sign the 23-year-old blueliner.
Though Panthers GM Dale Tallon isn’t expected to engage in a massive trade deadline sell-off, he could move a couple of his pending unrestricted free agents. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa believes Tallon’s priority is getting good returns for winger Brad Boyes and defenseman Tom Gilbert.
The Florida Panthers sit near the bottom in NHL attendance. Their 86.3 percent capacity rate is 25th in the NHL and their 14,710 in average home attendance ranks 27th in the league. They are among the bottom four teams in the NHL for goals per game (2.29) and goals-against per game (3.07) and only two teams – Edmonton and Buffalo – have fewer points in the standings than the Panthers’ 49. They have one playoff appearance since Newman’s Millennium party.
In times like these, which is most times for the Panthers, you need to get creative to entice people to show up to the arena. When already-low prices and All You Can Eat doesn’t work, how about discarded lottery tickets?
Well, that’s what the Panthers are trying out. Read more
Tim Thomas didn’t play in the NHL until he was 28 years old. You’d think that late start alone would be enough to keep him out of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Know this though. The great Johnny Bower was a few weeks shy of his 28th birthday before he donned an NHL sweater and he’s a Hall of Famer and recognized as one of the top 25 goalies of all-time. (Bower was ranked 87th in the 1998 book The Top 100 NHL Players of All-time.)
So can Thomas make the Hall based on parts of only one terrific decade of hockey?
It’s a long shot, but this is what he has working in his favor.
The Maple Leafs dealt defenseman Mark Fraser to Edmonton Friday in exchange for minor-league forward Cameron Abney and the rights to KHLer and restricted free agent Teemu Hartikainen. If you’re underwhelmed by the move, you probably need to adjust your whelm expectations as the NHL’s trade deadline approaches, because these types of defensive depth deals – and not blockbuster moves for marquee blueliners – are what NHL people expect to see.
Sure, there’s a possibility an elite defenseman such as Phoenix’s Keith Yandle moves on to a new team. And if the Rangers can’t get Dan Girardi’s signature on a contract extension, teams will line up to bid on his services. But take a good look at the larger pool defensemen believed to be available. There’s far more demand than supply for high-quality players of that position. Read more