Connor McDavid has been cleared for contact and could be ready to return as soon Feb. 2. McDavid, 19, will practice with the Bakersfield Condors during the all-star break, but won’t see any game action in the AHL.
Edmonton rookie Connor McDavid could be back in the Oilers lineup in their first game back from the all-star break, as he’s officially been cleared for full contact.
For the duration of the all-star break, McDavid, 19, will head to the AHL and join the Bakersfield Condors. McDavid won’t be taking part in any games, though, and be spending his entire break practicing with the Condors to get back into game shape.
McDavid said the practices in Bakersfield will give him the opportunity to get into battle drills and take part in some higher intensity practices. Though he’s been out since Nov. 3 due to a broken clavicle, McDavid said the past few weeks of his recovery have felt the longest because he’s felt good enough to get back into action.
“It will be good to be involved in that and hopefully come back feeling good and ready to go for the (Feb. 2),” McDavid said. “Obviously, with this long break, it’s not ideal to go and sit around for eight days and try to come back and feel good. I think it’s a good opportunity for me to feel good and be ready to go when I come back.”
McDavid did have the opportunity to get back on the ice during the Oilers’ skills competition Sunday afternoon. McDavid admitted the skills competition was a bit of a “tease.”
“It was dressed up like a game, the fans were there, everyone is acting like it’s a game, so it was almost like a tease,” McDavid said. “It’s exciting to be back on the ice with the guys and the fans, and I’m excited about it.”
The Oilers first game after the all-star break comes Feb. 2 at home against the Blue Jackets. Before falling injured, McDavid had five goals and 12 points in 13 games while averaging 18 minutes per game.
The Blackhawks are No. 1 in our power rankings for the second week in a row, and went out and added a familiar face for some depth on defense.
It’s safe to say the last time the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline, things worked out pretty well. But this time around, the Blackhawks will not have the luxury of time they had when they traded for Oduya in 2012.
The Blackhawks did not win the Stanley Cup that year, but Oduya stuck around to help the Blackhawks to Cups in 2013 and 2015, logging valuable minutes in 2015. But at the age of 35 and at the end of his contract, Oduya is not seen as a long-term fix for the Blackhawks.
This time around, Oduya is an insurance policy and not a workhorse. You can never have enough NHL defenseman for a long playoff run, which is exactly what the Blackhawks are expecting again this spring. And with a second straight week atop THN.com’s weekly Power Rankings, they’re rounding into form at the right time. )Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Chicago Blackhawks (1) 2. Minnesota Wild (7) 3. Washington Capitals (3) 4. Nashville Predators (23) 5. Montreal Canadiens (15) 6. Boston Bruins (6) 7. Calgary Flames (19) 8. Columbus Blue Jackets (12) 9. Pittsburgh Penguins (4) 10. San Jose Sharks (10)
The Blackhawks quietly signed Michal Rozsival and Jordin Tootoo to one-year extensions, likely to expose them in the expansion draft…These are not your father’s Wild. With 209, Minnesota is second in the NHL in goals scored…Kevin Shattenkirk logged 17:18 in ice time and had four shots on goal in his first game with the Capitals, a 4-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night…Anyone who thinks it will be “just another game” when P.K. Subban returns to Montreal for the first time Thursday night is kidding himself…After losing five of six starts, Carey Price has gone 3-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his past four…The Bruins have gone 7-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 33-17 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy…Since playing perhaps their worst game of the season in a 5-0 loss to Arizona, the Flames have gone 6-0-1 with three of those wins coming in overtime…Lip readers did not like what they saw from John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets lost 1-0 in overtime in Montreal on a power-play goal…The Penguins’ 3-2 loss to Dallas Tuesday night marked the first time in 66 games the Penguins had lost a game when leading after two periods…The Sharks’ 3-1 win over Toronto Tuesday night was the 300th of coach Peter DeBoer’s NHL career.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Edmonton Oilers (16) 12. New York Rangers (3) 13. New York Islanders (8) 14. Florida Panthers (2) 15. Anaheim Ducks (17) 16. Ottawa Senators (13) 17. Toronto Maple Leafs (10) 18. Philadelphia Flyers (20) 19. Tampa Bay Lightning (11) 20. Los Angeles Kings (18)
Take a wild guess at which player has the most game-winning goals for the Oilers this season. If you guessed Mark Letestu, who has six, go to the head of the class and collect your gold star…It did not make much sense for the Rangers to pay a king’s ransom for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline when there’s a good chance they’re going to get him for nothing this summer as an unrestricted free agent…Here’s a red flag. The Islanders gave up seven goals twice in an 11-day span…Jaromir Jagr, after the Panthers registered a rather uninspiring 3-2 shootout win over Carolina Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak: “If we play like this, we’re not going to win in Philly (Thursday night). I can guarantee you that. We have to be a lot better than this.”