Top 10 big names likely to be traded before the deadline

Antoine Vermette  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Let the wheelin’ and dealin’ begin! Here are the remaining 10 big-time players most likely to find new NHL homes by March 2:

RYAN O’REILLY
Colorado Avalanche, center
Contract status: 1 year @ $6M
Good fit for…ARI, BUF, FLA, MTL, WPG

Although some think O’Reilly, 24, could make the jump to become a bona fide No. 1 center, many pro scouts view him more as a tremendous second-line pivot. He’s a solid two-way forward with exceptional discipline (he had just two penalty minutes in 80 games last season), and he’s not a rental, with one season left on a two-year, $12-million contract. The Avs need a young defenseman in return. It’s more a matter of when he’s traded, not if. Read more

Penguins, Capitals get into heated brawl – that spills onto Pittsburgh’s bench

Adam Proteau
Caps goalie Braden Holtby makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Patrick McDermott/NHL)

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are division rivals whose rivalry has ramped up since stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin entered the NHL in 2005-06 – and after Wednesday’s game included a brawl that spilled onto the Pens’ bench, the emotion of the rivalry is as hot as ever.

The Metropolitan Division teams got into a skirmish at center ice near the halfway point of Wednesday’s game in Washington, and within a matter of seconds, it erupted into a battle that jumped the boards and into Pittsburgh’s bench: (Video via SportsnetCanada) Read more

THN Trade Deadline preview: Metropolitan Division

(Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

With the Eastern Conference about as wide open as it gets in the parity-laden NHL, the trade deadline could be huge in the Metropolitan Division. Who knows if, come deadline day, a GM from one of the three main contenders swings a deal that changes their team’s fate.

The New York Islanders made their biggest splash in the off-season, trading for blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, the latter of whom was signed to a seven-year extension on Tuesday. The New York Rangers are right at the top of the standings thanks to a red hot Rich Nash. And the Pittsburgh Penguins… well, the Penguins have two guys by the name of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who can be game breakers at any time. But don’t count out the Capitals.

Even the lowly Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are making some noise heading into the deadline, which could make the Metropolitan extremely active come deadline day. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Columbus shopping Wisniewski, Carolina squashes Staal talk

James Wisniewski (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets made defenseman James Wisniewski a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers. At the time it was reportedly a coach’s decision. Of course, whenever a notable healthy player becomes a late scratch at this time of year, it’s assumed he’s about to be traded.

NBC Sports’ James O’Brien thought it was an odd move, citing the 31-year-old Wisniewski’s solid puck-possession stats. He pointed out the veteran blueliner has two years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. O’Brien also cited a tweet from TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie speculating Wisniewski could be traded. Read more

Ovechkin and Backstrom the two-headed monster powering Capitals

Jared Clinton
Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals

Hockey fans awoke this morning to a sight that’s not usually seen outside of the first few weeks of the NHL season: the goal scoring leader, a Washington Capital; the assist leader, a Washington Capital; and sitting atop the Art Ross Trophy race, a Washington Capital.

It has been more than a decade since teammates from a single team have dominated the NHL points race together, the last duo to do so coming in 2002-03 when Avalanche teammates Milan Hejduk scored 50 goals and Peter Forsberg paced the league with a 77-assist, 106-point season. But the Washington tandem of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom is looking poised to duplicate feat and changing the Capitals’ fortunes in the process. Read more

Jamie Benn scores first career hat trick – here are five players waiting for their own

Patric Hornqvist and James Neal

Multi-goal games happen on a near nightly basis, but it takes a special night for a player to complete a hat trick. There have been strange hat tricks in NHL history – heck, Mason Raymond has three in his career – but even most gifted offensive talents have struggled to net their own.

Take Jamie Benn, for instance. Tuesday night marked his first career hat trick and it was his 401st NHL game. Shane Doan was drafted in 1995 and scored his first trio in 2012. Brad Richards was nearly 33 before he scored his first.

Two players on this list have had playoff hat tricks, but the regular season feat remains out of their grasp. The names will shock you, too. These are five players waiting for their first career hat trick: Read more

Blatant slash, or innocent swing at the puck: what has Alex Ovechkin done now?

Adam Proteau
Alex Ovechkin (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Capitals superstar winger Alex Ovechkin had already made a mark on Tuesday’s Penguins/Capitals game by scoring a tremendous breakaway goal late in the first period. But early in the third period, he found another way to add to the rivalry between the two Metropolitan Division teams: by taking a two-handed swing – either at Pens star defenseman Kris Letang’s ankle, or at the puck, depending on your perspective – that has led to strong feelings among both fan bases.

Letang had to leave the game for a brief stretch, when, during a chase for a loose puck, Ovechkin’s slash crumpled him and sent him smashing into the end boards: (GIF via @PeteBlackburn)

From the perspective of many Capitals fans, Ovechkin was merely swinging his stick in desperation at the puck, and there was no penalty called on the play. From the point of view of irate Pens fans, the slash made direct contact with Letang’s ankle, and that’s all that counts.

All things considered, this is the type of play that perfectly illustrates the inherent subjectivity of sport. Ask yourself this: if the roles were reversed – if it were Sidney Crosby swinging for the fences and connecting with the ankle of, say, Caps defenseman John Carlson – would Washington fans currently conducting a passionate defense of Ovechkin do the same thing for Crosby?

To ask it is to answer it. Fans are going to see what they want to see. Read more

Alex Ovechkin’s pretty breakaway goal extends his lead in the NHL’s scoring race

Adam Proteau
Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin entered Tuesday night’s game against the Penguins with a one-goal lead over Rangers winger Rick Nash. But he extended that lead after taking advantage of a Penguins defensive collapse and converted a beautiful breakaway goal on Marc-Andre Fleury.

The play took place late in the first period with Washington on the power play and both teams still looking for their first goal: the penalty was on the verge of expiring, and a bad line change by the Pens allowed Ovechkin to skate unmolested through the middle of the ice, directly at Fleury. The 29-year-old made the rest look easy, going to his backhand and flipping the puck up into the net: Read more