It was enough of a challenge for Steven Stamkos to make a fast return from a broken leg he suffered in early November. But when he steps on the ice in Tampa Bay Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres, Stamkos will face a new one as he begins a new era for himself and the Lightning.
His Tampa Bay Lightning.
With former captain Martin St-Louis dealt to the New York Rangers prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline, the Bolts are now Stamkos’ team. For the first five years of his NHL career, Stamkos was the heir to the franchise’s throne who could apprentice in the shadow of St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. But with both gone, he is far and away Tampa’s best player and the man who will have to set the tone for the rest of the team. If that sounds like a tall order for someone who is only 24 years old, it is. But few elite young NHLers have been better groomed for this moment than Stamkos. His commitment to fitness under Gary Roberts and willingness to work on all elements of his game has earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and teammates.
Although he no longer has the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner as a teammate and mentor, Stamkos isn’t on an island, scanning the horizon in vain for players who can help him win. Read more
The dust has settled and in a deal that would have seemed laughable just a couple months ago, Martin St-Louis is a member of the New York Rangers. On the flipside, it’s only a little less shocking that his fellow NHL captain, Ryan Callahan, is now a member of the Lightning.
There’s no doubt both franchises got very good players – one more skilled, the other more well-rounded – and while Callahan was having a contract flap with Rangers GM Glen Sather, the shade thrown over St-Louis lately is impossible to ignore.
The NHL trade deadline is nearly upon us. Here’s the latest on the notable names in the rumor mill.
Ryan Kesler: Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports Kesler gave the Canucks a short list of preferred trade destinations. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers are believed among them. Kypreos notes the Canucks are reluctant to move the 29-year-old center to a Western Conference team.
Various reports claim the Canucks seek a 20- to 25-year-old center to replace Kesler, along with a first-round pick and a top prospect. The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports the Penguins, Flyers and Detroit Red Wings are among the front-runners. Kesler apparently won’t waive his no-trade clause for the Columbus Blue Jackets, possibly because of an old feud with former college teammate R.J. Umberger. Kuzma believes the Flyers can address the Canucks’ need for a young center by offering either Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier.
The Penguins and Flyers have reportedly made offers for Kesler. It’s also believed the Flyers have interest in Canucks defenseman Alex Edler. Given the limited cap space of the Flyers and Canucks, salaried players would have to be exchanged to make the dollars fit. One wonders what effect the Canucks shipping Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers will have on the Kesler trade talks.
The St. Louis Blues’ acquisition of goaltender Ryan Miller and winger Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres has sparked speculation over how their Western Conference rivals will respond.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal wonders if the Los Angeles Kings will pursue Thomas Vanek or the more affordable Matt Moulson, or if the Anaheim Ducks will make a pitch for Buffalo’s Tyler Myers. Matheson also wonders if the Sharks have interest in the Sabres’ Christian Ehrhoff or the Islanders’ Andrew MacDonald, and mused about the Blackhawks pursuing Nashville center David Legwand or Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov as a backup for Corey Crawford. Read more
The Olympic break was a great opportunity for some injured players to rest up. Here is a look at some key names expected to be back in the post-Olympic lineup and what the fantasy impact of these returns will be.
Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks - For the second time this year, Fasth has been sent to the American League on a conditioning stint. The first one didn’t go so well as he managed just one game before being sidelined again with a lower-body injury. Last year, Fasth established himself as an above-average NHL-caliber goaltender who was giving starter Jonas Hiller a run for his money. This season, rookie Frederik Andersen is doing the same thing. A healthy Fasth makes this situation very interesting, but it will be Andersen who eventually gets sent back down. The Ducks won’t want to enter the playoffs without Hiller being on a roll. So expect Hiller to get the bulk of the starts, regardless of the status of Fasth.
Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets - When Nathan Horton returned to action, Cam Atkinson was pushed down the depth chart. But that was probably better for Atkinson, who wasn’t ready for top ice time and responsibility. In a secondary role, Atkinson has shown to be a tremendous asset capable of 45 to 50 points. Gaborik’s return could go one of two ways. It could push one of he or Atkinson to the left wing, something that was done in pre-season games when they were linemates. Or it could push Atkinson down the depth chart even further. Although Atkinson now carries a bit of a risk as a result of this circumstance, I like the first scenario better – look for the two to be linemates, which actually helps Atkinson’s potential production. Read more
The trade status of New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi continues to attract considerable interest around the NHL. New York Post columnist Larry Brooks reports there were no contract talks between Rangers GM Glen Sather and the pair’s representatives during the Olympic break. He claims Sather is willing to move the pair before the trade deadline rather than risk losing them for nothing to free agency.
TSN’s Darren Dreger said he was told it’s “99 percent guaranteed” Callahan will be traded, noting rumors have linked him to the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Dreger claims there’s still some discussion between Sather and the Girardi camp, but if he’s unsigned by March 5 he’s also all but certain to be dealt.
It’s believed Callahan seeks a seven-year deal worth $6.75-million per season, while Girardi wants around $6-million per season. Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie claims there’s a difference of $500,000 per season in what Girardi seeks and what the Rangers are offering.
The facts aren’t wholly apparent, but it sure appears like Lightning captain Martin St. Louis took significant offense to initially being left off Team Canada’s Sochi Olympics roster (he was later named as an injury replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos). Asked Wednesday to comment on recent trade rumors linking him to the New York Rangers, St. Louis responded in a way he had to know was the equivalent of parachuting a crate of fireworks into an oil refinery fire.
St. Louis “left it” without saying his opinion had changed since winning a gold medal with Team Canada, or that he was still invested in remaining with the team for the rest of his career. Either one of those definitive statements would have quashed the issue once and for all, but it remains unquashed and speculation as to the 38-year-old’s future will now intensify both in the short term (i.e. the March 5 trade deadline) and again in the off-season. If Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman does decide to move St. Louis, where are the best fits for both team and player? These teams (in no particular order) make most sense:
1. New York Rangers. St. Louis holds a full no-trade clause, giving him control of his destination in a deal. And because he makes his off-season home in Connecticut, the Blueshirts are rumored to be his first, and perhaps only choice. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan’s name is most prominently mentioned, but the pending unrestricted free agent would need to agree to a contract extension first, and there would likely need to be a draft pick or prospect added to the pot to make the deal palatable for Yzerman. Read more
Less than 24 hours after Canada defeated Sweden to win gold in men’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics, reports emerged claiming the New York Rangers attempted to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St-Louis.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports St-Louis was “in and out of play” with the Rangers soon after he was initially passed over by Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman, who is also GM of the Lightning. St-Louis apparently met with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Yzerman a few weeks apart. Brooks claims Yzerman rejected an offer of Blueshirts captain Ryan Callahan for St-Louis, citing Callahan’s UFA status and his rumored demand of a seven-year deal worth around $6.8 million per season.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also claims St-Louis apparently requested a trade soon after his exclusion from the Canadian team. He writes some NHL clubs aren’t sure the 38-year-old winger, who has a year left on his contract with a no-movement clause, still wants to be moved. St-Louis was ultimately selected for Team Canada after Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos (broken leg) was forced to drop out.