…Patrick Eaves had five shots and drew two penalties in just over 16 minutes of ice time in his first game with the Ducks, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon…The Senators gave up a really good prospect for Alex Burrows, then signed him to a two-year contract extension. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a head-scratcher…Rookie Auston Matthews leads the league with 12 first goals of the game…The Flyers’ 4-0 win over Colorado Tuesday night marked the first time this season they’ve won a game by more than three goals…The Lightning have won three of four, but it’s pretty clear with their moves that they know their season is over…The Kings had posted eight overtime victories against no losses (shootouts not included), then went out and lost two straight in OT to Minnesota and Calgary.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. St. Louis Blues (14) 22. Dallas Stars (24) 23. New Jersey Devils (26) 24. Detroit Red Wings (27) 25. Arizona Coyotes (25) 26. Buffalo Sabres (22) 27. Winnipeg Jets (21) 28. Vancouver Canucks (28) 29. Colorado Avalanche (29) 30. Carolina Hurricanes (30)
After winning six in a row, the Blues have not scored more than two goals in their past four games, all losses…A good reason why Jason Spezza, who has just nine goals for the Stars this season, will undoubtedly finish this season with his lowest goal total since becoming a full-time NHLer: His shooting percentage is just 8.4 percent…The Devils are 13-12-6 at home and 12-13-6 on the road. How’s that for mediocrity?...Ken Holland, trade deadline seller. Man, that sounds weird, doesn’t it?...Alexander Burmistrov was released from hospital Tuesday night after being carried off on a stretcher in Arizona’s 4-1 loss to Boston Tuesday night…The Sabres are leaky. They gave up five goals in three of four straight losses…After missing five games with a lower-body injury that required surgery, Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom returned for Winnipeg’s 5-4 overtime loss to Minnesota Tuesday night…The Canucks will get San Jose’s first-round pick if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, which would make it the 31st overall choice, as part of the Jannik Hansen trade…The Avs have won just five games in the past two months…Jeff Skinner was scratched with what was called an upper-body injury for Carolina’s 3-2 shootout loss to Florida Tuesday night and has already been ruled out of the game against Tampa Bay Wednesday.
In the middle of a close playoff race, the Maple Leafs managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate of building for the future.
The day Mike Babcock was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, team president Brendan Shanahan was asked whether he’d abandon the franchise rebuild if Babcock came to him saying they needed a veteran to help them make the playoffs, but it would cost a prospect and a second-round pick.
“I can tell you that was one of Mike’s questions for us and it was the opposite,” Shanahan said at the time. “It was, ‘If we’re four points out, are we still willing to stick to the plan?’ That was an important answer for him to get, especially from our board.”
Things were a little different Tuesday when the Leafs made a deal that netted them veteran center Brian Boyle. First of all, the Leafs aren’t four points out of the playoffs. They’re clinging to the last spot, one point behind the Boston Bruins with a game in hand for third place in the Atlantic Division. It’s a race that will likely go to the dying days of the season. And even though they did give up a second-rounder, it’s pretty safe to say Byron Froese isn’t really considered a prospect. (Although Babcock did seem to have a strange fascination with him last season when the Leafs were tanking the season.)
This is a deal that looks as though it has Babcock’s fingerprints all over it, but the best part of it is that they managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate. And they can thank their work at last year’s trade deadline for that, when they dealt Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick in 2017 and picked up another from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade. One of those picks is now going to Tampa Bay and another is going to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Fredrik Andersen trade, which still leaves the Leafs with one second-rounder.
And in return, the Leafs get a player who can play down the middle for them, complementing a center ice corps that now looks formidable with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Boyle. The 6-foot-6 center has played exactly 100 playoff games, 95 of them over the past five seasons. In fact, no NHL player has seen more post-season action than Boyle has since 2012.
The Leafs are flush with prospects and young players and had a plethora of second-rounders, which seems to be the going rate for big-name rentals these days. In addition to the three they had in 2017, they also have two in 2018. With the success rate for second-round picks varying wildly, it was a small price to pay for a team that needed an upgrade on the Frederik Gauthier/Ben Smith tandem on the fourth line.
More importantly, it gives the Leafs an experienced player who knows what it’s like to play in meaningful games. Whether the Leafs ultimately make the playoffs or not, their young players will be exposed to crucial, tension-filled and important games down the stretch. And when was the last time anyone could say that? And if they make the post-season and expose their young stars to that level of competition, all the better. And not only will Boyle be instrumental in leading the way, he’ll also be able to offer some sage counsel to those players if the Leafs do find themselves in the chaos known as the playoffs.
The Atlantic Division is really weak. Spectacularly weak, actually. And if the Leafs can somehow find themselves in the No. 3 spot, they might be able to position themselves for a bit of a run. If not, they’ll find themselves playing the Washington Capitals in the first round and will almost certainly get trounced, but be all the better for having experienced the post-season.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the Leafs have been known to be woeful in two areas of the game – defensive zone coverage and holding onto leads late in games. Boyle will help immeasurably in both of those areas. To be sure, you just know Babcock will feel a lot better being able to put Boyle out for a defensive zone faceoff in the final minute of the game in which his team is clinging to a one-goal lead.
And don’t be surprised if the Leafs and Boyle make this a more long-term affair. Boyle is 32, but he actually doesn’t have a ton of NHL miles on him because he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until he was almost 25 years old. And it’s not as though the Leafs are going to be asking him to do more than an over-30 player is capable of doing. If he can provide them with two or three more years of quality defensive play and leadership, they’ll be happy to take that.
Largely because of Auston Matthews and Babcock, the Leafs have become a destination. Don’t be surprised if Boyle sees it that way, too.
Frederik Andersen netted a first- and second-round pick for the Ducks and Brian Elliott was worth a second and third to pry away from the Blues. So why was the Lightning’s return for Ben Bishop so much less?
The Ben Bishop trade was months in the making. From the time the Stanley Cup was handed to the Pittsburgh Penguins, speculation was running rampant about what the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to do with a logjam in the crease and a cap situation that needed to be alleviated in one way or another. The easy answer was trading Bishop, and it seemed Tampa Bay would be in line to land quite the package in return for a goaltender who is a two-time Vezina finalist and had led the Lightning to consecutive Eastern Conference finals.
So, as shocking as it was that Bishop landed with the Kings of all teams, it’s as puzzling that the package that came back the other way was nowhere near what one would have expected the Lightning would haul in for the netminder. In all, Tampa Bay landed a backup goaltender, Peter Budaj, 19-year-old defenseman Erik Cernak, who was selected 43rd overall at the 2015 draft, and a seventh-round pick. There’s no top pick, no top prospect and, truthfully, the package is somewhat underwhelming. That’s especially true when you consider the recent price teams have paid for help in goal.
Frederik Andersen, for instance, cost the Toronto Maple Leafs first- and second-round picks and Brian Elliott cost the Calgary Flames second- and third-round selections. Heck, even the Jonathan Bernier acquisition cost the Anaheim Ducks a conditional pick. All three make the return the Lightning received for Bishop look worse. But maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Bishop didn’t fetch a similar package.
If Bishop was traded before the start of the campaign, it’s likely Tampa Bay would have received something that mirrored the price the Maple Leafs paid for Andersen. That’s all the more likely given Bishop was coming off of a season in which he finished second in Vezina voting and posted career-bests in goals-against average and save percentage. But as this season has worn on, Bishop has shown some holes. In fact, with how he’s playing right now, he’s on pace to have one of the worst statistical seasons of his career as a full-time NHLer.
Through 32 games this season, Bishop has turned in a .911 SP and 2.55 GAA. No full season has seen him post a worse SP and he’s only had a worse GAA in one campaign, all the way back in 2012-13 when he was dealt from the Ottawa Senators to the Lightning. Bishop had played his way out of the starting job with the Lightning, giving way to youngster Andrei Vasilveskiy more frequently as the campaign has worn on. Bishop's numbers and struggles alone were destined to lessen the return Tampa Bay was going to get. When they were talking trade before the start of the year, teams would have been paying for the promise of a first-rate starting netminder. That was no longer the case.
There also happens to be the matter of the market for goaltenders. A number of teams looking for upgrades in goal were looking to do so before the season began, but as the year has gone on, some of those clubs have fallen out of contention to the point where dealing away assets for a solution in goal doesn’t make all that much sense. Take the Dallas Stars, who are in a position to be a seller at the deadline. Spending to improve their goaltending wouldn’t be all that smart. They need the young assets to build for the future. Likewise, teams who have had stumbles in goal have seen their issues right themselves, which has lessened their need for a fix. The Flames have gotten better goaltending out of Elliott of late, and the St. Louis Blues, once in dire need of anyone who could make a stop, are finally starting to get favorable results from Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. As that happened, the market for Bishop almost certainly weakened.
The Lightning’s position also took a hit because those same teams who could be interested in an upgrade in goal — the Stars, Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could all potentially benefit from having Bishop — are now in a position where waiting for the off-season makes the most sense. Right now, acquiring Bishop would have cost a team a few assets, as we saw with what will end up being a three player package from the Kings. And while the ask obviously wasn’t as high as it was previously given the return the Lightning got, teams who are interested in Bishop’s services were able to hold onto a prospect, pick and roster player now with an eye on the summer signing season. At that time, Bishop can be had for the cost of his contract and nothing more.
Sure, trading for him now would have opened up an avenue for an earlier negotiation, but Bishop is going to go where he’s going to go. There’s nothing saying Bishop has to re-up with whichever team went after him at the deadline. It’s just an example, but say Dallas made a move to land Bishop, he could have gone and signed with Calgary come July 1. Then the Stars would be out the assets and the player they acquired. In that sense, there’s more value in taking a shot at Bishop come July 1 rather than spending at the deadline for a player who isn’t guaranteed to stick around.
And, even still, if there is interest in landing Bishop before the signing season kicks off, that’s not out of the question. The price for him could go down come the days leading up to July 1, a time when he might be able to be had from the Kings for as little as a late-round pick. With teams already willing to shop first-round picks due to the lack of top prospects in the upcoming draft, it’s hard to fathom some team wouldn’t be willing to ship out a mid-round selection just for the rights to Bishop if they really want the inside track.
All those factors combined resulted in a return for the Lightning that was much weaker than one would have expected. We’ll never know what Bishop would have been worth if he would have been traded before the season began. That was nearly a reality, too. Bishop himself said he was a contract extension away from ending up a Flame. The one thing that’s almost for certain, though, is Calgary was going to pay a higher price than the one the Kings did on Sunday. But that’s the risk the Lightning took by holding on to Bishop. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it didn’t pay big.
A “hockey trade” to help St. Louis compete for a playoff berth would’ve been nice, but it wasn’t available. The Blues did the next best thing: trade Shattenkirk without losing him for nothing.
The Kevin Shattenkirk trade obviously signalled a massive Stanley Cup push for the team acquiring him, the Washington Capitals. And it felt like a white flag wave for the team sending him away, the St. Louis Blues.
It’s not like the Blues received a high-impact roster player in exchange for their prized pending unrestricted free agent defenseman. St. Louis got Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 second-rounder for Shattenkirk. That’s a classic sell-off package. St. Louis knew it couldn’t afford to retain Shattenkirk this summer as a UFA given he’d command something in the range of $7 million annually at a seven-or eight-year term. Defenseman Colton Parayko is a restricted free agent this summer, Robby Fabbri next summer, and the Blues just extended center Patrik Berglund last week for five seasons at a $3.85-milllion cap hit. Per capfriendly.com, GM Doug Armstrong has 20 players signed for next season already and only about $7 million in cap space remaining, with Parayko left to re-sign. Even if the expansion draft plucks away a piece, it likely won’t be an expensive one – say, Nail Yakupov or Dmitrij Jaskin – so there just wasn’t going to be money left to extend Parayko and re-up Shattenkirk.
We all knew it, as did Shattenkirk’s suitors, which likely hurt Armstrong’s leverage. The package he received from the Capitals is thus respectable. Still, it’s not like Sanford and Malone project as major difference makers for this franchise. Sanford, 22, possesses great size and flashed some scoring potential with Boston College and in the USHL. Malone, 27, is AHL depth and nothing more. At the very least, it’s clear nothing St. Louis received will help much now.
That would be fine if the trade followed typical seller parameters, with the Blues mining the depths of the standings hoping for a lottery pick. But, geez, they currently occupy a playoff position. They hold down the second Western Conference wild-card spot at 67 points and have a game in hand on the L.A. Kings, who sit two points back. St. Louis won seven of eight games after Mike Yeo assumed head coaching duties with Ken Hitchcock let go, but they’ve now lost three straight. Did that mini skid cause Armstrong to declare his team’s Cup hopes dead?
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
It’s more complicated than that. Ideally, the Blues would’ve found a “hockey trade” for Shattenkirk, one that would’ve helped them stay competitive, but it was likely difficult to achieve. What team would surrender an important roster player, especially one with term left on his deal, to rent Shattenkirk? An extension would’ve had to be worked out between Shattenkirk and his new team for that to work, and it may have proven too tall of an order.
That left Armstrong with the decision to either keep his asset for the playoffs knowing he’d lose him in the summer – or seek the type of return typically reserved for a team with no playoff hopes. The guess here is the organization decided the fan base could not stomach losing another prized UFA for nothing. David Backes and Troy Brouwer walked in the summer, and the Blues are not nearly as good a team as they were a year ago. Having Shattenkirk depart would’ve been a public relations disaster, especially if the Blues ended up missing the playoffs with him in the lineup. Hey, it was possible. They occupied the lowest seed with an outstanding player like Shattenkirk.
The trade Monday night, then, was about saving face. It wasn’t the sexy return Blues fans likely hoped they’d get for Shattenkirk. The first-round pick could well be 31st overall if the Caps win the Stanley Cup. But the one thing we know about what St. Louis acquired for Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley: it was not nothing. That’s what St. Louis needed to ensure after losing Backes and Brouwer.